Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On this coming Thursday, citizens of the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday dedicated to thanking God for his blessings. In much of our society, however, this holiday is actually filled more with feasting and football than with gratitude. In order to reset this balance for my Life for Leaders readers, I thought I’d focus our reflections during this week on the theme of thanksgiving. Whether you live in the U.S. or not, giving thanks to God should always be in season.
Plus, by focusing on gratitude I’ll be able to circle back to a verse that I skipped several weeks ago. You may recall that we had been working our way slowly through the passage in Ephesians 5 that begins with the imperative: Be filled with the Spirit. In the original Greek of Ephesians, that imperative is followed by several explanatory participles: speaking, singing, making music, giving thanks, submitting. We examined carefully the first three and the last one, leaving “giving thanks” for this week. Today, we’ll begin to finish our close, devotional reading of Ephesians 5:18-21.
Verse 20 reads, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The context of this verse reminds us that our gratitude is an expression of being filled with the Spirit. The more we are filled with the presence and power of the living God, the more we will be moved to give thanks. The Spirit will help us see God’s gifts, including those we might overlook when left to our own devices. The Spirit will also remind us that things we can take for granted – like physical life, friendship, and good work – are in fact gifts from God. Thus, the Holy Spirit stirs up gratitude within us.
Over the years, I have adopted a practice that has greatly enriched my own celebration of Thanksgiving. This practice opens my heart to the Holy Spirit. At some point during the week of Thanksgiving, I set aside an hour or two for intentional gratitude. I grab my journal and sit in a place where I will be undisturbed. Then I ask the Spirit of God to bring to mind ways in which God has blessed me in the last year, gifts for which I ought to be thankful. As the Spirit brings something to mind, I jot it down in the form: “Thank you, Lord, for . . . .” As the minutes pass, my list of thanks grows longer and longer. God brings to mind all sorts of gifts I have forgotten, including people, experiences, mercies, and opportunities to serve. By the time I’m done, I have well over fifty entries in my annual Thanksgiving log and my heart is filled to the brim with gratitude.
No matter where you live in the world, why not make this a week of thanksgiving? Allow the Spirit of God to inspire you with gratitude. Ask for the grace of seeing God’s gifts to you in a fresh way and experiencing all of life as a gift.
P.S. from Mark:
A few years ago, I wrote a short history of Thanksgiving Day in the United States. You can read it here.
Something to Think About:
What helps you to feel grateful?
What helps you to express your feelings of gratitude to God?
Would you be able to set aside some time this week to let the Holy Spirit help you to be grateful?
Something to Do:
Take a look at your calendar for the week and see if you can devote an hour to intentional gratitude. Let me encourage you to find a place where you’ll be uninterrupted. If it will help you, use a journal or other device to records your thanks. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember God’s gifts throughout the last year. As you do, make a note of them and thank God specifically for each one.
Gracious God, thank you for all of the good gifts you shower upon me. Thank you for life and breath. Thank you for love and laughter. Thank you for good work and good rest. Thank you for family and friends. Thank you for beauty and song. Thank you for truth and purpose.
Today, Lord, I thank you for those who walk with me on this Life for Leaders journey. I’m grateful for their partnership, even though we are rarely together. Thanks for their prayers, their notes of encouragement, their insights into your Word. Thank you for the privilege of sharing these devotions with my sisters and brothers, so that we might know you better and live our lives more fully in your grace.
Bless all who receive Life for Leaders, Lord, with a new awareness of your gifts and a new expression of thanksgiving. Amen.