Monday, February 20, 2012

I wasn't planning on blogging tonight.

I was planning on a quiet night of mind-numbing t.v. and some cool mint Oreos (my new favorite) after a long day at work.

I was expecting routine, not a defibrillator shock.

But this sermon changed the trajectory and focus of my thoughts.

...better than my plans.
... more reliable than my word.
...bigger than my love.

My best efforts are trumped and my worst failings refined.

I still feel so frustratingly ignorant of the life-changing reality of this.

I'm ready for a day, farther along, when I finally grasp and enjoy this fully.

Let me introduce you to three songs from one of my favorite new albums... for those who know me, it's a big thing for me to say that it's 'Andrew Peterson-like' in its depth and devotional impact on me. Still plumbing it's depths.

If this is your first listen to these songs, you're welcome. If you want to listen and read the lyrics as you listen, go here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Blessings... a reprise

I was thinking about this song last night after I hit the send button on my last blog entry.
It was one of our family Christmas favorites growing up.

Too bad life isn't lived in a Vermont ski lodge with Bing Crosby to listen to, huh?

Counting My Blessings...


Its Greek to me, and you, quite be grateful and give thanks. It's directly tied to communion- 'and He gave thanks and offered [the cup] to them...' (Matthew 26:27)- and is where the word and practice of 'Eucharist' comes from.

It seems Greek to me, too, in a figurative and practical sense. I'm only now beginning to understand how crucial thanks-giving is to joy. (more on that later) And rarely do I realize how negligent I can be in recognizing the blessings that surround me. The result of that negligence is moody funks and plodding, joyless days.

I've never thought I had a problem being thankful...until recently. But, if author Ann Voskamp is right, (and I think she is) inherent in all of our human hearts, and the root of our sin, is a leaning towards ingratitude. And it seems to be a natural tendency we will fight until eternity.

"Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate.
And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan's sin becomes
the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude
Adam and Even are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave. 
Isn't that the catalyst of all of my sins? 
Our fall is, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't
satisfied in God and what He gives. 
We hunger for something more, something other."
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 15

So, the antidotal serum for this venom in each of our hearts and veins, according to Voskamp, is intentionally disciplining ourselves into a culture and life-long pursuit of giving thanks and recognizing the daily graces bestowed on us by God. 'All is grace,' even the hard things. And we know we're growing in that grace when we can recognize God's goodness as much in the tragedy as in the triumph.
This One Thousand Gifts book is the very same that I mentioned in my last blog entry. And knowing that I would be blessed by it, my brother and sister-in-law deposited it on my doorstep via friends at Amazon.(Blessing!) I devoured it (and feel like reading it again already). It was both challenging and inspiring, often acting like a laser-guided missile to the very core of me that needed and needs to internalize the daily inventory of graces that I often overlook and ignore.

And so, my last several weeks have been a daily searching and investigating of my world for those things that would turn my mind from self to something bigger and eternal. In my quest for fleeting and seemingly elusive joy, this book has challenged me to more fully appreciate what I have and am. 

"Deep chara joy is found only at the table of euCHARisteo--
--the table of thanksgiving.
...Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths 
of my eucharisteo thanks?"- pg 32,33

So... as Voskamp challenges in her book, I've tried to make a regular habit of journaling my thanks. I've tried to be specific, beyond the 'Thank you, God, for this day...this food...the weather" and whatever other cliche things that so easily become no more than shallow and habitual words, as opposed to life and heart-altering evidence that God is engaged in the most routine and 'small' parts of our days and lives.

So... here's a small slice of my recently identified and specific 'graces'...
1) The quiet hush that descends on life and the earth with 17-18 fresh inches of snow
and part of the 'grace' is the workout afforded through shoveling it...
2) The testimonies of 20-some people who were baptized at church tonight. 
3) The creation of a new 6 p.m. service that allows me to attend after having had work schedule conflicts for the last few months. (and cool and free t-shirts to kick off the new service)

4) The blessing of face-to-face conversation and food encounters with friends from different/past seasons of life in the past month. It's always good to throw some familiarity into a new city/life experience.

And my journal will testify that there's more, but you get the idea.

It gets harder to complain about where my life and agenda are failing when I am focused on where God and His agenda are succeeding. 

Harder, but unfortunately, not impossible. I'm still in process.

'...O for grace to trust Him more'

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