Of Lovely Things (4)

Ann Voskamp said once, “Gratitude glues to God and silence lets annoyance mount the steps and I should have kept the door shut with the thanks.” As I list lovely things, may it help me to give thanks….

Warm days and blue skies.

Trying a new recipe. Mixing batter and cutting strawberries with my youngest brother. The delight of taking it out of the oven and admiring how well it turned out.

Looking forward to the Lord’s day.

Friends who pray for me.

The most amazing rainbow last Saturday. It hadn’t been the easiest of days, and as I was driving down a country road, it was a lovely gift to have my eyes turned upward (quite literally) while I gasped at the beauty of the multi-coloured arch above me, stretching from end to end in vivid colours, with another rainbow arching nearby. At one point, this main rainbow was right ahead of me over the road, like a bridge I was approaching and had to drive under. I never quite reached it, of course (one never does with rainbows), but it was enough just to soak it in from a distance.

Reading the last chapter of The Silver Chair with Bets and Boy1. It’s so wonderful, that part where the old King Caspian is lying in the river, “dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass” and is gloriously brought to life by a drop of blood from Aslan’s paw. Not only alive, but young again. “And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a Lion.” But before he’s made alive, Eustace and Jill stand there and cry, and—get this—so too does Aslan. But doesn’t he know that in just a moment he’ll be making Caspian alive again? It reminds me of the scene where Jesus raises Lazarus, because the same thing happens. “Jesus wept.” But why? He knew that in just a moment, Lazarus would be walking out of that tomb and the crowd would (I can only imagine) be freaking out before rushing to embrace him. He knew that. But He still wept. And I guess that means that although He knows a happy ending is on the way, He still recognises the great sadness and wrongness and this-shouldn’t-be-happening-ness of death, and can grieve that a man made in the image of God, and furthermore, a man that He loves, has to experience this death. And that He can grieve with and for those who are left behind. I heard a sermon last month about Jesus understanding the hard things that we go through. And it’s wonderful, isn’t it, that in Christ we have a God who knows what it is to sorrow….

That’s somewhat of a digression. It’s much more than a “lovely thing”. But it is definitely something to be thankful for.

In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson speaks of “making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms.” I think that remembering and giving thanks for lovely things can be a part of that. I know it’s all-too-easy for my journal to be the place where I  pour out my problems and my upsets and what’s wrong with the world (Chesterton would probably tell me I should say,as he did, “I am”), but there’s so much more to be remembered than that, and I want to get better at remembering the good things.

A Literary Medley: Mercy

“’Mercy, GOD, mercy!’: the prayer is not an attempt to get God to do what he is unwilling otherwise to do, but a reaching out to what we know that he does do, an expressed longing to receive what God is doing in and for us in Jesus Christ. In obedience we pray ‘Mercy!’ instead of ‘Give us what we want.’ We pray ‘Mercy!’ and not ‘Reward us for our goodness so our neighbors will acknowledge our superiority.’ We pray ‘Mercy!’ and not ‘Punish us for our badness so we will feel better.’ We pray ‘Mercy!’ and not ‘Be nice to us because we have been such good people.’ We live under the mercy. God does not treat us as alien others, lining us up so that he can evaluate our competence or our usefulness or our worth. He rules, guides, commands, loves us as children whose destinies he carries in his heart.”

Eugene H. Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Mercy. So, so needed.

“Just go on—alone. How can I tell what I shall do? You know the whole of me. You know I’m not one for a life of mourning. I’ve always been bad. Probably I shall be bad again, punished again. But the worse I am, the more I need God. I can’t shut myself out from his mercy. That is what it would mean; starting a life with you, without him. One can only hope to see one step ahead. But I saw today there was one thing unforgiveable … the bad thing I was on the point of doing, that I’m not quite bad enough to do; to set up a rival good to God’s.”

Julia in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited

Yes, mercy.

Because of this:

 

O all ye who passe by, behold and see;

Man stole the fruit, but I must climbe the tree;

The tree of life to all, but onely me:

Was ever grief like mine?

 

Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sinne,

The greater world o’ th’ two; for that came in

By  words, but this by sorrow I must win:

Was ever grief like mine?

 

Such sorrow as, if sinfull man could feel,

Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel.

Till all were melted, though he were all steel:

Was ever grief like mine?

 

From George Herbert’s “The Sacrifice”.

 

Yes, mercy—so that even in hard times, we have hope:

 

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown

Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie

Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown

That this is my south-west discovery,

Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

 

I joy, that in these straits I see my west;

For, though their currents yield return to none,

What shall my west hurt me? As west and east

In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,

So death doth touch the resurrection.

 

From John Donne’s “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness”.

 

Yes, mercy.

And resurrection hope.

Lord, have mercy.