Posts Tagged ‘gratitude

04
Jul
17

Be Free!

freedom picToday is the Fourth of July. It is the day to celebrate freedom.

For the most part when we talk about freedom, we mean political freedom:

  • We mean the ability to freely and democratically elect our leaders without pressure or fear of reprisal.
  • We mean the ability to freely speak our minds about the state of our country and her leaders… even if that speech is critical.
  • We mean the ability to travel from one place to another without restriction.
  • We mean the ability to worship – or not worship – in the style we choose.

These freedoms are precious and fragile and TOTAL. Citizens of the United States are blessed to enjoy 100% of each of these freedoms. They have been obtained by the willing sacrifice of women and men throughout our country’s history. We should never come to take them as entitlements or guarantees, but rather be grateful for them on each of the other 364 days of the year.

And yet, as I use this time off to reflect on the topic of freedom, I realize there are freedoms in my life besides political freedoms. True, these are not the freedoms we typically celebrate on the Fourth of July, but they are certainly worth pondering.

There is our mental/emotional freedom. Or another way to describe it is freedom from fear, anxiety, resentment, and anger.

There is freedom from compulsion. Can any of us truly say we are completely liberated from those nagging little (or sometimes not so little) habits that show up over and over again?

There is economic freedom… or more accurately the freedom from worry about how we will eat, clothe, shelter, or support ourselves.

Finally there is spiritual freedom… also known as “… the peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7, NRSV). The freedom from the forces of darkness and despair.

I count this freedom as the greatest – and also the most accessible – freedom of all. This is the freedom that prompted Christian mystic Julian of Norwich to say, “All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well,” and Horatio Spafford to pen the words to the hymn, It Is Well with My Soul in 1873.

A long time ago we decided that it was fitting and proper to set aside a day of national celebration in honor of our political freedoms. It is good that we routinely remind ourselves of their preciousness and importance… and of the sacrifices made by countless men and women to obtain them.

Somehow I have not figured out the connection between overeating, amateur incendiary devices and political freedom, but who am I to argue?

But today I wonder… how and when will I celebrate those other freedoms? How will I – or any of us – choose to express an appropriate level of gratitude for the spiritual freedom Christ died to give us? How will we choose to make a point of setting aside time and space to say, “Thank you, Jesus!” for breaking the chains of sin and death?

Paul reminded us in Galatians 5:1 that FREEDOM was at the very heart of Jesus’ mission when he said, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1, NRSV).

So yes… get out and gather with friends and family today. Shoot off some firecrackers… grill some hot dogs, crank some homemade ice cream and splash around in the pool (weather permitting).

But don’t forget to spend part of the day on your knees giving thanks for ALL of the freedoms you enjoy.

Abundant blessings…

03
Jan
17

Happy New Day!

party-hats-and-confettiSo here we are… sitting in front of this gigantic, mysterious package; trying to figure out where and how to begin opening it… wondering what surprises, delights, horrors, or joys it might contain.

The mysterious package I refer to is, of course, the package called 2017: the New Year.

Often when presented with a package as monumental as a whole new year, the human instinct seems to run toward the Grand Gesture.

We want to name it. We want to set out a list of goals and projects to be accomplished during its visit. We prognosticate about it and try to guess at its true, underlying personality.

After all, a whole new YEAR is a pretty doggoned big fish to fry. Right?

Well, yes. Sort of.

Except that when the calendar page turned over from December 31, 2017 to January 1, 2017, we didn’t really get a whole new year dropped in our laps.

We got exactly one day.

If you really wanted to be accurate, we got one moment. And then we got the next. And then the next, and so on and so on…

I guess what I am trying to suggest here is that instead of spending excessive time worrying about what approach we will take to the living of an entire YEAR, let’s think instead about how we will live the precious gift of the MOMENT we have right here, right now.

In other words, let’s not fret so much about the vastness of the FOREST around us that we forget to tend to the individual TREE we have here on our hands. We don’t want to miss the beauty and uniqueness it offers.

I believe this is the wisdom of the piece of the Lord’s Prayer wherein Jesus advises the disciples to say, “And give us this day our DAILY bread,” when they pray. (Matt. 6:11, NRSV). He intended it as a reminder to them and to other faithful Jews of God’s provision of a one-day supply of manna for every day of the 40 years they spent wandering in the wilderness. (Exodus 16).

There is no doubt we will need bread for every day we live. But isn’t it also a little arrogant to imagine that we know exactly how many days that will be?

What I am suggesting is that we each take on the New Year as we would take on the new day. Begin it with humble gratitude, thanking God that we have received it. Believe that the day – just like the year – will bring its share of both the expected and the unexpected… the sublime as well as the ridiculous. Ask God to help us find a way to embrace both ends of the day’s spectrum of experience.

  • Pause regularly to stop and look around; take stock of where you have been and where you are headed.
  • Treat each relationship with tenderness and respect… whether it is a close, long-standing relationship or casual or brand-new.
  • Yes, set goals. Name principles you wish were more evident in your day/year/life. List habits or attitudes or worldviews that need to diminish in your life.
  • Proudly claim your membership in the “God’s Work in Progress Club”… not just as an exercise for the first week of January, but instead as a daily discipline.

Imagine what it would be like if we treated every night like New Year’s Eve and every morning like New Year’s Day?

Without the alcohol or bowl games, of course…

What if… instead of anxiously wondering when God’s Great Gift will land on our doorstep, we stopped and woke up to the fact that it already HAS!?

Abundant blessings to you and yours in this new year and new day.

24
May
13

What I deserve

DESERVE. What does that word mean to you? I had two encounters with it in close succession last week that set me to pondering.

            The first was while I was waiting on hold with my trash pick-up company. I was calling (again) to complain, er, I mean, OBSERVE, that they had not picked up my yard waste bags. The recorded voice reassured me by saying, “Please stay on the line and our customer service specialist will be right with you to give your call the attention it DESERVES.” I remember thinking, “I hope their definition of the attention I deserve is the same as mine”

            Then, just a day later, I sent a congratulatory email to my son as he started his new job. In the body of the message I used the phrase, “You deserve great things.”

            I thought, “Hmmm. There’s that word again. What does that mean anyway?”

            What are we saying when we say we deserve something? Obviously we feel we are ENTITLED somehow to something, whether it be great customer service, to a wonderful job, to clean air, to democracy, to be loved, to have beautiful and compliant children, or whatever else we might come up with.

            But do we? Do we really deserve those things? Or do we DESIRE them and then somehow come to treat our desires as entitlements?

             The more I think about it, the more I find the question of what you and I actually deserve from life to be a surprisingly difficult one to answer. In the first instance can any of us really say we deserve ANYTHING? Life itself came to us as a gift. Parents who did not immediately take us to the river and throw us in were a gift. Today I am sharply aware of just how huge is the gift of an intact roof over my head.

            And just between you and me, I am not sure I actually DESERVED any of those gifts.

            Looking back on the people I have known in my life, I can safely say that those who have been the angriest, the most distressed, and most out of sorts with the world, in general, were those who carry with them a LONG list of “things I deserve.”

            Because you see, when you feel that you DESERVE a thing and you do not receive it, you feel cheated. Inevitably those folks look around at other people who have that thing – many of whom are much less skilled, talented and deserving – and feel there is something tragically flawed about the world’s BDS… Benefit Distribution System.

And so they get angry.

It is a whole different conversation when I am considering what YOU deserve to receive from ME. I feel that you deserve my full attention, you deserve my very best effort to fulfill the commitments I have made to you… you deserve love, respect, honor, and hospitality. Those I can control. What you decide to extend to me… not so much.

OK, so I guess this was not such a short meditation after all. But then again I felt that you DESERVED a fuller development of the basic thought… so there you go! The bottom line is this: the more we think we deserve from life, the less we view life as a gift. And the less we see life – everything in life – as a gift from God, the less joy we experience.

As we are reminded in James 1:17 – “…every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”




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