First off is curly hair. It would be difficult to calculate the smiles and sheer joy that has come to my family from the curl on this girl. Add to it her seemingly endless enthusiasm for life and for, well, food (she’s a Clark), and little Julianne makes us all burst out laughing on a regular basis. (And for the record: she doesn’t wear glasses, BUT she adores accessories.)
Second is the whole idea of tickling. I’ve mentioned this before, but I still can’t get over how both Winston and Julianne are living, breathing giggle buttons: all you have to do is poke them somewhere, and it tickles. And they giggle. Uncontrollably. Maybe it was originally some sort of evolutionary trait that hominoids once needed to help . . . them . . . survive.
Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe Someone has a sense of humor.
Third, my wife. Technically, she shouldn’t be on this list, because it’s titled “Beautiful stuff,” not “Beautiful somebodies.” Nevertheless. She is here for a number of reasons, not least the way she chuckles. This is no minor feature. She has a chuckle that is priceless, not only for its sound but because there’s a certain guiltiness to it, and this from a Presbyterian minister’s wife (which, if we’re honest, might not be saying as much as one might hope for). There is a delightful (and altogether deserved) self-indulgence to her chuckle that I love to hear.
Not least because it means that all is well with her and hints that all shall be well–indeed, perhaps even that all manner of things shall be well.
Fourth, the God of Joseph. You know Joseph, the guy with colorful coat, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and probably thought, “This is it. It’s OVER for me.” Except that it wasn’t over. At all. It was just getting started. As the psalmist declares, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” In my unbelief I never cease to be amazed at how he can bring good out of evil. I am the cynic whom God mercifully proves wrong. Daily.
The resources found in Jesus’ life and teaching to fight despair, disillusionment, addiction, conflict, etc., never cease to amaze me.
I do not say this glibly. Nor do I say it easily, as if I can “justify the ways of God to man.” In fact, I say it with a heavy heart, having this past two days repeatedly driven by a horrific scene of drug-related violence in which innocent bystanders–a family of six–had their lives suddenly taken from them this past weekend. Let us be silent. Let us grieve. Let us pray.
Fifth, sickness and inefficiency. Well, truthfully a simple cold should not even qualify as “sickness,” a term which connotes some measure of gravity. Most undeservedly, I’m never sick, but last week I had a cold, and I got so little done, and I was so full of self-pity. Thank you, God, for a cold to remind me of my mortality, to expose my laughable self-importance, as if anything really depends on me.
Sixth, for friends whom you know are actually friends because they’re honest with you. An ancient Jewish proverb says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” He who flatters is no friend. Thank you, God, for real friends, who know me and who speak in love, saying hard truths not only with humility but with hope. And hope is so essential: indeed, truth without hope is a lie.
Seventh, cigars. Over the past year some of my best conversations–with friends old and new–have happened over a cigar (and bourbon or Scotch, with a drop of water or small cube). Stories swapped, priceless mysteries pondered, secrets shared, devious plans concocted, the sacred savored in the puffs of smoke.
I am deeply grateful.
. . . . . .
“The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.” – G. K. Chesterton
“Give thanks the LORD,
for he is good.
His love endures forever.”
– Psalm 136.1