November 2013 – Eleven-year-old Botum and her mother, Chantou, sat in their hut waiting for the water to boil. Botum had spent most of the day patting out manure fuel cakes while her mother made the two-mile hike to get water. When Botum’s father got home from not finding work or food that day, they sat around the stove and thanked God for the leftover bread they were wise enough to save from yesterday.
Sixteen-year-old Raymond stood in front of an open refrigerator bobbing and weaving so much that he looked like he was in a boxing match with the milk on the top shelf. He yelled, “Mom, there is nothing to eat in here.” Martha walked into the kitchen holding two dresses. She looked in the fridge pointing out the fruit, vegetables and sandwich meats.
Then, holding up the dresses, she asked, “Which do you like? I just don’t have anything to wear!”
Which scene is more familiar? In America, it is easy to cross the line from blessed to spoiled. Thanksgiving is a great time to be reminded of just how blessed we are as individuals and as a nation.
Clean water and access to food
Ever washed a load of white clothes only to have them come out dingy because the water was dirty? Some delicate fabrics can be ruined. Those times stand out in the mind of every person who has done laundry. But how many loads have been forgotten because they came out just as they should have? Were we as thankful for those as we were upset about the one that got messed up?
To go more basic, how often are we thankful for clean water? With the turn of a faucet handle, we experience a blessing that 884 million people in the world only dream of. When we take a five-minute shower, we use more than a typical person in the third world has access to all day.
Likewise, during November 2012, Americans ate 45 million turkeys. Many of them were juicy and succulent, some were dry and over-cooked. In contrast, 22,000 children die globally every day from poverty and 790 million people are chronically undernourished. Being grateful isn’t about having what you want; it’s about appreciating what you have, even if it is a burnt turkey and lumpy gravy.
The NSA is spying on innocent civilians. The IRS is targeting conservative groups. The country has unparalled debt. What is there to be thankful for in our governmental system?
America’s government has been consistent for well over 200 years. In that time it has been tested and tried. Sometimes it has walked away from a situation with a black eye, but other times it has stood as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At its core, the government of the United States has protected the rights of its citizens, secured freedom for those seeking it and proved that the grand experiment that is America is worth the risk. Furthermore, the stability of our government has led to a great rise in the American standard of living. That standard may have dipped recently, but the poorest in America are generally still more comfortable than the average citizen of the developing world.
Whether or not we agree with every decision our leaders make, every American should take a moment to thank God for our leaders and pray that God gives them wisdom and guidance.
Freedom to worship
Freedom is one of the easiest blessings to take for granted. Typically, one generation fights for it, the next treasures it. The following abuses it, and the next loses it. America’s Founding Fathers fought and died for many ideas, but religious freedom was one of the most important ones they went to war over. They wanted the citizens of America to worship however they saw fit and felt no one should have the authority to punish them for it. Christians in America today can worship freely, unlike the 100 million facing persecution every day across the world.
But Christians often overlook another aspect of the freedom to worship.
In the Old Testament, believers in God had to visit the temple and speak with a priest. They had rituals and steps to follow to worship the One True God. Today’s New Testament believers have freedom in Christ, who lives inside them, to worship God individually, personally and spontaneously. Followers of Christ, though not priests, can go directly to God and speak to Him. They have the Holy Spirit who can speak on their behalf when all they can do in their heart is groan.
A Mother’s Day card says, “Thanks mom,” on the front and, on the inside, “for going through nine months of pregnancy and fourteen hours of labor to have me.” It often slips the minds of children to thank their parents for raising them. Followers of Christ also have a tendency to forget to be thankful for the amazing gift of salvation and the intimacy made possible between us and the Creator of all things by His sacrifice on a cross.
There is more to gratitude than listing all the good things in life and momentarily forgetting all the bad. It’s about taking stock of the good and the bad and examining our perspective on both. When we see dry, burnt turkey on our plate, we can be upset or thankful that we have food, a plate, a table, a family to eat with and, of course, the one who did the cooking. When the kids spill grape Kool-Aid on the new white couch, we can get angry or be grateful that our family has a future.
We all have times of ingratitude. But in those times, rather than searching for something that will make us happy, only to bring frustration in the future, let us say one simple prayer to the Provider of all things, “Open my eyes and let me see all that You have already blessed me with.”
10 blessings easy to overlook
• Clean water: 884 million people lack access to clean water.
• A bathroom: 40% of the world does not have a toilet.
• Electricity: 1.6 billion people live without any electricity.
• Shelter: 2.5 million in America are homeless and 640 million children worldwide do not have shelter.
• Food: 28% of children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or have stunted growth.
• Your stove: 2.5 billion people use fuelwood, charcoal or animal dung to meet their energy needs.
• Regular income: Most of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
• Education: Nearly 1 billion people cannot read a book or write their names.
• Health: 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized. Annually there are 300-500 million cases of malaria including 1 million fatalities.
• Freedom to worship God: More than 400 Christians die for their faith every day across the world.
From J. Lee Grady’s column “10 basic blessings you should be thankful for.” Read the full column at charismamag.com.