Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation. – Psalm 100:4-5
This morning I’ve been reading over my posts from the past few weeks, and I can’t help but notice how often my thoughts tend to lean toward gratitude.
I’m glad that’s what this blog continues to look like, even in the middle of some challenging times. You see, I tend to write these posts in a “shooting from the hip” mode (as opposed to carefully plotting my trajectory and outlining where I’m going to go). In consequence, sometimes I surprise myself, sometimes I surprise other people, and sometimes I check later and exclaim, “I can’t believe I actually said that out loud!”
I guess my posts are the writing equivalent of speaking extemporaneously. If we’re still thinking politically, then we’d say I’m often, “off script,” and “ignoring the teleprompter.” But, and this seems to be consistent, it turns out I am still very much “on message.”
There’s a great little story that goes with that, and you’re especially going to enjoy this if you ever deal with rigid systems, bureaucracies, and people who are too much tied to a script.
Some years ago, Rebekah was asked to speak at a national Stephen Ministry training conference. The good folk in St. Louis were launching their ChristCare Series small group model, and wanted Rebekah to be part of the teaching staff.
Things went very well. So well, in fact, that they asked her back for the next year (and then several more after that). The following series of bullets is – best recollection – a short segment from an actual conversation between the organizers and Rebekah, just a week before that second conference.
- Leader: Let’s talk about the PowerPoint presentation we will be using with your teaching sessions.
- Rebekah: Okay. What’s on your mind?
- Leader: We’ve noticed that you are very creative and innovative a lot of the time.
- Rebekah: Thank you; this is very inspirational stuff!
- Leader: Yes… and we have certainly received an unprecedented amount of positive feedback from participants. Your ratings have been consistently over-the-top on the scale.
- Rebekah: That’s wonderful! I’m so glad people are enthusiastic.
- Leader: Yes… But… We’ve also noticed that you’re very often spontaneous.
- Rebekah: That’s the Holy Spirit for you!
- Leader: Yes… But… We don’t always have a PowerPoint slide to follow where you’re going.
- Rebekah: That’s okay. I always come back!
- Leader: Yes… But… So we have programmed in some allowances for you this year. So… if you refer to the outline we sent to you this week… you will see that we’ve scheduled three minutes for you to be spontaneous; here… and then again, here.
- Rebekah: You’re kidding, right?
- Leader: If you would manage to be spontaneous within these guidelines, then it would help our technical staff….
No, I’m not making this stuff up. You couldn’t make this stuff up! The exact reason they wanted/needed Rebekah on their teaching staff was her spirit, her spontaneity, her responsiveness to The Spirit, her passion, her verve; her ebullience…. And the very reason they had such a hard time with her was the exact same thing!
I guess what I’m writing about today is how glad I am to be living in response to the constant and creative work of the Spirit of God. No matter what is happening, what obstacles come up, what slide pops up on the screen to prompt some other quality of response, how difficult life can be, or how easily things do, or don’t, go our way… what matters (and what comes to the surface) is the constant of God’s faithfulness, and the assurance that following Jesus is always the right choice.
So that’s where my ramblings took me today. Both Rebekah and I are truly thankful for this life, and for every opportunity we have to share the enthusiasm we both have for following the Living Way of the Living Word – Jesus.
Have an amazing, and deeply grateful, Thanksgiving – DEREK