"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and uplift one another with all wisdom, and as you sing songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16
Gratitude is an attitude of being thankful for what God and others have done for me. When I fully recognize that my greatest problem is solved, my debt of sin, I can feel and understand gratitude. This leads me to desire to live a life of response to what the Lord has done for me - a life of honor and thankfulness to Him.
One key experience which deepened my gratitude was our dance tour to Beijing as God opened the door for us to recieve an invitation to perform in the 2008 Olympic Festivals. It was a very eye-opening experience that showed us the reality of what being a Christian is like in other countries. The feeling of the atmosphere in a country where it is illegal and dangerous to speak of Jesus Christ or "God" is something very different than what we feel in America. The relaxed and free environment we experience daily concerning how we talk and share with whoever we wish about our relationship with the Lord was nonexistent in China. It felt as if my spirit was being suffocated and "spiritual oxygen" was not easily found nearby in churches, Christian book stores, television, topics of conversations, music options etc. Even our Christian dance school's website was "blocked" in China for it's content.
Overall, meeting people one on one of all ages and backgrounds and simply sharing the love of God was extremely rewarding! These opportunities were the ones that made a difference in the people's lives. And, it helped me to realize that no matter what country we are in or government we are under, the best way to bring someone to Christ is to build a relationship with them. The people of China were extremely kind, which made my heart ache all the more for the oppression they experienced to practice their faith. They were so hungry and eager for the love that we were showing them.
Having our actual speech restricted in China made me more passionate about "speaking out" our thankfulness to God and to others. It reminds us daily what is truly valuable, and what is not. A thankful heart is fertile ground for a garden of other virtues to take root and flourish. From a thankful heart grows humility, selflessness, a sense of destiny, hope, joy, a gentle spirit, and so much more.
We also should be extremely thankful for basic health and opportunties for education. When entering an orphanage for children with disabilities in Lang Fang, China, we came upon one of the crowded preschool rooms. My mother and I quickly noticed two boys with very outdated hearing aids. We recognized the models which were used by my deaf sister, Lydia, almost a decade ago back in America. This old model of hearing aid would have most likely been thrown away in America. My mother signed to the boys, but they just smiled. In addition to not being able to speak, they had never been exposed to sign language and had no idea how to respond. They too, most likely will never receive the benefits of higher education, a cochlear implant, or know the dignity of a career. A nurse explained to us that the boys would live in the orphanage until age 18 and then most likely learn to work in a field. So many opportunities and everyday privileges that we take for granted are not even options in many countries.
Student Story: Returning from a recent mission trip from Nicaragua, one of my ten year old students shared her most memorable lesson. She said "I lost my ipod on the plane on the way there! But when I got there and saw that the families did not even have electricity, I realized that not having my ipod was not really that big of a deal". What moments in your life have made you realize how blessed you truly are? We would like to hear your story!!