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Posts tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

The True Story of Thanksgiving

On the fourth Thursday of this month citizens of the United States will celebrate the much-beloved holiday of Thanksgiving.  It’s supposed to be an occasion for grateful reflection upon how blessed we are as a people, but how many American Christians, let alone Americans in general, understand the true origin and meaning of this annual day on the calendar?

The majority of Americans, which likely includes a large number of Christians, may well think the origin of the celebration of Thanksgiving is all about the first pilgrims to the New World (later to be named America) celebrating that they had arrived safely here.  While that may be a worthy reason, it’s not the real the story.

Had it not been for the grace of God providing help for them through the gracious contributions of the indigenous people living around them they all might have died.  As it was, a sizable number of their small community had died from illness anyway during that difficult first winter.

Therefore, after harvesting a bountiful crop of various produce and getting better established in their new homeland during the next year, the pilgrims felt especially grateful to God for their survival.  Because they were all very devout Christians, setting aside a feast day to thank God for His goodness was a natural expression of their gratitude.  However, it would be 168 years later on November 26, 1789, before George Washington proclaimed it as a national day of observance for the new nation.

President Lincoln made it an annual observance beginning on the last Thursday of November in 1863, but to support retailers by extending the shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, President Franklin Roosevelt changed the annual date to the fourth Thursday in November in 1939, and it has remained unchanged from that date since then.

In America’s politically correct educational environment today where anything even hinting at Christian influence in America’s past or present is eschewed by the anti-Christian establishment, precious few people (including Christians) have even the slightest idea of America’s Christian heritage.

In fact, the day may come in the not-too-distant future when writing or hosting these facts may be forbidden and even dangerous.  So-called “hate speech” laws have already been enacted around the world in parts of Europe, Canada and even America prohibiting critical speech against certain groups such as homosexuals and Muslims which may be labeled as hate speech.  Unfortunately, the definition of “hate” by these laws is so ambiguous that anything negative may be identified as hateful, thus putting Bible-believing Christians, in particular, in a very precarious position.

Simply quoting the Bible’s statements against homosexuality or pointing out the moral and theological inconsistencies of Islam with Biblical Christianity (such as loving your enemies and rejecting both murder and vengeance) can bring on the wrath of either of these constituencies or their various sympathizers. It appears that it’s socially sanctioned for anyone in either of these groups to blaspheme God or Jesus’ saving work or to spew hate-filled epithets at Bible-believing Christians, but it’s not allowed for Christians to espouse their strong beliefs in the Bible as God’s final Word on anything.

Maybe we American Christians had better be especially thankful to God for our dearly-held freedoms of speech and religion as we observe this year’s Thanksgiving Day, since we have no real assurance that we will still have these same freedoms in the future.

What about you?  What do you have to be thankful for, and have you taken the opportunity to thank God both in prayer and in an open pronouncement to others for His goodness to you?

Expressing gratitude is very important to God, as we can learn from a careful reading of His holy Word. One  excellent example is the story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers which prompted the thankful response from the apparently lone Samaritan in the group (see Luke 17:11-19).  To quote another of Jesus’ statements in another  context – “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37 NKJV).

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving 4Key Bible Verse: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6, NASB

Dig Deeper:  Psalm 100

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays, especially considering the five “f’s” it includes: faith, family, food, football, and the four-day weekend.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s a tough combination to beat.

And talk about positive and upbeat!  Pausing to express gratitude for one’s blessings breathes life into anyone’s soul.  Even in times of trial and heartache, when it’s most difficult to see life’s glass as half full instead of half empty, stopping to give thanks makes a difference.

Thanksgiving’s such a great holiday—it’s a shame we celebrate it only once a year.  Maybe we should change that fact.

Consider again Paul’s words in today’s Key Bible Verse: I see the phrase “with thanksgiving” as a secret that Paul has learned, enabling him to find contentment in spite of his circumstances.  Thanksgiving is a critical ingredient.

When we humbly bring ourselves and our requests before God (supplication), we should do that “with thanksgiving.”  What a privilege to be able to bring our requests to him, and what a benefit to know that he’ll answer in a way and in a time that are perfect for us.  These truths provide us with good reason to give thanks.

—Don Cousins in Unexplainable

 

My Response: During my prayer times over the next several days, I will consciously thank God for at least one blessing in my life.

 

Thought to Apply: All our discontents about what we want appear to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.—Daniel Defoe (British writer, journalist)

Adapted from Unexplainable (Cook, 2009).

 

Thanksgiving Prayer:  Dear heavenly Father, thank you for providing for my daily needs; help me to find my contentment in you and you alone, so that I might experience the kind of peace that’s unexplainable apart from you.

Central Church hosts Thanksgiving meal

Sharing a communal meal is a Thanksgiving tradition.

History tells us one of the first gratitude gatherings occurred in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass., when Pilgrims shared a meal with Native Americans.

Expressing thanks for blessings continues when Americans gather Nov. 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Some observe the national holiday at home, but at Central Church, as well as other locations in in Beaver County, it’s also become tradition for families, friends, neighbors and even strangers to gather at churches or community centers to share a communal meal. It’s a chance for individuals, couples and families to unite in fellowship.

At Central, our meals — served by volunteers — are free, and no advance reservations are required.

We believe that no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.  Come join us!

 

Central United Methodist Church

Where: 1227 Sixth Ave. in Beaver Falls

When: 4 to 5 p.m.

Cost: Free to all.

Reservations: Not required.

Information: 724-846-3474.

 

 

 

Easy ways to share gratitude this Thanksgiving

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day elicits a bounty of wonderful memories for many people in the U.S. The crisp air. The smell of a turkey roasting and a pumpkin pie baking. The sound of a cheering crowd at a football game. All these can create warm feelings during this special time of year.

While the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S., thanking God for our blessings is a spiritual discipline that should not be limited to a single day. Along with expanding our waistlines, our preparation for and celebration of the holiday can be the impetus toward growing an attitude of gratitude that will carry over into the rest of the year. In his commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, John Wesley writes, “Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it.” Giving thanks is as essential to our spiritual growth as prayer, which 1 Thessalonians calls us to do continually. These creative ideas will help us get started this Thanksgiving.

  • Fill a family Thanksgiving box. As part of your Thanksgiving preparation, create a Thanksgiving Box. Each day family members write on slips of paper something for which they are thankful that day and place them in the decorated box. The box will make a nice Thanksgiving table centerpiece, and when opened, a way to remember how blessed we are every day. You could add to it all year too of course.
  • Serve someone. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, many agencies serving those in need expand their work. Food banks, churches, and other service organizations supply meals to the hungry on Thanksgiving. Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles holds a sleepover for their youth called the “turkey lock-in.” On the night before Thanksgiving the youth prepare, and the next day, deliver meals to people in the community who will be alone on Thanksgiving. Ask your pastor for suggestions of places near you to serve or donate.
  • Take time for quiet reflection. As the big day approaches, things get busier. Set aside some time each day to say thank you to God for all he has provided. “A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving” by The Rev. Dr. LaGretta Bjorn is a great start.
  • Make a Thanksgiving frame. As you and your family reflect on those things for which you are thankful, compile a list. A few days before Thanksgiving, neatly transfer the list onto a piece of paper you can then insert into a frame for a beautiful expression of gratitude to decorate your home.
  • Invite someone new to dinner. Athens First United Methodist Church invites international students from the University of Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with their members. The students enjoy spending time away from campus and in family homes. Explore ways to invite those who may be alone or far from family to celebrate with you on the holiday.
  • Share blessings together. When gathered around the table, many families will ask guests to share something for which they are thankful. In Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home, MaryJane Pierce Norton suggests creating a list together, such as foods each person enjoys. Then together offer “thanks for the Earth and all with which we are blessed in the world God created.”
  • Send cards to those we miss. Remember those who are not able to be with you this year by making or purchasing cards for them. “On Thanksgiving Day,” Norton writes, “invite all who are gathered in your home to sign and/or write a note on the cards to those who are missing.” Mail them the next day to share the gratitude.
  • Create a keepsake of thanks. When you take that group photo around the table or in front of the fireplace, record not only the names of those in attendance, but also something for which each person is thankful. This will be a great item to revisit when everyone gathers again next year. See Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home for more ideas of celebrating gratitude together.
  • Include children. Involve the children celebrating with you by sharing the Child’s Thanksgiving Prayer. Use this prayer at the kids’ table as a grace or an after meal blessing, having one of the older children lead. Then encourage the kids to write their own Thanksgiving prayers, with which they could lead the adults in prayer later in the day.
  • Voice your gratitude. If your family is musical, consider a Thanksgiving sing-a-long, as you might do with Christmas carols. Dean McIntyre offers Hymns for Thanksgiving Day from our United Methodist Hymnal and Songbooks that would be a great way to celebrate. He also offers a quiz of hymns with lines about thanksgiving in Musical Thanksgiving. Make a game out of who can guess the most.

However you can, find ways to give thanks to God for all of his blessings throughout your celebration this year. Instill the habit of an attitude of gratitude, which will extend far beyond Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving 2

 

Are you practicing Thanksgiving authentically?

 

Are you practicing Thanksgiving authentically?

We’re just days away. Thanksgiving really does come before Christmas, although you wouldn’t know from the jingly commercials on TV. Thanksgiving has sadly become little more than the official start of the holiday season, and that’s a shame.

We have so much to be thankful for. Our salvation, grace, mercy, family, friends — the list goes on and on. When it comes to authentic thankfulness, are you practicing it correctly?

My love language is words of affirmation. And like all languages from Gary Chapman’s book, “5 Love Languages,” people can use them improperly. When people affirm, thank or try to encourage with words, they assume that almost anything can “work.” However, like all communications, the slightest issue can make your goodwill disingenuous.

People have been burned by authenticity issues, sarcasm and the feeling of “being used.” It’s critical to communicate thankfulness properly so people truly feel your gratitude. And I know that’s what you ultimately want since so many people help ministries function properly as the hands and feet of Christ.

Here are two things to consider when chatting with others at Thanksgiving:

1. Don’t have other motives.

There are often times when someone pours praise out, waits a few seconds, then asks for something. Let this Thanksgiving be a time to truly voice thankfulness to fellow members of your congregation, friends, and those to whom you minister with absolutely no other motive; just be thankful for them. Maybe even offer them something to reinforce your thankfulness.

Example: “Sarah, I’m truly thankful for how you’ve been able to minister to the kids in your Sunday school class. Please let me know if I can ever do anything for you or if you ever need a break from teaching.”

2. Speak thankfulness into who someone is and not just what they did.

A list of to-do items completed may receive praise, but true thankfulness shows gratitude for who someone has become. It takes more work to discover how to voice this, but that’s exactly why it’s received with greater value. It also reinforces the message of inward change that motivates our outward service.

Example: “Ben, you’re so dependable every week with your service. I’m so thankful that I can rely on you. You’re truly a God-send. Thank you.”

The few words said following these traits will linger in someone’s heart much longer than a quick thank you. This week, think of several people who truly deserve some encouragement, and you become the messenger. You’ll be glad you did.

Want even more impact? Write a shorthand note and drop it in the mail to them. It’s truly worth the price of the stamp.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving 2

Central Church hosts Thanksgiving meal

Sharing a communal meal is a Thanksgiving tradition.

History tells us one of the first gratitude gatherings occurred in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass., when Pilgrims shared a meal with Native Americans.

Expressing thanks for blessings continues when Americans gather Nov. 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Some observe the national holiday at home, but at Central Church, as well as other locations in in Beaver County, it’s also become tradition for families, friends, neighbors and even strangers to gather at churches or community centers to share a communal meal. It’s a chance for individuals, couples and families to unite in fellowship.

At Central, our meals — served by volunteers — are free, and no advance reservations are required.

We believe that no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.  Come join us!

 

Central United Methodist Church

Where: 1227 Sixth Ave. in Beaver Falls

When: 4 to 5 p.m.

Cost: Free to all.

Reservations: Not required.

Information: 724-846-3474.

 

 

 

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Grateful to GodFather in Heaven!  You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment.

But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves.

                                                               – Soren Kierkegaard

From the friendly folks at Central Church, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday!

 As part of our Thanksgiving, we thank God for the opportunity to provide free warm and nutritious food for body and soul to many people in the City of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

 This holiday, let us cultivate a Thanksgiving for the people God has placed in our lives.

Central Church hosts Thanksgiving meal

Sharing a communal meal is a Thanksgiving tradition.

History tells us one of the first gratitude gatherings occurred in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass., when Pilgrims shared a meal with Native Americans.

Expressing thanks for blessings continues when Americans gather Nov. 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Some observe the national holiday at home, but at Central Church, as well as other locations in in Beaver County, it’s also become tradition for families, friends, neighbors and even strangers to gather at churches or community centers to share a communal meal. It’s a chance for individuals, couples and families to unite in fellowship.

At Central, our meals — served by volunteers — are free, and no advance reservations are required.

We believe that no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.  Come join us!

 

Central United Methodist Church

Where: 1227 Sixth Ave. in Beaver Falls

When: 4 to 5 p.m.

Cost: Free to all.

Reservations: Not required.

Information: 724-846-3474.

 

 

 

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Grateful to GodFather in Heaven!  You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment.

But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves.

                                                               – Soren Kierkegaard

From the friendly folks at Central Church, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday!

 As part of our Thanksgiving, we thank God for the opportunity to provide free warm and nutritious food for body and soul to many people in the City of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

 This holiday, let us cultivate a Thanksgiving for the people God has placed in our lives.

Are you practicing Thanksgiving authentically?

 

Are you practicing Thanksgiving authentically?

We’re just days away. Thanksgiving really does come before Christmas, although you wouldn’t know from the jingly commercials on TV. Thanksgiving has sadly become little more than the official start of the holiday season, and that’s a shame.

We have so much to be thankful for. Our salvation, grace, mercy, family, friends — the list goes on and on. When it comes to authentic thankfulness, are you practicing it correctly?

My love language is words of affirmation. And like all languages from Gary Chapman’s book, “5 Love Languages,” people can use them improperly. When people affirm, thank or try to encourage with words, they assume that almost anything can “work.” However, like all communications, the slightest issue can make your goodwill disingenuous.

People have been burned by authenticity issues, sarcasm and the feeling of “being used.” It’s critical to communicate thankfulness properly so people truly feel your gratitude. And I know that’s what you ultimately want since so many people help ministries function properly as the hands and feet of Christ.

Here are two things to consider when chatting with others at Thanksgiving:

1. Don’t have other motives.

There are often times when someone pours praise out, waits a few seconds, then asks for something. Let this Thanksgiving be a time to truly voice thankfulness to fellow members of your congregation, friends, and those to whom you minister with absolutely no other motive; just be thankful for them. Maybe even offer them something to reinforce your thankfulness.

Example: “Sarah, I’m truly thankful for how you’ve been able to minister to the kids in your Sunday school class. Please let me know if I can ever do anything for you or if you ever need a break from teaching.”

2. Speak thankfulness into who someone is and not just what they did.

A list of to-do items completed may receive praise, but true thankfulness shows gratitude for who someone has become. It takes more work to discover how to voice this, but that’s exactly why it’s received with greater value. It also reinforces the message of inward change that motivates our outward service.

Example: “Ben, you’re so dependable every week with your service. I’m so thankful that I can rely on you. You’re truly a God-send. Thank you.”

The few words said following these traits will linger in someone’s heart much longer than a quick thank you. This week, think of several people who truly deserve some encouragement, and you become the messenger. You’ll be glad you did.

Want even more impact? Write a shorthand note and drop it in the mail to them. It’s truly worth the price of the stamp.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving 2

The Best Way to be Thankful

Here is a thoughtful reflection by Anne Kennedy on the best way we can be thankful.


I don’t know about you, but inevitably, in the mad dash from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and from thence to Easter, I become entangled in the law.

 Surely you must know about the law. It comprises various rules and regulations sometimes known and articulated explicitly, but more usually hiding in every corner ready to pop out at you and smack you as you walk by. The law can start with words like ‘Don’t’ or ‘You Shall’ but very often it devolves into the smaller and more nasty phrase ‘I have to,’ and ends with deep feelings of frustration and regret.

We human people like laws, even when we say we don’t. I don’t mean the baldly stated ones, the ones printed clearly on the page, or demarcating the road and how fast to go down it, or anything that limits one’s behavior in the moment. If I feel like doing something, I should be allowed to do it. Which sounds like freedom, except that my feelings have essentially transmogrified themselves into the very law I thought I was attempting to get away from.

The best kind of laws, the most pleasurable to live by, are those that we secretly make for ourselves and others. The ones driven by private, hidden expectation, by a desire known only to the one wielding the power. These laws are made and applied to ourselves and others without the hassle of having to pause and think about what we’re doing, and what will happen when we fail and other people fail and the whole world fails. These are best and most precious when they are never spoken, never given the scrutiny of light or air.

The first time I noticed these kinds of laws was several years ago when I kept running into the word ‘grace’ in various blog posts around the inter webs. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with this nice biblical word, but after much consideration and gnashing of teeth, I concluded  that the word grace was being used as if it itself were a part of the law. It was always joined with the words, ‘you need to’ or ‘we need to.’ The posts were always titled stuff like Homeschooling with Grace or Laundry and Grace.

When you come to words like ‘grateful’ and ‘thankful’ it can be even worse. The law of thankfulness, which surely must be the antidote to all your sinning, provides the daily, weekly, and monthly opportunity for you to fail even further. Because now, on top of everything else, you can feel guilty not just about your behavior, but also about your attitude. But then one day you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, develop the perfect system, market it on the internet to other failing mothers, and Voila! Your way is made. You have ascended to the heights and can bask in the misery of all your fellow creatures.

The problem is, the antidote for your failure to keep the law isn’t to try to follow another law. When you sin, the last thing you need to do is just try harder, digging yourself single handedly out of the depths by working really hard to undo the effects of your failure. If you commit murder, you can’t raise the dead, or just make it better by just not murdering any more. You need outside help. You need someone who has the power to forgive you and then to alter the nature of your very person so that you don’t do it any more. And also to raise the dead.

Murder is obvious though. What happens when you inadvertently offend Great Aunt Euodia? She has a secret law written on her heart and there’s no way she is ever going to tell you about it. And when you break it, even if you apologize and seek some kind of restorative action, she will never forgive you. Or worse yet, what if you come to mid December and discover that somehow, without trying, you believed of yourself that you would personally carve tiny nativity scenes out of the sorrow of the earth with your bare hands for all the children of the world, and here you are on the first figure of the first set, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to do it. You look out over all the piles of dust and feel like you can never forgive yourself, and all the children of the world will starve and die because of you. The solution in that case is not to add another law, to transfer all your miserable expectations into the perfect Christmas center piece.

Giving thanks can be just another opportunity to make and break another law. You better be thankful! And extend grace! And be gracious! And have an attitude of gratitude! You lather your efforts at thankfulness all over the piles of broken law, both the real ones that Jesus gives, and all the dumb ones that you make for yourself. It’s like the crowning cupcake in the faltering tower of Pinterest failure. Then you go hide, or just stuff all the misery into a cupboard, letting it sit and fester so that you can pull it out and try it again next year.

No, gratitude isn’t the antidote to sin. It’s not the way to fix that problem. Jesus is. When you do something wrong and terrible, something that you can’t undo, however small or however big, when you go to him and give it to him, he has the power to forgive you, having purchased that power at the cross, and then to undo the effects and troubles wrought by that sin. And honestly, the more time you spend considering who he is (mainly by reading the Bible, as I have mentioned before) the clearer you’ll be about what is actually sinning, and what is you just holding yourself to an impossible and ridiculous standard of your own making.

Then you can be grateful–not conjuring it up to save yourself and the world and your hopes–but relishing it for the gift that it is.

Indeed, all the things that God commands you to have and to be–patient, kind, long suffering, prudent, joyful, forgiving, grateful–he will give you without you having to anxiously strive. You just have go to him and concentrate on his person. You feel like you’re working really hard, and you are, but then you look up from your pie crust, or your vat of safely boiling oil, having gently lowered your turkey into its dark depths, and discover that Jesus gave you freely the thing you’d been striving so hard to hard to attain on your own. As a gift. A gracious one that you didn’t deserve.

You can just have it and enjoy it, waving your cheerful surgery fingers at Great Aunt Euodia struggling into her coat, sending her on her way with her laws and offenses, tucking her expectations into her purse when she isn’t looking and sending them out the door with her. In fact, do the same with yours. Shove them in a bin as the week is beginning. It’ll make it easier to be thankful as the days go by and work mounts up.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving 4Key Bible Verse: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6, NASB

Dig Deeper:  Psalm 100

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays, especially considering the five “f’s” it includes: faith, family, food, football, and the four-day weekend.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s a tough combination to beat.

And talk about positive and upbeat!  Pausing to express gratitude for one’s blessings breathes life into anyone’s soul.  Even in times of trial and heartache, when it’s most difficult to see life’s glass as half full instead of half empty, stopping to give thanks makes a difference.

Thanksgiving’s such a great holiday—it’s a shame we celebrate it only once a year.  Maybe we should change that fact.

Consider again Paul’s words in today’s Key Bible Verse: I see the phrase “with thanksgiving” as a secret that Paul has learned, enabling him to find contentment in spite of his circumstances.  Thanksgiving is a critical ingredient.

When we humbly bring ourselves and our requests before God (supplication), we should do that “with thanksgiving.”  What a privilege to be able to bring our requests to him, and what a benefit to know that he’ll answer in a way and in a time that are perfect for us.  These truths provide us with good reason to give thanks.

—Don Cousins in Unexplainable

 

My Response: During my prayer times over the next several days, I will consciously thank God for at least one blessing in my life.

 

Thought to Apply: All our discontents about what we want appear to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.—Daniel Defoe (British writer, journalist)

Adapted from Unexplainable (Cook, 2009).

 

Thanksgiving Prayer:  Dear heavenly Father, thank you for providing for my daily needs; help me to find my contentment in you and you alone, so that I might experience the kind of peace that’s unexplainable apart from you.

Be Grateful for…Thanksgiving Day

Happy ThanksgivingBible Verse for Thanksgiving Day:  Since everything God created is good, … receive it gladly, with thankful hearts.  – 1 Timothy 4:4

In September 1975, I left California to enter college in Massachusetts.  For the next 75 days, I lived in a freshman dorm, a rather Spartan existence, but not an unpleasant one.

Since I couldn’t afford to go home for Thanksgiving, I traveled by bus to central Connecticut to join some family friends for the holiday.  On Thanksgiving Eve, as I retired to my room, I slipped off my shoes and socks to unpack my bags.  I felt the carpet under my bare feet, enjoying the softness and the feel of the threads between my toes.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I hadn’t felt a carpet like this since I’d left home.  For two-and-a-half months, I’d felt only dusty linoleum underneath my bare feet.  But now, in a real home, I delighted in the sumptuousness of wall-to-wall carpet.

I had grown up in a home with carpet—bronze shag, to be exact.  But I had never appreciated the feel of carpet beneath my feet until that moment.

How could something so ordinary feel so enjoyable?  I wondered what else I’d been taking for granted.  That weekend in Connecticut added several other items to my list of newly discovered appreciation, including ceramic mugs, quiet nights, and a bathroom heater.

—Mark Roberts in No Holds Barred

 

Thought to Apply:  I feel a very unusual sensation.  If it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.  – Benjamin Disraeli (English prime minister)

Adapted from No Holds Barred (WaterBrook, 2005)

 

 

Prayer for the Week: Move me, Lord, beyond appreciation for desires granted to gratitude for all Your wisdom allows.

Easy ways to share gratitude this Thanksgiving

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day elicits a bounty of wonderful memories for many people in the U.S. The crisp air. The smell of a turkey roasting and a pumpkin pie baking. The sound of a cheering crowd at a football game. All these can create warm feelings during this special time of year.

While the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S., thanking God for our blessings is a spiritual discipline that should not be limited to a single day. Along with expanding our waistlines, our preparation for and celebration of the holiday can be the impetus toward growing an attitude of gratitude that will carry over into the rest of the year. In his commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, John Wesley writes, “Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it.” Giving thanks is as essential to our spiritual growth as prayer, which 1 Thessalonians calls us to do continually. These creative ideas will help us get started this Thanksgiving.

  • Fill a family Thanksgiving box. As part of your Thanksgiving preparation, create a Thanksgiving Box. Each day family members write on slips of paper something for which they are thankful that day and place them in the decorated box. The box will make a nice Thanksgiving table centerpiece, and when opened, a way to remember how blessed we are every day. You could add to it all year too of course.
  • Serve someone. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, many agencies serving those in need expand their work. Food banks, churches, and other service organizations supply meals to the hungry on Thanksgiving. Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles holds a sleepover for their youth called the “turkey lock-in.” On the night before Thanksgiving the youth prepare, and the next day, deliver meals to people in the community who will be alone on Thanksgiving. Ask your pastor for suggestions of places near you to serve or donate.
  • Take time for quiet reflection. As the big day approaches, things get busier. Set aside some time each day to say thank you to God for all he has provided. “A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving” by The Rev. Dr. LaGretta Bjorn is a great start.
  • Make a Thanksgiving frame. As you and your family reflect on those things for which you are thankful, compile a list. A few days before Thanksgiving, neatly transfer the list onto a piece of paper you can then insert into a frame for a beautiful expression of gratitude to decorate your home.
  • Invite someone new to dinner. Athens First United Methodist Church invites international students from the University of Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with their members. The students enjoy spending time away from campus and in family homes. Explore ways to invite those who may be alone or far from family to celebrate with you on the holiday.
  • Share blessings together. When gathered around the table, many families will ask guests to share something for which they are thankful. In Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home, MaryJane Pierce Norton suggests creating a list together, such as foods each person enjoys. Then together offer “thanks for the Earth and all with which we are blessed in the world God created.”
  • Send cards to those we miss. Remember those who are not able to be with you this year by making or purchasing cards for them. “On Thanksgiving Day,” Norton writes, “invite all who are gathered in your home to sign and/or write a note on the cards to those who are missing.” Mail them the next day to share the gratitude.
  • Create a keepsake of thanks. When you take that group photo around the table or in front of the fireplace, record not only the names of those in attendance, but also something for which each person is thankful. This will be a great item to revisit when everyone gathers again next year. See Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home for more ideas of celebrating gratitude together.
  • Include children. Involve the children celebrating with you by sharing the Child’s Thanksgiving Prayer. Use this prayer at the kids’ table as a grace or an after meal blessing, having one of the older children lead. Then encourage the kids to write their own Thanksgiving prayers, with which they could lead the adults in prayer later in the day.
  • Voice your gratitude. If your family is musical, consider a Thanksgiving sing-a-long, as you might do with Christmas carols. Dean McIntyre offers Hymns for Thanksgiving Day from our United Methodist Hymnal and Songbooks that would be a great way to celebrate. He also offers a quiz of hymns with lines about thanksgiving in Musical Thanksgiving. Make a game out of who can guess the most.

However you can, find ways to give thanks to God for all of his blessings throughout your celebration this year. Instill the habit of an attitude of gratitude, which will extend far beyond Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving 2

 

The True Story of Thanksgiving

On the fourth Thursday of this month citizens of the United States will celebrate the much-beloved holiday of Thanksgiving.  It’s supposed to be an occasion for grateful reflection upon how blessed we are as a people, but how many American Christians, let alone Americans in general, understand the true origin and meaning of this annual day on the calendar?

The majority of Americans, which likely includes a large number of Christians, may well think the origin of the celebration of Thanksgiving is all about the first pilgrims to the New World (later to be named America) celebrating that they had arrived safely here.  While that may be a worthy reason, it’s not the real the story.

Had it not been for the grace of God providing help for them through the gracious contributions of the indigenous people living around them they all might have died.  As it was, a sizable number of their small community had died from illness anyway during that difficult first winter.

Therefore, after harvesting a bountiful crop of various produce and getting better established in their new homeland during the next year, the pilgrims felt especially grateful to God for their survival.  Because they were all very devout Christians, setting aside a feast day to thank God for His goodness was a natural expression of their gratitude.  However, it would be 168 years later on November 26, 1789, before George Washington proclaimed it as a national day of observance for the new nation.

President Lincoln made it an annual observance beginning on the last Thursday of November in 1863, but to support retailers by extending the shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, President Franklin Roosevelt changed the annual date to the fourth Thursday in November in 1939, and it has remained unchanged from that date since then.

In America’s politically correct educational environment today where anything even hinting at Christian influence in America’s past or present is eschewed by the anti-Christian establishment, precious few people (including Christians) have even the slightest idea of America’s Christian heritage.

In fact, the day may come in the not-too-distant future when writing or hosting these facts may be forbidden and even dangerous.  So-called “hate speech” laws have already been enacted around the world in parts of Europe, Canada and even America prohibiting critical speech against certain groups such as homosexuals and Muslims which may be labeled as hate speech.  Unfortunately, the definition of “hate” by these laws is so ambiguous that anything negative may be identified as hateful, thus putting Bible-believing Christians, in particular, in a very precarious position.

Simply quoting the Bible’s statements against homosexuality or pointing out the moral and theological inconsistencies of Islam with Biblical Christianity (such as loving your enemies and rejecting both murder and vengeance) can bring on the wrath of either of these constituencies or their various sympathizers. It appears that it’s socially sanctioned for anyone in either of these groups to blaspheme God or Jesus’ saving work or to spew hate-filled epithets at Bible-believing Christians, but it’s not allowed for Christians to espouse their strong beliefs in the Bible as God’s final Word on anything.

Maybe we American Christians had better be especially thankful to God for our dearly-held freedoms of speech and religion as we observe this year’s Thanksgiving Day, since we have no real assurance that we will still have these same freedoms in the future.

What about you?  What do you have to be thankful for, and have you taken the opportunity to thank God both in prayer and in an open pronouncement to others for His goodness to you?

Expressing gratitude is very important to God, as we can learn from a careful reading of His holy Word. One  excellent example is the story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers which prompted the thankful response from the apparently lone Samaritan in the group (see Luke 17:11-19).  To quote another of Jesus’ statements in another  context – “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37 NKJV).

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 4Thanksgiving is one of the great holidays we have to celebrate.

It is all about giving.

Not about presents.

Not about me.

Not about things.

It is simply about giving thanks.

Stop!

Think!

 

What are you thankful for this holiday?

A warm house – there are many out there that are cold.

  • How can you help someone stay warm on a cold day.

 

For a great feast?

  • How can you help feed some one else?

The great thing is so many are reaching out to help this holiday season to make a great meal for those who otherwise could not enjoy it.

 

For a great family?

  • How can you help someone who is all alone this holiday season?

Just being a friend, reaching out a hand of friendship.

 

Happy ThanksgivingLet’s be thankful this holiday season both for what we have and for the ability to help others.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

 

 

The Sale That Stole Thanksgiving

This article from Christianity Today online posits that America’s turning into the Land of the Buy-One-Get-One-Free, Home of the Brave-the-Crowds.

The Sale That Stole Thanksgiving

This lore calls to mind the common table of the early church and anticipates the supper of the Lamb, to which Christ invites the faithful of every nation at the end of all things. Thomas Jefferson reportedly regarded Thanksgiving as too Christian (and therefore in violation of his understanding of church-state separation) for the government to proclaim a holiday. It has always struck me as a profoundly religious—indeed, Christian—observance.

Therefore, I find myself dismayed at the backward encroachment of Black Friday—the busiest shopping day of the year and the purported start to the Christmas shopping season—into Thanksgiving Day itself.

Stores have been opening early—say, at 6 a.m.—on the day after Thanksgiving for years, but extremely early openings (4 or 5) have gradually become more common. Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, and others caused a stir in 2011 by opening at midnight. Wal-Mart went further the next year and opened in the evening on Thanksgiving Day. This year, nearly a dozen stores—including Macy’s, Kmart, Target, Best Buy, and Kohl’s—will be open at least as early as that, putting employees to work hours before.

I realize that some people must work on holidays. At 18, my father spent a lonely Christmas as a new Air Force recruit on outdoor guard duty in the sub-zero winter of North Dakota. I’ve spent part of my own Thanksgivings and Christmases visiting loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals and have expressed my gratitude to the nurses, doctors, and aides who were there to care for them. And while I am glad that firefighters will rush to my aid if I set the kitchen ablaze (it’s happened before) on Thanksgiving Day, having stores open for business on that day falls into an different category, meeting only our perceived need to be able to buy what we want when we want it… and at huge discounts.

My feelings go beyond mere nostalgia for Thanksgivings past. Our nationally observed holidays erode, gradually but certainly, with every wave of unending commerce. It’s a regrettable and embarrassing move that suggests what we value most is not in fact family, religion, history, or even the cherished notion that God has blessed America. Instead, for us there is no day so sacred that it would keep us from standing in long lines under the glow of fluorescent lights to get a flat-screen TV…while others must stock the shelves and man the registers.

It is perhaps not insignificant that President Abraham Lincoln established a regular date for a nationally observed day of Thanksgiving while the Civil War was still raging; Thanksgiving celebrations had occurred at different times in different (mostly Northern) states for many, many years, but it was not yet a national holiday. In his Proclamation of Thanksgiving, Lincoln urged people to consider that even amid the ravages of war, God had blessed America with “fruitful fields and healthful skies,” and that, even in the nation’s suffering, God had “nevertheless remembered mercy.” It was only fitting and proper, he said, that God’s mercies:

should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Lincoln also urged that along with giving thanks, Americans should confess to their part of the “national perverseness and disobedience” leading to the Civil War; make sure to give aid and compassion to those bereaved by the war; and pray for its swift end, the healing of the nation’s wounds, and a return to “full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, [sic] and Union.”

Lincoln’s proclamation is tempered by sorrow; it closes by urging Americans to use the day not simply to be grateful for the good in their lives but to be mindful of those who are suffering. We might do well do consider what his words would call us to in our own day.

Somehow I think he might regard the stories of the shrieking mobs surging “through in a blind rush for holiday bargains” and trampling a Wal-Mart employee to death in the process as falling somewhat short of both American and religious ideals.

No doubt, someone will object that the business of America is business, and nothing should interfere with a corporation’s right to keep stores open when they please, thereby compelling employees (some of whom are seasonal, and, yes, receiving additional pay for working a holiday) to forgo a “set apart” day.

I have heard arguments to the effect that the Target employee should be grateful to have a job in the first place. But as Marilynne Robinson has argued, observance has become an “aspect of privilege”—those of us in better circumstances can have our weekends and holidays “set apart” if we want; those whose conditions are such that they must work on Thanksgiving or face running short on cash at best—or unemployment at worst—have no such provision made for them.

This doesn’t sound to me like the “large increase of freedom” Lincoln imagined was in store for Americans in his Thanksgiving Proclamation. Nor does it sound like something that our God—who commanded his people to give even their servants and animals rest on the seventh day—smiles upon.

On Being Thankful

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:2

Times of prayer and thanking God for the harvest date back to the Protestant Reformation and continued as Pilgrims and Puritans settled in America.

Charlie Brown was always concerned with the commercialization of our holidays.  The wisdom of The Peanuts gang would remind us not to make these special days about shopping, eating too much, and the next big sports event.  There was something more important about Thanksgiving.

In 1620, the Pilgrims began a 65 day voyage across the Atlantic.  There landing in New England soon brought a severe winter, that took the lives of half of their community. The following autumn, after being redeemed by the blessing of a successful harvest, they celebrated a Thanksgiving.

Two years later, the Pilgrims again faced devastating hardship, this time in the form of a severe drought.  In response, they gathered together in an all day prayer service to seek God’s help.  It is recorded that at the end of the day the weather broke, and for the next fourteen days “a gentle rain” restored there land and saved their harvest.  What the Pilgrims celebrated that summer, was considered their first Thanksgiving holiday.

 A Reflection this Thanksgiving Holiday 

  • What hardship have you experienced this year?
  • Are you seeking to overcome recent situations that are equivalent to a harsh winter season or a severe drought in your life?
  • Do you have a community of faith that cultivates a desire to thank God publicly for His deliverance from difficult times?

Healing Steps

Many Americans recognize the importance of faith and family during Thanksgiving.  For those of us who struggle during the holidays, this can be a great opportunity.  Being with others who can influence us spiritually can bring emotional healing.

Do you get overwhelmed during the holidays? Take a healing step, and attend a service of worship at a local church. God delivered the Pilgrims in their time of overwhelming hardship.  He is same powerful God who can rescue us from all of our struggles.

God’s word in James 5:13-14 tells us, “is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any one among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

This holiday, if we have reason to praise, let us be thankful and praise together.  If we are suffering, reach out to the Lord with others in prayer.  It is God’s design that He offers through His church.  Throughout time, we have recognized how the Lord works in this way.

 

Thanksgiving: An Opportunity for Gratitude or Gluttony?

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

The meal has certainly changed from the days of old – with American tables now overflowing with platters of turkey, sides, and pies. An abundance of abundance exhibited in most homes.

To most Americans, Thanksgiving is about three “Fs”…food, family, and football. Oh, and more food!  But in all of the grocery shopping, baking and cooking, and, of course, eating…but have we forgotten about the central purpose of this 4th Thursday in November: gratitude?  Are we focusing so much on the other aspects of Thanksgiving that we forget to actually give thanks to God for all that we have?   And not just one day a year, but every day?

Psalm 107:8-9 says this:  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

This is truth every day of the year. God loves us daily with an unfailing love. His deeds are wonderful – daily.  While He has provided enough physical water and food for us all, sin prevents that from getting to every person.

Yet, Jesus himself said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

We should recognize these good things on Thanksgiving, and each day that we are given breath.  You see, there is always something to be thankful for.  Even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Thanksgiving isn’t just about gorging on food, but about showing gratitude for all we have.  So, have you counted your blessings lately?  Thanksgiving is coming.  It’s a good day to start.  And, yes, we most certainly be thankful for our food!

 

A Video Prayer of Thanksgiving

While November marks a celebration of thanksgiving in the U.S., finding time to thank God is part of our daily discipline as United Methodists.

Click on the photo for a short video meditation on what it means to give thanks.  

Share or download this video to share with your friends and family as we approach Thanksgiving!

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving - George WashingtonAs President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789,

“as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.

It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)

Gratitude is joy toward God for his grace.  But by its very nature, gratitude glorifies the giver. It acknowledges its own need and the beneficence of the giver.

Just like I humble myself and exalt the waitress in the restaurant when I say, “Thank you,” to her, so I humble myself and exalt God when I feel gratitude to him. The difference, of course, is that I really am infinitely in debt to God for his grace, and everything he does for me is free and undeserved.

But the point is that gratitude glorifies the giver. It glorifies God. And this is Paul’s final goal in all his labors: for the sake of the church — yes; but, above and beyond that, for the glory of God.

The wonderful thing about the gospel is that the response it requires from us for God’s glory is also the response which we feel to be most natural and joyful, namely, gratitude for grace. God’s glory and our gladness are not in competition.

A life that gives glory to God for his grace and a life of deepest gladness are always the same life. And what makes them one is gratitude.

– from “Grace, Gratitude, and the Glory of God”

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving 2

Thanksgiving Cornucopia

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As we gather this day as a community to celebrate together and be thankful, you are invited to consider using all or a portion of these meditations in your prayers as you celebrate with family and friends this week around your Thanksgiving table. The churches of the Beaver Falls United Methodist Charge: Central/Riverview wish you a safe and wonderful holiday and we pray God’s peace and blessings upon you on this special day!

Blessings,

Pastor Heidi

These elements of our table remind us of God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ:

The tables spread with beautiful decoration and linens in preparation for our feast remind us that our God spares nothing in loving and blessing God’s people. We prepare both our hearts and our bodies to receive these gifts of the bounty of His creation and His steadfast love.  We acknowledge that we are strengthened and enabled to receive these gifts of God’s kingdom by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit made possible through the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  We pray for those whom we have failed to include around our tables today and for those who have excluded themselves. We pray for God’s mercy and that we might make clear God’s invitation to all to God’s table of abundance.

We are provided bread on our tables, an essential daily sustenance which reminds us that God desires that no one leave this table hungry.  We receive this bread that satisfies our hunger and are reminded to be thankful for God’s provision in Christ.  As we have been so nourished and strengthened, we ask now for strength to follow the call of Christ to share the love of our Lord and our bread with those who hunger in body and spirit.

We consider the water that has been provided to satisfy our thirst and we remember the call of Christ, first to the woman at the well, and now to us to receive the living water Christ provides that we may never thirst again.   We drink in fellowship today, as we pray for those who are alone and without access to even this basic element of life for body and spirit. 

We consider the fruit of the vine which we have received.   We are reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whose body was broken for us upon the Cross in order that we might live forever and blameless before our God.  This demonstrates for us that a life of faith requires a changed, broken heart.  Both pressure and time are required as the fruit ferments to produce fine wine.   And so we pray for strength to persevere in our faith as the oppression of a sinful world and the consequences of our own sinfulness press down and threaten to crush and cause us to turn away.  We pray for softened hearts willing to receive Your love and discipline and yield the desired fruit of Your Spirit.  Break our hearts of stone! 

We observe tables that are filled with a Cornucopia of the harvest –representing the gift and abundance of Your creation and Your gracious provision for Your people.  The abundance of our table, like Your love, is pressed down and filled to overflowing. We give you all thanks and glory and honor and praise.  We are reminded that You call us to care for all the earth and it’s creatures.  We pray for Your mercy for the times when we have misused your creation and ask for wisdom in discerning the most honorable use of these gifts for the well-being of all.

As we partake of the various bounty of the meal, we are thankful for the turkey.  It causes us to consider the sacrifice of others-both humans and creatures, for our prosperity and good health.  We live in land that we did not labor for, enjoy the bounty of crops and vineyards that we did not plant and occupy houses and towns that were built by others.  We pray for those without benefit of food and shelter and petition you for the means and strength to share with others out of the abundance You have provided to us.

At our table are salt and other seasonings. We have stuffing that is savory and sweet pumpkin pie.  You, O Lord, have given us a life in You that is filled with variety and creativity.  You provide for us more than necessities.   We are in awe of this variety.  We pray for those times when we have preferred blandness and refused to welcome variety in learning, praising, worshipping and receiving Your people whom you have sent to us.  We ask mercy for times when we have grown flavorless and failed to receive joyfully the grace and gifts you have provided.

Even potatoes are symbols of the danger of remaining in darkness and , at the same time, the miracle of faith in You.  Without the light of Christ we have no ears to hear or eyes to see the wonders of your mercy and love.  Surrounded by the darkness of our ignorance and sin we are like potatoes buried in the dirt.  But what a miracle! We will soon begin to prepare our hearts for the Advent season and the celebration of the coming of Your light, Jesus Christ, into the world. We cannot understand how we are able to be transformed by the love of the Incarnate God with Us!  Transformed by light and the grace of our Savior, we may choose to have eyes of faith that are focused beyond darkness, beyond what can be seen and place our trust in You.  We pray for strength to continue to grow in knowledge, love and service of Christ though surrounded by darkness.

As we serve and are served by one another and as we fellowship together, sharing all that we have, we remember that God condescended to us to be present with us in human form.  Christ came as Savior and as servant and slave to all in love.  We pray for Your peace as we witness confusion, panic and countless acts of destruction and selfishness in our homes and in our streets.  Help us to be agents of peace who are able to point to you as Author of Salvation, in whom all may find comfort and healing.  We pray for a spirit of humbleness as we recall, with contrite hearts, all those in our lives, our churches, our neighborhoods and the world whom we have failed and harmed by putting our own selfish needs and desires ahead of others.  Embolden our faith that we might conform our hearts to that of a servant performing ever greater acts of peace, love and service to our neighbor, our world and our God.

Thanksgiving 3

Thanksgiving

Our pastor, Rev. Heidi Helsel

Our pastor, Rev. Heidi Helsel

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As you prepare to celebrate with family and friends this year, may you come together in peace and enjoy the fullness of the blessings of God!   Let us take time to remember and say thank you for God’s blessings as we consider and prepare for the holiday season.  A season which, rather than urging and helping us to focus on being thankful for all that we have already received, often beacons us to focus on what we are lacking.  Often the peace that God means for us to experience during this time of celebrating our blessings escapes us.  We become more and more anxious over the things that the world counts as “necessary” for life, like that new car, a better job, a more beautiful spouse or at least the 15-function coffee maker. 

            God calls us to a different, more peace-filled kind of wanting, a desire for more of God and what only God can provide. God’s grace washes away our mistakes and our endless hunger and thirst for things that don’t satisfy.  By choosing to receive God’s grace we can come to trust God to meet our earthly and heavenly needs.  When we embrace the fullness of the reality of our blessings, we are freed from our self-interest and we can begin to work for the needs of others i.e., the need for God’s grace, for compassion, for mercy and especially, for love. We become slaves to Christ instead of to self. Therefore, we can have peace in following Christ from a sense of fullness instead of the resentful obligation born of the endless wanting that comes from spiritual emptiness.

            As we consider what it means to be thankful, let us not forget our calling to take up our cross and walk with God, humbly.  Let us, as Wesley might encourage us, “do all the good we can, in all the ways we can, to as many as we can.” (paraphrase).   Our Charge has received many blessings this year and I believe that God will continue to bless our ministry together.  These blessings will increase as we allow God to give us eyes that see beyond our own needs.  As we are able to live into the reality of what we have already been given, we will gain greater vision and hearing to acknowledge with whom we might share the love of Christ.  Let us not grow weary in “doing good”.  The fruits of perseverance are hard won, but Christ is walking with us always.  We may struggle and yet we are full- of love and mercy.

            I’d like to ask that as we consider our Thanksgiving gifts to the church this year, let us entrust God with the treasure God has given us to use these gifts to bless our communities in ways we may not have considered.  The needs of the community are many.  Happy Thanksgiving! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Your Fellow Servant in Christ,

Pastor Heidi