1. When Paul exhorted us to "rejoice always," he actually meant it. This seems kind of duh. But I read a sentence like this in CS Lewis' fantastic book The Problem of Pain. He says, "I think we all sin by needlessly disobeying the apostolic injunction to 'rejoice' as much as by anything else." That sentence was so good that I had to reread it several times. How often do we -- do I get bent out of shape for reasons I do not even understand? Sometimes we just feel like being down or grumpy or whatever. And then at those times, the entire world knows that we are in a bad mood. Don't we take it out on other people? And then, when we are asked what is wrong, we respond, "I don't know."
I can hear people saying, "Sara, everyone has bad moods." And it's true. We do. But Paul doesn't say to rejoice as long as you feel good about life, or as long as you are in a favorable state of mind. He says to rejoice always. Rejoice in the grace of God to you even on your hard days, because even on those days, His grace is more than sufficient to bring you through. Rejoice on the days you feel very blah, because it's in those times that you can look around you and observe God's hand in the small, slow-moving, patient ways. You don't have to feel joyful. In fact, one of the differences between joy and happiness is that joy is not a feeling. Joy is a choice. Choose it. Choose to rejoice even when it is counterintuitive. I promise that your outlook on the world will change, as you observe God's grace right where you are.
2. I don't like English breakfast tea.
I'm not a big fan of black teas, and English tea is way too strong for my tastes. I've had it often enough to know.
3. You don't have to lay claim to things.
Okay, it's vulnerability time. I have recognized in myself a need to stake my claim on the things I see as "mine." You know how we all have our things? They don't have to be tangible; you don't have to be able to grab them. I am very possessive of running and my passion for my personal fitness level. I feel threatened if anyone else begins to take an interest in those things, or begins to participate in them. I'm like a child: grasping and possessive. I'm learning (present tense) that this isn't the way to be. Nothing that I love or enjoy belongs to me, really. It is a gift from God to me. I have been created to use it and thus give it back to Him. My physical body is my vessel with which to honor God. My voice is my gift to give back in praise. Quite frankly, I don't have the right to be stingy, because none of it really belongs to me, anyway. It is only mine to give away.
4. A lot of following Jesus consists of remembering and being reminded.
Much like the monuments the Israelites would set up, followers of Christ are gifted with reminders from the Spirit of God: of our identity, of our brokenness and mess, of the incredible grace of God. A big part of the walk of faith is being reminded of things we already know but have forgotten. And the reminders are yet another proof of the indescribable grace of God to us.
5. British to American translations are ridiculous.
For our British friends, cookies are biscuit. Biscuits are scone. Our scones are also scone -- singular. Our fries are chips, and our chips are crisps. Also they have something called a bap: it's a sandwich. Also, English bacon = Canadian bacon. And rocket is arugula. Help.
6. My job is to show up and use what God has given me, NOT to judge whether or not it is good.
Can we call this some sort of Artist's Manifesto? This is something I've heard thousands of times as a singer, but it's only just now sinking in (Isn't that annoying?). I don't get to be the judge of my own work. As a non-objective participant in the work, that task is denied to me. My job is only this: to show up in the world as the person I most fully am and do the work God has put in front of me at that moment. Everything else is secondary.
And when you think about it, this lets me off the hook in a major way. If I have only to do the work, sing the song, write the words, check the groceries -- then I am not in control of how other people view it. I can let go of striving for the approval of others. If I'm not in control of how others view me and my work, then I don't have to worry about it. The fact that I have one job to do frees me from trying to do the ones that are not for me. I have only to do that for which I am responsible. The rest is nil.
What about you? What did you learn in June? Feel free to comment and tell me -- I would love to hear!