Beware lest you say in your heart,
‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
– Deut 8:17 (ESV)
Okay, I know it’s cheesy. I do. But I can’t help myself. It’s the week before T-day, that pagan holiday devoted to gluttony and football, and the good Rev. Michael Koehler (@johnthreethirty) preached a pretty good sermon yesterday at TMI – The Episcopal School of Texas. Any sermon that references both The Simpsons and Veruca Salt (the character, not the band) automatically reaches Level 9 status (though it would have hit Level 10 with “Seether” playing in the background).
His topic was giving thanks. More specifically, his topic question was, “why is this so hard?” Which is a great question. Why is it so hard to live thankfully? We could talk about sin and brokenness and pride and selfishness and find a pretty reasonable theological explanation. Or we could visit any kindergarten playground in the country and see for ourselves. Remember the seagulls from “Finding Nemo“?
Living thankfully comes neither easily nor naturally to us. We may want it to, we may put on a good show, we may even mind our manners in public. But our private selves stroll mindlessly toward the ungrateful. We take soooo much for granted because deep down we foolishly believe we deserve it. Home. Family. Job. Food. Water. Safety. Health. Easy to skip living thankfully when this is our normal, even though it may be anything but for others around the world, or even around the corner.
Inevitably, the people who are the most thankful are not the ones with the most to lose, but the ones who have already lost. Want to meet someone who is thankful to have a job? Find the folks who were unemployed for a year. Want to know who is thankful for their health? Nobody is thankful like someone fresh out of the hospital. Maybe this is what Paul was talking about when he said he had learned to give thanks in all situations. Maybe loss becomes a gift when it drives our thankfulness.
And maybe it is just not possible to be thankful on the macro level. Not really. I heard somewhere that for a compliment to be appreciated it has to be specific. Maybe thanksgiving is like that. Not being thankful for jobs and family, but being thankful in the particulars for each. So here are some things for which I am thankful. Specifically. On purpose. Shared with you merely as signposts on your own journey toward thankful living.
I’m thankful for the gifts God has given me. I’m thankful I get to use them in my work. I’m thankful God creates room for me to read and write and speak and teach as the main part of my ministry.
I’m thankful God has called me to the mission of connection in and with and through my church family.
I’m thankful for the faithfulness of Mark Johnson and his heart for the poor.
I’m thankful for laughter, honest, shared laughter, especially at bad jokes.
I’m thankful my nine-year-old still wants her daddy to watch her go to sleep, a nighttime ritual that has been going on in our family in some form or fashion for fifteen years now, and will soon go the way of sippy-cups and night lights.
I’m thankful my son still wants to hang out with his old man; not all the time, or even as much as he used to, but some times, some really good times, which is more than enough for me.
I’m thankful my soon-to-be-driving daughter will still hold my hand in public.
I’m thankful my wife still laughs with me, and at me. I’m thankful she still wants to date me after all these years.
I’m thankful my parents are still married, my sister lives in town and I get to watch my niece play soccer.
I’m thankful I live in a place where I don’t have to wear socks most of the year.
I’m thankful for high school football.
I’m thankful for books – new books, old books, great books, even not-so-great books.
I’m thankful Mrs. Sharmen taught me to read these books way back in first grade.
I’m thankful for Propaganda and the truth of his spoken-word poetry.
I’m thankful for my wife’s mashed potatoes. Seriously. You should come over for dinner some time when she makes them.
I’m thankful for Grace Church and the chance to live out God’s mission.
I’m thankful for a great many people, none of whom will be upset for not being named here.