for the past month on facebook, i have been reading friends declarations of what they are thankful for each day. from family to friends to jobs to houses to no interest loans to buy new kitchen appliances with character building blemishes, the thanks giving has been steady throughout the month. in the beginning i did think about jumping on the bandwagon and post each and every day in the month of november what i was thankful for. (i do suspect that by this time during the month, that there are a few who are struggling to post one more thing they are thankful for.)
but, i decided not to jump on that bandwagon and to do my best to maintain the positive, yet snarky, facebook updates that i love sharing with the world. i did, however, really start to think about what i am thankful for and why there is only one day, and only one month, we are challenged to express it to the world.
one of the most eternally awkward moments at the thanksgiving table is going around and everyone sharing about what they are thankful for, all the while the food gets cold. (you know, the food that your grandmother and mother slaved in the hot kitchen all day.) nobody really wants to be the first one, because you really want to hear what everyone else has to say so that you can come up with something really creative. also, being the first out the gate means that everyone can pile on all the stuff that they are thankful for, yet you completely forgot to mention while in the midst of your deer-in-the-head-lights-have-to-tell-everyone-what-your-thankful-for-and-can’t-remember-a-darn-thing moment. yep, we have all had those… and i am assuming that we can all say that those moments really suck!
thank you, Lord, my family have never done it. when i was a kid and we sat down to eat, we were all business. passing the turkey, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce (yes, the kind with the ridges from the can… is there any other?), stuffing and the all important white bread shaped into a somewhat fancy dinner roll. it was all there and we were happily piling our plated full of the stuff. it was all there, ready to go from serving dish to plate to our stomaches. bottom line is we were not a touchy-feely family, and didn’t share things like what we are thankful for with each other.
i wonder why we only take one day, one month to really give thanks for everything we have. i for one was taught to always say “thank you” in response to someone, but i do know that this particular lesson has escaped some parenting strategies. i honestly believe that hearing “thank you” will never go out of style.
so, what am i thankful for? I am thankful for many, many things, but the biggest thing is where God has brought me in my journey thus far. i have cried many tears of sorrow, sadness, loneliness, pain, and grief… I’m thankful for each and every tear. i have many friends, past and present, who care for me deeper than i deserve, and i am thankful for each and every one of them. i have many of material needs met and a little more, and i am thankful for all of it. i laughed many, many times (a lot of it is at myself) and i am thankful for each and every instance and fit of laughter that i have had. i am a citizen of a country where i have a choice in who i worship, i get to gather with fellow believers and worship my God is a safe place and space… and i am thankful for those freedoms.
most of all, i am thankful for my God… who saw fit to create me in his image. who has given me gifts, skills, abilities, and passions that can and will change the world. who loves me beyond measure and made the most significant sacrifice, of which i will never know the full cost of Christ being on the cross, for me. who liberally applies grace towards me, even when i least deserve it. who, above all else, simply and significantly loves me… just as He created me to be.
many years ago, well seventeen to be exact, i had planned a party for celebration on this very day. there were pots of spaghetti sauce being made, a cake with a with a humorous them being put together across town, bottles of soda chilling and the expectation of surprise hung in the air like a thick cloud of steam being release from a pot of boiling pasta. as far as i was concerned i was ready for the big reveal. but, the real surprise wouldn’t be for the birthday guy. nope… it would be for all his guests.
this was my dad’s fiftieth birthday… and it was a surprise party. friends from Oregon and Reno were coming into town for the party. even my mom (at this point my parents had been divorced for about two years) took the day of work and did a massive house cleaning. (ok, so maybe there was a bit of motivation from knowing her former mother-in-law would be in the house and wanted to give her best impression… but i digress.) all in all, it was shaping up to one great little party.
but in the weeks before, the birthday boy himself made one little decision that not only sent me into tears, but also was set to derail my months of planning and scheming in order to get everything into place. he revealed to me that he decided to move to southern California for his new job a week early. Meaning he was high-tailing it out of town the week before his surprise birthday party! the moment i heard those words, i dissolved into a teary mush of goo and he went from being Dad to Daddy.
through my sobs he heard about all the well made plans of Grandma making the largest post of spaghetti sauce she had ever made (Grandma exaggerated at times), how is best friend from Reno and family were heading down the hill for this special celebration (they hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years), and how our close family friends from Oregon were coming down to surprise him too and they were bringing the cake! He was impressed at the magnitude of planning i took on in order to see this happen, and not wanting to derail the plans, decided to stick with his original scheduled move date of the following weekend. But, instead of me calling everyone and informing them that the gig was up and he foiled the plans, he threw a bit of a twist in it all. instead of him being surprised, why doesn’t he show up first and surprise everyone else. (now do see where i got my devious, but always used for good ways?!?)
and that’s just what he did. he arrived early and we had the best time watching everyone through the kitchen window arrive. some who parked down the street and attempted to sneak up to the house and not be noticed, or others who parked across the street. no matter where they parked, when the door was opened for them to come in, they were greeted by the birthday guy himself. that started the night off right, with laughter being shared by all.
i have great memories of that night. it seemed as though all the hurt that had been passed from person to person in the previous three years with the divorce and all the drama that came with that, was set aside for that one night to celebrate someone who was significant in all our lives. these are the memories that cling to. the ones filled with laughter and celebration. the ones that we experience friendship and love in some of it’s purest forms. if just for one night, that’s what happened at this little surprise party for my dad.
it’s been almost fifteen years since my dad went to be with Jesus, and today would have been his sixty-seventh birthday. there wouldn’t have been a party, but there would have been a great dinner with a great cake to follow.
Love is friendship caught fire; it is quiet, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Love is content with the present, hopes for the future, and does not brood over the past. It is the day-in and day-out chronicles of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.
~ by Laura Hendricks
these are the things i am currently failing at: finding a job, keeping up with my laundry, emailing the people who i need to email, posting to my blog at least once a week… yada yada yada. the list can go on and on and on… but, i’ll keep some of my pride and stop while i am ahead.
i used to think i was really good at failing. i’ve earned my fair share of “f’s” on my report cards (ok, so i have dyslexia and didn’t find out until i was 23), burned the occasional pot of rice (rice is tricky to cook ya’ know), been in a car accident… or two… or three, gotten a speeding ticket (only one of those… promise!), and the list can really go on and on, but i will spare you the drudgery of it all.
tonight a friend of mine and i were talking about our lives… we were kind of comparing them, who’s life was more difficult and the such. (it was a draw… were both unemployed) i made the comment to her that i know that God has great things ahead for me, and she immediately affirmed that for me. the thing about that statement is… up until a month and a half ago, i didn’t really believe that statement. i didn’t believe it because i knew of all the things that i had failed at, and it didn’t make sense to me that God would take such a failure and use to do great things.
at this point in my life, i can truly say that i feel God’s love like i have never before. i have the confidence to go out into the world and make a great imprint on it for the Kingdom. i feel comforted by God’s love every morning i wake up, throughout the day and every night when i fall asleep.
i am fully aware of the things i have failed at, as well as the potential things i could possibly fail at. but, when God uses all things for His glory… i can step forward with the confidence that He will do great things… in spite of me!
yep, i’m a sinner.
now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about gambling. this past weekend i took a friend to one of the indian casinos in the area. i had never been to this one, so it was a nice little adventure.
once we arrived on the casino floor, we did our first lap to check out the space. by no means are we high rollers (and by “we” i really mean her… because i am broke… and that ain’t no joke…), so we scoped out the penny slots. as we were making our obligatory lap, we came across the non-smoking section. this was the asthmatics gambling paradise. the ability to breath fully without inhaling gross cigarette smoke, and choking up a lung, lets one think more clearly, thus making more wise gambling decisions.
i was playing it all… all $4 that is. (a donation by my friend… she felt guilty that i wasn’t sitting next to her having the same adrenaline rush as she did while pushing the pretty buttons) here’s my play-by-play: $2 into the machine… $1 lost, insert another $1… won $2… total now $4… cash out…. move to another machine, this one had a surf theme… realized that i’d upped the ante, it’s a two cent machine (i know… i live life to the fullest)… i could now win bigger, or loose faster… which is what i did. you know, $4 in a two cent slot machine goes kinda fast… just sayin’. well, as a fellow native american, i did my duty and supported a local tribe.
in the end we both lost… me $4… her $25. but that’s the chance you take. i am often amazed at how many people are there, and this being a holiday weekend, the place was packed. the slot machines, tables, the high roller rooms… they were all packed with people, not to mention the line for the buffet. (we already ate, so just did a walk by… but, isn’t that what people really want at the casino… a good buffet? i digress…) there were just a ton of people there.
at one point i began to imagine what it would be like if all these people went to church like this, or even what it would take to get people to church in masses like this. sure there are some of us who have the hankering to worship, but there are a ton of people who warm a pew on sunday morning because it’s the right thing to do… or it’s just what you do.
i recently began a small group study about spiritual disciplines. the author of the book we are reading talks about worship as an act of gratitude for what God has done for us, as opposed to an act of obligation. i know that i can’t honestly say that every sunday i am in church with a heart full of gratitude. and i will even go as far to say that i had more excitement walking into the casino, than i do on some sundays when i walk into church.
i want my heart to be full of gratitude and have the anticipation of excitement every time i walk into church. i want to be aware of the sacrifice that God made for me, that he sees the worth in me and choose to do what he did. i want to be excited to see and experience the spirit move during worship. i want to be excited for the words that God will revel to me during the act of corporate worship.
i want a lot. but is it really too much to ask of myself to raise my level of excitement to the place i was at when i walked into the casino? no… no it’s not.
contrary to popular belief, I am not a big drinker. a bottle of beer has the ability to remain in fridge for several months before i even remember that it’s in there. and there are several good reasons that i do not regularly partake in libations… first, i’ve been blessed with alcoholism swimming around in my family gene pool, on both the deep and shallow ends. (i’ll let you determine which side is the shallow and which is the deep) second, alcohol is darn stinkin’ expensive… at least the good stuff. and is there really any purpose in drinking anything but the good stuff?
and finally… drunk people are only funny for so long. there really does come a point when it’s best to show them the door, or you leave yourself, before they puke on your shoes.
so now i find myself at an interesting point in my life… i’ve come to affectionately call it my semi-mid-life-maybe-not-really-crisis. within those set parameters i feel that i am able to do things that might seem… oh, out of character. or even something out of the ordinary. and so i did… i went to bar tending school.
mixology is a fine art… mixing your vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey is not for the faint of heart. in fact, it had been a long time since i had something so rigorous to study for. mastering the art of the one ounce blind pour sent some fellow class mates over the edge. and we aren’t even going to mention the nervousness that surrounded the pour test for some fellow students.
now, i can make a mean Singapore Sling or a Bahama Mama… not to mention a Brain Hemorrhage or a Cement Mixer. (there are just some concoctions of alcohol that i can’t imagine why people would drink them… ) the art of the muddle and shake is just as important as the booze you pour. from your inexpensive well drinks to your top shelf, the difference between average vodka and good vodka is tremendous… in taste and in the pocket book.
so, am i really going to get a job working at a bar? am i going to be pouring libations at clubs in midtown on friday and saturday nights? i am going to twist off caps off of longneck bud when the average joe bellies up to the bar for his daily drink? and, what does this mean for me as a christian… a christian who has a call to vocational ministry nonetheless?
i seriously doubt you’ll find me at the neighborhood bar restocking the bud light or pouring some type of sweet fruity tini at the hottest downtown night spot. maybe i’ll end up at some chain restaurant pouring from their drink menu, or even be the friend who can be the great bar tender at parties.
mostly what i’ll do now is pray. seek God for what he has next for me… for the calling he has given me. he’s cultivated passions and skills and talents in me that will all collide in a moment for his kingdom, and it’s my job to be ready and alert when that happens. the bar tending thing just happens to be the now thing… and has also given me the ability to pour a really good drink for my friends.
i always find it funny when my circumstances change and i start viewing things in much different ways. in someways, this recent change was an answer to prayer. i do, vaguely, remember asking God to take away some of my materialistic attitudes and replace them with a more purposeful focus on important things… like what breaks His heart.
so here i am now, about to push the start button on the next chapter in this journey. not sure what will come of it, but so far it’s been an eye opening one!
the other day a friend of mine was telling me that she wanted to experience the grand canyon skywalk. basically it’s a glass bottomed u-shaped bridge that’s about 4,000 feet about the canyon floor. i have absolutely no desire to go anywhere near it because i have a paralyzing fear of heights.
when i was a kid, i was prettified of jumping off the edge of a pool. i can climb a latter just fine, but coming down is a completely different story. i even missed a chance to go spelunking several years back because we had to climb down a latter into a dark pit of what seemed to be nothingness. basically, my fear of plummeting to my death paralyzes me to the point of non-existent exploration.
recently i have made the observation in my life that i also do the same thing in my everyday-ordinary-life. when i experience some type of set back, i tend to avoid something out of fear. not only do i have a tendency to avoid, but i also become paralyzed with that fear.
growing up my family had a membership to the local community pool. one sunny, summer day i was there with my friends and they double-dogged-dared me to jump off the high dive. know, normally i would tuck my tail between my legs and go home, but this was where i spent the majority of my summer and i wasn’t about to let this dare go by the wayside. so i began my assent to the top of the spring board. with each ladder rung, i knew i was in deep trouble. not only was there a line beginning to form behind of kids wanting to jump of the hi dive, but there was a group gathered on the side of the pool by the life guard stand waiting to see my belly-flop extravaganza.
but once up there, i froze. i couldn’t move. there i was at the top and i couldn’t move a muscle. i couldn’t bring myself to jump. so, i did the next scariest thing… i climbed down the ladder. no matter what, i envisioned myself landing smack on the cement, breaking my leg or arm or cracking my head open and all my brains oozing out. (ok, the later is a bit extreme… but you get the idea.)
i lost focus. i relied on myself to carry me through my fears, and i just couldn’t do it. kind of like when Jesus calls out to Peter, and Peter sinks because he allows great fear to take over him, instead of fully relying of Jesus. instead of his faith fully relying on Jesus, fear crept in and created an attitude of doubt within him.
there is so much i want in my life and for my life. yet, i doubt. i used to tell myself that it was myself whom i doubted, but the reality and truth is that it is really Jesus whom i doubted. i’ve learned that in order for me to rid my life of doubt, i need to take that first step out of the boat all the while maintaining my focus on Jesus. and not in certain areas of my life, but my complete life.
what part of your life does doubt exist?