Thoughts on Being Blessed, Post-Thanksgiving

As I’m changing out my fall-themed coffee mugs for those reflecting the Christmas and winter season ahead, I work around the single autumnal-themed coffee cup kept in the cupboard year-round.  It is not creative in shape or size, but amidst a background of rust-and-yellow-leaves and fanciful flourishes the word BLESSED scrolls across the front of the mug three times.  Once for each Person in the Trinity, I think to myself.

BLESSED.

Blessed – by the love and guidance of the Father.

Blessed – by the Life-instilling, reconciled-with-God work of the Son.

Blessed – by the indwelling Presence and daily ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life.

That coffee cup is a visual a reminder of this truth – a truth that needs constant reinforcement as I go about the inroads and outroads of my daily life.

Merriamwebster.com shares general definitions of the word, separating out the category of “religion”:  venerated, hallowed, beatific.  The rest of the descriptions include “of or enjoying happiness; bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune.”  Vocabulary.com   includes the context, “highly favored or fortunate (as e.g. by divine grace); if you say you’ve been blessed, you feel lucky to have something—health, love, fame, fortune, talent, etc.

Feeling lucky to have something; enjoying happiness or contentment:  while not necessarily inaccurate, these are perceptions that can be stripped from us like sheets from a bed.  Perception and feeling are as passing as are shadows with the movement of the sun…so we find the truest clue of the word’s meaning within the parenthesis, those three little words:  by divine grace.

“Blessed” is not in celebration of what we feel, things that can be unceremoniously removed, not “livin’ the life,” “rolling with the good times” or even experiencing a temporary 14-er height of ecstacy in God’s Presence.

It is a truth about us which He has created and sustained.  I believe we are to tenaciously and persistently seek, walk, live, and breathe in the amazing awareness that He has made us something we were not, and instilled upon us His favor, extended His divine grace into every fiber of our being.

God blessed Creation in Gen. 1:19-22, transforming what was “formless and void” into what was His sovereignty and creativity actively manifested and grand, spectacular and awe-inspiring; He blessed the creation of Man, male and female, in Gen. 1:27-28; and “of dust from the ground” (Gen. 2:7) completed the physical creation of Man, “made in Our Image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

Likewise, He takes those formless and void areas of our lives, the areas which have been reduced to dust, and blows the breath of Life into them, that they may live.

Paul greeted the saints at Ephesus by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Eph 1:3-6)

Blessed, indeed…so that we, like, Paul, may proclaim “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).

There is much in this world that afflicts, perplexes, and persecutes.  Because we are blessed, the abundant life of Jesus is ours to embrace as well as release to others, to strengthen us and provide the breath of life to those around us.

Jesus is Still Surprising People

During the summer I read an article that contained an amazing sequence of events that made it an unforgettable testimony.

In fact, the particulars of this testimony consistently draw me into contemplating just how out-of-the-box, non-judgmental, and meeting-people-where-they-are Jesus really is.  We — and by “we” I really do mean a generalized all of us who call Him Lord and walk in His counsel — so often form our concept of Jesus based on limitation.  Limitation as to what is appropriate in a situation….limitation as to “what we would do”….limitation as to whether or not there is already an example set in Scripture so we know it’s really Jesus at work.

In the article, author Mark Ellis describes “Nelly” as “an African woman living in southern Europe.”  She is severely afflicted by a brain tumor and has been diagnosed as terminally ill.  Nelly approaches Christian neighbors and asks them to assist her husband and young son after her passing. While they wholeheartedly agree to do so, both Christians encourage Nelly to pray to Jesus and seek Him for both help and healing — which she is reluctant to do, given her Muslim background and lifestyle. However, since the tumor had already debilitated her from engaging in usual Muslim prayer rituals she actually does follow her neighbors’ encouragement and prays to Jesus for the first time in her life.  Unexpectedly, He personally appears to her on the balcony and asks her a direct question in her native dialect:  what is it that she wants?

AN UNCONVENTIONAL REQUEST

Hold that image in your mind — Jesus standing on the balcony, presumably quite recognizable to those familiar with His features, asking the woman what it is she seeks.  Does Nelly recognize that He — the One before her — is Jesus, to Whom she just prayed?  The documentation is silent on this issue.  However, despite her preparations to face the result of her terminally ill diagnosis, Nelly does not request healing.

She responds that the household has run out of cigarettes, and smoking tobacco helps dull the pain in her head.  Her logical request to Jesus, then, was to ask Him if He would provide cigarettes for her to smoke.

According to Ellis’ retelling, Jesus disappears from the balcony just as He appeared, and as Nelly goes into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee,  she opens the cupboard and makes an amazing discovery:  there on the edge of the shelf is a fresh, unopened  pack of cigarettes. Continue reading “Jesus is Still Surprising People”