Yesterday, my Husband and I had the blessing of attending a worship service, led by my friend and brother in Christ from Seminary, Pastor John Asante. Pastor Asante leads a Ghanian Baptist church in Millbury, Ma. Let me tell you, if you have never been to Ghanian church, you are missing OUT!! They dance in Ghanian church. They dance to express their praise and worship to Jesus….and it is something to see. It is impossible not to be caught up in it. So, when we go to Ghanian church, we dance too. And it is awesome.
Pastor Asante was leading a year-end service of praise and thanksgiving. As the year draws to a close, the people of Pastor Asante’s church gather together to think about all of the blessings that God has given them in the past year, both as individuals and as a Church body. It is extremely powerful.
The text that Pastor Asante preached from was Psalm 116, verses 12-14:
” What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.”
I could not help thinking, as I got swept up in this beautiful service, about ALL that God has done in my life this past year- and how that directly relates to my current spiritual discipline of observing and marking the days of Advent. One of the best ways to make room in one’s heart for God, is the practice of daily gratitude. Gratitude focuses one’s mind and heart on what one has- not on what one lacks. Gratitude reminds us of what God has done for us and keeps us in a place of humble surrender. Pastor Asante was careful to remind us that the words of Psalm 116 tell us that our answer to God’s provision is gratitude- but not just quiet gratitude between ourselves and God- rather gratitude “IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL OF HIS PEOPLE”. In public, corporate worship, we come together to express thanks and praise for God’s mighty work in our lives.
So, with that being said…….today I am going to list and publicly acknowledge all that God has done for me this past year. This list is not exhaustive, as I am SURE that I will think of twenty more things, as soon as I hit the “publish” button.
So here goes……
-God has massively fortified my ability to trust Him this year.
-God has taught me how to add holy rest and balance into my life.
-God has continued to provide me with spiritual mentors- people to provide wisdom and guidance along the way.
-God has strengthened our marriage- in spite of some heavy burdens which could have broken it.
-God has continued to protect and care for my Mom in the nursing home, through some pretty amazing people who have committed themselves to making a difference in her life.
-God has given me new and exciting duties at work; tasks that make good use of some of my previously underutilized talents and abilities.
-God has provided for us financially, in spite of the fact that each month it looks like we may not make it.
-God gifted us with the most awesome summer ever on the island of Cuttyhunk.
-God has brought new and inspiring friends into our life.
-God brought me through to Seminary graduation- after nine years of study- and a life-changing trip down to Washington D.C. for my graduation ceremony. (He used my Mother-In-Law to bless us with that trip.)
-God has granted positive, forward progress in some legal issues having to do with my family home.
-God provided helpful people to assist me with the task of clearing out said family home.
-God has granted me freedom from an evil, gluttonous binge eating habit which was stealing, my joy, energy, health and self worth.
-God provided knowledgeable people to guide me on my journey to physical health ….AND helped me to shed 30 pounds!!!!
-God has gifted me with the time, talent and passion to continue my writing ministry.
Those are just the ones that I could come up with quickly…..off the top of my head!!
I know that there are so many, many more. Every day, my relationship with Jesus gives me the ability to see the GOOD. To focus on the fact that God is good…..ALL THE TIME. Has everything turned out the way that I wanted it to?? No. Have I been given a “Yes” to every one of my prayers?? No. Have there been moments where I have been anxious, frustrated and afraid?? Yes. I am human. I am broken and flawed and some days are not as victorious as others. But, every day, God gives me the ability and grace to SEE HIM AT WORK.
That may be the greatest thing of all that He has given me this year. I see Him SO clearly- and I see Him as Jesus. My Friend. My Companion. My Comforter. My Protector. My Champion. I see Jesus in everything. In conversations that I have with people. In my relationships. In situations- even problems and challenges. I see Him EVERYWHERE. Sometimes, as I am going about my normal, daily activities, His presence is so palpable that I can feel Him physically touching me. I can visualize Him sitting beside me in the car. I can see Him in the room with me, watching as I minister to my Mother in the nursing home. I can see Him laughing with joy along with my children in the classroom. One time, He and I even danced together. That was the bomb.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you. For ALL that you have done this past year- and for ALL that I know You will continue to do. You told me, in July of 2014, that “my greater was coming”. You told me to hang on tight, that we were almost ready to turn the corner…..and you were RIGHT, Lord Jesus. You were RIGHT. Keep me, Lord, in an attitude of gratitude.
“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.”
Amen, Lord Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus.