August 27, 2013

Astonished Gratitude

My sister uses a particular devotion guide. One day last week she was struggling with a sense of neglect and loneliness. She opened her devotional booklet and that was the topic for today. She was blessed as she read the Bible verses that answered her need. Then, on a whim, she opened a classic devotional book to the same date and was astonished that it also addressed the same topic.

God is good at doing things like that. Many Christians tell of how their devotional material hits whatever issue or questions that they are experiencing on that day. I suspect that it is not the devotional material that He lines up to fit our situation, but the situations that He lines up to make us ready to hear what He is going to say to us. We hear better when need makes the words relative to our experience.

The psalmist may have been thinking this, but in any case, he wrote lavishly about the decrees and laws of God. He also knew that without God’s help, he would not “get it” when he read the Bible. He says…

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

The Word of God is a wonder, but I am also amazed that I finally “get it” and wonder at it and that my wonder stays and deepens. Each day, I am astonished by something new from God, and if not astonished, certainly blessed by a deeper and more perfect knowledge of God and eternal matters. This is of God, not about me.

As today’s devotional says wonder is a valuable commodity. Think how easily the facility of wonder vanishes. I remember our short year in Alaska and the amazing scenery. One day we came out of the grocery store in Soldatna and the sky was overcast in “buttermilk” clouds, not particular in themselves, but the low sun made them blood red. It was spectacular, but we were the only people in that parking lot looking up. For the locals, this had become commonplace, not quite familiarity that breeds contempt, but along that line.

Perhaps this capacity to take things for granted is the reason Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread. We spiritualize that and make it mean daily spiritual nourishment through a quiet time with God and in Bible study, but He probably meant daily bread on the table, food for our bodies. In North America, many people think nothing of that. Eating is commonplace, but if I pray for it and am thankful for God’s provision, I’m not only more appreciative for the food, but for other things, even the small thing.

This attitude of thankfulness is important. One of my course professors says that grumbling was the worst sin in the Old Testament. If I am not thankful, I am grumbling. Gratitude is vital to spiritual health and losing my sense of wonder messes with my gratitude.

For those reasons, I want to appreciate even the least of things, like the brilliant red on the sunlit building across the street from my hotel (we are on a business trip) and the incredible blue sky, and a good sleep last night, and my husband leaving me with a platter of breakfast before he went to his meetings. I’ve the privilege today of helping my sister sort the remains of her flooded home. I am thankful that I am able to walk and move and communicate, that I can drive a car and hear and see, that I can wonder at the world around me.

I’m also thankful that the Holy Spirit still speaks to me, shows me what God wants for me each day, even each moment. The wonder of God’s care is never earned or deserved, only to be received with astonished and humble gratitude.

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