This past week I saw a Thanksgiving greeting from Joni Ericson Tada. As a teenager she became paralyzed from the neck down from a diving accident. Today she has an international ministry helping encourage others that face physical challenges. She said that she has recently been fighting a battle with breast cancer. In this new battle she thanks the Lord that she has a new platform to build God's kingdom. Here I see a woman that fulfills the command "In everything give thanks."
In this post I'm reprinting an article by Brother Norman. It made me think of Corrie Ten Boom and the prisoners she knew in the German concentration camps that tried to remember all the good things they knew before their world was tipped upside down. If this post in some small way helps you recognize God's blessings to us in the beautiful freedoms we know, it will fulfill my purpose in sharing it.
Occasions for Thanks by Norman Ward
It is Thanksgiving week again, therefore I guess an article on the giving of thanks would be appropriate. This shouldn't be hard to come up with seeing that everything we have, everything we are or everything we hope to be is a gift from God and thanks to Him are always in order. This thought brings to mind the Scripture that exhorts us, not only for one special day, but for every day: "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Strangely, it seems that in ordinary practice, often those who have the most for which to be thankful for are the greatest hands to just smugly take everything for granted, while those who seemingly have little to cheer and brighten their life have a more pronounced "habit" of thankfulness. As a noted preacher from way back in the 1500's once observed, "The greater God's gifts and works, the less they are regarded."
By way of illustration of this "phenomenon," hear what Viktor Frankl, survivor of the infamous Nazi death camp known as Auschwitz had to say of the experience of himself and other prisoners whose personal property, freedom, dignity and hope had all been stripped away. They knew they were facing death, either by slow starvation, harsh overwork or the gas chambers. Frankle wrote, "Prisoners in the camp dreamed at night about such things as bread, cakes, a nice warm bath-- the very things that in our former lives we just took for granted every day."
Frankl also wrote of an occasion when some prisoners were moved from one concentration camp to another. He said, weak and despairing as they were, they eagerly peered out the little barred window of their prison railroad car to gratefully take in the beauty of the snow-capped Alps, rivers and farming areas they passed through. All these were the scenes many of them were very familiar with in their carefree days of freedom, but now they intently drank in their beauty with a new appreciation.
Gerta Weissman was a prisoner in another Nazi death camp. She recounted a spring morning when she and hundreds of other fellow inmates stood at roll call for hours on end, nearly collapsing with hunger and fatigue. But they noticed in one corner of that cold, bleak, depressing gray courtyard that a little flower had poked it's way up through a crack in the concrete. Although forced to mill around weak and stumbling in such crowded conditions every woman there took great pains to avoid stepping on the brave little flower. They felt much thankfulness for that one spot of beauty in their ugly and heinous world.
After the war she was asked how they could find courage to go on in those horrible conditions. She said once while in the camp barracks, staring out a grimy window pane at nothing but barren concrete, the question came to her mind, "If by some miraculous means you could be anywhere in the world right now instead of here, where would you want to be?" She cherished that thought for awhile and here weary mind considered many possible answers. "But," she continued, "you know, the scene that kept coming to my mind was mental picture of our living room in my childhood home; a warm fire glowing in the stove, Father reading his newspaper, Mother sewing, my brother and I doing our school homework----in other words, an ordinary "boring" evening at home---- that is precisely where I would most like to have been miraculously transported to! I realized that the commonplace settings of life were what I was most grateful for."
The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that if the stars appeared in the heavens only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event that would be! But, because they are there every night, we barely notice them.
Helen Keller once said, "I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during their early adult life It would make them deeply thankful for sight and the joys of sound."
To sum up, thanking and praising God is jut a good thing to do. Moreover, it is Scriptural to thank and praise God. A good spiritual exercise for this week would be to read Psalms 105, 106 and 107. All three start out: "O give thanks unto the Lord..." They recount the numerous miracles and blessings God gave to the children of Israel. (Some of them might remind you of miracles and blessing He has given you.) If so, praise Him in your own words. Four times in Psalm 107, the writer pauses in his recitation of God's blessing to exclaim, "Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men." So, let's get with it.