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Pastor's Pen: Needle in a Haystack

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” -- Psalm 136:1

“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.” The idiom is used to describe an almost impossible task. The earliest known use of similar words comes from Cervantes in Don Quixote in 1605. Picking through a pile of straw to find something that resembles a piece of straw has apparently been challenging people since the 17th Century.

My engineer father used to tell me that laziness is the mother of invention. How can we make things easier or simpler? How can we avoid hard work? In that spirit, if given a haystack and a hidden needle, I would find a magnet. As long as the needle was made of the right material, my magnet could make short work of the task. What was hidden would be found.

In the matters of the human heart, that magnet is like gratitude. Looking at the messiness of our lives, sometimes it’s hard to find the mercies we have received. “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.” However, when we approach our complicated and confused lives with a spirit of thanksgiving, those mercies find themselves like an iron needle jumping to a magnet. The kind word of a stranger, the laughter of a child, or the lick of a dog reveal themselves as bits of grace. In fact, without that thankful spirit, it would be hard to notice the 18-wheeler semi-truck in the haystack. The blessings of home, family, and friends are taken for granted. The love of God in Jesus Christ is overlooked. Without gratitude, the treasures that life has to offer remain hidden.

For Americans, November is a time for Thanksgiving. The holiday is not about football, food, or family. Nonetheless, I would argue that each can be seen as grace under the magnetic pull of gratitude. Be grateful this holiday season. Thank the people in your lives who made a difference, small and large. Thank the Lord, who is the ultimate source of all blessings. In gratitude, realize that without his mercy, we would be as lost as a needle in a haystack.

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