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Thoughts for Thanksgiving

We are living in difficult and dangerous times – some of the more difficult of my lifetime. In spite of the events going on in our world, however, time marches on, and we once again find the holiday season upon us. As we enter into Thanksgiving this week, I want to take a moment to share with you some short stories of thankfulness.

Dachau StatueCorrie Ten Boom once related this story of thankfulness that happened – of all places – when she was a prisoner in the Ravensbrück concentration camp during World War II.  The barracks where they were locked up by the Germans were horribly infested by fleas. They were praying when she heard her sister Betsy say…

“Father, we want to thank you for these fleas.”

Corrie said, “No, no, no!  I don’t think God wants us to be thankful for these fleas!”

Betsy said, “The Bible says, ‘in all circumstances give thanks.’”  Well, for months their Bible studies had been interrupted and disrupted by their captors, but all of a sudden the German soldiers quit interrupting the Bible study. Subsequently, as a result of the Bible studies, everybody in their barracks was converted to Christ. Eventually, the Germans came and got rid of the fleas.

One day, one of the soldiers they had won to Christ was talking to Corrie, and she asked him, “Why didn’t you interrupt the Bible study?”  His response was, “Because we didn’t want to come in where those fleas were.”

The great poet Maya Angelou actually started out as a voice major in college. She went through a lot of stuff. Coming to the United States from England, she had to leave her child for a season, nearly driving her crazy. She was worried nearly to death about everything going on in her life. She went to a friend who was a counselor (and also a pastor), and said, “I think I’m going to die.”  He looked at her and said…

“What you need to be is thankful.”

Sunlight thru trees-editedShe said, “You’ve got to be kidding. I’m broke. My voice lessons aren’t going well. My child is overseas.  What do I have to be thankful for?”  He said, “Get a yellow pad and begin to write down what you’re thankful for.”  She said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  He said, “Why don’t you put down first that you’re able to hear what I’m saying to you when thousands can’t hear.  Write it down.  Write down that you can see, because there are thousands that can’t see. Write down that you can think clearly, because there are thousands who are struggling with mental illness. Write down that you can use your hand and write it down, because there are thousands who cannot use their hand today. Write down that you can walk in this room, that your feet are working. Then begin to look around and see that you are able to breathe, that you are alive, that you have another day to live, that there are some things that you have to hope for, that there are people who love you. Though your daughter is separated from you, you will see her again, and many have lost their loved ones. Write it down.”  Maya Angelou said when that happened, her life was absolutely transformed. When she finished the page, she said laughter, joy and tears were hitting the paper of that yellow pad. If you have ever seen her, you can’t get a frown on her face. There is an attitude of gratitude in her for everything.

NE ChurchThe Christophers are the evangelistic arm of the Catholic Church. The priest that founded this group tells the story of performing a funeral for an American G.I. at the end of World War II. During the funeral, he noticed another G.I. standing across the room. He found out that that G.I. had survived because of the death of the one being buried. The man looked rough, shy, and stood off by himself. The priest watched him and finally walked away. When he walked away, he looked from a distance, and the man walked over to the cross, took out a piece of paper, and wrote a note. He folded the note up, stuck it to the cross, and walked away. Later, the curious priest went back to see the note. Here’s what the note said…

“Dear Joe, Thank you for dying for me. I’m alive because of you.”


What are you thankful for today?

Is it the family and friends you are sharing your meal and life with? Is it your home? Your job? Is it the life you live in a free nation? Is it the church in which you worship?

Hopefully, it is all of the above. It is for me.

But it should also be the unpleasant things of life: Those annoying things we don’t understand that God uses to work His supernatural purposes in our lives, and the lives of those around us.

It should be the circumstances in life that test us, refine us, and mold us – not into the person we wish we were – but into the person that God intended us to be.

But most of all, it should be for a Savior who gave His all so that we could live, and upon whose cross we can post our own declaration…

“Dear Jesus. Thank you for dying for me. I’m alive because of you.”

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Finding Your Song

This is a wonderful sentiment by the late Maya Angelou…

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

imageOne has but to walk outdoors on a sunny day and listen to the sound of a chorus of birds to understand this thought. Even in the captivity of a small cage, a bird still has the ability to find its song. A friend once told me about taking a walk one day, and feeling the Spirit of God encouraging him to sing… to lift up a new song to Him as he strolled in God’s cathedral, the Great Outdoors. As he walked and began to sing, he noticed something interesting began to happen. He noticed the sound of creation getting louder and louder. As he found his song, creation itself joined in the chorus, and the birds in the numerous trees about him began to lift up their voices as well. After a time, he said he stopped singing, and something uncanny happened…

Many of the birds stopped singing as well, and the sound of creation slowly died away.

In Luke 19, we find this story…

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: 

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

We are all given a song. For some, that song is sung in the midst of gratitude and thanksgiving; a song of grateful worship to God for His goodness and favor.

But for others, that song may be sung from a place of hardship and pain.

How do you sing for joy when you are watching a loved one slowly slip away because of Alzheimer’s Disease or ALS?

How do you sing with gladness when the diagnosis is cancer?

How do you worship when you are a parent standing over the grave of a child gone too early?

We sing, not because we have the answer, but because we have a song. We worship, not because we are good, but because He is Holy. We seek out His presence, not as an escape from the world we are in, but as a place of safety and refuge for our souls while we are on the journey through this life.

 An interesting thing about dementia patients is, even as they are losing their ability to remember friends and family members — as well as their ability to even talk — many still have the ability to recognize songs and sing or hum a tune.

There is something about the language of music that speaks to all of us on a spiritual level. We are all made for worship. God has put His song into our DNA, and pursuing an intimate relationship with Him in worship is the first step to finding your song. The Psalmist wrote…

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. ~ Psalm 104:33

He was determined to worship as long as he had breath in his lungs; no qualifier, no expectation.

Maybe when we get to the point of unconditional worship — when we are singing our song, not because we have an answer, but because we have a God-given song — we’ll find that, in that obedience, we will find the answers we are looking for in His presence.

It could also be that, by spending time in His presence, we’ll discover that knowing the answers will become less important than knowing Him.