Saturday, November 24, 2018

Take Your Thanksgiving To The Next Level

by Sylvia Gaston

By now, you’re probably having that leftover turkey sandwich or thinking about your workout plan for next week to counteract all those extra Thanksgiving calories you consumed this past week.

I’ve said it before. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. As with most holidays, it brings out the best in most people – kindness, generosity, brotherly love. But unlike other holidays, it’s not overly complicated. No gifts; no costumes; no fireworks; just two things I really love: FAMILY and FOOD!

 After all the cooking is done, it’s time to slooooow down, eat, relax, and enjoy each other - with some football thrown in for good measure. And immediately after begins the frenzy and furor of Christmas. (definition of furor: ‘an outbreak of public anger or excitement’) J

But the absolute best thing about Thanksgiving is . . . well, thanksgiving. The giving of thanks that we, actually and intentionally, make time for.  You see it all over social media beginning November 1st. People decide to share what they are thankful for throughout the month.

For years, psychologists have been studying what happens when people are grateful. Researchers from Psychology Today have found that:
·      Gratitude improves physical and psychological health
·      Gratitude reduces aggression and enhances empathy
·      Grateful people sleep better
·      Gratitude improves self-esteem
·      Gratitude increases mental strength
·      Gratitude opens the door to more relationships

In a nutshell, being thankful makes us happier and healthier humans! I’m in!!

As a staff at Koinonia Church, my co-workers and I participated in the daily exercise of writing down 2 things we are truly thankful for. In fact, our lead pastor, Tim, challenged us to avoid the easy task of just writing down whatever pops into our mind. We were encouraged to really spend the time to contemplate all that God has done for us and to reflect on our blessings. (Do I have a great job or what?)

In Luke 17:11 of the Bible, we read an account of Jesus healing 10 lepers. These 10 ostracized men shout to Him because they are forbidden to interact with healthy people – even their own families. Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, who had the final say on whether they were actually healed and could re-enter society again. In complete faith, or maybe desperation, they begin walking to the priests before they even see the cleansing of their bodies. Along the way, their healing is completed. One of the 10 turns back to fall at Jesus’ feet and thank Him. Jesus replies, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”

Here’s what I’ve realized. I need to appreciate more fully from Whom my blessings come. I can’t take credit for a job I love because God opened that door for me. I can’t take credit for even my skills or talents because those are also God-given. My family? My health? I see how God Himself has taken care of those as well. I see how He cared for me through recent struggles with health, family, and death. As I evaluate the small, but sweet details of my life, is there really anything that I hold dear that doesn’t come directly from Him?

The other thing I realize is how easy it is to be thankful for the obvious: health, family, home, job, and good friends. But, to dig deeper for the little things that we take for granted really ups the gratitude quotient, as well as the great benefits that come along for the ride.

If you think I’m saying that my life is without fault or defect, I’m not. God has not promised that if I follow Him, my life will be perfect. He only promises that He will see me through it until my time here is over and my time with Him begins. Can I ask for anything more or be any more grateful for that alone?

I’m happy to confirm that what God says in the Bible is true, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” – Psalm 92:1

Let’s continue the thanksgiving habit throughout Christmas and into the new year. It’s good for our soul and for our world.

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