Nov 26, 2009

Forget Not All His Benefits

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name! Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:2

I love the gratitude and wonder that comes across in David's words. Remember His benefits. Speak of His greatness. Tell of the wonder of God! As the Psalm continues we find David not only singing God's praise, but calling on all of creation to join in honoring God.

Bless the Lord, O you His angels, you might ones who do His word, hearkening to the voice of His word! Bless the Lord all His hosts, His ministers that do His will! Bless the Lord all His works, in all places of dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

I love this worship that comes deep from the soul. I love singing at the top of my lungs, surrendering all of myself in Worship to the Creator, Maker, Sustainer, Savior, Redeemer of my life. Praising the one who rules over all--who is steadfast, everlasting and majestic. The gratitude that wells up in my soul just naturally needs to turn into purest praise.

Thanksgiving, followed so closely by Advent, reminds me of all the blessings that God abundantly pours out. Having a heart of gratitude helps us see God's amazing handiwork in creation of the universe, of the world, of the open skies and the vast seas, of the tallest mountain and deepest valley. It reminds us to rejoice in God's rainbow of children, to be awakened to God's everywhere, in every moment, in a stranger, in a neighbor, in our own backyard and own circumstance. I love when Paul talks about "overflowing with gratitude" -- what a joyous place to be. When someone has a truly thankful and joyful heart, we are drawn to them and their whole being -- their contagious joy, their wide smile, their encompassing exuberance. When we walk with a constant "attitude of gratitude" we can see things differently. Some things that we might naturally choose to be judgmental or negative about, we can look through eyes of faith and a heart overflowing with gratitude.

In the beginning of my journey through my separation and divorce, I began journaling. During that difficult time, I remember hearing about writing down five things everyday for which I was grateful. In those beginning days it was a difficult struggle: "Thank you for helping me get out of bed in spite of my grief." "I am grateful for my sisters helping me get through this." "I am grateful my children did not cry themselves to sleep last night." "I am grateful for living through our first Christmas where I had to leave the boys off to share time with their Dad, when all I want is my family back again." But reading over those journals is so cathartic as I see the path through my ever-growing faith walk. Over time, I reflect on a deeper heart of gratitude that God allowed through a deeper walk and joy found only in Him. "I am grateful for the God who never leaves me." "I am grateful that God has put people in my life that point me to His glory." "I am grateful that I desire to never forget all His benefits."

There are so many things I am grateful for: My God who never leaves me, my children who have been my life's purpose, my family who have been the wind beneath my wings, my faith that sustains me, my church where my faith is continually challenged, nurtured and stretched to new levels, my friends that have loved me through joys and sorrows, my home where I find peace, my job which has taught me strength and given me perspective, my writing life which gives me a chance to express my heart and faith. As I reflect on this list, I am reminded of this litany of "my's". It makes me smile at the truth: none of these precious blessings are mine, but treasures given from the amazing God that never leaves us.

Henri Nouwen, a great Christian writer I admire says: "Gratitude goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that ll of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is a given as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy."

Remember His benefits! Speak of greatness.

May each of our hearts as we enter this Advent season know the joy of hearts "overflowing with gratitude."

I am humbled and just beginning to understand deeply in my soul the depth of gratitude and grace which I experience with every breath.

Nov 10, 2009

Seeking Freedom

One step forward, two steps back

Why do I land in the same place I started?

Striving, journeying, reaching

Then like stepping on a slippery rock

I am back here again, Lord

Consumed sometimes by what holds me--

Caught in busyness and petty things that don't matter.

Held back by difficult choices, expended by discontent

Trapped by bitterness or resentment I still hold instead of releasing

Still, after all this time, that seed of unworthiness

Rears its ugly head as if I've never grown past the wounds

And, yet, they are just seeds that need to be surrendered

To the deeper faith that shines, even if only a glimmer at times

The perfect love I've accepted from You drives out fear

Teach me to live what I know firmly, but cannot see

And to sit patiently in that abiding faith with great trust

Because I know you hold my hand and hold me up

I am nothing without You, and I am reminded

True freedom can only come through you

Your faithfulness, like a soothing spring rain

Renewing and refreshing my soul

Ever deepening my resolve to honor you:

Loving unconditionally

Forgiving completely

Remembering wholly

The gift of the cross

Still on the journey

And grateful to belong to You

Finding what I seek: