Thank…

I picked up my cell phone, pushed the home button and said, “Text ‘So and So’.”

Siri responded, “What would you like to say to ‘So and So’?”

I began to articulate my message then paused and waited for Siri to respond.

“Would you like me to send, cancel or edit this text?” Siri asked me.

“Send.” I replied.

“Sending now.” Siri responded.

“Thank yo….” I began to say. Then I stopped myself.

It’s habit for me. A good habit–to be thankful when a task has been performed for me or if I have received assistance from someone. I want to convey my gratitude, and I want it to be received. Often, if I am thanking a person and they do not hear me, I will repeat myself to let them know I am thankful, and that their efforts meant something to me. But what does Siri do with my appreciation?

What about the act of “mindfulness” where we say what we are thankful for and try to appreciate feelings of gratitude? Who is receiving the thanks? siri

If all of life is energy–space+chance+time, and there is no ultimate reality, then my gratitude is an offering to a universe that does not care that I am here, nor did it plan my existence. The act of thankfulness to the universe becomes an empty action devoid of ultimate meaning.  Giving thanks to Siri for sending a text for me amounts to nothing, as there is nothing really meaningful received by Siri or appreciated. Giving thanks is a good practice, but just an empty exercise if there is no recipient.

It seems that we have plenty to be thankful for, but have no one to be thankful to.

One of the beautiful things about humanity is that we are capable of giving and receiving love, thanks, and appreciation. We are wired that way. We excel when we are loved and appreciated, and we deteriorate and languish when we are not loved, or noticed for who we are and the things we do. This is the Image of God stamped into each one of us. It reflects His design and character. When we give and receive love and appreciation, we develop relationships, and out of those relationships flow the most meaningful issues of life.

Thankfulness at its core declares intrinsic value. It is an acknowledgement that the deed performed was understood and recieved as a gift from the one who gave it, thereby stating that the one who gave it has value, and that their gift in some way added value to our lives by our receiving it.

The act of thankfulness is another reason I believe there is a God. The fact that I can recognize the value in another person tells me that people are created with intrinsic value. And if people have intrinsic value, it would have to be because there is a  God who both planned us, loves us,  and cares very much about our existence. He pours out His blessings on purpose, and we in turn “well up” with thankfulness. When we aren’t tossing up words to the space/time continuum, but to a Person–to God, relationship forms. And in a relationship with God we find our deepest meaning and purpose. It is then that we are able to see the beauty and value of those around us He has made in His image, and our gratitude finds a place to both be anchored and freely given.

 

 

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Thanks

thank youThis time of year is particularly geared in both the commercial sense and the existential sense towards gratitude.  Facebook is brimming with 30 day thankfulness challenges, and people are engaging with lists of things they appreciate.  As part of the celebration of Thanksgiving, many people are jumping in with both feet to express as much gratitude as possible in 30 days.  To whom is this appreciation directed?  The answers will vary, and some expressions of gratitude actually have no destination at all.

Thankfulness is a feeling that one can have of appreciation for gifts given or grace received, but “giving thanks” is different.  Giving thanks must have a giver and a recipient.  When we give thanks, it is on purpose and with purpose, directed to someone(s) who can receive it.

When I talk to people about cultivating a lifestyle of worship, this topic of giving thanks becomes paramount.  Living  a life of thankfulness is the starting place of a lifestyle of worship, and I don’t mean just the feeling of thankfulness, because that comes and goes.  Thankfulness must take on an action, and must be offered on purpose.

It is the reason your mom had you write thank you cards to your aunt when she gave you a birthday gift.  It is the reasoning behind phone calls to friends and families to express your appreciation for who they are or what they have done.  It is the thinking behind trophies, award ceremonies, tributes, and parties thrown in someone’s honor.  There is an act of thankfulness and appreciation, and it is directed to someone, for someone, and very purposeful.

I have to admit that my generation (myself included) has forgotten or lost the art of “giving thanks” and trades it instead for a general “feeling of appreciation” that never reaches its intended destination.  Prayers around the dinner table turn to rhyme or habit, and no longer speak to someone ever-present, but chime as a tune to someone we once knew, or learned about.  Thankfulness from the masses is now a feeling expressed to the universe (which cannot receive it), not to individuals, who can, let alone God who deserves it.

There is  joy and healing found in gratitude, but it can only be discovered in “giving thanks”.   Giving thanks might mean staying on the line a few extra minutes to speak to a manager of a department in order to praise their employee who gave you great customer service.  It might mean, buying a gift for the lady who babysits your children in Fred Meyer so that you can shop in peace.  When you look people in the eye and say “Thank you,” or when you begin to take stock of your life and realize the millions of things that are yours because of a gift of love and grace, you will find a million reasons to be thankful, and hopefully a million ways to give thanks.

Worship is wrapped up in the discipline of recognizing God’s multitude of gifts and giving thanks to Him directly when that gift is recognized.  It is seeing every breath, every physical sensation, every visual delight, and every expression of grace as being gifts given by God the Creator who delights in giving them over and over and over to every generation.  When you see that sunset and think “Wow! that’s beautiful!” take another step and tell God how beautiful it is.  Tell Him how it impacts you at that moment.  Talk about what you are seeing, feeling, and experiencing in that moment of awe.  Express thanks on purpose.  If your children are with you, tell them about what the beauty means to you and who the Author of that beauty is, and teach them to say “thank you” too.

I want to challenge you in this season and beyond, to go past the lists of thankfulness you may acquire over the the course of this month, and take the extra time to actually thank those responsible for the gifts you are appreciating.  And when you have thanked individuals for the grace they have bestowed on you, turn your praise and thankfulness to God from whom all blessings flow, and thank Him personally, from your heart, with all the gratitude you feel inside.  Express your thanks in a way that matches the amount of thankfulness you feel, and then some.  This is at the heart of worship.

Pack Your Yellow Lenses

I was driving last weekend through a blizzard.  I hate blizzards.

I don’t like not being able to see clearly where I am going.  I panic when the boundaries are obscured and I cannot ascertain if it is a 60 foot drop to my right, or a wide shoulder where I can pull over.  I freak out at the thought that I cannot see the car just a few feet in front of me, and wonder how long it will be until I am hit from behind.

There is no stopping in a blizzard.  To stop in my tracks would make me an object to be smashed by the traffic behind me that is in the same situation I am in.  Somehow I have to continue on.

This happened to me a few years ago, as I recall in early spring.  I was driving a van full of students from the local Bible school from Homer to Anchorage.  Jamin was also driving a van of students and was leading the way in front of me.  We were in the mountain pass, making our descent back to sea level and the snow was flying.  It was so thick, falling so fast, and swirling in the wind.  It didn’t take long for the tail lights on Jamin’s van to disappear and the road begin to look like one never-ending piece of whiteness. The lighting was diffused by the amount of snow flakes in the sky and I could no longer differentiate between the edges of the road or the lanes they represented.

I called Jamin on his cell phone to see if he really was ahead of me.  He assured me he was and encouraged me to keep going forward.  I couldn’t find his tail lights.  I couldn’t even see his tracks in the snow.  I was scared.

Then I remembered something…..a conversation from years ago when I asked Jamin about his snowboarding goggles.  Why were they tinted yellow?  His response to me was that the yellow tint helps to clarify the light and shadows in a low-light situation.  With them on, Jamin would be able to see more clearly, the path to travel in the snow on his board.

Immediately I began to ask the people in my van if any of them had a pair of sunglasses with them with a yellow tint.  And amazingly enough, Sarah, sitting beside me said that she did and pulled a pair of glasses out of her bag for me to wear.

I can’t explain what happened next in words, but something settled over me as I placed those glasses on my face.  It was like snow melting to spring, or like my cold hands warmed by a fire.  My eyes were suddenly able to see what they couldn’t discern moments earlier.  I could see shadow and light.  I could discern tracks in the snow ahead of me.  I could find my way.

Sometimes life isn’t any different from the blinded frenzy of a blizzard.  The way is obscure, the things I thought I knew become clouded, and the One I trusted to lead me is hidden from view.  So what do I do then?

I don’t know all the answers.  I’m still asking several myself, so I’ll just tell you a few that I have learned.

Pray.  The Holy Spirit has a way of settling over a frenzied heart in a way that removes the haze and distinguishes light from shadow.  His peace becomes a guard for my mind as well as my emotions.

Philippians 4:6-7

New International Version (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The second and third lessons are these:

Colossians 3:15

 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Italics mine)

I must allow the peace of Christ to rule my heart.  I have to dethrone worry and fear and give the throne back to Christ.  This is an act of my will that God meets with His promise.

Thankfulness, gratitude, appreciation, awe and wonder of God’s goodness, all become lenses, and if I put them on, they will remind me that my Shepherd is leading me, and creating my path through the storm.  I must remember what He has done in my past to trust Him with my future.

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

 -Ralph Waldo Emerson – 

So, this past weekend as I wound my way through blurred and hazy roads, it was with a pair of sunglasses on my face.  I try to never leave home without them.  And as I travel this crazy road of life full of storms and fog, I endeavor to navigate my way through prayer and thankfulness, trusting that He will make my path straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart 

   and lean not on your own understanding; 
6 in all your ways submit to him, 
   and he will make your paths straight.

If you have lost your yellow lenses, I will loan you some of mine.