"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." - C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thank You

At the daycare where I work a preschooler bowed his head to pray before snacktime.  Honestly, I wasn't completely listening to all of his prayer, but most of it was typical for the kids in his class: "Thank You for our parents.  Thank You for our teachers..." and so on and so forth.  I remembered to pay attention as he ended his prayer: "Thank You for the sun and the moon and the stars.  Amen."

Sweet.  Cute.  Okay, time for snack.  It wasn't until later that I really thought about it.

What fills most of your prayers?  When I pray, my mind is usually centered on my needs, my concerns, my worries, and my problems.

As Christians we can bring every worry, concern, or problem to the throne of grace.  It is an inconceivable blessing that we are called to take part of: "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:5b-6).  We are invited to bring every request to our God.

We bring our needs.  Our worries.  We often bring thanks for our family and friends and for our health and safety. But how often do we thank Him for the gifts He faithfully gives us day after day after day - gifts that we stopped noticing a long time ago?

Do we thank Him for keeping the air so perfectly oxygenated?  Do we show our gratitude for sunrises and snowflakes and flowers that come up every spring without our help?

When was the last time you thanked God for the stars?  I'm not even sure when I last looked at the stars - they're just there.  Since they don't directly affect my everyday life, it is so easy for me to simply forget about them.  I'm not sure I ever thanked God for them.

But why not?  The stars show His handiwork, His grand greatness, and His power.  Why not thank Him for the beauty of the stars?

"I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives." - Ann Voskamp

It is good to pray for what we need and what worries us.  It is good to thank God for the significant blessings we appreciate.  Yet how many blessings do we fail to even notice?  There is so much we take for granted - yet He gives freely anyway.

"Thank You for the sun and the moon and the stars..."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What's the Point?

I watched Beauty and the Beast today - once upon a time it was my favorite movie.  Even now, I love the song "Be Our Guest," where Lumiere (the French candlestick) says, "Life is so unnerving, for a servant who's not serving."

Much has been said about spiritual gifts, the teaching that each Christian is given a particular ability by God:
"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
I have yet to figure out my spiritual gift.  I remember a quiz we took in youth group years ago, where we added up our score to determine our primary spiritual gift.  Being the sentimental packrat I am, I think I still have that score sheet somewhere, but I have long forgotten the results.

More recently I've heard about the importance of the different spiritual gifts, but I haven't taken the time to determine my own.  To be honest, I read the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 the other day without even slowing down to consider it.

But then I immediately came to 1 Corinthians 13 - the love chapter.  Like many of you, I've read it countless times, even memorized it.  But for the first time, I noticed something familiar:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Did you catch it?  Read it again, with the list of spiritual gifts in mind.  Right after he finishes teaching about spiritual gifts, Paul starts talking about love.  He opens the "love chapter" by rephrasing the spiritual gifts he just talked about.

The "tongues of men and angels"?  That sounds like the gift of speaking in tongues - he just mentioned it a few verses earlier.

And "prophetic powers" would be the gift of prophecy, right?

Understanding "all mysteries and all knowledge" reminds me of the gift of teaching.

"All faith, so as to remove mountains" sounds like the gift of miracles.

And on it goes.  Paul tells us that, no matter what spiritual gift we have, if we don't use it in love, we may as well not have the gift in the first place.

But Paul continues.  "Let all things be done for building up" (1 Corinthians 14:26).  And what builds up?
"This 'knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1).
What builds up?  Love.

I still couldn't tell you my spiritual gift, because I don't know what it is.  Maybe I should.

Life can be unnerving for a servant who's not serving.  But perhaps it is even worse for a servant who is serving, using his gift - but not in love.  Even if I were to find out my spiritual gift tomorrow, what matters is whether I'm doing whatever I'm doing in love - and to build up the church.
If I know my spiritual gift and use it every chance I get, but not in love, without building up the church...what's the point?