To Whom Are You Thankful?
Thanksgiving is a unique holiday. It celebrates an attitude rather than a person or event. A big part of it entails a big bird, yes, and stuffing ourselves with lot’s of scrumptious food. My family, like many, has always carried the tradition of going around the table and acknowledging the blessings in our live, both big and small, sharing what we are most thankful for.
I'll never forget one year several years ago when my dad took a moment to read a message written by a friend of his, which highlighted a specific point of our giving thanks:
“Thanksgiving…is a day set aside not just to stuff ourselves with turkey, but to find in our hearts a moment to thank the God who provides that food, and every other grace from which we benefit.” ~Richard Green
Rather than merely giving thanks for the blessings, we were reminded to thank the Blesser. A simple and subtle shift, but an important one to remember I think. Often we assume the gratitude we are expressing is directed at God. It might be a “given” in our minds. But imagine receiving a really special gift from someone you love and not saying thank you to them directly – the person who went to great lengths to select, buy and wrap the gift. Not that the person would expect this recognition in return, but it’s a nice gesture when one’s efforts and thoughtfulness are recognized and attributed to them.
In the same way, my dad reminded us that year of the importance of not only being thankful, but directing our thanks at the Giver of our blessings. God doesn’t need recognition or expect it from us. He gives freely without cost, without any strings attached. But it pleases Him when His children turn to acknowledge Him in gratitude and appreciation to say a simple, “Thank you Father for these gifts that came from You.”
I love how Henri J. M. Nouwen puts it,
“Gratitude…goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift… it is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all that I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
This year we will sit around a table with friends in the Philippines--some Americans and some from other places--and we will partake in our country's tradition of partaking in the usual delights of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. As we do, may we all, wherever we are, never forget the God from whom all these blessings flow. May we remove the focus from ourselves and direct it towards the Author and Creator of our souls, the Provider of all our needs big and small.
PSALM 136 (1-9, 23-26)
Give thanks TO the Lord, for he is good…
Give thanks TO the God of gods…
Give thanks TO the Lord of lords…
to him who alone does great wonders…who by his understanding made the heavens… who spread out the earth upon the waters….who made the great lights…the sun to govern the day…the moon and stars to govern the night…He remembered us in our lowly estate…and freed us from our enemies…he gives food to every creature…
Give thanks TO the God of heaven…
His love endures FOREVER.”
Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!