Yesterday, we received our first snow storm of the winter. We received about 3 inches of your basic heavy, wet, heart-attack variety snow. Because it is so wet and heavy, it will give you a heart attack if you try to shovel it. It is certainly pretty to look at. With the temps a bit warmer today, we’ll see how long it lasts. Our only casualty was a stately birch tree in the backyard that was bent over with the weight of the snow. We hope it will bounce back.
For the past 105 years (I think, at least 100+ years), the people of First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, have gathered around a bonfire in Szot Park at 7AM on Thanksgiving day to give thanks to God. Though it snowed yesterday, it did not deter the 40 folks who came out this morning for a time of warm fellowship as we sang, shared favorite verses, gave thanks to God, and enjoyed donuts, coffee, and hot chocolate. It’s a great way to start the day.
David’s opening words in Psalm 138 arrested my attention.
“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (1-2)
I was stunned as much by what David didn’t say as what he did say. David doesn’t say, “I feel thankful. I am grateful. I feel like praising God. I want to worship God.” David doesn’t say anything about his feelings, emotions, desires, or longings.
What David says is, “I give thanks … I sing your praise … I bow down … and give thanks …” Regardless of his circumstances, regardless of his feelings, regardless of whether his life is good, bad, or mediocre at the moment, David makes the choice to give thanks and praise God.
David’s thanksgiving is not tied to his circumstances. Instead, it is directed towards God’s character and attributes. “I give thanks to your name.” Knowing that in the Old Testament, God’s name always reveals his character, David is choosing to praise God for who he is. He also praises God for what he has done—his faithfulness.
Through this psalm, David taught me two essential principles of thanksgiving:
- Thanksgiving is a choice I make regardless of my circumstances.
- Thanksgiving is directed toward God for who he is and what he has done.
Give God your praise and thanks, not just one day a year, but every minute of every hour of every day of every year of your life. As long as you have breath, make the choice to give thanks.
Several summers ago, during a drought and food shortage along the West Coast, more than thirty brown pelicans from California crash-landed on asphalt and sidewalks in various parts of Arizona. The state’s Game and Fish Department officials nursed the emaciated, bruised, and scraped-up pelicans back to health. They concluded that the dehydrated pelicans, due to mirages created by the sun’s reflection on the hot and cool layers of air, mistook the pavement for water and attempted to land. Gliding in with their thirst to settle on water they had been desperately longing for, the pelicans experienced a jolting shock when pain came instead of relief.
I know that feeling. It’s familiar to all of us idol factories.
God refers to our propensity to exchange his glory for worthless idols by using a metaphor of water and thirst. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). We build our own broken containers from dream vacations to long-sought promotions to sex sprees to substance abuse. We are deluded by the assumption we’ll be able to use them to quench our soul’s thirst. It’s why Jesus offered the Samaritan woman what he called “living water.” She had been trying to land her thirsty longings on the asphalt of failed marriage after failed marriage, and he was offering her the opportunity to dive into real water.
At its core, the issue is our misdirected worship. We weren’t created to worship those things as a human being, that’s not the purpose for which I was originally made.
Taken from life with a capital L: Embracing your God-given humanity, by Matt Heard