Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
brown paper packages tied up with strings,
these are a few of my favorite things.
Maria, The Sound of Music.
The Sound of Music is one of my favorite musicals. I’ve watched it countless times including one memorable Thanksgiving evening. Emmanuel, Naomi, Jesse and I snuggled together on the couch enjoying our glimpse into the life of the von Trapp family. At a late hour we tucked our children into bed, and well before they awoke in the morning they had a new baby sister. Needless to say Mom and Dad didn’t get too much sleep that night.
This Rodgers and Hammerstein musical tells the story of Maria, a novitiate who leaves an Austrian convent to become the governess for the seven children of a widower Naval officer. It is rough going at first, but she finally wins their affection one stormy night as she dances around the room and sings to them of how she deals with hard times:
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.
I think a good paraphrase for ‘my favorite things’ would be ‘things I am grateful for’.
I was reminded of this song when I read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. She encourages her readers to be aware of all the small things for which we can be grateful. I like the idea of being deliberately thankful, and so I started my own gratitude journal.
However, after hearing a recent sermon, I was jolted into thinking quite differently about thankfulness.
Paul, the Apostle said, Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for YOU. Ephesians 1:15-16.
People?? He was thankful for people? I quickly thumbed through my Bible. I discovered that Paul was grateful for the people in the churches in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. He was thankful for the ekklesia, the called out ones, the people who make up the church of Jesus Christ.
Wow. There is an old saying – The church would be a great place if it wasn’t for the people. Sure, it was said tongue in cheek, but I think anyone who is involved in their local church can identify with the sentiment. But apparently Paul wouldn’t have agreed. He repeatedly expresses how much he values people in the local church.
And then I noticed something he wrote in a letter to Timothy, a young friend of his: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 1 Timothy 1:12
Paul was thankful that he had been given the opportunity to serve the Lord. By the same token, was he thankful for the people in all these churches because of the way they were serving God?
I have observed that it is easier to find fault and be critical of co-laborers for the Kingdom than it is to be appreciative. So, I decided to start a list of the people in my local church for whom I am grateful:
-the pastors who faithfully preach the Word
-the worship team who organize, practice, and lead our Body in worship each week
-committed Sunday school teachers
-parents who bring their children to Sunday school and Pioneer clubs even as our culture distracts them with other opportunities.
-people who give their tithes and offerings even when finances are tight
-the ‘church mice’ who make coffee, fold bulletins, and clean up after events
-the women who made beautiful banners which adorn the sanctuary
-the elders who labor alongside the pastors to oversee the flock
-the deacons who attend to all the details of running the church
-the church secretaries who field numerous phone calls and help keep things running smoothly
-the janitor who makes sure the church is a pleasant and clean place to worship
-countless volunteers for children’s ministries
-youth group leaders who plan, prepare and persevere with teenagers every Friday night
-people who go to work days at church doing every conceivable cleaning job (including the removal of bat dung)
-people who get to church early after a snowstorm and make sure the walks are shoveled
As I write this list, I realize I am just warming up. This list could go on and on. It is a joy to follow the example of Paul and be thankful for people! Would you care to join me? Please respond to this post with your comments of people you are grateful for at your local church….and then let them know it.
I think the Christian parallel to the song Maria sang on the night of the storm could be the old hymn “Count Your Blessings”. The chorus says:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
The next time you stand in church to sing this, think about the people standing alongside you and be grateful for them and their efforts for the Kingdom.