Monday, January 19, 2015

My Nature is to bless.

Today is the first day after the "send off" that my husband and I were given from a church home that we have been a part of for the past twenty-six years. Gary and I had only been married four years when we started going to this place of worship in our late twenties. Now in our mid-fifties, we will be moving to another church home. I woke up with the weight of that decision and announcement on my mind. I sensed the scary freedom of standing outside one place and Not. Knowing.

Not knowing where my foot would step next. Not knowing where my soul would land.

The “send-off” from our previous church home was a kind and beautiful expression of love and gratitude. Hugs and heartfelt words were exchanged between us and the other golden oldies who had weathered the journey of the past two-and-a-half decades.  Afterwards we shared lunch with the four now-adult children of the pastor whose vision we had chosen to support back in 1989. These four young adults—Ryan, Amber, Jordan, and Katie—sat at the table with us with their own children and spouses with them…

Ryan, the oldest sibling at our lunch table, was now the Pastor of the church who sent us off with love and best wishes. He and his wife Jessica were, literally, engaged in our very own backyard, while my husband and I, and his younger sister, Amber, peaked through a window, watching him propose to the woman who now sat beside him as the Pastor’s wife. 

My husband and I have no birth children, but we have known and shared in the lives of this Pastor and his wife since they were nine and seven-years-old. Ryan and Jess were in the youth groups and Bible studies we led in our home and at church. They went with us to ski in Colorado, to explore on Cumberland Island, to worship in revival meetings from Niagara Falls to Florida. We were in their wedding party and have shared in the birth and upraising of their three children. Gary and I and these two church leaders have grown up together—just like parents and children do—and we are still watching each other grow.

It’s funny though… In our recent situation the “kids” didn’t leave “home” but the “parents” did. My husband and I left our “home” yesterday following the inner promptings of our souls, knowing it was time for us to move on…

Move on.

Away from a life centered around these two precious “kids” and the home we have shared for so long. Away from these mature, significant, Spirit-filled people who are now, in fact, the leaders of the very home we are leaving. 

Only the Lord can explain the pull these precious two have had on my own heart… I have reacted to the pull; I have responded to the pull; I have challenged the pull; I have debated and dissected the pull. I have surrendered to the pull… time and time again.

None of us are moving away. We will still get together for birthdays and bar-b-ques and anniversary celebrations, but my soul tells me that there can be no denying of the subtle landslide that has taken place. My husband believes it will enhance our friendship with these two. That it will in some way free all of us to be more ourselves at this stage in our lives. I agree.

But still, this morning, I sensed the scariness of it all. I believe it is the same beautiful scariness that thousands of generations of souls before me have sensed when a holy separation occurs.

So as I sat with this morning’s devotion from Jesus Calling, my Friend said to me from its words: “My nature is to bless. Your nature is to receive with thanksgiving. This is a true fit, designed before the foundation of the world. Glorify Me by receiving My blessings gratefully.”

I tremble at the thought of this new blessing. I quake at the significance of it as my husband and I move on to our next sacred home.

Who will we meet there? Who will become our “kids,” our “parents”?  What pull will these souls have on us? I do not know.

But I do know the One who goes with us and the One who stays behind with Ryan and Jess. 

He is loving, and He is kind, and His nature is to bless us. Therefore, I choose to receive these new blessings of a new home and new ever-expanding relationships with joy and a grateful heart, even as I let go of the former blessing with trembling hands.

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

1000 Gifts

          The past three weeks I've been sharing with my classes a few thoughts about Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts.  For so many reasons this book speaks to me.  One of which is because Carol Sylvester was the first person to mention it to me over a year ago.  Carol passed away just one month ago... just as I was beginning this series in my classes...  Another reason is because Lori Smith, the first yogini to graduate from New Day Yoga's 500 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, used the book to inspire her 500-hour written project and sent me a copy of the book as a gift.  Lori emailed me her project the day she and I and Carol and Donna left for the beach to go and plan a yoga retreat...  That long, 4-day weekend at the beach, in the sun, with the glory of the Lord all around us and in us, will never be forgotten by me.  What a gift it was... 

          So tonight I want to share with you what Lori shared with me from the book and what I've covered in my classes over the past three weeks.  I pray the thoughts will inspire you to get a copy of the book yourself, read it along with us, and start numbering your own list of 1000 gifts.  

            Week 1:  Chapters  1 & 2 – “an emptier, fuller life” and  “a word to live and die by”

Reflection:  Ann Voskamp wonders, “How do we give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy, self-focus for God-communion?  How do we fully live – live full of grace and joy?” 
She discovers a word to live and die by:  Eucharisteo. 
Eucharisteo is the actual Greek word found in Luke 22:19 for the words “gave thanks” when Jesus took the bread and gave thanks before offering the bread of His own body to his disciples.   Eucharisteo means Thanks-giving.  Two other root words, charis and chara mean  grace or gift and joy respectively. 
Ann concludes that  deep joy is found only at the table of thanksgiving.  The height of our joy is dependent on the depth of our thanks.  When we receive the gift (which is a sign of God’s grace), and give thanks for the gift, we experience joy.  This joy is a miracle and it transforms us.   
We enter into the full life if our faith… gives… thanks.  Giving thanks in everything is what prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation.   

Week 2:  Chapter 3 - "first flight" 

Reflection:  Giving thanks doesn’t come to us as naturally as complaining and worrying.  Just as Paul had to learn how to be content, we must learn Eucharisteo if we are to find our true joy.
Ann accepts the challenge of a friend to begin identifying and naming 1000 gifts God offers every day.   By accepting this challenge and recording the gifts, she is made mindful of all the things she has to be grateful for.  Thanksgiving becomes easier.  The listing of the gifts reforms her—driving out bad habits of discontent and driving in the good habit of Eucharisteo.  Naming the gifts offers recognition for each one and blesses God.  As she writes down 1000 things she loves, she realizes she is naming all the ways God… loves… her.  

            W3:  Chapter 4 – “a sanctuary of time”
Reflection:  When we begin to give thanks—for everything—we find an amazing miracle happens:  Time. Slows. Down.  By being all present, by being in the moment, by weighing each moment with full attention, we slow the torrent of time.
We can redeem time from neglect and inattentiveness when we swell with thanks, and remember that life is not an emergency; life is a gift.  Seeing Life as Gift requires a slow and steady reverence.
          This can be a scary thing because when time slows, and we are fully in the present, the Here-and-Now asks us to do the hardest thing of all:  Open Wide and Receive.  Receive what God has placed before us—in This. Very. Moment:  The good, the bad, the ugly, the hard, the irritating, the sweet, the whatever. It. Is.
When we can actually do this, when we actually slow down, we have more time on our hands, not less.  And if we continue to see the gifts in these slower times, and if we continue to give thanks for each one by name, we have the opportunity to see the Great I Am in the Very Present Moment. 
I Am—God. 
Our thanks makes “now” a sanctuary as we awaken to “I AM” in. the. Present.
Giving Thanks “makes,” “creates,” time:  a miracle. 
Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle.  Jesus gave thanks for the few loaves and fish and the miracle of feeding the multitudes happened.  Jesus gave thanks for the bread when he and the two men on the road to Emmaus sat down to eat, and the miracle of seeing Jesus happened. 
Eucharisteo takes the not enough—the not enough food, the not enough understanding—and  makes it enough.