Thanksgiving, but How?

mallWe’re just days–nearly hours away from Thanksgiving 2013.  And by now you’ve certainly heard the call to “Be Thankful”, “Give Thanks”, “Count your blessings”, and/or “Pause and reflect”.  We get it, right?  Thanksgiving time is time to be thankful.

But where does thankfulness come from?  How do we muster a thankful mind and heart when we’re surrounded by trouble, heartache, loss, stress, and the details of life that leave us reeling?  What is the source of gratitude and how can we access it so that Thanksgiving isn’t merely a day (or even a half hour time span where we eat that bird), but rather a mindset or even a lifestyle?  (Or you may have skipped that part and gone right to mapping out your Thanksgiving-Thursday-evening-Pre-Black-Friday-sale-shopping attack route.)

First, we need to understand that thankfulness doesn’t come naturally.  Most of us are prone to complain.  Ironically, its those who enjoy the most that are most likely to complain when things don’t go their way.  Don’t think I’m right? Visit an undeveloped country sometime.  Visit a family with what you’d consider next to nothing that compare their level of griping to the average American.  You see, the more we have, the more we think we deserve, the more out of sorts we get when we don’t get what we think we should have.

So, if thankfulness isn’t our native language, how does it come about? Where do we find it? How does it grow?

Thankfulness begins with contentment.  It starts when striving stops.  It happens when I stop reaching.  I remember a time we were at a restaurant when my oldest daughter (now 16) was in her highchair days.  She had a bowl of mac ‘n cheese in front of her but when she scooped some with her spoon, one or two noodles would slip off and fall to the floor.  She’d get so distressed and distracted over the 2 noodles on the floor that she’d seem to completely forget about the spoonful in her hand.  We tend to do that, don’t we?  We’ve each got a couple “noodles” on the floor that we’re obsessed with simply because we don’t have them.  But take a look at what you DO have!  Take a look at the goodness of God and begin to thank Him for the spoonful.

(Just in case you honestly can't think of anything to be thankful for.)

(Just in case you honestly can’t think of anything to be thankful for.)

Thankfulness continues when we give.  Nope, I’m not talking about money.  I’m talking about giving attention, giving an ear, giving a hand, giving a shoulder, giving love to those around you.  Start with those closest to you and work your way out from there.  Hug your spouse, your kids, your in-laws and tell them you love them. Bake a loaf of pumpkin bread and walk it over to your next door neighbor.  Strike up a conversation with a stranger with no other objective than to brighten their day.

Thankfulness finds its beginning and end in faith.  For me, I can be thankful no matter what the circumstance because of Jesus.  No matter how things fall apart, no matter what bills are rolling in, no matter what stresses my family faces, no matter what our nation slips into, no matter what losses we face, no matter what hills we climb, no matter what…I know that I know that Jesus is Lord and that I am completely free to trust Him with every detail.  I’m not naive. I’m not sheltered. I’m not ignorant and I’m not blind to reality.  I’m thankful.  Thankful to be given the capacity to re-calibrate my heart on the goodness I find in my life, the incredible people I get to share my life with, and the fact that when all the dust settles, I’m completely surrounded by the grace of God.

Here’s hoping that as we enter this holiday season, my life and yours would be marked with hearts that are thankful more than anything else as we allow that thankfulness to heal our wounds, set our path, and replenish our spirits.

“What can I offer the Lord for all He has done for me?”  -Psalm 116:12

Oops, I forgot to title this one.

The older I get the more I learn I have way more to learn.

In fact, I’d define immaturity as indelibly including unteachability.  Stubbornness short-circuits growth; growth that comes through identifying where we lack sense, information, insight, or wisdom.

And boy, do I lack.

The older I get the more thankful I am that God is absolutely as willing as He’s ever been to lead me into a deeper understanding of who He is and what He’s about.  Because believe it or not, being a pastor doesn’t come with some implanted microchip that automatically gives me anything. I grow, I hurt, I revel, I seek, I wonder, I sin, I confess, I stumble, I worship, I recommit; I walk much like you do.  Almost exactly like you do, perhaps.

So I am keenly aware of my humanness.  My shortcomings.  My ability to maybe look like I’ve got it all (or some of it) together and yet have next to nothing “together”.  In fact, whatever in my life is strong and healthy is simply because of God’s goodness.  Whatever is weak, fractured, or downright broken is because of my flawed state of being.

Now–I have 2 options.  I can wallow in my failures or I can worship in His faithfulness.  


The wallow route will get me not just nowhere good, but everywhere that perpetually keeps me down, stuck, defeated, and discouraged.


The worship route will take me not just forward, but everywhere God has in store; places of peace, joy, & hope to name a few.