“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelations 4:11.
My apologies for the onslaught of religious postings that will probably consume my blog for the next few days. I mentioned in the last post that I’m in a time of great sorrow at the moment, and the only thing that helps is distracting myself with the important things, like family and faith.
In my last post, I detailed the beauty of suffering, and how our struggles bring a redemption that we could not otherwise have if our lives were perfect and shiny.
I think it’s critical today to just bask in the greatness of God, instead of trying to compartmentalize Him and make Him fit into my theory on suffering. Everyone does it – they find verses and parables and life experiences and people who prove their theory about God is correct, but not everyone can take a long moment and just…delight in Him.
Let’s look at the overall picture, first.
God created the Heavens and the Earth. This beautiful universe that scientists have never stopped studying and exploring, it all came from Him. In seven days, no less. He is the one who gives the sun its power. He breathes life into every newborn animal and child. He turns the seasons and changes the weather. He dictates the fall of night and the rise of dawn. He paints every flower we see, sculpts the mountains, stirs the seas, shoots the stars. He is the Maker, the Creator, the Sustainer. He is God.
On a smaller but no less important level, He forms you out of nothing, and packages you up and gives you as a gift. You are a gift that He bestows on this Earth, to add something to the universe that couldn’t be found if you did not exist. He chooses the number of hairs on your head, the color of your eyes, the pigment of your skin. He chooses whether you’re athletic or artistic, soft spoken or loud. He knows before you are born what occupation and vocation is yours, who you will surround yourself with as friends and family. He calls you by name and breathes life into you the moment you are conceived. He is the Sculptor, the Life-giver, the Artist. He is God.
He is God! There is no other like Him, there is none before Him. All powerful, all knowing, ever present, loving Father, righteous Son, Holy Spirit, God!
I recently stumbled upon this article detailing the majesty of God by using an example as simple as rain. Yes, rain! How does rain make us understand God’s power and creativity more fully? Here, read the article for yourself, written by a Pastor John Piper.
Piper reminds us of a verse in Job which says that God has done – is doing – great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. Rain is just one little wonder He has wrought. How many wonders has He done in your life?
Myself personally? I was born. That’s one. But I was also born to a family that is the best fit for me, to a mom and a dad and three older sisters. Each of us fit into the family in a way that wouldn’t work with anyone else. I went to the best possibly high school for myself, I met my closest friends through what I now know is divine intervention, though I didn’t know it at the time. Two people in my immediate family survived cancer, I am thriving despite my bi-lateral and severe hearing loss.
My life is sorrowful right now. I am suffering. But the wonders have never ceased just because I haven’t taken the time to notice them. The sun came up today, did you notice? It’s finally Spring where I am, and little by little I can the earth turning itself over to welcome the new season.
I mentioned a band in the last post, Tenth Avenue North. The title of this post comes from another of their songs off of their album The Struggle. I cannot stress enough how wonderful their music is for praying and meditating. Obviously, they’re not the only band to listen to for that sort of thing, but they hold a special place in my heart, and they have for years. The song I’m talking about now is called “You Do all Things Well.” What’s amazing about this song is that it isn’t just a song of thanksgiving, a song of praise for miracles and blessings. This song praises God for suffering. Praise Him for suffering! “You break me to bind me, You hurt me to heal me, You do all things well.” Wow. Praise Him for suffering, not just after you understand why it happened, but during your suffering, during your winter.
During my winter, it’s all I can do not to just wallow and lie around and go over and over in my head “why, why me, why now, why this? why not this, why?” I can hear those questions creeping up in my head when I have a quiet moment, like before bed, in the shower, while I’m working. I can hear those questions, and it takes every part of me not to dwell on them. Sometimes I do. It isn’t necessarily wrong to ask those questions, it’s natural to wonder. It’s human. But we were made for more than questioning God, we were made to be loved by and to love Him.
What helps is a simple mantra. Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You.
I have woken up from horrible dreams, gut wrenching and nausea inducing dreams (which I now know aren’t just dreams anymore but have become real life experiences), and have fallen back asleep repeating this mantra over and over and over.
I tell you, it helps. Distract yourself with the peace and beauty that is God. Praise Him in the morning, at night, at every meal. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. Vows which aren’t just meant for a couple, but vows that God says back to you and asks you to say to Him. Praise Him with every breath, every step, every thought.
“Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!” Psalm 150:6.
In elementary school, I was taught that prayer should be comprised of “ACTS,” which stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, in that order. But there is nothing wrong with a prayer being just adoration, or just thanksgiving. There is nothing wrong with a prayer that is just supplication or confession. All four are good ways to pray.
Today I’m going to focus on adoration and thanksgiving.
A priest once told me during confession that for my penance, every time I started to complain I should immediately think of three things that I’m thankful for. And the next time I complained, I had to think of three more different things. Eventually I ran out of things to complain about, but I still haven’t run out of things to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for this ability to write. I’m thankful for my family, my education, I’m thankful that I’m safe, that I’m loved, that I’m alive.
I’m thankful for this winter, this suffering, because it is allowing me to rekindle my relationship with God in ways I may not have been able to do.
Let us remember as Lent draws to a close and the Triduum draws nearer and nearer that Easter is a time of great rejoicing and thanksgiving.
Ann Voskamp, blogger, mom, and author of One Thousand Gifts details in an interview what the term “eucharisteo” means to her. She writes
“it comes right out of the Gospel of Luke: ‘And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…” (Luke 22:19 NIV). In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.’
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace.’ Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.”
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving, grace, joy.
Christ broke bread during the Last Supper, giving thanks for it. He knew it was His last supper. He knew that merely hours later he would be beaten, ridiculed, scourged, pierced, judged, and killed. And yet, He gave thanks to His Father. He gave thanks during His winter.
If Jesus can do it, why can’t we?
Prayers to those whose suffering knows no bounds, that they can discover the gift of “eucharisteo” as fully as I am discovering it now.
*Need extra reasons to give thanks? Watch this video created and produced by The Skit Guys.