I’m intentionally writing about the real thanksgiving in July, so there’s less chance of it being confused with the autumn holiday with the same name. What I’m speaking of is not confined to just a single day in November, although I surely don’t mind a designated day for feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie, but rather it’s a way of life. It’s not just about seeing the glass as half full, instead of half empty, or even trying to stay positive. I realize my words have been a bit cliché, up to this point, but I’m alluding to so much more. The real thanksgiving is recognizing there are many blessings to be thankful for on a daily basis. It’s possessing an authentic grateful heart. The real thanksgiving is being thankful for what you’ve got…not what you hope to get.
As a follower of Jesus I’m aware God owes me nothing, but He gives me everything! However, recently I almost forgot that fact after facing yet another physical ailment in a fairly short amount of time. I had simply bent over to pick up a tiny, weightless object (a leaf of all things), and when straightening up I instantly knew I had done something to my back. I had considerable discomfort, on my left side, and was now forced to walk with a limp. After about a week the pain was unbearable, and had put me completely out of commission, so I went to the doctor. I had a series of x-rays (which showed nothing) and was given a prescription for the pain (which barely helped). I was told that maybe I’d get better with time. What? Maybe?
I left the doctor’s office discouraged, and I quickly found myself engrossed in anger and having nothing but negative thoughts. I’m not even 50 years-old yet, but I already have a bad shoulder, bad hips, and have also been dealing with Plantar fasciitis for the past several months. My bodily afflictions have undoubtedly hampered my weightlifting and tennis playing, and they’ve somewhat put a damper on my spirits as well. Now I had a bad back to add to the list, so I figured if anyone was entitled to a pity party…surely it was me. Of course, I was wrong. I knew my health issues could be so much worse. That evening I apologized to God.
A few days later I saw a specialist, was diagnosed with (and treated for) a herniated disc, and have been improving ever since. I’m thrilled my lovely wife no longer has to put my shoes and socks on for me. I’m sure the feeling is mutual. In the midst of my ordeal I thought a lot about the real thanksgiving. My mother-in-law has a decorative plaque, hanging in her sunroom, which reads “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” Just imagine that: if whatever you’ve been blessed with today, but did not give thanks for, was gone tomorrow. Those words of wisdom certainly puts into perspective that we all have things, whether proportionately abundant or few, to be grateful for everyday.
God’s blessings to us, if we are totally honest with ourselves, are exceedingly greater than all of the negatives in our lives. One Sunday morning, last November, my pastor made a suggestion from the pulpit. He urged the congregation to individually make a list of everything we were thankful for. He then recommended we thank God, sometime during the week, for each blessing we had jotted down. I took my pastor’s “homework assignment” to heart. I was even compelled to retrieve a previous list, of things God has blessed me with, that I had written down as part of a “Soul Training” exercise found in the book, The Good and Beautiful God. My “Life Group” had been exploring the life-applicable book when I wrote my list of 107 blessings.
In the quiet of my home, with hands clasped and on my knees, I gave God my humble thanks. I began each praise aloud with “I bless you Lord God, King of the universe for…” as instructed by my pastor. I would then fill in the blank, from my extensive list, and add to my conversation with God by expanding my thoughts on most of the blessings before me. My list included everything from family, friends, and Copper Hills Church to mountains, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and homemade ice cream. The experience was so out of the ordinary (for me anyway) and well out of my comfort zone. I must admit I was somewhat apprehensive at first, and I certainly did not like hearing the sound of my own voice; however, I was only uncomfortable for about a minute.
I was expecting something from the exercise although I didn’t know what exactly. I do know I got much more out of it than I had anticipated. The 53 minutes went by quickly, and I was no worse for wear (except for maybe my knees). There were lots of tears, and I was overwhelmed with God’s goodness. Our human nature tends to focus on the negatives of life rather than on the numerous positives. Therefore, we must deliberately call to mind all of God’s blessings around us if we want to experience the real thanksgiving.