The Power of Thanksgiving
By Kay Camenisch
It’s that season again, when we’re reminded to be thankful—and to express thankfulness. God has told us, “In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Th. 5:18). Even though we know it’s God’s will, for most of us, a reminder is a good thing, because in the midst of busyness and challenges of life, we often forget to be grateful for our many blessings.
I always think of a particular incident when I think of giving thanks. Many years ago, our friend Paul noticed that his young daughter Susannah had a ritual with her bedtime prayers. She always prayed, “God, bless Mommy, and Daddy, and . . ..” She went down her list, asking God for her all her wants.
At prayer time one night, he said, “Susannah, you have a lot to be thankful for. I’d like you to start your prayers with thanksgiving.” Susannah agreed, but Paul left on a trip the next morning and wasn’t able to reinforce his instruction.
When he returned, her prayers had not changed. He said, “Susannah, what did I ask you to do when you pray?”
She hesitated before answering. “Uhhh. Start my prayers with Halloween?”
She remembered the request—but didn’t understand what thanksgiving was and got mixed up with which holiday he had said.
Unlike Susannah, I understand what it means to give thanks and that it’s good to express appreciation, but I often get so busy that I don’t take note of what I’m grateful for, much less express it to others. I’ve resolved to do better after recently experiencing the blessing of being on the receiving end.
My husband is a pastor of a church of amazing people that regularly communicate their thanks. It makes it a joy to be part of them. However, we were recently showered with love and many expressions of appreciation. I must admit, it felt good. It deepened our love and our commitment to give more of ourselves. It also made me want to be more faithful in expressing my thanks.
But that was just the beginning of the day. After church and the dinner that followed, our home filled with out-of-town family that came to celebrate Dad’s 89th birthday. We visited, celebrated, and enjoyed being together. After the meal, while still around the table, I was once again struck with what an impact it makes to speak words of appreciation.
Robert’s youngest brother said, “Dad, at our house, we have a tradition that we do on birthdays, and we’d like to do it now.” He went on to explain that we wanted to each share something with Dad that we appreciated about him, starting with the youngest and moving up.
Seven-year-old Elena went first, and one at a time, each of ten people at the table shared something they were grateful for, something Dad had done that had blessed his or her life. Most shared two or three things that had made an impact—and all sounded sincere.
At least once, Dad’s eyes filled with tears. Others were touched too. It was a precious time, and a much bigger blessing than the simple gifts given earlier.
It was also powerful. Dad wasn’t the only one blessed. We all left the table encouraged, strengthened, and closer to one another because of words of gratefulness. All we did was say thanks—but we don’t make a point to do that often enough. I basked in the blessing and power of the time around the table for several days.
I wish we had practiced that tradition in our home as our children were growing up. In fact, I’m wondering how to stimulate more giving of thanks in other settings—of open, sincere, thoughtful expressions of appreciation. If you have ideas, I’m interested.
However, after some thought, I’ve decided that the best place to begin is with myself. I might not impact the whole community, but I could encourage some.
Meanwhile, I hope your Thanksgiving is blessed with gratefulness—and with thanks giving.
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Kay W. Camenisch is the author of Uprooting Anger: Destroying the Monster Within. She has been published in The Upper Room and The Lookout. Contemporary Drama has published one of her plays, and she regularly contributes to a newspaper column. Kay is also a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother. She has worked closely in ministry with her husband, including in local churches, as missionaries in Brazil, working with a church school, training young adults to mentor troubled youth, and establishing and directing a ranch for troubled young men. Send Kay your comments
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