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by Peter Cook

Many years ago there was a black man in Chicago who always came into one of the missions with a bright and shining face, no matter what happened. One day his thumb was all tied up and, asked what the matter was, said he was fixing a box when he smashed his thumb with a hammer. "But praise the Lord, I still have my thumb." A few nights later, his face bright as ever, he was asked what he had to praise the Lord for that night. "I was coming down the road with a large beefsteak I had saved up to buy, when I had to bend down and tie my shoe. As I was doing so a big dog ran off with the beefsteak. Praise the Lord!" But why praise God for that, he was asked? "I am praising the Lord because I still have my appetite left."

We can learn something from this man's thankfulness, and not just that there are indeed some who would be only too thankful to regain their physical hunger. Perhaps it sheds new light on Jesus' saying: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness." Think of some of the prayers this should lead to.

Thank you Lord that I do still yearn for your righteousness. Thank you that I still feel the guilt and shame that keeps me ever turning back to you. Thank you for those inadequacies that make me look to your strength and not my own. I even thank you Lord for my depression, because then I am reminded that only you are, and can be, there for me when life is at its worst.

Think of how the Psalmist copes when things were at their worst for him. Maybe his language has already become praise and is beyond thanksgiving. "Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!...my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning...O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption." (Ps. 130)

Perhaps this Thanksgiving we should be more creative in how we give thanks. And let thanks only cease when it ends up being praise.

---The Rev. Dr. Peter J.A. Cook, M.A., is rector of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, in Lake Charles in the Diocese of Western Louisiana. He writes occasional Devotionals for VOL. For more of Dr. Cook's devotionals go to: www.virtueonline.org

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