Gratitude - November 2022
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to anchor our boat in the middle of the lake and swim in the deep, cold water. I enjoy the water without fear because I know the boat is there when I get tired or cold. The boat is anchored and that gives me assurance that I can get out when I want or need to. Traditions are somewhat like an anchor, they hold in place that which we find valuable, they create a sort of safe place to run to in the crazy that this life throws at us. As we begin the month of November, I bet many of you are thinking and planning according to the traditions you have followed for the holidays for many years. I certainly am. And although as our families grow and change we need to be flexible, we hold/anchor ourselves to that which we find valuable.
I love traditions. I love the rhythms of the seasons, the routine of my mornings, and the cyclical nature of the church calendar. As a child I remember the banners in our church, they changed with the seasons and the church calendar, they created anticipation for what was to come. The tradition here at Lettering His Love, even before it was called that, has been to focus on Gratitude for the month of November, and this November is no different. Please don’t think of this as a repeat, think of it as a reset, a practice to ready yourselves for the most consumeristic, crazy time of the year. By training ourselves in Gratitude we will begin the preparation of our hearts for the season to follow, Advent, the time of the church year that is the basis for all of the Gratitude we as redeemed people will ever know.
Like many of the monthly journal plans, this one grew out of my daily bible reading, specifically the Psalms. I have been reading a Psalm or more a day for almost a year and I cannot begin to tell you how much that practice alone has grown my faith.
Of particular help to me has been seeing how the psalmists pour out their hearts (all the raw feelings and fears) to God - they hold nothing back, and why would they? They know the God they are crying out to already knows everything about them, even down to the number of hairs on their heads (Luke 12:7). Then, once they have laid it all out there, a shift occurs, and this is where the battle is won or lost. After the lament of their circumstances they move to telling themselves who God is. They effectively preach the truth to themselves, both from the Word and from their past experience with God. Namely, they remind themselves of His character.
Character, according to Webster’s, comes from the Latin word character, meaning distinctive quality, it’s defined as “one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.” We often notice or comment on the character of other people; “she’s so kind, he’s such a good listener, she’s genuine, he’s approachable,” etc. Essentially, our character is a main component of our personality. Personality is defined as; “the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual…the totality of an individual’s behavior and emotional characteristics…” (Webster’s).
So what does all of this have to do with the Psalms and with this month’s journal plan? While reading Psalm 125, as is my usual practice, I went to an online commentary to see what else there might be to add to my understanding and meditation. And there, in regard to verse 2, I struck pure gold! Psalm 125:2 reads: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.”
This is a wonderfully comforting verse, a perfect example of preaching the truth to yourself. The Lord surrounds his people, what more protection could we need? But how exactly does he do that? Spurgeon (of course) put it in terms that became the springboard for this entire plan.
“Note, it is not said that Jehovah’s power or wisdom defends believers,
but he himself is round about them; they have his personality for their
protection, his Godhead (the nature of God as existing in the Trinity) for
their guard.” (Charles H. Spurgeon as cited in Enduring Word)
Our protection is hidden in God’s personality, in HIs character, and the more of His character we know, the stronger we become in resisting the lies of the enemy. Mind you this is not a formula for avoiding suffering. Suffering will come; we are promised as much on this earth. His protection isn’t from the circumstances themselves, but from the despair that threatens to shipwreck our faith. When I can say with assurance that my holy, loving, eternal, generous, forgiving, merciful, gracious, powerful, and strong God is aware of every hair on my head - then I have hope to withstand the warfare and suffering this world brings. Honestly, being unschooled in the Character of God is like walking into battle buck naked - who would ever do such a thing? Look at the armor of God, it is made up of aspects of HIs character. We put on the helmet of salvation: our God is a saving God, we hold up the shield of faith: our God is faithful, we put on the belt of truth: our God is all truth, there is no deceit in Him. We shod our feet in the sandals of the gospel of peace: our God is peace, we put on the breastplate of righteousness: our God is righteous, and finally we take in our hands the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Our God is Spirit and He’s the Word breathed out for us, He is the living Word. When we pray to put on the armor, we pray to “put on” his holy character. There’s so much more here, His character could (and will) take a lifetime to learn!
The verses we will journal this month are really just the tip of the iceberg, if this topic intrigues you, don’t stop here, mine the Word and especially the Psalms. There are also many, many great books on the subject, two of my favorites are; “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer and “None Like Him” by Jen Wilkin.
For this month’s plan the verses tend to be shorter because I’ve included journal prompts to go with them. Just like we clean our houses before everyone comes for the holidays, I pray this month will be the beginning of clearing our hearts of the clutter of the world to make room for Him because, in case you didn’t know, there are only 54 days until Christmas!