On thinking, living, thanking

“In these days of confused situations,” the song “Be Ye Glad” begins, there seems to be little mental/spiritual resource for initiatives or discretionary thought.

I think about the fact that I’ve missed three or four days of blogging recently.  I feel justified, yet I feel wistful and even guilty, because I know this time is important for my spiritual health.

I often write about a specific thought-instigator that I think deserves attention–whether a misunderstanding of scripture, or a misplaced Christian practice, or an important doctrine, or some more-or-less inspiring thought about the Christian assembly.  I don’t have a lot of clear spiritual thoughts in this particular time of life, because there’s not enough of me to go around.  Today, again, there is nothing specific that jumps into my spiritual consciousness as deserving of blog attention.

I look at the book-bindings around me in my home office.  The titles are The Pilgrim Church, Jesus Manifesto, Plain and Amish, The Hallelujah Factor, Resounding Truth, and, oh-yes, a couple of Bibles, and a hymnal, and The Gashouse Gang (a book about the 1930s baseball Cardinals, and The Composer’s Advocate and The Psychology of Conducting.Any or all of these could be resources for living and thinking and writing, if there weren’t so many “urgent” situations that keep me from picking one of them up for yet another day or week.  I should probably just return several of them.

I look at the guilt-inducing NLT in a black cover that has sat, mostly immobile, on one of my desks for about 15 months now.  It is there, along with a couple of cassette tapes and a hand-held recorder, to remind me that I started last summer reading Genesis aloud, but have only gotten halfway through.  I like Genesis.  I benefit from reading aloud.  I need to know more of God, and reading something like Genesis is a high-impact way to gain more insight into Him.  What keeps me from spending just 10 minutes a day reading a half-chapter?

I think about the great Basic Conducting class time yesterday.  We interacted, and I encouraged them to be students of the subject, and there were thoughtful observations and questions, and the students grew, and I grew, and I genuinely like these students.  Since we deal directly with music-making in community in that course, there’s often something that can be translated readily into thoughts about church life.

I think about the negatives of my work with instrumental ensembles, and I quickly move to the positives.  Basically, the negatives are summed up in two words:  attendance issues. Many of these issues are merely structural ones, stemming from an exceedingly difficult set of schedule-and-calendar circumstances inflicted on me unintentionally from above (and by “above,” I don’t mean to refer to the Lord)–the resulting situation, not due to any careless intent on the part of those who plan class schedules and curricula.  Anyway, the positives are more compelling, and they are, by the grace of the same Lord, taking more of my thought time than the negatives.  I won’t take time to list positive examples, but they are many, and they daily give me joy.  Many are the times this semester that my eyes have filled up, fulfilled in musical endeavors.

I think about a group of dear friends who become dearer with each passing week.  We meet in our home for study, thought, often-deep conversation, and worship.  The last couple of times have been differently valuable, but I do look forward to getting seriously back into the text of Philemon, a remarkable letter.  Then we’ll spend a few weeks in consideration of Jesus–birth-prophecies, fulfillments, worship (!) before moving into Colossians.

I see this cartoon in the November Christian Chronicle. It has a mom and a little boy standing at the back of a church hall, with the mom suggesting, “Listening to a 40-minute sermon is not suffering for Jesus, Sammy.”  And I recall that in Symphonic Winds, the theme of the month for devotional times is suffering.  I realize that even though I’ve felt the impact of a couple of student sharings in particular, I cannot remember a single specific that either of them shared.  (My thought-life is ever more debilitated and sometimes confused.)  I do know that I often feel that listening even to a 20-minute sermon is more than I should bear, but I know just as well that that feeling has nothing to to do with the Kingdom suffering spoken/written about by Jesus or Peter or Paul.

I think about the possible connection between suffering and the fall season.  Is there something inherent in the season that causes believers to think along these lines, or is it a historical or documentary connection?  I think about a pattern I think I’ve seen at Houghton College for four falls now–communion time during a chapel “service” near Thanksgiving.  And I wonder why.  Is there something that connects the three — suffering and Thanksgiving and the Passion of Jesus–that I don’t know about?  Part of me wishes I knew, but most of me doesn’t care too much, because I’m confident there is no bona fide, scriptural connection that deserves my attention.  Every Sunday . . . no, every day! — is a time worthy of pondering the implications of Lord’s suffering, and I’d rather live with more of that in my heart than to spend time wondering what lectionary or denomination typically connects communion “services” with Thanksgiving.

Honestly — and with more lucidity than during a recent rant to friends — I say that I do suffer some under my workload.  I suffer mentally and physically, but not much spiritually, and for that I am grateful.  Although I have never seen a job as busy as this one, and although I need more rest from it than I get, my blessings are manifold:  I have a job that pays me on schedule.  I have two cars and a mechanic who doesn’t over-charge me to fix one of them.  I have a house that doesn’t leak much.  I have a wife and a son who both love me and want to be with me.  I have friends who love me anyway.  I have acquaintances and colleagues who listen and appreciate this or that about me.  I have food, relatively drinkable water, and free choice, and spiritual opportunity, and good health.

The days are confused, and confusing.  But I am blessed, and God is the Blesser.  God, be praised.  (And God, be merciful if I don’t overtly thank You again with any intentionality until November 25.)

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