How can I say thanks? 0
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, then thank the Lord, O’ thank the Lord for all His love. – Johann Abraham Schulz
I awoke this morning in the dark silence of the pre-dawn having slept like a baby last night. Momentarily it occurred to me, as I threw back the bedclothes and hit the floor, that I had rested unencumbered, unbothered, securely in a warm bed that had been a most welcome sight for a tired old frame of a body.
I got dressed and wandered through to the kitchen, made a cup of coffee, and half-an-hour or so later here I am, now sitting in my church office before a computer about to churn out this week’s column.
It would be relatively easy to be blind to the many blessings that are mine on this Thanksgiving Weekend. I have a bed, a home, a family, security, I go to bed each night without fear, naturally presuming I will wake up in the morning, and when I wake that I’ll be able to see, hear, feel, smell, eat, and have the complete mobility of my body. There will be no concern about what will I eat today, or where will my next meal come from.
No, I’m a Canadian and privileged at that to be living in a part of the world where I am blessed beyond measure. I had the fortune of being born in Scotland in 1944, near the tail end of Second World War. Now, almost 70 years later, I can say that I’ve never known what war is like. Into the bargain for seven decades, I’ve never known what like it is to go without food, or water and I’ve always had a roof over my head.
When I see an African woman walking through the hot, dry desert, walking miles for water, I am empathetically silenced by her misfortune and caused to focus on how blessed I am. When I watch refugee families living in makeshift tents in Africa and on the Syrian-Turkish border, most of them having nothing but the very clothes on their backs, I’m hugely humbled by their adversity in stark contrast to my affluence. When I visit my local hospital I never fail to think that throughout our world, such healthcare services, for many, are simply non-existent. When I watch the unfolding crisis in Greece and in the Euro-Zone, with the layoffs, the reduction in pensions and the other austerity measures, and I see a pension check here in my mailbox each month, my heart is gripped with the question “How come I am so blessed?”
For a part of my life I took a lot of these things for granted, living my life with a sense of entitlement, believing too that all my possessions, the stuff that I had, from our home to the cars in the driveway, were things that I had strived for, worked hard for and earned by the sweat of my brow. That was up until 43 years ago today, October 5, 1969.
On that Sunday morning, I left the pew I was sitting in and in a church full of worshippers, walked to the altar at the front and kneeling down, asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and change me.
Apart from my birth, that moment was the most important day of my entire life. The transformation in my life was instantaneous. Not only was my heart flooded with an overwhelming sense of peace and joy but I had a whole new perspective on things. Suddenly I recognized with eyes that could now see that everything I had and the abundance of blessings I had received throughout the years came from the hand of a benevolent Father and God who passionately loved me and favored me by showering my life with so many wonderful gifts. Suddenly the little, seemingly tiny and insignificant things, I now saw as gifts from Him, a cup of water, a pillow to lay your head at the end of the day, a hug from a friend, the birds that came to the bird feeder, all of them were tokens of His incredible love.
Since that encounter with the living Christ at the latter end of the 1960’s God has been marvelously good. I have had the immense privilege of seeing so many lives transformed and revolutionized. To stand on the perimeter of people’s lives as a pastor and see them changed dramatically is a gift from God for which there are few earthly substitutes. To see marriages put back together, people healed, men and women filled with joy, are experiences that are priceless.
This morning with dawn about to break, and the early morning sun maybe about to burst through the heavens, the trees everywhere in this Valley will become boggling to both mind and eye. Their hues of red, amber and yellow will be unmatched in their beauty. Who else but God could have engineered such pictorial wonder that causes the heart to resonate with jaw-dropping awe?
This weekend from Peggy’s Cove to Vancouver Island Canadians will celebrate Thanksgiving. At our table, as the family gathers, we’ll pause to say “Thanks!” not just for the turkey and the trimmings - but for everything, and still, somehow, the words we will use to express our heartfelt gratitude, will seem so few in comparison to the magnitude of His blessings.
I’m reminded this morning that that was how the Christian songwriter Andrae Crouch felt when he penned the lyrics of the great song ‘To God Be The Glory.’
“How can I say thanks,” he said, “for all the things You’ve done for me/ Things so undeserved that You gave Your only Son for me./ The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude./ All that I am or ever hope to be I owe it all to Thee.”
How true isn’t it? Indeed, choirs of angels could not adequately express it, but let me go on record this Thanksgiving Weekend to say it, and to hope that you will too, “God you have been so good, I simply cannot fathom the extent of Your goodness to me. It can only be because You have an incredible love for me! Thanks...for everything!”
P.S. To all who read this column, “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Rev. Eric Strachan is pastor of New Life Community Church in Petawawa.