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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I was thinking the other day about the dichotomy of an atheist Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, they use the phrase, "I'm thankful for ...", but to whom are they thankful? It is possible to list things for which they are grateful, but little thought is given beyond that list. It occurred to me, however, that there is often something missing at Thanksgiving for all of us. What's missing at Thanksgiving?

For a sizable number of Americans, Thanksgiving Day is "Turkey Day". It's a day to enjoy a lot of food, gather with friends and family, watch an inordinate amount of football, that sort of thing. That is, the missing component for this group is thanksgiving. There's no "thanks" involved.

Of course, we're not like that. We aim to include "thanks" in our Thanksgiving, right? So we'll try to be conscious about things for which we're thankful. We might have a time around the table where we share things that we're grateful for. We'll maybe write a list or employ some other tool to remind us of how good we have it. And rightly so. We have it good. And we will gather together on paper or in words or in our minds those things for which we're thankful. That, of course, is thanksgiving. So ... what's missing there?

I'll try it in James's terminology. "You recognize that there are things for which you are grateful? You do well. The atheists do the same, and they're not thanking God." Okay, weak. I get it. What's my point? So often it seems Thanksgiving is about us. Either it's about us eating and watching football or it's about us and what we have. And the latter seems certainly better than the former, morally speaking. Still, at what point is Thanksgiving about the One to whom we're thankful? It feels, sometimes, like the best we do is look around our own lives and gather together a list of good things and then pass that list briefly to God. "Thanks for that." In terms of percentage of time spent on this exercise, it feels as if we're consuming 99% of our time thinking about us and 1% thinking about the One to whom we are grateful.

Small stuff, I know. Mountain out of a mole hill. I get it. Still, I ask myself, "Why do I have all these blessings?" Yes, I have many blessings in my life, gifts from God. Undeniable. And definitely important to note. But why has He gifted me (us) with these things? Is it so we can be comfortable? Or even grateful? I don't think so. Since all of life is about bringing glory to God, I would argue that all our blessings are about ... bringing glory to God. As such, in our exercise of gratitude, wouldn't it be good to spend more time and attention on God? Am I grateful, for instance, for the pain He caused that brought Him glory? Do I recognize the opportunities He gave to live in such a way to reflect Him to others? In what ways do the blessings we enjoy reflect honor on God? Do we recognize that the blessings bestowed are gracious gifts to undeserving beings, "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" who are now "vessels of mercy"? In thinking about the things for which we are rightly grateful, are we thinking about the glory it brings God?

Like I said, maybe it's small stuff. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. Still, I want to be careful especially at Thanksgiving time not to be merely grateful like those who don't even recognize God. I want to make God the center point of that gratitude. It's not about how good I have it, but about how good He is. So, maybe it's just me. But it's something I want to keep in mind this Thanksgiving. Let's keep God in Thanksgiving.


Sherry said...

From a motel lobby computer, on our way "over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go"... a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Stan.

Stan said...

From a laptop in our hotel waiting to go to the family gathering for our celebration, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, too.