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A Blessed Man

By Michael McCrary
Guest Writer - "You are a blessed man," he said to me just prior to leaving for the night.

I surveyed the scene -- smiling faces, piles of food, balloons, a birthday cake -- all around me the signs of blessing were manifest, and I was the beneficiary. My wife had carefully planned the surprise party -- complete with little white lies and long, secretive telephone conversation -- and her efforts had been rewarded. I had felt at once overwhelmed, embarrassed, and ecstatic. But mostly, I felt blessed.

I'm sure I felt much like the missionary who, early one December morning, opened his door to find that one of the villagers had brought him a present.

"This sea shell is beautiful, Rabu," he said, studying the object's rare shape and color. "But isn't the ocean at least five miles from the village?"

Bowing humbly and gracefully, his dark-skinned friend merely smiled and said, "Long walk part of gift."

My friend was right; I was blessed. Not because of the presents, the cake, or any of the festivities, but because of the long walk everyone had taken. Everyone there, my wife in particular, had gone well out of their way. Some had re-arranged their schedules. Some had helped buy food and put up decorations. Still others had traveled from out of town, driving three hours each way for a three-hour party. Some of the guests brought gifts, but the guests themselves would have been gift enough. And after the crowd had left, after the food had been stored and the lights put out, the thing that kept coming back to me was this - you are a blessed man. Hours later as I lay in bed, God began to show me the depths of that blessing.

It sometimes happens that, in the scramble to send thank-you notes and otherwise do our bit to show gratitude, we forget to thank the Author of all the goodness we receive. It was God who brought me my wife, and it was God who gave me loving friends and family. He put them in my life, and I ought to praise Him for it.

But God's gifts transcend the tangible. As thankful as I am for that which I can see, smell, and touch, I am most grateful for that which I rarely show my appreciation. "You lifted me out of the slimy pit, O God, out of the mud and mire; You set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand" (Psalm 40: 2).

For all the wonderful people in my life, for all the surprises and birthday wishes, God's greatest gift to me is my own salvation, which came in the form of Christ Himself. In order to deliver me from the slimy pit, Jesus endured the stench of a stable, the pain of betrayal, and the embarrassment of death on a cross. But it's not merely His death and resurrection for which I'm thankful. It's His life. Before Christ died for me, He lived for me. He laughed and wept, healed and taught, rode a donkey, carried a cross. As I study the rare gifts God has bestowed on me -- salvation, peace, joy, love -- I am reminded of this: His long walk up Calvary's hill is part of that gift.

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