Sunday, February 20, 2011

Winners of One Thousand Gifts

Because it was my first giveaway, I decided to change the rules. I decided to "draw" the winners a day early and to reward those who entered. So both commenters will receive a book! Due to the holiday, the books should go out in the mail on Tuesday. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Seeing Is Believing (+ A Giveaway!)

It's the cure for ingratitude. It always precedes the miracle. It leads to joy.

IT is eucharisteo.

I hadn't heard that term before but am so grateful that Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts introduced me to it. What started out as a dare to count 1,000 of the daily gifts from God became a way of life for Ann, and in the process, she traced the roots of eucharisteo not just through her life but through the Bible.

Her book has been described as life-changing. But why? Because taking time to write down the little moments helps us to fully live instead of rush through life. When I write down thanks for pipes not freezing, for the gift of a snow day (or 5) at home, for the super soft fur on my dog's head, it's as if life slows down a bit.

I started listing gifts back at Christmas and just took the time today to number them. There were over 200 gifts that most likely would have slipped away if I hadn't started counting. And in the process, I've discovered what Ann says on page 151 to be true: "Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on." Prior to that, Ann says on page 150 in discussing fear, "Nothing has materialy changed since yesterday's fears, last week's anxiety. But I have. I'm changing."

As one prone to give in to fears, I needed the insight she provided in chapter 8. I needed to be reminded to trust the Bridge Builder and that thanks is what builds trust.

I have never underlined this much in a book that I wasn't going to be tested on. But I want to live out what Ann talks about because her life is not perfect, but it is a beautiful, pure offering - one so opposite from this world - that it draws me in. And I hope it draws you in, as well.

Because I love this book so much, I have already given away two copies, but I bought another to give away here. Just leave a comment telling about one of His special gifts to you, and leave your name so that I can contact you if your name is chosen. I'll draw one person's name at random on Jan. 21.

And as you're reading the book, don't miss the video interviews with Ann here. So far, she has discussed the first two chapters and done an intro. Her passion and excitement in sharing eucharisteo is obvious and contagious. I hope you catch her passion for eucharisteo and start your own list of 1,000+ gifts.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Psalm Devotional - A Sample

I posted a while back about the Psalms devotional book that my writers' group put together, but I failed to give you a sample. So while the electricity is cooperating in the midst of this icy day of rolling power black outs, I thought I'd share one of mine.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4 (ESV)

“Father God, forgive me of my sins, protect my family and I throughout the day and night, give us good health, . . . .” The same prayer night after night. The same order, the same basic requests, and the same repetitive words: “me” and “I.”

Delights that just hours earlier I had sworn not to forget went unpraised because I allowed my mind to be consumed with my needs and my desires. I forgot to thank God for the smiles, laughter, and joy he had given me. I neglected to give God the praise that he is due as God, Creator, Lord of lords, and Holy of holies.

Frustrated that my prayers failed to convey my heartfelt praise, I decided to start listing my praises each day before I lifted up my prayers. To help remind me, I use a spiral notebook and write on the top of each page, “Father, I praise You for . . .”; toward the bottom of the page, I write, “Father, I lift up to You . . . .”

This little tool of keeping a praise/prayer journal not only redirected my me-centered prayers, helping me to put the focus back on God by praising him from the start, but also made me on the lookout for God’s handiwork throughout the day. Before I started keeping a daily praise list, a sunset that took my breath away might have lasted only a moment. Now I know I want to record it later in my journal, so I pay more attention to it in the moment. Similarly, an answered prayer does not slip through the cracks of my memory as easily because I have written prayer requests down and can look back through them to note when they are answered.

It took a little work to put into practice Psalm 100:4’s wisdom and to enter his gates with thanksgiving. But now, instead of waiting to thank God until I have spelled out all of my needs and my desires, I look forward to listing my praises first and seeing how they often far outnumber my requests.

Father God, thank You for all the big and little ways that You touch my heart throughout the day. You alone are worthy of all my praise.

What one step could you take to make praising God an integral part of your prayer time? (A few suggestions include memorizing Psalm 100:4, listening to praise music, keeping a list of praises, or beginning your prayers with praise rather than petitions.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When to Use Words

Why is it that when I want to write, I think long and hard and words barely trickle? But when I speak, words flow too freely, often when they shouldn't flow at all. At least that's the case most of the time.

This past week, the opposite occurred. I went to pay my respects to a family who had lost a loved one, and the words would not come. I didn't know how to sum up the impact of the loved one's life on my own in that short time at the visitation while the line of people behind me grew longer. As the small talk quickly dried up, because it is merely filler to begin with, and the line pressed in, I was thanked for coming. All I could think of to convey my huge heart thoughts was, "He was worth the trip."

In some ways, the tongue-tied-ness fits the situation perfectly. The loved one had made a big impact on my life through his presence, not his words which were mostly few and far between. And there I was trying to show by my presence that his life mattered much.

I think back to those friends of Job and the role that they played in those first seven days. They sat by Job's side without speaking. A ministry of presence. It was when they opened their mouths that things started going downhill.

I am not sure I learned from their example because my lack of words and mere presence didn't seem like enough. I wanted to put words to the feelings I had.

And so I wrote a letter.

I tried to convey that my life was better because I had the opportunity to know this caring man who took the time to acknowledge my presence every time he saw me, spent time patiently trying to correct my golf swing, and loved his family with all of his heart. I tried to pass along how very proud he was of his son as shown by his presence if not by his words. And, above all, I wanted it known I will not forget this loved one.

The words were well received, but I'm not sure they were necessary.

I recall a lawyer friend of mine making a three-hour trip to attend my dad's funeral. She was an assistant district attorney in Houston at the time. The fact that she got someone to cover her docket and that she drove six hours round-trip for a 30-45 minute funeral blew my mind. She hugged me through tears and said nothing, if I recall correctly. Yet, over seven years have passed, and I have never forgoten her act of kindness.

I think a ministry of presence is a powerful thing, sometimes more powerful than words. But I need the wisdom to know which is best in any given circumstance.

[This is my second attempt to participate in the Words Project with Holley & Ann over at A Holy Experience.]