See these seashells and see them deeply

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An important spiritual practice or discipline for me is gratefulness. I am learning more in my life how giving thanks daily can help liberate me from comparison, worry and competitiveness. This is my first blog post in September. The main reason being that I was in a conference in Thailand of almost four thousand colleagues followed by a very busy last week in Indonesia. But in those events, a rich appreciation of the amazing diversity of people and cultures again caused thankfulness to fill me.

The conference had people from 104 nations, and within those nations was a complexity of cultures and languages as well. I felt overwhelmed at the beauty and different ways of expression of faith of all these nations and cultures. I went from there to Indonesia, a nation that also has such a rich diversity within it. There have been several times in the past two weeks when all I could say was ‘thank you, Lord’. Thanks for the gift of experiencing this not only in the nations but also in the USA itself, as it grows more and more multi-cultural.

A few weeks ago, my close friend Sandy A. led a few of us in a beautiful time of reflection and prayer around the most stunning tray of seashells that I had ever seen. (photo included). Spend some time looking at this photo. And then really look, and look deeper. I know you have probably seen seashells before if you live anywhere near the ocean. But this particular arrangement and presentation took my breath away. The sheer diversity, the colors, the shapes. I’ve been thinking again of this tray of shells in these past two weeks.

At the end of a very rich time of reflection and response, my only suggestion to Sandy was for another time, another possible arrangement. It would be to gather a tray of similarly beautiful seashells, yet this time include only ones that were marred, broken. Shells that had been buffeted by time, by weather. Still stunning, but in a different way. Both trays belong.

For that was the reality of the amazing collection of people that I’ve been with these past two weeks. They are a selection of the most beautiful people, yet also very marred and broken. You see, that does not take away from their beauty, to see the scars and wrinkles, but rather enhances it. We had people coming to the conference from war torn areas like Afghanistan and South Sudan. We had people that were experiencing great pain for their faith, and some had been imprisoned. We had people that had gone through divorces, unfulfilled dreams and potentials, and waging struggles with secret sin that no one else knew.

Yet what beauty. What grace. It all belongs, yes alongside the suffering and buffeting and chaos and craziness. A whole lot of beautiful broken seashells left on the shores of life, and we get the privilege every day of saying thank you.

When we practice gratefulness, space is created for it all to belong.

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