Sunday, November 27, 2011

Praise and Thanksgiving

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee
in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
then thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-man,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express,
for what thou art to they creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.
~The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions

This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving. Giving thanks. Our holiday was spent in Georgia with my family this year. We played, we laughed, we spent time with family, we fellowshiped with friends, we ate. And ate. But I had to ask myself this question: Am I really thankful? If so, am I living a life of thankfulness? Is thanksgiving just a holiday? Or a lifestyle?

Last Tuesday night we enjoyed the annual Thanksgiving meal at my parents' small, country church. During the past couple of years, they have begun a ministry to the homeless. They go often to Atlanta, an hour's drive. And they are involved in a homeless community ministry in a nearby, local town. One of the church members drove to Atlanta and picked up four of their homeless friends to come to church for the Thanksgiving meal. Afterwards, there was a time of singing, praise and testimony in the sanctuary. When the pastor asked for someone to share what they're thankful for, no one volunteered. But one of the homeless men did. And do you know what he said?

Through tears, he gave praise to God and talked about how blessed he is. BLESSED. Yall. He and his wife are HOMELESS. Without a home. He has no home, no roof over his head, no protection from the storm or the sweltering summertime heat, no warmth from the chill, no promise of a next meal. He said he has so much that people in other parts of the world, third world countries, don't even have. And he is blessed. He has "so much."

And then I started thinking about the MUCH I have been given . . . a new house (a nice, big house honestly), food in the pantry and in the refrigerator, health insurance for my family and I, a nice vehicle, toys that overflow my children's rooms, my husband's job that allows me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom, family, friends . . . and so much more that I haven't even named. And yet I thought of all the times I complain, all the times I'm ungrateful, all the times I've taken so much for granted. I even felt like nothing I could say, nothing I could give thanks for could compare to what my homeless friend had given thanks for . . . after all, do I really know what GIVING THANKS is?! So many times I don't act like it.

I even found myself on the way home that evening complaining yet again about how quickly the fireplace stone job was coming along, how frustrated I'd been the week before, how aggravated I was because I thought it should've already been finished. REALLY?!? I should've been giving thanks that I even have a house and a fireplace. I should've been giving thanks that we have been blessed with the financial means to lay stone. I should've been giving thanks.

Never again do I want to say . . . I should've been giving thanks. I should've been praising my God.

"And as He [Jesus] went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: Blessed be the King wo comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." ~Luke 19:36-40

God created me. God loves me. God sent His only Son to die for me. God desires fellowship with me. God has blessed me. May the stones never have to cry out in my place!

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