On New Year’s Eve, I glanced over an email from Bill Hybels, the Senior Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, in which he encouraged everyone to take time to count their blessings. He told the story of his own family, of their New Year’s Eve tradition (if I’m getting this right) of sharing ten great blessings from the year. I didn’t really think about it much at the time, but then when it came time for our family tradition, which is a rather loose process of sharing some goals for the year, the “great blessing” exercise seemed like a good thing to do. While I won’t go into the details of all ours, there were some important themes that emerged, worth remembering.
- Family – Where would I be without these other fantastic people in my life?
- Friends – Each of us had at least one non-family friend that was making a huge difference, rocking our world.
- Opportunities Past – 2010 had travel, auditions, passages, and new beginnings. Things didn’t work out exactly as we saw them, but there’s a trail of good.
- Opportunities Future – There are no guarantees, but for the moment, doors are wide open all around.
- Health – There were challenges, some of which is unavoidable–we’re getting older–but by and large, miraculously, we all motor around in decent shape.
- Community – The ensembles (church, co-workers, classmates) that surrounded us in 2010 shored us up, challenged us, kept us sane and on fairly straight if not always narrow paths.
- Generosity – God’s grace to us has been echoed in many daily interactions in both giving and receiving, and it’s plain that we are mere vessels of his bounty and gifts, supernatural ones included.
- Inspiration – Somehow God is teaching to see possibility and hope in each other, in our journeys, and in the journeys of so many people around us.
- Beauty – Whether poetry, music, autumn, or performance, beauty made a big difference this year. Thank God for eyes to see and ears to hear.
- Life – As we say in my house, it’s all grace. All of it. Every inch, every breath, and we cherish it, refuse to take it for granted, and by the grace of God hope to seed, nurture, and cultivate more.
Oh, yeah, one more.
That last one’s just mine, but I’m thankful for the small things.
Lest you think I’m a gauzy-eyed positive thinker out of touch with reality, I could make a powerful list of the Top One Hundred Crappy Things That Happened. But who wants to dwell on that? Studies show that those kinds of lists bake no bread, seed nothing but foul crops, and generally wreck the hell out of days. I’d just as soon not have 2011 be full of wrecked days. Anybody want to write a song lauding the benefits of counting your crap, naming them one by one?
So maybe there’s some spin to the list. But…no. Those are the things that make our hearts swell in love when we stop and look at each other in the eye. And that rising swell of emotion is evidence that the mental and spiritual effort required to tell the story of God’s goodness in the face of hard days, tragedies, and the ever-pressing entropy that would tear our lives apart is worth every bit of the struggle.
Telling the story of God’s grace and goodness is a mountain to climb.
Rope up for the New Year. Find one toe-hold and begin.
Name your blessings in the presence of those with whom you share them.
And don’t forget….