At the elementary school I attended, the office had a machine that dispensed pencils for a nickel. It was much like a bubble gum machine – insert the coin into the slot, turn the lever, and a pencil would drop down. And not just any pencil, but a pencil with the name of a state stamped on it.
When I was in third grade (eight-years-old) and my sister was in first grade (six-years-old) we were walking home from school one day when she asked an interesting question.
“Do you think pencils would be a good Christmas present?”
I immediately scoffed at the idea and let her know that pencils would in fact be a “dumb” gift. And after I shared my very strong and convincing opinion, we continued our fifteen-minute walk home in relative silence.
Little did I know, but my sister had been saving her nickels and had bought me three of the state pencils for Christmas. While we laugh about the story today – some fifty years later – I still remember how horrible I felt when I learned that was the gift she believed would make me happy… the gift I essentially let her know wasn’t good enough to receive.
Of course, this story speaks of childhood immaturity, but I’ve often wondered how many times as an adult I’ve scoffed at a gift God desires to give me. Maybe I’ve wanted something different – a solution or opportunity or answer that was packaged differently. Something my self-centeredness or self-interest had deemed acceptable and worth receiving. Not acknowledging that God knows what is truly best and has tailored His offerings to best suit my life and circumstance.
Recently I looked up the word “thankful”. It means “an awareness and appreciation for a benefit.” In scripture (Psalm 103:2-5), King David expresses his awareness of God’s benefits of unconditional love, forgiveness, restoration, blessings, and hope. Something God faithfully and continually offers to each of us today.
I also looked up the word “grateful”. It means “a readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness.” In Psalm 100, King David identifies how we can show our appreciation for the many benefits and gifts God gives – he encourages us to honor God with our heartfelt thanks. Not an obligatory mealtime or bedtime prayer, but our sincere communication after a mindful accounting of how God truly loves and cares for us.
God’s heart is moved by our gratitude and expressions of thanks. Much like a parent giving a gift to a child, the experience is enriched when the child is thankful and grateful – says thank you, values the gift, and finds enjoyment in what has been given. May we all develop a readiness to recognize and appreciate God’s benefits, and in kindness, may we offer heartfelt thanks for His unfailing kindness to us.
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