Thanksgiving? Or Giving Thanks?
In the United States it seems that “Thanksgiving” has become a silent or overlooked holiday, overshadowed by After Thanksgiving Sales, Christmas, and an unrealistic history of the early colonists. And now, it is “to be celebrated under quarantine.”
Will this be a time to celebrate or mourn another passing holiday?
Our family has always used Thanksgiving to invite those in our church who needed family.
The past few years, we would have a full home with those who had no family locally, those who were homeless, women leaving the sex industry, couples wanting to join us and encourage our guests, and others who found this as a time to stay clean and sober another day. We spent the day eating, playing games, visiting, or watching football.
This year, with statewide restrictions in place, I must reflect on what this day represents. In my opinion our Oregon Governor has not “forbid” Lori and I from having our usual Thanksgiving celebration. She has forced me to address what is truly important about my life.
Think about the term “Thanksgiving.” Before it became the title of a holiday, it simply meant “giving thanks” for what we have. It is a time that we set aside to be appreciative for what God has given us. However, during a pandemic, can we find room for appreciation and gratitude—even if we cannot gather with our families and friends?
Thankfulness, gratitude, kindness, and appreciation are clusters of words that reflect our attitude toward life. In his book, The Five Side-effects of Kindness, David Hamilton provides evidence that kindness, gratitude, and appreciation aid in the physical and emotional development of humans. First, he suggests that when humans practice kindness toward others they are happier than those who only perform kind acts toward themselves. Second, his research indicates that practicing kindness or gratitude develops strong bonds of trust with others. Finally, gratitude and appreciation allow us to navigate difficult times in our lives with hope and compassion.
“Gratitude doesn’t ignore difficult times, nor does it pretend they don’t exist. A regular practice of gratitude merely trains the mind to scan the everyday landscape of our life and settle more on the light than the dark. That’s all. And as it settles on the light, it makes us feel better.”
In reading the books Tortured for Christ and I am N, I was struck by how Christians in persecuted countries survive their oppression by choosing kindness, compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness. It may be difficult to imagine this, but evidence indicates that this practice helps us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Being thankful is healthy.
The Bible indicates that gratitude is also an important spiritual quality. The famous Thanksgiving Psalm 136 calls the congregation of Israel to give thanks/praise to God four times. Every verse has a repeating phrase explaining why we are thankful. God’s faithfulness or mercy endures forever. The Hebrew word usually translated “love” is chesed which means faithfulness/loyalty. When Jesus confronted the Pharisees over their loyalty to traditions rather than people, Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 and translated the word chesed as “mercy” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7) indicating that chesed described a relationship that God upholds and nurtures. Truly God’s enduring quality is persistent faithful and merciful action toward those of us in relationship.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians that humans who refuse to be thankful or give glory to God live in darkness (Rom. 1:21). Just as Hamilton suggested earlier, gratitude and appreciation can lift us out of chaos even as Paul suggested to the Asian Christians, who had left darkness and sin, that being thankful reflected a spiritually healthy life (Eph. 5:4; Co. 2:7).
Appreciation, gratitude, thankfulness, and kindness are not simply good ideas, or good for you, they are strong indicators of spiritual and emotional maturity. Oddly enough, the older I get the more I wonder if these indicators are missing in our world, and sometimes our faith communities.
Is this also true of our communities during a pandemic?
Are we grateful, appreciative, and thankful? Do we thank people for their help? Do we thank people for their acts of kindness? Do those of us with children teach them to be thankful?
I want to encourage you to see November 26, 2020 as an opportunity to express thanks, gratitude, appreciation, and kindness. Here are some suggestions…
Either way, I am thankful that you took the time to read this.
God bless you and we appreciate your love and support!