A Season of Thanks
"...O Lord, that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness."
Shakespeare, "Henry VI, Pt. II."
I had another birthday the other day, and for me it was an occasion for thankfulness. Another reminder that every day is a grace gift from God and each new year of life a blessing from His hand. Coming so close to Thanksgiving as it did this year, only two days shy, it stirred my thoughts even more toward gratitude to my Lord. He has given me life three times over. The first time, naturally, when I was born. The second time came in Bible school when I was nine years old. Through His Son Jesus, I was born into His kingdom. Nearly eight years ago, on Valentine's Day, the third time came. A severe headache turned out to be a brain hemmorhage that doctors said should have killed me in minutes. They couldn't understand why it didn't. However, twenty five years prior to the appearance of the aneurism, I had suffered a head injury in an automobile accident. Although we could make no sense of it at the time, I now see that the sovereign hand of God was preparing me even then for the survival that puzzled the doctors a quarter of a century later. By His grace, He had lifted me up, had healed me, had kept me alive. Thank you, Lord, for your incomprehensible grace.
On my birthday this year, I received some other reasons for thankfulness . In one of the earliest Candle Drippings (#3, March 28, 1990), I shared the story of Rachel Allen, who, at age twenty one months had a form of leukemia that was diagnosed as incurable. Doctors found only one course of treatment that held out even the remotest hope for the child. It was a six week treatment plan, yet after only three weeks, she had grown worse instead of better. Toward the end of the six weeks, while making funeral preparations, her father, Dr. Ronald Allen, received the news that remission had actually begun. This fall, Dr. Allen moved from Portland, Oregon to Dallas to begin teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary. On my birthday, I visited Dr. Allen at the seminary; and during our conversation, he gave me the wonderful news. Rachel is now eighteen years old, fully well, and planning to graduate from high school this year. Thanks again, Lord, for your lovingkindness.
How can we express our thankfulness to the Lord for His wonderful mercies? As I left Dr. Allen's office that afternoon, an answer to this question came to mind. From the Psalms, a source of strength and comfort both he and I have learned to draw from. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High; To declare Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness by night ...." (Psalm 92.1-5).
To Thank and to praise the Lord is both a duty and a delight. To review those qualities of grace that belong to Him should fill our hearts with joy. When I see His lovingkindness expressed toward those I love, when I see His sovereign power and faithfulness to His people --- like Rachel Allen, like even me, in spite of my weaknesses and failures, I am ready to sing with the psalmist my praise and thanks to Him. It is a precious thing to give thanks to God, a precious privilege to receive His mercies and simply return to Him a whispered word of thanks. It is an ever-present reminder of our dependence on Him. "What do you have that you did not receive?" asks the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 4.7). And James reminds us that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1.17, KJV), such gifts as lovingkindness in the morning and faithfulness in the evening. In the morning, remember all the provision God has made for us as we face the responsibilities of the day. We need, too, to reflect on the protection He has given us through the night. After all, He doesn't owe us a new day of life; but in His steadfast love, He gives it to us. And at the end of the day, how can we sleep without thanking Him for His faithfulness to us throughout that day?
Each day, my back yard fills with birds. Sparrows. Starlings. Hummingbirds. Mourning doves. All day long, they busy themselves gathering what has been given them. And as they gather, they chirp and sing their thanks to God. It is a blessing just watching them. Amy Carmichael tells a similar experience of a sunbird in her yard. Every time he sips sugar and water, she says, he chirps and flicks his little tail. It's his way of saying, Thank you. "Do you flick your tail?" Ms. Carmichael asks. "Don't laugh and say, 'I haven't got a tail.' Your tail is in your mouth. It is your tongue. Use it." Our heavenly Father gives us good treasures daily out of His heavenly store. Maybe we can't always voice our thanks, but we can be full of thanks always. We can have a spirit of thanks always. Thankful. Grateful. Right now, I am. Are you?