Friday, November 22, 2013

Thankfulness that Counts

Authenticity and Thanksgiving - Part 2                              Thankfulness that Counts

Photo by Thomas Wieland

What Mary of Bethany did was unprecedented in the story found in John 12:1-7.  She was lavish in her expression of adoration to Jesus. It was a party for Jesus. Her brother, Lazarus, was at the table with Jesus. Sister Martha, was serving. Mary enters with a bottle of precious nard, an expensive perfume—worth a year’s wages. She pours it on Jesus’ feet then wipes his feet with her hair. Why? Why would she do something so unusual, bizarre--embarrassing? At an earlier time we have seen Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus in rapt attention, absorbing His truths. Why indeed? What is it that has captured her attention? The truth is, Mary understands the better thing. Her understanding of the beauty of Christ’s words and the deeper truth contained therein, have prompted to her to give lavishly out of her thankful heart. She desires to bless Jesus in a way that expresses what is in her heart. She gives because she has received.

We do strange things sometimes. When we are authentic in our spiritual life, we believe in a bigger God—we live close to the Source. When has your thankful heart given way to expression? When have you shared Christ’s love? When have you been the recipient of someone’s expression of Christ’s love which came out as a blessing freely bestowed on you? It can make a huge difference.

Have you ever seen God work a miracle and then multiply the blessing? I have. Some of the miracles have been in my own life. Things I couldn’t do or was unable to change, special needs, and personal requests, then my gracious God came in and caused the miracle to happen. When things like that happen, we are not just thankful for our salvation and our healing, the positive result, in our gratitude we become willing to give—and God gets the glory. Every time someone gives us a truth in a bite-sized chunk of meat, when they share and we internalize the truth, it has the capability to reproduce in another conversation at a later time, providing meaningful content that helps someone--a multiplied miracle.

It is our personal responsibility to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to keep sensitive to the Source, Jesus Christ. Some of the most authentic humble people make the biggest noise when they use their small voice. Their voice is amplified when God moves it into the mainstream—the global community. Mother Teresa was this way. She spoke what God gave to her even when her popularity and world-audience clambered her way with praise. It didn't turn her away from her focus. She lived out her love for her Savior. Mother Teresa simply was the hands and feet of Jesus to the down and out in the streets of Calcutta, India ... and to the world. God used her as his megaphone to a world that had lost its way, the faithful who had forgotten to live the Christ-way, and as an example of one who followed the truths found in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.

Christ is the answer. In Him is found hope, healing, forgiveness and truth. As His followers, Christians should live in ways that are servant-oriented. To be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be authentic in the community around you, Christ-followers must open their eyes to the need. Then ask God for the opportunities. It will amaze how it plays out. What should we be known for? Are we known for our pessimism, criticism, our negative outlook and critical spirit? Are we known for our kindness, caring, helpfulness and our positive outlook? This matters. Running down people doesn’t help them—and it exposes pride and arrogance of spirit. Any of us could be the user, abuser, street person, or other ... and some of us have been. God’s grace is for all the world. Authenticity means loving comes first.

What can we do to become authentic? If you are stingy with your money, start giving it away. If you are stingy with you time, start volunteering.  If you tear people down with your words, start building them up. Meet problems head-on. Meet self-focus head-on. Change what needs to be changed. God wants us to do this through His spirit. In Him, we will be able to become new and changed, authentic and real, true followers of Christ Jesus. We will give out of our thankfulness to the One who is Real.

The solution isn’t simple. The words aren’t light-weight. Being authentic doesn’t mean problems disappear. We may find a wall we can’t scale, a forest too dense to walk through, a river too swift to navigate. There will be times that God seems impossible to reach or the problems beyond what we are able to handle. That is why we need community. It may take some extra help, a caring friend, a gratitude journal, a counselor with wise counsel, a pastor with a servant’s heart, or something unique to your situation to find your way. Sometimes we must seek help to get through the trial.

Give thanks for the gifts you already have, even the small gestures of love and kindness. Enjoy the beauties of nature. Look at the smiles of the children. Read a scripture. Read Christ’s prayer in John 17. Give thanks. Out of your (spiritual) abundance, give something away to someone else. If it’s just a smile, it will still bless someone and lighten their load for a brief moment’s pause. Before you fall asleep, count ten blessings found in the day just finished. Don't quit counting until you have ten, even the small quiet gifts are significant ... a kind word ... laughter ... a tasty meal ... a phone call ... a warm thought ... a song on the radio ... a good morning greeting ...
I leave with you a few words to ponder.
Mother Teresa "In Her Own Words"

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