Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:25-26)
A week and a half ago, my friend Michael, a Covenant pastor in the Bronx, NY, had dinner with his family of 7, watched some TV and then settled into bed for a restful night of sleep. As he lay his head down, he had no idea that in four short hours he would be telling a television reporter, “We’re grateful to be alive. We’re grateful. A lot of people don’t come out of that. I got my wife, I got my kids, I got everything.”
In the Bronx, houses are close together, really close. So when Michael’s neighbor’s house caught fire around 2:30 AM, the fire quickly spread. Michael told the reporter, “The flames were so ferocious they set our house on fire. And so my wife is screaming, my kids are screaming; we’re grateful to be alive. We’re grateful.” Now nine days since the fire, Michael says that he is “thanking God that I can get up in the middle of the night and see my kids. Everyone can’t say that after an incident like the one we just endured. We give God praise! We bless God even if its not where we used to call home – we are together.”
When I first heard about Michael’s fire, I was shocked and then thankful that he and his family were safe – grateful that they had survived, and grateful that my family had been spared the experience of running for our lives in the darkness of night and losing all that we owned.
I met Marimuthu Kavitha (Muthu) on the first day of my doctorate program at Bakke Graduate University. I had flown in from the suburbs of San Diego, Muthu had flown in from India without resources to get home, but trusting that God would provide. I was immediately attracted to his trust in Jesus, his humility, and his love for the poor whom he ministered to through Youth With A Mission. A few weeks after our intensive in Seattle was completed, I answered my phone to hear “Hello brother Doug, how are you doing? How is your family? I have been praying for you.” We kept in touch, calls always ending with “When will you be coming to visit our ministry in India?”
In July 2009, a couple of weeks after I moved to Redmond, I heard that Muthu would be in Seattle for a day or two. I, along with a couple of other local pastors had the opportunity to meet him for lunch. The conversation turned to thankfulness. I shared my thankfulness for having been called to Creekside. Muthu’s turn came and he shared his deep thankfulness for God’s provision. A missionary family had moved back home and left behind their bed. “What a luxury, we now have a bed for the first time in our years of marriage. I am so grateful to God for his provision.”
I left lunch thinking a lot about gratefulness. What was I grateful for? More telling, what had I come to expect? What did I think I deserved? What were the things I assumed? How many of the things God provided was I really grateful for?
Creekside has since partnered with Muthu as one of our global missionaries (you can read more about his ministry on the Global Serving page of our website). In September, I am heading to India to visit his ministry and to teach at The School of Urban Missions that he founded to train pastors throughout India. It will be my first time in India. It will most likely be the most poverty, death and disease that I have ever been exposed to.
I suspect my trip will reveal to me areas of yet untapped gratefulness, resetting my gratefulness meter and returning me more grateful than I currently am. And for that, I am, well, grateful. God uses circumstances and people to give us perspective on his provision, to enlarge our gratefulness and to reveal that all we have are gifts from him who is more than able to be the strength of our heart and our portion forever.
Doug can be reached via email.