Monday, March 2, 2009

Let Us Be Thankful....

I wake up in the morning at six to my glorious electric alarm, I press the snooze button, sleep for five more minutes then get out of bed. I'm freezing cold standing there on the hard wood floor in my t-shirt and pajama pants so I whine to myself about it and go to my closet. Open up the two-doored wooden wonder and see two suits, a tuxedo, a whole rack of t-shirts, pants, tennis shoes, dress shoes, military boots, dress shirts, kaki pants and my beautiful robe for specially cold mornings. If it's not specially cold I can choose between two hoodies. I take the robe, walk to the kitchen while putting it on and go to the sink. All I do is push up the handle, grab a glass and relieve my throat with the cool drought. I then continue to the stair well where I turn on the light so I don't walk in darkness. Descending the steps I think of what I will do next. As I reach the bottom I flip the switch at the bottom to off and there goes the light. Then I wander into the family room to see three desktop computers, an upright piano, a TV and many, many books. I take the phone, my headset, and sit down at the computer. As the screen lights up from screen saver mode all I have to do is click the little icon on the bottom left and there, I am now officially connected with the world. I then dial in the number for my bi-weekly Latin class and begin my day at 6:15 sharp with the voice of my Latin instructor. After this, (on Tuesdays and Thursdays that is) I do my Bible study, of which I have two computerized resources, five Bibles, three Bible study books, and Google to help me along.

Why do I begin my post this way? To show how extremely pampered I am! What are my thoughts during this twice a week escapade?

“It's cold!”

“It's so early I'm a morning guy but I have to do Latin this early and it just plain stinks.”

“Computer! Why are you so slow!”

“I wish I had hi-speed internet...”

Is this right? What should I be saying? How about this-

“Wow God, I don't have to miss class because I have an alarm. Thank you so much!”

“Lord, I have running water this morning and a nice warm robe to wear.”

“Thank you God for allowing my parents to let me have a computer and internet that works amazing for what I need!”

But do I? Indeed I find it extremely difficult to find what it is in life that I can be thankful for. I have so much, even just compared to some of my friends. Not to mention those young men my age in Africa, or China, or even just as close as Downtown Portland. What did they do last night and this morning? Did they get into a nice warm bed, plug in their iPod and loose themselves to music and peaceful slumber? To them, my world would be heaven. My world is what they wish and hope for each and every day. Yet, I sit back and complain. We want more, we think it's not fair when other people have the game you want, or other people have the schedule you want, when other people have things that we want. But let me ask you this, who is happier? I don't know about you but I am a pretty happy person a lot, yet at the same time I'm not too happy when just the slightest thing happens in my life. I see pictures of young men in Africa, they have barely any clothes on their backs, they don't know if they will get even the smallest morsel of food for dinner, yet in the pictures don't they look so happy! Their smiles are so radiant!

If one studies up on the well known Baroque composer J.S. Bach he or she would find that his life was truly one that was harsh. I was talking to my piano teacher about his life and she told me some very interesting facts. First and foremost (part of this I knew) he had from 20-23 children in his family. It ranged because no historian can agree on a number. So we will say 21. Now, one might say, “My word that's a lot of kids!” Well, it wasn't. Here's why, all but three or four of them died before the age of 5! We think that we have it bad. Imagine being a father and seeing 18 of your children die before your very eyes! Not only this but his first wife died as well. At one point in his life he was the music writer for three churches, taught piano, and directed the church choirs. Today this might seem like a lot, but not near as much as it really was. You see, in today's society someone who is well-versed enough could lead worship on decently short notice, just grab the hymn book or worship chorus notebook and read it through a few times. Is that what Bach could do? No! He had to compose, by hand, every single note that was played, or sung for EACH church service. HE had to write out EACH part for the choir, EACH part for the orchestra. And he only had a week to do it in. While taking care of a family and teaching piano to many students. I teach piano and I think it hard to look for music for my students. But Bach, what did he have to do? He had to write music for his students! We really do have it so easy!

Job 2:3-8 And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason." Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face." And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.

That sounds really nice doesn't it? To have sores from the bottom of your feet to the top of you head. I thought growing pains were too much! Not only this but Job had his entire family taken from him, all but his wife. But what did his wife do? His wife told him to curse God so that he could die. Real encourager she was to be sure. Job had his entire stock of cattle taken from him, and his house destroyed. I was hearing from an elder of our church not to long ago talk about Job. He said that Job had worms living in his body. He was like an old tossed out piece of sailors bread! Yet did he curse God? No! He would not, he could not curse his Maker. How many of us curse God when we stub our toe? Or hit our hands on the wall when we're frustrated? How many of us would be strong enough to have our body eaten up by maggots and still not curse God? The truth is, I know I wouldn't.

So, what is the point of all that I have said? The point I want to make to you is this: We have so much to be thankful and grateful for that if we aren't thankful we should be ashamed. Why is it so hard to count your blessings? We all have wonderful lives compared to many and should thank the Lord daily, even hourly for all that He has provided for us. Yes, we have hard times, we have less than desirable things happen to us each day, but still, that's not he point. We must choose to see the good in all that happens. See what God is doing in our lives and how He is taking care of us. God is with us, so let's thank Him for it.



emily said...

Once again, Justin, this is an amazing post!

Sitting here, completely surrounded by warmth...after reading this, it really opens up our eyes to seeing how truly blessed we are.

Hence, we still sit, begging for more, even when we're "up to our eyeballs" in fleshly desires. Why is this? Our world has been SO subdued, and filled with temporal "splendor"...things which only have a present "value", that people continue to want more--instead of being content with the blessings which have been bestowed upon them.

The blessings which God has given us are innumerable. Sometimes, even the smallest of things, which on a day-to-day basis, would pass us by, are things that other people would LONG to have! Such as the fact that I've got a closet full of clothes--and I continue to mumble, "I wish I had another one of these, or this hoodie in a different color.." etc. In the aspect of eternity, are any of these things really going to matter?

As an example, living where I do, there's an advantage of being completely and 110% immersed in the beauty of God's creation. Often, I take for granted the fact that birds fly! It seems like such a random and unimportant factor of life, but it's a blessing nonetheless.

"Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever..." - Psalm 106:1

All in all, our God is an awesome God...and a King who continues to "overwhelm" us with a bounty of innumerable blessings. in Him, emily

Lo said...

Wow Justin! This was just what I wanted/needed to hear this morning. I am sitting here in my bedroom mad at myself for sleeping through my alarm and trying to catch up on the time i lost and yet I still decided to go and check to see if you had written anything new. I am glad I did.
I was having a very similar talk with my family last night regarding the changing economy and how even if we have to do without things a simple as a less expensive soap that we don't like the smell of that we should sill be extremely thankful for what we do have. Compared to families in other countries and you are right even in our own city we are blessed beyond what I think we realize.


JustinK said...

OK... here goes... my confession. How many of you believe that God does things so that you learn from them? Or, how many of you believe that God really does give miracles? I certainly do and it happened to me this morning.

I had the WORST shower in the world today! Odd I know but God taught me something through it. I went to the laundry room, grabbed a fresh towel and headed upstairs. I got to the bathroom turned on the shower and the water was cold. I had turned the hot water knob on. So I turn it all the way on with hot and it's still less than lukewarm. This of course usually means that the hot water tank is empty. BUT, that's virtually impossible because only three people have taken showers. Maybe four. Either way I was getting frustrated with this cold shower!!! So I washed my hair as fast as I Could and jumped out. The bathroom which is usually somewhat warm after my shower was freezing cold. I grabbed my towel and wrapped myself around in it and it was literally soaking wet! Now... I believe in miracles but like, seriously, the towel was wet through and through. That's crazy! I just grabbed it out of the closet less than 10 min before. Seriously, how could my towel be soaking wet like that. I wrapped myself in it and it was cold and wet instantly. So I felt it with my hands and it was already soaking wet before I dried myself off. IT was just weird. :-) But God taught me something. I was thinking.... wow God, You're telling me something. Here's what it was. The idea that many people get up in the morning and have to have a cold shower. They only have one towel so it's still wet when they use it the next day. They don't have heated rooms to be comfortable in. And I take it all for granted! It just goes along the same lines of this blog post. .... He's amazing isn't He?

emily said...

Ahh yes, He is amazing ;). Like I've said before..God sometimes allows things like that in our lives as a reminder that we are truly blessed. Often, the people who have more, are more unhappy than the people who have less. Because, the people that have more, don't see all of their blessings. The people that usually have less, are even more thankful, because they're blessed with what they have been given. It's pretty amazing. Yet, a confession, I have had thoughts go through my head like, "mann...I want this and that, so bad!". . .when really, I should be saying, "Thank you Lord, for what I have been given..." It really puts things in perspective ;).

LaurenM. said...

Wow Justin. Thank you.

Here I was, with my math book out in front of me, not having any fun at all learning about the stock market, and wishing I didn't have to read this "pointless" information. And then I read your post and realized... that I'm laying on my bed, in my own room.... fresh cool air coming through the window... and a laptop within my reach! Goodness gracious, how dare I think that my life is hard?! When God has placed so many blessings in my life, how dare I think that I want something more or different? My little sister and I took a trip to the store to get candy yesterday cause it had been a hard morning... how many people on the other side of the world can do that?

And honestly, at the same time as I realize I have all of these blessings... I also realize that I have something in common with those persecuted Christians who's horror stories ring of intense discomfort. Both of us, those persecuted Christians and myself, are blessed with hope in Jesus Christ. I not only need to consider their uncomfortable circumstances and be grateful for how blessed I am... but also realize that both they and I share the same hope, the same Salvation. Both they and I know the same Jesus.... and in that light... all of my earthly possessions and comforts mean nothing... because the glorious hope of Christ means so much more.

I'm here on my comfortable bed, in my own room, while the descriptive phrase "far less comfortable" doesn't even do the persecuted Christian's lives justice... but its our faith in God that means the most to the both of us. And it's that realization that keeps my perspective in line... of how fleeting the seeming gratification of possessions and circumstances of life can be.

Neither myself, nor those persecuted Christins have anything to offer God. Except ourselves, except our sin. And only through Jesus Christ can our lives can mean anything. So, if my perspective stays focused there... I can be continually grateful for my earthly possessions and circumstances that surround me.

Tim said...

Interesting. But Blogger? So commonplace and restraining.

I agree, in short. Thankfulness is important for all Christians. But there's a deeper element to it. It's all well and good to say "I need to thank God more." It's a deeper and more basic change to say "I will have a thankful heart." It's a way of life, not something you say. The inner change needs to come first. If you're not living with joy and thankfulness for all things, as Paul encourages us to do, then you're not going to find yourself being thankful often.

So I think it's deeper than simply remembering to thank God for our many blessings. It's easy to do that, really. But it's essential that we cultivate a joyful attitude, especially in tribulations. Otherwise, what's the point?

JustinK said...

Tim, I agree! I suppose that is one thing I did not cover very well. But yes, it must a change of heart, and I must be willing to truly be thankful for all I have not just by saying I am but making all the things I do express a feeling of thankfulness for all I have.
i.e. using what you have to the glory of God, and keeping what you have in as good of condition as possible. For in the end, it's all God's anyway right?

Bisceglia Family said...

Once again, I'm very late commenting...

I actually first saw this post a week ago when it was new and there weren't any comments yet! (This blog is sure taking off to a good start.) First, Justin, I want to tell you that I really enjoyed this post and I found myself thinking about thankfullness from time to time all week!

Tim and Justin, I agree with you both about thankfulness being a change of heart first and foremost. Saying the "thank-you's" is the result or manifestation of a thankful heart. In other words we don't necessarily have to always be saying thank you. Having a thankful "attitude" inside is what matters the most.

I've also been thinking about thankfulness verses taking things for granted verses ungratefullness. We all know that being thankful is good, and being unthankful is not, but what about taking things for granted? Is it wrong to take things for granted? When I was little I took everything I had and everything around me for granted. I hadn't matured enough to know any better. I don't think that was wrong, but taking things for granted can become wrong if I realize I'm taking something for granted and ignore it, or if someone points out to me that I'm taking something for granted and I pass it off with, "I don't need to be thankful for that; everybody has that." At that point it can become wrong. (Chances are not everybody has whatever it is, as Justin pointed out in the post.) Basically, conciously or not I'm refusing to thank God for what He's given me. At that point I need the heart change, which would inspire thankful thoughts and words. :)

Justin said: "How many of you believe that God does things so that you learn from them?"

I certainly believe he does! God sometimes gives us trials (or experiences) to show us that we are taking something for granted. For example, maybe you are sick and tired of loading and unloading the dishwasher...and then when the dishwasher breaks down and you're doing every one of those dishes by hand you realize how much you actually liked it. And so you start thanking God for the dishwasher...hehehe. :) Or, maybe your mom gets a cold or something and is down for a few days. Until then, you might not have been able to fully appreciate and realize how blessed you are in all the little things she does for you.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
~1st Thessalonians 5: 16-18

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
~Psalm 118:29

See you tomorrow ~ Kathrina