Thanksgiving – A time to count blessings

by Sue Schumann Warner

This Thanksgiving Day in homes across the West—as well as in countless Salvation Army corps, ARCs, and shelters—heads will be bowed and hearts lifted as families and friends give thanks to God.

It’s a day to stop, examine, refocus, and reorient ourselves to the source of our many blessings. And above all, it’s a day to express—to verbalize—heartfelt thanks to our Creator. It’s a day of “thanks – giving.”

After all, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it,” wrote author and pastor William Arthur Ward—providing no benefit to recipient or giver.

As a people, we have long celebrated a day of giving thanks ever since the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared their autumn harvest feast in 1621. When President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863, during the Civil War, it officially settled in November.

Today, tables filled with the savory bounty of traditional Thanksgiving menus—roasted turkey with cranberry sauce, fragrant stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pies, and more—nourish our bodies. For some, rhythms of tradition are held dear: a quick nap in the afternoon and then the football games (highlighted, of course, by the Salvation Army kettle kick-off at the Dallas Cowboys’ game) or perhaps an impromptu neighborhood ballgame…then, can shopping for bargains be far behind?

For others, after the dishes are done and leftovers put away, it’s a time to sit and visit with friends or loved ones who have traveled to join in the celebration.

Most importantly for all of us, however, it’s a time nurture our souls as we remember and count God’s many blessings throughout the year.

Recalling God’s blessings
For some, current circumstances may be difficult—disappointments, health concerns, finances, family problems. For others, life is rich and fulfilling. For all of us, no matter the circumstances, there are blessings. We just have to observe…or recall…or be willing to receive. And remember to give thanks.

“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” writes Paul in Ephesians 5:19-20.

We can be thankful for each day—for waking up in the morning, and for a bed to sleep in at night. Each day holds the promise of new things, of new beginnings, and of God’s rich mercy, which he gives fresh to us each day (Lamentations 3:22-23).

We can be thankful for our food—for those who grow it, for those who harvest it and those who prepare it; for the resources that contribute to its very being: warm summer days, sources of water, fields for planting.

We can be thankful for family and friends—those who love us, and those whom we love. And, with God’s grace, we can be thankful for those with whom we struggle, disagree, or dislike.

We can especially be thankful for our corps…our church…our fellowship of believers…our pastor who seeks to bring us to God, and bring God to us.

And we can be thankful with a grateful heart. For “Joy,” writes theologian Karl Barth, “is the simplest form of gratitude.”

Perhaps the psalmist said it best in Psalm 100:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all you lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

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