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Learning to Receive God’s Gifts

“Faith receives God’s gifts as gifts; gratitude receives them well.” – Miroslav Volf

So often I have failed to receive God’s gifts as simply gifts. Rather, I accepted the gifts, but took the recognition for the gifts as though they resulted from my own doing.  I took credit.

But He taps me on the shoulder and reminds me. He reminds me that I am loved and that I am the object of His blessings.  Without Him, without His gifts, I have nothing.

All the gifts come from the Giver. The one who loves.

So, I struggle to receive His gifts well, even when I acknowledge that all I have comes from Him, the Giver of Life. In my imperfection, I stumble through the receiving, the gratitude. I don’t know how to say, “thank you, I am grateful.”

I seek His face and let His love embrace me; I stand in a posture to simply receive and to give thanks. And then, in those moments, He transforms me.  He is present, as always.  But I see Him and feel Him in everything.  And, I know that I am dependent on Him for it all.

His love and compassion envelop me. I understand what it means to truly love and be loved. And, I am fully, completely, grateful.

I know Peace.

Join me in receiving God’s gifts well, along with the Gratitude Community.

May 24, 2010

88. For every breath

89. For knowing love

90. For knowing I am the object of that love

91. For knowing and trusting that my husband is the object of Your love

92.  For Your word

93. For knees that are able to drop to the floor

94. For aches and pains that remind me that I am alive

95. For spring rain

96. For the green and colors that follow

99. For the sun breaks that give hope of new life

100. For gentleness

101. For peace


God’s Sacred Script: An Ordinary Life

I picked up the file and headed down the elevator towards the parking garage. Who was this young woman I had agreed to meet with?  I say a little prayer as I head down to the garage to retrieve my car. Lord, help me to listen—to hear—what she needs. Speak through me.  I won’t know what to say.

Twenty minutes later I arrived at the low-income apartment complex. I rang the bell and a warm, but tired smile greeted me. I stepped into the small, dark, run down, cluttered apartment and left the rest of the world behind.   I listened.  I looked at pictures.  I heard her story.

She, a dying mother, needed peace of mind. She had six young children, most of them soon-to-be orphans.  A few would still have a father.  She needed help planning for the children.  Planning for guardianships and custody.  She needed to know her babies would be placed in loving homes.  To know her babies would, if possible, still know their brothers and sisters.

That meeting and my next—and final—meeting with that young mother were extraordinary. Sacred.  I could expect to receive nothing in return. And, what I had to give felt as though it flowed directly from God through me. His words. His compassion. The courage and love He showed me in this woman. The gifts He gave me to help. A few profound, extraordinary moments—sacred moments—because of God’s hand in it all.

Those moments reminded me of something Mother Teresa once said about being like “a little pencil” in God’s hand. “That is all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.”

Sacred moments serving as the pencil in the Creator’s hand. Those are the moments—the days—that faith draws me toward.  Those are the moments when God the creator and redeemer shows me that everything comes from him. Every breath.

God the giver of life took what could have been an ordinary meeting and made it sacred. Paul, in his letter to the Romans talked about becoming a “living sacrifice.”  The translation of Romans 12:1 from The Message says it nicely:

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

God makes the ordinary life extraordinary. Lord thank you for your unconditional gift of life. For the seemingly ordinary life that You promise to make extraordinary when we seek You, when we acknowledge You, and allow You to live in us and flow through us.  What an incredible gift to be the pencil, the instrument, that You use to write the story of Your kingdom–Your sacred script.


Gratitude for the Giver, not the Gift

After my mom died and as my father got older, he delighted in giving gifts to people. Little kindnesses.  Small tokens.

We showed our gratitude at the giving and receiving. We delighted in Dad’s generosity. In the fact that he had thought of us.  In the fact that he loved giving.

At first, we delighted in every gift, even if it was something silly or something we didn’t need. But, after a while, these small tokens grew into large collections of things—ceramic frog collections, stuffed animal collections, too many baby dolls to care for.  Things we didn’t need, nor really appreciate, because each one meant finding space for this new token in our small home.

We told Dad it wasn’t necessary, all these gifts. But, he loved the giving.  And so, he gave.  He gave not what we needed or wanted; rather, he gave from his heart because he wanted to give. And, we accepted the gifts because giving brought him joy.

Because we loved the giver.

On the other hand, I think how often I didn’t genuinely delight in all the receiving. How I tucked a gift in a drawer or gave it away.  How I thought I wish he would have gotten the kids something they really needed instead.

But, I continued to love Dad because he was “Dad.” A man with a big, loving, giving heart.  I loved him and appreciated him first, before all the giving of the gifts.

That is how I should love God. I should delight in the Giver, not in the worth or value of the gifts received.  I remember a quote I read once: that gratitude should be grounded in the beauty of God, before the gift.

Gratitude grounded in the beauty of God, before the gift. That is the gratitude I should have for God.  Not just gratitude for the gifts or because of the gifts.  But, gratitude simply because He is.

I join the Gratitude Community, over at A Holy Experience, and delight in the beauty of God, not just His gifts.

May 3, 2010

26. For a loving God

27. For Christ

28. That the sky displays Your craftsmanship

29. For Your ever presence

30. For just being God

31. For the peace that comes from knowing, from faith in the Father

32. For all the gifts, because they are from You, the Giver of all

33. For forgiveness and second chances

34. For unconditional love

35. For all the gifts I failed to recognize or simply tucked away

36. For Your unfathomable beauty

37. For a world painted with color, when You could have painted it in black and white

38. For the ancient, sacred words You have given

The Gifts of Words and Gestures of Gratitude

Recently, I received a phone call from someone I greatly respect. A mentor. I respect him in every way–for his integrity, for the thoughtful way he approaches his work, for his faith, for his relationship with his wife and daughter.

The evening before I received the phone call from him, he had spent several hours teaching and mentoring my students. I had called him to see if he would volunteer his time.  And, as always, he graciously agreed. The students felt privileged and honored to have this man speak with them and provide feedback to them.  I did, too.

I know this man because I had the privilege of working for him–alongside him–for two years after I finished graduate school. He hires new graduates for two years with the clear goal of serving as a mentor.  I learned more from him about writing, thinking, and integrity, than I learned in my four years of graduate school. He was–and is–the most ethical person I know.  He was–and remains–the most brilliant person I know.  So, of course, having him work with my students–even for a few hours–meant a lot to me.

The next day, I returned to my office ready to write a note of thanks to him. But, before I got the chance, he called. I was out of the office, so he left a voice mail.  His words flowed with warmth and gratitude.  He had called to thank me–for the “opportunity” to work together with the students.  For the “gift of time” together.  A time, he said, that he will “remember for a very long time. . . just all the ways it came together.”

I felt the same way–but he had the words. Thoughtful, gracious words. Words spoken from the heart. And, he had taken the time to pick up the phone and let me know. I will remember his words for a long time.

His small gesture flooded me with a sense of appreciation. Little things–a few words, a brief meeting or a phone call–make such a difference.  Gestures of gratitude. Small, sincere, gestures, that make our relationships much more than they otherwise might be. The gift of a few, heartfelt words.  Words spoken that reflect kindness, compassion, thanksgiving, gratitude.  Healing words.

My mentor’s small gesture reminds me how profound and healing those small acts are. And, it reminds me that Christ asks me to live that way.  He displayed that in His own life of compassion and healing. He taught that we need to “love one another.”

I can’t find the words sometimes. And, sometimes I forget to make the small gesture of gratitude, kindness, or compassion.

And so, I seek Christ. I look to Him to provide the words, gestures, and time so that I may reflect His grace, hope, and love.

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