I am not really a bucket list kind of guy. Given my personality, I am afraid the ‘list’ would turn into something to chase – another work item to accomplish. Instead I have had some lifetime experiences to celebrate and remember. Some lifetime experiences are trips such as the ones Sherri and I got to take to Whitehorse, Yukon and to Singapore. Just mentioning those trips bring memories of shared meals with dear friends, fishing trips, preaching and teaching in special places, and walks with my princess. Another lifetime experience expanded to fill my middle adult years – who would have thought I would have the opportunity to be a Bible college instructor for 10 years and seminary professor for 17 more years! Now that Sherri and I live quite a distance from all family members, each visit gives me a chance for double hugs with my parents, children, grandchildren, brothers and other family members – those moments provide deeper joy and pleasure than the trips to Austria and Switzerland that I have daydreamed about for the last five or six years.
Kissing Sherri’s shoulder as I left for the office this morning was a lifetime experience. I’ve done it a thousand times or more over the last 39 years, but each one is a once in a lifetime experience.
Some ‘bucket-list-able’ experiences do not live up to the anticipation. I have a few such honors and experiences in mind, but I will leave them unnamed. I do not want to taint someone else’s anticipation or memories of those times.
Reflecting on these past blessings change me. They turn me from disappointments, losses, and grief to anticipation, thanksgiving, and hope. The Lord’s blessings come as gifts rather than payments for my efforts or “sacrifice”. Blessings remind me that sacrifice is a term of worship rather than a term of economics.
I think my life is a collection of blessings. Some books I have read help me see the archive with new appreciation. Yesterday I reviewed my decades long friend Dave Norris’ excellent book, I AM, as I made notes for a new friend who is covering a class for me this month. Dave’s examination of God’s loving covenant with humanity culminates in blessings. God calls His name over His people, and blessings result.
Luke 1 deserves 30,000 words rather than the 1,000 or so I will give it today. I mean, just the way Luke links eyewitnesses and minister in some type of parallelism where I have to see both or I have neither calls for much deeper reflection. And that phrase happens in verse 2 of 80. I feel like someone running through the Louvre on a lunch break rather than giving attention to each part of a masterpiece.
The chapter includes a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells, and emotions. The evening incense closes a day of sacrifices. Devout Jews pray for God’s favor as they await the priest’s return to the evening shadows of the temple’s courtyard after what might have been his only opportunity to offer incense in his whole life. That was a lifetime experience made special beyond anticipation by a heavenly messenger just as he prostrated himself before the altar. The experience blew away anything he could have imagined.
An elder lady experiences the emotions of shame and fear being vanquished by honor and hope. When the child kicked at the voice of a cousin’s greeting, decades of shame drained away. She was not cursed. She was not an evil sinner punished by God. Instead her blessing came in the autumn of life – her son would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” God’s blessings came at the right time for her … and for the world.
Blessings mark you if you let them. They come from a distant throne room and are brought near by the very Spirit of God.
The chapter echoes blessings from the past. Elizabeth was a new Sarah. John’s spirit and power reflect that of Elijah and Samson. Angel visits connect God’s blessings that day to many times in the past when God made His intervention visible. All of the comments about turning remove the distance from Jeramiah’s tear stained writings to a season when many would see the coming King and turn toward Him. Songs of an old priest and a young girl bring to mind songs of Moses, Miriam, and Deborah. I am thankful for those who have the gift of fracturing the blessings into visible spectrums of song similar to the revealing power of a prism that surrenders to the light.
Some parts of Luke 1 make us pause between heartbeats of those immobilized by fear at a God encounter, then the chapter ends with 30 years of John’s life collapsed in one sentence. Fast or slow, every word conveys blessings.
Seeing such an avalanche of blessings drops me to my knees in thanksgiving.
Thank you for the many waves of blessings You have poured out on my life. Each day Your blessings mold and shape me into the man I want to be but cannot get there on my own. Like Elizabeth I have had some moments of suffering and shame along the way, but today those pains only serve to flavor Your blessings. What others or I meant for harm, You have turned them into good in accordance with Your covenant goodness toward us, Your people.
I repent of moments when I rejected Your blessings like a pouting, recalcitrant child. Did You smile when I did that? Did You know today would come when Your blessings would overwhelm me? Did You see the tears of joy? Thank You for the years of patient mercy that continues to keep me in Your presence even when I thought following You was more like the Mojave Desert than the garden of beauty You place around me.
This morning is another life experience. It came upon me so unexpectedly. I am overwhelmed by Your goodness. I want to share what I have seen – to serve out of blessings encountered. Oh Lord! Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done! You turned so many things around in Luke 1. Those blessings still flow today.
In Jesus’ Name,