I woke this morning to the sweetly reminiscent smell of creosote—reminiscent of all my childhood years lived in close proximity to the historic Weston Canal, having to cross the Canal bridge with its creosote laden piers many times a week— for mail, for church, for the baseball field, for school day lunches, for just about everything of importance…ah yes, the smell of creosote. We are moored at the dock on Vancouver Island where we purchased our boat.
I wake to the scent of creosote, the dancing of reflected light on the V-birth ceiling, the subtle slap of water on the bow. No gnats in the night, no stifling stillness. It has been a good sleep. Eggs, bacon and bagel fried on deck to order. Brilliant sun, rising breeze, clear blue skies… the town awakes beyond the shelter of the harbor.
I’m reflecting this morning on the power of gratitude— to free us from the gremlins of bad dreams, bad moods and plain old self centered quagmires, to keep us from the discontent which so readily spawns a subtle idolatry of craving ‘more’, and to deepen our confidence and hope in the unseen which is our true inheritance.
Gratitude resets our thinking to the realities beyond the felt and seen. When I wake disgruntled from some inane dream there is no better antidote than giving thanks. This morning it is easy, beginning with the smell of creosote and the dance of light’s reflections… But more than this, once I run out of tangible sensory things, a conscious gratitude takes me beyond the seen and felt to my true inheritance. These are the unseen realities that will keep us from cravings that will ruin us.
As we blew into port yesterday, bouncing in a bit of turbulent water created by competing tides and wind I was reading about ‘winds of doctrine’ (Eph.4:14) besetting the church in our day, ‘varied and strange teachings’ (Heb.13:9) that have become commonplace in churches, replacing grace, replacing sound teaching, replacing the Gospel. The author suggests that our modern quest for tangible ‘spiritual’ experiences is not unlike Esau’s demand for pottage now to quell his appetite. In so demanding he ‘sold his birthright for a single meal’ (Heb.12:16)
Basing his book on his own experiences and his own years of comparing Scripture with current practices, he makes many wise observations, but that is the stuff of a future book review. As I turned back to Scripture myself I was struck by the passage in Hebrews comparing the Israelites’ experience of God with what we have been given. It begins: “For you have not come to what may be touched.” (Heb.12:18) Mount Sinai was all about the tangible—blazing fire, darkness and gloom, whirlwind, trumpet blast, and audible words. What was the people’s response? It scared them to death and they begged not to hear or see, but to be given a mediator between themselves and God.
And this Mediator is precisely what we have in Christ. He is the image of God’s glory, revealed to us. He is our high priest, our mediator, the One by whom we have access to God—the God who ‘knows what you need before you ask Him’. The passage in Hebrews goes on to describe in lofty language our inheritance—”the city of the living God”, the heavenly Jerusalem, myriads of angels, “the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven”, and to God, the Judge of all, and to “the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant”…(Heb.12:22-24) We have all this. But how much of it is visible here and now?
How difficult it is to wean our souls from wanting more than we perceive that we have, from wanting that which we can see and hear and feel. But surely gratitude is a first step in that direction. And that is how this passage winds up. First it reminds us that what is unseen is also unshakeable. When all else is destroyed, (as will be these bodies and all their senses,) the unseen Kingdom of God will remain…”Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb.12:28)
So as I sit and smell the creosote, and feel the warmth of sun and freshness of a sea breeze, I will give thanks and then keep on giving thanks till I have gotten beyond the tangible to that which is unseen but forever sure—my place among the righteous made perfect in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus, the Captain of my Soul.