Dan told two stories last Sunday, both of which I was looking forward to sharing with all of you this week. My stomach got fluttery as he told them - because I realized they are as meaningful to him as they are to me. So here are two Thanksgiving stories that are special to us; they've become the very beginning of our family's Thanksgiving narrative.
It says that Solomon loved the Lord, and that he went to the most important high place to offer 1,000 offerings of thanks to God. I wonder how long it took to make 1,000 burnt offerings. Gracious. Immediately after Solomon finishes worshiping and thanking God, the Lord appears to him! (Crazy.)
God says to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (Even crazier.) Here is Solomon's response:
"You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
He asked for wisdom. I don't know what I would have asked for, but I'm not convinced it would have been so noble. This was God's response:
"The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for..."
Pause. Let me just say, that's God. He gives us what we don't think to ask for. :)
"...Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
Solomon wasn't greedy in his request. He wasn't itching to be a little happier, a little wealthier, a little more fit or talented or whatever. And I think the reason that Solomon wasn't greedy was that he'd just spent days meditating on the provision and the goodness of God! He wasn't caught in the "just a little bit more" trap because he was grateful for what he had - grateful for where he was. He was content.
What a precious story about the power of gratitude. Oh, that all of us were so overwhelmed with gratitude that there would be no room for greed in our hearts.
The second story is from the early days of Dan's and my dating relationship. Six years ago, while he was home from college on Thanksgiving break, Dan decided he was going to ask me out on a date. He did so on Monday, our first day back, and we went right then and there! I didn't KNOW it was a date until about halfway through the evening when he busted out the charm, because Dan is very sneaky that way. Another story for another day.
At any rate, one afternoon we were sitting in a restaurant on campus and Dan started sharing with me what he'd been reading (The story of Solomon in 1 Kings). He announced, "I have a project for us. Let's make a list of 1,000 things we're thankful for."
"Deal!" I said. How hard could it be? I'm thankful for everything; I don't have anything that I haven't been given.
PAH! Oh, foolish young Kate. As it turns out 1,000 is a really big number. I started with everything I could think of about God that I was thankful for.
1. God as my creator 2. God as my provider 3. God as my healer 4. God as my savior 5. God as my comforter...
God is indefinable and inexhaustible, but my brain is not, so I ran out of things somewhere in the 70's, if I remember correctly.
I moved on to family (I have a big family, so that was a help). Then friends, teachers who impacted me, people who gave me jobs, mentors, etc. All my homes, cars, food, schools. Privileges we Americans so often take for granted. All sorts of various freedoms, our military, etc. Getting to 300 was actually pretty breezy.
In the 400's I had to get a little creative. Ummm, I'm thankful for...
412. Nail polish 413. Nail polish remover 414. Shampoo 415. Conditioner 416. **CONCEALER AND FOUNDATION AND MASCARA** 417. My straightener
At first I was disappointed in my pettiness, but then I thought, "This is the point! These are small privileges that bring me happiness, and it's not silly to be thankful for that."
My little privileges got me another 150 or so. Then I started saying thank you for certain experiences.
566. That time we went boating with my Dad that I'll never forget, and we found that little island on the lake. 567. That time we saw a gorgeous hawk sitting on a fence post on the way home from horseback riding with Mom. 568. That time my teacher gave me extra credit when I didn't deserve it. 569. That time my friend Megan and I didn't get caught TPing those houses...
When I got to 700 I thought, "SEVEN HUNDRED! I'm almost done!" But the thing about 1,000 is it's such a big number that even when you're almost done, you still have THREE FREAKING HUNDRED MORE THINGS TO THINK OF.
By the end it was all,
890. For air to breathe on January 5 891. For air to breathe on January 6 892. For not dying in a firey car accident on January 7
When all was said and done I certainly had a greater appreciation of Solomon's offerings!
But I also knew a lot more about my future-husband, and most importantly, I took the time to flex my gratitude muscles. It was such a blessing to flip through pages and pages of my handwriting knowing that each page was filled from top to bottom with things God saw fit to give me. Several times during "the project" I was moved to tears by the overflow of God's goodness in my life (and this before I was a crier!). I remember thinking, "Why me? Why should I receive all these things? What did I ever do to deserve them?"
The answer, of course, is nothing. I did nothing to deserve them, but that's grace. And I'm convinced that if you take the time (and grueling effort) to make a similar list, your experience will be similar to mine, and similar to Solomon's. It sucks the greed and discontentment and dissatisfaction right out of your heart when you are overcome with the thousands of things you've already received, which you did not deserve or think to ask for.
But that's God. "Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for..." This year, don't stop with a cursory top 10 list of things you're thankful for - take the time to flex your gratitude muscles. You will love what it does in your heart.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I'm thankful for you.