Friday, November 28, 2008

Not Just Another Sappy Thanksgiving Post

I have a lot to be thankful for, but right now I really don’t have time to stop and think about it and say nice Hallmarkian things about it.

I would say that I am incredibly thankful for my wife, a healthy 19-month old daughter, and healthy (or at least very hungry) 1-month old twin boys. But right now my thankfulness, in between burping boys and chasing down my energizer bunny daughter, is more like ecstatic exhaustion.

I’m really thankful for these things, but I know circumstances change fast. I have friends who have lost children, had miscarriages, have children with serious health problems, and kids who have rebelled against their parents and God.

So, if I sit down to Turkey Day someday, and one or more of my kids are not there, will I still be able to say Thank You?

Well, there are two things that come to my mind regularly when I’m trying to remain thankful when there seems to be no good earthly reason.

When I was young and single (and some said good-looking), I worked on staff at a Bible school in Austria. The head of our school, named Hans Peter, or HP for short, had an important default setting.

Whenever something happened, good or bad, he chose to thank God. Now, I don’t have time to go into his testimony, but it’s a very cool one. Let’s just say he is a ski guide, national ski instructor and a mountain guide and a Bible teacher and I think an auto mechanic too…in the skiing obsessed world of Austria.

Anyway, the thank-God-for-everything idea seemed nice, (and Biblical) but not always practical. But as I was working on staff, one of the guys told me what had happened shortly before I came.
They were putting up a large new building on the Bible school property, and had the foundation laid. But, one of the guys, who was an engineering student, happened to get down in the basement area one day, and realized that the basement ceiling, when installed, would hit him right about at his neck.

And that was not good. It meant tearing up what had been done and redoing the job, at the cost of thousands and thousands of schillings.

The staff guy said the construction crew was super upset. HP’s reaction?

“Have you thanked God yet?”

His choice to say thank you didn’t change based on major economic (or other) problems.
TO some, being thankful regardless of circumstances may seem like willful blindness to the pain and problems of life. But, it’s actually the ability to see and understand that life goes far beyond what can be seen and felt. It’s also the ability to look beyond what can be observed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and in Detroit.

It’s realizing that saying “thank you” in the midst of devastation is not about masochism, but choosing to trust that God has a good reason for what is happening in your life, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The other thing I think about along these lines is a story I recently had the chance to write about for NTM News.

For most people in the US, hard economic times means fewer toys at Christmas, and maybe DVD’s instead of Blu-Ray. But for about three billion people who live on $2 or less a day, it means not having those little luxuries like food and shelter.

This story, called “Worship is Smiling at a Loaded Gun” has been a good reminder to me about staying faithful and thankful, regardless of economics troubles, or the random shotgun shoved in my face.

Sometimes we can learn a lot from tribal people living on the edges of what we call “civilization.” I know I have.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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