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I Was Wrong About Thanksgiving

I used to think Thanksgiving was cute, like little handprint turkey art projects from third graders. Thanksgiving was mildly entertaining, like whatever football game is on TV when you fall asleep after too much turkey.

But Thanksgiving, I thought, was not important or relevant or meaningful. How could it be?

I’ve always been a little jaded about this particular holiday. A national day of gratitude? Yeah, right. What good is giving thanks for what we’ve got if we spend the very next day scrambling and fighting for the best deals on stuff we don’t really need? Everyone knows that Thanksgiving is really just an excuse to get a day off work. Maybe we’d just be better off without it.

But I was wrong—and I’m so relieved. This year, I’ve learned that Thanksgiving is really not about the traditions or the shopping or the food. The spirit of gratitude it represents is essential to this life. And when we take the time to gather in our homes and break bread and remember blessings with one another, amazing things happen.

In October this year, a few close friends and I had our very first “Friendsgiving”. Yes, it was a month early, and yes, most of us had never made our own Thanksgiving meals before. But we are nothing if not adventurous (and perhaps a little foolish). So we each committed to bringing a dish. And this tiny gathering turned into the most wonderful, eccentric, and heartwarming Thanksgiving meal—but not because of the food.

 

 The power of gratitude

After the meal, we sat on the couch and passed around popcorn kernels. The game was that everybody had to list one thing per kernel for which he or she was grateful. The first round of giving thanks was easy and lighthearted, and then things started getting deep. We listed blessings like the support of friends in difficult times, deep conversations around unanswerable questions, and God’s faithfulness in storms.

And that’s when our gathering really became thanksgiving. It was the gratitude, not the amazing apple pie, that completed our celebration. Sharing those blessings was a powerful experience, creating a bond between us and encouraging our hearts and bringing us into God’s presence with thanksgiving.

The “Friendsgiving” gratitude game gave me new eyes to see God’s daily provision of things that I normally take for granted. Looking back on the last year, I can see God’s hand throughout my life in ways I couldn’t see in the moment— an overwhelming bill that is now a testament to God’s provision. A scary tumor that is now a testament to God’s healing power. The loss of a friend that is now a testament to God’s sovereignty.

The circumstances we are in right now may not evoke songs of praise, but we are encouraged to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Part of gratitude, I’ve learned, is trusting that God is still present and working in the midst of times that are fearful, painful, or lonely.

The Psalmist reminds us that gratitude and worship are what we were created for. It is fitting for us to be grateful to the One who is always true, trustworthy, just, and loving.

Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord; it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre; make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
Sing a new song of praise to him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.

For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does.
He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.
(Psalm 33:1-5, NLT)

I was wrong about Thanksgiving, and my new awareness of gratitude is bringing a fresh perspective to this season. Gratitude is powerful. It moves us to action. It causes us to literally give thanks, but also to give back, to give forward, to show someone else the generous hospitality we have received. And Thanksgiving isn’t complete without it.

I want this heart change to result in action—encouraging others, serving wholeheartedly, praising my Creator. I was wrong about Thanksgiving, and maybe you were, too, but we don’t have to be any more.

You Hear Me

By Jude Dias, Walk The Same

Read: Psalm 118:1
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever!”

How often do we find ourselves praying for the things we don’t have rather than praising God for the blessings that we’ve already received? In a world that pushes us towards progression, we always find ourselves wanting more and more in order to call ourselves “satisfied” and “whole”. In this relentless pursuit, we end up blind to the position that we are currently in and fail to acknowledge how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown in our personal walk with God and in life.

We need to realize that we are where we are now, this very moment, because of all that Christ has done for us. His death and resurrection marked the beginning of something new for us and He didn’t stop there—He continues to bless us day after day. Sadly, this is something we often take for granted.

My prayer for myself and all of us today is that we take time every day to give praise and thanks to Jesus for all that He is doing in our lives. Let us first acknowledge the prayers (both spoken and unspoken) that He has heard and granted for us before we pray for more. As we learn to truly appreciate the blessings that He has already given to us, we will live truly satisfied lives knowing that He has already made us satisfied and whole.

Why I Decided to Keep Track of Every Trip I took in 2014

On new year’s day last year, I made a resolution to log all my journeys for 2014. For every trip I took, I made a conscious and deliberate effort to track the distance and time covered. Friends who noticed asked why I bothered with logging such details. “I’m just keeping a record,” was how I usually replied.

365 days later, my completed record shows thousands of rows of data, which I then compiled to generate a report showing the overall figures for all the journeys I took last year. It was a real eye-opener and surprise when I learned that in 2014, I took a total of more than 1,000 journeys, spent almost 40 days on the road, and drove almost 10,000 kilometers! That’s a lot of travel for an average person.

Most of my travels took place in one of the most crowded cities in the world: Jakarta (which also happens to be where I live). One newspaper columnist in Indonesia commented that every second of being alive in Jakarta is a miracle. So to have survived the millions of seconds I spent on the road last year means I’d experienced millions of miracles!

This exercise proved another point—I usually take God’s protection for granted. Although I seldom asked God for protection during my journeys, God protected me nonetheless. It also reminded me of a quote a friend of mine mentioned recently: “This is the difference between God and humans. God gives, gives, gives, and forgives, while humans get, get, get, and forget.”

This year, let us be thankful for every little miracle God performs in our lives. Let’s start this new year with a thankful heart!

Written By Charles Christian for YMI

Why Is It So Difficult to Say Thank You?

Written By Jeremy Hor, Singapore

Saying “thank you” is something we don’t do naturally. I remember my parents reminding me to say “thank you” every time I received a gift, whether it was for a present that I was really excited about or a simple gesture that someone showed. It’s two simple words that don’t take much effort to articulate, but we just haven’t been forthcoming enough to say “thank you”, despite benefiting from others.

So why do we find it so difficult to say “thank you”? Maybe it’s because:

  1. We are worried about the present or what is to come. We may go through times in our lives where the outlook is bleak. It could be major crises in our lives, or more often, anxiety and stress about work, school, relationships, or activities that overwhelm us to the extent we find it difficult to be thankful.
  2. We aren’t content with what we have. Have you ever been disappointed by a gift you’ve received? It’s easy to think “I deserve better”, but more often than not, that response is symptomatic of selfishness and ungratefulness in our hearts that hinder our thankfulness.
  3. We don’t see our need. In a bid to prove our independence and self-sufficiency, saying “thank you” could be a sign of vulnerability and weakness—that we cannot manage on our own.
  4. We are more preoccupied with the gift than the giver. Even when we get what we want, we forget to say “thank you” because in our excitement, the gift distracts us from the giver.

The Importance of Saying “Thank You”

Researchers have found evidence that showing gratitude can make us happier and more satisfied with our lives. Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor from the University of California, has found that gratitude improves emotional and physical health, and it can strengthen relationships and communities. It is, according to Emmons, a “chosen attitude.” We must be willing to recognize and acknowledge that we are the recipients of an unearned benefit.

The apostle Paul, therefore, had our best interest at heart when he encouraged the church in Philippians to be thankful:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Even before the findings of modern day cutting edge research, Paul knew that the secret of being joyful and having peace was to be thankful. Surprisingly, Paul asked the Philippians to be thankful even though both the Philippians and himself were suffering for their faith.

Being thankful helps us to look away from our situation and to focus on the giver. God is our gracious heavenly Father who gives us many good gifts, though we are undeserving. In our suffering, He knows what we go through, and He strengthens and sustains us. Therefore, we need not worry, because we can trust that God has all things under His control and He cares for us.

God’s goodness has been revealed supremely in His salvation plan for us. He sent His only Son sacrificially to meet our greatest need—the need for salvation from sin and death, and He gave us the free gift of eternal life. By His grace, we have been adopted into His family, and given citizenship into His kingdom.

Now, that’s something to say “thank you, God” for, again and again.

Photo credit: asenat29 / Foter / CC BY