Today’s Joys

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“What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them.”
― Emily P. FreemanSimply Tuesday ―

This week I have enjoyed the quiet company of old friends, the exuberant and spontaneous hospitality of strangers, an enormous rainbow emblazoned like a banner of love over my head, and the breeze ruffling my hair when I rode with the window down. I have felt the surge of looking-ahead, of wonderings and musings…and I keep trying to pull myself back.

“Thank you,” I whisper. “For this, right now.”

Why must I always compare this moment to something that was or something that will be?

It’s too easy to cling to the past seasons, or wistfully wait on what’s coming next…but it’s not very easy to just lay these things aside and embrace the fullness of Now. Today. This solitary, sacred moment. This is the only time I will have this moment in my grasp, and even as I possess it, it slips through my eager fingers like air.

More than just a sentimental connection with the moment, I want to grab hold of something. C.S. Lewis said that …”the Present is the point at which time touches eternity,” and I think it must be.

I have a tarnishing necklace with these words scrawled across the metal pendant: “Every day is a gift.” Maybe that is what I’m reaching for–to accept the gift of this day, the gift of this breath, with attention.

Have you ever seen a child bide his time, ripping open his many Christmas presents and tossing them aside as he waits for his parents to bring out the one gift he wants most. He may barely notice the other gifts as he unwraps them, because he isn’t really looking at them at all. He is really only thinking of one thing–and that one thing is something he does not yet hold in his hands.

I’m afraid I’m like that. I frantically unwrap seconds of my life, pile minutes into unnoticed heaps, stack hours on fast-filling shelves, file away days in the back of a drawer…and I forget to look at them twice as I fling the new-moment wrapping aside and plunge ahead to the “bigger gifts” I hope I can unwrap soon.

But lately…I’ve been trying to learn. My moments come and go faster than breaths, quieter than glances, but I reach out to accept more of them as they pass.

My bones chill with the temporary wonder of each breath. Joy breaks over me like laughter. Even pain invades my moments with something like joy itself–as if the love mixes with the pain to grow a heart larger and roomier than it was before. To make more room in it, perhaps, for more mingled laughter and tears.

I’m seeing the tiny wonders more clearly. People and relationships I often take for granted. The smallest of yellow flowers along the hiking trail. The tone of concern in a friend’s voice. The tears shed across tables and across miles. A rainbow that makes me laugh aloud, painted across the gray. The small graces of a Redeemer who seams my moments together with invisible, invincible thread.

I reach out for these small graces, because they are a way to lift up my face and smile thanks for another undeserved moment. They are a soundtrack for my worship. They are my cue to whisper praise.

So then, my lesson for today is joy.

Joy, in this very next gift of a breath.

Thank you.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

 – Matthew 7:11, ESV –

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The God Who is Near

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“I bless the holy name of God with all my heart. Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me.”

 – Psalm 103:1-2 TLB –

This week, a friend gave me a pink remembrance journal. She explained, “It is so you can remember all the things that God does for us.”

Ever since, I’ve been on a treasure hunt for God’s fingerprints all around me. I finally sat down this morning and wrote down some of the moments that I’ve been saving up all week.

It is a little bit like a thankfulness journal, but not quite. Instead of writing down the things themselves (“I’m thankful for…daffodils sprouting up, family movie nights, pumpkin seed dark chocolate…”–all of which I adore), I am homing in on the roots of the blessings. “God, you came when I prayed that sleepy-brained prayer for help in the middle of the night. You answered me right away! Thank you!”

Don’t get me wrong…I dearly love thankfulness journals. It is so nice to make lists of wonders that God gives, and to recognize all the blessings around us as His beautiful gifts.

But it is extra nice, at least this week, to meditate on His nearness.

It is extra nice to pick up my spiritual magnifying glass and search for the ways He is faithful.

There’s something special about that wonder that rushes over you, and you whisper, “That wasn’t me…that was You.”

“God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.”
– John Piper –

When I take the time to search out God’s amazing behind-the-scenes work, something happens in my heart. It wakes up. Writing down His goodness takes the focus off me.

I can no longer say, “Wow, look what I did! Aren’t I amazing?” Instead, my eyes turn to Jesus and how incredible He is. Even though His future plans are not mine to know, thinking about how He has been faithful today or this past week strengthens me and gives me the boldness to trust Him with my tomorrows too.

As I go through this next week, I will approach it with an even greater sense of expectation because I have “tasted and seen” what my God is capable of. There is no reason for me to miss seeing Him…no good reason, anyway.

I already knew my God is good.

But practicing the presence of that knowledge is something a little different.

It is a little like stepping out into the sunlight and being blinded by the light, until gradually your eyes adjust to the splendor of a bright world.

His brightness thrills me, excites me, and inspires me. But more than anything, it comforts me.

How can I fear, when I have a Father like this?

“An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as full as if there were no others.”

– A. W. Tozer –

Wonder

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“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy 


Maybe all of us have grown up too much, too fast.

And imagination has lost ground to dazzling virtual realities, so that we don’t have to stretch out with our creativity quite so much. Have you noticed that it takes more and more to capture kids attention these days?

Have we lost all our wonder?

Somewhere along the way, I have lost the wonder, like an addict who needs just a bit more to get his high.

And I walk by the flag proudly snapping in the morning wind, glance past the dusky velvet of the upturned caladium leaves, pass the wide-eyed child without even cracking a smile.

I do it without wonder, because brightness has blinded my jaded eyes.

You know, wonder, I think, is deeply tied to thankfulness. Being so full of thanks that it bubbles out in smiles and sparkling eyes.

So today I slow.

Like a child learning to walk again I try to school myself in the steps of wonder. I breathe, smile, try to pry my eyes open a little wider.

“Help me see.” It’s becoming a rhythmic sort of prayer.

Habits are such tiny, unseen, huge, life-shifting things. Have you, like me, fallen into the habit of finding fault with things around you? Have you become critical instead of thankful?

Or, like me, have you gotten so swept up in your to-do list that you forget to enjoy the thing right in front of you?

“Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.”
― Jim Elliot

We get so focused on our plans for the future, or so bogged down in reliving — or regretting — the past that we let these things kill our zest for life. At least, I know I do. So easily, I take my mind off God’s goodness in the present in exchange for worrying over things I either cannot change or can’t know yet.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be in my mouth.” – Psalm 34:1, CEB

I pray that this becomes my reflex — that I will fix my eyes so much, so constantly upon my Savior that praise is always bubbling up inside me. I’m tired of missing out on the good things He has placed all around me. Today, I pray for my eyes to be wide, for my heart to be ready to soak up the wonder.

Are you ready to be made young again?



“Taste and see how good the Lord is!

    The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!
You who are the Lord’s holy ones, honor him,
    because those who honor him don’t lack a thing.
Even strong young lions go without and get hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

– Psalm 34:8-10, CEB –

Consciousness of the Celebrant

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“Art should be a great hallelujah to life.”
― Marty Rubin ―


My friend Lizzie is staying the summer with my family on our farm.

On her birthday a few days ago, the celebration began before she even peeped out of her bedroom. I scrawled a loving note before going out for my morning run. Later in the morning, my mom sneaked into the kitchen and began crafting a fruit-laden birthday cake while I distracted Lizzie with outdoor activities. My brother added his happy birthday note to our stash of notes. My dad planned an adventurous hike for the afternoon.

All to celebrate the life of my friend.

I wonder…is celebration becoming a lost art? 

It’s one thing to make a birthday special, and another to live as a conscious celebrant.

In liturgy, a celebrant is the one who comes to the Lord’s Table to partake — to celebrate with rite and ceremony, to see in some ordinary action like eating an extraordinary thing like redemption. Merriam-Webster also defines the word as “a person who celebrates something.”

So, I want to be a celebrant.

It’s so easy not to be.

I woke up with a tired twinge in my muscles this morning. Beds need made, clothes put away, a lunch packed as I head across town to teach music for the day. Honestly…I really don’t feel like making a big deal of anything. This, then, is why I fear the extinction of the celebrant. I know myself too well.

How can we revive this rare breed of people, the dreamers who pour themselves into creative outlets of celebration? How can I become a girl of conscious celebration?

1. Christians are Called to be Celebrants

It’s true. As Christians, each of us is called to daily celebration. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18).

We have endless things to celebrate, actually.

The new mercies of the morning, the return of the sun to warm the earth again. That today we are alive. That today is a gift we don’t deserve, but it has still been lavished upon us.

And most of all, that a God of endless worth placed His affection on a unloving people and called them to His salvation. He saved us! I don’t care how I feel this morning — this one trumps all others! No matter if the world crumbles and my life turns upside-down, this reason for celebration will endure. My God loves me.

Oh, Father, give us the grace to live this celebration.

2. Celebrants Think of Others

I doubt I need to tell you how easy it is to go about the day without thinking of anyone else. Deadlines and to-do lists bog us down. We forget about the 7.3 million other people that share this world with us. I honestly don’t understand how I can sometimes be so blind to the people around me.

The true celebrant is one who looks around and really sees.

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave….”

– Philippians 2:3-7a, CEB –

But I don’t think this celebratory nature is determined by accident, by chance, by genetic wiring, or any other uncontrollable force.

I think it is something you can cultivate, if you want to take the time.

The verse says “watch out for what is better for others.” That is definitely something we can actively do. And what about the next phrase, “adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus”?

So I guess the question is…how much do I really want to obey? How much do I really want to step outside of myself and see the needs of others?

3. Celebrants See the Miracle in the Everyday

My friend Lizzie is good at this one. I’ll find notes on my pillow, a flower in my room, a carefully-copied poem laid where I can see it.

She’s studied me, and she’s learned what sends my soul into raptures.

And then she does it.

Don’t laugh…but that last part is the key. I study you. I see what makes you light up, what things refresh your heart.

And then I make a plan and actually do that thing.

That is how to be a celebrant.

Another dear friend named Emily inspires me with her creative and elaborate celebratory schemes. With 5 younger siblings, she often plans adventurous sibling dates, puts on lovely teatimes complete with adventures in Narnia, and implements actual Pinterest ideas (rather than just collecting pins like I do…) like jello Lego pieces or mailing letters in plastic bottles.

See…here’s the thing.

It really doesn’t take all that much to brighten up someones life, or make a memory that will never fade.

It takes thankfulness. It takes a little determination. It takes time to see, and the willingness to set yourself aside for a few minutes and focus on truly loving that dear person right in front of you.

You don’t have to be a Pinterest craft master or a romantic soul to do this, either. Just look. Just learn what people love. Just train yourself to listen and pay attention to what makes your family members smile, or your friends’ eyes shine.

Then do it.

Why not have an impromptu celebration today? Curate the consciousness of a celebrant.


In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

– Albert Schweitzer –