Favorite Things

Sing along…

Raindrops on roses And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

While I’m a big fan of dew-dropped roses and kittens, my favorites list includes different items:

My family, my marriage (coming right up on 25 years!), our home
Our menagerie of pets, and animals in all their wild and wonderful weirdness
The beach

Well-told stories, and a library system with access to more books than I will ever read
Sharing a crisp sauvignon blanc with girlfriends on a warm summer evening
A fire in the fireplace on a cold winter’s night, and candlelight all around
Cooking healthy and delicious food to share with people I love
Walking our neighborhood and hiking trails, especially with family, friends, and dogs
Meaningful work
Adventures in exploring the world near and far
Beautiful home-grown flowers
Farmers’ Markets overflowing with fresh produce
Laughing so hard I cry
Heartfelt conversation
Quiet moments of awe, wonder, peace
Cheering on my people as they do what they love
Art and creativity in oh-so-many forms

I recognize all these things (and so much more) as gifts from God, examples of the riches of His grace which He lavishes on us.

But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I get tired and cranky, disillusioned, caught up in my own frenzied spirals or the harshness of others and the world’s brokenness.

All the more reason to keep reminding myself of the good gifts God pours into my life…

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Abundant Life
Week 1: Lavish Generosity
John 10:10-11 & Ephesians 1:3-8a

Connect
Reflect on a generous gift you have given.

Study
Read aloud John 10:10-11.
Contrast the thief and the good shepherd. What happens to those who are near them?
Read aloud Ephesians 1:3-8a.
What has God done for us, and why?
How would you explain “every spiritual blessing” with which God has blessed us to someone who doesn’t feel blessed (v3)?
What does it mean that we are “in him” (vv4, 6-7)?
How does this passage describe our relationship with God? What difference does that make?
Which of God’s blessings depend on us? Which change or affect us, and how?

Live
Why do people choose to follow the thief instead of the good shepherd?
Name some of your favorites of God’s lavish riches. How do you respond? How can you share them with others?
“…worship and praise are so crucial [because] they give opportunity for us to tell the truth about ourselves and God” (Klyne Snodgrass). How are worship and praise appropriate responses to reflecting on what God has done for us?
How can you hold on to the truth of the abundant life God has designed for us in light of the daily realities of a messy, pain-filled world?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Read aloud from Psalm 145 as a hymn of thanksgiving to our lavishly generous God.

Glorify

The kids and I didn’t make it to church today. Despite my “Church Professional” status, despite our family commitment to make worship attendance the best of all possible habits, life happens. Today, life happened to this family and we skipped corporate worship. Sigh.

Ironically, the topic for today’s sermon was “Glorifying God.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man (humankind) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We were created – and blessed, loved, chosen, predestined, adopted, forgiven, redeemed – to worship our Creator.

Thank God that His presence isn’t limited to the church sanctuary, that the whole world is, in fact, His Sanctuary. Thank God that we have been united with Christ, that He is with us all the time, everywhere, that everything we are and do can be worship-filled.

Today that has looked like praying aloud with the kids in the car; running errands; prepping healthy breakfasts and lunches for the school/work week ahead; cleaning house; and caring for the kids. And reading Scripture, praying, and blogging about it. A balance of sacred and what we call “secular” but is just as sacred, the mundane, in the company of Christ.

Ephesians 1:1-14 is a beautiful hymn of praise to God. The study questions can help you wrap your head around Paul’s message of God’s glory, but don’t miss the experience of God’s glory as you read and meditate on this passage.

While I am all in favor of emphasizing our corporate identity as God’s people (and aware of the potential dangers in overemphasizing the personal), I also recommend inserting yourself into the reading – “my” for “our” and “me” for “us” – in order to own and live into the glorious truth of what God has done for you.

As you read, look for what this passage says about who God is and what He has done. Also look for what it says about God’s people, who they are and how they should live. Read it through at least twice, listening for what God would impress on your heart.

The first time I read it, the words in the NIV’s verse 12 – that we might “be for the praise of his glory” – grabbed me. What does it mean to simply “be” for God’s glory? How is that different from anything I might do as a result of His love and grace?

The next time I read it the word “lavish” (again NIV) stuck with me. God lavishes the riches of His grace on us. That sounds so delicious, so decadent, so extreme – and God is!

Today, reading from the NLT, the phrase “united with Christ” stands out. Perhaps I need those words today more than usual because I was unable to unite with Christ’s body, the Church.

Whoever you are and whatever you do – individually or corporately – may you revel in the lavish blessings of God’s grace as you spend time with God in His Word.

Connect
When have you experienced the glory of God, and what was that like?

Study
Read Ephesians 1:1-14.
What stands out to you from this passage?
List the blessings Paul describes that every Christian has as our inheritance in Christ.
For what purposes has God chosen and predestined us?
What might it mean that we are to be “the praise of his glory” (vv. 6, 12, 14)?

Live
Since we were created for the praise of God’s glory, what does it look like to glorify God in your everyday responsibilities and relationships?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Offer to God in prayer words and phrases from this Scripture. Close by praying that God will be glorified in your life, your home and neighborhood, and in the world as He works through your worshiping community.