I am in the midst of an amazing splurge. I am waking each morning this week in Vancouver, British Columbia and marching down the street to attend classes at Regent College.
Fourteen years have passed since I completed one of my Master’s degrees here. All I have left of the second degree is a pesky thesis. Fourteen years is a long time. The awareness of how long it has been settled on me the first day; that sense of familiarity and yet awkwardness of not really belonging here in this season.
Still. This place, the grounds and the Chapel and the sounds, they are iconic to me: they help me see God with an awakened mind. I simply think better here because I have been trained to do so. I am ready to hear, ready to listen.
Most of my time this week has been spent listening to Dr. J.I. Packer expound the book of Colossians. Walking us through the insights and truths and wisdom of Paul.
The refrain I keep hearing?
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Walk, without anxiety and fear and uncertainty, but abounding in thanksgiving. Abounding in thanksgiving.
I don’t abound in thanksgiving very often, and yet on these splurge weeks in a beautiful place pulsing with lively thought, it is much easier.
These days in general, though, it can be difficult to be filled with thanksgiving… abounding in thanksgiving. Much easier to be overwhelmed with news intended to stir fear and anger and anxiety. But things have shifted when we place ourselves in Christ. Paul tells us in Colossians, “and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
When peace, shalom, rules in our hearts it is much easier to be thankful. In the midst of a world stirred by fear, in the midst of daily lives marked by stress, in the midst of families weighed down by sorrow….allow our peace to bring hope and grace to our world.
Last night the steady analysis of Colossians was interrupted as I attended a lecture by Malcolm Guite. He opened up for us a poem by Seamus Heaney, “The Rainstick.”
When Regent Audio has these evening lectures available, please go listen. I am only going to touch on one aspect, and the lecture is immensely worth your time.
From this poem about a Rainstick and the music it makes, Guite encouraged us to think of the upendings God accomplish in our lives, of the music around us and the imagery God has given us eveywhere to expand our thinking of Him.
The refrain I keep hearing this morning?
And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,
Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Upend the stick again. What happens next
Is undiminished for having happened once.”
I have thought of that all morning as I walked.
Another thought, another refrain, was touched on, and this one is becoming like a mantra already. Guite drew our attention to the story of the woman at the well, and this phrase of Jesus:
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you…”
If you knew.
If you knew, really knew, all that Jesus is offering you…me…oh, would our thanksgiving abound. If it really settled in our souls that nothing is diminished when His grace comes to us again and again, if we could hear the music the Spirit can make by upending our dry and ugly moments…that shalom peace would settle about us.
If you just knew..the wonder this Creator God has placed all around you. The images and the sounds, the smells and the tastes, all ready to enliven you. All there to give you language to worship, to express…to know.
If you just knew …the strength you possess in this moment as the Spirit of the Living God waits to quicken you, to fill you, to equip you.
If you just knew…the dignity of each person you encounter. See them not as an enemy, not as an annoyance, not as an inconvenience or a problem, but instead see them clothed in the delight of God with the dignity of an Image Bearer of the Creator.
Sometimes we have to step back. A week in Vancouver is not always, very rarely, a possibility. A walk with our heart attuned to God’s creation is often available. A moment taken to listen afresh, to try to really grasp, to really know the gift God is offering in this moment, and to really grasp who it is that offers this gift.
We need to find those iconic places or items which spark our thinking and inspire. Whether it is a graduate school, a park, a chapel, a kitchen sink with a window overlooking a yard full of children. Or an upended Rainstick reminding us of unexpected music and teaching us to abound in thanksgiving.