Abundant cause for gratitude

June 6, 2001
Blue Journal

“And if you have nothing more to thank God for than that He bears with you and spares you and waits for you and is so utterly forbearing about all your unruly ways, which never give Him a chance to achieve all His great designs in you, surely in this alone, you have abundant cause for gratitude.”  (John Tauler)

“The room with the asylum just a doctor’s note away.”

How do I give thanks even in suffering?

I shifted my weight and paper crackled under me. My chest constricted, my eyes sagged and my mind tangled like an old cobweb.

The doctor looked up, “There’s hope for guys your age, this isn’t unusual.” I doubted that and continued rocking back and forth.

I come back to that room in my mind a lot. The room with the asylum just a doctor’s note away.

My father sat across from me, a steadying presence. My wife held my hand, scared. I rocked with chronic anxiety and depression. My fears had distended into sleepless nights, sweaty sheets and a sick and hopeless heart.

The walls of my life closed in when I was just 23, newly married and a grad student – and I wanted out. In the basement of my parents’ house I cursed God.

With tears carelessly wiped and flung, my fists pounded the bed. I yelled my pain into pillows. I screamed at God, scared he’d leave me.

He didn’t leave. He never intended to.

Fourteen years later, I still struggle with anxiety, but the doctor was right. There is hope. It’s the practice of giving thanks.

There’s a book I always go back to, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. A friend dared her to write 1,000 things she was thankful for in a year. A mother of six and farmer’s wife, Voskamp finds epiphanies around every corner.

The smallest thing, like the way sunlight hits grated cheese, fills her with happiness.

As a guy, I picked up the book skeptically. The cover shows a pair of hands holding a nest with robin eggs and a background just a touch lighter than “Lady Finger Beige”. Yes, I had to research that color, as well as how to spell “beige”.

But this line slashed through my skepticism: “I enter the world like every person enters the world: with clenched fists.”

You can read the rest here.


This is a great piece!

Learning to Give Thanks

November 26, 2013 By  

After my father’s death, about a dozen years ago, I picked up the habit of asking my mother to call or e-mail me the minute she and Bob return from an out-of-town trip. It doesn’t matter whether their itinerary includes a flight across the Atlantic or a drive across the George Washington Bridge. Like many Manhattanites, the two of them seem like rare flowers that draw their sustenance from concrete, so it’s a stretch to imagine them transplanting themselves, even for a few hours, without inviting disaster.

Both of them play along. My mother’s cooperation, I always assumed, came with a certain pride that I’d inherited her nerves of glass. One evening when I was about 14, I stepped into the hall to find her sprawled in front of the bathroom door like Maderno’s St. Cecilia. “You left your underwear on top of the laundry bag,” she hissed. “Again.” A few months later, on my first day of high school I wrote, “TODAY, I AM CAST INTO THE PIT” on a sheet of legal paper and taped it to the refrigerator door. Or so she swears. Shared neurosis was what made our little apartment feel like a home.

Over the years, my mother and Bob have turned into first-class world travelers. One year it’s Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, the next it’s Agra and Delhi. They send back digital slideshows of themselves caked with Dead Sea mud, or beaming over bowls of fried crickets as fish nibble the dead skin from their feet. They synchronized their slides of Brazil to Django Reinhardt and published the video over their own YouTube channel, so tens of thousands of people have seen them dressed as a Candomblé priest and priestess.

But this new adventuresome spirit failed to register with me until yesterday afternoon, after she and Bob had gotten back visiting her Uncle Butch in Hamilton Township. “Guess what?” she asked. “Bob and I didn’t get to see Uncle Butch, but we got to take a very exciting ride in a tow truck.”

You can read the delightful rest here.

“Never, never did He not hear.”

I just had to dig Amy Carmichael out today to look for something of hers to share.  She just has such a wonderful way of saying things and hitting the nail right on the head.

Ps 116.1 I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my supplications.

As we look back on past years,  they are full of memories of great sorrows and great joys also.  If I were asked to give the sum of the years in a sentence I would write this: I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my supplications.  Never, never did He not hear.  Never was He far away.

It will be the same with you.  Just now you are in the midst of the pressure of life.  One thing follows another so closely that you have hardly time to think, hardly time to realize how much you are being helped.  But looking back, it will be different.  If there have been sorrows, you will see how marvelous His lovingkindness was.  If there have been joys, it will be the same.  If the time held just one steady round of service it will still be the same.  Every day, every hour will seem to you than as if these words were written across it: I love the Lord because He has heard.

So love Him now, rejoice in Him now, however things are because it is true today–He hears your voice and your supplications.

We all clap

Your bathrobe tie dropped into the toilet, the computer is taking forEVer, the telephone is ringing again, and you still don’t know what you’re making for dinner tonight. . . . and it’s only the beginning of Lent!  Read Christopher deVinck’s story below to remind you of a very, very important principle:

One spring afternoon my five-year-old son, David, and I were planting raspberry bushes along the side of the garage.  He liked to bring the hose and spray the freshly covered roots and drooping leaves.

A neighbor joined us for a few moments and there we stood, my son David, the neighbor and I. We probably discussed how much water a raspberry plant could possibly endure when David placed the hose down and pointed to the ground.  “Look, Daddy!”

If a wasp enters the house, I show my three children, David, Karen and Michael, how I catch the insect with a glass and a piece of thick paper.  I wait for the wasp to stop its frantic thumping and buzzing against the windowpane, then I place the open drinking glass over the creature and trap it.  Then, without pinching the wasp, I slowly slide the thick paper under the glass, and there I have it.

I invite the children to take a close look.  They like to see the wasp’s think wings; then all four of us leave the house through the front door for the release.

The children, standing back a little, like to watch as I remove the paper from the top of the glass.  They like to watch the rescued wasp slowly walk to the rim of the glass, extend its wings, and fly off into the garden.  We all clap, David, Karen, Michael and I.

When David was two he climbed the top of the small blue slide one afternoon in our backyard, and just before he zoomed down, he saw a few ants crawling around on the smooth metal.  “Daddy! Ants!”

We stopped and crouched down to see if we could count how many legs ants have (six); then I gently brushed the ants off the slide and David shot down with glee.

I choose to watch the wasp and count the legs of an ant.

“Look, Daddy!  What’s that?” I stopped talking with my neighbor and looked down.

“A beetle,” I said.

David was impressed and pleased with the discovery of this fancy, colorful creature.

My neighbor lifted his foot and stepped on the insect giving his shoe an extra twist in the dirt.

“That ought to do it,” he laughed.

David looked up at me, waiting for an explanation, a reason.  I did not wish to embarrass my neighbor, but then David turned, picked up the hose and continued spraying the raspberries.

That night, just before I turned off the lights in his bedroom, David whispered, “I liked that beetle, Daddy.”

“I did too,” I whispered back.

We have the power to choose.

Next time the computer freezes, your bathrobe tie falls in the toilet, and the phone rings again, remember you have the power to choose how to respond.  And maybe, just maybe, you could also choose to clap.  Let’s pray for each other this Lent.

P.S. If you’ve never read Chris deVinck’s The Power of the Powerless, from which this excerpt was drawn, do so.  You won’t regret it.

“The Holiday that could become All of our Days”

I am going to be out of town for Thanksgiving, but wanted to share this beautiful reflection for these days from Ann Voskamp:

The woman I meet up on the concourse, she tells me she was done.

Done with the man and the ring and the vows, done with the kids, done with her life.

Her eyes are so large and fragile, hands trembling, the way your world can quake and break and the aftershocks rattle you and the stunned retelling. I touch her shoulder.

And she crumbles in and heaves, and heaves that counting blessings made her see blessings and she’s staying and staying alive and barren places can break with bloom.

I memorize her face and glory.

We are the broken and the bruised and the messed up and the unmasked, women meeting at a conference, women of faith, and turning quiet to pull up sleeves and show scars.

A woman murmurs at my ear over the din that her brother in law ran over his 13 month old daughter, and we don’t have to say anything, and hands find each other and lace and this world is right busted and tied up with the strings of His broken and offered heart.

And a gravelly voice speaks of cancer and a grave and a child whose name she wears around her neck, and we finger that name together and fiercely believe in a Father who knows and holds and cups like relief, like a lung, when we can’t breathe.

And the story of a stroke and a mother and depression that pinned to a bed and the dark that suffocated for decades and the pen that wrote His gifts, that opened the veil to His light.

And I tuck a lock of hair behind the ear, and listen to unlockings and how women are finding keys.

And then she stepped close, a woman who couldn’t lift her head, who hid her eyes, and she says it timid near my shoulder.

“I had six children when I sinned.” And I turn, wrap an arm around her shoulder, draw her in.

I had an affair…” Her words snag and tear and I hold on to her as she starts to give way. “I got pregnant. And I couldn’t handle what I had done.”

I try to swallow, all my sins stuck and lodged and burning there in my throat. Oh, sister. The sobs wrack and we are two women caught in the act of living and sinning.

“And the day I was going for the abortion, a friend gave me this.” She nods her head towards that book with the nest on the cover.

“She gave it to me — and said what I couldn’t handle was actually a gift.” And I can hardly take this, have to look away, take my shoes off, tear my coat, beat my chest.

“And I read and I agreed with God and he is.”

And there on the screen of her phone –  she offers this picture of a smiling baby boy.

And I reach out and hold his smile and it is holy and it is epiphany and it is hard –

What you think you can’t handle — might actually be God handing you a gift.

You can read the rest here.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving, full of true gratefulness for all the gifts in your life.