Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving: Thoughts, tasks & thanks

Only two more days until Thanksgiving Day and my thoughts are a jumbled up mess.  Why?

Well, I could just start a list and it would get terribly long and complicated, but maybe I can give you a picture of what is flooding my brain.

First, I missed last week’s posting because I was focused on the annual weekend with my college friends. Therefore, last weekend my time was filled with all the planning and packing that it takes for such a weekend.

But, the tasks are part of the weekend and I am so thankful that I have such close friends who fill my life with joy and tears, with support and honesty, and with love.  The unconditional love that God gives each of us to experience, but also to provide for one another.  

Yet, returning from the weekend leads to more tasks—especially the laundry.  I could not believe how high the loads had piled up when everything was unpacked and added to what kept growing while I was gone. 

Laundry, you know, is one task that just does not seem manageable in any other way.  You still have to sort it, wash it, dry it, fold or hang it, and put it away.  And in the meantime, you are still wearing clothes that will soon continue the cycle.

Thank goodness I am equipped to do the task.

The laundry task is just one that faced me upon returning home.  While gone, I stopped at one of my favorite markets to restock my cooking supplies.  When I unloaded them, I realized I was facing another task—cleaning out the cabinet.

Thank goodness I am blessed to have a home with kitchen and cabinets, so I started.  I ended up having to clean out two cabinets in order to reorganize, clean and store all that I had purchased.  

As I do this, I cannot help but think how fortunate I am to be able to do this.  In doing the task, I found time to think about how thankful I am for my own home but also how difficult it must be not having all that I have.  Thanksgiving is easy for me, but what about those who struggle to have even the most basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.

Obviously one task leads to another and my thoughts just keep leap frogging from one thought to the next.  The chores I had to do after being gone for the long weekend continue, but now a shift from cleaning to planning ahead.  

Thanksgiving is a time filled with traditions—at least in our world.  There is the menu:  turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy accompanied by all the special dishes family members bring in.  The tasks turn to cooking.

Yet the task of preparing a Thanksgiving meal is a time for reflection and prayer.  Each dish seems to come with a face that loves it.  So the time on task turns into prayer time for the face (individual).

The jumbled thoughts that accompany daily life tasks sometimes quiet down, but at other times it leads to screaming.  No one else hears it, but I do.  What screams? 

Naturally some screams are from the actual work that has to be done, but what about the screams from the past.  

I can’t help but think how the Psalms are filled with the trials and tribulations that frustrate even the ancients.  Yet, in the midst of daily tasks, God is with us.  The Psalms are also filled with words of thanksgiving and praise.  I turn to Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

How easy it is for our thoughts to become so jumbled as we do the daily tasks.  The work is necessary, and the thoughts that ramble through our minds in the midst of it can distract us.  But today, as Thanksgiving Day nears, I find the jumbled, leap-frogging thoughts tend to turn to words of thanksgiving—serving the Lord with gladness.

May your holiday thoughts and tasks find a way to lead your thoughts to words of thanksgiving.  God knows we struggle, but we need to take time to talk with him.  As we think of all we have for which we are thankful, we need to make sure we tell him thanks.

And, as we realize how much we have, let us all share words of supplication to God for those without even the basics of food, clothing and shelter.  He is with them, too, and we can do all we can for them including wrapping them in prayers.

Dear Gracious God,

In the midst of the mental fog, the myriad of tasks, and the traditions of a holiday, we thank you.

In the madness of travels and the joys of family reunions, we thank you for our kin.

At the table filled with turkey, dressing, and more, we feel blessed to have food, clothing and shelter for which we say thanks.

Yet we know many who have mental fog of addictions, of hunger, of pain, of loss, and more. 

so we lift them in our prayers.

We are aware that you call us to serve

one another in love today and everyday,

so we ask you to guide us is doing all that we can.

This week we echo the psalmist’s word

knowing that we are God’s children

and your love endures forever

and you are faithful to all generations.

We are blessed and we give thanks to you.

In the name of you the Father,

the son Jesus Christ,

and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

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Thanking God for God’s Giving

Sermon for Sunday, November 20, 2016.  (No sermon was published for last week as it was a vacation Sunday.)

Opening scripture: Philippians 4:1, NLT

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.

Scripture connection: Philippians 4:2-7, NLT

     2 Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner,[b] to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

     4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.[c]

     6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

*Closing scripture: Philippians 4:8-9, NLT

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 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. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

 

Reflection: Thanking God for God’s Giving

 

“Thanks for giving” is the commercial’s message. Young children sharing that simple thank you has captured my heart yet I cannot even tell you what the business is that runs the commercial. “Thanks for giving” is part of the Christian lifestyle.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with guidelines for living the God-centered lifestyle. He challenged the members to put aside their differences and to work on maintaining Christ-like relationships in order to remain thankful for all the blessings God provides.

These reminders are as appropriate today as they were when the Philippian church struggled to establish itself and to maintain the very values that Jesus Christ modeled and Paul taught. We must ask ourselves to consider the very same problem: Are we allowing problems with personal relationships to interfere with the work Jesus commissioned us?

This week is filled with traditions, and filled with thanks for all the blessings we have received. The holiday traditions bring families together, provide opportunities to renew memories, and of course, fill our tummies with all those carefully prepared meals that families have cooked for generations. Thanksgiving is designed to thank God for all that has been given to us.

Yet in the midst of all the holiday business, do we offer thanks for the giving? Do we follow Paul’s advice to put aside disagreements, to resolve relationship issues, and to refocus on the joy of God’s giving to us? Are we thanking God for all we have been given?

Paul had heard of the problems between two women who were devoted workers for the church, and he admonished them and the others in the church to resolve the problems in order to keep the church centered on its responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s words are as applicable today as it was 2,000 years ago. The internal relationships within the church can interfere with the work of the church. Thanksgiving in our church should be a time to thank each other for the blessings that they provide through service to our community—locally and globally. Thanksgiving is part of our Christian lifestyle:

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

 

Right now, right here, we must ask ourselves if we are maintaining the very Christ-like relationships that Paul tells the Philippians to do in order to be the Christians God asks us to be. Are we serving as God’s agents? Are we willing to accept one another with grace as God accepts us? Are we able to do whatever we can to serve one another in love? Are we sharing the good news with others?

Part of the Thanksgiving tradition is acknowledging the blessings that we experience. For some, the meal begins with a blessing that thanks God for all that he has provided. The families do give thanks for giving. In some homes, the thanks for God’s blessing are silent.

The commercial’s message, “Thanks for giving,” is a reminder that we are called to share God’s grace with others. Paul even goes on to remind the Philippian church to pray:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 

This Thanksgiving we are called to thank God for the blessings given us. This Thanksgiving we need to pray that the unity of our own church is healed and the work God asks of us is renewed.

Tuesday will mark the 53rd anniversary since the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Every Thanksgiving reminds us of how this country handles challenges, and JFK’s words are ones to guide us as Americans, but also as Christians:

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

 

Paul’s words continue to teach us how to live lives that model Jesus Christ. The words “Love one another” is how we give thanks for all the blessings we receive. There is no reason to close minds or doors to one another. Closing minds and doors results in hardening hearts.

Return to Paul’s words to remember how to experience the joy of giving blessings to others. Pray. Pray for the church. Pray for the community, the country, and the world. Pray that we can do all we can in our community to see that God’s love blesses all, not just a select few. Pray that Advent will bring a sense of joy and renewal as we share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to review our blessings, and it is the perfect time to review just what each one of us does:   sharing the story of how God blessed us with the birth of Jesus Christ so that we may do all that we can do to bless others with God’s grace.

Closing prayer:

Dear loving and giving God,

Thank you for loving us so much that you sent Jesus Christ

who showed us how to love one another

who had to suffer ridicule, harassment, and death

so we may might receive the ultimate gift of life everlasting.

 

Thank you for your grace granted without expectations.

Thank you for the gift of forgiveness when we ask.

Thank you for the freedom that comes with loving one another.

 

This holiday weekend, open our hearts and minds

to how we can provide blessings of your love

to others so they can experience the joy of Christian living.

 

Thank you for the community that we call home.

Thank you for the families that join us at the table.

Thank you for the blessings we experience daily.

 

We pray for the healing of relationships.

We pray for the healing of bodies broken with illness.

We pray for the healing of communities worldwide.

 

Thank you, God, for giving

us your Son, Jesus Christ,

and the Holy Spirit.

May we serve one another in love

as thanks for your gifts. –Amen

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Why practice thanks?

given on Sunday, November 3, 2013:

         November is here!  No one seems to understand why I dread this month, and that might be why I am discovering a shift in my attitude.  Thank goodness, because I needed a change.

Maybe living around so many enthusiastic deer hunters is part of it.  Maybe it is watching all the fun a Halloween event can be.  Maybe it is the anticipation of the Christmas holiday.  Maybe it is all the birthdays that have developed in the middle of the year.  Why it might even be due to the winning season of the Chiefs and the Mizzou Tigers!

Whatever it is, thank goodness!  I needed to broaden my joy into and through November.  I need to say thanks for giving me a month back to live to the fullest.  I need to practice giving thanks.

Why practice thanks?  Why do Christians need to give thanks to God?  Giving thanks to God, and I dare say to others in our lives, too, is a discipline.  When one disciplines oneself to practice any behavior, that practice becomes internalized in such a manner it takes no thought or effort to carry it out.

Consider what our world would be like if people did not practice certain behaviors or routines.  Think about driving—what if we did not follow the basic traffic laws?  What if we did not practice courtesy on the roadways?  What happens when we make mistakes such as pulling out in front of someone?  Would our lives be safe?  The courtesy we practice on the roadways allows flexibility among drivers who make mistakes or protects us from those who are aggressive.  Aren’t we thankful that almost all drivers do practice courtesy while on the roads?

Still, why does God expect us to practice gratitude as Christians?  The scriptures share various stories about giving thanks, and sometimes it is difficult to identify why we should give thanks.  The story today of the Israelites coming out of Egypt struggling to survive in the desert, wanting a change in the diet of manna that God was providing may seem far-fetched to us, especially right here in the breadbasket of the nation.  Yet, the Israelites were whining and not giving thanks.

How often does that happen in our own lives?  We have everything that we need, but we whine when we do not get what we want.  We watch friends getting more wealth or more stuff than we do, and we whine.  We ask God why do they get it and not us.  Do we stop and practice thanksgiving?  Do we stop watching what others are getting and doing and say thank you God for what we have?

Two of the very reasons I have long dreaded November are now turning into the very reasons I can give thanks to God:

  1. The loss of the green colors and the leaves on the trees signaled the cold, dreariness of winter that I shudder every time I think about it.  Yet, practicing gratitude, I can shift my thinking.  I love the colors of fall and the crispness of the cooler evenings.  The smell of wood burning delights me even when it drifts across my nose as I let the dogs in and out.  The rain this week seemed to provide a glossy finish to the leaves shining in the trees and the ones piling up on the bright green grass.  Thank goodness I can see God’s splendor in this early November day.  Thank you, God, for the delight of nature’s brilliant display.
  2. Over the years, November has signaled loss.  Too many family members seemed to die.  The worst calamities seemed to occur in November—the fire in our woods, the encephalitis Dad developed, and even the assassination of JFK.  But now November has signaled new life with birthdays to celebrate—a sister-in-law, a granddaughter and a grandson, a stepson not to mention an uncle and a cousin and who knows how many more.  I can even add an anniversary to that.  Thank goodness I have learned to see the gains of November.  Thank you, God, for the joy of life rather than the sadness of losses.

My manna from heaven may not be the little beads of nourishment that the Israelites woke to find in the mornings.  My manna is discovering that there is more joy in life than the negative.  Learning to practice gratitude is a discipline Christians need.  The outcomes are so important and can demonstrate to others one more value to living a God-centered life.

Giving thanks may not be one of the acts of piety that John Wesley identified, but even Moses and all the examples of faithful leaders from the Bible knew that showing gratitude to God was critical to maintaining a faithful relationship with God.

For the Israelites, the sacrificial rituals became the religious practice that kept them faithful to God.  The sacrifices were highly structured and the gifts were the first, the finest crops or livestock that could be given to God.

The strict rules that the Israelites followed placed the importance on the gift worthy enough to thank God.  The Old Testament tells story after story of sacrifice that the faithful provided as proof of their obedience to God.  The stories also share examples of when sacrifices were not worthy.  In those stories, the failure to provide thanks with the best gifts or to be deceptive in the giving illustrates how destructive impure gratitude can be.

The New Testament reveals the story of God’s sacrifice to us.  With his gift of his son, he strips away the need to demonstrate gratitude in such ritualistic manners.  No more do we offer sacrificial lambs on an altar because God sacrificed his own son so that we may be forgiven our sins.  What an act for which we can be thankful!

Because God offered his Son, we are not exempt from Christian practices.  In fact, because we do not have to offer the tangible evidence that we believe in God and that Jesus died for our sins, our practice of thanksgiving should be central in our lives.

Practicing thanksgiving each and every day keeps us focused on God.  Giving thanks to God, to one another, to family and friends, even to clerks or service providers keeps us positive.  We show the joy that we experience in our lives because we are God-centered.  We see each worker, each person with God’s eyes and we thank God by our actions of Christian love.

People know us by the radiance in our face, by the twinkle in the eyes, by the hugs we share, by the giving we do, by the words of thanks that we give.  These are the results of practicing our faith.  When we keep our lives God-centered, our perspective of who is in control is kept in check.

Here is the challenge for November:  Practice thanksgiving each and every day of the month, of the year, and in the years ahead.  You will see a difference in your life.  You will see a difference in the lives of those around you.  You will witness the shift from loss to joy in your life.  A life filled with thanksgiving is a life filled with God.

Dear Gracious God,

These November days signal the end of a season,

         but thank you for the glory in the colorful leaves.

These November days may be colder and blustery,

         but thank you for the warmth of our homes.

These November days are filled with excitement,

         as hunters prepare for a new season, too.

These November days are filled with anticipation,

         as families look forward to celebrations.

 

As we awake each morning this November,

         keep us centered on giving thanks.

As we arrive at work each day this November,

         let us share our thanksgiving with others.

As we sit down at our tables this November,

         hear our prayers for the blessings we receive.

As we close our eyes each night this November,

         thank you for another day filled with life.

 

Thank you, Gracious Father, for Novembers.

May we practice thanksgiving to the glory of You.  Amen.

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