Thursday, November 25, 2010


Something that I have been learning over the past year is the art of gratitude. It is more than simply giving thanks for friends, family, and good health. It is about remembering with every breath from Whom all blessings flow, delighting in even the most inconspicuous of treasures, being constantly in awe of the goodness of your God. It is about living each moment in the knowledge that you deserve nothing, yet have been given everything.

A gratitude journal, in which one simply jots down daily a list of things for which he is thankful, is a wonderful way to practice the art of gratitude. What better day than today to practice?

Today, I am especially grateful for…

…the breathtaking arrival of autumn in all its golden-hued splendor. The copper, amber, rust, and gold leaves are exquisite confetti, annointing the grass, the sidewalk, the streets, announcing the arrival of autumn. Every cloudy breath is frosty spotlight, every puddle a stage for the raindrops' waltz. In what other season are we treated to such a vibrant visual feast?

…my jobs. As busy as it makes my days, as difficult as it makes it to schedule anything, I am blessed to be employed, especially in this economy. Every time I buy groceries or get emails reminding me that tuition payments are due, I am reminded of how glad I am to be working.

…whoever found my iPod at the gym yesterday and decided to turn it in to the front desk rather than taking it home and considering it an early Christmas gift.

…family. My family can be strange, I’ll admit it. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those dinners where you hardly eat anything because the whole time you’re overcome by laughter- the kind that leaves you teary-eyed and red in the face, makes every muscle in your belly cramp up, and leaves you wishing you hadn’t drank that last glass of water- they’re priceless. I love that even when I’m without a stitch of makeup and my hair texture is scarily similar to Richard Simmons’, they still want me in the family photos. They’ve seen me through my awkward years (still waiting for the light at the end of that tunnel, but I’m hopeful!), they’ve seen when I wake up in the morning, they’ve seen me when I’m on my worst behavior, and they’ve been the recipients of my less-than-Christ-like actions more times than I’d like to recall. But by the grace of God, they still love me.

…the pumpkin smoothie I had for breakfast this morning. So much goodness (and beta carotene) in a single wine goblet! And yes, I had my smoothie in a wine goblet and ate it with a spoon. The goblet because I’m classy like that, and the spoon because…well, I couldn’t find a straw, and a spoon was the next best thing.

…this country. What a blessing to be born in the birthplace of freedom. Too often I take for granted how blessed I am to be able to go to church, sing songs of praise, pray in public, and talk about God without any fear of being arrested or imprisoned or worse. I don’t particularly desire to own any sort of firearm, but if I were to be overtaken by the urge to buy one, I could. As a woman, I can go in public with my face exposed, I can be employed, I can get an education, and I can choose who I marry and when I get married. I look at Old Glory flying high and proud and know that it’s is because countless men and women have loved this country enough to give everything they had to ensure the liberty and safety of America’s people. In light of the recent events playing out in South Korea, I am once again reminded that, despite her faults, America really is the best nation in the world.

…the twenty years that I was privileged to know Charles Talley, Jr. He encouraged my love for writing and my faith in the Lord, and I only hope he’s proud of my progress in both areas. He was the best grandfather and one of the most Christ-like, honorable men I have ever known, and it was impossible to be around him without laughing and knowing that you were loved.

…this semester. I have been challenged, stripped of pretenses, and thrown in the deep end, and through it all, I’m learning to tread the waters of adulthood. I have experienced the tremendous blessing of being a part of the Student Leadership team, which has been a great part of my growth this semester. I have refined current relationships, forged new friendships, and met people whose role in my life I can’t predict, but I’m better for knowing them. It has been a tumultuous four months, but my heads about the water and I’m still swimming.

…sleep. I’ve always enjoyed a good nine hours, but now that I have become acquainted with the joys of working the morning shift at a coffeehouse (do you know what waking up at 4am does to your circadian rhythm? Not to mention the circles under your eyes…), I have a completely new appreciation for my REM cycle.

…Love, Light, Logos. The Lamb, the Rabbi, the Messiah. His names were many, His purpose was one- to redeem those He loved beyond the limits of time and space and life itself. That He would cherish me enough to take the punishment I deserve, in order that He could offer me that of which I am not worthy. That He could know me more than I know myself, that He could see the ugliest and most base parts of who I am and still deem me valuable enough to die for. That He would see me drowning in the miry depths of my own sin and still reach out His holy, nail-pierced hands to lift me into His kingdom of grace. When it comes to Him, I will never be able to fully express my gratitude.

Tell me, on this celebrated day, what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010


We are afraid of what we cannot control. If we did not plan it, prepare for it, and chart a course for it, we don’t want it. And the idea of being led into unfamiliar territory is terrifying. If God is the One guiding us along this uncharted trail, then what do we have to fear? We can rest in the assurance that His plans are good, helpful, filled with hope for the future (Jeremiah 29:11). But we’re still scared, aren’t we? It is impossible to imagine forsaking the trail we know so well, the one we've grown accustomed to, the trail we've waited our whole life to hike, all to venture into the untamed, uncontrolled, and unknown. We are so scared of relinquishing the reigns of our life that if forced to choose between our own plans with which we are familiar, and Someone’s plans which are unfamiliar to us but which have been promised to be amazing, we will often choose our own plans. If we are going to have a fantastic future, we want to be in charge. We want to know exactly what wonderful things are headed our way, precisely when each terrific occasion is scheduled to occur. And sometimes our craving to keep control outweighs our desire for that fabulous, hope-filled future that is ours to be claimed.

There will always be reasons to stick to your own plans. When you’re scared to trade in what you had planned for what God’s got for you, the reasons will jump out at you from around every corner, seducing you with their promises of comfort and complacency. Trust me, I know. For the past several months I have been wrestling with some major choices, one of them involved a choice between staying and going. I kept finding reasons to go, to leave…recently God showed me that I’ve been trying to run. I’ve been able to find so many reasons to leave, so many reasons to change, because I have been afraid that God’s plans might not include my own. To stay would mean to need to put in the effort to continue to explore the path God’s set me on, the discipline to navigate my way through obstacles and challenges I had never thought to prepare for. In short, to stay would be to have to conform to a new plan, one that I didn’t grow up dreaming about, one that wouldn’t go the way I had imagined it would. But time and again, God has shown me how much greater His plans are compared to mine. In this case, His plans are nothing like mine- they’re so much better.

There is no denying that the thought of breaking out of complacent, secure dreams of the future and stepping into the unknown is terrifying. We all long to be tightly wrapped in the arms of safety and stability, but we have to ask ourselves if we are searching in the right places for this comfort? Are the plans that we construct without the boundaries of our own knowledge and faith enough to keep the wild world from touching us? Or do we need something stronger, a script written by Someone omnipotent and omniscient? We can’t let the flames of fear burn so hot and so high that they torch the bridge between us and the future handcrafted by God. If fear keeps us from walking across that bridge, if it forces us to take a detour rather than stay on the path laid out for us by the Almighty Himself, then we have let the Enemy have the upper hand. But our God has called Himself the Living Water for a reason, and it is by His grace and in His strength that we find the courage that douses fear’s flames and turns a fiery impasse into a course we can walk with confidence.

The thought of surrendering control is scary, but the thought of relying on the my own plans rather than the plans of the Alpha and Omega, the One who spoke creation into being, the God who knows my thoughts before I think them?

Well that, my friends, is terrifying.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


A few days ago, I finished Hebrews and was looking for the next book to read when Joshua, chapter 4, caught my eye. In the margin, I saw my own handwriting, “It’s important to remember all God has done for us.” Beneath that, I could see that I had annotated Joshua 4:4-7. At this point in the story, Joshua has just lead the Israelites across the Jordan river, and God told Joshua to choose one man from each of the twelve tribes to go to the middle of the river (which God has made dry for them to cross) where the Ark of the Covenant is being held by the priests. Each man is to get a rock from that spot, and bring it out of the river to put down where they stay that night. Joshua reveals to the people the purpose of the rocks, “They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan when the Ark of the Agreement with the LORD crossed the river. These rocks will always remind the Israelites of this” (Joshua 4:6-7, NCV).

I don’t remember what I was thinking when I read this specific passage last year as I read through the book of Joshua, but when I read it again, it was a clear reminder that I need to rethink things. For the past couple months, I’ve been focusing on the present, what is happening to me here and now. I’ve experienced blessings, certainly, but also more stress, grief, confusion, and heartbreak than ever before. In the thick of all that, I’ve become concentrated on all the difficulties and trials and failures I’m experiencing. And in doing so, I’ve forgotten to remember. I’ve forgotten to remember how far God has brought me, how much He has done for me, the amazing ways He has worked in my life. It was as though I forgot to grab a rock out of the Jordan when I treaded across the dry riverbed, and without that rock, I forgot that my feet had ever crossed the river. I didn’t have something to remind me of God’s faithfulness and power, or maybe I had something and forgot it was there. Either way, standing here in the thick of chaos, I forgot to remember. I only looked so far as the storm around me, and I forgot to take the time to reflect on God’s goodness.

It’s so easy to forget. To remember what God has done for you is to refuse to be consumed by the moment and to reject the temporary, to look away from the mountain before you and instead take the time to look at all the mountains you’ve already traversed. It requires time and discipline, and it doesn’t necessarily change anything about where you are or what obstacle you’re facing. But it reminds you of the One who has brought you thus far, who has dried up rivers for you to cross, walked on water to still the storm, risen from the grave to offer you redemption. He is the One who walks with us still. Maybe you need a tangible reminder, like the rocks the Israelites brought out of the Jordan. Maybe you need a routine, like keeping a gratitude journal. Maybe all you need is some time spent in reflection. As you conquer trials and as you see God working in your life, set up reminders for yourself so that the next time you’re standing on the bank of a river and wondering if you’ll ever make it across, you won’t have to wonder- you’ll remember.