Letters of Life

A Heart of Thanksgiving

The heart of the matter

The evening before, each person in the circle voiced out thanksgiving for the things they were truly grateful. In a year where there was much much much to be thankful for, 15 people thankfully named only one thing they thought would encourage or bless this group, which, over the past year, had come together often to pray, study the Word, and chat over great desserts.

Behind each statement of thanks I saw things that went unsaid, things which revealed what was consistent with each character.

Most were authentic expressions of gratitude, though all it takes is one to sound like a wrong note played in an otherwise beautiful melody. For have you noticed that sometimes, what’s spoken gives away so much more than what was intended?

People use spoken word to achieve a certain perceived result –the art of the well-placed comment to drive a point home–yet not realising that others can see beyond that into aspects of character which sometimes isn’t flattering.

There are three things you can see with the mind’s eye behind the spoken word.

1. The depth of sincerity and authenticity. When a large group of likeminded people congregate, certain words tend to be used, which, like carousel horses, revolve around a central theme. Last evening, the dominant theme of thanksgiving seemed to dwell on love, friendship, and God’s sustaining grace throughout the past year.

As the group coordinator for a number of years now, and a keen observer of human behaviour, I heard words last evening that did not dovetail with the rest of what the speaker was saying, much less with the collective sharing. It was like an odd odour had come into a garden fragrant with the smell of fresh lilies.

2. Personality and character. It is simple enough to gauge the maturity of someone through that person’s choice of words (or lack of it), the subject shared, and most important of all, how the thing is said.

Again, what was not said spoke volumes about the direction the words were headed.

3.  Personal ownership of the group Obviously, I have a lot invested in this group. So I shared what I thought was the most important and honest thing I was thankful for about it. Newcomers, having spent less time here, understandably shared other aspects of their personal lives.

People I had honest and thriving connections with spoke along similar themes as I did and it was clear their sense of ownership or accountability to this group.

Which brings me to the nature of friendship, which is what I am most thankful for this year.
And this is the thing, no matter what people might say pointedly, out of unconscious envy or a critical spirit, you cannot ignore some truths about the nature of God-given friendships.

For a true friend is:

1. Your backseat driver, adviser, and sometimes insultant,

2. There through the good and bad, beautiful and ugly, rain or shine,

3. Does not tolerate excuses, condone compromise or lie for you,

4.  Keeps a secret, will tell you anything, correct you (yet love you) when you’re wrong, and advise you to do that which is right,

5. Is bold, courageous, fearless, and will be at your side in a moment’s notice,

6. Will not patronize you, forsake you, lie to you or betray you,

7.  Will not back down in the face of adversity,

8.  Is not dictated to, or ruled over by others, but listens and cares for you,

9. Shares his life experiences with you, tells you the truth in love, even if it hurts and makes you mad,

10. Stands up for you in the midst of persecution, and guards you in a storm of rocks and arrows,

11. Warns you of danger, of being deceived, and to tell you ‘Don’t do it!’

12. Takes you at your word, and tells you to get tough and quit whining,

13. Lead you, guard you, walk side-by-side with you, and watch your back to keep you safe,

14. Knows the disappointment and pain you went through the past year, and best of all, sends you pictures over the smartphone to make you smile when you’ve had a bad day.

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