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Seeing God

“What if gratitude is more about seeing the face of God? Of locking our eyes on his and remembering where our help comes from? Perhaps gratitude is not only a discipline but also a gift, one we are given in special measure just before we pass through the door to suffering.”  — Roots & Sky, Christie Purifoy

Give thanks in all things for this is the will of God. I practice it regularly as a discipline. I am commanded to do it.

Perhaps at times I felt like I was doing God a favor by noticing the beauty around me and saying “thanks.” Maybe hoping to chalk up points for good behavior.

Spiritual disciplines are good. They are not rule-keeping or legalism. I understand that. But sometimes I wonder if I discipline myself for the right reasons.

We walk, exercise, push away from the table and eat less sugar and salt. It’s good for the body. We learn to do something new, work Sudoku and word puzzles, read good literature instead of consuming so much internet or television. It’s good for the mind. We practice prayer and Bible reading, attend church and participate in mission projects. It’s good for the soul.

So daily giving thanks is good for something, isn’t it?

What have I really expected from it as I list my three or more gifts of the day? I’m not sure. I read the words by Christie Purifoy and ponder them. Seeing the face of God and locking my eyes on His? Does gratitude do that for me? Not always.

I want to see the face of God instead of the petty things I focus on too often. I want to lock eyes on my Savior and behold His beauty instead of allowing the things of this world to shadow and cloud my vision.

It happens easily to me. I can’t seem to get over myself. It’s something someone says or doesn’t say. It’s an expectation I have that fizzles like a wet match. My plans, the way I wanted things to turn out just didn’t. And before I know it, I’m less than grateful and my eyes began to look downward. I didn’t get the attention I thought I deserved or the reward for my labors. The world will simply not revolve around me.

My vision darkens as I look inwardly at myself. I am blind to the gifts and the Giver.

Being thankful for every good and perfect gift can bring my heart back to the center if I do it consciously, intentionally and for the right reason. The discipline of it lifts my eyes upward. Even when trials and trouble appear and it is not perfect at all, this is a gift if it turns me back to the face of God. Once again I know He is enough for me.

I have sought for and fought for contentment. It is an on-going struggle. I have prayed for Him to be all I need. My mind knows He is. I want it planted deep in my soul also. I want to be consumed with His utter completeness. I want to be filled with the Spirit. I want to know Emmanuel – God with us – so sufficiently that other things have no room to dilute my satisfaction with Christ and Christ alone.

I’m not there yet. I will continue to lift my eyes unto the hills and beyond the horizon, past the moon, sun and stars, to the heavens where His throne is. And I will remember He has come to me, to make His home with me, to be with me and in me.

Perhaps I will glimpse His face and it will be enough.

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Photo by Elena Walls

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Counting grace

While I am recuperating, I am sharing some of my favorite blogs.

One of my all-time favorite bloggers is Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience. I began reading her words years ago. She writes like an artist. Her book, One Thousand Gifts, is why I count grace as a necessary discipline of thanksgiving.

Enjoy Ann’s beautiful word pictures at A Holy Experience.

How to Get out from Under the Shadows of Hard Things that Keep Hounding You

 

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photo by Elena Walls

may ending

i had a little hand surgery this week. i say little because it seems small in comparison to the many procedures sweet william has endured and the serious issues facing people for whom we pray. but actually it was a big deal to me, and i was a bit wimpy with my brave face on.

one-handed typing is a challenge. i won’t post a picture of my bandaged appendage. you’re welcome.

little things are difficult, like taking off the cap of my medicine bottle and snapping the leash to maisie’s collar.

the entire week felt like a plan coming together. the house got cleaned, the laundry caught up, maisie had a bath after rolling in something stinky, and i finished piano lessons with my students in preparation for taking off the next month.

my neighbor offered help walking maisie, and a friend brought us dinner. (and all of us rescued maisie when she slipped out of her harness and ran the neighborhood, landing hot and panting in a marshy puddle. second bath in three days.)

sweet william is doing his best to care for me, opening those pesky containers and fixing coffee.

i say all that (and type without caps because it’s just hard and taking a ridiculously long time) because i may not be posting much in the next couple of weeks. i plan on taking care of peggy this time around. i don’t always do that well. i have pressed on and been the “strong one” enough times. i’ve dried my tears and walked the hard road alone occasionally. i’m not sorry i did. but this time i need to practice self-care which i am learning is not selfish but necessary from time to time.

the month of may will end with a quite weekend for us at the wright house. there are library movies and books in a basket, frozen meals and sandwich fixings in the fridge, clean clothes in the dresser drawers.

there will be walks down our lane with the honking of geese, the sweet smell of honeysuckle, the sun on our faces.

i will rest and recuperate. i will give thanks to God who made these bodies to heal themselves, for refined medical procedures and kind personnel, for the one good hand that carries the load for a few weeks, for sweet william brewing a strong pot of coffee and asking what he  can do to help, and for friends and family who care enough to call, to text, to come, to bring food.

i am blessed beyond measure. even on my wimpiest day.

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Sunday grace

Re-viewing my blessings and they bless me again.

Remembering the beauty of a day and writing it down is beauty twice.

I count my gifts in a journal. It should be a daily exercise, a discipline I practice. Sometimes I don’t take the time. Some evenings I am tired and  don’t remember. And then there are days when I forget how blessed I am.

A day offers gifts galore, joy one right after another, blessing upon blessing. And shouldn’t those graces be acknowledged, remembered, re-viewed, and counted?

Yes. A thousand times yes.

The One who blesses and gives bountiful grace deserves my thanks. By counting, I remember the Giver who is easily taken for granted for all He lavishes on me.

I will give thanks with a grateful heart.  I will keep counting, to one thousand and more.

Sunday grace.

Sunset in Colorado, by travis

Sunset in Colorado. Photo by the one and only Son, Travis.

Winged gifts

One morning this week, I found Sweet William sitting on the edge of the bed looking out the window.  He had spotted a Pileated Woodpecker on the plumb tree in our side yard.

I eased over quietly to see it, not only because it’s a rare occurrence around here, but because I had been wishing-praying-asking God for this very thing.pileated-woodpecker

A bulletin board hangs in the kitchen where a monthly calendar counts off the days. There are a few other things posted there. Like is a card someone sent with a drawing of two little girls in dress-up cloths.  It reminds me of my grand girls when they were young. There’s also a cutout of a little dog with the caption, “Wag more. Bark less,” a reminder to consider the words and attitudes I freely share with Sweet William.

Up in the corner of that hanging board was a picture I had cut out awhile back, the very woodpecker with its brilliant red-head feathers. It was a wish, a desire, a dream to see this creature up close and personal again.

(Photo from myrustichouse.com/)

Years ago, when the grandchildren were very small, I spied a woodpecker on the utility poll that connects electricity and phone lines to our houses. Those were the days when our family-too-far-away lived in the house next door, and it was a joyful arrangement.

The woodpecker was pecking that pole as if it were alive and he was going to find some treat in its battered surface. That’s the last time I recall seeing a critter like him around our area.

We have lots of birds making their homes in our yard and surrounding little woods. They build nests in our bushes and houses on poles, and they generally help keep the insect population under control as they swoop and flutter about. They serenade the morning dawn and entertain me throughout the day with songs and antics.

We are blessed to live across the lane from a lake that is home to a number of Canadian geese. This spring there are two pairs with three little goslings each, and Little Girl Maisie and I often see them waddling along or swimming in line as we take our walks.

My little corner of the world is full of blessings, especially the winged ones.

But it was a woodpecker I longed to see.  When I cut out the picture, I just decided to ask for one from the God who gives good things to His children. Of course, it was not a necessity for me to survive, but it was something I really wanted. Why not ask Him?

The morning I sat on the side of the bed with Sweet William and watched the woodpecker, waiting for him to make his way around the tree so I could see all of his foot-long frame, I was thankful for this gift, a gift I had asked for and had been lovingly, graciously granted by a good, good Father.

Some might think it just coincident or happenstance or the way fate destined it.

I choose to believe it was from my Heavenly Father’s hand because He delights in seeing His children enjoy the life and world He made just for us. His Word says, “He has filled the hungry with good things,” not just food to keep me from starving to death, but rich and tasty, good and pleasurable.

I pulled the picture from the bulletin board and pasted it in my journal, a reminder of this day’s joy.  Is it significant that the woodpecker sighting came at the time I was in an emotional skirmish?  I think it is. That bird appearance was a gentle hug from above.

And I think I may have heard a voice deep within me say, “Now what else do you want?”

I’m not a name-it-claim-it kind of believer. I don’t think I can influence the universe or bring things into existence by some power within me. Truthfully, none of us are that strong.

There is a sovereign Lord of lords who will do whatever He pleases, and I’m far from being wise enough to know what is best. I find the most effective prayer I can pray is “Not my will but Thine be done.”

Yet, there is a God who has given all good things for us to enjoy, given us opportunity to know Him and to become His child. He invites me to come and somehow when I do it gives Him pleasure. That’s impossible for me to understand because I’m not always the best company.

Do we shortchange ourselves by not asking more, knocking consistently, seeking until we find? Do we expect that suffering is all there is, resign ourselves to this lot in life so that we never expect deliverance, victory or joy? Do we fail to pray for big things from the God who is more than able to do what we cannot even imagine?

Perhaps I limit God by my small requests and thus minimize Him in my own eyes.

He fills the universe and beyond. He counts the hairs on my head. He stores my tears in a bottle. He keeps a journal on me. He loves me more than I can comprehend. He asks for my friendship, my time, and my attention because He desires me.

Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name forever!

He longs to be gracious to me and rises to show me compassion.

I will ask for my daily bread. I will pray for those who are sick and suffering. I will seek His presence and wait for Him, wait on His timing, wait for His “Yes” to my requests. I will trust Him when the answer is “no” and believe that He has something significantly better in mind.

And I will look for the next surprise gift He has planned just for me.

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Sunday grace

Day 5 of 40 days to Resurrection Day

Today’s suggestion:

Count your blessings every day.  Make a list of God’s gifts, at least three every day.

As a family, discuss your bountiful gifts during mealtimes or at bedtime.

“Count your blessings name them one by one.  Count your blessings see what God has done.”  I can hear the old familiar melody in my head, days of long ago in a small church building.  I was a child, but I was old enough to understand the message.  Looking at the good things God does is better than focusing on what I think I lack or listing my grievances and troubles.

It’s not a new concept.  Books have been written about it in the last decades.  Gratitude journals abound.  Science has investigated and believe being thankful makes a person healthier.

We can forget sometimes, can’t we?

Today and through the rest of the 40-day journey to Resurrection Sunday, consider all God has done for you.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have one of the very best reasons to count.  You have been redeemed from your own sin and in exchange been given life!

There are so many gifts that come to us day by day, moment by moment.  How long can you make your list?

My gifts:

  • It is the month of Spring!  March has come and hope is renewed.
  • The birds are singing in the mornings, already aware that something is in the air.
  • I’ve kept warm in the weeks of frigid cold, had enough food and warm clothes to wear.
  • People have been kind to me in sweet and beautiful ways.
  • Sweet William is home from rehab and doing well.
  • My body is strong for the age I am.

This is the Lord’s day.  We will drive to our church, fellowship with believers, hear the Word proclaimed, and worship together.  This is a gift that I will not take lightly.

Do not neglect giving thanks to the One who provides all, even the next breath.  He gives good gifts.  He gives what we need.  He gives strength for the journey.

Here’s another songs to set your toes tapping:  The Martins sing “Count Your Blessings.” 

And just because counting gifts brings joy . . .

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