Monday, December 2, 2013

The Gratitude of Worship

True gratitude is not sporadic. It cannot be spent or exhausted. It is the transformation of a mind that is more grateful for the giver than for the gift, for the purpose than for the present, for life itself rather than for abundance.
--Ravi Zacharias

We drive through the thick traffic and I keep glancing over at my sleeping Debbie, so peaceful and quiet beside me. Thanksgiving Day, and we’re headed towards my sister’s house with her cozy walkway and her fresh berry cobbler and her cheerful candles that chase away the gloom of November. We drive and we drink coffee and talk and we hope that Debbie will sleep the entire drive, which she does and I’m grateful because her naps have been so short lately.

We talk and we get a little loud now and then and I say “Shhh!” and we’re almost there now and the sky is partly overcast, a perfect Thanksgiving Day.

And when we get there, we take the pies out of the trunk and my Mama’s savory French stuffing that her mother used to make, and my sister’s stuffed mushrooms and her delightfully pecan-browned sweet potato casserole and I lick my lips and imagine the lovely repast that awaits inside.

We walk up the path to the house and we smell the delicious aromas that belong to Thanksgiving . . . the roasting turkey, almost done now, and the beautiful mound of mashed potatoes, and the sweet, crisp corn and the warm buttery biscuits.

And I see my dear sister and her hair pulled back as she prepares this feast of delights and her cheeks are warm and rosy from bending over the stove and her hands are made beautiful from the love and hard work and the creating of things lasting—she is one of the blessed and the joy pours from her eyes and she is grateful and her eyes quietly reflect their gratitude . . .

Sing praise to God
Who reigns above
For perfect knowledge, wisdom love
His judgements are divine, devout
His paths beyond all tracing out
Come lift you hearts to heaven’s high throne-
And glory give to God alone.

We give glory, and we gather around the table that He has set before us and we pour out thanks from hearts of praise. And we laugh and we talk and we smile and the warmth of His love surrounds us.

The table is set and the meal is served and we eat until we can’t possibly fit any more stuffing inside of our full bellies—though we’d like to.

And we give praise to God in our hearts knowing that He is the One who has provided these good and perfect gifts for us—His material gifts of food and warmth and clothing—and we sit in a warm house in our cozy sweaters and shoes and we bask in the knowledge that He has provided all things.

And we remember the years of severe want, when times were difficult and we had sold almost all of our furniture and when we didn’t have heat upstairs and when my sister and I piled blankets high on our beds to stay warm at night and humbled our “educated” selves by working at a fast food chain in order to survive. And God was gracious. And He gave us what we needed. And He brought us out into a spacious place and delighted to do us good. Even in those difficult times. And when other’s hours were cut, for some reason ours stayed steady. And the manager gave us free iced coffee and even though he was an unbeliever, was merciful towards us . . . the Lord was merciful towards us . . .

We celebrate Thanksgiving this year, and we don’t give thanks glibly, because we have felt the strain of need, the strain of eating spaghetti night after night, the strain of anxiety over finances, the strain of cold and worry and of crying out to a merciful Father who never left us desolate.

And we try to celebrate the holidays now in that knowledge, and place the emphasis where it belongs . . . ultimately not on family, food, football, good times, friends . . . but on a faithful Father who gives us all things richly to enjoy and under Whose umbrella all of these other “lesser things” fall. We love Him and we have felt His presence in times of plenty and in times of want. And He has been faithful to us.

We see the invisible empty place at the head of the table and we worship the One who has given and taken away and we know in our heart of hearts that "blessed is the name of the Lord.” And He inhabits that place and pours His balm of healing thanksgiving into our
hearts . . . blessed, blessed be the name of the Lord.

And later we gather together and sing and my sister’s husband, Alex plays the guitar, strumming to the great old Thanksgiving hymns, the words to which I love . . . and they are deep and they are rich and they speak testimony to a Mighty and merciful God.

And then Londie’s husband says, let me teach you a simple chorus that I know and he strums it on his guitar and he sings the words so that we can repeat them and it touches my heart today with a message so sweet and unembellished and plain—

Thank You, Jesus
For the grace that You have given us
We could not repay
But from my heart I choose to say
Thank You

And that simple song plants a melody of praise in my heart and later we drive home and I am full . . . of simple, heartfelt joy in the One who has given all that we may give Him thanks—not to repay, but to worship.