With a rebel yell, she cried “More! More! More!”
I thought of this Billy Idol song from the ’80s when a friend told me how she came to the sudden realization that she’d been asking and asking God for blessings, not stopping to appreciate already-answered prayers.
Well. Yes, ouch, and amen.
For me—most of the time, anyway—giving thanks has to be intentional. I have to remind myself to be grateful, have to make the effort to “forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). Asking for more, on the other hand, comes really easily.
But I don’t want to be a rebel, a greedy child who feels entitled and always demands more. I want to be close to the heart of my Divine Parent, deeply grateful for every blessing, increasingly aware of them all around me.
With a joyful heart, she shouts “Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!”
(I appreciate Mary Q. for starting this train of thought.)
Pablo Picasso, The Greedy, 1901
I did it again: snoozed the alarm three times, then overslept by an hour. Leaping out of bed, racing to get to work on time, I scolded myself: You’ve been struggling with this one issue for as long as you can remember. You didn’t have time for devotions, or a healthy breakfast. It’s a shame…..Look how awful it is to start the day in defeat.
Mid-rant, I stopped. That got my attention. How wonderful it would be to start the day in victory! Not my victory—I had none—but my Lord’s. I could repent, give the problem to him, trust his forgiveness, ask for help, and move on. In victory.
So I did just that. What a comfort, what a blessing! It was a good day. And I’ll work on getting to bed earlier.
Jan Sanders van Hemessen, “Christ as Triumphant Redeemer” (circa 1545)
I was grabbed by a Scripture again the other day: Romans 6:11, where it says “…we are alive TO God…” It was the preposition that caught my attention. Why TO? What does that even mean? Alive in God makes sense, or by or with or through, but how can I be alive to God?
Other prepositional phrases with “to” come to mind, but they all include verbs: commit to, react to, respond to, submit to. They require action on my part. Maybe being alive to God includes all of the above, and more: Open to. Run to. And yes, hallelujah, related to.
Thank you, Lord. Help us learn—increasingly, delightfully—to be alive to you.
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The Bible says that we humans are like grasshoppers compared to God (Isaiah 40:22), and yet we pride ourselves on the little bits of understanding that we have. And we fret and whine when we can’t comprehend what God is doing during difficult times. Let’s realize, and remember, that there are layers of comprehension far beyond our best knowledge. Let’s humble ourselves to trust the One whom we are beginning to know, instead of trusting in our completely inadequate understanding, and believe that whatever Love plans is best for us all. Somehow.
And then let’s remind ourselves of a miracle of grace: our grasshopper submission, our tiny cooperation, our infinitesimal love for God are multiplied beyond imagination, so our gifts to the Divine can become, through divine multiplication, gigantic.
The ongoing glory of Christmas is the fact of EMMANUEL, God with us.
How can we begin to comprehend this incomprehensible wonder, that the Divine presence is fully with each of the billions of people on this earth? And how can we begin to realize that this is personal? That God is with us, and with our loved ones, at each moment?
In every challenge, every need, every joy, every growth, God is with us. Whether or not we believe it. We don’t need to do anything to make this happen; God is already here. There. And everywhere.
My challenge to you, and to myself, is to become increasingly aware of this truth. In Psalm 16:11 David said, “In God’s presence is fullness of joy.” Instead of focusing on our needs, inadequacies, fears, or disappointments, let’s shift our focus to this miraculous presence. Just start, and see what happens.
Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi – The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1440
On Christmas Eve I sat in a beautiful sanctuary. The majestic pipe organ and exquisite choir provided soaring music. Everything was in place for a wonderful celebration of faith, but I was surrounded by doubt and had questions of my own.
Many of us were grieving for departed loved ones; struggling with fear, anger, rejection, and disappointment; unsure of the very existence of God; caught in the grip of dread disease; asking hard questions in search of truth, and not getting any immediate answers. But we were there.
I imagine there was plenty of unbelief on that first Christmas, before the angels appeared. What did Mary wonder, as she pushed through labor without anesthesia? What were Joseph’s doubts? What fears haunted the shepherds as they watched their sheep, what griefs dogged the wise men as they traveled far from home? What crises of faith challenged the participants in that blessed event? And yet, they were there.
The Light of the world came for them in their doubt, for us in our unbelief. Callie Crawford has said that “faith is not certitude.” Our faith ebbs and flows; our confidence moves from high to low and back to high; our strength waxes and wanes with each passing day. But the Light of Love is here, always here, for each of us. Whether or not we see, or believe, or understand. It is here, even now. Emanuel.
Meister der Kahriye-Cami-Kirche, Journey to Bethlehem mosaic at Chora in Istanbul, circa 1315-1320.
Yesterday I went to the Office of Vital Records for a death certificate for my dear husband, who passed into eternal life on December 8.
I cried plenty in the months and weeks leading up to his passing, but not a bit after that until I stood in that gloomy government office yesterday. When Stevie Wonder’s “Always” came over their sound system, though, I heard the truth in the song, and wept.
Billy was a man of strong opinions and massive gifts. He didn’t love perfectly (and who among us loves perfectly?) but he loved deeply, truly, fiercely. He loved—loves—for always. And I believe to the core of my soul that he loves us freely now, unfettered by pain or any other human weight.
If you have lost a treasured friend, if you wonder about your own mortality, know this and be comforted: Love is from God, and it never dies. The love that we receive and the love we give will never go away. Love is for always.
Wilbert E. “Billy” Brown, Jr., with our youngest granddaughter.
Stevie Wonder, “Always” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyFypz1lya8