Keep your eyes open to your mercies.
The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.
—Robert Louis Stevenson
Blue, yellow, and red lay by her dirty, worn plate resting on the table, like a fallen, broken rainbow. These were her treasures. She guarded her treasures with pure delight, showing them to me with her sunshine smile.
We were in Verbo Sur, Nicaragua. Our team had just finished a balloon game with the nearly-forgotten, crumpled-up balloons I had grabbed on a whim out of the back of a drawer and thrown precariously in my suitcase.
After the child laughter was dying on the wind from games completed, I picked up the leftover latex off the floor from the popped balloons and threw them in the garbage with the rest of the trash…only to see them emerge later by my little friend’s plate.
Treasures. Thankfulness. Small strips of dirty, ripped latex became vibrant colors that could expand and contract with manipulations of small hands—all through the adjustment of the lens we see out of.
In a nearby village, where our other team was working, an elderly woman grabbed a discarded Target bag out of the trash and kissed it.
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp states,
“The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring the fullest Light to all the world….”
Then there is 14-year-old Jackson from Liberia. An orphan.
A teacher asked him one day what he was thankful for. His brows wrinkled in concentration. It was hard at first to think of anything, his stomach rumbling in hunger, survival in a war-torn country ever-present in his young mind.
He raised his eyes heavenward and started singing to God of his goodness. Several boys later joined in. An American ambassador nearby overheard the beautiful music. She later proceeded to take care of all paperwork, preparations and provisions so that the boys could travel to America as a choir. Every boy was adopted.
Thankfulness… for God’s goodness: His love for us. His desire for relationship and restoration at all costs. His goodness as seen in His beautiful handiworks, His sunsets painted in all manner of glorious color.
Julian of Norwich states, “For of all the things our minds can think about God, it is thinking upon his goodness that pleases him most and brings the most profit to our souls.”
David agrees as he proclaims in the Psalms, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (107:1).
Sometimes this thankfulness comes easy.
Other times thankfulness is a hard rope to grab onto in our pain; hard to comprehend when we see the pain suffered in loved ones… in the sin-soaked world of lies, selfishness, corruption, and discontent swirling around us. In the pain of disease, sickness, and rampant hunger. In streets blood-red from lives taken, a different religious belief or skin color the unjust impetus.
During those times, Ann reminds us of something very important:
“That which tears open the souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.”
…To the God we endlessly crave. The soul-satisfier. The peace-giver.
Ann concludes: “…gratitude ushers into the other side of prayer, into the heart of the God-love, and all power to change the world, me, resides here in His love.”
No one understood this better than Daniel. You know Daniel—the lions-in-the-den Daniel. He prayed three times a day, giving thanks to his God, even when it was illegal to do so, even knowing it could bring him death (Daniel 6:10).
Are we ready to see God’s goodness, even through the difficult, and offer up thanksgiving? Are we ready to draw into God’s love through thankfulness?
Dear God, we thank you! We come into your presence with praise and thanksgiving! You are a good God, even amidst all the evil and trials. Let us shine Your light in this dark world by our thankful spirits.
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18