Wilbur was a sweet man with a serious countenance — those who didn't know him would call him dour or crusty. But, his heart was good and generous and kind. His young grandson, who was four or five at the time, came to stay with his grandparents for a week. On weekdays, they had the typical southern breakfast — eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice, and coffee. On Saturday, however, Wilbur and Willie Maude usually had cereal and coffee or juice. They sat down at the breakfast table and Wilbur asked his young grandson to say the blessing. The little guy hesitated for a minute, and then prayed, "Dear God, we thank you for this breakfast... even though it's small. In Jesus' name. Amen."
Wilbur cracked up with laughter.
We do have so many things for which we can be thankful. However, if we are not careful, the challenges of our moment in time can wilt the joy right out of our Thanksgiving. Like many of you, I've lost 1/3 of my retirement over the last year. I know folks on fixed incomes who are seriously hurting now financially. I opened an email this morning from a friend who will have no job this week. A family that I love is deep in grief during what is supposed to be a special and blessed time of the year.
These concerns easily give way to fear. With the negative orientation our news and gossip magazines take, our hearts can be seized with anxiety and dread. Our prayers soon become laundry lists of things for God to fix — listen to our words: "Give me!" "Help me!" "Heal me!" "Rescue me!"
Certainly we are to turn to God honestly and openly about the burdens of our hearts to "receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16 TNIV). But with our cries for help, we must not forget the importance of being thankful for the incredible blessings we have in Jesus (Colossians 4:2).
God isn't asking us for false or forced thanksgiving or some kind of simplistic relabeling of bad stuff. We are called back to the deep spiritual wells of grace we have in Jesus. From prison, Paul writes:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).
Because we have Jesus, and because he has us, our future is secure. Our relationships in Christ are eternal. All partings and every agony we face here are temporary. With this hope, we are to reframe all of life in a chorus song of thanksgiving:
Cultivate thankfulness. ... Let every detail in your lives — words, actions, whatever — be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way (Colossians 3:16-17 MSG).
In Jesus, the liturgy of our lives is thanksgiving — not just one day a year, but every day until we are lost in the thankful wonder of His presence, at home with Him forever.
Yes, dear God, we do thank you for all the ways you have blessed us, for they are indeed, NOT small!
I'd love to get your reactions or responses to this on my blog: