Give Thanks!…a post by Joy

As the Thanksgiving season comes closer, our thoughts turn toward the gathering of family and friends, the turkey and dressing that will be served, the “Turkey Bowl” to be played, and the music to be sung.

For many years, I’ve heard the phrase, “Give Thanks” when referring to a prayer over a meal. The “thank you” is what we mostly focus on which is important for sure. Yet, what about the “giving” part of the phrase.

One of the most difficult things to do in life is to give thanks in ALL things.

It’s easy to give thanks when all is well. Yet, when the struggles of life come, Christ encourages us to expand our Thanks-giving season from one week-end in November to the season of “in all things give thanks.” (Eph. 5:20)

True giving of thanks to someone for something that has been received, can be an act of humility, love, and praise. Psalm 50:14, 23 states: “I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice….What I want instead is your TRUE thanks to God.”  “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.”

 

Psalm 100: 4-5

Enter His gates with thanksgiving;

Go into His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him and bless His name.

For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

and His faithfulness continues to each generation.

I Desire therefore I Am…a post by Jim

“What do you want me to do for you?” This was Jesus’ question to the blind man. Why ask that question. Isn’t it obvious what the man would want? It is. But Jesus asks about his desire because he knows it is critical for us to own and name and take responsibility for our desires. We must pay attention to our desires because they tell us something VERY important in the Christian life. Desire, more than our cognition, volition, or conscience, define what we believe is true, good, and beautiful.

Last week a community of devoted souls met for the fifth retreat of eight in the experience we call A Deeper Journey. It was a great couple of days of discussion around the topic of DESIRE. Rich and I proposed two basic propositions: 1) all of us have deep desires and 2) it really helps if our desires are motivating us in our Christian walk rather than working against us.

The desires we have look backward and forward. By means of memory desire have a reference point for what is true, good, and beautiful. The memories of our own experience (e.g a really good steak in the past sets the trajectory of the steak I want tonight!) as well as the primal memory we have of the Garden (“He has set eternity in our hearts” in Ecclesiastes 3:11). Desire needs memory to look backward to help tell us what is something really worth wanting. And by means of imagination desire has a future orientation. We image what the true, good, and beautiful could be in our future. It is ultimately a longing for heaven.

But both memory and imagination can create a lot of pain when we desire. We didn’t get what we wanted and we may not get what we hope for. So whenever we live alive with desire we can expect to feel both the delight of fulfilled desires and the pain of unmet desires. No wonder Ronald Rolheiser said Christian spirituality is what we do with desire. It must be informed by the history and heart of Scripture if desire is to be our ally in our walk with Christ.

“Lord, make me to be a person of deep desires. Help me to be aware of them, to name them, to feel them and ultimately to surrender them to you. Amen.”

The Heart of the Matter

Modern neuroscience makes some startling claims about the human heart. The organ beating our chests is the major center of our intelligence. Since I’ve ‘been in my head’ most of my life I find this fascinating … and unnerving. I’ve never been good with feelings!

Apparently molecular biologists have discovered that the heart is the body’s most important endocrine gland. It produces and releases a major hormone that profoundly impacts every operation in the ’emotional’ brain. Scientists say that 60 to 65% of the cells of the heart are actually neural cells, not muscle cells. They are identical to the neural cells in the brain.

What all this adds up to is this … there is literally a ‘brain’ in our hearts. It is linked to every major organ in the body and to the entire muscle spindle system that uniquely enables humans to express their emotions. About half the heart’s neural cells are involved in translating information sent to it from all over the body so that it can keep the body working as one harmonious whole. The other half make up an unmediated neural connection with the emotional brain in our head.

The heart of the matter? Our hearts organize and control the entire human system. This is why the heart is the first organ developed in the womb. It has to be there to oversee the baby’s development. And it never stops overseeing things. Literally!

One of the implications of this which scientists are noting is the priority and power of emotions. Somehow the heart’s involvement in emotional development is foundational to everything else about us (i.e. cognition, volition, memory, desire, etc.). “It all begins with feeling unconditionally wanted, accepted, and loved.”

It’s no surprise that John 3:16 touches us as it does. And the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). And why Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Matthew 22:37).

Guess it would do me good to spend my last years getting down to the heart of the matter … not simply feeding my brain but nurturing my heart.