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Spiritual Spinach

It always good to thank God

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I was amazed.

Throughout the years, I’ve talked to a variety of people who’ve lost a home or business after a fire.

I expect them to tell me how the fire started and how bad it was and what they lost.

That’s what I expected when I called David and Christine Baker after a fire destroyed their Fremont home.

But I got a very different answer when I talked to David.

The first words out of his mouth weren’t about the fire.

David said he wanted to talk to me, because he had so many people to thank.

During the interview, Christine talked about how their oldest son, Devon, had been up at 4 a.m., playing video games on the morning of the fire.

An oscillating fan stopped and there was a burning smell. So the 18-year-old checked a fuse box in the basement.

One side was hot.

Meanwhile, Devon’s best friend, 19-year-old Kenny Wallin, who’d been spending the night, went into the kitchen.

A spark fell in front of him. He looked up and could see the glow of fire coming through recessed kitchen lights.

He heard a crackling sound.

The young men knew they had to get the family — which included Devon’s brother, Garrett, who has special needs, and 89-year-old grandma, Norma — out of the house.

Quickly awakened family members scrambled into clothes and managed to get one pet outside.

Firefighters rescued the other pets, which included a couple of dogs (my favorite was the “full-figured” golden retriever named Daisy Mae) and a cat and even a turtle.

They retrieved soot-covered Christmas gifts, too.

But the house was a total loss.

The family could have focused on all the fire consumed.

Instead, Christine and David talked about how thankful they were that everyone got out safely and their pets were rescued. They are grateful for firefighters, police, utilities workers, friends, neighbors and family members who’ve helped them.

In a world where many people look at the negative side of life, it was heartwarming to hear this family talk about their blessings.

And their thankfulness.

It reminds me of a Bible story found in the 17th chapter of the New Testament book of Luke.

At this point, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He’s traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee.

As he goes into a village, 10 men with leprosy meet him.

Leprosy, a contagious disease that affects the skin and nerves, is treatable today.

In Bible times, it was a death sentence.

Lepers had to avoid the general population and even call out “unclean” if someone came to close to them.

They were despised.

When the lepers see Jesus, they stand at a distance.

But they call out loudly for help:

“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he sees them, Jesus says, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

That’s what people were supposed to do if they’d been healed.

The priests were able to verify that someone had been cured and then they could reconnect with their families and resume jobs and worship.

It doesn’t sound like the lepers were healed instantly.

But as they went, they were healed.

Can you imagine what that must have been like?

Did they break out in a full-fledged run, dropping the ragged cloths they’d used to bind their wounds?

Did they imagine the joy that would appear on their loved ones’ faces when they were reunited?

Did they suddenly feel better and lighter and more hopeful than they had in a long time?

Funny thing, but one of them — when he sees he is healed — comes back, praising God in a loud voice.

He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks him.

And this guy is a Samaritan.

Jesus is a Jew. And Jews and Samaritans don’t get along.

But this former leper is grateful to the Jesus, who’s given him a second chance at life.

Suddenly, Jesus does a little math.

“Were not all 10 cleansed?” Jesus asks. “Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Can you see his point?

It’s not like the 7-year-old who was so excited to get her toy unicorn that she forgot to thank grandma for the birthday gift.

No, that never happened to me.

But seriously, these men were healed of a disfiguring and debilitating disease and certain death.

I wonder if Jesus was hurt and discouraged.

The Scriptures don’t say much else except what Jesus tells the newly healed man.

“Rise and go,” Jesus says. “Your faith has made you well.”

As I read this story, I wonder what I would have done if I’d been in those lepers’ sandals.

Would I have stopped, turned around and thanked the one who’d basically saved my life?

Or would I only have been thinking about how my new-found health was going to benefit me?

I wonder, too, if I forget to thank someone who’s done something that I might take for granted today.

Do I thank the waitress who brings a plate of food to my table or the clerk who hands me my order at the drive-thru window? Do I thank the clerk who sacks my groceries?

Or am I so preoccupied with where I have to go next or how many things are left on my mental to-do list?

I know the Bakers are grateful to the people who’ve helped them. I’m sure they’ll be thankful for people who’ll help them in the future, too.

The other night, I was thinking about times when Jesus said thanks — like before the feeding of 5,000 people, before raising Lazarus from the dead and breaking bread at The Last Supper.

Jesus was grateful. He obviously didn’t take blessings for granted, which makes me think I probably shouldn’t either.

While I’d never wish for a fire, I want to be like people who see blessings even after one.

I don’t wish for sickness, but I want to be like the leper who even amid the thrill of being healed is so overcome with gratitude that he runs back to Jesus before he does anything else.

And I want to be thankful for blessings big and small that come from the hand of our great and generous God to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude for the incredible gift he gave through the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus.

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly faith-based column.

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