“Thanks” Series—Guest Post by Kevin Daniel

CC BY-NC, Cascadian Farm, Flickr

CC BY-NC, Cascadian Farm, Flickr

This post is the third in this week’s “Thanks” series that features quotes on thankfulness given by notable Christians. Kevin Daniel, writer of The Number Kevin, reflects on the following quote by Christian thinker and apologist G.K. Chesterton.

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before I open a book, and before sketching, painting, swimming, walking, playing, dancing and before I dip the pen in the ink.”

I’ve never truly understood the concept of themed holidays. Really, if you need a day off, just take it. Are you theming your weekends as well? Weird. I have a friend whose favorite holiday is Flag Day. And I love that. It’s his way of calling out everybody’s crap, I think—“Hey, man. Happy Flag Day!”

Thanksgiving is especially bizarre. Let’s say aliens land on Earth; they’re from Jupiter…yeah, Jupiter. It also happens to be Thanksgiving. And, for kicks and giggles, let’s suppose they speak and understand English. Go ahead. Explain Thanksgiving to them.

“Every November we gather and cook a turkey. We watch the Lions and the Cowboys and eat way too much. Then, when mom bravely shuts off the TV, we’re forced to share what we’re thankful for, all under the guise that some meal was had between friendly ‘ingines’ and disease-ridden Pilgrims. Later, they all killed each other. We do it because we’re thankful.”

What?

Really, what drives me crazy—yes, this criticism includes me—is the idea that thankfulness requires a holiday at all. Instead, a special thought: thankfulness requires a push.

Thanks, eh Million?

My favorite part of prayer is the thankfulness section. I often find myself speechless in the presence of God and all I can utter is thanks. I guess that’s okay. Faith is pretty abstract at times; however, gratitude is tangible: the air I breathe, the food I eat, the woman I share a bed with every night. It’s all gravy, man.

Side-note: Did the phrase “It’s all gravy” come from Thanksgiving?

Side Side-note: Maybe my trend of thankfulness in prayer is just a shallow attempt to make up for my many years of cold, youthful, unilateral prayer requests.

Whenever I feel selfish or owed to, I remind myself how foolish I’m being. I/you/we am/are not owed anything. We are graciously given life. God didn’t need us. He can accomplish whatever he wants without us. Yet he loved us enough to breathe life into our lungs. So here I am—and you. I don’t really understand it, but love only works if you can’t put it into words. That’s my theory, at least.

‘Grace’ to the Finish

Michael sent me a quote a few weeks ago—the one at the top—and I think it’s wonderful. Go ahead. Read it again; I’ll wait.

Beautiful, right? I agree. The times I exist in a constant state of thankfulness are the times I am most in tune with God…funny how that works. By focusing on the deeds of others or the gifts from God, we inadvertently kill any pride or selfishness lingering in our hearts. It’s not always easy. Lucky for us, there is plenty to be thankful for, plenty of practice.

I’d like to add a couple “say grace” items to G.K Chesterton’s list, if I may: lattes, pumpkin pie, Netflix, fresh snowfall; The Avett Brother’s I and Love and You; that chapter that knocks you off your chair and involuntarily keeps you reading; sleeping in.

Side-note: I live in Upstate New York. The weather has dropped and the wind is blustery. I have to walk to a bus stop to get to campus. The other day I could barely feel my fingers, but I was extremely happy to have fingers.

Where do you look for God? The Bible is a great place to start. He’s in there, for sure. I read it and I’m thankful for it. But the Bible does not contain all of God. The Bible is not God’s horcrux.

These days I find God is everywhere. He’s with me and is a part of everything I do. He’s in the people I meet, those I bless and those who bless me. You can call it the Spirit or the Holy Ghost or whatever. I’m not concerned with labels. But he’s with me.

Here’s another quote. I think it connects well…from a song called “Every Thought a Thought of You” by mewithoutYou. I really like it:

“You wear a thin disguise, O, Light inside my brother’s eyes.”

I’m thankful today that God is with us, with me and with you…even the aliens on Jupiter. Enjoy your turkey, friends. God bless.

Read more by Kevin on his blog The Number Kevin

Living with Simplicity

Two Boys Diving off Dock into Lake

CC BY-NC, MS Images

In Christ’s model prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) he implores us to ask God for our provisions—“Give us today our daily bread” (v. 11). It is a simple statement that reveals to us God’s concern for our needs. It is also a profound concept that unveils what our expectations should be toward the supply. It is important to express early that Christ was not merely suggesting food in the term bread. Instead, bread is a metaphor for all the things that sustain our lives. Yet we are not told to only ask for bread but “daily” bread; the modifier causes the prescriptive to become a rich description of a life of simplicity.

To plainly see what Christ means by the phrase, we can easily reflect on a significant event in the history of the Hebrew people that encases the full meaning of Jesus’s words. When the Israelites had recently left Egypt, they landed in crisis when their food resources diminished (Ex. 16). The people complained bitterly until God spoke to Moses telling him, in no uncertain terms, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you” (v. 4).

God sends a meal, or grain-like, substance that appears every morning over the ground after the dew had dried. The Israelites called it manna and with it sustained themselves nutritionally, in addition to other acquired food. But this provision came with a stipulation that each family only harvest a day’s-worth per person; when some did try to store more than what God had indicated, the substance bred worms and stank. The implication of the manna and Jesus’s admonition are the same: trust God to provide your need for the moment and anything more will be supplied in its time. Another literal Bible version (YLT) expresses the verse this way: “Our appointed bread give us to-day.”

Further in the same discourse, Jesus builds on this thought: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (6:34). The point is that each day brings its own problems and worries—and its own solutions and answers because God provides them as they occur. Now why disrupt today’s peace with tomorrow’s cares? We only borrow trouble when we do.

Going to Market

The daily bread concept figures illustratively in my past experience. I lived in Japan for a year teaching ESL. During that time I discerned how important the home is to the women, who are proud homemakers. (When asked what she desired to be when she grew up, one of my teenagers replied, “A housewife.”) Each day they rise early and set the house in motion; after sending children and husbands off, they begin their daily chores. Many women don aprons, an obvious sign that they are doing their thing. I would commonly see women in grocery stores still wearing them.

Japanese women go to the market or grocery store daily for that day’s meal, as is common in many cultures. I understood the custom more the longer I was there. The Japanese are a people closely connected to the land, another distinctive in some cultures. On the large scale, they cherish every inch of their rocky string of islands and its natural wonder. Still, it is not uncommon to discover gardens in the city, even in front yards.

So it is no wonder that the Japanese view their food and cuisine with uncommon esteem. But who wouldn’t when it is local or derived from one’s own garden, fresh, healthful, and cooked with lots of labor and love? This is what going to market daily means and what it meant to the women I watched—not the storage of highly processed, non-nutritious foodstuffs, the offspring of refrigeration and packaging.

It is the way our own parents and grandparents understood “bread”—such a worthy symbol—in a time when supply, in general, wasn’t as plentiful as it is today. Moreover, they lived with more restraint than many in society now who can, without thought, quickly toss away and buy new.

The Discipline of Simplicity

Daily bread teaches us the spiritual discipline of simplicity. Simplicity is the virtue of being content and free from the need of acquisition. Simplicity rejects overspending and makes one use an item until buying new is necessary. It is the use of a simple word and not a pricey one. It is the ability to keep oneself entertained without the latest trend. Ultimately, it is being grateful for all that you possess with faith to believe that the God who leads you will provide for you and escort you through every situation you face. The ability to trust God daily, like going to market…trusting that the supply we need will be there—isn’t this a healthier and more reliable faith than storing cares?

Perhaps if we followed Christ’s advice and let the future care for itself, we would better notice the hand of God dramatically working for us, as though we saw the fish and loaves multiplying before our eyes because that is what it would be. We would be certain of God’s reality, his miracles and great love. We would also appreciate how he uses tough times to work kinks out of our own hearts.

Daily bread doesn’t negate our planning for the future and situations we can see coming. Yet it does negate our worrying about things we must trust God to solve. The prayer for daily bread is a faith-builder in a providential God. Ask God daily for your bread and watch how he answers.

More on this topic: My Two Cents on Generosity and The Perils of Covetousness