This weekend's message at church was about money. Personal finances. How humans love money and use it to measure our worth. 1 Timothy 6:10 says: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Greg, our pastor, was quick to point out that MONEY isn't the root of all evil, the LOVE of it is.
He also talked about our current economic climate, and how some people are barely making ends meet. I think our tendency is to tenaciously hold on to money when it starts getting tight, and that makes it feel even tighter.
Greg said there is one word that will release you from those material ties: gratitude. In a sermon from November 2008, he said it best: "Gratitude is the antidote to discontentment." Yes, times are tough. Yes, we as a nation are scared and worried. But feeling gratitude for your situation - no matter how dire it is - keeps you from being a "plaything of your circumstances." Even if you are unemployed or facing a terminal diagnosis or a divorce or loss, there are still things you can be grateful for. Greg said, "Notice what God has already given you. Be around people who aren't afraid to laugh with you but will also cry."
And: "When you notice the gifts and are grateful it leads you to the kind of worship that calibrates your soul." I think that quote right there explains my outlook on life. I want to notice and be grateful - even for the pain - because it is part of the experience God has chosen for me. And when I can be grateful for the good AND bad, it brings me to my knees. It silences me with awe and amazement as I realize how overwhelmingly good and great God is.
You do understand that I can say that, even with incredibly large and painful holes missing from my heart? There's a loss I live with every day, an ache that is sometimes sharp and other times just a tremor. It's a loss that has seeped into the rest of my life and forever changed me. And, yes, I am actually grateful to God for that loss. My gratitude certainly doesn't mean I would choose this same outcome if I had a second chance, but my gratitude has come from hindsight and faith - looking back to my past and seeing how God never once stepped away from me.
At the end of the sermon, Greg talked about a pastor from Texas who was killed on October 30, 2005 during a baptism. Kyle Lake was electrocuted while standing in the baptistery of his church. A few days later, someone found notes from the sermon he was planning to preach that day. Greg read these words to us:
Kyle Lake's last sermon "Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now. On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE. Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.
If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well. At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift."
So, what are the gifts in your life? Here are a few of mine:
I am grateful for darkness because it means light is coming.
I am grateful for stretch marks because they are the proof of my babies' entry into the world.
I am grateful for friends who have moved on, because they have taught me how to live and let live.
I am grateful for clutter, because it means I have abundance.
I am grateful for snow that chills me and sun that warms me.
I am grateful for sleep and rest so that I have the energy to appreciate my blessings.
I am grateful for laundry, because I have a family who gets those clothes dirty.
I am grateful for sweat, because it means I'm exerting my strength.
I am grateful for my son's runny nose because it means his immune system is working.
I am grateful for weakness because it lets others be strong.
I am grateful for pain because it means I'm alive.
I am grateful for tears, because they evaporate and never last.
I am grateful for hope and breath and joy and today.