I love Thanksgiving. The weather has usually changed enough by Thanksgiving that we know fall has arrived and there is a crispness in the air. So, it disappoints me when people seem to skip right over Thanksgiving and go straight to Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus. But we all need to pause from our normal routines and give thanks to our creator.
The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca once wrote that perhaps the worse crime of all is ingratitude. The Apostle Paul, a contemporary of Seneca agrees, writing in Romans that one of the triggers for the downward collapse of humankind was that they refused to give thanks to God. And writing to the Christians in Colossae, Paul entreated them three times to show their thankfulness to God. He said we should be “overflowing with thankfulness.” As we “let God’s peace rule in our hearts,” we’re to respond with thankfulness. Gratitude ought to characterize our prayers.
If you’re like me, your prayers are too often characterized by entreating God. There’s nothing wrong with asking God to do things or asking for things. But if all we ever do is ask, we’re in that downward spiral of ingratitude.
In 1897, Johnson Oatman Jr. penned the words to one of the most popular songs in Christian history. The melody is light and almost bounces as you sing the words. “Count Your Many Blessings” immediately found its way into church services across the country. The song reminds us that all too often we lapse into a state of ingratitude, taking for granted all of the blessings and comforts we enjoy. We revert to an attitude of self-satisfaction. But Oatman’s song reminds us that we should count our blessings, even when times are tough.
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost. Count your many blessings every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.”
I recently spent some time with Faith and Gerald Varlack, two of the most thankful people I’ve ever met. And two people I thank God for. Faith and Gerald are Buckner foster parents in the Rio Grande Valley. They have an amazing story. The parents of three grown children, the Varlacks adopted 2-year-old Zane in June and just a few days ago finalized the adoption of their newest family member, a baby they named Moses.
Moses’s birthmother is a woman from Guatemala who gave birth to him in Texas, left him at a local fire station, and then went back to Guatemala. And while you might judge her at first, Gerald told me her actions are the most self-sacrificial act of love he’s ever seen.
I would tell you that the actions of Faith and Gerald are among the most self-sacrificial acts of love I’ve ever seen. Instead of enjoying their empty nest, they are starting all over with more children.
Among the things I’m most thankful for this year is the assurance that even when a global pandemic tosses around us like a tempest; even when it seems life is out of control, and even when each day seems more uncertain than the one before, God is in the midst of it all. I’m thankful for his steady and guiding hand.
I’m grateful for you. I appreciate your work on behalf of children, families, and seniors. And if you’re looking for something to be thankful for, let me invite you to watch the Varlacks story.
Thank you and God bless you!