Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It is an annual reminder that we should pause to remember that what we have received is a gift to us from God. The roots of a thanksgiving day are deeply embedded within the fabric of American history. From our earliest school days, we remember the story of the Pilgrims who landed on the shores of Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts in 1620. They were greeted with a terrible winter that claimed a large number of their group. Those who had survived that first winter in the New World, began to focus upon how to prepare to survive another winter. Crops were planted, with the help of some of the peaceful natives who showed those Englishmen how to grow crops in a wilderness setting. And that fall they celebrated with thanksgiving to God for the bounty which God had supplied. That event became the model for all the Thanksgiving Days that have followed.
How do we celebrate Thanksgiving Day today? Well, we begin with bringing family and friends together. Often remembrances are shared that encourage our hearts. Then, we eat way too much. Who can resist that golden-browned turkey? Hey, give me that turkey leg! And the potatoes - oh the piles of mashed potatoes, slathered with hot turkey gravy. And who can forget the cranberries - I know some of my kids and grandkids could easily forget them, but not me. Of course Thanksgiving Dinner would be incomplete without a green-bean casserole or a steaming corn-pudding. Then there are the pies - pumpkin, apple, and pecan. Oh the choices - could I have a piece of each, lavished with whipped cream on top? And then we settle in for a long afternoon of football, or we hit the malls for those early "Black Friday" specials.
But, something is missing, isn't it? What about thanksgiving? What about remembering our blessings? Tomorrow morning for my personal devotions, I will be reading Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1. These two chapters always help me to focus upon an attitude of thanksgiving that will carry me through the day. Where does one begin with his "thanksgiving praise list?" Both David and Paul begin with salvation. I love the words that Paul uses: "chose us before the creation of the world," "predestined," and "adopted." Aren't those great words? Just stop for a moment and reflect upon that amazingly incomprehensible truth: God chose me, God chose you before He created anything. Friends, before there was a Genesis 1:1, there was you - chosen by God! Now that is something to give thanks for.
David exclaims that God has forgiven our sins and healed our diseases. Isn't it great to know that our sins are forgiven? David, in this same Psalm 103, later will write concerning our forgiveness: "For as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Wow! And what was this disease from which we have been healed? Well, it was that fatal disease of spiritual death caused because of our sins. In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul said that "we were dead in our transgressions and sins." But, through Jesus Christ, God has made us clean as the newly driven snow. This elicits another "wow!" from our lips.
David then declares that he will praise God because "he has satisfied his desires with good things." Oh the incredible goodness of God. If salvation is at the top of our "thanksgiving list," then what follows? I can only share with you that for me it is my family - my wonderful bride who has been by my side for over 48 years now; my three kids and their families who constantly remind me of the need to pass down to the next generation the reasons for the hope that lies within me; and for my grandchildren who remind me of the vigor of youth that needs the tempering of maturity.
Then I am grateful for my extended family - for my two sisters, my brother, and my sister-in-law who carries on the memories of a brother now with the Lord. I am blessed with a church family that God has brought into my life and whose lives touch mine in so many incredible ways. They remind me of my need to be that loving, caring shepherd through whom God can speak truth into their lives.
And one cannot forget to give praise for our country. I am grateful for the heritage that is ours because others cared enough that they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. America is not a perfect place and, often in this blog, I have focused upon those places where that imperfection is clearly shown, but God has used this nation as a tool to bless the world in the past, and hopefully that blessing will continue into the future.
Thanksgiving should be a daily experience of ours. But I am grateful that there is one day set aside especially for that purpose. To quote from Psalm 100: "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." And why should we do this? That Psalm closes with these words: "For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."
So, what praises will be upon your lips as you "enter his gates with thanksgiving?"