In my 13 years of post-high school schooling, two papers particularly stand out in my memory. Both achieved marks of “D.” Both were tremendously helpful as learning devices.
The first paper (not a real focus here) was in Freshman English at A & M. Perhaps its biggest lesson was emotional or spiritual: a certain humbling of the boy who thought he knew it all. Yes, I learned to write (or, at least, advance in writing) that first semester of college English!
The second paper (more of a focus here) taught me a lesson about and the meaning of being “critical.” A “critical review” of a book in Christian History book at seminary had me tearing the book apart for all its weaknesses… and the flaws I saw. Isn’t that the nature of being critical after all?! You know, like criticism?!
Problem is, I soon learned (with “D” in hand), that “critical” (at least in “critical review”) implies a balanced effort to analyze weaknesses, yes, but also to affirm strengths!
It’s a lesson that has had meaning throughout the years – even unto today: the importance of seeing not just the “original sin” in the world but also the “original goodness,” as well!
It’s the basis of encouraging staff around the church to keep a joy journal – a daily catalog of all that is good and right and “worthy of praise” in our lives and world… a counterbalance to all the stresses and negatives that can come our way (because we do live in a fallen world).
Admittedly, I waver and wane on this discipline (as I do with most of my spiritual disciplines). In the wake of the last blog, though ( a blog which I continue to struggle with… but, for whatever reasons, do not want to erase),… In the wake of the last blog, I feel inclined to count my blessings. (It’s got to be a great concept! I mean, it’s not only a great hymn but there’s Bing singing about it in “White Christmas!”)
And so, just to get the ball rolling on this Monday morning and this new week, I take a minute or two to recall my blessings and joys in life…
- a loving wife and companion
- healthy children who are going through the normal throes of trying to figure out who they are
- the means and the place in which to finally get a home
- my health (though I need help here!)
- a very loving congregation… and a committed core of church leaders
- a “livable forest” which, in so many ways… at so many turns, has me feeling God’s presence
- a call and a reason and a vision and a purpose in life
- good (and meaningful) books and movies
- a very loving extended family… I know that they’ll always be there for me!
- a string of very dear friends which span the years and the communities in which we’ve lived – friends as dear and as close as family
- a devoted companion in Toby (the wonder dog)!
Yes, it’s only a start. But, it’s enough to get me on the right path!
For it’s true: if you’re going to “make the grade” in life and living, you’ve got to learn the art of looking at both sides!