Jet Lag woke me up too early again this morning. Thank you, Jet Lag. As I lay in bed hoping to re-capture sleep, I pondered giving thanks. Sometimes it takes effort to name reasons for thanks. Coming up with one a day might be possible … for a month. Coming up with a numbered list helps, but a list alone doesn’t change our perspective. Learning gratitude is less about lists and more about latitude.
Between last Thanksgiving and this, it’s taken more effort to find reasons for thanks. Sometimes, my pool of ideas has been, well, as dry as a desert. But God in His kindness again blessed me with opportunity to lift my eyes far beyond my own life, which I currently plot at 46 degrees north. It’s easy to fix our eyes on our own circumstances. Fear of things in the world may even convince us it’s safer that way. Even horses wear blinders to avoid fear. What’s your latitude? (You can find out here!)
I approach this Thanksgiving with fresh perspective from a close up view between 11 and 32 degrees north latitude. It’s more than far from my own life, especially with an added shift of 240 degrees longitude. What do all those numbers mean?
It means we find lessons in gratitude when we expand our longitude and latitude.
The air around the brick kilns was heavy, holding the heat of past fires. Hovels leaned heavily on the sides, held there for generations of families who have known nothing else. Debt bondage. Servitude. Rag-clad children who can’t go to school. They cradled pictures I drew, repeating their only reading lesson: HELLO. The boys laughed, but not the only girl. Something had stolen her smile in her small world located in the world’s destination for buying children for sex. Many have been stopped, but not all. How do you un-know once you see? I want blinders.
And what about the masses of black heads swarming to the subway, but going nowhere? One student admitted, “I believe in nothing.” Bearing the weight of social pressure to excel above the millions, achievement is a harsh master. The longitude and latitude of her life is chosen for her, and only miracles will expand it. She knows nothing else. Her culture has filtered out God and with Him, HOPE. This, too, is bondage. How do you un-know once you see?
Do you want blinders?
When we lift our eyes within limited latitude, we lift our hearts with limited gratitude.
It’s easier than ever to look beyond our own place in this world. We have no excuse for clinging to a narrow view. We’re exposed to so much we have to put boundaries on information we receive. We have to be mindful not to let cares choke out God’s peace. But we can know. We can see the needs of others. We can pray. We can give. We can help. We can give greater thanks.
Are you tired of seeing the world’s woes? Do you have enough woes of your own? Would you rather not know how people in Mali, Syria, Paris and Belgium feel today? But we do. How do we un-know once we know? God doesn’t want us to look away. He wants us to lift our eyes. He wants us to respond with trust and courage and gratitude. How does He ask such great things from such small ones?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted …
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled …
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (From Hebrews 12, read it all here)
10 Ways to Bring Latitude to Your Gratitude
- Give each person a country to pray for. (add the longitude/latitude & a map?)
- Make a list of hurting nations and pray for comfort in Christ.
- Thank God for His sovereignty and call some nations by name.
- Share reasons for gratitude from missionaries you know. (Let them know!)
- Watch a video about another nation and pray for them. (here’s one resource)
- Invite a local immigrant to come for dinner or dessert over the holiday.
- Use a map to plot places you have lived; thank God for His journey for you!
- Talk about the “foreigners” around you, and pray for them by name.
- Read verses about how to treat strangers and thank God for His heart for the lonely.
- Read how to show love to the nations & choose a way to serve together. (print it)
This Thanksgiving, may we lift our eyes to greater latitude and lift our hearts in greater gratitude!