On a personal note, I’m very thankful for all of you who are reading and enjoying the Blue Spigot. I’m having a blast writing it and have been blessed by your words of encouragement.
And another personal note, I will be taking a break for Thanksgiving Week. Linda and I will be hosting our grandkids, Cooper and Reese, for whom we are so grateful. The Blue Spigot will open again on December 1.
In 1974, in my junior year of college, I learned an important Thanksgiving lesson – yes, about gratitude, but also about trust. I believe those two attitudes are linked.
I had worked at six different jobs in the previous year. That was partly because I spent the summer in Pittsburgh with my parents, where my dad had been transferred. Returning to the SF Bay Area, I helped set up banquets at the Berkeley Marriott for a couple of months before I landed the best job ever for a college student – a bellman at the Oakland Hilton.
Wearing a red sport coat, white shirt, and a rainbow tie, we shuttled people to and from the airport and carried their suitcases. Being helpful and friendly, it was an extrovert’s dream, and the tips were plentiful. Located near the airport and the Coliseum stadium and arena, the Hilton was the hotel of choice in the East Bay for professional athletes and performers. Did I mention that I made a lot of money?
But that’s not how it started. The Bell Captain, Lew Rice, had promised regular hours when I was hired, but for the first month I was only getting eight to ten hours per week. The bank account was going in the wrong direction, and I was scrambling. And I was praying.
I don’t recall the specific message at church on the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving – yes, back then many churches had both morning and evening services – but I do remember feeling like a hypocrite. Somehow it didn’t seem right to be praying for God to provide for my needs, because that had been my one concern. All getting. No giving.
One year before I had said yes to serving God vocationally, but to that point, I was serving myself financially. Twenty years old, six jobs over the last year, and I had never begun to tithe, intentionally giving back to God and to his work by setting aside a portion of my income.
Which wasn’t much. On that Sunday, I had seventy dollars in my bank account. I don’t remember all the emotions of that moment, but I do remember the impulse, and followed through on it. I wrote a check for fifty dollars and put it in the offering as the plate was passed.
It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was partly an admission to myself and to God of my neglect over the past year. But I also knew that it was time to connect my convictions to my actions. After the worship service ended, I headed back to the apartment I shared with my brother and went to bed.
And early the next morning I got a phone call from the Bell Captain. The night before he had fired one of the other bellmen and gave me his shifts – three or four eight-hour evening shifts per week, starting immediately.
I’ve never forgotten that phone call. I told my boss all the right things, and reported to work that night. But as soon as I hung up with Lew, I’m pretty sure that I had a similar conversation with God, with pretty much the same words: wow, thanks, that’s great, I’m ready to start!
It’s only natural to think cause and effect – I wrote the check, so God gave me the job. But God is not interested in our scientific explanations. I’m pretty sure that I would have gotten the hours regardless of whether I had begun to tithe.
I’ve had years to reflect on this event, and I see a more important dimension: in his love for me, God was prompting a couple of qualities to take hold in me, both of which are foundational to having a covenant relationship with him: trust and gratitude.
Singing and speaking about relying on God and giving thanks are great – in late November and throughout the year – but they’re just hollow words unless they are manifested in concrete actions.
Remember – we open the spigot. God blesses us so that we can bless others. In doing so, they sense that God is blessing them, and the cycle continues.
We thank God for what we have been given, and honor him with the “first fruit of our harvest”. *
We trust God enough to follow through when the Holy Spirit prompts us to be generous with our time and our resources. If this is a completely foreign concept, and you haven’t been prompted in years, maybe you’re not trusting God as much as you tell yourself you are.
I worked at the Hilton for two years, and it was an awesome job – and not just because of the cash and the celebrities and the perks, like free passes to sporting events. It was a great for me and for four other guys that either worked with me or followed after me – friends Tom, Gary, and Dan, as well as my brother Doug. I learned how to serve wholeheartedly, I have multiple memories of God providing for my needs, and I began to tithe, a conviction that continues to this day. For all those reasons and more, I am very grateful.
Benediction of Blessing
May you look around the table at which you gather for Thanksgiving, and have eyes to see the blessings you have received.
May you look up to God and give him thanks for his generosity to you.
May you listen for and trust the promptings of the Holy Spirit to open the spigot of your life.
* See Proverbs 3:7-10.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM