Thanksgiving and Grace

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Okay, so maybe it’s just me, but I had a bit of a harder time than usual with the “thankful” part of Thanksgiving this year.

Granted, I had all the prerequisites in place: family gathering at grandma’s, more food than we could eat, football and an Eagles victory…but still, something seemed lacking. Maybe it was the stress involved in the rush out the door in the morning; maybe it was the long car ride; maybe it was simply that my focus was wrong.

Today, I realized what it really was.

Every year, I get asked if I’m going Black Friday shopping. And every year, Thanksgiving becomes more and more consumer-focused. It’s really just Black Friday Eve. Two years ago, stores opened at midnight. Then they bumped it up to 9 pm. This year stores opened at 6 pm or earlier, and some were open all day.

It’s not just Black Friday shopping, though. On Thanksgiving Day, I received an alarming number of notifications and texts from friends–and I replied to them! I’m not saying we shouldn’t be announcing our thankfulness to those we love, but isn’t it better to enjoy it with family rather than being distracted by other conversations at the same time? Wouldn’t it be worth it to unplug, just for a little while, and enjoy the moment?

Even as I ramble on, though, I realize that it’s not just Thanksgiving. We–meaning society as a whole, myself most definitely included–have a general attitude of self-serving entitlement. We look out for number one, rather than living for an audience of One. We think about ‘what’s in it for me’ rather than looking to serve. We think we deserve a good life rather than recognizing that everything we have is all because of grace.

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It’s a powerful word. A provocative word. A beautiful word. A scandalous word. A marvelous word. A taken-for-granted word.

I deserve nothing.

“God,” wrote Max Lucado in his book Wild Grace (which I highly recommend), “answers the junk of life with one word: grace.

“We talk like we understand the term. The library gives us a grace period to pay a late fine. The no-good politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and pre-meal prayers. We talk like we know what grace means.

“Especially at church. Grace graces the songs we sing and the Bible verses we read. Grace shares the church office with its cousins: forgiveness, faith, and fellowship. Preachers explain it. Hymns proclaim it Bible schools teach it.

“Here’s my hunch: we’ve settled for wimpy grace. It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, ‘Do you believe in grace?’ who could say no?

“This book asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace? God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God-secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off. Once you encounter it, you’ll never be the same.”

Grace–real, wildwater grace–is the kind of grace that demands a response.

So respond.

My mentor, Emily House, has told me multiple times that “Thankfulness is the opposite of entitlement. It is impossible to complain when you’re being thankful.”

So if you’re struggling with selfishness, remember grace. Remember how far you were, how worthless, how sinful, how shameful, how lost, and remember the God who saved you from yourself, who loved you when you rejected him, ignored him, cursed him, denied him, and who never let you go, never gave up on you, and never will.

Grace is a God who stoops.” –Max Lucado

Just a little reminder. I know Thanksgiving is over, meaning its time to deck the halls and all that to get ready for Christmas, but everything I’ve said still applies. So happy holidays, and don’t forget what really counts.

–Bre

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Well, isn’t this a pleasant surprise…

I didn’t expect this at all, actually. It’s kind of cool. It’s like one of those ordinary acts of good, a commonplace kindness, an unexpected, even random, moment of encouragement, right when I needed it most. It can come in the form of someone paying for your food, a greeting in the hallway, a smile from a stranger. It can happen out of nowhere, from a passing acquaintance to a close friend to a perfect stranger. The unintended angels of our world.

Something like this happened to me just the other day, actually. I was feeling down, having “one of those days,” as they say. Kind of insecure at the moment, after not making the cut for our competitive, high-level musical auditions at school. BUT auditions for the spring show are coming up next week, and I was getting information from the director, and after hearing I didn’t make the cut for the musical, she had some really encouraging advice for me that I guess can be summarized in three words: “Don’t give up. Don’t give up, because I know you have what it takes.”

There is nothing more powerful than having someone believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.

It’s kind of the same way with this blog. I don’t even know who I’m writing to, I just know I have a message I want to spread, a story I want to tell. My dad told me once to “Write your song and sing it loud.” (I responded that I wouldn’t let him sing along, though–my dad has few faults, but his musical talent IS somewhat lacking). But I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually read this, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it yet–I don’t even have any “real” posts yet. But then this happened: d So I followed the link, took the challenge, and now I just want to say: thanks, Caitlyn, for your ordinary act of good. To check out her blog, click here. c Rules/Guidelines: *Thank the blogger or bloggers who nominated you. *Answer the 11 questions asked. *Nominate 3 other blogs with less than 200 followers. *Ask them 11 new questions.

Q. Where did you meet your best friend(s)?
My old school. I used to go to this tiny little private school, with like 15 kids in my grade, and so we got really close. I hardly see them any more, but I still count them my best friends, because when we do get together, it’s like nothing ever changed.

Q. What’s your favorite holiday? Why?
A. Christmas of course! I love giving (and yes, I’ll admit it, getting) presents, decorating the house, listening to Christmas music, spending time with family, taking a break from the crazy stress, listening to my dad read Luke 2 by the fire each year, a little bit of snow, lots of yummy food…

Q. Have you ever had a major fight with a really close friend? What happened?
A. Not that comes to mind. My friend struggles are more along different lines.

Q. Do you think someday there will be a time machine?
A. Doubtful. I don’t think time works in a way we can harness in that way. But it would be pretty epic.

Q. What is your favorite girl name? What is your favorite boy name?
A. I actually have LOTS of favorite names. It’s a writer thing I guess. But for a girl, I love Rael (pronounced RAY-ell) and for a boy, I like Luke. My brother’s name, Moses, is pretty cool too.

Q. If you could meet anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be?
A. This one’s tough. I have a lot of heroes. I mean, obviously Jesus comes to mind, but excluding Biblical characters? Nelson Mandela maybe, or my grandad on my dad’s side, who died when I was 8 but still left an incredible legacy on my life through my dad. Or, in a similar vein, my dad’s brother Ben, another man who left his mark after his death from leukemia when he was 15 years old. I never knew him, but I wish I could have.

Q. What is currently your favorite song?
A. Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham. It’s really powerful but only listen to it when you’re alone and ready to be convicted (and possibly cry). I try not to listen to it superfluously so it keeps that power for me.

Q. Who is/are your favorite artist(s)/band(s)?
A. Tenth Avenue North and For King and Country are definitely up there, though it’s hard to say–depends a lot on my mood. Rend Collective Experiment, All Sons and Daughters, Sidewalk Prophets, and David Dunn are all really good too. I also–yes, I’ll admit it–listen to showtunes (music from musicals).

Q. Favorite book?
A. AUUGHHHH THIS IS LIKE ASKING ME TO PICK A FAVORITE CHILD!! Um…some top choices include:
– The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
–  The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
–  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
–  anything by John Flanagan (reading his books is like greeting an old friend/friends)
–  Blink by Ted Dekker
–  The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
–  The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
–  Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
–  Tolkien stuff
–  Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
–  and lots and lots more

Q. Worst subject in school? How about your best? Why?
A. I don’t know, really. It’s more of enjoy vs. don’t-enjoy. I like Spanish, art, and biology. Not so much, say, health.

Q. What is a motto you live by?
A. “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

My 11 questions are:
1. What is the best habit you’ve ever developed?
2. If you could have tea with any TWO fictional characters who would they be?
3. What is the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
4. What is the nicest thing someone has ever said to you?
5. What is your Myers-Briggs personality type, and do you agree with what it says about you? (take the test here)
6. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
7. What is the longest thing you’ve ever memorized?
8. Left Twix or right Twix?
9. What animal most represents you and why?
10. What animal would you CHOOSE to be and why? (they’re different)
11. Where do you want to be in two and a half years? (figuratively and literally)

And my 3 nominees are…
1. http://ihaveareasontosing.wordpress.com/
2. https://musingsofachristiangirl.wordpress.com
3. http://joshfleming25.wordpress.com/

Thanks again Caitlyn! Keep paying it forward.

–Bre

The First Post

Here we go, everybody. The classic first post, in which I introduce myself, list my credentials and favorite colors, and tell you what this blog is going to be all about.

Except I’m not going to. Does anyone ever really read these anyway? I barely even know how to write one, so rather than stressing over it, I think I’ll just jump right in. So if you really want to find out more about what’s going to be happening on this site, you better stick around.

With more to come,
–Bre