More Than Simply “Thank you”

Thanksgiving 2019 is over, but as the weekend nears its end and December begins, I’ll carry with me the words of the Lord from scripture that were impressed upon me this week. As Thanksgiving day approached and as I began to think about its meaning, and as I thought about that first Thanksgiving feast shared by the English colonists and the Wampanoags almost 400 years ago in 1621, the simplicity of the holiday came into focus. Thankfulness — an important, but very simple act. The realization that blessings and provisions from God abound around each of us every day. The understanding that even though we may work hard to provide for ourselves and our families for our basic needs, those needs are ultimately met by God. Every blessing we possess and enjoy is a gift from God. 🎵 Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 🎵

But how can we, and should we, show thankfulness to God for His many blessings? That question led me to narrow down to a few basic directives given in the scriptures. Thankfulness is not just in saying the 2 simple words “thank you,” but it’s in living out a life of thankfulness each and every day. It’s in being sincerely grateful to God for His bountiful blessings, not just on this holiday, but every day that He gives us breath. If the realization occurs that our greatest blessing is God Himself, the desire to express sincere thankfulness naturally follows. Sincere thankfulness requires action. For this Thanksgiving week, I chose a simple biblical directive on which to reflect for each day of the week.

Sunday: Worship God.  

[WORSHIP = an act of reverence or homage]

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95:6)

Monday: Serve God.  

[SERVE = to work for, to labor in behalf of] 

Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24)

Tuesday: Obey God.   

[OBEY = to comply with, to follow commands of, to submit to authority of] 

You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 13:4)

Wednesday: Love God.

[PHILOTHEIA = love for God….associated with worship and devotion towards God]

And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22: 37-38)

Thursday: Thank God.

[THANK = to express gratitude to]

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)

Friday: Praise God.

[PRAISE = to extol in words or song; to magnify; to glorify on account of perfections or excellent works]

Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

Saturday: Follow God.

[FOLLOW = act according to the lead or example of]

You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:4)

HOPE NUGGET:

🎵 Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning. Give me oil in my lamp, I pray. 🎵

Happy Birthday, in Heaven

Thirty-two years ago today, my sweet nephew Daniel entered the world and forever changed our lives. At his sixth month in utero, it was determined that Daniel had hydrocephalus, often referred to as “water on the brain.” Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain. The diagnosis of hydrocephalus meant that brain damage would most likely occur during development due to the pressure caused by the fluid buildup.

As can be imagined, receiving this news about their baby was devastating for my sister and brother-in-law, a young and newly married couple. Daniel was indeed born with severe brain damage which led to a host of disabilities. Daniel had a feeding tube and a colostomy and was unable to walk or talk. He was completely dependent upon his parents for his full care. When he was just a year old, Dr. Ben Carson – yes, That Ben Carson – performed surgery on Daniel. He informed Danny’s parents, Leslie & Cy, that the corpus callosum was not formed. The corpus callosum is the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain that allows information to pass between the two halves.

Being born with brain damage and an unformed corpus callosum though didn’t stop Daniel from learning, even learning sign language! Daniel loved music, toys with lights and sounds, and interaction with those around him. The sillier a person was when they played or interacted with Danny, the better he liked it! He laughed so hard sometimes that tears streamed down his cheeks. Daniel’s life brought blessings to our family that we would not have known without him.

If you ask Cy and Leslie how they did it – how they handled caring for a highly-involved child for 12 years, how Cy held down a job the entire time, how they managed numerous surgeries and extended hospital stays, how they took care of a second son born about 5 years later, and how at the age of 12 years they said their final goodbye on this earth to their dearly-loved firstborn son, they would say that God gave them strength through their dependence on Him. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever [Psalm 73: 25-26]. They would say that Daniel was a blessing and never a burden. They would answer without hesitation that they would willingly do it all over again.

Despite the many challenges that came during his 12 short years of life, Daniel’s joy was infectious and his laughter was contagious! He gave and received more love & happiness than many people do in a lifetime. He was a pleasant boy and it showed even on his worst days, even on the many days when he was very ill. It’s hard to find a picture of him without a smile on his face! You will always be loved, Daniel!! HAPPY 32ND BIRTHDAY IN HEAVEN!! 

HOPE NUGGET: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. [Lamentations 3: 22-23]

An Incredible Act of Love and Forgiveness

An exceptional example of Christian love and forgiveness is being shared across the internet. Many who have shared it also most likely grieve the loss of an innocent man, Botham Jean, shot down while sitting in his own apartment. A terrible and tragic and unnecessary death, one which should never have happened, one which the family and friends of the young man and the shooter now must spend the rest of their lives living with grief, suffering, regret, and guilt.

Brandt Jean hugging the killer of his brother
Video of Brandt Jean offering forgiveness: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NkoE_GQsbNA

Most anyone who has read the story or seen the video of Brandt Jean, the young man who now lives without his beloved brother, is in awe of the words that he spoke to his brother’s killer and of his request to hug her in the courtroom. It’s impossible to watch without becoming emotional and without wondering if you would respond as he did had you been in his shoes. Instead of taking from this the outcome of an incredible act of selflessness, forgiveness and love, there is a minority of those who instead must tweet their “just a word for the white people” or who write their “Dear white people” letter.

In the “just a word for the white people” tweet, it was said that “If you didn’t share about Botham Jean’s murder and weren’t willing to say #BlackLivesMatter, save us in tweeting out the hug.” In the “Dear white people” letter, it was said “I will judge the way so many of us in the white community are so quick to applaud black people for forgiving white murderers.” In both of these instances, the writers take it upon themselves to assign motives to the folks who have shared the courtroom video and story.

I say this INSTEAD: perhaps, just perhaps, we “white people” applaud ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, A GODLY MAN, for extending amazing grace, love and forgiveness to one who most likely doesn’t deserve it. We applaud him, NOT because of skin color, BUT because of our admiration for him. Admiration given because we doubt we could do likewise in the same situation. I take issue with both of the assumptions made, but if it makes the writer of the letter to white people feel better by making those assertions, fine. Most of the rest of us will go on admiring and respecting Brandt Jean, regardless of the color of his skin.

As amazing as the act of love and forgiveness shown by Mr. Jean was, a much more amazing act of love was shown by Jesus Christ. The sinless Son of God willingly laid down His life for the world. Christ – a completely, sinless and innocent man – willingly dying for sinners, for the unrighteous, for those filled with evil, for the God-haters [read Romans 1]. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us [Romans 5:7-8]. But that’s exactly what He did. But why? For Love. He did it out of Love.

HOPE NUGGET: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16].

Sacrificial Love

This past weekend, our family spent an afternoon at the movie theater watching “Toy Story 4.” It was an enjoyable day and if I were to do a movie review, I’d give it a two-thumbs up! On the drive home, my husband pointed out that a strong pro-self-sacrifice theme was woven throughout the story. I won’t share any spoilers, but recommend that you go see it for yourself.

It is easy to draw an analogy between the self-sacrificial content of the movie and the self-sacrificial life of Christ. While the characters in Toy Story are imperfect and flawed and develop self-sacrificing and other positive characteristics over time, Christ is the ultimate and perfect example of sacrificial love. Christ went as far as to lay down His life even for His enemies. That means us. We were all at enmity with God. Separated from Him by sin. The gulf was wide and impossible to cross. Good works couldn’t do it. Religion couldn’t do it. Our righteousness (never mind, it is as filthy rags) couldn’t do it. The perfection of Christ as the Son of God gave Him the ability to take our place as a sacrificial substitute. Even when we were His enemy. Even though we didn’t deserve it. The cross offers Hope. To all. You can hang your hat on it.

Hope nugget: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   (Romans 5: 6-8)