Monday, November 22, 2010

Revisiting 'Thank You' During a Week of Madness

This is my revised Thanksgiving Column for, from a decage ago, offered as a Word of perspective, thanks and encouragement to parents, friends, family and ministry colleagues

Ever notice how hard it is to get a sincere ‘Thank You’ from anybody? Do you recall how good it feels when those words are spoken to you in sincerity? Do you know the pleasure of looking into the eyes of the seven-buck-an-hour-single-mother-of-two who checked you out at the grocery store and sincerely thanking her for her hard work?

Thank You’ is something we are not very good at saying any more. We don’t say it enough to each other, and we certainly don’t say it enough to God. We are a nation on the run, streaking toward what we perceive as more, bigger, and better, while hardly noticing the blessings left in our wake. How poignant that 'Thanksgiving is Thursday' and 'Grab Day', or, 'Black Friday' is the next day. (And why is it black Friday if everyone is going into the red?)

Read carefully the words of a wise leader, a man of dignity and depth, as he considered the season at hand:

 “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

Those words apply to us today as much as they did when they were written 149 years ago by President Abraham Lincoln upon the establishment of Thanksgiving as a holiday. Thanksgiving informally began in the fall of 1621 when the pilgrims, thankful for their meager sustenance and grateful to the Indians for their help, invited the Indians to a day of Thanksgiving. (Why, even our steeped Thanksgiving sports tradition began that day: The Indians and pilgrims held foot races, wrestling matches and shooting competition.) The celebration lasted three days. Prayer and genuineness thankfulness were the focus rather than food and fun, though there was plenty of each.

How things have changed. We killed as many Indians as we could and drove the rest onto reservations. We’ve been grabbing all we could ever since, ever mindful of how to get more; rarely mindful of the one who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.Our games have gotten bigger and our guts have gotten softer while our hearts have gotten smaller and harder. By this time of year, many parents are stressing over how they are going to afford more 'stuff' for Christmas. And to many families, Thanksgiving 'celebrations' have become elaborate, costly, stressful productions.

My encouragement to us all – especially to the man I see in the mirror – is to spend much of this Thanksgiving week in thankful prayer, in genuine reflection upon God’s glorious gifts, both earthly and eternal.

Parents, plan some slow time for your family, read Scriptures of praise and thankfulness, and literally ask each family member to thoughtfully list the many blessings (not merely possessions) they have. Don't get lost in the rush!

The Word of God encourages us to “come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:2) We are repeatedly admonished to be thankful to Him. If you want to enjoy the blessing of blessing God in this way, read carefully many of the Psalms. Psalm 100:4-5 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”

Perhaps today you cannot think of much for which to give thanks. Perhaps your earthly circumstances are dire. Even so, the Bible tells us, “In everything (in all circumstances) give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:18) Perhaps you need to call some brothers or sisters in the body of Christ to pray over you, to comfort and love you. God uses everything to teach us, shape us, draw us to Him. Even those hurting deeply today can be thankful that there is a merciful God who desires a personal relationship with you and will give you answers and help both temporal and eternal. He is a God of mercy, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for the sins of each of us. The price is paid in full, and we have eternal life with Him if only we give Him our life. As if to make sure we understand that His mercy is to be our first focus of thanks, Psalm 136 begins, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” then proceeds to invoke “for His mercy endures forever” 25 times!

If you are a very blessed family, with a warm home and good food and love to share, perhaps you need to think of some hurting or lonely or broke people you need to share your home with in this season. Extend the context of 'family' and bless someone - and yourselves.

May those of us who know God personally through Jesus Christ rest joyfully and thankfully in His mercy this weekand always, and may we be eager to share the news of His salvation with those who do not know Him, urging them to receive His life and thus His mercy.