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Let Us Cultivate Gratitude
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2017
Deuteronomy 8:1-3, 6-10, (17-20) (New Revised Standard Version):
Moses said to all Israel: This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Therefore keep the commandments of the LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.
[Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. If you do forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.]
Psalm 65 (New Revised Standard Version):
Praise is due to you.
O God, in Zion;
and to you vows shall be performed,
O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
your holy temple.
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
James 1:17-18, 21-27 (New Revised Standard Version):
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Matthew 6:25-33 (New Revised Standard Version):
Jesus said, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you– you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?’ or `What will we drink?’ or `What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The reasons to rejoice and give thanks to God are greater in magnitude and are more numerous than the reasons to complain, regardless of who valid the complaints may be. Understand me correctly; dealing with legitimate complaints can enhance social justice and other positive causes. My purpose in this blog post, however, is focus on gratitude.
In late 2006 my doctoral program in history at The University of Georgia ended prematurely. That Fall Semester, at the beginning of what I hoped would be a glorious and successful second year, I received word that the department would not permit me third year. The Graduate Coordinator encouraged me to take a Master’s Degree instead. Having one of those already, I refused. So I finished the semester, honored my Teaching Assistant commitment to the university, and limped along academically, crippled emotionally by the trauma. There my UGA doctoral career ended, ingloriously and in pique and frustration directed at my major professor.
Yet worse was to come. In late February 2007 I discovered (much to my shock) that I was a target of a criminal investigation by a district attorney in southern Georgia. I did not plead guilty, for I was innocent, but the D.A.’s office made my life Hell for four months. The case ended with the dropping of charges and the imposition of something called restitution (I recognize no just cause for restitution, so I leave my preferred labels for the money I paid at the D.A.’s behest to your imagination.), but at least there was no trial or sentence. Then I could move on with my life, that cloud lifted.
The time from September 2006 to June 2007 was very difficult for me. Sometimes I broke down under the pressure. And yet I was never alone, for God and human beings were with me. I learned to be a better, more patient person, something for which I am grateful. And I know now that the light of grace is most apparent at the darkest times. It is always there, of course, but the greater contrast makes it stand out more.
(I am grateful for the spiritual improvement, which was purely God’s work, as well as the fact the ordeal has ended.)
I encourage everyone to be positive and uplifting more often than not, and to seek reasons to give thanks to God. They are numerous and readily available. Do you have indoor plumbing? You are more fortunate than many people. Do you have only one personality, and a stable one at that? Consider yourself blessed. Do you have no addictions or dependencies? Thank God for that. Can you worship freely, without fear of persecution? You are more fortunate than many on this planet. Do you have enough food to eat and clean water to drink? Many would like to share in your prosperity. I could continue, but I have made my point plainly.