Day 11–Five thankful people

*Special thanks to Mary Agrusa for writing today’s post for our “28 days of love” project. Be sure to check out her blog as well.*

 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design

Five categories of people who should give thanks to God are listed in Psalm 107. Which one(s) are you?

Verses 1-3 state that anyone who is redeemed should thank God because He is good and His love never ceases.

Verses 4-9 describe those who were lost, wandered aimlessly and had no hope. Hungry and thirsty, they cried out to God for help. He heard them, led them to safety and cared for them. They’re to thank God not only for His unfailing love, but also for supplying their needs.

Verses 10-15 refer to those in prison literally or figuratively of their own making. Their bad choices produced severe consequences. They’re instructed to give thanks because God set them free from their incarceration.

Verses 17-22 cover those who as a result of their rebellious actions suffer serious physical and psychological illness. Their lives spiraled downhill toward the grave. They cried out to God, He heard them and sent His word that healed and rescued them. They’re to give thanks to God publicly and sing songs of their deliverance.

Verses 23-32 tell of those caught in a ferocious storm. Violent winds and crashing waves tossed them about mercilessly. They cried out to God, Who with a whisper, stilled the storm and guided them to safety. They’re to thank God for His love and praise Him in the assembly of people.

Where ever you find yourself in these groups the end result is the same. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His love never fails.

 

Day 4–Spirits of love

*Special thank you to my friend and singer/songwriter/musician Oona Love for serving as today’s guest writer for day 4 of the “28 days of love project.”*

Gratitude-

Noun

The quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

 

Oona Love singing her heart out

Oona Love singing her heart out

That seems simple enough.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr., at the small Episcopal Church I attend in Virginia. There is really nothing like a bunch of white folks trying to sing “We Shall Overcome” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” with an 80 plus year old organist, but it was lovely, all the same. The spirit was there if the “with feeling” was not. You cannot expect white middle and upper class Episcopalians to truly understand those songs. How can they grasp the oppression, the struggle, the pain, and the joyful hope through tears that those songs embody? Sure, there are some there who marched for freedom and stood on the Mall in Washington, D.C., who are moved by the power of Dr. King’s speech, but the music was a little lost on most.

I left that day with a sense of great joy and sadness. Joy that the struggle for civil rights for ALL people has come so far, but sadness that we have not yet achieved a society in which we are truly blind to color, gender, orientation, physical limitation, and image. There is so much more work to do. I was also sad to feel that some of the people around me had not embraced what the day was to have meant.

It was with all of that floating about in my head that I walked into the Kroger after church with my mother. I go to church with her, and then we either have lunch or stop by the market afterwards. I needed dog food and she needed cheese, so we made a quick stop. As we made our way through the aisles, I spotted a man who looked to be in his late sixties. He had a white ponytail pulled back from a receding hairline, kind eyes behind round silver rimmed glasses and a camel colored corduroy blazer with suede elbow patches. On the lapels of his blazer, he wore buttons with peaceful slogans. As, I passed by him, I was compelled to do one thing… to hug him. I left my mother standing with her cheese and followed him. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’m sorry, but I am going to hug you.” I threw my arms around this man who embodied, in his energy and presence, everything I had missed about the morning. In my mind, he had walked alongside Dr. King. He had fought for civil liberties, and for one moment I was so grateful for this man that I had to embrace him because he erased all the sadness that was heavy in my heart.

A lot of people who know me personally would not be surprised by this random act of hugging in the Kroger; nor would they be surprised that in the moment of seeing this man, whom I did not know, I immediately had a story in my mind about what kind of person he is and what his past had been. I have often been told my imagination is far too vivid and that I do not live in reality, but those are topics for another time. What really matters is that I was grateful for this man, regardless if the story I had created in my mind was real or not. That one small moment of recognition was real to me, and I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude for him.

My mother, my poor mother, was mortified by this display of oddity in the Kroger. We encountered him, one more, as we were leaving, and she apologized to him for my weirdness, as she called it. He just laughed as her words tickled the Buddha inside of him. My heart was, again, full.

When I arrived home that afternoon, I described what had happened to a few of my closest friends. They, just by my description, knew the man with whom I had shared the moment. It turns out, the story in my head wasn’t that far off base. He is pioneer of the anti-death penalty movement, a social activist, unafraid to speak his personal truth, to speak for those without a voice, to stand for justice through peaceful means. What a blessing he is to this world and to me that day in the Kroger.

So, with that, I suppose, what I wanted to express is that we must not be afraid in moments of joyful gratitude to express them. In this world of negativity and judgment, I see people every day stifling the grateful, joyful, loving spirits they are because we are shaped to be what we are intrinsically not. We are not beings of anger, hatred, and selfishness. We come into this world as beings of pure love and joy. The experience of this world tarnishes that. So, I challenge you to find your spirit and let it shine with loving joy and gratitude for this life and the incredible spirits who share it with you.

 

Oona Love
Singer/Songwriter/Gypsy Musician
On the Web:
www.oonalove.com
www.facebook.com/oonalovemusic
www.myspace.com/oonalove
www.reverbnation.com/oonalove
oonalove@yahoo.com
Management:
booking.oonalove@gmail.com
(423) 404 5671

Unlocking freedom

We planned our recent honeymoon around visiting my long-time Chinese friend, Brandon*. It might seem like we bent over backwards to visit him, but since he had gone through the trouble to come work in the States for a while, and was already spending a ridiculous amount of his own money to fund his stay here, it seemed like the right thing to do.

So the first night on our honeymoon was spent touring a small town in the South, eating local Chinese-American food, and reminiscing about the three times I’d been to China while in college as part of a cultural exchange team. Brandon was also a college student at the time, and he served as one of our tour guides/interpreters during much of the trip. In addition, we became great friends in a short amount of time. We shared a common belief in Christ, and we learned a lot from each other.

While we share a common faith, we don’t share the same abilities to express it freely. Being a Christian in China is a very different experience than being a Christian in America. In many parts of China, those who proclaim to adhere to any sort of faith or belief system face various levels of persecution, ranging from limited job opportunities to imprisonment or death. While my friend Brandon lives in a relatively tolerant area of the country, he still doesn’t have the same kind of freedom I have to express my faith, worship, and share my beliefs with others. In a sense, in order to survive and maintain the safety of himself and his family, he must bury his faith within himself at times and keep what is most personal under lock and key. He must quiet the song within his heart from reverberating too loudly.

I pray for him and others like him across the world who, because of political restrictions and lack of basic freedoms, must constantly monitor their words and actions–not to avoid offending people, but to avoid facing persecution. As cynical as I am about the government and as little faith as I possess in its ability to change for the better, I’m still grateful for what precious freedom we do have in our country. I’m grateful for the individual people who willingly sacrificed their lives, time with their families, and their own freedoms in order to preserve mine.

Maybe someday, Brandon’s faith can sing out loud.

* Brandon’s name has been changed for privacy  purposes.