No More “Empty” Thanksgivings
- 2010 20 Nov
I remember a few Thanksgiving holidays in which I felt like a legalist - or a hypocrite!
I remember thinking: Is this all there is? Go to a relative's house, sit around all day for the dinner to be served, and once it is, hear someone say a prayer and then eat a huge meal? Did I even acknowledge God or say "thank you" on a day that is all about giving thanks?
Yep, I'd become a person who was going through the motions on Thanksgiving Day. Conviction stabbed my heart. I hate that.
Funny how we have a holiday set aside, once a year, to remember our blessings and be thankful, when God commands us to be thankful continuously - and to make it an everyday occurrence in our lives.
It occurred to me I had become like a person who attends church once a year on Easter Sunday to remember that Christ rose from the dead and reigns victoriously. Yet Christ wants me to remember His death, resurrection and victorious reign all year long! So, too, we are to be people full of thanksgiving - not just on the last Thursday of November, but always. I realized if that yearly observance of thanks was to be meaningful for me, it had to be something consistent in my life.
So if you, too, are tempted to go through the motions on a holiday that promotes something that should be a part of our everyday lives as followers of God, here are some ways to be sincere in your heart and mind this year and make Thanksgiving a part of your everyday lifestyle.
Thank Him in the mornings: Psalm 100:4 says "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise" That means praise should be on my lips at the moment I rise in the morning, as I greet God and greet the day. Psalm 34:1 says "I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips." I find that if I do this in the morning, it's more likely I'll do it throughout the day, too.
Thank Him at mealtime: Granted, there are some days when just before meals is the only time my family can pray together, if that. So why miss that opportunity or save it for one day a year? It's a rare sight these days, isn't it? Have you noticed how few people will stop their conversation and keep their forks on the table long enough to bow their heads and thank God for their food - even when they're sitting at Chick Fil A or Denny's? By pausing to thank God for our food every time we eat, we are being people who are mindful of our everyday blessings, not just our yearly ones. If you're a parent, teach your children NOW to pray before all meals…not just the turkey dinner. And if you're around others when you eat, show your co-workers, friends or the rest of the world that you're not ashamed of being a person who still pauses to thank your Creator for every blessing that you have…every day.
Thank Him in the mundane: I believe God has no greater joy than when we thank Him…just because. "Thank You, God, for the weather even though it isn't that great." "Thank You, God for this old car I'm driving, because it's paid for and it's still running!" "Thank you, God, that I have a job to go to this morning." Or how about this one? "Thank You, God, that even though I've prayed for work and still don't have a job, I know You're listening." First Thessalonians 5:18 says "give thanks in all circumstances (even the unpleasant ones) for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
From the time our daughter was a baby we taught her to pray "Thank you, God, for this day…" as a predecessor to anything else." We wanted her to grow up knowing that life - and every day that she could live and breathe - was a gift. For our daughter, that lesson was particularly meaningful because she had a bone marrow test at 18 months old to determine if she had leukemia or cancer. It was around the time she was beginning to talk. The prayer "Thank you, God, for this day…" became commonplace after that….so that the gift of each day thereafter wouldn't be.
As Thanksgiving approaches, there may be situations on the horizon that you are not looking forward to: travelling, having a house full of people, having to visit with annoying relatives, spending extra money on food or travel. But by cultivating a thankful heart now - for life, for health, for family, for a day off of work -- Thanksgiving Day can be one more day in which you are grateful in your heart and letting praise flow from your lips about all your Father has done for you.
And if you notice that someone in your midst that day is going through the motions, don't let them any longer. Tell them what you are thankful for this past year and ask what they, too, can thank God for in their lives. Let thanksgiving continually be on your lips on Thanksgiving Day and every day.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of several books, including When You're Running on Empty and When God Pursues a Woman's Heart. For more on her speaking ministry, books, and free resources to help you cultivate a heart of praise, see www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.