“Not what we say about our blessings,
but how we use them,
is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
~ W. T. Purkiser
~ W. T. Purkiser
It is one thing for me to daily... deliberately...
...choose gratefulness to God.
It is a soul stretching regimen to look outside what I find comfortable and what I would prefer...
...to release those preferences and my expectations
for God's will and decisions and working in this life He has given.
However, choosing thankfulness becomes nothing more than an academic exercise if I don't allow... if I don't insist... that thankfulness
- for the infinte, immeasurable blessings both large and small that overflow each day;
- for every circumstance no matter how charming and enchanting... or confusing and mystifying;
- for each challenge regardless of size or difficulty;
- even for piercing pain and suffering - whether physical, emotional or spiritual.
Gratefulness must fill my heart with His great-ness. This indwelling can then motivate me, can change my attitudes and ideas, must influence my words and actions... and it must provoke me to sacrifice my comfort and convenience as I tangibly translate thankfulness by sharing, pouring out God's love and blessing with others.
Thankfulness must translate into the heart language of people around me... expressed in a way so that it meets needs and speaks to hurting, needy hearts.
My sister was here just a few weeks ago - I always love having someone come to Niger for the first time - to meet our friends and neighbors - to see our lives - to experience first- hand a world that before, they could only imagine. As Julie went with me to visit some of my lady friends, one sentiment echoed each time I'd ask her what she thought:
"[Your friend] She laughs and smiles all of the time!"
It didn't matter... that comment was true of:
- my friend Mamata, a dear godly grandmother who's passionately working to learn to read God's Word, who's heart aches for so many in her family who won't even consider Jesus, who's cheerful welcome to all who pass by her door or through her concession is light and salt in her neighborhood;
- Mamata's daughter, physically handicapped by polio, does not know the Lord, but joyfully greets me every time I arrive, stops her work to visit as long as I will visit, sending her grandchildren to help Mamata, their "nya nya," pull out the nicest chair, spread a mat, clean the table - all to be prepared to welcome me and make me comfortable while I'm in their courtyard.
- Aichatou and Madinatou, little girls who have nothing more than the clothes on their back and for whom a bite of chocolate is a delight to satisfy and subsequently talk about for weeks at a time, who never fail to meet me at the door to carry my bag and hold my hand as they giggle and have finally become brave enough to actually converse a little bit with me.
- Safana, my first real friend in Niamey ~ even as, still recovering from a serious bout of malaria, she keeps the fast, walks through difficult times with her family and helps her widowed neighbor care for her three children.
- Zeinabou's mama as she serves her severely handicapped little girl and works selling food along the streets to try and provide for her family and all those medications Zeinabou needs to reduce chronic pain and prevent seizures; who chooses joy after each little forward step Zeinabou makes... or even the hope that she will someday meet yet another milestone... who chooses contentment in daily circumstances that would discourage and terrify me.
- Little Zeinabou, who always shares such lovely smiles and laughs... who delights in her mother's presence and people who will simply talk and smile with her, who is content with the simple comfort of another's presence.
- Rabi, a godly young woman, Christian school teacher, who so longs for a baby of her own but as God's answer to this point has been not yet, she "adopts" caring for her orphaned siblings as though they are her own with delight and joy... caring for the children of friends - she ALWAYS has someone's child on her lap at church!
I am continually amazed how people who have so little, who work so hard, who know life could be so different and so much more... and many of whom don't even yet know the Lord... emmanate spirits of joy chosen and finding contenment every place they can with and in the life they've been handed when I, who have so much, so often find that choice a difficult one and sinfully, I confess there are many times I fail to make it.
Sadly, most Americans... most westerners... are spoiled and we do not even know it. We fuss over what we don't have but think we should possess. We make decisions that allow our own continued hoarding as we fear for the future while others go without today, while others die with nothing, without Jesus, and we could have chosen to give... to share...
We complain about budget deficits and political manuvering, seeking to protect our own interests and forget that what God defines as pure and undefiled religion has absolutely nothing to do with balanced budgets, secure stocks and a nice-sized nest egg for retirement someday.
And I am convinced... by God's grace, in His wisdom and with His discernment, the thankfulness I profess each Monday needs to be more fully, more accurately, more vibrantly, more sacrificially translated.
True thankfulness will forfeit earthly comfort and security for radical obedience, sacrificial caring that costs while carving our hearts into Christ-likeness...
this week's gratitude list:
(#'s 1431 - 1460)
breakfast with a talkative little girl
Target-type store come to Niamey
conviction of sin, forgiveness from God
prayers of forgiveness
nights of sleep without waking
watching my niece catch the ball with her uncle's glove... and he was the batter!
a new computer battery
just enough food in the fridge to feed the family tomorrow
little boys who don't want to show their belly buttons
protection from several possible or near accidents while out and about
meeting new colleagues
washing dishes... with HOT WATER!!!
listening to my school newbies singing Frère Jacques... perfect in every way
seeing Tori standing there in her swimsuit, hot pink capris and red cowgirl boots... after spending the night with friends, two nights in a row
little girl heartfelt prayers
french fries for breakfast
teens sacrificially serving by thoroughly scrubbing floors, unasked and unprompted
looking forward to another literacy lesson
meeting (and trying) a new tailor - she's the wife of a local pastor, too
sharp nails to scratch itchy backs
hugging my teen
tall boys becoming tall men
opposing views, differing viewpoints, non-traditional-for-me points of view challenging me to consider hard issues from a biblical perspective, even if that stand feels uncomfortable
paint on the walls, tiling to begin soon
looking forward to moving day
laughter during a softball game
learning about the ladybird spider, another one of God's amazing creations... and how some scientists have exercised godly stewardship of this fascinating creature. It was formerly known as Eresus niger (hence part of the reason I stumbled across it - though I have no idea why it was originally given that name)... now it's scientific name is: Eresus cinnaberinus.
(Photos shared by recent short-term missos, Ben and Lindsey Britton. Thanks, guys!)