It was Andre Crouch, I believe, who sang, “How can I give thanks for the things you have done for me?” We give thanks, if at all, in November, with the memory of pilgrims, and presidential proclamations, and cranberry relish. In America these days Thanksgiving is associated with feasting and football, and of course, with shopping.
Is there space and time in all this activity for the actual giving of thanks? Have we forgotten how to do it? Here are five ways to practice thanksgiving in this, and every season.
Remember. Think back and recall past influences and circumstances that have shaped your life. Think of the coalescing of events that God used to direct the trajectory of your life. Can you see the imprint of his goodness in your experience? Do you see how, even in the difficult times, he has caused things to work together for your good?
Mac Brunson wrote that a thankful heart builds your faith. It acts, he says, like a magnifying glass; thankfulness helps you see how God is bigger than your problems. Remembering and thanking God for his track record of faithfulness is a way to renew your mind.
Recite. Verbally recount your blessings: the freedoms you enjoy, the pleasures and prosperity you have been given, your family. These are gifts from God. Every day is a gift for which we should be thankful. We will never get to live it again. Speak to yourself about these gifts and then express your thanks to God.
Gather. There is a reason that Thanksgiving is the busiest travel season of the year. We look forward to returning home for sumptuous Thanksgiving dinners, as we hold on to family traditions and memories. One of those traditions in our family is for the individuals, during the meal, to share some things for which they are thankful.
Many churches emphasize thanksgiving in worship during this season. How can we not gather in the Lord’s name to say thank you? As Annie Dillard put it, “I know only enough about God to want to worship him, by any means ready to hand.” One of those means is communion. Whenever believers gather around the table of the Lord, it is always a profound expression of thanksgiving (Eucharist) for his sacrifice on the cross.
Write. Write that letter, or text, or email, of appreciation you have been meaning to write. During the early months of the pandemic I took advantage of the enforced isolation to write to some people from my past who had blessed my life in important ways. One of those people died unexpectedly not long afterward. I am glad I wrote that letter when I did to express my thanks for his influence and friendship.
Give. It is almost trite to say that this is a season of giving. But it is true. There is a relationship between thanksgiving and generosity. If you cannot give money, give your time. if you have limited time to give, give a smile and the gift of kindness. Your gift can be a thank you to God for all that he has given to you.
There is, in the Orthodox tradition, a worldview which calls for a “eucharistic spirit.” This is derived from the Greek word for thanksgiving. It is reminder that the created world is a gift from God, a gift of wonder and beauty. It is not to be exploited, but to be embraced, transformed, and returned to him in a spirit of thanksgiving. Human beings are “eucharistic creatures,” capable of gratitude and endowed with the power to bless God for his gift of creation. Let us thank God for his gifts this season “with eucharistic joy.”
Pastor Randy Faulkner