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You Can’t Ride 2 Horses With 1 Heinie (AKA: Give Thanks)

It’s my thing: the annual Thanksgiving post.

Mayflower’s Daughter came first. Then came Why Pilgrims Don’t Grumble and smitten by William Bradford, A Poem For Pilgrims. Next was It Really is Good to Give Thanks, and last year I asked Do You Leak? (For the record, it was about roots of grumbling not moms on trampolines.)

This year, it’s one heinie on one horse. Because, choose this day who you will serve and no one can serve two masters. Because, give thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us.

And God’s will for us is always good

The Silver Bullet To Joy: Thanks

Because I know- not just in my head but in my heart- that giving thanks is as close to a silver bullet to joy as there possibly could be. While we cannot force thankfulness, the feeling; we can coerce the action. Even if we don’t feel thankful, we can give thanks.

And if we do, if we force ourselves to be thanks-givers, I say this from experience, the thankful, joyful feeling follows. It works like this: I wake up and feel the discontent not gratitude oozing out of me. But if I make myself thank God for five things before I roll out of bed, I hit the ground happier, and more thankful. Because I forced the issue. I talked to myself instead of listening to myself. I grabbed the reins and took myself in hand.

It works. Every. Single. Time. When I feel discontent because of what my husband didn’t do, I can thank him for what he did do. When I feel envious about a girlfriend’s gift, I can thank God that she is my friend. And when I’m grumpy about a sink full of dirty dishes, I can thank God for mouths to feed. One or the other: grumble or give thanks.

Because you can’t ride two horses with one heinie. 

You Can’t Ride Two Horses 

You simply can’t feel thankful and entitled at once. You can’t ride the I-Deserve and the All-Grace thoroughbreds together. You just can’t. I can’t. And believe me, I’ve tried.

I’ve tried to ride the Thankful bay and the Self-pitying paint together and it never works. But sometimes I still try to saddle up the Envy pony right alongside the Gratitude gray and climb up.

But no matter how hard I try I cannot ride both. Because I’ve only got one heinie.

Ride The Thankful Horse

How it went down yesterday: I started saddling up my Envy pony after hearing opportunities for friendship and ministry that some friends of mine have because they don’t work outside the home. I had one foot in the stirrup before I came to my senses and climbed on Gratitude Gray. God’s got me at this job for his good reasons and I’m thankful- YES THANKFUL!- for the ways He’s using it to grow and shape me. 

That was yesterday. Today when I was tempted to mount the Comparison mare and let it gallop off again with my old dreams for a quiver full of kids- the Spirit counseled me off her back and onto the strong Thankful stallion. The Father promised He’d provide all your needs. So if you don’t have it, you don’t need it. No good thing does he withhold. 

Those were Spirit-wrought victories. Other days I ride too long on the wrong horse’s saddle. I climbed on the I-Didn’t-Choose-This chestnut and let him get the best of me. He charged off to You-Deserve-Better Land. And if I spend any time at all there, I return quarrelsome and harsh with my family.

All because I got on the wrong horse and let it take me for a ride. 

Defeat The Dark Horse: Give Thanks

The best way to drive out my self-focused, self-pitying, envious grumps is to be a thanks-giver. Gratitude, John Piper explains, is the song that defeats the enemy. Suppose, he says, that you discover that there is a song which the enemy and their sympathizers cannot tolerate or approach. Whenever they hear it, they pull back and run the other direction.

Isn’t it certain that you would want to learn this song? And after you learned it, you would sing it when you went to bed at night and when you got up in the morning. You would sing it on the way to work, and among strangers… Others would see and hear and learn the song from you. And in the end you would conquer the enemy.

The enemy rides a dark horse. He steals our joy and deceives us with lies. We play right into his hand when we compare and complain. One of his most convincing, joy stealing lies starts like this, But you deserve.

And the song that drives the dark horse and his lying rider away is thanksgiving.

Sing the Song of Thanks

You can give thanks or you can grumble. One will drive out the other.

Because I deserve and by grace cannot peaceably coexist in one heart. We cannot have two masters; Jesus isn’t looking for 60-40 split. We can’t serve ourselves with I deserve and Woe is me and  give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne. You can’t ride two horses with one heinie. 

So ride the right horse. Be a thanks-giver.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1

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Do you leak? What grumbling reveals about us.

An unthankful person is like a container with a hole in it and all the blessings that are in it just leak out. The grateful person has unlimited capacity to truly enjoy God’s blessings, while the ungrateful person can’t enjoy the blessings he does have. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, The Attitude to Gratitude

Do you leak?

Not- Does your thanks spill out and overflow? I mean leak– as in accidentally lose the contents. As in, God’s gifts are lost on you. 

A little grumbling here and there might not seem so bad, but it says a lot- about us and about what we believe about God.

Grumbling is that bad.

God hates grumbling. We’re called to do all things without grumbling.

Pastor Ritch Boerckel offers three reasons why the  grumbling of God’s people is that bad.

Reason #1: Our grumbling proclaims that our God is not good.

We might call it venting, or keeping it real, but take a minute and ask yourself: About what or whom do I grumble?

I’ll start with me. Sadly, the question is easy: I grumble when my time feels “wasted” and,  if others poor choices caused the “waste,” I might complain about them.

There- I said it.

But how, you wonder, can I draw such a straight line from my grumbling against the people and circumstances down here straight up  to God?

Well, when the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert, God heard it. Then he told Moses to tell themYour grumbling is not against us but against the LORD (Exodus 16:8, Numbers 14:26-27). Our Father in heaven heard their grumbling, and hears ours.

When we whine like deprived children, we don’t adorn. We don’t make our loving Lord look good. We slander his loving care to watching eyes and listening ears.

Grumbling, John Piper explains, only adds to the darkness because it obscures the light of God’s gracious, all-controlling providence. 

But there’s more.

Reason #2:  Our grumbling demands that God submit to our wishes.

We don’t put it like that, but at the end of the day, isn’t that what our complaints say? That we wish God would do it our way, would submit to our wishes. When we grumble, we’re rebel children, pots second-guessing the potter.

For has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? (Romans 11:34-35). A complaining spirit, therefore, reveals a problem in our relationship with God.

But there is a difference between grumbling and groaning. Groaning, for the record, can actually be a sign of our faith and hope in God’s promises (see Romans 8:22-24).

Groaning and disappointment, criticism and disagreement need not be the same as grumbling and complaining.

Kevin DeYoung explains,

[T]he Bible is full of examples of godly people who say, “I’m upset. I wish this were different. Lord, would you do something? I don’t like this.” …Grumbling, however, is not a humble cry for help, but saying to God, “I know how to run the universe a bit better than you do.” Instead of saying, “This really hurts, but I’m ready to receive whatever I must receive from God’s hand,” grumbling says, “This stinks, and I’m ready to rebel against God’s heart.” That’s the difference…

We’re talking about rebellion against God. Not that the situation is hard, but that God is hard.

Our situation may be hard. But our God is not hard.

He has promised his children good. 

Reason #3: Our grumbling disbelieves God’s precious promises.

God has promised to provide all our needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) and that he will withhold no good thing from him whose walk is upright (Psalm 84:11) and that all things work for good to those who love him and called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Not to mention that his mercies are there for the picking, new every morning.

But grumbling says we don’t believe those. Or, at least, for the moment, we’re choosing to ignore them. Grumbling says we don’t trust God.

More from DeYoung,

Though you might direct it toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, or someone in authority, you’re saying to God, “You’re not taking care of me…” Grumbling dishonors God.

The problem with complainers is that they don’t really trust that God is big enough to help and good enough to care. That’s what you think when you complain. “This God?! I may say that I believe him, sing songs about him, and read a Bible about him, but I don’t really believe that he’s big enough to do anything about it or good enough to care about me.

Who knew a little complaining about the rain and work and delays and aches and pains could betray so much?

That grumbling could be such a hard habit to break?

Fill the house with gratitude.

Habit is overcome by habit. It’s called replacement. Breaking bad habits means we fill the void with something good.

Just stopping up the leak isn’t enough. In other words, Quit yer grumbling, is not the goal. That’s just the empty house. And Jesus warned that if the house stays empty, the final plight might be worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45). We need to fill the house.

We need to do something hard: replace grumbling with thanks and turn that frown upside-down and, by God’s grace, choose gratitude.

Thankfully, giving thanks breaks the grumbling habit. In fact, it’s what we were created to do (1 Peter 2:9). Declaring God’s praise is why we were made.

So stop up the leaks. Don’t let the blessings drip through. Fill your house with gratitude.

Come, you thankful people, come.

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.

Psalm 140:13

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It Really Is Good To Give Thanks

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your lovingkindness in the morning and your faithfulness by night.

Psalm 92:1-2

Good means good. And it is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Good means beneficial and having an advantage for us. As in, Eat your fruits and vegetables- they’re good for you. And exercise is good too. Giving thanks to God benefits us. For starters, it frees us from the prison of self pre-occupation. Giving thanks is good.

But good means more. It also means fitting and appropriate. As in,  It would be good to be on time to the wedding. And not to wear dirty jeans to the dinner party. And, It’d be good to say thanks to the friend who gave you the tickets on the 50-yard line for Packer game . 

It is good to bookend our days with praise. In the morning implies eagerness and promptness and by night, unflagging diligence and devotion. Bookending can be as simple as thanking God for three things before you let yourself roll out of bed each morning and thanking him for three more when you crawl back in at night.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Duplicate Deliciousness

C.H. Spurgeon stretches out the morning to mean the happy seasons of our lives, the bright days of unsullied sweetness.

And the bright morning-like periods of our life-these, too, should be seasons for showing forth God’s lovingkindness… Do not, as some do, who, if they are prospering, make a point of not owning to it. We talk as if, really, we were to be pitied for living, as if we were little better off than toads under a hallow, or snails in a tub of salt. We often whine as if our lives were martyrdoms, and every breath a woe, thus slandering the good Lord.

There are bright days like the morning, and in them we ought to render praise. And see what is to be the subject of our praise–God’s lovingkindness. Was there ever such a word in any language as this word lovingkindness? It is a duplicate deliciousness. There are within it linked sweetnesses long drawn out. It is a kind of word with which to cast spells which should charm away all fears…A Christian ought to be the most cheerful of men. Let the joy of the Lord be our strength.

Do we declare his lovingkindness each morning of the bright days of our lives? Are we the most cheerful of women and men?

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

If There Be Any One Topic…

But we are to give thanks in all circumstances (for this is God’s will for you). We are not only to thank Him on the bright days, but thank him always, even the in the dark nights and grim days. Spurgeon urges us on in this too- to declaring God’s faithfulness by night. 

We have a day’s more experience than we had in the morning; therefore we have more power to sing of God’s faithfulness. Notice that the text says “every night,” the dark, drear, cold nights as well as others. Let the old who are nearing the night of life show forth the Lord’s faithfulness. And let us all publish it abroad. If there be any one topic on which Christians should speak, it is this, and they should speak of it bravely, continuously, thankfully and positively. Satan makes a dead set upon it in the minds of many tempted ones, and therefore all the more should you bring the strength of your testimony that God doth not forsake His people.  

So central is this call to bookend our days with God’s praise, that the Psalmist closes Psalm 92  with an astonishing purpose statement. It describes the righteous, who still bear fruit in old age. Then, the purpose statement: they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him (Psalm 92:14-15). 

Did you catch that that causal link? The reason we’re here is to declare that the Lord is upright.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

Here to Declare

You older saints, who are full of sap and green, you’re still around for at least this one reason: to declare God’s praise. But how exactly does an seasoned believer do that?

Spurgeon one more time,

Why, [he] shows that God has kept his promise. He has promised that he will never leave them nor forsake them. There you see it. He has promised that when they are weak they shall be strong. There you see it. He has promised that if they seek him they shall not lack any good thing. There you see it.

We see it when others declare it. Nothing girds up my soul when it’s weary soul than hearing a seasoned saint testify to the upright, faithfulness of God. More than once these words were exactly the encouragement I needed when my middle-aged life responsibilities bore down on me. When I needed some help to count blessings.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

It Is Good To Give Thanks

Words from you older saints have weight. They bring home the goodness of God  home when we might not feel it. They declare that following God’s ways is wise and that he has been faithful to all his promises and that not one word of them has ever fallen to the ground.

So please declare and keep declaring this to us, you fruit bearing saints in old age. (Whatever old age is.) Please. Because that’s at least one reason you’re here: To declare that God is upright.

Yes, giving thanks to God is beneficial and advantageous and appropriate and right.

It really is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give me one thing  more-a grateful heart…
…I cry and cry again; 
And in no quiet canst Thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain 
Of Thee.
Not thankful when it pleases me, 
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.

George Herbert

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Transmission

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture will give thanks to you forever; 
from generation to generation we will recount your praise. 
Psalm 79:13

Gabe dashed upstairs and scanned the room. He found her at once.

The sight was cause for both mile-wide grin and mile-high shoulder sigh. Dinah, in typical lagomorph fashion, was lounging leisurely, ears flopped to the floor.

And in typical Gabe fashion, he tackled her.

And announced:

I think Dinah’s doing fine. She must have chomped up that balloon* really well. 

And without a moment’s hesitation,

Thank you, Lord!

And then,

Dinah ate a balloon, was feeling fine… (Sung to the tune of “Bill Grogan’s Goat”)

And off he went, to Legoland in “The Downstairs.”

In his essay titled, “On the Transmission of Christianity,” C.S. Lewis explained that, if they exist, we ought use clear, simple answers to explain our problems. If today’s youth find it hard to figure their sums correctly and we know their schools stopped teaching arithmetic, we’d consider that the cause, not some “vaguer, larger explanation.” We need not think that, say, “gangster films had undermined the desire to get right answers” or “the influence of Einstein had sapped the ancestral belief in fixed numerical relations.” Stick with simple.

Likewise,

If the younger generation has never been told what the Christians say and never heard any arguments in defence of it, then their agnosticism or indifference is fully explained. There is no need to look any further… Having discovered that the cause of their ignorance is lack of instruction, we have also discovered the remedy. 

There is nothing in the nature of the younger generation which incapacitates them for receiving Christianity. The young people today are un-Christian because their teachers have been either unwilling or unable to transmit Christianity to themNone can give what he does not possess himself.

All that to explain why I revel tonight.

Gabe’s knee-jerk thanks is proof. Train up a child. And, One generation will commend your works to another. And, Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving. My seven year-old’s thanksgiving outburst is cause for my own.

And so I thank the Lord. Despite myself-my grumbling grumps and frustrated fumes-there’s still some transmission going on.

*In case you wonder: Gabe dumped water balloons on the floor just before dinner. Dinah picked green. Maybe she thought it was celery, he said. We talked about bowel obstruction and stomach acid and other grim digestive realities. He worried.