The Anatomy Of Thanksgiving


Soon we in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving Day, so I want to take a closer look at the nature of thanksgiving.

My first observation about thanksgiving in general is that it is a responsive action. People give thanks because they have first been given something or have benefited from some condition or in some other way have experienced favor or provision. In other words, we don’t start out being thankful. We become thankful as we realize what we have received.

Thanksgiving, then, requires a level of humility. If we think we have earned all we have, if we aren’t acknowledging the fact that we received from another’s hand, we won’t be in a mindset to give thanks.

In that regard, Thanksgiving also requires a measure of reality. We need to see the truth about our circumstances. We need to have clarity of vision so that we realize both what we have received and what we would be like if we hadn’t received.

True thanksgiving, having been properly caused, seems to erupt from within. As someone on another site noted, thanksgiving can’t be mandated. No one can be thankful by order of the President, even if that President was Abraham Lincoln. Rather, thankfulness flows from a heart of love and relief and appreciation, not only for the thing received, but for the person who made it possible.

Third, thanksgiving is expressed. Real thanksgiving has legs. It moves from being an emotion to being a demonstration, through words or actions. People giving thanks aren’t silent and they often aren’t still. Thankful people give smiles and hugs; they pack bags and fly hundreds of miles across country; they send cards and presents; they sing songs; they put offering into the plate at church; they get up a half hour early to pray. In short, thanksgiving is not passive.

I can’t help but think of the story Jesus told Simon, the Pharisee who hosted him for a meal.

“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41-42).

Jesus didn’t say, which will be more thankful? He said, which will love him more? Thanksgiving isn’t passive. It turns into love and service and shameless adoration. At least, real thankfulness does–the kind that recognizes the great gifts which have been bestowed and receives them in humility.

In the end, I guess that explains why we so often take time on Thanksgiving Day to think about the things we’ve been given. An awareness of what we have that we did not earn puts us in a place where we can experience thankfulness and then respond.

So let the count begin of all the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Let’s not forget the things God has revealed about Himself that are treasures in and of themselves: He is infinite in love, His mercy extends to the heavens, He is abundantly trustworthy to the point that He will never fail us or forsake us, He is righteous in all His works, His goodness is untainted with even a shadow of wrong doing.

And the list goes on!

This post is a reprint of one that appeared here in November, 2013.

Published in: on November 15, 2019 at 4:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Pollen—A Reprise


I was a hay fever kid. Every spring, especially during recess or P.E. class, newly mowed grass gave me fits. I was also allergic to ragweed, but apart from those two plants, I managed.

Unlike others, I neither out-grew the condition nor became worse, though I discovered one more thing I’m allergic to—more than anything else I’ve ever encountered. And it so happens I am living right next to it.

Just beyond the fence is a beautiful tall, full tree that offers wonderful shade in the summer. In the fall, which is usually in December here in SoCal, the tree begins to lose its leaves. Sometime after the first winter rain, it starts growing little blossoms which eventually produce new leaves. In the process those tiny yellow flowers release a fine yellow pollen, visible on our car windshields, porch, stairs.

It is that pollen I am allergic to.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, though some times I fall into a bit of a grumble. Except, I don’t want that tree gone. How many people live in the Los Angeles basin and can look out a window without seeing another apartment building or house? Plus there’s that extra shade which makes a ten to fifteen degree difference in the summer temperatures. I like this tree. I just don’t like its pollen.

Except, of course, the tree would have no leaves if there were no pollen. And Science 101 says pollen is important for bees and such—the whole Eco-system. I’ll have to take the word of the experts on that one. I just know, I have to take the bad if I want the good. And I do want the good.

This whole pollen thing seems a bit like an illustration of all of life. Things happen—a broken wrist, a rejection notice from an agent, a promotion that goes to someone else, a fender bender on the way home from work, a minor stroke. All such things are much like the pollen—those are not things anyone wants. Except without them, we don’t have the growth needed that can get us through the days when the temperature rises. The tough things train us spiritually.

“Consider it all joy,” James says, “when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).

Peter says positive things about hard times too:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)

For a little while things might be hard, but rejoicing is still possible because there will be a reveal.

Writers like reveals. It’s something we need to put into our novels to create those A-ha moments for readers. And of course the biggest and the best reveal is saved for last. So too in real life.

Now the days of pollen will serve as more than a reminder that new leaves are coming on the wonderful shade tree that will cool my place in the summer. Now I have one more reminder that God makes joy and rejoicing out of the various trials He allows because the great A-ha is coming!

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in February 2012 and again in February 2015.

Pollen


I was a hay fever kid. Every spring, especially during recess or P.E. class, newly mowed grass gave me fits. I was allergic to ragweed, too, but apart from those two plants, I managed just fine.

Unlike others, I neither out-grew the condition nor became worse, though I discovered one more thing I’m allergic to — more than anything else I’ve ever encountered. And it so happens I am living right next to it.

Just beyond the fence is a beautiful tall, full tree that offers wonderful shade in the summer. In the fall, which is usually in December here in SoCal, the tree begins to lose its leaves. Sometime after the first winter rain, it starts growing little blossoms which eventually produce new leaves. In the process those tiny yellow flowers release a fine yellow pollen, visible on our car windshields, porch, stairs.

It is that pollen I am allergic to.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, though some times I fall into a bit of a grumble. Except, I don’t want that tree gone. How many people live in the Los Angeles basin and can look out a window without seeing another apartment building or house? Plus there’s that extra shade which makes a ten to fifteen degree difference in the summer temperatures. I like this tree. I just don’t like its pollen.

Except, of course, the tree would have no leaves if there were no pollen. And Science 101 says pollen is important for bees and such — the whole eco-system. I’ll have to take the word of the experts on that one. I just know, I have to take the bad if I want the good. And I do.

This whole pollen thing seems a bit like an illustration of all of life. Things happen — a broken wrist, a rejection notice from an agent, a promotion that goes to someone else, a fender bender on the way home from work. All such things are much like the pollen — those are not things anyone wants. Except without them, we don’t have the growth needed that can get us through the days when the temperature rises. The tough things train us.

“Consider it all joy,” James says, “when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).

Peter says positive things about hard times too:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)

For a little while things might be hard, but rejoicing is still possible because there will be a reveal.

Writers like reveals. It’s something we need to put into our novels to create those A-ha moments for readers. And of course the biggest and the best reveal is saved for last. So too in real life.

Now the days of pollen (which are almost over — we had some rain today, which clears the air) will serve as more than a reminder that new leaves are coming on the wonderful shade tree that will cool my place in the summer. Now I have one more reminder that God makes joy and rejoicing out of the various trials He allows because the great A-ha is coming!

This post originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in February 2012

Published in: on February 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm  Comments Off on Pollen  
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The Gift Of Thankfulness


veggie-still-life-332389-mOn Sunday our guest speaker at my church gave us homework. He told us to think each day this week of three things we’re thankful for. As I recall, he told us about a study in which one group started the day listing three things they were thankful for and another group started the day listing three things they wanted. At the end of the time period, the thankful group had all kinds of amazing benefits—better sleep, weight loss, a cheerful outlook, fewer divorces, and more.

Imagine if we took this a step further and made God our focal point. What has God given me or what about Him am I thankful for?

Interestingly, our thanks is something God desires. Jesus, for example, healed ten lepers in an interesting way. He told them to go to the priest who determined who was leprous and who was clean. On the way, they were healed. One, a Samaritan, turned back, glorifying God on the way, fell on his face at Jesus’s feet, and thanked Him. And Jesus’s response?

Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 7:17-18)

In Romans, Paul added a lack of thanks as part of the darkened human heart:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (1:21; emphasis mine)

I’m pretty sure I’ve mostly focused on the knowing and honoring. I’m guilty of paying little attention to the third of the triumvirate, giving thanks.

Paul particularly emphasized thanksgiving in one section of his letter to the church in Colossae:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (3:15-17; emphasis mine)

In Ephesians Paul tells us what ought not be a part of our speech: filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting. But he also tells us what ought to be in place instead of those things: giving of thanks. (Eph. 5:4).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, he goes so far as to say that giving things in everything is “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So when we’re not thanking God, we’re actually out of His will.

One more fact that’s stuck with me about thanks: the writer of the book of Hebrews marries thanks with praise which he says is a sacrifice to God: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

Our thanks is a sacrifice of praise to God. Sacrifice was the centerpiece of worship in Israel’s relationship with God. The centerpiece of our relationship with God is Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. And yet, as redeemed people we are not to go merrily on our way as those nine healed lepers did. God desires more. He would have us be thankful.

That’s His will for His people. From the study our speaker shared, thanks actually benefits us. What a wonder! God continually surprises me, though you’d think I’d start anticipating this. I’m referring to the amazing fact that what He asks of us is what is best for us.

I tend to be like the five-year-old, only happy when I get candy and wishing I could have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. God gives carrots and broccoli and green beans and sometimes lima beans. He gives potatoes, but not always mashed with gravy. He gives steak sometimes, but liver other times, or fish—really fishy fish.

Why would He do that when He knows I want candy—mostly chocolate, M&Ms or Reeses or, best of all, Sees candy (a 2 pound box all for me would be nice!)

Well, God knows what I need.

And as it turns out, what He wants and what I need includes my giving Him thanks.

The other really cool thing is that I’m discovering I grow to like the things God wants for me, in the same way that I grew to like foods other than chocolate! 😉

The Anatomy Of Thanksgiving


pumpkin-cart-630567-mIn some ways, in contradiction to my Tuesday post entitled “An Argument Against Thanksgiving Day”, this post could be called, “In Favor Of Thanksgiving.” My goal for these posts this year is to take a deeper look at the holiday, at the act of giving thanks, and at the heart attitude behind it. So today I want to dig into thanksgiving analytically. (I know, it sounds boring. I hope it isn’t 😉 ).

My first observation about thanksgiving in general is that it is a responsive action. People give thanks because they have first been given something or have benefited from some condition or in some other way have experienced favor or provision. In other words, we don’t start out being thankful. We become thankful as we realize what we have received.

Thanksgiving, then, requires a level of humility. If we think we have earned all we have, if we aren’t acknowledging the fact that we received from another’s hand, we won’t be in a mindset to give thanks.

In that regard, Thanksgiving also requires a measure of reality. We need to see the truth about our circumstances. We need to have clarity of vision so that we realize both what we have received and what we would be like if we hadn’t received.

True thanksgiving, having been properly caused, seems to erupt from within. As someone on another site noted, thanksgiving can’t be mandated. No one can be thankful by order of the President, even if that President was Abraham Lincoln. Rather, thankfulness flows from a heart of love and relief and appreciation, not only for the thing received, but for the person who made it possible.

Third, thanksgiving is expressed. Real thanksgiving has legs. It moves from being an emotion to being a demonstration, through words or actions. People giving thanks aren’t silent and they often aren’t still. Thankful people give smiles and hugs; they pack bags and fly hundreds of miles across country; they send cards and presents; they sing songs; they put offering into the plate at church; they get up a half hour early to pray. In short, thanksgiving is not passive.

I can’t help but think of the story Jesus told Simon, the Pharisee who hosted him for a meal.

“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41-42).

Jesus didn’t say, which will be more thankful? He said, which will love him more? Thanksgiving isn’t passive. It turns into love and service and shameless adoration. At least, real thankfulness does–the kind that recognizes the great gifts which have been bestowed and receives them in humility.

In the end, I guess that explains why we so often take time on Thanksgiving Day to think about the things we’ve been given. An awareness of what we have that we did not earn puts us in a place where we can experience thankfulness and then respond.

So let the count begin of all the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Let’s not forget the things God has revealed about Himself that are treasures in and of themselves: He is infinite in love, His mercy extends to the heavens, He is abundantly trustworthy to the point that He will never fail us or forsake us, He is righteous in all His works, His goodness is untainted with even a shadow of wrong doing.

And the list goes on!

Published in: on November 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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