Gallery of Gratitude—Week #1 Challenge

When you walk through a gallery or museum and examine the paintings on the walls, you’ll see a huge variety of brush strokes. Some are bold and thick and viscous, shiny streaks of color smeared onto the canvas. Some strokes are soft, virtually indistinguishable, carefully blended to leave no trace of the brush that made ...

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When you walk through a gallery or museum and examine the paintings on the walls, you’ll see a huge variety of brush strokes. Some are bold and thick and viscous, shiny streaks of color smeared onto the canvas. Some strokes are soft, virtually indistinguishable, carefully blended to leave no trace of the brush that made it. Each artist has a different touch, a unique style, and a specific result. Some are better than others. Some are more fitting for a particular style. Some are polished, others are rough. But there’s no denying that, without them, the piece of art just wouldn’t be the same. Van Gogh’s Starry Night wouldn’t be the same if the colors were soft and smoothly blended, and Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa wouldn’t look right with swirly, multi-colored strokes of paint.

van gogh mona lisa

Just as each painting is made unique by the mark of its artist, we, too, have been shaped by the people in our lives. People who have laughed with us, helped us, cried with us, taught us, enriched us, and made us feel special.

As I walk this path towards having my book published, I’ve noticed that the people who have shared these moments with me—the ones who have lifted me up when I was discouraged, edited my words and shaped my manuscript, pushed me to be better and better and reveal my true self—are such a gift to me. I know I wouldn’t be here, and my book wouldn’t be nearly as good, without the people behind the scenes—the artists holding the brush.

So once a week for the first part of this year, I’m going to paint brief “portraits” of some of the people who have made a difference in my life. (Some recent, some going way back.) I’ll share a single paragraph or short story to honor that person.

But I hope it won’t stop there. Most people never get to know how important they’ve been to you. So will you join me in this challenge? Each Tuesday morning, when your week is still young and you’ve made it through Monday but are not yet face-to-face with Friday’s deadlines, you’ll get an email from me (if you subscribe to my blog). Think of the person who best fits the category and take a few minutes to write a quick note, find an address, and drop the envelope in the mail. (Or send an email, or post a Facebook post, or whatever works for you.)

It’s a small act, but a transformational one. With each note, you’ll send a little bit of light, a little dab of color. You’ll strengthen your connection to people who have mattered to you. And in the process, you get to remember—and give thanks for—the people who helped you become the masterpiece (or work-in-progress) that you are. Gratitude is the very best form of prayer. If you don’t have time to write the notes, it’s OK. But take a minute or two to give thanks to God for this person. Say a little prayer for them right now.

So will you join me? 15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015.

Gallery of Gratitude headers-1

There are so many people I could mention here, but I’ll just pick one: GOYITA YOUNG. She’s got spunk. Passion. Determination. She serves God with all of her heart. She studies, she digs deep. She prays with fervor and she has fun doing it. As long as I’ve followed God, I’ve learned by observing other people. So I watch her—especially when I wonder, how can I remain passionate about serving God? When I wonder if anyone can maintain this kind of intensity long-term. When I question whether everyone burns out sometimes. And what I see is a woman who wears an attitude of expectation. She comes to church eager to soak it in, alert and open. When people gather at the altar, she moves right to the center and prays for them. She serves. She worships. She doesn’t hesitate to stand up and tell us about the ways she sees God answering prayer, the ways she knows He is real. She goes wherever God is, and she doesn’t hold back. I admire that so much, and I’m so thankful that God put me in a place where I see this weekly. Daily. In her and in so many others.

Who have you learned from? I’d love to know. You don’t need to give full (or even real) names if you don’t want to. But I hope you’ll share some of your stories and relationships in the comments below. It will help us learn a little bit about each other, brighten someone’s day—and, in the process, remind us to make an extra effort to be “that person” for someone else.

God’s Masterpiece

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12: If you’re anything like me, sometimes you look at the people around you — pastors, Bible study leaders, friends who faithfully have 5 am quiet time — and feel absolutely, positively certain that you don’t measure up. It’s like looking at ...

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“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you look at the people around you — pastors, Bible study leaders, friends who faithfully have 5 am quiet time — and feel absolutely, positively certain that you don’t measure up. It’s like looking at the giant canvases on a museum’s walls. Even if we don’t understand them, we know that they put to shame our meager scribbles. So much so that sometimes it’s easier not to even try. Not to risk failing. And certainly not to tape our measly little drawings on the wall next to the masterpiece.

I’m writing a book on prayer, and people I know have started to treat me as an “expert.” A pastor from another church sat down to ask me questions about the Holy Spirit, about how to know when you hear from God. Acquaintances send me private Facebook messages requesting prayer. Friends ask advice about how to get unstuck. I’ve had lovely, spontaneous conversations in coffee shops and on the street. People who want more. Whose desire for God, whose hunger to grow closer — or, maybe, just to make sure they’re not praying wrong (which is impossible, by the way) — prompts them to blurt out questions when the discussion turns to prayer.

I feel honored and grateful, but undeserving of such trust. Sure, I’m writing a book, but I have doubts, too. I sometimes forget to pray. Petty thoughts, cynicism and past hurts get in my way. I am quick to judge and jump to conclusions. I mess up on a daily basis. But here’s the truth: Living life as a Christian is not about our weaknesses, but His strengths.

Several months ago at church, we sang an old hymn. “Through it all… through it all… I learned to trust in Jesus, I learned to trust in God.” I bowed my head in sorrow, because I knew I’d failed miserably to lean on Him through the three years Mom fought cancer — and the two years I’ve had to live on this earth without her. All that time, even though I knew it would be impossible to get through it on my own, I pushed Him away.

I’m so sorry, I thought-prayed.

And then I pictured my God. Giddy with excitement, like a little child bouncing up and down, eager to see how his mom adores the gift he’s about to give her. He exclaimed, “BUT I GOT TO SHOW YOU GRACE!”

Got to. He didn’t have to. But He gave it anyway. With joy. For the first time I truly understood. God’s grace is freely, unconditionally given. A gift that is so much sweeter when you know you didn’t earn it.

So no more comparing myself to the people around me. Instead, I’m learning to look straight at the Artist who makes all things beautiful. The One who doesn’t care what my scribbles look like — because in His eyes, as long as I make them for Him, He sees a masterpiece.

How about you? How has God taught you about grace? What have you discovered? Where in your life can you give yourself grace?

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