How Do You Give Thanks?

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Most of us celebrated with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and stuffing. But some may have chosen a different fare. Whatever you ate, I hope you took a moment to give thanks before your meal—thanks for your family, for your home, for your friends, and especially for eternal life.

Your first question might be: Why do I need to give thanks?

The short list: Creation, salvation, eternity.

So the question is: How do you give thanks? Since we all “give thanks” by eating a big dinner on the fourth Thursday of November, I thought I would provide a few other ideas from God’s example to show how we can give thanks the rest of the year.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Giving. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave what he had, Jesus, so I could be forgiven for my sins and be made a part of God’s family. If I am thankful for God’s gift of redemption, I can follow God’s example by giving of myself, my possessions, those things I value most, to help others find peace and hope. I can show my thankfulness by supporting my church and missionaries who are spreading God’s Word to others.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Loving. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Most often we love someone because of something they did for us, but God’s love is without a prior cause, not because of anything we have done, or can do, or will do. This love we have received from God, providing a sacrifice for our sins when we could not redeem ourselves, demands a response from us. John continued, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:11). Jesus said, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44,45). We can show our thanks by extending the love of God to others as we have received it, without reservation or condition.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Serving God. In the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus by offering the world’s riches and power in return for his worship. Jesus responded, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Luke 4:8). The world provides many enticements to turn our attention from God. It could be the continual acquisition of possessions and money. Other enticements include popularity, fame, and power. Jesus understood the seductive power of these things, and so He warned his listeners, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). When I follow God’s example, I serve God and place my relationship to God first, trusting God for the rest.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Serving others. As my example, Jesus served those around Him. He used His power to minister to others—healing, comforting, restoring. People came to Jesus because they knew He was willing and able to help them. I follow God’s example by serving others, as well. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). When I use my gifts, whether hospitality (which includes cooking, by the way), encouragement, teaching, and administration, among other gifts, to bless those around me, I am being faithful and following God’s example.

How do you give thanks? I know how you can! Recognize God’s gift to you, then respond by following God’s example and giving, loving, serving God, and serving others. The world will be a much better place because of your response to God’s gift.

Just a note: Thanks to Jack and Pat McKinley for the gift of the new nativity set on our front lawn. Drive by some evening and see the beauty.

On Sunday afternoon we celebrated the life of our good friend Beverley Crowell. It was wonderful to have so many people join together with us to remember her. Since I came to Ebenezer Presbyterian, Beverley has been an encouragement and a source of laughter. We all will miss her greatly.

One reason I enjoyed her so much is that she reminded me of my own mother, another person who loved to laugh, entertain, and make people happy. As a special tribute to Beverly and to her family, I am reprinting here a poem I wrote for my mother. Once again, our loss is heaven’s gain.

Many people say to me
“Your laugh’s so bright and full of glee.”
I tell them, “It’s not mine, you see.
My precious mom gave it to me.”

Oh, please don’t think her life sublime
with fun and laughter all the time.
She made ends meet, but there were times
she had to count out every dime.

Though everything was not the best,
with my mother we were blessed.
She made sure we were fed and dressed
And spread her cheer to every guest.

How did she smile and seem so glad
even when she felt so bad,
when it seemed she would explode,
struggling under life’s hard load?

Even so my mother laughed
and danced and sometimes acted daft.
For us she took her hurt and pain
and gave it back with joy again.

Ready smile and hopeful dreams,
laughing till I burst my seams,
love of music, love of dance,
These are my inheritance.

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