Some Assembly Required

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


            I have kept gratitude journals on and off for years, and now I wish that I had been more consistent about it.  This time of the year always makes me aware of how blessed I am in every area of my life, and even though I didn’t join in with those who are so consistent about their lists on Facebook, I love the fact that so many people are daily sharing their blessings with the Facebook world.
            Even though I haven’t had a blog for you in a while, please don’t think that I haven’t been writing because for the last nine or ten months, it seems that I have been made extra aware of how we as Americans have been blessed (overly blessed?)  We have so much “stuff” (for lack of a better word), and that awareness has resulted in a couple of blogs that you will be receiving soon.  My prayer is that we will all see how we have been blessed as far as material things go.  We have so much when so many in the world have nothing or next to nothing.  I think that behooves us to take care of those around us in need.  One of my former students posted something on Facebook recently that caught my attention, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  It’s a quote by Martin Luther:  God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.  Hmmm!
            The first Thanksgiving blog is included below.  You will receive a second one entitled “But You Know—It Doesn’t Even Matter” around November 20.  Then on November 23, you will receive a beautiful piece written by a special young friend of mine entitled “Tell Them They Aren’t Enough.”    On November 25 (Black Friday), you will be blessed by my favorite co-writer (my husband) who will share his thoughts on “Stuff.”   I understand all too well that this is a very busy time of the year, but please take just a few minutes to read the blogs as you get them and ask God to teach you what you need to know.    
 Truer  Words  Were  Never  Spoken
I was sitting at a traffic signal, waiting for my light to turn green.  For some strange reason, I started noticing something that had never before caught my attention.  I watched as vehicle after vehicle made a left turn coming onto the street where I was waiting.  That was when I realized that most of those vehicles were relatively new—no old junkers.  Hmmm—very interesting!  This incident happened probably ten or eleven months ago, but from that point on, I was hooked! (I hope that you start noticing, also!)   Every time I am caught by a light now, I watch as the turning vehicles pass by.  I have become more and more amazed, not only by the newness of the vehicles but by the fact that the majority of the drivers are using cell phones at the time I see them. 
So I did a little “research” on the topic.  For those of you who tend to lean a little toward legalism occasionally, I do realize the many flaws in the “test” that I did, but I do think that, as skewed as the test may be, it still proves something about us as Americans.  I threw a poll out on Facebook, asking people to give me three pieces of information:  1) The number of licensed drivers in their household  2) The year that each of their vehicles was made  3) The number of telephones in their house, including cell phones. 
It was a real eye-opener, even to some of the people who responded.  For instance, some had never realized the number of telephones to which their families had access.    Here are the results:  39 households responded, representing 78 licensed drivers and 83 vehicles.   This averages out to each licensed driver having his/her own vehicle.  We can “reason” that out if we wish—talk about why it’s necessary in America for every driver in the household to have his/her own car, but I still think it is a lot higher percentage than most other countries.  54 % of the vehicles were made in the year 2005 or later.  The average year that all the cars were made was 2003, meaning that, on average, we all drive cars that are eight years old or newer.  I’m not saying this is wrong;  hey, we have a 2010 and a 2011 at my house!  I just want us to think about a few things!  The really, really surprising statistic (even to me) was that for 39 households, there were 162 telephones.  That figures out to 4.15 telephones/household. 
To help you see the comparison, let me tell you about a book I recently read.  The title is To Fly Again; Surviving the Tailspins of Life by Gracia Burnham.  She and her husband were missionaries until May, 2001, when they were kidnapped and  held as hostages in a jungle in the Philippines for one year (That’s 12 months; 365 days—in a jungle!!)  She was eventually rescued, but he was shot and killed in the rescue attempt; it was finally determined that he was killed by “friendly fire” (That’s got to be an oxymoron.)  If  you want to read about two people having strong faith in their omnipotent God, this book really is a must-read! 
Some of the statistics in this book are mind-boggling in contrast to the numbers I’ve just given you about America.  According to Mrs. Burnham’s research and data, 80% of the world’s population has never made a telephone call—not one—ever!! (p. 35)  Unbelievable!!   And here in America, we have 4.15 telephones per household.  (If they wouldn’t know what to do with a telephone, imagine their reaction to a computer!) 
She also points out that less than one-fourth of the world’s population sleeps in a bed at night.  (I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled to be in that 1/4!)  Three-fourths sleep in a hammock of some kind…or a mat on a floor…or on a floor with no mat…or on the plain dirt.  She goes on to point out that,  Obviously, even fewer have a bedspread that matches the curtains, or a TV across the bedroom with a remote control to turn it on and off from where they recline.  The belongings that matter to many of us are beyond the comprehension of at least three billion other people on our planet.  (p.33)  (emphasis is mine) 
Our daughter, Kristy, and her daughter, Erin (who is 10), were blessed with the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador this past summer.  Kristy had been there before, but it was a first for Erin—a real eye-opener because of the desperate living conditions and general poverty of the people there.  Before the mission team had left the United States, Erin (with the help of her mom) had made and sold ribbon bracelets to help pay her way to El Salvador.  She had some of the bracelets left over and took them with her to give to the young girls at one of the schools they visited.     Kristy said that when the little girls saw what Erin was doing, they rushed her, all wanting the little bracelets—made out of ribbon, glue, and the pop-top rings found on canned cold drinks!  They were thrilled with their gifts from America.  I had to wonder what little girls in America would have done/said if they had been given one of the simple little bracelets.
In preparation for the trip, Kristy had gone to one of the local dollar stores and bought several small photo albums with plastic sleeves that would hold 4”x6” cards.  Several women helped her find Scriptures that would be appropriate for evangelism, and then she had someone translate the verses into Spanish to be written on the cards.  The cards were put into the small albums with a few blank pages so that the women could perhaps add their own favorite verses.  Kristy said the experience of giving these little gifts to the locals was amazing and very humbling.  Most of the women cried and were overwhelmed that someone in America had actually taken the time to make something especially for them.  Kristy relates how one woman clutched the book of Scriptures to her heart, teared up, and said, “This is the best gift anyone has ever given me.”
Truer words were never spoken!


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