Yesterday, I took some time to stop and reflect on the things that I am thankful for. There are so many people and yes even things that I am thankful but they all come from God. Everything in my life in my life is a blessing from God and yesterday was a day to stop and reflect on that. Some things I was especially thankful for yesterday included being home for the first time in two months, sharing Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, and being able to share the meal in peace thanks to the sacrifice of our military.
I thank my God always for you, because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus. That is, you were made rich through him in everything: in all your communication and every kind of knowledge, in the same way that the testimony about Christ was confirmed with you. -1 Corinthians 4:4-6 (CEB)
I have made a bigger effort to thank God each day for something, anything, to look for the positive in each day and to seek it out. If we stop and look at our day and our lives, we will find we have more to be thankful for than we realize. It is that simple. We can receive everything with thanksgiving but as a culture, we seem to have lost this idea.
Everything that has been created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should be rejected. These things are made holy by God’s word and prayer. -1 Timothy 4:4-5 (CEB)
Lately, I have been observing people and I have noticed that there is a trend of ungratefulness in our world. I was recently in multiple airports while I was traveling (and yes I was a bit conspicuous since I was in uniform) but I had the chance to watch how people treated each other. I did not hear many thank yous or even grateful thoughts. Instead, people were rude and even expected others to do things for them. I strive to be grateful towards others and wearing a uniform helps because I do have to remember that I represent the US Army when I am in that uniform but do I need a uniform to be grateful? Do we need a reminder as a culture to be grateful? Every person on this earth was created by God and we should be thankful not only for their service but for their lives as well.
But I will thank the LORD for his righteousness; I will sing praises to the name of the LORD Most High.-Psalm 7:17 (CEB)
But, the worse loss of Thanksgiving comes on Thanksgiving Day itself. I noticed yesterday while we were enjoying time together and celebrating God’s presence in our lives, and yes watching football, that many stores were beginning their sales later in the evening. Instead of waiting until today to encourage greed and selfishness, they were starting it on a day when we should be sharing and remembering how grateful we are.Thanksgiving Day and its traditions and meaning seem to have totally been lost somewhere between Halloween and Christmas sales. Of course, one could argue that we do not need just one day to be thankful and that is correct. We should be thankful all the time but have one day set aside to be specifically thankful is a wonderful idea. It gives us the chance to be intentionally focused on one thing and not on the anticipation of greed or counting down the days until Christmas. We need to be conscious and thankful. Let’s make an effort in the coming year to take back Thanksgiving and dedicate the day to its true purpose:
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. -Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863
Be thankful. Be grateful. Be gracious. Be selfless.
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from heaven!
Praise God on the heights!
Praise God, all of you
who are his messengers!
Praise God, all of you
who comprise his heavenly forces!
Sun and moon, praise God!
All of you bright stars, praise God!
You highest heaven, praise God!
Do the same, you waters
that are above the sky!
Let all of these praise the LORD’s name
because God gave the command
and they were created!
God set them in place always and forever.
God made a law that will not be broken.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you sea monsters
and all you ocean depths!
Do the same, fire and hail,
snow and smoke,
stormy wind that does what God says!
Do the same, you mountains,
every single hill,
fruit trees, and every single cedar!
Do the same, you animals—
wild or tame—
you creatures that creep along
and you birds that fly!
Do the same, you kings of the earth
and every single person,
you princes and every single ruler
Do the same, you young men—
young women too!—
you who are old together
with you who are young!
Let all of these praise the LORD’s name
because only God’s name is high over all.
Only God’s majesty
is over earth and heaven.
God raised the strength of his people,
the praise of all his faithful ones—
that’s the Israelites,
the people who are close to him.
Praise the LORD!
-Psalm 148 (CEB)
On this day when we gather with family and friends to celebrate, we need to focus on why we are celebrating. Too often somewhere between the turkey and the yams, the meaning of this day is tossed out the window as everyone dives into a great meal. Now, it is not a bad thing to enjoy a meal with family and friends but let’s not lose sight of what matters today. As I sit back and think, I have much to be thankful for today. I could come up with a huge list but I want to share just a few people and things I am thankful for today.
- God. God has blessed me in countless ways and continues to be faithful to me even when I stray from him. I know that no matter what happens in my life, I can always depend on God and for this I am thankful.
- My Family. I am where I am because of the love and support of my wife, my daughter, and my parents. They are there when I need them and today (and always) I am thankful for them.
- The Military. Right now, somewhere in this world, there are Soldiers, Marines, so we can Sailors, and Airmen who are standing watch and doing their duty so we can celebrate with our families and friends. I am thankful that they are willing to volunteer to serve to protect us.
This is just a partial list of things and I could write a longer one if I thought about it. However, my point is not about making a list but remembering to be thankful in all things and places.
Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. -Philippians 4:6 (CEB)
Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:18 (CEB)
But I want to challenge you to find something to be thankful for every day of the year – not just today. It is not as easy to keep up your thankfulness year round but yet we still have things to be thankful for even when we can’t see it. Strive to find something to thank God for each day of the year. Be thankful.
Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise. -Psalm 51:15 (CEB)
God is great;
God is good;
and we thank him for our food.
I must have spoken those simple words hundreds of times before lunch when I was a child in Catholic school, but I most certainly did not understand what they meant. Not really.
I liked the certainty in the cadence of the words. They marched out of my mouth, and as I ended with a pointed “A-men!” the deed was done, the prayer complete. Time to eat. If I wasn’t troubling over the fact that “good” and “food” only rhymed with my eye, not my ear, I think I took some satisfaction in having said something that seemed very important about God. Often the most important things you can say about God come in a single word.
Great. And Good. That is what God is like. That is who God is.
The so-called attributes of God are a way of gathering and synthesizing the biblical descriptions of God in the interest of knowing God as he really is. One way to summarize the attributes of God is to use the two categories of greatness (attributes of God’s being) and goodness (attributes of God’s morality). The difference between these two lies in describing who someone is, and describing what he does because of who he is. God’s greatness is about his ascendancy over this world, over the universe, over all reality. Greatness is about his being eternal, absolutely powerful, all-knowing, and other qualities that we will never fully comprehend. His goodness, on the other hand, is about his relational qualities, which we know by revelations such as “God is love” and “God is holy” and “God is right.” They also tend to be the qualities that were imprinted on the spiritual DNA of our lives when he created us. This is how God wants us to be, because we were made in his image.
So it should come as no surprise that the revelation of God that comes to us through the Bible is wrapped in the history and real life stories of hundreds of people across a span of thousands of years, written in three different languages, and from several cultures. The diversity of the Bible is not contradiction, but a gallery of God-encounters. It took all that for us to get enough portraits of God so that we could begin to know him appropriately.
God, the divine person, discloses himself to mortal persons. His descriptions are voice-to-ear, epiphany after thunder, and heaven to earth, as when God disclosed himself to Moses who was hiding in the cleft of a rock:
“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin” -Exodus 34:5-7
The LORD is the great God, the great king above all gods. -Psalm 95:3
God is not merely greater than other powers. His is a difference of kind, not degree. He defines greatness and majesty. [More next time on the greatness of God.]
As I watch the news and see the craziness of people shopping, I can’t help but shake my head. People are going insane to go and buy stuff today whether they need it or not. As I watch the news, I see people pushing and shoving and grabbing and fighting over things that they may or may not even need to buy. I have no problem with anyone finding a good holiday sale at these stores, of course. But I can’t escape a twinge of despair at the thought of this annual celebration of consumerism. It’s partly guilt at the thought of so much money that will be spent on luxury goods and gadgets; it’s partly frustration that Black Friday is ironically linked to a holiday in which Americans (in theory) express their gratitude for and contentment with God’s blessings. Here are some alternatives to Black Friday (for those who haven’t left yet).
- Volunteer. There are plenty of organizations in any community that would appreciate the help today. Many people went to local shelters yesterday to help out but have quickly forgotten them today. In Nashville, you can always voltunteer at the Nashville Rescue Mission, Ronald McDonald House, or any other group.
- Visit. If your family has already left (or even if they are still there), call up a local retirement community, nursing home, or assisted living facility and go and visit the residents who do not have get company. They would appreciate the visit and you will probably enjoy it as well. Just something else to do in place of shopping.
- Reconnect with God. If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, spend some time in Scripture and in prayer, rather than racing rounding convincing yourself that you “saved” a lot on the purchase of something you didn’t really need.
- Sit outside and eat. It may be cold today but go outside and sit and enjoy those leftovers. Go outside and appreciate the warmth you usually enjoy and look at the world in a different way.
- Visit a local museum or zoo. It’s likely there is a nearby museum, large or small, that you’ve never visited. There won’t be a crowd, because manypeople are waiting in check-out lines at the local Wal-Mart.
- Spend time with family. There is a possibility that your family may still be around today. Rather than rush through a store and really not spend time with them, enjoy each other’s company and stay home. You could even consider decorating the house for Christmas.
- Watch a Christmas movie. Many networks are showing classic Christmas movies today so sit back and relax and watch a great movie and get into the true spirit of the season.
- Exercise. Go run. Go walk. Go hike. Play Frisbee. Or play touch football, or anything you enjoy. The point is to have some fun outside with friends and family.
- Look for alternative gifts. It is said that retailers earned $10.66 billion dollars on Black Friday in 2009. As a comparison, non-profit charity organizations collected $15.8 billion dollars over the course of the entire year. Consider giving a gift to a charity in someone’s name and helping others. Here is a list of groups/organizations you can consider:
- Compassion International: You can sponsor a child (even for someone else) and support a child in a poverty-stricken nation to become a healthy and fulfilled adult.
- Save the Children: Offers a similar program to Compassion International. You can sponsor and interact with a child in the US or around the world.
- Heifer International: Works to end world hunger by providing villages with livestock, farming equipment, and other means to support themselves.
- Water Missions: Is working to provide clean, healthy water and sanitation to everyone in the world.
Please don’t attack me as being critical of those who are out shopping today. I am not. If you truly enjoy it and want to be out in the chaos, go for it. However, if you feel compelled to be out in the crowds because you are helping retailers or you feel you have to get out for that bargain, reconsider. All of the bargains will be there tomorrow or on Sunday or Monday. Slow down and appreciate the season. Be in thanksgiving for longer than one day. And pray for those who are not shopping but working in retail today.
Today is the day we celebrate our blessings and our family. I believe most of us have something to be thankful for today. Those of us who live in the United States are by far more fortunate than most of the rest of the world. I read that the poorest Americans are still wealthier than 80% of the rest of the world. That is something to consider today as we gather and celebrate.
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” –Colossians 3:17
On the other hand, I can’t help but reflect today on those who are working to keep us safe in some capacity. After my experience on LifeFlight the other day, I realize that there are people who are working and waiting to help if the need arises. They are willing to sacrifice their day and their celebration to make it possible for the rest of us to celebrate and enjoy our day. There is something to be said for that kind of sacrifice.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. –Philippians 4:6
I find myself wondering today if people would be willing to make that kind of sacrifice or do we always look at what is in it for us. Do we consider others in our decision or do we consider that we might get something out of it. In watching the news today, there are people who are working at EMTs, fire fighters, police, soldiers, doctors, nurses, and even wrecker drivers to keep the world moving and safe – at least as safe as can be – so the rest of us do not have to worry all day long. There is something to be said for that and I am very thankful for all of them.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. –Psalm 9:1
This year is also an interesting Thanksgiving for me. Given my path to the Army, I do not know where I will be next year. Perhaps, I will find myself on a battlefield away from family; perhaps I will be with Lisa and Sophia on a military base and we are unable to get home. Who knows? What I do know is that I will be thankful for this day and be in thanksgiving to God for all that God has done for me.
Let us rejoice and be thankful to God for all God has done!
To be read before or after a meal. (Normal type = to be read by single voice/leader. Bold type = to be read by community)
Lord God, Creator of all,
in your wisdom,
you have bound us together so that we must depend on
for the food we eat,
the resources we use,
the gifts of your creation that bring life, health, and joy.Creator God, we give thanks.
Holy be the hands that sew our clothes so that we do not have to go naked;
sacred be the hands that build our homes so that we do not have to be cold;
blessed be the hands that work the land so that we do not have to go hungry.
Creator God, we give thanks.
Holy be the feet of all who labor so that we might have rest;
sacred be the feet of all who run swiftly to stand with the oppressed;
blessed be the feet of all whose bodies are too broken or weary to stand.
Creator God, we give thanks.
Holy be the sound of children laughing to take away our sorrow;
sacred be the sound of water falling to take away our thirst;
blessed be the sound of your people singing to heal our troubled hearts.
Creator God, we give thanks.
Holy be the bodies of those who know hunger;
sacred be the bodies of those who are broken;
blessed be the bodies of those who suffer.
In your mercy and grace,
soften our callous hearts and
fill us with gratitude for all the gifts you have given us.
In your love,
break down the walls that separate us
and guide us along your path of peace,
that we might humbly worship you in Spirit and in truth.
-Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
Last night, my family and I did our usual grocery shopping for the upcoming week. I couldn’t help but notice the increased chaos (beyond the normal Friday night) as people began to scramble to get ready for Thanksgiving celebrations. It seems that like Christmas, we are losing the meaning behind Thanksgiving and it is becoming a chore (for some) or the opportunity for a party (for others).
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. –Psalm 95:1-2
In theory, we should be in thanksgiving every moment of every day. If we look hard enough, we can find a blessing in many parts of our lives and therefore we should be praising God in music and song as the psalm says. Every day should be a day of thanksgiving as we have much to be thankful for (even if it doesn’t seem that way).
I am not suggesting that we turn Thanksgiving into a solemn day of quiet reflection – the first thankgiving a multi-day affair with games and celebration. No, that is not my suggestion. What I am saying is that we ought to slow down once in awhile and simply reflect on why we are preparing all of this and scrambling.
In the midst of this chaos, stop and be still and quiet (Psalm 46:10 says in part: Be still, and know that I am God). It is okay to prepare a great feast for Thanksgiving, to have company, to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company but let’s not lose sight that we should be praising God as well in all that we do.
Let us come before God in thanksgving and extol him with music and singing!
A few days ago, I blogged about my reasons for why this is the most wonderful time of the year. I have a few more things to add to the list. Last night, I had the opportunity to watch all of the children at my daughter’s pre-school put on a performance celebrating the things they are thankful for. There was music, poetry, laughter, and sheer joy as the children came on stage. It is one of those rare moments when the world is perfect – at least for a little bit. My daughter’s class said the kindness pledge and then sang a song about pilgrims. They even dressed like pilgrims to perform the song (here is a YouTube video). It was the most precious moment and a moment when I definitely thanked God for the honor of being a father!
Today, I had the chance to go and have Thanksgiving dinner with Sophia at her school. I love the way her face lights up when her mother or I come to do something with her. It is pure love and joy. Of course, I love that any time of the year but it was great to enjoy and celebrate Thanksgiving with my daughter during the most wonderful time of the year!
Okay, I admit it – I am a sentimental sap. There, I have said it. This is my favorite time of the year but not because of the hustle and bustle of having to shop or run hither and from as we visit different family members on one side of the state or the other. Nope, those are not the reasons. So why is this the most wonderful time of the year for me? The simple, joyful pleasures of life. Here is my top ten list of joys of the season:
- Cloudy days leading to darker afternoons which means curling up with a book
- Pumpkin spice creamer
- Cranberry compote
- Fires in fireplaces
- Food Network holiday specials
- Christmas music
- Comfort food on cold days
- Sweater vests
- Last but not least – a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior
It is the best time of the year. There is so much that makes this holiday season but we are so busy with everything else that we fail to notice or realize what we are missing. Why can’t we stop and appreciate what is around us? As we approach Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, slow down and appreciate the things that make this season but don’t forget what we are truly celebrating.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.”
We are commanded in Psalm 103 to call our souls to action. We are called to bless the Lord. This praise should not be one of legalistic requirement, but rather from a heart that overflows in gratefulness for what great things the Lord has done. He is the God who has forgiven our sins! He is the God who is powerful to heal. He is not limited or bound by human limitation. He is the One who drew us up out of the pit of destruction. And now, He guides us, leads us and satisfies us every step of the way.
Psalm 103 goes on to describe why we should bless the Lord. It’s important for our souls to not merely say words of thankfulness, but to tie those thoughts together with attributes of our great God. This will help us avoid the trap of legalism, and will also guard our hearts from complaining, as we consider more deeply the great God we serve.
- We worship a God of justice. If you struggle with sins committed against you and injustice in your life, remember that we serve a just God. He will avenge, He has not forgotten you. “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed…
- God is merciful and overflowing with love. When we are tempted to think that he may be angry with us, we can cling to this promise that through the cross of Christ, the wrath of God does not rest on the children of God. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.”
- God does not give us what we deserve. He welcomes us to stand in confidence before the throne of grace, expectant of mercy and help in our times of need. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”
- He has removed our sin from us and no longer views us as guilty and condemned. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
- The Lord is compassionate. He knows our weakness and He is powerful to save. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
Thanksgiving is right around the corner… a time to stop and be grateful for the many blessings in our lives. As Christians, every day should be one of thanksgiving and praise to the God who continually blesses us. Join me today in praising our great God together. No matter your situation, you deserved hell and instead found mercy at the cross. With all that is within me, I will bless His holy name!