I love this – Thanksgiving – starts with “small things”

44163-6a00d83451607369e20120a608f539970c-piIf you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am very appreciative to God for “voices” in my life (many of which I have NEVER met) that speak truth and impact my soul.  Ann Voscamp never fails me…nor you for that matter.  In this post, she outlines what can be a truly revolutionary of living life – being thankful.  In addition, she gives a practical step that can change your life – commit to keep a “thanks” journal.  Imagine your life, focused more on the things you are thankful for then on any other thing – news (which is always depressing), chores, duties, responsibilities, etc., etc.  Thanksgiving IS more than a holiday – it can be a way of life!  Check out her wonderful words:

Thanksgiving is More Than a Holiday: It’s Meant to Change Your Life

Some days I pick up a camera and the lens is my ink, for cameras have sensor eyes, and pixels record.  I slide it into a pocket, the camera in phone, and find another way to chronicle, to force the lids open; another way to receive the moment with reverential thanks.

When he comes in from the barn, The Farmer Husband finds me leaning over a plate of cheese grated and sitting in sunlight. It is true. And yeah — I do feel foolish.  I mean, it’s curls of mozzarella and cheddar piled high in a pond of golden day.

And I’m changing the settings to macro, increasing the ISO, pulling in for a close-up frame.  He’s fed 650 sows with one strong arm this morning, flicked on a welder and melded the steel. So it is quite possible that the God-glory of a ring of shredded cheese may be lost on him.

It isn’t.

“I like finding you just like this.” He wraps one arm around my bowed middle, draws me close and up into him strong.  “Crazy like this?” I blush with my silliness, and he brushes close with the four-day stubble. He laughs.  “Perfect like this.” He nods toward the cheese plate. “You being happy in all these little things that God gives. This makes me happy.”

Happy in all these little things that God gives. Ridiculously happy over slips of cheese.

That I am, and it’s wild, and, oh, I am the one who laughs. Me! Changed! Changed by giving thanks and surprised by joy!

God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.  And gratitude for the seemingly insignificant—a seed—this plants the giant miracle.  Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life—even the hard—is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.

“There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.”

There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.  I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse:

“And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, “I’m thankful for everything.”  But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life…

If gratitude is an antidote for anxiety…and giving thanks is a real cure for stress — why relegate thanksgiving to a holiday when giving thanks can revolutionize our whole lives?

I do this, record the gifts, gather the moments like manna.

“Joy is always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective.”

It’s could be this feast everyday — a Thanksgiving Feast everyday.  People who keep gratitude journals are 25% happier. Twenty-five percent happier.  Is this why God commands us to always give thanks? What sane person doesn’t want to be 25% happier?

Why in the world don’t we do this?

Joy is always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective.  If we are going to change our lives, we’re going to have to change the way we see.

This recording our gratitudes, this looking for blessings everywhere, this counting of gifts— this is what changes what we are looking for. This is what changes our perspective. Thanksgiving is the lens God means for us to see joy all year round.

The light’s igniting a plate of cheese and there’s sunlight falling in planks across the floor.  The stress untangles.  The moment’s a gift, a grace…

The sound of kids laughing and my mama’s knitting needles clicking and the girls baking in the kitchen….and speed slows to wonder.

Why miss our lives? Why miss all the ways He loves?

This is the gift all the children want: us all here and awake to crazy Grace.

Us all in this world addicted to speed, unwrapping the real secret of time management, unwrapping the fullest life:

In the stressful times : seek God
In the painful times : praise God
In the harried times : hallow God
In the terrible times : trust God.
And at all times — and at all times –
Thank God.

“Wherever you are, count your blessings, collect gifts, count it all joy.”

Because Thanksgiving is more than holiday–It’s the season to Wake up to Really, Fully Living.

Wherever you are, count your blessings, collect gifts, count it all joy.

The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.

This thanks for the minute, it is to say the prayer of the most blessed of women about to participate in one of the most transformative events the world has ever known.

Mary, with embryonic God Himself filling her womb, exalts in quiet ways: “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Luke 1:46 KJV)….

And when I do this, give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me. This, this, makes me full. I “magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30 KJV) — and more of God’s glory enters the world.

What will a life magnify? The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted?

Or God?

There’s no way to enter into His courts but through the gates of Thanksgiving — and it’s only in His presence is fullness of Joy and I snap a picture of cheese.

Yeah right, Jesus!

5856756683_yes_its_true_tshirt_p235468792175613195b77an_400_answer_2_xlarge“Yeah right, Jesus!”

Vicky and I were on our vacation this past week…it is my 65th year of life and this November’s birthday celebration included ten days in Hawaii with some great pals. I was minding my own business…and why shouldn’t I? It’s a VACATION! I’m supposed to be simply taking a relaxed pace throughout the day. I was minding my own business and I was ambushed. No, there weren’t people hiding in bushes waiting to pounce on me. And no, I didn’t get one of those dreaded phone calls or disturbing texts that share news that always seems to upset life’s applecart. No, I was just about to sit down and rest a second before taking a morning stroll and my buddy, Larry (whom we were sharing our vacation with – both Larry and his wife, Kim) says, “Robin, did you read Oswald yet?” “Who’s Oswald,” you ask? Oswald Chambers – the man who wrote what some would exclaim to be the foremost spiritual devotional for Jesus followers ever written. You see, Larry and I made a commitment as friends to read Oswald daily during 2019. The truth is, though I have often missed a day or two over the years, I would have to confess that Oswald has been a much-cherished companion in my journey with Jesus for over 40 years. So, I sit down before I lace up my walking shoes and BOOM! Oswald “hits me!” You know, for those of you who are familiar with My Utmost for His Highest, you can totally relate, can’t you? I’ve often thought to myself that they should put a warning label on Oswald’s book…”Read at your own risk and peril.” I’ve experienced it time and again through the years…what seems so familiar at times gets juiced spiritually at key moments in life. I don’t even realize how much I need specific spiritual encouragement when I am ambushed with Chamber’s piercing but prophetic ruminations.

I read just the following…the opening paragraph of the day’s devotional for November 15th…three days into the new year God has put before me:

“One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.”

Oh, aren’t I wise? Oh, aren’t I insightful? Oh, aren’t I entitled to pontificate pearls of “Robin wisdom” on any and all innocent bystander? Oh, haven’t I paid the dues necessary to be able to speak into any and all lives who have the “honor” of being in the shadow of my intellectual greatness? Oh, especially those who have shared a life-long journey with me whether they be child, grandchild, or dear friend…haven’t I earned the right to say anything that pops into my head for the purpose of guiding them to the true path to which they should aspire? Ah, no! That’s Oswald’s point. All of us believe that we know how to live other people’s lives better than they. All of us believe that if only we could tell our cherished “other” what they should know or think or do then their life will be filled with nothing but blessed bliss. So, we interfere…we counsel…we advise…we find ways to squirrel our way into the recesses of their soul with so-called discernment which we are more than willing to offer without regard to how it may condemn them to a destination that they do NOT seek.

I think God’s trying to tell me something…you’ve heard it said before, we have “two ears and one mouth.” There’s a reason for that! We have been designed by the Lord with a MUCH GREATER capacity for listening, loving and supporting then for guiding, bossing, and giving others the benefit of our omniscience…oops, that’s right. You and me, we are NOT omniscient. But we know the ONE who is…Jesus. Larry and I went on that walk…we talked about the implications of Oswald’s challenging phrases…we tried as best we could to defend the personal strategies that both of us have long employed of nosing our way into that which should cause us to pause and ask, “what is that to me?” In the course of that walk, the Spirit did what the Spirit always does if we have open hearts…the Spirit transformed our way of thinking and, consequently, our way of doing life in relationship with those we love. At least that is our goal…at least that is our humble and willing surrender to the will of our Lord.

I thought about this a lot this past week. I don’t have it all figured out…but I do intend to take more of a backseat to God’s desire to give personal direction to the one who seeks it instead of me cutting in God’s line. I have decided that I am going to take up more of a posture where I seek the Lord in all of my relationships to have God “bless them and change me” versus me potentially violating how God is attempting to speak to them about their life’s choices and challenges. I have decided to stop playing “amateur providence” and to start dishing out, as consistently and as generously as possible, that which I have received in spades – amazing grace. Jesus has called me to love…not be someone’s “god” but point that someone TO GOD! I need to help those whom I love to see Jesus clearly and respond to His voice instead of hearing the nagging advice of my oft confused, self-focused ego. As John the Baptist once remarked, “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30). Instead of me working overtime to prove to others my worth and the astuteness of my life’s perspective, I need to up my commitment to let others see Jesus…He is the way, truth, and life. He is God’s wisdom incarnate. He has the words of eternal life. It is Jesus who will make our path straight. John the Baptist realized that early on…Peter had to be reminded of it up until almost the last day of Jesus’ walk on earth. Oh, to be more like John than Peter. My role in the lives of the people I love. Point them to the life-giver, the soul soother, the direction clarifier, the forgiver of mistakes and the empowerer of those who reach out to Him for help, strength and the ability to take another step. Maybe then, will this next year of my life be that which brings true honor and glory to the Lord. Maybe then will my most cherished relationships be blessed not by what I can bring to their “table” but how God can change me to help them see the “table” from which comes true life’s feasting and life in abundance.

How about you? Give that some thought. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that those words really made a HUGE difference while walking in the Hawaiian paradise but even if you can’t get there, trust me, they’ll do fine busting into your heart and life today no matter where you are!

Reflections on getting on in age…

“To everything, turn, turn, turn…” The Byrds, 1968
Reflections on getting on in age

I’m sure that many of you have heard of the PBS television series, “Antique Road Show.” If you haven’t, let me give you a snapshot of its presentation: a team of antique experts wanders from city to city in the USA, inviting people from the location to present artifacts, furniture and other treasures for evaluation and dollar calculation. Once an appraisal is made, the expert will then tell the individual or family what the “piece” is worth in open auction. Most times, the owner of the family heirloom or possession is told that their assumed “priceless” treasure is worth no more than a cup of Starbucks coffee. At times though, it’s one item that catches the auctioneer’s attention and the news of its high dollar value is shared with the owner with delight. Lovers of the show, at least I’m told, squeal in these moments and begin to carefully scheme how they too will one day discover immeasurable treasure buried deep within the bowels of the stack of goods they own. The point of the show is this, MOST older “antiques” are essentially useless. There are a few, and I underscore few, that end up having some sort of worth on the open market. Actually, friends, I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of this show during my life…I’d rather drink a glass of Liquid Plummer than watch another if you know what I mean.

This month, I’ll be turning the “young” age of 65. Getting older is surprisingly easy but enlightening. I look at the mirror on a day to day basis either to shave, clip my ever-growing eyebrows, or simply to be able to see how much more my face is deteriorating with a sense of inevitable resignation. Most of us, I know it’s true for me, never believe that we will get old like “those people” – what we see wandering through the halls of Long-term care facilities, buying a cheap meal at a local fast food place, or who are addicted to antique television presentations. They park in the handicap slots at the store, slowly wander through the aisles many times appearing lost at times. I know for me, I smile at most and have often offered to help many. I was always taught to respect my elders something that I do with ease.

Yet, I never see myself in their skin. I know intellectually that it is my future in one way or another but it never occurs to me that I’ll be donning the same outfit one day myself. Those “clothes” don’t fit my mental picture of myself. And although the march of time continues to drone on and the days that pass are more like check marks on a growing “to-do” list of accomplishments more than a reality that I eventually need to embrace, I’d rather live in my dream world believing that I and I alone have bathed in the fountain of youth.

I don’t feel older. Most older people that I know feel EXACTLY the same way. Yet, I know I am getting older because the guy looking at me in my mirror has a similarity to someone I know very well, but I still don’t recognize him completely. Even so, deep down in my “denial focused” heart, I know that’s me. I also feel the inevitable pains of the passage of time in the body I have been given as a gift. I wish the Lord would have given me a time table of what to expect as this aspect of my individuality and personhood starts to show wear and tear. It may have been helpful to have a warranty, like that of a car, to know how time much I could expect from my transmission and suspension. My “power train” is still showing some life but the brakes and body are simply not working the way they were originally designed. My problem is that I can’t find a good mechanic who can put slap something new on and give me better performance. All I can do is continue to live day by day with the realization that I’m out of warranty.

The “wheels” of my legs are in need of some serious overhaul…gout has deteriorated my toe joints, old basketball wounds cause my ankles and knees to be looser than is healthy, my shoulders don’t work because of countless swimming and surfing strokes, my skin (as my new dermatologist just told me two weeks ago) will continue to have to be analyzed for “issues” because of all that damn sunlight that I was addicted to for years during my younger days. It takes more work to stay healthy, I have to deny more and more types of food because they are increasingly bad for me, and the piles of vitamins and other medications that I take will soon equal the height of Mt. Everest. I was told a few years back that I couldn’t qualify for a job because I was a “50-year-old white guy” and I know that a few of my resumes have been used for “wastebasket basketball practice” simply because the employer looked at my birth date. Oh, what a world.

Seriously though, it is easy to get old. The hours and days pass gracefully without thought or intentionality. Although I still recognize parts of myself in photos and videos, there is an increasing resignation to the inevitable truth. I guess the issue that bothers me to the most has to do with culture’s worship of the young. Why we do that is beyond me and definitely beyond my pay grade. Other cultures in the world revere those with higher mileage. We in the western world look at a person’s odometer and start to theorize, quantify, and plan on the soon to be obsolescence based upon some mechanistic and utilitarian criteria. I’m getting a new computer this coming year and I realized long ago that electronics manufacturers conspiratorially plotted its demise. I feel like it is just a matter of time before society does the same to me…wise or not, educated or not, vital or not, energetic or not, willingness to produce or not…I’ll still, one day, will be deemed obsolete.

Well, society and culture be damned. I’m going to offer what I can despite the fact that my body is looking more like a melting candle day by day. I still have thoughts that need to be expressed, music that needs to be played, sermons to preach, studies to teach, love to give, laughs to inspire, books that need to be read and gifts that I can share…whether anyone wants to appreciate them will be up to them. I’ve always envied women for culture’s sensitivity to inquiring about a woman’s age. As many of you know, it is wiser to NOT ask a woman how old she is after she has reached adulthood than to do otherwise. I’ve tasted my foot in my mouth more times than I care to admit because I ventured into that forbidden territory. I find myself, when asked, fudging a bit on answering the question, “how old are you?” I was fine saying 40…I’m getting apprehensive about answering with the words, “well, uh, 65.”

But the days keep going by and, as a good book and therapist taught me years ago, its hard and deadly to deny reality. What the coming days hold is in no one else’s hand than a God I know, who loves me and sees my priceless worth. That brings me hope. For the rest of the world, you are just going to have to deal with my fuzzy head hairline, sagging waddle under my chin, and my inability to look more “chiseled” no matter how many workouts I do per week. I’ll be ordering more salads, thank you! And maybe I’ll be drinking a few more glasses of wine because I’d rather celebrate life than whine about it (oh, that was clever, huh?). No matter who assesses what they see in my life, I know many people (at least I think I do) who really don’t care how the culture appraises my life. For many that give my life meaning, they aren’t surprised when some “antique” assessor says I’m not as valuable as they think I am. That’s Ok…my children, grandkids and friends who are walking this journey with me have not put me in some basement or shelf in the garage as of yet. When they do, I guess I’ll just have to accept it and make a home there. After all, I’ve been through, that basement or often ignored shelf won’t be that bad of a home. By then, I’ll probably not be able to walk up the stairs or find the energy or where with all to get off the shelf. Priceless or not, I’m going to be around until my number is up. And that is only in the Lord’s hands…thank goodness.