Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth,
Last night was cold. While I slept warm and snug in my bed, there were people sleeping on the streets, under bridges and in doorways: People in this very town slept under the stars and exposed to the winter chill. They are unknown to me. They are a problem for some government agency to fix. They are people who would benefit from a program of some sort.
I’m praying today because I realize that these people are not unknown to you. You know them by name. If they matter to you, they should matter to me. If they are precious in your sight, they should be precious in my own.
And so I pray that you will lead me to action. Guide me to caring. May I know how to act on your behalf before another blanket of bone chilling cold settles this night.
I try to live my life in a way that reflects gratitude. Sometimes I’m actually successful at reaching this goal. There are times when I celebrate little things, give thanks for the many blessings and embrace those in my life who strengthen my heart with love or my character with challenge. Sometimes.
There are other times that my pride and sense of entitlement overwhelms my better nature. There are those times when I expect others to understand my selfishness and bow to my childish demands. There are times when I become upset because life doesn’t fall into a perfect plan that benefits me. There are those times.
Thanksgiving Day is the easy one, right? November has become the month of Thanksgiving and we list off the 31 things we are thankful for; each day getting its own item. But all that seems to change the minute the store doors open on Friday morning (or Thursday night, or Thursday morning, or Wednesday night).
But, what if each moment was as it should be: Less about us, and more about others? What if our hearts overflow with joy instead of bogged down with desire? Shouldn’t we live lives of gratitude and grace instead of the desire to grab and go? Shouldn’t we have pure souls and open minds instead of jaded thoughts and bitter viewpoints?
Thanksgiving: It’s not just for November any more.
There are a few places in my life that bring deep peace to my heart and soul. When I enter the space, I find comfort and ease. Some of these sanctuaries of solace include the obvious locations: The Chapel in the hospital and my church auditorium.
Others are more obscure: McGregor Park, Turkey Run State Park, The Rocky Mountains, The Library. But one haven of healing stands out above all others.
Of all my precious asylums, our abode is my favorite. Our house is nothing short of a retreat center for my spirit, a balm for my soul. It is a residence of rest, a hearth of harmony, a quarter of quiet. Our home is a dear and wonderful place of tranquility and renewal.
I’m not exactly sure what makes this place so magical to my weary heart. It might be the way the light shines through the dining room window on a late autumn evening. It could be the way the grass grows in the back yard, thick and lush even on dry summer days. It is possible that it is the amazingly warm and inviting colors we’ve painted the walls. Or, most probably, it is the love and trust we’ve honed over the past thirteen years in this a little, vinyl-sided structure planted on a cul-de-sac in a norther-Indianapolis suburb.
Whatever it is that creates the mystery of this mansion, this house is more than my home. It is my sanctuary: A place of grace. It is “Grace House”…my place of safety and strength. And I love it, dearly.
I thought it was happening. I felt it slipping away. I suspected as much. Now I have proof. I’m losing my Klout. What started as a Klout Score of 55 just 90 short days ago has reached a new low. My social media influence ebbs and flows, sure. I knew my school work was cutting into my Facebook time, my Instagram postings and my Google+ Hangouts. I might be earning an education but I’m losing my social media presence. And really, what is more important?
Oh, ya. Back to the books.
When the day comes to an end and the sun slowly drops below the western horizon, it is a good opportunity to give thanks for another day; whether it was good or bad, evil or holy. It is a moment to reflect that our world, though filled with trouble, does not compare to those who just lost everything in the wind and rain of a storm. Our life, though disappointing at times, does not come close to the devastation that some suffer as they learn of the violent death of their loved on on the field of battle. Let us be thankful. Today, we drove to work and made it home safe. Today, we earned money to buy food, put shelter over our heads and clothes on our backs. Today, we celebrated the rising of the sun and the setting of the same.
Everyone needs a place to call their own. Everyone needs a group of people who know them, support them and love them. To quote the theme song from Cheers, “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
For my family, our church’s small group has been that place for the past decade. We’ve fallen in love with these people over the years. Through good and bad, thick and thin, we’ve shared life. Together. It hasn’t always been easy. But it has always been good.
Last night was another opportunity to gather, laugh, study and pray. It was another reminder of the privilege we have to share this time in our lives. These are special people and I can’t imagine my life without them.
As the weight of the world builds in our hearts, may we breathe in your goodness and breathe out our pain.
As the chaos of our work week accumulates all around, may we breathe in your order and breathe out our frustration.
May we breathe deep the breath of God. May we take into our very being your grace and peace. May we be enveloped by your sweet fragrance of love and mercy.
“Mercy triumphs over judgement.” James 2:13b
First, read this four-word nugget of wisdom again.
Now, think about the last time you were judgmental. Perhaps it was in the line at the grocery store when you questioned the items of the person in front of you. Maybe it was at your last family gathering when a sibling started talking about their financial struggles, again. Or, on the other extreme, when a coworker blathers on about their new car, boat, TV, or their latest trip to some exotic location. Or it might be every morning on the highway as that car cuts you off and speeds away. We often begin and end our days with judgement.
We are very good at judging others. We should be; we practice it enough. But what does that get us? I would suggest it gets us nothing more than a jaded perspective and a hardened heart.
Now think of the last time you showed mercy. It’s not as easy to come up with examples, is it? Let me help: It could be the time you listened to your coworker, spoke gently to your children, forgave your brother, encouraged your sister or bought lunch for a stranger.
Mercy triumphs over judgement. It could if we practiced it more often. I should if we allowed it to be a driving force to our actions. It will when we stop thinking of our selves and really pay attention to those around us.
Answers to hard questions are seldom black or white. Even when we think we have the obvious solution to a difficult problem, it is doubtful that we’ve exhausted all the possibilities. If we look hard enough, we discover other viewpoints that provide valid routes to the a successful and final destination.
This is as true in relationships, business, school work, sports or any other area of life. Creative thinking and honest dialogue almost always reveal new options; some times as obvious as the proverbial “Nose on our Face”.
Take for instance the government shut down. The issue isn’t really black or white (or Republican or Democratic, if you will). But no solution is evident because our governing officials aren’t looking for any shades of gray. They only see the black and white. And until someone shuts their mouths and opens their eyes and minds, everyone loses.
It’s been said, “No man is so blind as those who choose not to see.” It’s time to look at new options. It’s time to consider a different shade.