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               “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”                        (1 Chronicles 16:34)

I once knew a lady who would respond the same way each time she was asked the question, “How are you?”  In the time I knew her, her answer never varied. It was always, “Plenty to be thankful for.” I am sure she had experienced hardship, suffering and pain in her lifetime. Yet, one would have never known from a conversation with her. It was obvious that she could always find something good about her current station in life. From time to time, I will offer support to an older lady who in the past few years has lost her husband and a significant amount of her vision. While she can function fairly well in her own home, she is dependent on others to drive her to appointments or shop for things that she needs. Each time I bring her home and get her resettled into her familiar environment, she says, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Her triple-fold expression of gratitude always humbles me, knowing that her words of appreciation are not just frivolously spoken but are rather a sincere expression of thanksgiving.

As I recently looked over my prayer list, I became conscious of the fact that many of the persons on it have lost love ones this past year. In several cases, it was the father/husband of the family. In another, it was a mother who had been faithfully cared for by her daughter. And in others, it was an adult child who departed this earth far too soon. I thought about the empty chairs at Thanksgiving dinners. Even though in many cases, those chairs will become physically filled by another individual, holidays are exceptionally difficult times to face the absence of a loved one. The Apostle Paul once said, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3). When his letter was written it would be read by the living, but such words can certainly be applied in tribute to those who have passed on to their eternal home as well. While some share around the Thanksgiving table something for which they are thankful, it would be an even greater blessing simply to be grateful for those who occupy the chairs.

Unfortunately, like many other things in our lives we have come to take our blessings for granted. Charles Dickens once said – “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” In a reading of the Old Testament, one will find that Job’s wife, in a moment of despair, encouraged him to give up his loyalty to God because of the many difficulties they had encountered. “But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? So in all this, Job said nothing wrong” (Job 2:10). In other words, Job understood it wouldn’t be right to receive the blessings which God sends and not also accept the trials He allows. Likewise, Paul steps in to remind us that we should “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

In the hustle of completing to-do lists and meeting personal deadlines, it has become far too easy to block out the details of the day forgetting that each and every one holds precious gifts. From the air we breathe to the persons we hold dear, there is always something to be thankful for. I recently read a ‘thank you letter’ a lady had published in the local newspaper. She had become acutely ill and needed to be transported to the hospital where she received care for several days. Her letter echoed appreciation to everyone who shared in her service delivery including not only physicians and nurses but also the housekeepers, food service personnel, and even the ambulance staff. While it sometimes takes a crisis to elicit an attitude of gratitude, we can be moved to incorporate acts of appreciation into our regular routine. William Arthur Ward put it this way: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”  Thanksgiving is a choice we can make daily. We simply need to recognize God’s wonderful blessings and ask Him to give us a grateful heart. For as one wise woman once reminded me – there is indeed “plenty to be thankful for.”

REFLECTION: Who are those folks for whom you are ever so grateful that you could easily tell them, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16). How can we take on some of the characteristics of Christ (such as goodness, love, kindness, and compassion) in order that we might become a more grateful person?


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