Think Thanks

Keep your eyes open to mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.  – R.L. Stephenson

I hope that your mind has turned the page towards a new month and a new opportunity to focus on work and life from a new perspective. Each month seems to have its own personality and buzzwords to help us focus. December is “the hope, joy, peace, and love of Christ.” January has “new beginnings.” February is “love and romance.” April is “baseball.” July is “freedom and national celebration.” September is “football” and of course October is “fall and harvest.” Then comes November, which calls us to be “thankful.” The whole month is an opportunity for us to think thanksgiving all month before we actually get our Thanksgiving on around the turkey, the dressing, and the pumpkin pie.

Perhaps you don’t really need the calendar to turn to November in order to be thankful. Instead, I hope that you have reflected so deeply that you realize your life and family has much to be thankful for. Among the items we can/should recall on our thanksgiving list are: our health, our freedom, our calling, our connection to others, our role as a minister in child and family healing, our hope for a better tomorrow, our belief in a God of grace and mercy. These are just a few of our commonalities as a people with much to be thankful. You will no doubt think of other examples, distinct to your life and personal situation, which make you thankful.

Choosing to reflect on and embrace the areas of our lives that we are thankful for can be helpful and healing. When we choose to confess our thanksgiving, we recognize that something has happened to us that we aren’t necessarily deserving of. While we can’t always explain why or how we have received such blessings in life, we recognize that our lives would be very different if we lived in hunger, had no purpose in our calling, and/or had nothing obvious to be hopeful about. It is hard to reason why we are blessed in certain ways and others are not, but life isn’t always easy to explain. Sometimes we are better off to accept things the way they are and consider ourselves blessed in a way that we could not guarantee on our own. This acceptance may keep us from wasting blessings and resources that make life comfortable and/or easy.

But what we should be really thankful for is not our stuff. It is our people – our relationships in life. Our real blessings in life can be measured by those who have sacrificed and invested greatly in us. From our parents to our school/work mentors to our pastors to even (surprisingly) political leaders, many people have made our life different – better – than we could have on our own. We didn’t necessarily ask for their help, but it was given and we are better for it. We can choose to recognize that fact or ignore it believing fate has brought us this far. We have many people to thank for making our life meaningful, beautiful, and hopeful.

Be aware that human nature usually resists being overly thankful and giving honor to those that have blessed us. It is typical for us to just assume they know we are thankful. When we choose not to be thankful or give recognition, we are not being accountable for life and its circumstances. We are trying to convince ourselves and others that we are self-made, solely responsible for our own success. What we are is self-righteous. The only medicine for a self-righteous soul is a dose of humility that helps us see how many people have provided for and invested in us along the way. Choosing to ignore that our lives are blessed – by God, by family, by friends – is an act of self-reliance that may be the biggest cover up story in our lives. By giving thanks we acknowledge the work and gifts of others that have made us who we are and helped us to get where we are.

Life is rich because of other people and how they have blessed you. Be thankful. Tell them. Pass on the blessings to others. Celebrate your true blessings in life. Give God the glory for it all.

Don’t wait your whole life to give thanks to God and others. Start a habit today, this month of being thankful for the people in your life.  See if you can go the entire month thanking everybody you remember that has blessed your life. Feel free to thank people that don’t easily come to mind for doing something spectacular of you. A good  “thanks” is never wasted. By acting intentionally thankful for all of November (not just on the 27th) you will likely create a habit that will continue naturally that can be a theme in every month of the year. You might just turn into the kind of person that thinks thanks continually. If you do, you will see the world in a brand new way and the world will catch a view of you that, perhaps, has never been seen before.

“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”- Colossians 3:15-17