Friday, September 30, 2011

Blessings 101 to 110

101. The Oxford comma
102. Flashes of unexpected virtue
103. Freshly laundered shirts
104. Clean water to drink
105. Warm milk
106. Hand-knit Afghan from my sister
107. The safe delivery of Hannah Marie Poole
108. Mail
109. Rich, outdoorsy scents of autumn
110. The anticipation of total joy

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blessings 89 to 100

89. An evening with storytellers
90. Baby-blue balloons
91. Newborn-sized athletic pants that match my husband's perfectly
92. The crunch of dead leaves
93. The intricacy of grasshopper legs
94. A stranger's offer of a post-partum casserole and brownies
95. Afternoon sun-glow through the blinds
96. Our new place to live (don't have one yet, but thankful that the Lord is going to provide what we need just in time!)
97. A late-blooming rose
98. Grilled pineapple
99. September breezes
100. A ride home from the auto repair shop

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blessings 80 to 88

80. Free shipping
81. A way forward
82. A diaper pail
83. Lustrous blue sky behind the dour-faced clouds (I believe it)
84. No stretch marks (yet)
85. No waddling (yet)
86. No back aches (today)
87. Invitations into grace
88. Iced tea, a bar stool, and an old friend

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blessings 78 and 79

78. Carnations the color of fresh butter
79. The Compline, as lovely now as it has ever been

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blessing 77

77. Just enough creme brulee

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blessings 70 to 76

70. The welcoming yellow light shining from a friend's windows
71. Apples in season
72. Golden oil rubbed into the skin
73. Black-and-white photograph of wedding-day waltzing
74. Wind among the leaves
75. Rocking chair
76. Stillness of the chapel

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blessings 59 to 69

59. Prayer with eyes wide open
60. Hushing the anguished voice
61. Wise words from old saints
62. The slow, steady thrum of a beloved heart
63. Warm water in the shower
64. Peppermint toothpaste
65. Deep indigo of blueberries in the cereal milk
66. Gas in the tank
67. Planning a party
68. The certainty of being understood
69. Freshly chopped basil leaves, smelling like the last of summer

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blessings 56 to 58

56. Irish accents
57. Cleansing breaths
58. Joy from pain

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blessings 51 to 55

51. Red leaf
52. Black butterfly
53. A feast of cloud and sky
54. Autumn fields overspread with mustard flowers
55. Pile of pale gold Gruyere cheese curls

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blessings 48 to 50

48. White bar of moonlight clinging to the top of the mailbox
49. The laying on of hands
50. Friends to walk through hard times with

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blessings 43 to 47

43. Six geese against a pale blue sky, honking to each other
44. Pumpkin spice latte
45. Discovering that the baby likes Wang Chung better than David Bowie
46. Salt-and-pepper mustaches
47. Nesting in heaped pillows

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blessing 43

43. Acetaminophen

Blessings 35 to 42

35. Strange woman chasing me across the lawn to rub my belly
36. Squirrel harvesting grass blades to line her nest
37. Cardinals and chickadees in the birdbath
38. Rocking chair on the back patio
39. A long exhalation
40. Stained green bowl in the dawn light, the first thing in the day to own its color
41. A kiss good morning
42. An excellent sermon

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blessings 29 to 34

29. Raindrops dancing on the asphalt
30. Cricket song outside the bedroom window
31. Sunlight framing a hole in the clouds
32. Apologies
33. The generosity of strangers
34. The opportunity to wait on God

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blessings 25 to 28

25. Thick wet grass under bare toes
26. Rain beaded into pearl drops (the miracle of surface tension!)
27. Unexpected chocolate
28. The first hug after a too long separation

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Make God Visible: My Interview with Philip Yancey

How to Make God Visible: An Interview with Philip Yancey (Part 1 of 2)

By Alyson R. Quinn | September 06 2011

Best-selling Christian author Philip Yancey has followed Prison Fellowship since its early days, and recently he was a keynote speaker at a worldwide Prison Fellowship convocation in Toronto, Canada. While he was there, he sat down with Prison Fellowship to talk about prison, grace and making God visible.

Prison Fellowship: When did you first learn about Prison Fellowship? 

philipyanceyYancey: I’ve known Ron [Nikkel, president of Prison Fellowship International] since before he was the director. We lived about a block away from each other in Wheaton, Illinois. I was the editor of a magazine and he headed up an organization called Youth Guidance, which dealt with…the euphemism they used was non-school-oriented teenagers, which is a polite way of saying juvenile delinquents. We became friends. I also knew Chuck Colson. I had a lot of friends who worked at Prison Fellowship, and then Ron was appointed director—I think Chuck actually made that choice right when they were first expanding into other countries. So I’ve known the organization right from the beginning of its international outreach.

PF: And what drew you in?

Yancey: Like a lot of Americans I was very unaware of the conditions in other countries. In many countries, of course, the prison doesn’t provide food. So the families are responsible for feeding the prisoners. Well, if the prisoner has shamed the family, the family isn’t motivated to provide food, so prisoners will literally starve to death unless someone steps up and provides. I got to know the appalling conditions, and the desperate need that Prison Fellowship International was addressing.

More positively, as I visited some of these prisons with Ron I found a devoutness, a vibrancy that you just don’t find in your normal, suburban Sunday church. I thought, Wow, this is really the Church here, because these guys had little but their faith in God to keep them going. They were in hopeless surroundings, and they needed hope just to survive.  We visitors went away with more encouragement and inspiration than we brought in, by far. We learned from them.

PF: You’re a popular author and speaker with a busy schedule. Why did you accept an invitation to address an international convocation of prison ministers?

Yancey: Most of what I do is vicarious. I am not on the front lines of ministry. What I can do, however, is shine a little light on works that I believe in.

I sit in my basement office. I’m just writing words in hope that one day those words will jump out and help somebody, and I hear that they do. So, I’ve learned that’s what I can do. I can help motivate and bring encouragement to people who are doing the real work.

PF: You wrote a book called What’s So Amazing About Grace?, and recently you visited Old Folsom State Prison in California. While there you asked inmates who had been reading your book what they thought was so amazing about grace. What did you learn from them?

Yancey: One of the most articulate guys said that grace sets you free. If you don’t have grace, you’re bound to respond. If somebody hurts you, you’ve got to hurt them back. In a prison, if somebody hits you, you’ve got to hit them back. Prison is a very non-grace environment, often ruled by gangs who are quick to take advantage of any weakness. And so you get people who will cover your back, who will stick up for you. And if you’re insulted, you’ve got to respond in kind. That becomes a kind of slavery, said this prisoner. You are bound with the law of the jungle, as it were, and grace breaks that law. He went on to say, “Grace is the house in which I live. What I need to do is learn to invite other people into that same house.”

I thought, That’s a beautiful way of expressing it. He’s discovered the freedom of grace. Yet it’s hard to put into practice, isn’t it? Our instincts kick in, especially in a prison environment, and if you show any kind of weakness, others will exploit it. But no, there’s a better house. I’ve got to occupy that house, and gradually invite other people inside it. And that may be a metaphor for what Prison Fellowship does. We’re showing another way. We’re building a new house, and we need to invite other people in and say, “It’s a better house.”

PF: What else have prisoners taught you?

Yancey: A different prisoner said, “How would you like to be remembered for the worst thing you ever did in life?”

That’s the shame a prisoner wears. It reminds me of the old scarlet letter story by Nathaniel Hawthorne: you take the one thing a person did wrong—adultery, in this woman’s case—and make them actually wear it, literally, as the letter A, so that everyone knows, “Oh, that’s the woman who….” Essentially, we do that when we convict prisoners: for the rest of their lives, every time they apply for a job, every time they try to vote, they are known for their mistake.

We all do shameful things and wrong things, and the Bible is very clear that our artificial distinctions between the really bad things and other bad things are just that--artificial! If you go back to Romans 1 through 3, for example, Paul starts with the really bad things, like perversion and murder, and then he proceeds to say, “You who judge are guilty of the very same things.” Much like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you’ve been angry, it’s no different than murder. If you’ve lusted, it’s no different than adultery.” More, Paul goes on to say, “Actually, it’s people like me who are the worst of all: self-righteous people.” Paul knew that syndrome well. Most people would see Paul as a righteous person, but he knew, “No, I was, a self-righteous person, and it was my self-righteousness that caused me to do things like participate in the stoning of Stephen. I became a murderer because of my feeling of superiority. I thought I was better than those guys.” And that’s the danger.

What I’ve learned from prisoners is that they are just like us. For whatever reason, we have put a label on them that puts them in a different class from us. That’s a danger for the rest of us because, as Paul said, it’s easy to slap a label on someone and say, “I’m certainly not as bad as that!”  But Paul insists, “No, you’re not better. You may in fact be worse.”

Blessings 23 and 24

23. To be of use to a friend
24. A sky that weeps so you don't have to

Monday, September 5, 2011

Blessings 16 to 22

16. Straight stacks of clean, warm laundry
17. Envelopes the color of avocados
18. Smell of castile soap
19. Husband's voice on the answering machine
20. Hymns in harmony, ringing through the narthex
21. Bread and wine on the tongue
22. Joy of benediction

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blessings 13 through 15

13. Baby hiccups
14. Hot bittersweet chocolate fudge
15. The memory of a perfect weekend we spent once, listening to the waves lap against the North Shore while we lay on the sand and talked about the bottomless happiness waiting in our future

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blessings 8 through 12

8. Early morning silhouette of husband sleeping
9. The restless heaving of Irish oats cooking in the pot
10. Stirring honey into my herbal tea
11. Gray clouds in the northwestern sky, strange and beautiful
12. A new perspective on an old pain

Friday, September 2, 2011

Blessings Five through Seven

5. Warm belly skin taut with my son
6. A praying husband
7. Making something delicious out of leftovers--a daily act of "redemption" from the back of the refrigerator

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blessings One through Four

A thousand blessings:

  1. Ruddy breast of robin
  2. The first leaves on the first trees going scarlet
  3. The arrival of the beautiful days, the days with just enough heat and not too much humidity
  4. The bus driver going off his route to drop pregnant me at my doorstep