“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
–Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
November 19, 2018
In the midst of foolish times some could aptly call “the winter of despair” along with its darkness and confusion, I want to celebrate wisdom, belief, light and hope. Will you join me for my party?
Snowy Colorado Morning. By Marsha McLaren, 2018
Presents from Heaven
Besides the anticipation and fun of Christmas morning, what’s better than a birthday party? Friends, cake, ice cream and presents from loved ones. I have never grown up and still love birthdays–others as well as my own.
Memories of my previous 73 birthdays linger in my mind. On my third birthday, I was really disappointed because eight of my friends brought me the same bracelet, but we had a great time anyway. The next year, I invited them for a sleepover with plans to have a Barbie Doll Fashion show following breakfast. Instead, Mother canceled the party the day before because I came down with a painful ear infection and had to lie still with a series of warm drops in that ear for 24 hours.
But the worst party ever was in high school when I had invited a lot of friends for a dance party in our dining room. Mother and I had moved out all the furniture and I decorated with crepe paper streamers. She made my cake and prepared punch while I brought all my 45s out and laid them next to the record player. That year, my celebration included welcoming a friend who had just come home from boot camp. He and I had corresponded a lot in the months that he was gone; he led me to believe he planned to give me his class ring at the party.
Two things happened, first he disappeared for a long time and when he returned to the party, another girl who wasn’t on my invite list walked in on his arm, wearing that ring. The song, “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To” played on the phonograph at that moment, and I felt betrayed. However, self-pity didn’t last long because suddenly two towering football players walked in through the front door and confronted my friend, Laura (a stunningly beautiful girl) and her date. They began pushing him around. Utter chaos descended when he landed hard on the floor. Curses and shouting flew everywhere. Mother came running and sent them all home. I was left alone standing in the middle of a mess with a humiliated heart.
Later, on my 30th birthday, I was hospitalized and in traction for 10 days. Five years later on the way to dinner and a movie with my husband, President Reagan was nearly assassinated.
The birthday I am celebrating today has nothing to do with my first birth, except that I was already in existence at the time this one happened. I am remembering the 53rd anniversary of my second birth when Jesus saved me. Every year on November 19, I remember the events leading up to and culminating in God’s conviction of my rebellious soul and its deliverance. I believe what Jesus said: “Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” Luke 15:7 Msg
Heaven celebrated my being found after being lost in darkness for the previous 19 years. I, too, celebrate that event, but I wonder, would it be presumptuous to say that Jesus doesn’t forget the kingdom anniversaries of His children and that in itself is another cause of celebration? I live as if He remembers, anticipating that He always sends the most meaningful and lasting heart gifts to encourage me.
Let me give you a perfect example. Last Friday, my husband and I were passing through Mesquite, NV at 6 a.m. on our way from our daughter’s home in Las Vegas to ours in Perry. We had an hour set aside to reconnect with our long-time friend, Sue––and what a reunion it was. Ephesians 5:19 says it best as we began a conversation at the table that continued all the way home and into the night through our texts. New purpose for each of us keeps us in touch everyday now, sharing our “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.” God brought us together. It was His gracious gift!
This morning, I heard a message centered on the truth that Scripture is God’s will, His Owner’s Manual for mankind. When He commands something, it’s for our good. Following His Word leads us into contented lives, while rejecting His ways, leads us into sorrow.
Then I read a few blogs to which I have subscribed, and today’s Daily Devotional from Zondervan especially called my name. The writer focused on Psalm 18, the psalm of David “often referred to as the grateful retrospect.” Retrospect is such a compelling word. It simply means “a survey or review of a past course of events or period of time.” I’m into remembering, so I read on with interest as the writer rehearsed the years that David fled and escaped from Saul’s wrath. The author says, “Now Saul was dead and David was about to be king. He sat down, looked back, and wrote a love letter to God.”
A love letter! On my birthday, what a great idea! Like David, I will write this love letter to God in gratitude, defined as the “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” He gave lavishly. I am privileged to return His kindness by allowing it to flow out to those whom He brings into my life. He enables me, if I am willing, to live a life worthy of His calling so I can work alongside Him for what He is doing in my family, community, state, country and the world.
The years of His faithfulness and provision, the abundant grace and direction which He has freely given me in Jesus fill the lyrics of my song––if I only could carry a tune. So instead of actually singing, I sit here at the keyboard and worship the One who has given me everything. However we choose to express our gratitude, we can count on God’s will and purpose for us as His Kingdom citizens:
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” I Peter 2:9-10 Msg
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more––a grateful heart;
. . .Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days.
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
George Herbert (1593-1633) from his poem, “Gratefulness”