Take the Assessment: 5 Ways to Know If You Are Thankful

Is it just me or do Christmas decorations come out earlier and earlier in stores every year? And that the electronic singing Santas are getting louder and more creepy looking?

And does it also seem like there are huge displays for Halloween and that the only acknowledgement that Thanksgiving is coming is the sale prices for turkeys and dressing?

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Part of the history of the early roots of Thanksgiving is chronicled in a letter written in 1621 by Edward Winslow to a friend in England. He says,

And God be praised, we had a good increase…our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling that so we might after a special manner rejoice together. These things I thought good to let you understand…that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favourably with us.

I think holidays in general are to help us recalibrate our lives to that which is important. For example, Independence Day helps remind me that the freedoms I experience were not just ordered online with free shipping. They were dearly paid for with lives. With Labor Day I celebrate those in our working force who make things happen and provide for me goods and services that I can easily take for granted. With Christmas, it is a time to reflect on that greatest gift of Jesus who gives me hope in my hopeless life. I was dead but I am now alive.

I need these periodic readjustments.

And with Thanksgiving? It seems to get minimized. Sure there are great parades on television and a wonderful day of eating with family and friends, but it seems that Thanksgiving is becoming synonymous with a brief respite before Black Friday hits. It’s like a rest day before we go out and find awesome deals.

We must be a thankful people. I must be a thankful person. Much goes awry when thankfulness leaves our hearts. We become what we were not intended to be and it shows itself in our lives in subtle ways.

Thanksgiving was meant to be an intentional pause in life to reflect on the gracious blessings giving by the Creator – both relational and tangible. It was a display of humility to thank God for His providence.

Regardless of the type of society one lives in, thankfulness or giving thanks is always in vogue. People are usually not criticized for being too thankful. It is usually the opposite that garners negative attention.

In the spirit of celebrating this national holiday, I did some reflection in my own life and came up with five statements that are almost a litmus test that reveal if a thankful spirit is evident in my life. 

I would challenge you to take some time to work through these or better yet, take this inventory to a spouse or friend who will be honest and provide you with feedback.

You feel entitled that your agenda should go as planned

In other words, you believe it to be true that life should go your way and that intrusions are just that…intrusions. The key word is entitled. You feel deserving and that you are owed.

When you feel like you are owed, there will not be any room for thankfulness in your heart.

Remember Israel? They got tired of the manna God provided and made it known that meat was what they deserved.

Who will give us meat to eat? We remember all the fish we could eat free in Egypt, and all the fruit and vegetables and spices. But now our strength is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this bread from heaven. (Num. 11:4-6)

That whole episode did not end well. Many died from God’s judgment.

You have dreams, wishes, and desires for others that have now turned into expectations

We all come into relationships with dreams, wishes, and desires for the other person. And there is nothing wrong with that. But at some point, if not careful, these can quickly turn into expectations, and when that occurs, you lose the ability to unconditionally love them and be thankful for them.

And when we heap expectations on people, there are 100 ways in which the expectation is not met and only 1 in which it is met. And so when they do meet that expectation, it turns into a “check it off the list” instead of a response of thanksgiving to them.

You rarely notice the good that others are doing around you and fail to praise them

As we are leading others, be careful that you do not get so locked into the process of the end goal that you fail to notice the incremental steps along the way that are worthy of praise.

Praise is like fuel: with an empty tank we just do not get very far.

For how to use praise in a genuine manner, see Four Authentic Uses of Praise for Those You Lead.

You only give thanks for things that go “according to plan”

It is easy to give thanks when things go according to plan. Not too difficult. But what about those events that derail our master plan? I Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to…

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Yes, I know, not easy, and it can only happen when the Gospel is actively working in my life. I need to remember that I am part of a grander story – I am not the story.

The good things in your life become ordinary

I remember when I first moved to Wisconsin that I had a beautiful drive to the college at which I taught. I loved the ride because it was filled with colorful trees on both sides that provided a beautiful canopy. But you know what? It was not long before I drove the entire 7.2 miles and never noticed anything along the way.

Thoughts drifted. What caught my attention was now just mundane. A good thing become ordinary. The landscape did not change. It was my perspective.

Don’t overlook the power and blessing of being thankful. Don’t let this holiday be just a day off or a chance to eat great food or watch competitive football games. Let a thankful heart transform how you view this life and view others.

And happy Thanksgiving to you, my readers. I am truly grateful for each of you.

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