Ah, yes, the time has arrived to speak on the American tradition of Thanksgiving. We set aside one day a year to pray a super long prayer, stuff our faces with turkey and pie, then watch football. The description sounds typically American, doesn't it?
Thanksgiving is not a day; it's a lifestyle. We Americans like to make it a holiday, a time for food, football, maybe beer for some, a time for all our typical lavish American-style holidays. And you know the problem with that? All the verses we read in the Bible (Ps. 95:2-3, 1 Chr. 16:34, Col. 3:17) about thanksgiving reflect an attitude of thankfulness that pervades life, not a single day.
Americans like to categorize too much. Thanksgiving, thinking about blessings, yeah, that's for November. Jesus, little baby, manger, all that jazz, that's for December. I'm not just talking about unbelievers when I say Americans. I'm speaking of us; yeah, us, the "good" churched people, the people who get together on Sunday and complain about how my head aches, my muscles are sore, my chemistry teacher is horrible, and I hate English class.
Have you ever noticed how up in arms Christians get about elections? I had a girl telling me that I needed to do my Christian duty during the last election by posting reminders to get out and vote on my Facebook page, something which I do not have. Somehow, Christians have gotten the idea that voting is a Christian's duty from some pretty scant Biblical evidence. Yet we march through Thanksgiving without even a second thought toward the idea of gratefulness toward God, something pretty plainly taught in Scripture. You don't see reminders for two months coming from church, websites, email, and Facebook reminding you to get out and be thankful!
Why is that? As I'm writing this, I can only think of one reason (that may be because it's really late at night, who knows) for why we Christians think so much more of election day, and Veteran's Day, and Family Game Night than we do for the real meaning behind Thanksgiving. It's because we like the complicated. We like the big, grandiose ideas. We will reform America, from Congress to the White House, yay, applause. We honor veterans because of their sacrifice (and they richly deserve our respect; don't get me wrong) by recognizing them in church. Gratitude, on the other hand, generally is so common place it just slips through our line of sight as we read our devotions or listen to sermons.
Gratitude isn't big. It isn't grandiose. It won't put you on the front page of your local newspaper. It's not an amazing groundbreaking idea or theological discovery. It's the simple, everyday, mundane times in life; those times it's easier to just let loose and unleash. It's those days you spill salsa down your white shirt; the day you get a flat tire on the way to church when you're supposed to sing the special; the day you sleep through your alarm on that busy school day; the day you do all of the above things on the same day; the day everything in you wants to scream out, "Why is life like this?!"
Yeah, I know it's not earth-shattering. Maybe you already do it. Maybe you've always done it. Maybe you're one of those naturally up-beat personalities. I'm not, and this is for me. Gratitude for what we've been given seems like a cut-and-dried, not-contested idea, but for some reason, we don't do it. Maybe we do the condensed thanksgiving prayer before meals, right? "Father, thank you for this day, and thank you for this food, and for all your many blessings, and help me and my..."
Normally, I would say take this week and think about gratitude, but that's exactly what I don't want you to do. Being thankful on Thanksgiving, although still probably not the norm, isn't unusual. What I think God wants us to do is be thankful in all things, whether that be what we consider good or bad, sickness or health, victory or loss. Don't save gratitude for one day of the year. Thank God for His blessings, His grace, His love, His mercy, His justice, and His salvation.
Make gratitude your lifesong. Live a life that is grateful for the little things, the mundane things, and live one that can still sing during the storm because of the joy of little blessings, the little blessings people walk by and miss, the ones people hurry past to get to work or church that much faster. Make gratitude the tune you sing your life to. And those of you who know me and see me constantly, hold me to this.