Saturday, November 7, 2015

Give Thanks

by Tim Howard

Maybe this isn’t true for you but when the fall season begins and November rolls around – my thinking begins to revolve around Thanksgiving. For me, it’s not just about a one day event to celebrate with family and friends but a month long endeavor to give thanks for what we have. Each year at this time I make a dedicated effort to remind myself of all the things I possess that money can’t buy and then verbalize my thanks. Sometimes I say thanks to God directly and other times I share my thanks with people. Every time I do this – without fail – I realize I am rich. You don’t have to have a stockpile of money, investments, a 401K or a lot of stuff to be rich or thankful!

As a young boy my parents taught me the words: ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You.’ Please is a request and ‘thank you’ is the proper response when you receive that, which you requested.

I in turn, as a parent have tried to teach my children and now my grandson the same three words. I realize they are more than mere pleasantries when spoken.  They plant seeds within a person that can activate and shape a positive attitude.  Saying “please” can guard you from an attitude of entitlement and keep you from developing a demanding spirit.  Expressing thanks in verbal form can develop a grateful heart and create a spirit of appreciation.

In this season of Thanksgiving it is easy to lose a sense of gratitude when we forget how blessed we all are.  This is precisely what happened in the Old Testament when people forgot God’s goodness. Psalm 106, beginning in verse 12, God summarizes this unhappy time in history by saying:  "They believed His promises and sang His praise."  That's the good news!  "But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel."  They didn’t give thanks!

Their forgetfulness closed the door to thanksgiving and opened the door to a spirit of complaining and criticism.

Years ago Jay Leno wrote a satire on complaining: “Are the American people complaining because they have electricity and running water 24/7? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter?  Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in recent years?  Or perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home.  You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings.”  Maybe we have forgotten how blessed we are!

It’s not just the Israelites in the Old Testament – All of us are prone to forget what we have. The antidote for spiritual forgetfulness is called praise and thanksgiving.  Praise and Thanksgiving is a discipline - a deliberate focusing of our thoughts on things we have rather than what we don’t have.  When this is practiced, an attitude of gratitude will be present and the atmosphere around you will change.

We would be wise to train our minds and hearts to express thanks – all the time – Starting now!  Let this month be a month of praise and thanksgiving. We have much to be grateful for!

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