Posts Tagged ‘thanks

22
Nov
21

Thanks for those scars

(Not my scar, by the way)

For the most part, I don’t have a lot of scars.

(Not that you can see, at least).

There’s this one on the front side of my left index finger. That’s from getting it caught on the top of a sharp chain-link fence I was climbing.

There’s this one on the back of my left hand. That was a freak accident caused by a sticky French door I was trying to close. I apparently yanked on it too forcefully, dislodging one of the panes at the top. CHOP! It came down… just like a guillotine blade, cleanly severing my middle finger tendon.

Those two – besides the dark spot on my right thumb where Donnie Avery stabbed me with a #2 pencil in the 10th grade – pretty much complete the list of “scars I did not intend to receive.” 

And just because of sheer, dumb luck, my list of “scars I planned on” is pretty limited, too. All I have to show are one on each shoulder from two different “shoulder decompression” surgeries, five years apart. 

As I alluded to earlier, I also bear other scars. The kind the dermatologist doesn’t see at the annual skin check. [BTW, have you had yours yet? If not, I highly recommend scheduling it ASAP. Especially if you are “of a certain age.”]

I have emotional scars. Mental scars. And if it is possible, spiritual scars, too.

Some are recent. Some go WAAAAY back. And even though each of them had a definite influence in shaping me into the person I am today, they all involved PAIN. 

The gauntlet I am throwing down for myself today… the Monday of Thankskgiving week… is the question: “Am I able to truly GIVE THANKS for each of those scars?” 

You are more than welcome to offer yourself this same challenge. I have no ownership claims on this exercise.

My quest stems from the exhortation the Apostle Paul made to the small band of believers gathered there in Thessalonica nearly 2,000 years ago. Included in Paul’s list of, “Here are the things God wants you to do,” is this one: “… give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV).

As much as I might like to think otherwise, I am pretty sure Paul also meant to include, “Give thanks for all circumstances” in this instruction.

Wait… do you really mean;

  • Give thanks for the scars left by being cut from the eighth-grade basketball team?
  • Give thanks for emotional damage of being tormented by the neighborhood bully?
  • Give thanks for the pain of hearing, “Sorry, Rusty… no” the first time I screwed up my courage to ask a girl out on a date?
  • Give thanks for the anguish of my divorce?
  • Give thanks for the church leaders who said, “We don’t want you as our pastor anymore”?
  • And MORE?

“Hold on, Paul… give thanks for all of THAT? Are you KIDDING me? That’s about the goofiest advice I’ve ever heard.”

And yet, despite my protests, Paul is unmoved. Paul… you know… the guy who was whipped, beaten, ship-wrecked, mocked, rejected, arrested, thrown in prison, and eventually executed? 

Yeah… that guy. 

He holds fast. 

He keeps telling me to give thanks. 

IN all circumstances. FOR all circumstances. For all the scars.

“Just do it,” he says with a wry smile. “One day, you’ll find out why.”

Abundant blessings;

27
Nov
20

Thanks Be to All

viol

I dislike violence.

I mean, I REALLY dislike it.

I can’t stand violent sports like boxing or Mixed Martial Arts… although I somehow find a way to make an exception for the violence of American football.

I immediately turn away from gratuitous violence on both the small and big screen.

I am so queasy about violence I even have a hard time watching contestants as they are eliminated on game shows. 

Which, I suppose, is why I have such a hard time facing up to the violence that helped pave the way for the life I lead today. 

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, our time of gluttonous gratitude gatherings. And even though it was a somewhat isolated feast for Joan and me this year, it was still quite enjoyable. 

The Thanksgiving holiday always causes me to think back and remember the things I was taught in school about the origins of this special national holiday.

I can still remember being part of a pageant in the fourth grade that commemorated the first Thanksgiving feast… with “Pilgrims” in their construction-paper hats and collars sitting down with their “Native American neighbors” (wearing their multi-colored construction paper headdresses) to thank them for their valuable assistance in coping with the fierce North American winter. 

Nowhere in my entire formal education, however, did I learn about the genocidal violence inflicted upon those original people by the European settlers … violence that was justified as necessary to promote the advance of “civilization.”

Or, if I ever did hear about it, I probably turned away in denial, preferring to believe a more sanitized version of American history. You know… the version where the Europeans and the Native Americans all sat down around a big conference table and respectfully agreed that it would be in everyone’s best interest if those First People uprooted themselves from places they occupied for centuries and squeezed themselves into tiny settlements in some of the most inhospitable parts of the American West. 

As we now know that version is just not the way it happened. Blood was shed. Lives were lost. Families were destroyed. Terrible violence was employed in order to “open up” this country for European expansion. 

Yes, I still believe it is good and necessary to give thanks to God for the bounty and blessings of the life I lead today. It is necessary to admit that I have received unmerited grace and favor, and to be continually humble in receiving it.

But I believe it is also necessary to admit – as much as I detest it – that violence also played a significant part in placing me where I am today.

Today – the day after Thanksgiving – has been officially designated as Native American Heritage Day. And in an historic first, it is worth noting that there are now more Native Americans serving in the U.S. House of Representatives than ever before in our nation’s history. There are six; three women, three men. Three Republicans, and three Democrats. 

To celebrate and sum up the importance of this day, I will close with this fitting quote from one of them:

“Native Americans have a unique opportunity to educate their children and fellow Americans about the legacy and hardships Native Americans have overcome. We know the stories of our ancestors and we pass them on to future generations. Our history and our sovereignty are what bind us together.”

  • Markwayne Mullin, Congressman, Oklahoma, a member of the Cherokee Nation

We also remember that it is the undiluted, unconditional, universal love of God that binds all of us on this awesome planet together.

In our thanksgiving, let us remember to give thanks to ALL who have gone before. 

Abundant blessings; 

25
Nov
20

In Which Circumstances??

Would you look at this mess? 

A worldwide killer virus is floating around in the air, seeking out the most vulnerable among us, killing record numbers of people, especially people of color… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

Not only did this virus cause Joan and I to cancel our plans to join the rest of the family for a long overdue gathering, but now it has been rude enough to smash our SCALED DOWN Thanksgiving plans… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And what about those working parents out there? What about the folks who have to figure out some way to do their jobs over a video screen, supervise their (often reluctant) remote-learning children, put meals on the table, and maintain a home? 

And you want them to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And in this time of roiling turmoil outside, when most people can hunker down and bask in the comforting embrace of home and hearth, Joan and I instead wake up each morning to face a construction zone full of dust and noise and sheetrock and extension cords… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And even though some of the dust of the recent election seems to be settling and new, orderly pieces appear to be falling into place, we still face the reality of a nation deeply divided along racial and political lines… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And seriously… don’t even get me started on the endless litany of aches and pains and visits to doctors and chiropractors and physical therapists and testing sites and pharmacies and all that other stuff that seems to go hand-in-hand with having attained a **certain** age… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

I have to ask: God, are you sure you really understand what you are asking of us?

I mean, do you have any concept of what we have to deal with down here in the land of flesh and blood and traffic lights and fire ants? 

Do you have the slightest notion of just how tough it is to make it from Point A to Point B some days… even without today’s extra stressors of disease, sleaze, and unease?

And then it hits me; of course you do!

You know EXACTLY what we are up against. You are intimately acquainted with every ache, pain, fear, frustration, joy, disappointment, dream, distress, annoyance, and heartache we will ever face… in a thousandlifetimes.

You know us because you loved us enough to BECOME us.

Nothing about this human experience is foreign to you.

AND YET… you still command us to GIVE THANKS…

… in ALL circumstances. 

You know what? I might just give it a try.

I mean, shoot… whining hasn’t worked.

Throwing a one-man pity party hasn’t worked.

Sulking over here in my corner hasn’t worked. 

Maybe I’ll try your way instead.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Abundant blessings;

20
Jan
20

Love Out Loud

MLK quoteA year or so ago, I got fed up. Squared.

First I was fed up with the escalating rancor and divisiveness in nearly every segment of American society. Yes, ill will seems to center primarily in the political realm, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.

As a member of the United Methodist Church, I was witnessing a loud, bitter ecclesial food fight in my denomination over a fairly simple question: who will be included and who won’t.

But I was also fed up with myself. As much as I despised the malice of the moment, I seemed powerless to avoid adding fuel to the fire. I heard people spewing all kinds of ignorant, ill-informed opinions and – as chagrined as I am to admit it – leaned heavily toward wanting to yell at them to just shut their damned mouths and crawl back under the rock they came from.

Really helpful.

Really Christ-like, dude.

And then Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rolled around. And this time, I decided to pay attention. I decided Dr. King might have some light to shine on our current situation. After all, he lived and preached in an era at LEAST as fraught and divided as our own.

And as it turns out, he did. And it was a word that hit the nail right on the head and humbled me at the same time.

You remember the quote. It goes like this: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

What does it look like to bring light into darkness?

How do I… or you or ANYONE… bring love into a world of hate?

I am not sure I really know the answer. But I know it is absolutely the right question.

I am not sure I have yet put my life onto the trajectory Dr. King had in mind. But I did do one thing in response to that quote; I wrote a song. It is a simple, probably sophomoric song, but it has chords and a rhythm, three verses and a chorus. Truth be told, it is kind of catchy.

It goes a little something like this:

Every one of us can talk like we mean it.

And make some witty social media posts,

Or we can squash an idea and demean it.

And treat other folks just like they were ghosts.

 

We want to know that we’ve got the right answer…

And those who can’t see it are wrong.

That kind of thinking starts to spread like a cancer,

Which is why you should all sing along….

 

CHORUS

            Let’s start to LOVE OUT LOUD,

            Let our actions do the work of our words.

            Yes, we can LOVE OUT LOUD           

            Live a life that’s bound to be heard

 

I hope my brother finds a place at the table

I hope my sister finds a future of peace

But while I sit here and hope – they’re at the end of their rope

Waiting for injustice to cease.

 

CHORUS

            And so let’s LOVE OUT LOUD,

            Let our actions do the work of our words.

            Yes, we can LOVE OUT LOUD           

            Live a life that’s bound to be heard

 

Well, you’ve got every right to be angry

You’ve got a right to shake your fist at the sky

You’ve been put in your place – left out of the race

And no one ever told you why.

 

But instead of lashing out in your anger

Why not start to build a brand new world?

Come on let’s each lend a hand – help LOVE take a stand

And let your freedom flag be bravely unfurled.

 

CHORUS

            So yes, let’s LOVE OUT LOUD,

            Let our actions do the work of our words.

            Yes, we can LOVE OUT LOUD           

            Live a life that’s bound to be heard

 

 

All of us need to do more light-shining and love-bringing… now more than ever. I am not sure what that looks like immediately, but maybe we can start by singing!

24
Dec
19

Special Delivery

amazon-package-on-sorting-belt“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:6, NRSV

The doorbell rang. I hopped up from my place on the couch, headed over to the front door to open it.

No one was there, of course. I say “of course” because this is the Christmas season after all.

Our unknown visitor approached the house, dropped off a cardboard box emblazoned with the familiar Amazon smile logo, and departed to continue on with his (or her) endless list of package deliveries.

Suddenly reassured that we were not about to be visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses, a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, or a nefarious prankster, my attention turned completely to the box o’ Christmas goodies.

I immediately forgot all of the invisible people – ending with that delivery driver – who made this moment of Christmas magic happen. I no longer saw the person who studied all of the options and carefully chose THIS ONE from the website. I overlooked the person in the warehouse who printed the order, the one who retrieved it from the shelf, the one who packed it, labeled it, put it in the shipping queue, and that certain someone who loaded it on the truck.

As I sat there, gleefully tearing open my box, I became voluntarily blind to the long list of people who made that moment possible.

And I am not at all proud to admit it, but that is the way it is most of the time for me. I hungrily receive the gifts God pours at my feet without a moment’s thought about the litany of collaborators involved in bringing them to me.

Today Joan and I prepare to enjoy a quiet, low-key version of Christmas at our new home in Colorado. There will be some food, there will be carols, there will be cookies, presents under the tree, and a time of worship where we remember what this season is really all about.

And for every element of that celebration – even in its most unassuming form – there is a long supporting cast of characters who helped make it all happen.

So today I want to pause a moment and say, “Thank you. I see you…” to:

  • Delivery drivers
  • Police officers
  • City utility workers
  • Hospital staff
  • Maintenance workers
  • Pastors
  • Church secretaries
  • Church musicians
  • Pilots
  • Air traffic controllers
  • Radio and TV announcers
  • Highway crews
  • Retail clerks
  • Website designers

… and countless other people working unnoticed and largely unacknowledged to make sure the rest of us have a chance to experience the joy of this holiday season.

I also want to pray a prayer of hope for those who agonize over the absence of departed loved ones during the Christmas season. May you experience a spark of healing today… even if it is tiny.




Russellings Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Russellings of the Spirit on WordPress.com

Flannel with Faith

Embracing imperfection with faith, flannel, & fresh air

susiesopinions

Life at age 73, feeling like a 20 year old. You can do it too.

CHOP TALK

Know your stories

My Pastoral Ponderings

Pondering my way through God's beloved world

All The Shoes I Wear

Writing Down The Bones

Just Being Me

My life and faith - without a mask.

La Tour Abolie

An eclectic mixture of personal essays, stuff about writing, stuff about books and far out philosophy from an old baggage in a book-tower.

° BLOG ° Gabriele Romano

The flight of tomorrow

Eden in Babylon

a traditional American musical with a progressive score and topical themes

LUNA

Pen to paper

_biblio.bing_

A law student and an avid reader. Along with your desired book reviews you're gonna get great book suggestions. Books of all genre with detailed review. Thank you, Visit Again ❤️

Humanitarian Explorer

Traveling the world to discover and meet needs

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Steadfast Pictures

Visual Media for God's Glory!

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

yadadarcyyada

Vague Meanderings of the Broke and Obscure

Pics and Posts

Goodies from my mailbox and camera

%d bloggers like this: