The calendar tells us that it is Thanksgiving, and once again I reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. For some it is merely a paid day off or a day to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones. For others, it is as the name suggests, a day to give thanks.
If it truly is a day to give thanks, what is it that I’m thankful for? Although I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones, there is more to it than that. I need to dig much deeper. While I’m at it, I need to realize that being thankful is something to practice consistently through each and every day. A wise friend told me once that there is no such thing as an entirely bad day. There is always something to be thankful for. Many in the world would be overjoyed to have some of the things that I tend to take for granted. A comfortable home with electricity and running water come to mind. My nightly habit is to pick up my gratitude journal and write down 5 things that I was grateful for that day. Looking for and focusing on the positive has changed my life.
Part of this is not just giving thanks, but who I am giving thanks to. God has blessed me, not just with material things, but with his loving presence. Even during the trying times, he is there leading and guiding me. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for the wrongs I have done. Now I can look forward to everlasting life with him. Now that is something to give thanks for.
.. always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)
The owner of the store I work in is known for the amazing gift baskets she creates. When she wanted to teach me how to do them, I panicked. Feeling that I don’t have a flair for that sort of thing had me terrified to even attempt it. As she guided me through the creative process, I secretly hoped the day would never come when I would have to make one on my own.
Through her encouragement and belief in me, I slowly gained confidence. Then the fateful day came when it was necessary for me to create a basket completely on my own. The fact that I enjoyed picking out and arranging the items in the basket surprised me. After wrapping it and making a bow, I stood back and admired what I had created. I even took a picture of the finished product! The saying “I didn’t know what I could do until I did it” came to mind.
Thinking about this, I realize how many times I have been stopped in my tracks by something I thought I couldn’t do. Now I realize that just because it’s something I’ve never done before, doesn’t mean I can’t do it! When I stop and pray about the situation, Jesus guides me every step of the way. Through Him, I am able to accomplish far more than I ever thought possible. When those negative, “I can’t do it” thoughts enter my mind, I just need to think of the gift baskets and remember that all things are possible through Christ Jesus.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
Last week I received one of the most valuable gifts I have ever been given. It came in the form of a written letter. This letter was from someone who wanted to let me know how much I was appreciated. My friend had verbally expressed appreciation for me before, but wanted to put it in writing. Reading the words had a profound effect on me. The fact that I can read them again at any time is priceless.
A few days ago I was one of many volunteers at a community event. Standing in the pouring rain, taking my shift as a crossing guard, I was happy and smiling at the people who went by. One of the main reasons for this was the appreciation that was expressed. The majority of people thanked me for serving in this way. Many offered kind words and one even offered to give me his umbrella! That evening I received an email expressing appreciation for my help during the event.
These experiences have reminded me the importance of showing appreciation. Even a difficult situation can be made better when appreciation is shown. I do my best to let people serving me know that I appreciate what they are doing. How often, though, do I make a point of letting loved ones know how much I appreciate them? It doesn’t always need to be for what they have done; maybe I need to let them know that I appreciate them for who they are. How will they know if I never tell them?
One that deserves my constant appreciation is Jesus. His love is faithful and he is always there to lead and guide me. He provides me with much more than I could ever deserve and I need to show my appreciation by thanking him every day.
Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24 NLT)
My mouth is filled with your praise, with your glory all day long. (Psalm 71:8 GWT)
Clouds had been gathering and now obscured the sun. The few remaining patches of blue sky were slowly disappearing. Then I saw it. Through one patch of clouds, the sun was beaming down in clearly defined shafts of light. It was these sunbeams, bursting through the clouds that captured my attention.
Without the clouds to block it, the sun’s light is often taken for granted. Looking at the sunbeams, forcing their way through the clouds I was reminded that, although I may not always see it, the sun is still there. It may be temporarily blocked by circumstances in my life. Above the clouds the sun is still shining. If I consciously search for it, I may be rewarded with shafts of light that are like rays of hope shining through the dark sky.
One thing I have learned is that I tend to find whatever it is I focus on. Life is gloomy when I only focus on the clouds that block the light and warmth of the sun. By shifting my focus to the glimmers of light, soon I don’t notice the clouds, only the positive effects of sun reaching out to embrace me. God’s son, Jesus, is always willing to pour out His light upon me. All that I have to do is consciously seek Him. When filled with His light and love I can, in turn, reflect this to others, so they may also feel the warmth of His love.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father. Matthew 5:16 NKJV
We had been driving through the mountains and were nearing a town called Hope. When I looked at the distance before we reached Hope, I wondered why my hope is often a distance away instead being where I am now. As we made our descent we saw a “chain off” area where vehicles can pull over and remove the chains that are needed to get them safely through the steep mountain roads in winter conditions.
The significance of this combination of chains off before I reach Hope was not lost on me. When I am in situations in which I do not feel safe, I have been known to wrap chains around my heart for protection. At these times, hope seems so far away. It doesn’t appear to get any closer as I journey along.
When I lay my concerns at the feet of Jesus, he releases the chains that have held me in bondage. I am free and realize that hope is now within me. I have found the true hope that will never leave me and that is the one found in Jesus.
We were saved with this hope in mind. If we hope for something we already see, it’s not really hope. Who hopes for what can be seen? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Romans 8:24,25 God’s Word Translation
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 NIV