“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has brought forth bread from the earth.”
This is a typical prayer of thanksgiving given during a meal. Some may phrase it: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has brought forth grain from the fields of the earth that we may gather it and make this bread for our nourishment.” The point is, we should be aware that it isn’t just the labor of our hands that provides our bread, it is the Lord God who provides it. Therefore we should be thankful on many levels. First we should be thankful to God for causing the earth to have seasons that will produce crops. Next, we should be thankful we have seed to plant that will produce a crop of its own kind. Next, we should be thankful to have the knowledge and understanding to plant and tend and harvest a crop. For many of us we should be thankful for income allowing us the ability to purchase a portion of the crop. Next we should be thankful to have the ability to take what we have grown or purchased and make a meal for our nourishment from it.
Okay there is a lot more complexity to it all than these few points. However this is not a discussion in irreducible complexity. Maybe some other time I will delve into the fascinating subject of irreducible complexity.
I have never raised chickens until this year. One thing I have learned: if you are buying chicks, buy pullets. Don’t get any roosters! Unless you plan to breed or invite the birds to dinner, as the main course, don’t buy roosters. Roosters, when they mature, will crowd the feeders not giving the hens a chance to eat (think of them as teenage boys at a buffet). Roosters, when they mature, will fight and pick on each other and the hens (think of them as teenage boys trying to impress girls). Roosters, when they mature, will cause so much stress in the hen house that the hens will be too stressed to lay eggs (think of them as teenage boys stealing a girl’s diary and reading it to an audience of her friends)(okay that would probably get a teenage boy murdered). I hope you get the picture. Roosters, when they mature, are trouble.
Well there were 15 roosters too many in my hen house. The time had come to thin the flock. Remember, I mentioned that I have never raised chickens before? Well that also means I have never butchered chickens either.
I remember, when I was very young, watching my aunt Emma butcher a chicken. It can’t be that hard, so I thought as I sharpened my hatchet.
It is known that memories can be triggered by certain smells. I can step into a shed or garage, with its dusty timbers and motor oil stained floor, and suddenly be transported back in time to my grandfather’s garage beside their house, or my uncle’s garage in town. While walking through a produce market I can instantly be swept back in time to the little grocery store in town where there was a basket of fresh fruit near the door and creaky wooden floors. When I butchered and rendered my first rooster I was instantly whisked back to a time when I watched my aunt butcher a chicken. Chickens smell bad on the outside and they even smell worse on the inside. It is a smell that triggered a vivid memory of hiding beside a shed and watching with wonder as my aunt transformed a live chicken into a bird ready for the kettle. On a side note, I also remember how good my aunt’s fried chicken tasted.
So what does butchering chickens have to do with giving God thanks?
As I calmed each rooster, I reminded him that I raised him from the time he was only about 3 days old. As I raised my hatchet, I offered God thanks for allowing me the task of raising the chicken and now being able to provide meat for the ranch. Then it took all my wherewithal to bifurcate its head from its neck.
Now you may be thinking that I was going a bit over the top with thanksgiving. Allow me to share a story, recorded by Luke in the New Testament.
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’
When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”
Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)
Too often it is too easy to forget to be thankful.
You may be the type that says Grace before each meal. But do you truly give God thanks for providing the food before you? Now don’t argue and claim that it is because you work hard earning a living to put bread on the table. Remember this is not a discussion in irreducible complexity. The bottom line is, God provided. Don’t go and piously state that you are thankful in your heart and God sees that. I am asking, do you give God thanks for the food you have?
Living as a missionary has given me a new perspective on being thankful for the food we have, since much of it comes from donations. Generous gifts of money or goods from food banks are a primary source of food here. Of course I have a tiny source of income from sales of my books, but you wouldn’t want to live on that income in this day and age. Bottom line is: God provides. Therefore we are truly thankful to God for the food on our table every time we sit down to eat. We understand that God has provided and so we are quick to run back to him and give him thanks.
This month we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving. For much of the population its about eating too much and then watching football. For some of you it’s just another day to eat too much and watch sports; your waistline is proof of that.
I challenge you, before you pickup your fork, to honestly give God thanks for your food. And I also challenge you to give God thanks, not just on days like Thanksgiving, but every time you indulge in eating. Let’s be like the one in Luke’s gospel that returned to Jesus to thank him, not like the other nine, who were probably thankful too, but didn’t make an effort to come to Jesus and say, thank you.
Today as I visit the hen house, it is so quit and peaceful without all those roosters causing trouble. Now the hens can get about the business of laying eggs. And I will truly thank God for each and every egg I get to enjoy. Nothing like farm, or in this case ranch fresh large brown eggs for breakfast.