1 When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us.” 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God. 5 Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. 7 Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. 11 And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household. – Deut 26:1-11
Acts of gratitude are the antidote to the ferocious tendency in the human soul to marginalize mystery and behave as though God were dead or distant. This morning, Deuteronomy reminds me of that. So as my own “act of gratitude”, I want to give thanks for…
My family. Only by knowing these people could you understand how wonderful they all are. My kids are hilarious and incredibly different, all of three of them. Being given the gift of being their father has made me a better person than I ever would have been on my own, and has been perhaps THE great privilege of my life. And my wife, Mandi, to whom I will celebrate being married to for 10 years this week, is at once one of the most tender and also most ferocious people I have ever met. She is a rare combination of strength and grace, and I was lucky to run into her when I did. She has made my life beautiful and has been the most perfect traveling companion on this really odd and always wonderful journey of life…
The community I belong to. Bloom. Good God. It’s a rare treat to belong to such a joyful and uniquely passionate and gifted community. To be able to serve them by teaching and leading in the capacity that I do fills my soul with delight week in and week out. Even more, to be able to serve in and among a community that has an “ethos” which far transcends my own gifts and passions is an exquisite joy. They put on art shows to raise money for orphans. They worship God and welcome the stranger. They push the boundaries of the conventional and yet run back to Jesus. And they welcomed me and my family last September with open arms. We are so grateful for them.
The people we get to do life with. Michael and Lisa Gungor, and now their newest addition, Amelie. Michael and I have been friends our entire lives. Our dads were friends when they were in high school. Now our kids are going to wind up being friends. It’s not often that families get to share life across three generations, but here, now, by some great kindness, we get to do just that. It’s a joyful absurdity to be in Denver with these guys. Andrew and Mandi could hardly be more different from Michael and Lisa, and yet … the relationship works, and works so well. It is the perfect complement of personalities and passions, and to be in such close proximity with people like this, people we love, is a gift beyond words.
Denver. Despite our distance from loved ones in WI and our friends in IL and OK, we love living here. It’s perfect for us. Cool mornings and warm afternoons. Urban and outdoorsy. Laid back and unconventional. Mountains. Glorious mountains. And a church environment that is, at least in my experience thus far, completely collegial, cooperative, mutually supportive, and non-competitive. I could hardly ask for more.
Health. My body works. It has not broken down in any serious way. I am grateful for a mind that functions clearly (most days), for being generally pain-free, and for legs that can run. I especially love having health to run. Running clears my mind and lifts my soul. I know that sounds a little ridiculous to some, but there’s hardly anything in life that I’ve found to be more cathartic and liberating than running. I am grateful for it.
And much more… New friends, warm coffee, silent prayer, experiences that challenge and stretch, music that delights, falling asleep on the couch to a good movie with my bride, good wine, the smell of new books, the thrill of a new idea dawning in my mind, laughter, meaningful work, good memories, well-written prayers, difficult things that prove to be the furnace of new and deeper virtues, and the promise of a final resting place in God.
God of every good thing, thanks for your kindness. Help us live this day in an awareness that we dwell in a God-saturated universe, filled with mystery, surprise, and uncommon goodness.