Monday, September 12, 2011

"Spiritual Blessings" from an African Perspective

Last weekend was full of listening and learning opportunities, from Beth Moore's inspiring simulcast to a recording of John Stott's book The Cross of Christ to the prayers, sermons, and testimonies at church.

After a demanding week, I was not optimistic that I could use my ticket to attend the Living Proof Live event at a neighborhood church, but I went for the first session and stayed for lunch. A rest on our pew in the empty church after I ate (too fast) gave enough pain relief and restoration for me to stay for the afternoon session. The Lord provided strength above and beyond expectations or hopes and allowed me to spend time with my mom in my favorite way, at a Christian women's conference.

Then I expected to be too tired or sore for church on Sunday, but again the Lord gave grace to go.

This week Dr. Celestin Musekara, a pastor from Rwanda, offered our church a challenging message from Ephesians 1:1-14. He presented Ephesians 1:3 (ESV here) as a summary verse:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Beginning from there, he proceeded through the rest of the segment listing and commenting on the spiritual blessings Paul names.  Three of his remarks are still simmering in my thoughts today:
  • He observed that Americans have a poor appreciation of our spiritual blessings because we have so many other blessings. In our remembrance of the September 11, 2001, attacks, we should also recognize that such terror and violence occurs daily in many (or did he even say most?) parts of the world. This reminded me of the very stringent security checks we encountered on our one trip to India, in December 2011. We asked our guide if this was due to the terrorist attacks in America, and he bobbled his head and said, "Oh, no. The Hindus and the Muslims, they bomb each other all the time, so the airlines must be careful." Suddenly the full-body pat-down, confiscation of extra batteries, and testing of all portable electronic devices didn't seem like much of a privacy invasion at all.
  • As forgiven people, Christians ought to be the most forgiving people in the world, but that is not our reputation. Dr. Musekara assessed the high divorce rate among American Christians as fundamentally a failure of forgiveness. That statement stunned me, and no doubt there are exceptions, but I received it as a warning to guard my heart from those "micro-resentments," to use commenter chris's term, that can so easily escalate and destroy a relationship. Holding grudges against my husband is not a bad habit; it is sin and could take us away from where we've promised to live, away from the promises "to love, honor, and cherish till death do us part." Our speaker has some authority to speak on forgiveness. Seven of his family members were murdered in the Rwandan genocide, and his Christian community had to admonish him to forgive the murderers. Even so, he urged us to practice forgiveness first in the home.
  • The last two blessings in the section, namely believers' inheritance in Christ and the sealing by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, are the most important ones to help the persecuted church persevere to the glory of God. Their suffering now turns their gaze ahead to those blessings awaiting after death.
There is much more content I need to process, but that will have to come little by little. For now I am recording this much, lest I forget it.

Also, it is Monday, so it's time again to thank God for all His good gifts, the spiritual blessings and the temporal ones:
~those two blessed words, "In Christ"
~every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
~chosen to be holy and blameless
~adopted as God's children
~gloriously, lavishly graced
~redemption through Christ's blood
~forgiveness of trespasses
~recipients of His revelation
~God's plan to unite all things in Christ
~a waiting inheritance
~"Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will"
~the Holy Spirit sealing us, guaranteeing our inheritance
~wise, courageous teachers
~living examples of forgiveness and reconciliation
~learning opportunities
~grace for the undone
~prayers holding us together
~only an echocardiogram and no stress test at the cardiologist
~heart valve stable, unchanged from a year ago
~Dr. Miao made an appearance and Ebony chased her out of the yard
~lots of squirrels to chase, too, for our happy and energetic pooch-hound
~continued strength for PT appointments and homework
~stable lupus symptoms, too; just waiting for costochondritis pain to subside
~surprising strength and endurance to attend conference with my mom and her friends
~Big Al a phone call and 5 minutes away at whatever point I might have needed to come home
~husband-grilled chicken, enough for 3 nights
~same hard-working husband giving his Sunday afternoon to help sister with computer
~a day at home today
~three more medical appointments this week (2 of them PT...break postponed one more week)
~learning new things about my grandmother
~persistent drought
~return of high temperatures
~such a mixed bag of big and small, easy and hard eucharisteo, yet all is material for sacrifice and opportunity for worship.
(so much more to share, but I'm out of steam for now, so we'll leave things at gratitude items 1549-81)

Linking today to Ann and Michelle and their communities:


  1. Hmmm. As a divorcee, I don't know that I agree, entirely, with the second point. I love my ex-husband and can you assure you that I've forgiven him, entirely. Just because I've forgiven him doesn't mean I want to live with him. I guess I feel like my situation is much more complicated than he suggests. But a blanket statement on any topic is difficult to support in every instance. I agree that--given the depth of pain in his life--he knows something about forgiveness (but wager he wouldn't necessarily want to co-exist w/ those he's forgiven).

    I'm so thankful to the Lord for sustaining you as you learn, worship, and spend time w/ your mom!

  2. Thankful your heart report came back good! Also glad you were able to receive good teaching all weekend. Lots of good here, though I am praying the drought ends soon!

  3. @Brandee Shafer Hello, friend! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective as balance. Last night at bedtime I realized that point could upset you, but I couldn't take action on it until now.

    You are right that blanket statements tend to leave feet and elbows sticking out and not cover every instance. You and your ex-husband do an exceptional job of maintaining a harmonious relationship in your situation.

    I did not mean to pass judgment on anyone else at all. Outsiders' perspective on American culture helps me because they can see what's in our blind spot. This felt like one of those wake-up call moments to me because it showed me that, even though Allen and I married with the promise to stay married until death, allowing little resentments to accumulate is not just a bad habit but sin that could kill our relationship.

    That point in the post has been adjusted somewhat in an attempt at better communication of what I "heard" from his statement. Thanks for the opportunity to improve.

    Will you forgive me?

  4. @Amy Me, too, on the heart thanks and the drought prayers! Blessings, friend.

  5. Thankful to read that you attended the conference! Wonderful gift you could spend that time with your mom.

    I like what the visiting speaker said: "Americans have a poor appreciation of our spiritual blessings because we have so many other blessings." And we tend not to remember that many (or most) parts of the world still suffer in this way.
    Have a blessed week, tinuviel.

  6. relieved to hear how things went with the cardiologist, and thankful that the energy we've been praying you would get is being provided in unexpected measure. . .more generally delighting in your delight over the past week (the abundance of which is wonderfully summed up by "so much more to share")!

    p.s.: really enjoyed the poem in the subsequent post!


Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.