As I looked up the word “thankful” and its synonym “grateful” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, I thought about how I often throw those words around – particularly at this time of year – with no thought to what they actually mean. Hence the dictionary search. As I came across this compilation of definitions, what I have reason to be thankful for became more clear, too. And why I am not more thankful is a sad commentary for my lack of eyes to see, really see, all that surrounds me. I’m going to ask you to do something with me today. In between preparations for the big feast, or after your belly is full from feasting, take ten minutes to sit down and think of ten things for which to be thankful. (Thankfulness is a great natural antidote to the anger I’ve been writing about, too, by the way. An angry heart and a grateful heart rarely coexist at the same time.)
First, the definition:
- conscious of benefit received
- appreciative of benefits received
- affording pleasure or contentment
- pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated
- well pleased, glad
Isn’t that eye-opening? Hopefully, that begins to get you thinking about some items for your thankful list. I wanted to take this even further. Thanksgiving for me as a Christian isn’t merely having warm feelings of general goodwill and thanks for life in general. Thanksgiving has an object: the Creator and Giver of all good things. Thanksgiving is to be part of my life as someone in relationship with God. One verse I found summarized Christian Thanksgiving quite concisely:
Psalm 75:1 – “We give thanks to you, O God;
We give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.”
In those three lines, the writer of this ancient worship hymn instructs me about God-oriented giving of thanks.
- “Giving thanks” is an action – a choice and a decision.
- “We” – not merely individual, but corporate. Something we do in community, with our community, and on behalf of our community.
- the direction of my thanks – God! Seems simple but often I find myself not thanking God directly. Or really attributing something I’m enjoying to another source, like my great ingenuity in thinking of how to manage my day to find some peace and quiet, my self-sufficiency, my bank account, etc. The ultimate source behind all of this is God. And as a Christian, I am asked to go straight to The Source with my thanks. This will help my heart keep worshiping.
- the why of giving thanks – “for your name is near.” God himself is evident all around me, and he is present with me and within me by the Spirit. Who he is – his character – is very near to me. If I have eyes to see!
- how to give thanks – remembering his wondrous deeds. This is a specific recounting of what God has done, with an implication of a sense of wonder and awe at the God who has done these deeds.
Here are a few of my “ten” when I sat down to recount specific thanks to God. I’d love to hear a few of yours, too!
- The beauty of barren branches against a wintry blue sky
- God bringing together a Carolina girl and a Jersey boy in Philadelphia to marry, raise twin daughters, and expand one another’s cultural experiences
- Parents who love God, Seth, me, and our daughters – on both sides
- Daughters who are teaching me how to love more fully
- Faith awakened at a young age with which to receive God’s greatest gift of grace in Christ
- A heavenly Father who’s known me from the beginning of time and pursued me with love
And I could go on. I hope that I will never stop. I’m about 300+ into Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” challenge. And you could just be beginning with your first ten! Read more at her blog here. And happy Thanksgiving!