After church one Sunday a few years ago, my husband asked our five-year-old daughter what she learned in Sunday school. She said that she learned about Jesus and the cheetahs. The theologian in him was immediately curious because he was not familiar with that story in the Bible. He asked for more information and she told him the whole story. Then he listened closely to her lesson.
Jesus and the Cheetahs
Once upon a time, Jesus was walking down the road. There were ten cheetahs that came to him. They were sick. (In Sunday school we put dots all over our clothes with cotton balls and baby powder. We looked like cheetahs. It was fun.) Jesus made the cheetahs better, but only one cheetah said “Thank you.”
Eventually my husband got it…she was talking about Jesus and the Lepers not CHEETAHS! We always get a good belly laugh from her version of the story especially since I was her Sunday school teacher that day!!
There is also a lot to truth to her story. There are a lot of cheaters in this story. Nine to be exact. In Luke, we learn that Jesus encountered ten lepers on his way to Jerusalem who begged him for mercy and healing. He did exactly what they asked. They were healed and they had their lives back. They could return to society, their families, and their careers. He had given them all that they could dream of having and more. Out of the ten healed lepers, only one returned to thank him. Only one.
This Thanksgiving we have the opportunity to be the one that returned to give thanks. Think about all the people in your life that have made your life better this year. Be the one to thank them. People like your doctor who helped you stay healthy, your friend that remembered your birthday, your co-worker who helped you meet your deadline, or your neighbor who pulls your trash bins back to your fence after they are empty. Be the one to thank them. Think about the people you see each week at the grocery store, school, bank, gas station or in your neighborhood. Be the one to thank them. Recall how they helped you have a better day or a better life. Be the one to thank them.
Since Thanksgiving is on our minds, our family took a moment after dinner this week to make a list of all the people we want to thank. We signed a cards and wrote a notes together. We had fun talking about why we wanted to thank someone. What is a creative way your family can give thanks?
When we bow our heads and give thanks to God with our family on Thursday, we will also be giving thanks for all the people God sent us this year to make our lives better. If we don’t take time to pause and give thanks, aren’t we really only cheating ourselves?
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:15-19
Happy Thanksgiving from our tent to yours!
This past spring I visited a church in Mississippi. In the service, God wanted me to hear one thing…it takes a village. This simple message came from the youth pastor. He gave the announcement about the youth’s trip to the bowling alley that afternoon. But instead of simply reminding the youth, he was actually challenging the congregation…the village. He was challenging them to become a friend to the young people in the church. The church goal was to partner five adults with each young person in their church. He reminded the village of the goal and encouraged them to get started (or keep going) by going bowling that afternoon. Sounds fun!
This made me start thinking about my youthful years. Did I have five people outside my family who I would call a friend? Did I have five people who mentored me and believed in me? Did you?
These people in my life are called the unsung heroes of my life. Their names are not on any diploma, they will probably not be listed in my obituary and they probably don’t even know the impact they made on my life…but they were my heroes in many ways. They had a conversation with me that changed my life. They saw something in me that I did not see and nourished it until I did see it. They were patient. They would answer my phone call anytime during the day or night. I was always welcome in the homes. Some of them were teachers, coaches, friends, fellow church members, and pastors. They were my village. They were my unsung heroes.
This too made me start thinking and open my eyes. (This is probably why God wanted me to hear one thing that day.) Who needs me?…it’s time to go bowling. Who needs you? There are so many people around us young and old that need a village to love them and encourage them. And it may just be time for you and me to take them bowling (or to something else that sounds fun like eating ice cream).
Paula Gooder wrote a book called Everyday God: The Spirit of the Ordinary. I keep my copy on my back porch to read in the morning. It is warped from being wet and yellowed from being scorched by the sun, but it still shares treasures with me each morning. The other day I read these words:
Part of the point of God’s calling to each one of us is that we are called to be God’s unsung heroes and we will know we are succeeding, not when people begin to notice us but when they begin to notice God.
I would love to chat more, but I think I need to write some thank you notes and find some more people to add to my village…especially if bowling and ice cream are involved!
A few weeks ago, Steven and I went hiking. We hiked through the Hot Springs National Park . The day of our hike, we woke up at the Spring Street Inn, enjoyed a delicious breakfast (one of those meals you can truly eat ALL of it because you know every calorie would be burned off…joy!), stepped across the street from the B&B, and began our hike. We just walked.
After a steep 2 mile climb at the beginning of our 16 mile hike, I needed to take a break. I just sat on the ground. When you are hiking it is amazing what feels good and comfortable…the ground. (I made a mental note to myself to tell my trainer that we needed to work on conditioning my body to do more than a 30 minute workout.) While we were catching our breath and laughing at what we were doing, we heard a familiar noise…church bells. They chimed over the town and through the trees with the breeze. The sound of the bells brought a sense of calmness to us while we rested early in the morning. It was just a moment that seemed to give purpose and peace to the day. God was with us.
Historically, church bells have been used to gather worshipers together for a church service. One small village I visited during college in Costa Rica still used their church bells for this purpose. When the pastor was in town, the bells rang to let the people know to come to the service. Services were not always on Sundays. When I was a chaplain in a hospital, bells chimed twice a day through the halls. Their purpose was to encourage the hospital staff to pause and offer prayer for those in their care.
On our hiking day, the church bells calmed my soul. They reminded me that I was not alone. They gave me a chance to give thanks for a day to explore God’s natural sanctuary. They called me back from my distractions into what is truly important…time with God and my husband. They reminded me that 3 people were hiking that day even though we could only see each other.
Since then, I still hear the bells. They are not as loud at home, but they are still there. When I start my day on the wrong side of the bed, God and I meet again when I think of those bells. Then my day gets a lot better.
I wonder what you use each day to connect your agenda for the day with God’s presence? Prayer, service, scripture, a cup of coffee? What are your church bells? They can be so subtle and quiet that they are hard to hear when we are busy or in a hurry. But I guess being busy and in a hurry is not what God wants us to be doing anyways.
When we started hiking again (up another incline…ugh), I was still struck by how the church bells connected to my soul. I shared it with Steven. And then I said, “Hey, those church bells…that’s our song! We are the Bells!!” We are on this journey together. Glad you are with us too!
I don’t know the day the hermit crab, Crabby Cakes, actually died. He (or she) has lived in our home for two and a half years. Before that Crabby Cakes lived four years with Mrs. Barbara, the science teacher at our daughter’s pre-school. When Crabby Cakes came to live with us I thought four years is a long time to live in captivity…surely this arrangement will only last a little while longer. How long can a hermit crab really live??? It lasted much longer than I expected. And over that time, I have to say, that little guy (or girl) grew on me and in its own way made a happy difference in our home.
But sometime over the past week of crazy in our home and schedule, Crabby Cakes moved from this life into the next. Sometime in the middle of homework, dinner, gymnastics, work, church, trips to and from school, Crabby Cakes stopped moving. It could possibly have happened while we were out on Wednesday to celebrate the arrival of Christmas with an-over-the-top Christmas Festival and up-close-and-personal firework display. Crabby Cakes might have fallen asleep then. Or it could have been one of my sleepless nights this week…maybe that is why I couldn’t sleep. Or maybe it was while I was sitting in Bible study and a prayer that I had been praying for over a year began to be answered with each passing minute. When did it happen…no idea!
Today, in his (her) little way, Crabby Cakes sent a message to me…stop for a minute. Check on my friend, Critter. (Time for pastoral care…crab style.) Remember that God is both small and big. God is present in the small, baby steps that we take towards a dream or vision and God is present on the big flashy firework days. When we remember this, we know that each moment of our lives is created and desires to be experienced fully. We also know that each little part of our life matters.
At the funeral for Crabby Cakes, I stood before the toilet (because we know from Nemo that all drains lead to the ocean) and said a quick thanks and farewell. Thankful for the tinniest part of my life sending a big message…all life matters. Itsn’t that the message of the cross too?
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” (Genesis 1:20)