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1 Week of Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Challenge

  • Carrie Dedrick
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  • 2016 Nov 18
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Confession: I am writing this post from a cubicle that is covered in red and green wrapping paper and seven strands of Christmas lights. A Christmas village sits alight on my bookshelf and a four-foot Christmas tree is just a few feet away. This year, I pulled out my Christmas decorations on October 3. Oops. 

While it is easy for people like me to get swept up in the Christmas spirit, the “Thanksgiving spirit” is not something that we hear about.

Are there people who cover every inch of their homes in paper cutouts of Native Americans, pilgrims, and turkeys? Possibly. But are there radio stations that dedicate the month of November to playing Thanksgiving songs? Definitely not. 

Thanksgiving has the unfortunate calendar location of being the last holiday before Christmas. For some people, it’s just a minor holiday day to pass by before the “big” holiday comes. I imagine that if we celebrated Thanksgiving in June, it would garner a lot more attention. But instead, Thanksgiving has become a day to frantically cook meals for 10, and scarf them down before heading out to pre-Black Friday sales at Walmart. I know that’s not you. But it happens.

Thanksgiving is not a time to go searching for deals at 6:00 p.m. It’s a day of family. Of friendship. Of gratitude. And of reflection. 

(In)courage writer Holly Gerth says that it is time to prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving now. 

“...recognizing our blessings is learned behavior. A choice. And it’s one that takes some preparation. If we sit down at the turkey table next Thursday and expect to immediately get into a grateful mood we’re likely to be disappointed.” 

Consider this experiment that Gerth explains: 

“...two groups of people were given a list of words. One had positive words and the other negative. They were then both given the exact same story about a man. A simple tale. When asked to describe this character afterward, can you guess which group was complimentary and which critical? It all depended on what they’d recently been thinking about.

“In other words, we prime our minds by what we put into them.”

As Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” 

Gerth challenges us to recognize our blessings today, so that we will be of sound heart and mind to give thanks to God next Thursday. Her plan for a week of gratitude includes the following: 

1. November 18th – Who in your life are you thankful for? Think of at least one person.

2. November 19th – What is a memory that brings you joy? Look back and see God’s goodness in it all over again.

3. November 20th – How have you seen God answer your prayers this year? Pause and reflect on one “yes” you are living in now.

4. November 21st – When do you feel joy? Pay extra attention to one happy little moment in your day.

5. November 22nd – Where can you see God’s hand in your life? Consider one way He is taking care of you.

6. November 23rd – Why did Jesus come for us? Revisit His extraordinary love.

7. November 24th – Give thanks for all of the above.

Ask yourself these questions. Share you answers if you want to. But at the very least, reflect

Remember, the human brain has a negativity bias. We tend to focus on the negative, which typically keeps us out of harm’s way. But this tendency also makes it a little harder to recognize the positive things in our lives. 

If we struggle to be thankful in our present circumstances, we still have a loving God who understands our humanity. 

Gerth writes, “He’s the Giver of all good things — including the grace we need on the days when our attitude tries to compete with our gratitude.”

You can still try. 

Your life might be hard right now. Things might not be going to plan. But you can still give thanks. 

Crosswalk.com writer Julie K. Gillies says, “Our lives don’t have to be perfect for us to be grateful. (That won’t happen this side of eternity.) The truth is gratitude is a choice; a choice that honors God, transforms our countenance, and brings us into His presence.”

Gillies offers this prayer to cultivate gratitude. Let it help you prepare your heart for Thanksgiving today: 

“Lord, I want to cultivate a grateful heart. Please help me, Lord, and open my eyes so that I can see all that I have to be thankful for. Enable me to recognize Your hand of blessing in my day to day life. Help me to express gratitude to You daily, for that is Your will (Ephesians 5:19-20). 

“God help me to do all things without complaining (Philippians 2:14), so that I don’t grieve Your Holy Spirit. By Your power I desire to be thankful in all circumstances, for this is Your will for those of us who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

“Lord help me to devote myself to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart (Colossians 4:2). May my heart overflow with gratitude to You, God, for You are good. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.”

 

Carrie Dedrick is an editor of Crosswalk.com. When she is not writing or editing, she can usually be found teaching dance classes, running marathons, or reading with at least one adopted dog on her lap. 

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: November 18, 2016


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