Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersby illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He
told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the
shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers.
In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he
rescued ever thanked him.
Our Daily Bread, February 20, 1994.
An estimated 1.5 million people are living today after bouts with breast cancer. Every time I forget to feel grateful to be among
them, I hear the voice of an eight-year-old named Christina, who had cancer of the nervous system. When asked what she wanted for
her birthday, she thought long and hard and finally said, "I don't know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have
everything!" The kid is right.
Erma Bombeck, Redbook, October,1992.
Why did only one cleansed leper return to thank Jesus? The following are nine suggested reasons why the nine did not
One waited to see if the cure was real.
One waited to see if it would last.
One said he would see Jesus later.
One decided that he had never had leprosy.
One said he would have gotten well anyway.
One gave the glory to the priests.
One said, "O, well, Jesus didn't really do anything."
One said, "Any rabbi could have done it."
One said, "I was already much improved."
Charles L. Brown, Content The Newsletter, June,
1990, p. 3.
Forgive Me When I Whine
Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely maid with golden hair; I envied her -- she seemed so gay, and how, I wished I were so fair; When
suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle; she had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed, a smile. Oh
God, forgive me when I whine, I have two feet -- the world is mine.
And when I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad who served me had such charm; he seemed to radiate good cheer, his manner was so
kind and warm; I said, "It's nice to deal with you, such courtesy I seldom find"; he turned and said, "Oh, thank you sir." And
then I saw that he was blind. Oh, God, forgive me when I whine, I have two eyes, the world is mine.
Then, when walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue; he stood and watched the others play, it seemed he knew not
what to do; I stopped a moment, then I said, "Why don't you join the others, dear?" He looked ahead without a word, and then I
knew he could not hear. Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two ears, the world is mine.
With feet to take me where I'd go; with eyes to see the sunsets glow, with ears to hear what I would know. I am blessed indeed.
The world is mine; oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
In his autobiography, Breaking Barriers, syndicated columnist Carl Rowan tells about a teacher who greatly influenced his life.
Rowan relates: Miss Thompson reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a piece of paper containing a quote attributed to
Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. I listened intently as she read: "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's
blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work. Remember that our sons and
grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us."
More than 30 years later, I gave a speech in which I said that Frances Thompson had given me a desperately needed belief in
myself. A newspaper printed the story, and someone mailed the clipping to my beloved teacher. She wrote me: "You have no idea
what that newspaper story meant to me. For years, I endured my brother's arguments that I had wasted my life. That I should
have married and had a family. When I read that you gave me credit for helping to launch a marvelous career, I put the
clipping in front of my brother. After he'd read it, I said, 'You see, I didn't really waste my life, did I?'"
Carl Rowan, Breaking Barriers.
In his book FOLK PSALMS OF FAITH, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H.A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as
Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat.
Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, "Do you have a
headache?" Ironside replied, "No, I don't." The other man asked, "Well, is there something wrong with your food?" Ironside
replied, "No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat."
The man said, "Oh, you're one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the
sweat of my brow and I don't have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!"
Ironside said, "Yes, you're just like my dog. That's what he does too!"
Ray Stedman, Folk Psalms of Faith.
It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night,
until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls
would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie
Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea.
But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.
Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low,
so the men ditched their plane in the ocean...For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions
would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant
sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long.
But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were
long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.
In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that
afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off
in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off."
Now this is still Captian Rickenbacker talking..."Something landed on my head. I knew that it was
a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from
under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull.
The gull meant food...if I could catch it."
And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were
used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull,
uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it.
And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch
along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired,
bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to
remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness.
Paul Aurandt, "The Old Man and the Gulls",
Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound
Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.
The first American Thanksgiving didn't occur in 1621 when a group of Pilgrims shared a feast with a group of friendly Indians. The
first recorded thanksgiving took place in Virginia more than 11 years earlier, and it wasn't a feast. The winter of 1610 at
Jamestown had reduced a group of 409 settlers to 60. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might
come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give
thanks to God.
Today in the Word, July, 1990, p. 22.
A 12 year old boy named David was born without an immune system. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in order to correct the
deficiency. Up to that point he had spent his entire life in a plastic bubble in order to prevent exposure to common germs,
bacteria, and viruses that could kill him. He lived without ever knowing human contact. When asked what he'd like to do if and
when released from his protective bubble, he replied, "I want to walk barefoot on grass, and touch my mother's hand."
To All Ye Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans,
squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as
He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship
God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and
little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye
29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye
Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony.
In a sermon at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Gary Wilburn said: "In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty
Years' War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, and average
of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries
of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children: 'Now thank we all our God / With heart
and hands and voices;/ Who wondrous things had done,/ In whom His world rejoices. /Who, from our mother's arms,/Hath led us on our
way/ With countless gifts of love/ And still is ours today.'"Here was a man who knew thanksgiving comes from love of God, not
from outward circumstances.
First National Thanksgiving Proclamation
Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God,
to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;
Whereas, both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me
"to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,
to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God,
especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government
for their safety and happiness!"
Now therefore, I do recommend next, to be devoted by the people of the states
to the service of that great and glorious being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was,
that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks
for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.
George Washington, 1779.
Two 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamations which are said to be by Lincoln.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings
of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so
constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come,
others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot
fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to
the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has
sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression,
peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws
have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in
the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted
by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful
industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or
the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as
well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more
abundantly than heretofore.
Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been
made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in
the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect
continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great
things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing
with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently
and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States,
and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to
set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of
Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to
Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble
penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender
care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the
lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently
implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation
and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the
full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
October 3, 1863.
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling
power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured
hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime
truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are
blessed whose God is the Lord.
We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments
and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil
war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our
presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved
these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no
other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in
peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the
deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior
wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too
self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray
to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and
gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I
do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those
who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the
last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who
dwelleth in the heavens.
A. Lincoln, October 3, 1863.
Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be
grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, "Certainly the preacher won't
think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this." Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by
praying, "We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this."
Daily Bread, August 26, 1989.
In Budapest, a man goes to the rabbi and complains, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I
The rabbi answers, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man in incredulous, but the rabbi insists. "Do as I say and
come back in a week."
A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the
rabbi. "The goat is filthy."
The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week."
A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no
goat -- only the nine of us."
George Mikes, How to be Decadent, Andre Deutsch, London.
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence.
The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn't make it.
Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We're in for it!"
John answered, "I can't. I've never made a public prayer in my life."
"But you must!" implored his companion. "The bull is catching up
"All right," panted John, "I'll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: 'O Lord, for
what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'"