Sunday, November 21, 2010

This year for our Thanksgiving service, we shared our "glads" and heard these two meditations on gratitude. May you be blessed with gratitude, not only this week, but in every moment of your life.

Psalm 118: 24

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

In the classic children’s story by Eleanor Porter, eleven-year-old Pollyanna is a little girl who has grown up out West with her penniless minister father. Her mother has died, and Pollyanna and her father get by on his meager salary, supplemented by the kindness of his congregation, and the donations which arrive in the mission barrel. But then, her father dies, and she is sent to live with her stern, rich aunt. The aunt does not care for children. She puts Pollyanna in a dusty attic room, and punishes her by sending her to the kitchen to eat with the servants, and giving her only bread and milk for supper. Still, Pollyanna is cheerful and happy. Nancy, the servant girl, wonders why. Pollyanna explains “the 'just being glad' game."

"Why, we began it on some crutches that came in a missionary barrel. You see I'd wanted a doll, and father had written them so; but when the barrel came the lady wrote that there hadn't any dolls come in, but the little crutches had. So she sent 'em along as they might come in handy for some child, sometime. And that's when we began it… the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about--no matter what.”

How can a child who hopes for a doll be glad about finding crutches? Nancy wonders. And Pollyanna explains that it is easy -- By being glad that she does not need crutches.

In her aunt’s household and small town, Pollyanna immediately begins to teach the glad game to everyone she meets – even the town minister.

The Rev. Paul Ford was sick at heart. Month by month, for a year past, conditions in the parish under him had been growing worse and worse; until it seemed that now, turn which way he would, he encountered only wrangling, backbiting, scandal, and jealousy. He had argued, pleaded, rebuked, and ignored by turns; and always and through all he had prayed -- earnestly, hopefully. But to-day miserably he was forced to own that matters were no better, but rather worse.

Two of his deacons were at swords' points over a silly something that only endless brooding had made of any account. Three of his most energetic women workers had withdrawn from the Ladies' Aid Society because a tiny spark of gossip had been fanned by wagging tongues into a devouring flame of scandal. The choir had split over the amount of solo work given to a fanciedly preferred singer. Even the Christian Endeavor Society was in a ferment of unrest owing to open criticism of two of its officers. As to the Sunday school -- it had been the resignation of its superintendent and two of its teachers that had been the last straw, and that had sent the harassed minister to the quiet woods for prayer and meditation.

Pollyanna, out for a walk, came across the minister, who told her he was unwell. Pollyanna asked, “Do you like being a minister?”

The Rev. Paul Ford looked up now, very quickly. "Do I like -- Why, what an odd question! Why do you ask that, my dear?"

"Nothing -- only the way you looked. It made me think of my father. He used to look like that -- sometimes."

"Did he?" The minister's voice was polite, but his eyes had gone back to the dried leaf on the ground.

"Yes, and I used to ask him just as I did you if he was glad he was a minister."

The man under the tree smiled a little sadly. "Well -- what did he say?"

"Oh, he always said he was, of course, but 'most always he said, too, that he wouldn't stay a minister a minute if 'twasn't for the rejoicing texts."

"The -- what?" The Rev. Paul Ford's eyes left the leaf and gazed wonderingly into Pollyanna's merry little face.

"Well, that's what father used to call 'em," she laughed. "Of course the Bible didn't name 'em that. But it's all those that begin `Be glad in the Lord,' or `Rejoice greatly,' or `Shout for joy,' and all that, you know -- such a lot of 'em. Once, when father felt specially bad, he counted 'em. There were eight hundred of 'em."

"Eight hundred!"

"Yes -- that told you to rejoice and be glad, you know; that's why father named ‘em the `rejoicing texts.'"

Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. "He said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count 'em. He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it -- some. And father felt ashamed that he hadn't done it more. After that, they got to be such a comfort to him, you know, when things went wrong; when the Ladies' Aiders got to fight -- I mean, when they didn't agree about something," corrected Pollyanna, hastily. "Why, it was those texts, too, father said, that made him think of the game -- he began with me on the crutches -- but he said 'twas the rejoicing texts that started him on it."

Philippians 4: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Hebrews 12: 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;

Just about a year after my Dad died, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She's been a trooper about it, though there have been times when she was very low. Recently, she was asked by a family in her church to write something about one of a list of Christian virtues, as a graduation gift to their son. Mom picked the virtue of gratitude.

Gratitude by Carolyn Shultz
My large Britannica dictionary defines gratitude as the state of being grateful, thankfulness. Remember when you were a very little boy, being taught to say “please” and “thank you”? Well, nothing has changed, as adults we still have the obligation to use those words, especially “thank you”. God commands (not a hint or a suggestion) that we thank him “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1st Thessalonians 5:18) It is not an option. It is also in Ephesians 5:20 “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”.I admit that this is not always an easy task, but since he commands us to do it, it must be possible. Many of His commands are hard to obey and as we grow in maturity, they seem to be more and more difficult. More maturity, more understanding of spiritual things , demands obedience that is often not within the capability of a child. In his drama King Lear Shakespeare puts these words in the mouth of the spurned King. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”..Our Father God is far more deserving of our gratitude. Are we wounding Him when we fail to obey this command?
I have been very blessed. A Christian husband, healthy children, good health for the most part of my life, and a church that teaches God’s word. I have (hopefully) recovered from cancer and had good care. I have enough that I am able to share with my church and others. I try to maintain an attitude of gratitude in my life and am very humbled by God’ goodness to me. When I fail He is still there for me when I confess to Him. Ist John 1:9 keeps me in a right relationship with Him as well as my fellow believers. What a wonderful promise He has given to us. I’m thankful for that too - and oh so many others.
Life isn’t always easy, but as Christians we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us in times of difficulty, as well as others who pray for us. I will be praying for you.

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