Recently, I caught myself smiling, albeit lamenting the message on the window sticker of the car in front of me. It read:
Whether meant to be political, personal or simply amusing, it struck a cord. It certainly has become popular, and honestly, understandably so, to berate the year that’s nearly complete, what with its plethora of hardship; death, destruction, division, sickness, sacrifice and sadness have all claimed the headlines. And that’s just scraping the surface.
It’s been a year, hasn’t it.
As I sit at the keyboard with hopes of penning this year’s Christmas letter, I feel a bit stymied. Gonna be hard to come up with “good things” to share this year. Even though the truly bad or worse has not befallen us, and by us I mean me, personally, the year wears a dimness and pallor that tinsel and sparkling lights have difficulty brightening.
Thus, I am particularly glad for a practice I began at Thanksgiving time, inspired by friends who introduced me to the prayer practice known as “I make an act of Thanksgiving.” I begin by first penning THANKS in the middle of my prayer card and then to pencil over and around it the many things for which I am thankful. Soon, what began as a daily expression of gratitude becomes an illegible cloud of thanks. A scribbled act of Thanksgiving.
And the funny thing was, once I could no longer read what I was writing, I wrote with more abandon: lists, phrases, descriptions… Who cares about penmanship and spelling? Repeats? why not? Whatever thoughts bubbled up got recorded, dashed here, dashed there, written one upon another, as wordy as I wanted. With no one else reading for clarity, completeness, depth or heaven-forbid, handwriting, I’m free to draft dreamily.
And this felt like prayer; not the kind offered to be seen or heard or deciphered by another, but rather the sort lifted without reservation, neither tested for correctness nor edited for proper grammar. More babble, less banter. More honest, less honorary. More admission, less admirable. More Publican, less Pharisee.
Oh, I see you there, trying to decipher what you can. Never you mind. It’s glad tidings all, with pets, of course, figuring prominently and loved ones a-plenty.
In making this act of thanksgiving I came to realize that 2020, in spite of itself, held many, many things for which I was deeply grateful. Though I can’t recite them all or even read them back to you, the evidence is there in the cloud. At first a legible light grey, it grew messy, darkening to shades of charcoal and ominous black. Were it a weather cloud, it would surely portend a storm. But on paper it has instead etched gratitude, happily rendering my penned THANKS enticingly illegible. To the human eye.
But Divine Sensibility is an audience that happens in real time. One by one. Toss…catch. Toss…catch. No addition or subtraction, no multiplication or division, no calculation at all. Yet, a relationship is fashioned which leaves no trace to the human eye. The human heart knows better.
Yes, as a sputtering 2020 forges ahead toward its welcome conclusion, I, instead of screwed, scammed or squashed actually feel supported. Something bids me to tarry here a while in what I might learn from this eventful year, given its unique perspective, challenging reflection and perpetually quaking scenery and tone.
Funny how, when we invite light to shine into the deepest darkness, it shows us what we would have never seen in the bright light of day.
For this, I make an act of Thanksgiving.
The difference between a gift and a talent is only this: on a talent, you owe a tithe; for a gift, you owe everything.
“You can make people feel,” he told me. That’s high praise, coming from a world famous poet and a marvelous compliment coming from a person who is in touch with “all the feels.”
But it’s not me “making people feel.” The stories I share and the way I share them is thanks to the people who have inclined me to open the door to my feelings and offered a safe space for me to feel them. It’s my gratitude for these lessons learned, messages communicated, insights shone, and perspectives gained that spills onto the page.
My new book, Made to Move: Knowing and Loving God Through our Bodies comes out in February. It is a “devotional workbook” for individuals and small groups but not your typical book of devotions. It’s not a daily, Jesus Calling, kind of reading to assure you that Jesus loves you and God will never leave you, though I subscribe to both of those beliefs.
No, this book is really, well, I guess its the product of the practice of writing thank you notes that my mother began in me all those years ago. It started me writing notes to people who I thought deserved a thanking. And not just the canned version:
Thank you for ______.
I’ll use it for _________.
I really appreciate it.
But the real version — the “felt” version — written with the Lord’s guidance, letting a heart that was truthfully grateful take the lead. Somehow, gratitude lets us turn the knob on the door to a passageway we didn’t know existed. It opens onto the hallway of feeling. All feelings. None prohibited. It is a safe zone where trust can abide and healing reigns.
Because feeling can be hard. It can be gut-wrenching and head-spinning, earth-shattering and life-altering. But, it can also be breathtaking and awe-inspiring, heart-healing and life-giving. Life offers us the opportunity to turn the knob and enter in, not knowing what we will find on the other side.
The courage to do this doesn’t come from the author who invites you in, but from the Author of Life who is there to facilitate your discovery. Whatever you find there, I will help you handle. Whatever you need there, I will supply. Because I will be with you in the feeling, the you who emerges will be changed.
I don’t “make people feel.” I invite people, through words birthed in gratitude, to experience their feelings and then to be healed by the only Healer I know whose work lasts forever.
My book is a thank you note to the world. Each page, a person. If it “makes you feel,” I am grateful because I know God’s grace is at work in that space between gratitude and glory.