Take Time to Say Thanks
By Stacie Ruth Stoelting
The Big Meal. The Turkey Day. Thanksgiving. Whatever you call it, Thanksgiving Day is here! Are you prepared?
Some of us are winded. We’re winded from racing through a challenging year. We’re asking, “Can it really be Thanksgiving already?”
Meanwhile, others feel entirely prepared and well-rested. (If you are, e-mail me with your secret to being rested for a holiday! I have yet to be rested up for a holiday. I usually use holidays to rest!)
Yes, more than likely, you are either planning a meal or planning on one. But don’t forget to plan something that supersedes the super meal: Make a plan to spend quality time to thank God.
Perhaps this “giving thanks” idea seems impossible for you. If you’ve been through a lot of death and disappointment this year, you may scoff and say, “Thankful? You don’t know what my year has been like! Ha!”
Believe it or not, I have experienced similar feelings at different points in my life. I know what it is like to wrestle with grief, disappointment, fear, and sadness. (I remember times of thinking that no one else knew what I’d been through!) Yes, I know what it’s like to feel “ungrateful.” But God has taught me lessons that prevent me from reversing into the disastrous gear of ingratitude.
Did you know that, no matter what you’ve been through, giving thanks is a good exercise for you? It’s a very effective spiritual exercise that strengthens our faith. In fact, I know of a psalmist who felt cast down yet told himself to hope in God: "Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God." (Ps. 42:5, AMP)
Just like the psalmist, we need to be intentional about this. We need to make ourselves give thanks. We need to rejoice in our connection with Christ – not our circumstances. God’s Word includes a beautiful section that I feel will help you and me to thanks:
“Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice! Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit).”
Did you see what I saw? We are commanded to rejoice in the Lord always. The Lord never changes. He’s always good! He always loves you! He always loves me! That means that, though trials come and go, God’s goodness and love never leave. There’s a reason to rejoice! Let’s continue with the passage:
“The Lord is near [He is coming soon].”
Hallelujah! The Lord is near to us. He is coming soon! That’s another reason to rejoice in the Lord: He is coming back and our trials will be over. We will win through faith in Christ! Let’s read on:
“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
All of those words offer such comfort to me. I hope that they do the same for you. Meanwhile, this portion of God’s Word includes a recipe for how to think:
“For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you.].”
Now, that’s a great prescription for a sick heart! If we make ourselves to think of the good, we feel so much better.
Well, all of the previous passages and explanations served as the groundwork for the main idea about which I am so excited: Let’s write thank-you notes to God!
This Thanksgiving, let’s write thank-you notes/letters to God. Here are a few ideas to make this an inclusive, meaningful activity for the family:
- Purchase or make the largest, loveliest thank-you card possible.
- Involve the entire family. Be sure to include the young children and the elderly to participate equally. (i.e. Assign someone else to write down their items of thanks for them.)
- Assemble the notes and insert them in the card. Then, have someone read it aloud.
- Ask someone to read all of the notes aloud. (If your family is particularly large, take turns reading the notes, draw the notes from a hat, or do it in sessions.) While the notes are read, see to it that someone records it on CD, tape, or DVD.
- Keep the notes in a safe, special box. Each year, add the notes to the same, special box. You can re-read the notes to remind you of how God blessed you each year. (If your family is large, scan or copy the notes and send copies to each family member.)
Guess what? I’m not just writing this, I’m going to live it. I, too, will write a thank-you to God with my family – even though some of our loved ones are celebrating in Heaven this year.
Yes, despite a lot of personal tragedies in 2007, I have still found reasons to give God thanks and praise! So, if I can do it, so can you.
Let me share one of my personal prayers. Perhaps my prayer, which I prayed for a prayer e-group, will be a springboard for your praise:
You are our hope. In You, we trust. We praise Your name above all others! We exalt You! We declare that You are good! You are beyond beautiful! You alone deserve our concentration and adoration!
We humble ourselves at Your feet and recognize that You created us. You are our Source of strength and creativity. We cannot do anything apart from You. We praise Your name above all other names!! We praise You and magnify Your name! Thank You for never changing! Thank You for never leaving!
Thank You for planning a spectacular future for each of us! Thank You that this world is not the only one. Thank You that You hold us when we cry. Thank You for dying on the cross for us and giving us Your Spirit! We love You!! We give you unending thanks! We hope in You alone! We love You! Thank You for flooding us with love! In Jesus' Name, Amen.
I rejoice in Jesus and I praise God that, despite all of my trials, I truly can wish you a “Happy Thanksgiving!” with a sincere heart of joy, peace, and hope.
Yes, I wish you all a truly happy day of thanksgiving!
Note from the Author:
Connected! isn’t a typical monthly column. Think of it as an e-mail. Feel free to reply. Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org. After all, I want to be a friend and introduce you to my Best Friend, Jesus Christ. We’ll cover issues relevant to our generation. Most of all, we’ll connect with Christ. If you don’t know how to connect with Him yet, click here.
Stacie Ruth Stoelting and Bright Light Ministry share how to have victory over tragedies and trials. She loves Jesus! And she loves to help people. (She knows what it feels like to “wistfully wish for help.” That memory helps to ignite her passion to help others.) At 23, she already has experience: At 15, Stacie Ruth wrote Still Holding Hands: Bonus Tips for Caregivers & Tips for Helping Families Facing Alzheimer’s, depicting her grandparents’ romance, and victory over Alzheimer’s. Celebrities (i.e. Pat Robertson) endorsed it and/or Bright Light Ministry. At 20, she sang for President Bush. In dramatic programs for all ages, she speaks, acts, sings and entertainingly inspires. Now, she is writing another book ( Whatever Happened to My Faith?). Feel free to invite her to speak and/or sing at your church or school. Visit www.brightlightministry.com.
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