Give Thanks

On Thursday of this week, here in the U.S. (where I live), we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. This got me thinking about the idea of giving thanks and a posture of gratitude. Unfortunately, like so many traditions and bedrock ideas upon which this country was built, the notion of really being thankful to God is being eroded by the harsh wind of “change for the sake of changing” that is blowing across our nation.

As I’m sure most of us know, the tradition of observing Thanksgiving with an aumtum feast dates back to the time of the Pilgrims, even before this country was formed. It was a celebration of God’s blessings, and gratitude for helping them endure the worst of conditions. It was also a way to thank their Native American friends for their help and for sharing their farming ingeniuity. But it didn’t really gain traction as a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln was president:

President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, calling on the American people to also, “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience .. fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation..

Wikipedia, “Thanksgiving (United States)”

Anyway, it’s because of all these thoughts that I felt led to write about giving thanks today.

God blessed us with the free will to focus our minds on whatever we want. For this reason, it’s up to us to select our state of mind. If I choose to focus on negative things–all the terrible things going on in the world or evidence that our country is falling apart or all the things I don’t have–I will naturally cultivate and maintain a very negative mindset. You can’t bury garbage in your yard and expect a rose garden to appear.

On the other hand, because I have instead chosen to focus on positive things, the many blessings God has given me–that I’m married to the love of my life, my redemption because of God’s love for me, the love of my family, my health, or even my job–I have developed a very positive mindset. I’m an eternal optimist, and I like to think I have a sunny disposition, both of which result from the fact that I make an effort to focus on the positive aspects of any given situation.

And really, this is the beginning of gratitude.

In the parable of the vineyard workers, Jesus taught his disciples (and us, two thousand years later) to be grateful for their salvation and not ruin it with thoughts or statements like, “Hey, why does that guy get into heaven when he has only been a follower of Christ for one hour??” (see Matthew 20:1-16.) He taught them and us to be thankful to be part of God’s non-earthly kingdom instead of focusing on the spirit-crushing opression of the Jews by the Roman empire.

But here’s the thing: we don’t need to limit our gratitude to the “big” blessings like salvation, health, or family. In fact, the way to start turning your outlook from sour to sweet, to develop you gratitude muscle, is to recognize and give thanks for smaller blessings. Most likely, you are surrounded by them, if only you have eyes to see them. Maybe it’s a warm and excited greeting from your dog, acting as though they haven’t seen you in years. It could be golden rays of sunshine bursting their way into a cloudy day. Or perhaps it’s a neighbor sharing a “hello” and a smile as you walk through the neighborhood. A blooming flower. Autumn leaves. Moonlight sparkling on a fresh blanket of snow. The possibilities are endless.

Once you start recognizing the smaller blessings, you should thank God for them, no matter how crappy the world seems to be or how challenging your life circumstances are. This is the beginning of your journey toward contentment, on the narrow path of humble gratitude. This is how you choose happiness.

We have a sign in our kitchen that says that: “Choose happiness”. I asked my son once if he believes that’s a choice you can make, and he said he didn’t think so. He is away from the faith right now, so I can see why he thinks that way. I pray for him each day, along with my younger daughter (who’s also a prodigal), that they will realize that this is a choice you can make. Humble gratitude towards our Creator is the path you can take that leads to contentment, fulfillment, happiness. Even joy. It’s the path to peace that surpasses all understanding.

Borrowed from YouVersion

One last thing before I wrap up. If you look at verse 4 of Psalm 100, the language talks about entering past God’s gates. This makes me think that we might need a key in order to pass through the gates. And what is that key? Thanksgiving! Similarly, we enter into his courts using praise.

And why should we do this? Because the Lord is good and his love endures forwever. This is the greatest blessing of all, and the best reason to give thanks.

Borrowed from YouVersion
(and yes, I realize that it is for the same verse as above, but I really like the background scenery of this one!)

With that, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving full of many blessings and the associated gratitude!

About Writing & Photography by David K. Carpenter

Photographer of Light and Life, Writer of Life as it finds me
This entry was posted in Christian, Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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