November. That month devoted to a strange movement with men and their facial hair (go ahead and Google Movember) and Thanksgiving. This is a special time of year set aside to be with our friends and families and ponder…gratitude. I love to read the daily lists on Facebook…good reminders of the great habit of remembering our biggest and smallest blessings.
God teaches me lessons in seasons…and they usually repeat as such, because my memory tends to be short. For about the last year, school has been in session about…gratitude.
‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I can see that practicing gratitude leaves room for little else, cultivates a heart of humility and servitude. Gratitude keeps us anchored in this moment and does not allow for theft of joy by comparison.
That’s why it is so important for me to get this one down.
Giving thanks is easy at first, isn’t it? Thank You for: my family, friends, hot coffee, a job, shelter, hot coffee, fuzzy robes, butterfly kisses, falling leaves, hot coffee, food at the ready, good books, rainy days, and yoga pants.
This is the fun stuff to remember. God loves us so much…He provides lavishly the things we need and just a lot of things we don’t.
I desperately want to be a good student. I was the kid that sat on the front row so that I wouldn’t be distracted by Marsha’s shiny blonde hair with natural honey-highlights and that gorgeous thick braid tied off with an actual string of jute. I want to know something thoroughly if I am devoting my time to it. So I re-read with one eye shut because there is always a word that will wreck my guise of being a good student and get straight to the heart of my motive:
Wait. Give thanks in all circumstances?
Really? All of them?
You can’t really expect a heartfelt thanks for the bad stuff, right, God? That ‘all’ is in there just to give us something to shoot for and as long as we cover most of the basics…we’re cool and fist-bumps all around.
I am enough of a student to know that God doesn’t give us guidelines to follow halfway. He loves us far too much to allow us to set our own bars for success.
I will tell you exactly what God told me about two Tuesdays ago.
I pick Ellis up from school and go to get the biggies from their school. We are talking about the pros and cons of Skittles. I am serious. After a bit, there is silence and Els looks out her window and I twirl my hair habitually with my left non-driving hand. I am robotically driving and, honestly, back in deep dialogue I have been having with God all day…wrestling with a question.
How do I give thanks in everything, God?
How do I give You thanks for bad health, for death of one I love, for cancer in a friend?
I have been asking this question all day…sincerely seeking. The second I ask the question in my head this time, my precious child’s voice pipes up from the back and says:
‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.’
After I just about corrected the car from fishtailing on that old country road on the short-cut to school, I said, ‘What did you say, Ellis?’
And she says, ‘I said, give thanks to the Lord for He is good.’
‘Well, why did you say that?’
‘I don’t know. Do we have Skittles in the car?’
Could it just be as simple as my child says?
There is not a question we cannot ask God. And we can ask How all day long. But the better question to ask, the one that covers all and contains all answers, is not How…
We can give thanks because of Who He is.
Because…He is good.
He is good.
Does it make giving hard thanks any easier?
Honestly? Only sometimes at first.
But then always when my heart catches up with my brain.
As I said, my memory is short and I need constant thumps on the head.
But I do know there is more growth in choosing to honor and trust Him with one hard thanks than an endless string of easy days…and I am learning to desire growth more than my own comfort.
May you and I have the courage to be good students.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis
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