Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thanksgiving: Command or Blessing?

Hey Friend,
It was exactly two years ago that I came out from under the knife from what turned out to be much more complicated knee surgery than what I had expected.  For one month, I was not allowed to put any weight on it whatsoever...none, zip, zilch, nada.  I needed the crutches for every movement that I made.  I needed them and I cursed them in the same breath. 
Visitors and meals arrived for the first two weeks which was wonderful.  I am so grateful for those who gave of themselves to help me.  A few weeks went by and the world went back about its business and I was still miserably benched on the disabled list.  As the days and weeks ticked on, I became more and more depressed.  I had to start from the beginning with miniscule baby steps toward recuperation.  Had I known then that I still had a good year's worth of recovery ahead of me...well, let's just say that not knowing is sometimes the best thing.
Also as the weeks went by it became more and more all about ME!!
My outward focus had turned dramatically inward.  I was a dancer inside a corpse.  I became suffocated by my inability to do most anything.  It was a slippery slope and I was already sliding.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
Yeah right. 
When in the crucible of suffering it is almost impossible to give thanks sometimes.
Yet His command remains:  Give thanks in all circumstances.
Why? thanks is an act of obedience to our Creator.  God, however, does not need our thanks.  He is the Alpha and the Omega and He really doesn't need anything from us...especially not our pitiful attempts at feeble thanksgiving.
Actually, I believe the secret is locked up in the second half of the scripture above:  "For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
We have a God whose very essence is lovingkindness (I love that word).  We have a God whose love for us does not endure for a day; His love endures forever!  We have a God who is merciful and compassionate and who loves us so much that more important than the obedience to a command is the blessing we receive whenever we give thanks.
Thanksgiving is the catalyst for God's blessings being poured out upon us.
My selfish frame does not know what to do with God's unselfish act of blessing me.  Furthermore, there is a promise in God's command and blessing.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)
God wants me to experience true peace and in order to do that I need to have an outwardly focused heart filled with thanksgiving. 
In other words, "It's not about you or me!"  When we utter words of thanks, we are transformed by God.  It might not be instantaneous.  In fact it may take some time, but God will change us and bring us a peace that passes understanding when we humbly offer up our thanks to Him.
I love how my writer friend Abby puts it, "Suddenly, instead of fixating on me, I centered my thoughts on the One who gave me life."  (Abby McDonald)
I wish I could wrap this up with a neat little bow and say how I was instantly transformed when I gave thanks.  Far from it...I started out grudgingly and like a long distance runner, built up my endurance and my ability to give thanks.  Over a long time, the peace began to outweigh the despair. 
Fast forward to today.  In a moment I will lace up my sneakers and set out upon a walk in this absolutely gorgeous fall season God has painted for me.  Step by step I will feel the leaves scatter and crunch beneath my feet.  I will offer up my joyous thanks for my ability to walk unencumbered.  I will sing praise and extol my God.  I will thank Him for His patience with me in growing my thanksgiving muscles.  Thank you Lord for not giving up on me and for loving me enough to offer me the blessing and promise of thanksgiving.  Amen.
May you be blessed as you offer up thanksgiving to God.  If you have any stories of how God has brought you peace through thanksgiving in times of suffering, would you share to encourage us all?
In His love,
Will you help me bring Christmas to the children who have sought shelter and refuge at Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan?
Time is running out...if you would like to show Christ's love through the gift of shoes or a warm sweater for a child who has nothing as well as share the good news of the gospel over a warm meal, would you not put off and write a check today?
Checks (or cash) can be sent and made payable to:
Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC  27513
Thank you!!