Monday, October 24, 2011

Counting to One-Thousand

“Uno... dose... tres... cuatro...” I hear my 4-year-old counting away in the other room. With two older sisters in elementary school in Racine, she learns much from them, including how to count in Spanish. It blesses my heart to hear her expanding her mind, including multi-culturalism; not that she understands what is really taking place, of course.

I recently embarked on a new reading adventure. “One Thousand Gifts” is a new book by Ann Voskamp. Through each chapter–through each page–Voskamp takes poetic liberties that whisk me away into a hazy, almost slow-motion land of breezes blowing and soap bubbles reflecting God’s everyday goodness. I cry every few pages. Maybe not every reader reacts like this, but I am reading this at a similar time in my life that Voskamp was in when she wrote the book.
All of these things, in light of the season that we are coming into, have led me to ask this: how many things can you count as blessings not simply every year or season, but each and every day?

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

If the Bible commands us to do this, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well... maybe not so much; at least not without certain revelation from the Holy Spirit.

Many people go through bumpy patches in life ranging from a blemish on picture day all the way to a horrific tragedy like the senseless death of a loved one. So how do we obey this passage of Scripture from within the shadow of certain travesties? I think the answer is found in one Man: the person of Jesus Christ.

In Voskamp’s book, she recalls that Jesus gave thanks in all circumstances. “And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it...” (Luke 22:19) This happened the night he was to be betrayed and arrested. Jesus did understand what was going to transpire. He knew his divine purpose, and even though he was God-man, we must remember that he was still man. Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane, asking God the Father to take his cup from him, because Jesus knew it would be the hardest thing anyone would ever have to endure on this planet. And even so, he declared, “yet not my will, but Yours be done,” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus gave thanks in all things. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do the same as well. God’s plans are more intricate than we imagine. Remember in Isaiah 55:9 the Lord speaks these familiar words to all generations: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s plan will always be better than ours, no matter how highly we think of ourselves.

Sometimes it is not for us to understand the “why” of a situation, but it is always for us to give thanks in every situation. Yes, this can be a difficult thing to accomplish. I do understand the gaping hole that is left in the place of a loved one who was taken too soon. I do comprehend the grieving that takes place when little babies are seriously injured, requiring several days spent in a children’s hospital. I do recognize what sorrow in the face of financial ruin looks like.

And yet...

In spite of every evil thing in this world, God is still good. He is love. Therefore, He is patient, kind, never boastful or rude... (I Corinthians 13) The list of God’s lovingkindness goes on. And no matter what darkness, evil, or hatred can be manifested on this earth, God will always be good. For this I am ever-thankful.

Ann Voskamp, in light of her own personal battles, was challenged to count one-thousand things in life that she could be thankful for. Not only was she successful, but she learned many, many things along the way. I won’t ruin the outcome of the book for you–it’s certainly one that I encourage everyone to read–but I will say this: I have learned that through the whole of every day that I am on this earth, there is much to be thankful for. It just takes the proper frame of mind and the resolution to be present for each moment of my life.

Regardless of how many battles you are walking through today, look deep into the core and find the nugget to be thankful for. When you do, hold it close to your heart and then... give thanks.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Do you ever wonder why things happen the way they happen?

Do you ever stop and think... now, if I'd just turned right, instead of going straight, x, y, or z could've happened, but it didn't... Q happened instead.

I want to say that in life, there are no random happenings. I want to propose to you that there is no luck, no fate, and certainly no coincidence.

God has numbered the hairs upon our heads. He has also paved our own individually unique pathways for each of us. Whether they be paved with brick, concrete, or mossy-covered sharp stones and slippery pond scum here and there between the grassy knolls, God has directed each path, for a purpose.

It is here, in the path that He has chosen for us, that we can see miracles open up like the petals on a unique and glorious flower. Take a look around. Who is next to you? Who do you have a conversation with on the phone?

Are you simply canceling a doctor's appointment, or are you meant to speak and connect with that receptionist? Is there something in her life that you can nourish; provide sustenance? Have you ever stopped to think about it?

Taking our eyes off of ourselves, our agendas, our human goals... we see... them. All the people that God has singlehandedly placed in our midst. To share life with. To grow with. To encounter.

Whom have you encountered today? Last week? Month? Have you taken your eyes off of your iPhone long enough to see the hurting world? The questions in their eyes? The need for compassion? The urgency for love? The plea for something... Something more than this world has to offer?

Enjoying the beauty of God's miraculous flowers unfurling, before our very eyes, to soak up the warmth of His son... those brilliant rays of truth, those healing bands of Light... it is but a tiny miracle for us to marvel at.

So go ahead. Open up. Look around. Who do you see? What do you hear? Where will you turn? When will you begin?

Moment by moment... little by little... we endure each awkward pause, each tiny baby step into the unknown, each breath and creaky vocal strain of our infantile gestures to reach out to an unending field of unopened flower buds, just waiting, waiting, to burst forth. To share their own uniqueness with another, and to see the beauty again and again with each revealed treasure.

Always a purpose.

Always a plan.

If we simply stop to look around,

Hear the whisper on the wind.