As Thanksgiving approaches I am focused on two aspects of this special day which are notRoasted turkey garnished with cranberries on a rustic style table decoraded with pumpkins, gourds, asparagus, brussel sprouts, baked vegetables, pie, flowers, and candles. always on the table with the turkey, mashed potatoes, pies and other delicious dishes.

The first is Gratitude.  I don’t see it much. Many of us appear to be worried, slightly angry, or downright upset about one or several issues in our personal or corporate lives.

As I watched the recent demonstrations on elite university campuses, I had to ask, Do those young people have any gratitude at all for the parents, grandparents, foundations and tax payer programs which in almost every block letters - 3d concept illustrationcase make it possible for them to be there?  Or do they believe their own press releases—that they are entitled to be there because they are so talented?  The real world is going to be unpleasant to those who feel entitled, who don’t ever want to feel badly, who have no sense of gratitude for their blessings, and even gratitude for their hardships.

And the events in Paris remind us that we can go out for a simple dinner with friends, or to a show, and never return.  inhaling babyEvery breath we and our loved ones take is a gift.

Gratitude starts, for me, with daily thanksgiving that the God who created the universe also, somehow, knows me personally and cares for me, despite my failures, sins and imperfections. He made a path for my eternal salvation through a relationship with His perfect son, my older brother.  How incredible is that?  His incomparable and incomprehensible gift puts me on my knees every day, responding with repentance, humility and praise.

If I have genuine gratitude for being redeemed for eternity, it is hard for me to feel like a victim, or to be entitled to anything other than what He provides, or to be angry with others.

By the way, we don’t have to be theologians to understand gratitude.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

But we do have to practice it. My friend and teacher, Ken Boa, believes that Gratitude is a spiritual discipline.  It is a choice we make, and because it has a short shelf life, we cannot leave it to spontaneity.  Ken counsels a daily prayer of Gratitude before our feet hit the floor in the morning.  It can be life changing. Or at least attitude changing!  Please try it for at least a week.

My second focus this year is on Whom we are thanking.  It is one thing to have a general, secular, pleasant sense of thanksgiving and gratitude.  That is fine as far as it goes.

Worship with Open ArmsBut I know Who is the Author and Creator of all life, and Who holds me in the palm of His hand.  So I want to be certain this year not just to be thankful, but to intentionally thank Him for all His blessings, particularly our relationships.  Some of them hopefully will be seated at the table with us on Thursday afternoon.  Others are farther away, and some are already with Him.  You who are reading this post are a great blessing to us.  There are no coincidences.

And, by the way, the Founders of this nation were not celebrating a general feeling of thanks.  They were specifically thanking and praising the God of the Old and New Testaments for His bountiful gifts to their families and to their nation.

There are many official United States government proclamations of Thanksgiving, and they all name God as the source of our blessings.  Here are four of them from across the span of our history as a nation.

1789       1863         1933          1989

Of course I don’t need the government to tell me Whom to thank, but this year I am reminded that if anyone is looking for clear examples that America really is a nation founded on Judeo-Christian truth and principles, these declarations do not need decrypting to understand their intent.

family, holiday, religion, tradition and people concept - close up of girl praying at dinner at home

So I want to encourage all of us, particularly those of us with a few years and hopefully a little wisdom, as we bow our heads this Thanksgiving, or talk with family and friends, that we be intentional in reminding everyone that our blessings come not from Darwin, the Ecosystem, the Cosmos, or the government, but from the one living God; and that the daily habit of Gratitude for His blessings is the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving all year long.