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Giving Thanks–for a Toothbrush?

Sometimes, it is easy to forget to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. If they are exciting, sure! Joy and thanks are a natural response. But what about the little necessities God provides for us every day? Can we consider them any less?

“But I don’t wanna,” stamped my son Lincoln, whispering in what I call his “loud quiet voice” when we received the gift of a nice new character-themed toothbrush from a friend at church.

My top lip curled. Just the bottom half of the whites of my teeth showed. I scrunched my head and furrowed my brows and shot the parenting stare, stating, I said, saythank you.’” My son, just three years old at the time, raised his head and parted his lips to slip out the firmest yet weakest “thank you.”  We walked to our vehicle where I could properly lecture him over a bag of fruit snacks.

Thanks for Gifts Is Easy

Psalm 107:1–3 states:

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

Gratitude, at any age, can prove to be difficult. I don’t speak of gratitude for the things we want, but instead for the things we need. Had the gift that my son opened so feverishly been a brand-new game, a GI Joe, or some sort of candy—the thank you would escape his lips quicker than a toddler in trouble flees the scene and louder than a Friday night football game.

When we receive things we want, it is easy to respond with thanks. Those are the things we not only desire but think we deserve. When these things come to us, we feel as if we are being duly blessed. We have a sense of fulfillment that comes with the newfound possession of those things. Things we want are the easiest things to offer thanks for.

Thanks for What We Need

But things we need?

That is is a different story.

The proverbial toothbrush we receive as a gift isn’t always something we want—but instead, it’s something we need. The toothbrush is there to demonstrate to us that while we may think we deserve some things, while we may have our own wants, we also have human needs that must be considered for us to truly live lives that are whole and healthy. The things that our good and gracious God provides for our needs are often the things we forget to thank Him for the most, even though these are the things for which we should be bowing to Him daily. 

The food we eat, the clothing on our backs, the houses we call homes, the people we call parents, the vocations we are given, and the vocations we are not given. All these are things that are given to us graciously by our Father, yet we have the hardest time parting our lips to say a “thank you” for them.

Still, Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Our feelings often get in the way of us seeing how the Lord feels about us. His grace, His mercy, and His loving kindness are worthy to be praised at all times and in all places. Not just for the things that we want—but for those things that we need and that are granted by our Father.

A Prayer Going Forward

Around the holidays especially, there are lots of things to be overly stressed about. The cooking, shopping, gatherings, appearances, church services, programs, and—oh wait—COVID! With everything going on around us, we must remember the God who lives within us. Remember to not forsake giving thanks for the sake of cooking the turkey. We must remember to not forsake praising Him over stressing out about the shopping list.

May we take the posture of gratitude this holiday season. Even when we, like my son that day, are blissfully unaware of how thankful we ought to be. May we have gratitude and give thanks for the things we need and rely on Him to supply those things.

Even when “we don’t wanna,” we serve a God who is “gonna.” So, as a father, I gave my lecture in the car over a pack of fruit snacks (which I may have shared with him, by the way). But our heavenly Father teaches us in this walk of life through His Word, sharing Himself over bread and wine, His body and His blood. And that is the best meal of all.

So, Father.

Thank You.

Scripture: ESV®.


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Picture of Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling
Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling is an LCMS pastor and Lutheran university educator. Dr. Bolling holds a BA in theatre from Concordia University Chicago, an MDiv from Concordia Seminary, and a doctor of education (EdD) degree from Concordia University Wisconsin in leadership, innovation, and continuous improvement. His dissertation was focused on human resource development in under-resourced urban ministry structures of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (How LCMS Pastors Are Developed through Mentorship). Dr. Bolling currently serves in a dual call as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and as assistant professor of leadership and theology in the online modality and coordinator of multicultural engagement at Concordia University Texas. His passion for urban ministry, education, leadership, nonprofit management, mentorship, diversity/equity/inclusion, and distance learning are all married in this dual call as he serves the saints of Bethlehem and the students of Concordia University Texas simultaneously. Dr. Bolling has also spoken at numerous conferences, on podcasts, and at churches, schools, and events within our church body, reflecting the love of Christ and prodding deeper conversations about deaf, urban, and cross-cultural inclusive ministry. He has taught in half the schools of the Concordia University System, thoroughly realizing the depth of knowledge our Concordia schools have to offer to the world they engage. Dr. Bolling has been married to his beautiful and talented wife, Lorenda, for six years. Lorenda serves as a preschool teacher at Word of Life Lutheran School. Together, they have a four-year-old son named Lincoln and a two-year-old daughter named Monroe. Both children were born in different years but on the exact date—October 5! They currently reside on the south side of St. Louis, Missouri.

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