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The Thanksgiving List

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

My parents. I’m grateful for my parents – for all they taught me, for the upbringing I had, for our childhood safety and security with them, for the love that never wavered. For my sister and brother-in-law who love and share and give – at this time in particular, for the generosity of giving me a home with them. Really, for all my family – immediate and extended, a family small in number but large in love. For friends who know me well and love me anyway. For people who believe in me, even when I feel undeserving – especially then.

Have you started making your Thanksgiving list yet? Gratitude is one of the most transformational attitudes we can choose to adopt. The power of gratitude is truly stunning. Choosing gratitude means we must consciously count our blessings – count the good in life.

For coffee. I am so grateful for coffee every morning. For quiet mornings with coffee on the back porch as the sun rises. For my dog, Alex, and his predecessor, Remmie. Really, dogs in general are a bundle of faithful goodness (and mess and expense, I know, but their cuddling affection and devotion outweigh those). Even for my sister’s dog that stalks me for treats. For evenings of laughter and games with family and friends. For a warm fire in the fireplace. For starry nights.

It says a great deal about us that we teach our children to make lists of wants from Santa, but we don’t teach them to make lists of thanks to God – at least, I didn’t. Then we wonder why people are so angry. When we are counting all the good in our lives, holding onto anger is hard to do. Anger, resentment, and bitterness fade when gratitude grows in us.

For books, scholarly and otherwise. For scholars who know so much I am amazed. For science and for scientists who know its limits. For music that speaks to my heart, mind, and soul. For country music that makes me want to dance. For children’s laughter. For anticipation. For rest.

When we consciously make the effort to think about the things that bring us comfort or cause us to smile, we discover a host of things in life that are good – even while other circumstances can be bad. The good of life balances much of the bad, often outweighing it completely. We discover we so much for which to be grateful that the enormous burdens we carry from time to time lose much of their bulk and become far more bearable.

For Jesus Christ. For His faithfulness and His love – unmerited as they are. For the promise of the Resurrection that so much greater than all my fears. For the opportunity to start over again and again and again. For the security of His arms. For the mercy of His actions. For the unfailing presence of His grace and each new breath of life in His forgiveness. For the home I’ve found in His heart and for the eternal home He has prepared. For His courage that He shares with me. For the wisdom that He freely gives when I have sense enough to seek it. For being the answer to my every hope and the protection from my every fear.

The fact that we are so quick to ask how God could allow bad things to happen to us reveals that we were created to expect good. Whether we even realize it or not, our innermost being yearns for the good and the blessing that God saw when He created us. We are no longer the innocent creatures God called “very good,” but the echo of our creation calls for what is good and true and right in our longing and in our sense of deserving. This is the first hint of our salvation, the first revelation that we are meant for more than this world. We look at a world where there is sorrow and death, horrible evils and injustices, disappointments and heartaches, failures and loss, and we wonder why.

The answer is that we were created for a different sort of world, and the Son of God came into our world not only to save us from ourselves, but to show us glimpses of the world where we belong. The greatest tragedy of our time is that we’ve accepted less, but our souls demand more. No matter how long and how far we search, we will not find that which satisfies our longing to have all that is good. This world does not hold it. Oh, this world holds more blessings than we can begin to count, but we cannot here find cause to exult nor a song for our hearts. Those come to us from a world beyond our own and are given to us freely when we ask.

The greatest reason to give thanks is God Himself. He gave us life, nurtured us through good and bad even before we knew Him, and He prepares us to approach His throne when the time comes for us to go home. The whole of each of our lives, insignificant on a planet of billions, rests in Him for Whom there is no beginning or end and in Whom is the fullness of life, of love, and of good.

Celebrating Thanksgiving Day is a specific holiday in American life that I am not going to defend against angry detractors. Most of our “angry detractors” these days are people who not had the privilege of being taught to be grateful and, therefore, lose their lives to bitterness and jealousy. These people are really kind of sad. They want everything here and now because they do not realize they are meant for a different world and they refuse to listen for fear they are being cheated of all they are due.

But Christians… We should know, and we should live lives of gratitude and thanksgiving, not celebrate a day of thanks. Life springs from our God, and life begins anew in Him and stretches into eternity. Living gratefully is a powerful witness to the world and a life of joy for each of us. That is why God wills that we give thanks no matter what. In our gratitude, joy rises, and burdens fall. All that is holy and good is seeded within us, and all that distracts and destroys is easily plucked from our hearts and minds.

I encourage you to start your Thanksgiving list. It’s a bit “last minute” but worth the time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ –

Rev. Elizabeth Moreau

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