Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ten Thousand Reasons

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find...

                The lyrics of Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” make me think of how rarely we actually take the time to consider the goodness of God-to count our blessings, so to speak. There is so much in this life that we take for granted. We are not promised tomorrow. Every breath I take is by the grace of God alone. In the words of Psalm 100:”It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” The idea of belonging to Someone greater may be what causes many people to shy away from God-after all, we are supposed to be independent, aren’t we? That way of thinking led to the first sin-the notion that we, in our smallness, can know better than God. Rather than accept and cherish the security and peace he gives, we want instead to do our own thing, have things the way we think they ought to be. In so doing, we disregard the manifold blessings He bestows.

                As an assignment last week, my husband had his creative writing students list one hundred things for which they were thankful. They could even list individual people, individual food, etc. The point was to get into a mode of gratitude. It’s a great idea, and it got me thinking about the fact that were I to do that, there would not be enough paper or ink. So I have chosen here to name and expound a little upon ten things, in no particular order except the first one, lest I get caught up in the frenzy and mania that begins the day after Thanksgiving. It’s called Black Friday, and, while I do not participate in the insanity because I really hate shopping anyway, it does get me thinking about things I want. Ultimately, I convince myself that some of these are things I actually need, and thus I find myself surfing the Internet, cyber-shopping, when I really ought to be doing something else-probably praising God or spending time with people.

                1.God. This may be a no-brainer, but I list Him first because He should always be first. He is, after all, my Creator and the Author of all that I have. While I was as offended as anybody by the President’s “You didn’t build that” comment, in truth none of us would have anything without God. Mr.Obama did not intend this to be a spiritual statement, but an economic one. Apart from politics, though, there is inherent truth in it .God provides the intelligence, the right circumstances, and the drive to work hard and make our dreams a reality. Even those who deny His existence get their determination from Somewhere, and He is the Where, even when unacknowledged .Without Him, I am nothing.

                2.Family. it occurs to me that many people grew up without one. Many people are alone for much of their lives. I was blessed with two incredible parents who taught me right from wrong, loved me, disciplined me when necessary and allowed me to discover my gifts and be an individual. They also provided me with the beginnings of an understanding of what it meant to live the Christian life, to walk in relationship with Christ. Then there were my siblings, who made my life both a joy and a torment, depending upon the day. I would not be who I am without them. There was extended family, grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and, later, in-laws and nieces and nephews. Now I have the most wonderful husband and my three children, who are a blessing to me every day. God built our family in His own way and His own time. It is uniquely ours.

                3.Friends. I have so many friends, friends I have made over forty-six years of living. Because of social networking, I have been able to reconnect with old friends and even make some new ones. There are friends at work, friends at church, and friends for life. I cherish each one. It’s not easy to live this life; we all need a little Fellowship to help see us through.

                4.Food. Although over the years I have had a love-hate relationship with food, it is a blessing that sustains life. I am married to a man who can cook magnificently, which is good because I can’t boil water. No, I really can’t-I once put on some for tea and forgot about it and burned a hole in the pot. Food is connected with memories, fond and happy memories. It is a way that people show that they care, as evidenced when there is sickness or death and people bring in food by the ton. It was once my nemesis but now that it no longer controls me, I can enjoy it the way it was intended. Meals shared with family and friends have a special warmth and are filling in a way that goes beyond the physical.

                5.Books. To say I love to read is inaccurate. Reading is not a hobby or a pastime for me; rather it is life. It is through books that I find comfort and peace. I encounter God through the pages of literature. Forty-three years of reading has been a true gift. I have lived thousands of lives and my head is stuffed with words and thoughts and ideas that I return to time and again. I cannot begin to describe what books are to me-friends ,portals to wonder and delight-nothing can really explain it, and I wish everyone felt about reading as I do.

                6.Animals. I love our dogs and horse and other pets, but I am in general astounded by God’s diversity in Creation. It is another of the ways in which I experience Him and feel a true connection. I have been fond of and fascinated with animals all my life. When I was younger I found much solace in the fact that there were beings in this world who didn’t judge you but only loved you. My childhood pets were not just animals, they were family. Today, I have a dog who I am firmly convinced is God’s emissary. She came to me at a time when I desperately needed her, and she has been an essential part of my son’s healing. Like books, animals have also been such a natural part of my life that I cannot imagine things any other way. God made them for us to care for and love and enjoy. There are many that He made for food and to serve in other ways, but I believe that some were created for the sole purpose of companionship, and I see dogs and horses as being very different from other kinds of animals as far as the way they relate to humans. I think that was intentional, a part of God’s great plan.

                7.Music. Another consistent element in my life, music has been ever in the background. I have particular songs that I think of as part of “the soundtrack of my life”. They define me and who I am. I am as eclectic in my musical tastes as I am with books and food. I love everything from classical to jazz to folk to country to Christian contemporary and pretty much everything in between. Songs evoke memories, bring joy, and sometimes move me to tears. It is an expression of the human condition, in all its comedy and tragedy.

                8. My students. I could say my job, and I do love my job, but it could not be what it is without my students .Their energy and life, their humor and compassion, their emerging sense of self, their sometimes surprisingly mature insights, all make my teaching worthwhile. Even on the bad days, I remind myself of how blessed I am to be a part of their lives. No two days are alike, and I never know what someone might say or write to make me laugh or cry or think. I hope I inspire them, but how much more they inspire me.

                9.Toys. Yes, I still love toys. I love puppets and stuffed animals and games of all kinds. I like to build with Legos and Tinkertoys, color with markers and crayons, and play boardgames with my family and friends. It is good sometimes to just play, to be a child and have fun, to create something from Playdough or paint and revel in it.When my kids were younger I relished those times of play with them. They have outgrown some things now, but we still play all kinds of games together and sometimes we draw and color and, every now and then, break out the Tinkertoys and wooden blocks and toy animals and build something. Then there is the Wii. I am a beast at the trivia games, but still have not mastered MarioKart or Wipeout. Nevertheless, it’s amusing to try.

                10. Movies. From the first movie I saw, which was Mary Poppins, I was hooked on the magic of films. They aren’t usually as good as books, but they are still stories to be experienced. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, Doctor Dolittle, The Sound of Music, Oliver!,Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a thousand others that I saw with my family as a child. When I go to the movies now, I still experience a little of that childhood excitement, especially when the film is something much-anticipated, like the Narnia or Lord of the Rings films and the upcoming Hobbit movie. Plays are wonderful, too, but I haven’t seen as many of those since they aren’t as affordable. In my house, movie viewing is rarely a solitary activity-we watch together. We watch, and we talk, and we share. Occasionally, though, I will watch a Netflix movie on my Kindle Fire, usually because it is something so terribly lame that I know no one else wants to see it, but it’s generally some kind of nostalgia thing that I alone understand. Each season has its particular movies-in the summer we watch superhero films and comedies and musicals and magical things. In the fall we pull out the thrillers followed by a multitude of Christmas movies. At some point every year we do a Lord of the Rings marathon. These are not just movie nights, they are family nights, and they are becoming rarer the older and busier my kids get. Thus, they are all the more precious and sweet.

                Can one find God in all the things I have listed above? Absolutely. One of the many things I love about my church is the variety of people and personalities. There is an innate understanding that, while Jesus is the only path to God, there are many different paths we take to find Jesus, to experience Him fully and completely. In my church I feel accepted, and I know that, as long as we agree on the majors, we can respectfully and lovingly agree to disagree on the minors. The picture of Christianity I get from my friends, family, church family, and others around me is something akin to a collage or a very beautiful mosaic. We all are thankful for God’s blessings, but some may regard football as a blessing while others are more intrigued by the ballet and others by intellectual pursuits. He speaks to us all in different ways, but it’s okay as long as we hear Him.

                So, I am very thankful today, for ten thousand reasons (at least), and among them for you who read this blog. I hope it ministers to you, and that, if your heart is hurting , the things I write about will make you smile and maybe even seek the Source of all that is good. Happy Thanksgiving, and love to all!

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore.

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