Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

Reflecting on the Past Year

by   |  01.12.18  |  Students

Reflecting on the Past Year

Using the New Year as a time to reflect has always captivated me and reflecting on 2017 has even more so because so much has happened personally. For the first time in my life, I moved out of my hometown and I have been challenged scholarly and spiritually. I was born in Searcy, Arkansas and when the time came for college, I went Harding University. A shallow part of me decided to come to the Graduate School of Theology at ACU because I wanted to go somewhere a little further from where I have been living my entire life. I am so glad that I did because my first semester at ACU has exceeded any expectations that I had.

When my wife Kaitlyn and I moved to Abilene in July, we only knew one person. Austin McCoy is a friend from Harding who started in the GST the year before I did. One of the first weekends after we had moved in, Austin invited us to meet some of friends that he had made at the GST. Matthew Roberts, Chance Juliano, and Sarah Dannemiller became our fast friends. It was funny because immediately after seeing Austin, he left to travel to attend a few weddings and visit friends from Harding. Kaitlyn and I’s new friends continued to invite us to spend time with them and I am moved by the friendship that they extended to us so quickly. I am truly grateful for never feeling lonely after moving to a new place.

Kaitlyn and I invited our new friends to our apartment during Advent. While we were at Harding, a professor invited us and some other students to his house on the Sundays of Advent to observe the season. Our professor introduced us to the Advent wreath and to the penitential meaning of the season before Christmas. It made an impression on Kaitlyn and I and we decided that we wanted to continue the ancient tradition in our own home. We were happy to introduce the tradition to our friends who had also welcomed us.

Tradition has been a large part of my experience in the GST. Growing up in the Church of Christ, I was always told that we were striving to be like the early church. That idea is part of what encouraged me to join the Master of Arts program in Ancient and Oriental Christianity. As my new friends and I began to discuss theology, they helped me wrestle with issues that I have struggled with, not by rejecting my faith when problems arise, but by looking to the church’s tradition. My views on theology have developed in ways that I would not have expected in the short time that I have been at ACU.  Through conversations with professors and fellow students, I have come to believe that the tradition of the church is an essential part of the Christian faith.

As I reflect on my year, I am very glad that I decided to come to ACU for graduate school especially because of how I have seen myself grow in a short period of time. I encourage you to reflect on your own past year and look forward to what the rest of my time in the GST has in store. More »

Beyond Gratitude: The Psalms in Our Worship 22

by   |  02.13.11  |  Uncategorized

I often hear that the proper response to God’s grace is gratitude.  This is true, as far as it goes, but seems a bit passive.  Worse, in human beings, gratitude often turns to resentment at the humiliation caused by disproportionate, un-pay-backable gift-giving.  So I often wonder if we can say more.

In the Psalms, as we have already seen, the laments and hymns of praise have a close relationship to each other.  The laments often end with a promise to praise God for deliverance, once it comes.  And hymns often refer back to the calamity whose termination and redemption have led the singer of the psalm to praise.  Psalm 30 fits the latter category.  It reminds the hearer that the composer has experienced tragedy (verses 2, 7 [Hebrew 3, 8]) and has sought Yhwh’s help (verses 2-3, 11-12 [Hebrew 3-4, 12-13]).  God has aided him or her  in unspecified ways.  Hence the hymn of praise itself.

But today I am struck by the psalm’s comment on the whole experience of redemption: “For his anger lasts a moment, his favor is lifelong.  In the evening weeping takes up lodging, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  The faith of the psalmist is not simply a matter of gratitude for services rendered.  It is a deep-seated, radical, existentially transformative  trust in the basic character of God as one who seeks to extend mercy to all.  This God rescues those who ask from death itself, allowing not even the most powerful force in the universe to defeat humanity.  This God works for a culture of respect (“my foes have not rejoiced over me”).  And this God forms a community who testify to their own experiences of grace.  It’s not just gratitude in play here.  It’s deeper than that.

In exploring the theme of grace, a theme fundamental to Christian understanding of the human relationship with the divine, we must come to know and feel the deep sense of responsibility it imposes on us.  As the old hymn says, “O to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.”  Constrained.  Debtor.  To be.  But to be free of that debt is to have nothing at all.  This too is something for which to be grateful, and so much more.