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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What I Got

Now that it’s November, many people start talking about what they are thankful for.  Frequently mentioned items include a home, a job, good health, a loving family, many friends, children, enough food to eat and clothes to wear.

Those things are all good things.  They are all things to be thankful for.  I am thankful for them, because without them I would be cold, lonely, sick, and sad, four things that I’ve been before and I can say that being cold, lonely, sick, and sad is no good at all.

My husband and I teach our children to be thankful for what they have.  Not many of the things we give to them are necessities.  They can do without a fifth pair of shoes, dance lessons, Halloween costumes, even their own bedrooms.  Yet they have each of these things.  They live luxurious lives, and they don’t want to hear us lecture about how they should be thankful, how children and adults all over the world don’t have a fraction of what they do so eat your green beans because there are starving kids in China who don’t even know what a green bean is, for goodness’ sake.

I believe that they are thankful for what they have.  They speak the words every day and pray the prayers every night.  But are they – am I? – really thankful?

This past week the issue of thankfulness has surfaced many times for me, which could just be the timing – it is almost Thanksgiving, after all – but more likely it is God trying to tell me something.

It came up as a quote in the newspaper:  “If you are really thankful, what do you do?  You share.”  (W. Clement Stone)

It came up in my Bible, some text from a hymn that I wrote in large scribbly handwriting several years ago:  “We Thank Thee, Lord, for daily food, For plenteous store of earthly good; For life and health we still possess, With house and home so richly blessed.” (J. S. Mohler)

Then, while catching up on Bible study homework:  “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Jeez Louise.  I get it.  I didn’t know I was so ungrateful.  So I started examining my level of thankfulness.

How is thankfulness shown?  The words Thank You escape from my lips several times a day.  Don’t they?  How do I feel when I say them?  Are they meaningful, or am I just showing off my exquisite manners?

Thanking others is not a bad thing.  Thanking God for what he gives us isn’t either.  But if I am being truthful, I admit that saying thanks more often does a lot more for me than anyone else; it’s a thin shroud of niceness that shields others from who I really am.  If I am polite and nice to everyone, then I am nice and polite.  I am thankful because I say thank you.  It doesn’t sound very profound, and it isn’t.

Being thankful goes deeper than just saying words. God wants me to be thankful in everything, not just for everything.  To be thankful in everything means that I seek God’s will no matter what, and to be joyful and thankful in that, all the time.  It means that I am always truly thankful for what really counts, and that is God’s will and his plan instead of what I am given.

Yeah.  My thankfulness doesn’t always approach that level of profundity.

At least now I know it.

*******

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.  Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. Colossians 2:6-8 (NLT)

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