November 24th, 2021 by Sara Buffington
My daughter and I both overslept this morning. That was the direct result of having stayed up late watching a cheesy movie together. Holiday weeks are wonderful.
We both padded around the kitchen making our morning drinks: mine a chai latte with milk, hers the same but with almond milk. She mused, "I feel like everything in my life is going well. School is going well. My running is going well. My friendships are great. I worry that something bad will happen, that God will take it away to show me that I should be dependent on Him or something."
"God doesn't operate like that," I mumbled as I poured milk in my mug. Did I mention I am not a morning person? I do not have all my words in the morning.
"Yes, but how do you know that?"
"Because He is a good father. He delights to give good gifts to His children. All we need to do is remember to say thank you."
It sounds so easy, right? Just say thank you.
So how come we rarely do it?
Have you ever heard the story of the man who said thank you? It comes from Luke 17:11-19. I'd like to pretend I encountered this story in my daily Bible reading, but the truth is I learned it first from a children's story.
When my kids were little we read the book Read-Aloud Bible Stories by Ella Lindvall. I married into the book as my husband had read it when he was little. At first I thought the stories were a bit strange. The people are oversized and simplistic and you never see Jesus' face. The author puts in sound effects for you to say out loud (like "Step. Step. Step.") But my skepticism was replaced with respect; my kids loved the stories.
One night I was reading the story, "The Man Who Said Thank You." Ten lepers cry out for Jesus to heal them. He heals them in an unusual way; he tells them to go to town and show themselves to the priest. When they do so, they are all cleansed. Nine leave in celebration, but only one, a Samaritan, returns to Jesus to say thank you.
"Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'"
As I closed the book that night, I thought to myself, "Who am I? Am I the one who remembers to say thank you? Or am I one of the nine who just walks away?"
My mother-in-law Barb always finds the best parking spots.
You'd think it is just coincidence, but she consistently finds them. I remember being in the car with my in-laws on a day when the mall parking lot was packed (it was probably Black Friday when everyone goes to the mall). I suggested we try some ancillary lot far away. "We are never going to find a space," I remarked.
Carl piped up, "No. Let's try up front. Barb is with us." Sure enough, there was a space right at the front of the lot. Barb slid into the space and we walked a few short steps to the mall. Both of them said, "Thank you, Lord!"
I remember thinking, "Did they just thank God for a parking space?"
Fast forward to that night I read the Bible story to my son. I wondered to myself, "How many blessings, even small ones, have I received from God that I have neglected to thank him for?"
We occasionally remember to say thank you for the big things: Jesus' death on the cross, eternal life, unexpected provision, healing, etc., but do we thank him for all his gifts (like close parking spaces)?
Do we thank him consistently?
Do we recognize him as the gift-giver?
As a parent, I love to give good gifts to my children. I love to see them open presents, to see their gasps of surprise and their happy faces.
But I also like to hear them say thank you. When you receive a gift, you should recognize the gift-giver.
So that is now my resolve with the Ultimate Gift-Giver. I look for moments in my day where I receive a grace, a mercy, or a favor. And then I say, "Thank you, Lord" out loud.
Some of these things are small:
I say "thank you" out loud in company. I say it when I am by myself. I say it because I want to be the one who returns to Jesus and recognizes him as the gift-giver.
The Bible says that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). I am sure that's true.
But little gifts (like a short wait time in a restaurant) are worthy of a thank-you as well.
Saying thank you for the little things does not diminish your gratitude for the big things. It primes the pump so you can be a more grateful person overall.
I love Thanksgiving. I love the food. I love the lack of stress. I love the open day that never falls on a weekend.
I think it is wonderful to set aside a day to be thankful, but if we think of it only as a single day, we miss out.
Let this Thanksgiving Day be the start of a new practice of thanking God for all his gifts, large and small. Thank him for the light as it filters through your window. Thank him for the hug from your family member. Thank him for the morning cup of coffee or tea that slows the ticking of the clock for a few moments.
Even on the most difficult of days and in the most challenging of circumstances, He shows up for you in a hundred tiny ways.
When you move to the rhythm of gratitude, it is easier to sense his presence and notice the gifts, both large and small, that he gives us as his dearly loved children. Lord, open our eyes to see how wonderfully present and incredibly gracious you are.
What gifts has he given you lately? Let me know in the comments below.