Category Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Post by Eve Jagger: Appreciation out of Friendship

“Wait for me, wait for me, Maddy!” My daughter Claire often and unashamedly expresses her longing to be immediately beside her best friend and experience their childhood delights together. Claire’s smile, her laughter, and the dance in her eyes is never brighter than when she is with her friend (or perhaps playing with her Daddy). When these two little girls are together, usually in matching ballerina leotards and ridiculously large and frilly hair bows, their appreciation for life- for food, music, toys, pets, nature, family- skyrockets. In their friendship, I see a means of a grace, a way by which their souls are growing in their capacity to connect to their Creator and the joys and work He is laying before them. I realize, too, that friendship throughout my life have been a means of redemption and has greatly increased my capacity for appreciation.

In Psalm 133, I find a reflection of the love between David and Jonathan, two who were “one in spirit” and who sacrificially loved one another:

” How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head…
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.”

In friendship, especially of the deep soul kind, the Lord mysteriously sows His blessing- a blessing that feels like dew falling in the desert and anoints our spirits with a strength to seek and receive the good of life. It is not hard for me to see that the many times of discontent or despair in my life have come when I did not feel I had a genuine friend. In times when I have been overwhelmed by the joy of soul friendship, though, I have been enlivened as my true self steps forward and learns how to seek unity with Christ as I practice and experience unity with the friend beside me.

In an effort to encourage the spring clovers to pop up as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, I have explored some of the traits of Celtic anamchara (or soul friendship). One article I found, “Early Celtic Soul Friendship” by Edward Sellner, put forth these 7 features of anamchara:

1. “great affection, intimacy and depth”

2. “mutuality: a profound respect for each other’s wisdom, despite any age or gender difference, and the awareness that the other person is a source of many blessings”

3. “share common values, a common vision of reality”

4. “not only affirmation, but the ability of each to challenge the other when necessary”

5. “centered on God, the soul friend in whom all other friendships are united”

6. “survives geographical separation, the passage of time, and death itself.”

7. “appreciate both friendship and solitude as resources ultimately for ‘soulmaking’: the lifelong process of reconciliation, of making peace with oneself, with others, and with all of creation in preparation for one’s own death”

Certainly human brokenness and the separation that comes with it can make such friendship difficult and leave deep pain in our places of weakness. Still, it seems that the beauty of friendship is a significant building block of the Kingdom of God as Sellner writes:

“The ministry of anamchara….also affected the entire history of Christian spirituality, affirming as it did the conviction that a person’s relationship with God can take the form of effective dialogue and that when sins or faults, grief or human vulnerability is openly and honestly acknowledged, healing begins and God’s presence is experienced, sometimes unforgettably…”

And there is always one who calls and even longs for our friendship, who washes our dirty feet, grieves over our wounds, and rejoices over our triumphs:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command…I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you…” (John 15:13-15)

Many times it has only been in the beautiful face of a friend that I have been able to find a glimmer of hope or a spark of appreciation. Perhaps it is because I have been so undeservedly appreciated in their eyes, both a means and a foretaste of God’s redemption.

Guest Post by Geoff Whiteman: “What if Your Life Calling IS Gratitude?”

It is an awkward question.  We live in a self-help world—we spend most of our time anywhere but here, anytime but now.  We find fulfillment in what might be, not what is.  We crave plans and products.  We are convinced that the solution is in something or someone else.  In short, we pray a dyslexic Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I cannot accept…” Therefore, we consume with reckless abandonment. Yet what if we could stop?  What if we could receive the present moment with full acceptance?  What if the aim and means of our life was gratitude?

It could be argued that gratitude is the essential duty of the Christian life.  As Alexander Schmemann said, “Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.” You might even say we are most ourselves (most fully human) when we are grateful.  When we see beauty breaking into the most mundane moments of our day—that is gratitude.  Being obsessed with the past is nostalgia, not gratitude.  Being fixated on the future is fantasy, not gratitude.  Gratitude is elusive, hiding openly in the present moment.  When we are not in the present moment we cannot know gratitude; and when we are distracted, afraid, compulsively consuming, or self-centered we are not in the present moment.

How can we foster gratitude as a way of being?  Three thoughts come to mind.  First, gratitude seems to incubate in solitude, stillness, and silence—to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46: 10).  I could say a lot about silence, but that seems ironic.  Second, it seems to grow in the dance of receiving and offering—especially with those we are closest to.  Common courtesy is essential.  It is an odd phenomenon, but as acquaintances grow into friendships and blossom into meaningful relationships, something changes and we assume that we have arrived at some level of permanence.  While it is important to realize that those in our life will stick it out with us, we grow comfortable and dispense with the simple intentionality of common courtesy (which had set the conditions for the relationship to grow in the first place).  Finally, gratitude blossoms and bears fruit when we live our present life firmly rooted in the future life of the Kingdom.  When we face our personal trials and tribulations with the courage and good cheer of those who have found heavenly peace and conviction that Christ has overcome the World (John 16:33).  When we find that hope, we find the freedom to fully grieve.  It is the avoidance of grief that often fuels our reckless consumption, yet this grief transforms our denial into acceptance and gratitude.    So stop and show up. Be still and kind.  Weep with God.  Receive the gift of gratitude.

Guest Post by JD Walt: “How Appreciation Works”

“Assets depreciate from wear and tear from use and misuse over the passage of time. Think of your car. What would it look like for my swagger wagon to actually appreciate in value; to get newer or increase in worth? It would look like me in the drive way washing and waxing that dream machine every week. It would look like protective floor mats and no Dorito chiplets filling up the cracks between the seats. It would look like me constantly asking and answering the question, “What will appreciate the value of this awesome ride?”

People depreciate from wear and tear from use and misuse over the passage of time. Think of your spouse. What would it look like for your spouse to actually appreciate in value; to get newer or increase in worth? It would look like me in the bathroom washing and waxing her body– I mean those toilets every week. It would feel like a constant noticing of her deepest self and her constant possibilities with visionary affirmation. It would look like anticipatory thoughtfulness as relates to her needs and wants and well timed words that build in her a strength of spirit. It would look like me constantly asking and answering the question, “What will appreciate the value of this awesome woman?”

This is how appreciation works. And it works on anyone, anywhere at any time.

This is the work of God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in and through his people. “Behold,” says Jesus, “I am making all things new.” We join this work through simple appreciation of others.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

jdwalt.com

Guest Post by Dr. Marilyn Elliott: On The Will to Love

There are a lot of beautiful people out there.  I just happen to know some.  So, I have asked a few of them to do some guest posting, mostly because you need to know these folks if you do not already.

Dr. Marilyn Elliott has been a boss, mentor, colleague, and friend of mine these last number of years.  She has lived a life of public speaking and writing and cultivating secret acts of love.  You can read her rich rich posts here at her blog.  It is a treat to have  her post at TAL!

————

The Will to Love.

Un-love looks Big. Unlove is a mean pit-bull owned by terrorists, racists, angry drunks, aggressive businessmen and arrogant leaders. Un-love is Big. It dominates the news. Its presence is heralded by sirens and flashing lights. And because un-love is big we sometimes imagine that unlove is the greatest power. I have seen though, that love is everywhere – even where un-love crashes in. The problem is that love is usually small. Love is eye to eye. Love is hand to hand. Love is a shared sandwich, a helping hand, a hug. Love is small like ants are small. Small but if you ever try to get rid of them, good luck.

The people I see want to love. The people I meet and travel beside carry inside them a longing to express love. This longing, or willingness to love, might need to be prodded by need or pity or emergency, but it is there. When this will to love begins to practice love, it becomes a force on its own sending out love without prompting – loving even the unlovely. A man or woman loving like this is safe and winsome.

There is another strange thing I see. People with a will to love sometimes resist receiving love. They will not open their hands and lives to the love given by others. Maybe they do not believe themselves worthy of love, or maybe they like to be the strong one without needs who stoops to help others. To have a will to love without a will to BE loved is like living with half a heart. Those who desire to love this person can become deeply confused. What seems to be the will to love begins to look more like the will to be in control, or the will to be at the top. Receiving love is a humble human task. I have seen that to be human, every person must learn to willingly receive what they have not earned.

The flow of outgoing acts of love and humble receptivity of love is like breathing oxygen. And then the resuscitation of someone else becomes possible. All of this is ours to choose and cultivate through our will to love and will to be loved. Remember, our character is what we continuously do.

Guest Post by Ryan Strebeck: “Appreciative Abandon”

There are a lot of quality people out there.  I just happen to know some.  So, I have asked a few of them to do some guest posting, mostly because you should know them too!

You can find Ryan on the web at his blog or at his church’s website!. Check out one of his sermons here.

“Greetings, readers of Thriving Among the Lilies! Keith asked me to write on a life of appreciation. I’m happy to do this work and to witness this very quality in our mutual friend & author of this blog. It’s an honor to be here!

——

Appreciative Abandon, scene 1: My daughter smiles between bites of potato. She’s proud of her samurai-style, triple banded pony tail and how she caught herself before bursting into full song at the table.

Appreciative Abandon, scene 2: My friend and co-worker Lou, our beloved church secretary, reports during a run-of-the-mill phone conversation how she’s in no hurry to retire because she loves her job (this is her 30th year).

In the busy, anxious world where we pay bills and potty train, buy groceries and wave at our neighbors, the above scenes affirm the possibility of childlike gratitude along the way. They expose my tendency to allow what I have earned to shape my way of being in the world. Such an outlook does equal survival within a transactional milieu like ours. It grates, however, against welcoming life as a gift – prizing expectancy, not entitlement.

What we’re calling appreciative abandon will not grace the lines of a to do list. Rather, it arrives as a gift. We ask for, cultivate, and learn appreciation but cannot fabricate it on demand. Meditating on the Psalms, Ben and Robin Pasley sing “A thankful heart prepares the way for you, my God.” The way of appreciation shapes and employs a thankful heart. This heart sees and hears what goes unnoticed by an anxious heart or one clinging to entitlement. I can tell when appreciative abandon wanes as the sunrise, conversations, and crayon-waxed papers play second fiddle to what I (fail to) accomplish in a day or the meal I deserve. Then I hear my three year old pound random piano keys and somehow make the melody work. And I repent; and I offer this poem toward the promise of appreciative living:

Today’s Coffee
Black drink taken but first
Steadfast gratitude steeps
:
Goodness aware
Sun waking up
:
Thoughts of entitlement flee
Clouds parting and gift breaks