First, thanks for the comments. I’m especially impressed to see my mother piped up. I’m still looking for a different picture that doesn’t have my face in it to use in the header, but for now, this one will stay. And although I don’t think my eyes are too terribly old, I’d agree that it’s a bit more challenging to read white on black, so I think another redesign might be coming. It took a year and a half to do the first one though, so don’t expect the next one too soon.
Something struck me this week. It might have been the midweek sunshine or having to read so much on solution focused care, but I’m not sure. What grabbed me was this passage from Philippians:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This was one of the first scripture passages I memorized and it has been tucked away in my heart for almost a decade. I memorized it because if there’s a gene for worrying, it runs rampant on my father’s side of the family, and I definitely am a carrier. I memorized this passage to remind myself I didn’t need to be worried or anxious. I could pray and God would ease my mind.
I have always read this passage and focused on what it told me not to do.
This passage never came to mind in a way that reminded me to rejoice or to be thankful. I don’t know why; it just didn’t. But after leading the adult Sunday school class through a lesson focused on celebration and solitude, I suddenly found new connections being formed in my brain between thankfulness and joy and hope and transformation.
If I am not thankful, I will not find joy in my life. Nor will I have a foundation for building trust and appreciation of God’s provision. And I will not have hope. And won’t be transformed.
That might seem awfully simple, but really, it’s a big, BIG deal. Think about Philippians 4: 4-7 above. I don’t know about you, but I do not rejoice and I am not thankful during most of the times that I am experiencing worry or anxiety. I may be able to calm myself into a strangely neutral emotional place, but that place is neutral. There is no movement; I’m just sitting and waiting and trying not to freak out.
It’s during those times that I am commanded to rejoice and be thankful. It’s not a suggestion. It’s also not an insensitive piece of advice from some shallow baby-boomer who’s led a fairly sheltered life with relatively few problems or who’s never had enough balls to really stare his/her problems in eye. The word thankful is also NOT being used as a synonym for ‘be grateful’ or ‘quit feeling sorry for yourself’. No. It’s a command written by a man who has experienced legit worry and suffering, on behalf of a God who is not full of crap. And they command the joy and thanksgiving because they know what they are talking about.
In those times, what I desperately need is for things to be different. Who gets anxious because they really, really want life to stay just as it is forever? What I want is transformation, but transformation cannot happen if it is not fueled at least in part by hope. I’ve got to believe it can happen. If I’ve gotten out of the habit of recognizing and remembering the awesome thing our God has done – sunsets, Cabernet, friends, whatever – I will have absolutely no reason to have any hope. If I am not thankful for what I see and hear and taste, I won’t notice it long enough to remember it. And the only way I’ll ever be thankful for anything is if I can freely experience it with joy.
When I worry, I don’t experience things with joy. I am also too busy creating plans a, b and c for solving whatever problem is at hand. I’ve got other important things to pay attention too, so I miss the joy and don’t see the sunsets and don’t believe that the same God that came up with my friends little baby came up with me.
It’s amazing, maybe even revolutionary to me. Thankfulness rooted in real joy breeds hope, and hope opens the door to transformation. Thankfulness changes me. Thankfulness, fueled by joy makes a difference unlike any difference ever made by a single plan I’ve made or any advice I’ve ever been given.
Thankfulness changes everything.
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