Raise your hand if you remember this one:
God is great, God is good;
Let us thank him for our food.
By His hands we all are fed;
Thank you, Lord for daily bread.
It’s the prayer my parents made us say before every single meal, snack or piece of candy. It was drilled into us even before we could talk and we learned to say it in about three seconds flat.
I remember once when my baby sister, Alisha Joy, refused to pray before dinner. She sat there with her arms folded and her lip poked out and just refused to fold her hands and say grace. At the time, my parents had six kids and Alisha Joy was next to the youngest. She was about 3 at the time.
We all sat there looking at her as if she’d just slapped my mother across the face. I was ready to go get the switch (yes, they spanked kids back then). But my mom sat down and quietly told everyone else to start eating and just ignore Alisha until she was ready to “say grace”.
And so we ate. And Alisha Joy just sat there.
We tried to rescue her. She was the baby girl after all. And we didn’t want to have to hear the line from my mom about the “hungry kids in Africa who would love to have this food.”
“Come on, ‘Lisha Joy,” we coaxed her. “Say grace so you can eat. Yum-Yummm.”
Then my mom, a veteran Sunday School teacher, looked at Alisha Joy and reminded her of the story of the ten lepers (Luke 17: 11-19).
You see, we were preachers’ kids. Both my mom and my dad were ministers at our childhood church and they referenced and invoke the Bible the way some parents (like me) reference a television show or a preschool character to get our kids to do something or grasp a concept. I remember my daddy making us read out of the Bible when he was lecturing us about “disobedience” or “dishonoring our parents.” And I remember one rainy week when we asked our grandmother, who was a pastor, if we were going to have to make an ark to get back home.
When other kids were playing cops and robbers, we were playing “church”.
That said, we all knew the story of the ten lepers. You know, where Jesus healed them all, but only one came back to say thank you, so God healed even his scars and deformities, or “made him whole” as the Bible says.
Well, you would have thought my mom was telling Alisha Joy that she would be a leper if she didn’t say grace. And apparently, that fear outweighed the fear of my dad finding out she didn’t say grace. The hunger pains started to hit her a short time later (after one of my brothers got busted during an attempt to sneak her a snack).
Before long, she held her little hands together and said the rhyme – with gusto.
God is gweat; God is good;
Wet us tank him for dis food.
By his hands we awl are fed,
Thank you, Lword, for daiwey brwead!
When my family – parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins – gather at my grandmother’s church in Murray for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, this is surely one of the stories we’ll tell.
And Alisha Joy, now 26 and married with a baby girl on the way, will probably groan and roll her eyes. But she knows she has to endure it because that story – and the one about her peeing “like a boy” in the middle of a busy parking lot – are our favorite stories about her.
But long before we start telling stories, we’ll bow our heads in prayer.
We have so much to be thankful for.