The Act of Thanksgiving

As we enter into November, we here in the United States begin to prepare for what may be MY favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. But what are we being thankful for and how are we being thankful through our celebration of this holiday.

Thanksgiving, occurring in the fall, has some it’s most natural roots in those being thankful for the harvest that will provide throughout the harsh winters to come. In doing some research this morning, I learned something about a Jewish holiday that Jesus would have been very familiar with as would have been the pilgrims in our own history here in what would become the United States.

The Festival of Sukkot, perhaps better known as the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles, was an eight-day celebration that occurred in the fall, similar to our own Thanksgiving (well perhaps not the eight days, but the original celebration between the pilgrims and native Americans lasted 3 days). Sukkot draws it’s inspiration from Leviticus 23:33-34;

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘ On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days.” – Leviticus 23:33-34

Falling after Yom Kippur, which was a more somber time of repentance, Sukkot was a much more joyful holiday. Now that there sins were forgiven, they celebrated! Which brings me to my first point.

Be Thankful – Our sins are forgiven!

We have something far greater to be Thankful for than a great harvest, or a new job, or family and friends. We have the redemption that comes along with faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for us. His death on the cross cleansed us of our sins in God’s eyes and has allowed us to come into the presence of God, something the Jews could never do. We have much to be thankful for, but that alone is key to it all!

Part of the Jewish festival was the building of Sukkot, or small huts. These were meant to represent the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in while wandering the desert. Typically they would be built out of branches, leaves or whatever would be on hand. Building these were a reminder of God’s provision and protection. It also reminds us of how dependent we are on him. This insecure dwelling place, shows that true security comes not from our our hands, but from the provision of God. And this brings about point two, something we tend to forget in our day and age.

Be Thankful – But do so in humility.

Humility is a key point we tend to forget about being thankful. Look at what the words thank you express. “Thank you” not only express the joy of the help that was received, but it also is an acknowledgment that the help came from an outside source. We don’t say “Thank me!” When we are giving thanks to God, whether through private prayer or in celebration of our holiday, we should remember that it is God we are thanking and it is his provision that we are thankful for.

Humility is often construed in our day as a negative, but in fact it’s not. CS Lewis once said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Being humble in our Thanksgiving is the realization that we in fact did not cause the bounty that God has provided, it was all God.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I do love the food and fun fellowship you have, but I think what I love even more is it causes me to reflect on myself, my life and the bounty that God has provided throughout the year. It reminds me of how good God is, that he provides even when I forget to thank him, even when I’m less than humble and try to take the credit, or even when I completely ignore Him and give the credit to someone or something else. He provided the ultimate reason to be thankful. Something we could never do ourselves.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving2012I woke up this morning, anxious to come down and begin writing my annual Thanksgiving post. As I poured my coffee and sat down to write, nothing came to me. I didn’t know what to write or how to begin. I never like to force a post, but I really felt like I needed to write something.

I began to reflect about the year and what I was thankful for. And there is so much. I can’t say it was a perfect year or that it was free from trials and stress, but when I look back from this time last year, I have so many blessings that it would make this post far too long to enumerate them all.

But when I step back how could I sum up this year in a sentence. Then it hit me, it was really quite simple;

Our God is Good!

There ya go, my Thanksgiving post for the year. I’ll leave it at that.

I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving is just about my favorite holiday. It’s not just the food and family, but I always tend to reflect the most at this time of the year. It seems over the last five years or so, it seems like it’s the beginning of my year. So as we get ready to kick off my “new year”, I want to reflect on some of my past posts.

Reviewing old posts is always fun as it always amazes me to see where I came from and what I was thinking in the past (anyone that journals can attest to that).

But it’s also interesting to see that even though the years advance and life always brings changes, many of these posts topics and thoughts apply today as much as when they were originally written.

So here are some of my favorites from years past in no particular order:

Back in 2011, in my first full year of this blog, I wrote an article on What to Talk about at the the Thanksgiving table. The inspiration for this was an article from Planned Parenthood, about giving you a playlist for what to discuss with your pro-life family. I felt there were far more important things to discuss.

Skip ahead to 2013 as this blog was pretty much dead in 2012. 2013 was a pretty cold Thanksgiving here in northeast Ohio and as you can tell from the photos of my two posts at that time, we had snow. Despite not being a fan of winter, or snow in general, they are some beautiful pictures and I took the opportunity to talk about things that I don’t like, but God sees as good. I also took a look at how to be forgiving on Thanksgiving.
2014 was a prolific blogging November for me, most of the posts that month revolved around my enhanced passion for being thankful and showing my thanks by sharing with those less fortunate.

  • Year of Thanksgiving – My attempt to make a year full of Thanksgiving and not just keep it to a single day. I’ve had success and failures in my pursuit of this. I will talk more about this in the near future.
  • Live with Abandon – To kick of my year of thanksgiving, I talked about living with abandon. Again, some success and some failure, but pushing forward in this.
  • Do Something Amazing in Your Day – a seemingly simple prescription to live with abandon. Just do something amazing each day.
  • Putting God in a Box – One way to do and see amazing things every day, is to stop our tendency to put God in a box.
  • Thank You – My annual (sort of) Thanksgiving post. A simple but profound prayer.

What will 2015 bring in posts? Who knows. I don’t have a schedule of posts that I create, they typically come to me and minutes later I’m typing them out. Hopefully these posts from years past have inspired you to think about your Thanksgiving. I know I can’t wait to see where the kickoff to my year begins this time around.

What does Christmas mean to you?

What does Christmas mean to you?  That’s a good question that is worthy of some time in thought these next few weeks.  We’ve just come off arguably the biggest shopping day of the year.  I admit, my wife and I did a little shopping on Friday.  No we didn’t shop at crazy hours and we didn’t cut into family time on Thanksgiving.  It was a matter of, we needed a few groceries (as a side-note, grocery stores are not that crowded the day after Thanksgiving…great day to go get some food if you need to)and while we were out, we stopped at a few places that were not very crowded.   After some more family time in the afternoon, my wife and I went to a charity Christmas auction that lasts until the wee-hours of the morning.  Didn’t buy much, but great time spent with her.  But is the shopping what epitomizes what Christmas means to me?

Christmas is about Christ!

Christmas remains for me a holiday about tradition, about family, about remembrance and about celebration of the birth of our Savior.  The shopping, the lights and colors, the commercialism is all at the bottom of priorities.  If we did nothing else than gather together on Christmas to share some simple gifts that were made or bought with love and to celebrate with some good food that would be enough.   Remembering the birth of Christ is what matters.  Without that, there would be no holiday, there would be no celebration, and honestly no hope beyond this life.

Christmas is about giving.

Christmas for me is a time for giving and being a blessing to others.  No, I don’t necessarily mean giving the best gifts, I mean giving of ourselves to those in need.  My regular readers you’ll know that I’m big on trying to be a blessing to others.  This can be as easy as a kind word or a simple service to someone else.  During the height of the “occupy” movement of protests around the country, I wrote a lengthy blog that I refer back to from time to time.  Occupy Charity at Christmas was a reflection on what it means to be a charitable and giving person (and nation for that matter).

With my goal of living a year of Thanksgiving, I’m announcing here in this post first that I’m in the planning stages of avenues for me to show my thanks to some local charities that I can in part be a blessing to my community that I live in.  Also in stretching myself spiritually and living with abandon, I am working on ways to have this blog and my other writings help me in this goal to be a blessing to others.   This is all still in the planning stages and the only reason I’m even mentioning it on here is so that my readers can lift this up in prayer that God guides me in the ways I can best serve his kingdom.  I hope over the coming weeks, I’ll be able to announce more concrete plans and thoughts here.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Ask yourself this question.  I think it is a personal question and the answer that I’ve come to above may not be the one that you arrive at.  But honestly ask yourself that question and reflect the direction that God leads you.

 

Thank You

thank you_tOne of the most touching, profound prayers I’ve ever heard uttered in my life went like this;

Thank you.

Yep, a simple “Thank You” to God, uttered by one of our pastors years ago.  Those two words, with so much meaning behind them.  I remember standing there with people filing out of the church around me, thinking why do we complicate our relationship with God so much?  In the Old Testament, Jewish people had an extremely complicated system of rules to relate with God, and even then it was a distant relationship.  Jesus changed all that.  We can come near to God and have a personal, meaningful relationship with Him.

Today is Thanksgiving day in the United States, a day that we gather together with family and friends, eat lots of good food and watch a little football.   It’s also meant to be a day to give thanks for all that God has given us throughout the year, something we can easily forget in the hype of the day.  Today, I start a year long journey of Thanksgiving, I’m not saving all my thanks for that one day in November.  Each day I plan to wake up and give thanks to God.  Each day I plan on going throughout my day giving thanks.  Each day before I lay down to sleep I plan on thanking God.

A simple thank you is often all it will take.  Two words, so much meaning.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Oh……and…..THANK YOU!

Year of Thanksgiving

As we begin this week where we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I see many participating in the week-long (or some do month long) posts of what we are thankful for.  I propose we do this year round, each and every day.  Why not?  We have so much to be thankful for.  In this year long celebration of Thanksgiving, I propose that we remember each day something that we are thankful for.  If we start each morning giving thanks, we’ll get the day out on a good start.  If each time we find ourselves in a difficult situation and we can pause for a moment and give thanks for something small, I believe it will make that difficult situation even just a small bit easier.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever – Psalm 107:1

What will I do?

How will I be participating in this?  Just a few things I hope to do more of this year:

Start each morning with a quick thank you.   I want to wake up each morning and just simply say thank you.  Thank you to a God that has given me another morning to celebrate life, to serve him.

Say thank you to someone in my life.  This could be my wife, my children, a coworker, a friend, or just a stranger on the street.  Saying thanks to someone else lets them know they are appreciated, will brighten their day as well as yours.  It will keep you looking out for those areas in your life where someone has done something for you that you can be thankful for.  When you’re eyes are open and actively seeking these moments, you’ll be amazed at how many there are each day.

Be a person that others can be thankful for.  As I was writing this section, I was listening to a song by the Newsboys called, Live with Abandon.  When I listened to the lyrics, they made me think of how I can be a blessing to others.

Chasing after this world makes me tired
Praisin’ my own name leaves me dry

There’s gotta be so much more to life than this
A higher calling that I missed
I want my life to count, every breath

As I thought of how to be a person that others can be thankful for, these words struck me.  I don’t want to be that person that serves and gives with an attitude of “Look at me and all that I do”, but I do want my life to matter, I want to make every moment of my existence matter to someone.  Then they sing the chorus and the answer strikes me:

I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon

If I live my life with abandon in the pursuit of Jesus, God will be sure to make me a blessing to others.  To be that person that others can be thankful for and I can draw closer to God.

Just three things on that list, but three things that can make a big difference to the world we live in.  I hope to document my progress as I try to do better in those areas.  Why not join me?  Join me in having a year of Thanksgiving!

 

Snow on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-SnowThis is the first year I can remember for some time that we’re going to have some snow for Thanksgiving here in northeast Ohio.  As some of you may know, I’m not a fan of winter.  I don’t like the cold, I don’t like driving in the snow, I don’t like being cooped up inside, but too cold to go outside.  I really just don’t care for it.  But what can I do, short of moving south.

What I can appreciate is the beauty that God has created.  He can turn something less than pleasant into something beautiful.  Despite not liking the season, I can see that it is good.

God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:10

As I snapped this photo, I started to think about those things that I don’t like, but God sees as good.  What things do we see through human eyes as less than pleasant, but if we look from God’s point of view, we can appreciate them?  What can we be thankful for this Thanksgiving that on the surface, may not appear to be worth being thankful for.

  • The cold and snow – As I said, I’m not a fan…but who can deny the beauty of snow clinging to the tree, the quiet tranquility in the heart of a heavy snow.  The chance to stay inside with family spending quality time together.  Yes, it can be deadly, but beauty abounds in the midst of winter.
  • Aches and pains – As I get older, I’m finding more and more aches that weren’t there the day before.  But when I wake up and feel a pain, I can rejoice that I’m alive.  I can rejoice that my body has given me another day to enjoy life.
  • Finances – Financial issues are never fun….but they can cause one to reflect on their lifestyle and see where they have to cut back.  I’ve found that a simple life, is often a more enjoyable life.  Financial problems can show you what is truly important in life.  It can also open opportunities that you may not have seen before, a new job, a new business, a new enthusiasm for a path that God has put in front of you.

There are so many things that can go wrong in life, that dwelling on them can lead to a life of fear that diminishes the joyful life that God wants you to have.

So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves.  You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family — calling him “Father, dear Father.”  -Romans 8:15

What situation in your life that while not pleasant, can you try to look at from God’s view and see the beauty of God’s creation and plan through your trials?

Happy Thanksgiving!  God has blessed us all beyond belief.