Monday, April 16, 2012

Counting Gifts ~ Hard and Good

"I hadn't known that joy meant dying.
What did I think hard eucharisteo and the table of the Last Supper meant?"
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 179

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me."
Mark 8:24

Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galations 5:24

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galations 2:20

Not much need for crucifying self today when it held warm weather, lots of sunshine, a hoilday, and the chance to visit  a greatly anticipated newborn church member. See? Nothing but joy and happiness in those photos! And I think it's my favorite part of church ministry ~ getting to see the seasons and covenants of baptism and marriage in the lives of people from a front row seat.  Truly, I count it a blessing, a gift.

But the Joy Dare prompt for today is hard eucharisteos ~ gifts that are difficult to be thankful for.  Did you know that there were such things?  Well, there are, but sometimes you have to look from a different angle to see them, walk on new paths to find them.

My hard eucharisteos  ~ some always, some occasionally...

1. church ministry

I've always loved church and ministry, since I was a teen really, but sometimes the things that bring me the greatest joy and happiness also bring the biggest burdens and griefs, anxieties and frustrations. Ministry is sometimes hard to give thanks for, because of its emotional and financial strain, its time requirements, as well as that front row seat in people's lives I mentioned above.  Sometimes that people part is really ugly, but I guess it also brings me to my next hard eucharisteo...

2. awareness of my sin

Ministry, parenting, marriage....heck, breathing ~ all wonderful opportunities to become aware of what's really going on in my heart, and it's just as ugly as what I oftentimes judge to be the state of other's hearts. But this is actually an answer to prayer.  When I compare myself wrongly to others, sometimes I decide that I'm not in quite as much need of forgiveness as the next person.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit makes me aware of this deception, this ploy to minimize grace and the sacrifice made on MY behalf.  When I minimize those things, I don't worship rightly, don't love fully, don't forgive easily, but when I'm aware, by His grace gift, I am able to, which is where true joy is found.

3. navigating new parenting terrain

Oh, if I could just be in control everything would be perfect!  There would be no TV, arranged marriages, and read alouds by the hearth every evening (and Pa on his fiddle) (kidding) (sort of), but alas, it is a difficult world in which to control those things (And participation in and exposure to church ministry would definitely be out of the question. Too much worldly reality and lack of control there!) So, today I give thanks for the new terrain, but it is not easy.  In fact, it's scary.  But it's also an opportunity to trust, to pray, and to relate ~ with the Lord and my kids. It's a chance to "cease striving and know that He is God." (Ps. 46:10)

Hard eucharisteos, yes. But aren't those the things James was talking about?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1: 2-4

In fact, doesn't he even go as far as to say that considering difficulty joy is equal to having wisdom? It is the very next verse...

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5

As if not counting trials as joy is foolish.

Yes, this is hard, but it is also good.  Good that in His great grace He moves us to wisdom.  Good that He doesn't allow us to remain foolish and miss out on knowing Him. Good that He prods us toward knowing true Joy. I am so thankful.


Emily said...

So happy that Ann's link-up brought me here! I look forward to visiting again :) For the gluten-free, the homeschooling, and to hear words from another follower of Christ...

Melanie said...

Hi Emily! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. I look forward to visiting you as well!

Betsy said...

Melanie, this is just what I needed to read this morning. I always feel so uplifted when I read your blog.

Melanie said...

Thank you, Betsy. I love how the Lord always works in a way to speak to us. Nice to know someone can relate in some way, also. Hope you and yours are well!