Thanksgiving – Giving Thanks!

Giving thanks means doing something – it invites an expression of gratitude. Thanksgiving is a time to show our genuine care and love for everyone in our lives.

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: Gratitude

The focal point of November in the United States is Thanksgiving – the one day of the year that we celebrate with pure gratitude. Frankly, there's no better holiday to me. There are no gifts as there are for Christmas or Hanukkah. There's no candy as there is for Halloween, Valentine's Day, and Easter. And there's no religious underpinning as there is for many of the major holidays. Instead, Thanksgiving is an invitation to love unconditionally and abundantly.

Alone or with family and friends, we have the opportunity to feel Love's embrace coursing through our thoughts and actions, from deep within our hearts all the way out to the tips of our tongues and our fingers. In other words, if we're truly feeling divine Love's presence and power, then our hearts are full, and that fullness shapes and colors everything we think, say, and do. The outcome can be startling, energizing, and healing. All it takes is thanksgiving – giving thanks for all that we have right now.

Giving thanks starts with acknowledging God as the Creator, as the Source of our identity and the Guiding Principle of our lives. From this premise, we can see our lives and ourselves as good and productive, unfolding in wonderful ways. It is recognizing God's handiwork as established in Genesis 1 and as epitomized in Jesus' expression of love for all mankind. In essence, thanksgiving is based on the conviction that God's constant, visible presence is always with us. This acknowledgement and recognition is evidence of thanksgiving. And it embraces others because feeling grateful demands an outlet – an outpouring of tenderness toward and delight in our fellowmen.

The challenge is determining how to express our gratitude – our profound thanks for all of God's gifts, be they family, friends, a home, sufficient food, proper care, or good health. During this month, let's try to find new ways to give thanks. This effort may require some deep thinking and praying. We might begin with several questions that demand deeper-meaning answers:

How can we give more thanks than we usually do?

Who needs our thanks – or to whom have we resisted or been reluctant to give it until now?

What really deserves our gratitude (rather than just being evidence of excess, willfulness, or fancy)?

What new way can we see and appreciate ourselves this year?

What new way do we appreciate our colleagues, roommates, parents, or siblings?

What if it seems like everyone, including us, is stuck in a rut and hasn't really made progress this year? For what can we still be grateful?

Of course, there is the ultimate question: How are we going to express our thanks in a way that's fresh and meaningful?

Thanksgiving is more than thinking of whom to put on our gratitude list. Giving thanks means doing something – it invites an expression of gratitude. That doesn't mean spending money on gifts or trying to write thank-you notes.

Instead, it could mean making time for a meaningful conversation, or giving a genuine hug. We might lend a helping hand or fulfill a longstanding promise. Or we might simply take the time to hold each person in our thought until we see them clearly as God does – acknowledging their goodness – for, in so doing, we forgive them their faults and bless them.

The other day, my son and I were immersed in "giving thanks" to family members just by being with them; we did nothing more than sit quietly beside them. One isn't feeling well and can't do much more than rest on the couch. I sat with him for hours, sometimes telling a story, but more often I was just thinking of him, loving who he is beneath the mask of illness. The other relative is very quiet by nature, but he genuinely appreciated the unpressured company my son offered. By the end of our three-day visit, the atmosphere in their home was noticeably lighter and brighter of heart and soul. My son and I had done very little, yet our quiet presence had had a profound effect.

There are wonderful examples of thanksgiving in the Bible. David's psalms top the list. He sings his heart out! Ruth shows her thanks by staying with Naomi. Nehemiah rebuilds the walls of Jericho. The Shunamite woman designates a guest room in her home for Elisha. These Bible characters give thanks to God by sharing their love with others.

Now, what will your gifts of thanks be this year?