That time of year is here again. We have said goodbye to another summer and are now in the dwindling days of fall. If you live in Northern Michigan, I think we skipped over the last half of fall, and we are now knee deep in winter! Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The leaves changes, the sun takes on a different glow, there is a crispness in the air, and my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving – and pie! We won’t talk about my insane love affair with pie right now. though! It really is a sad thing… Seriously… I need help…
Anyway, back on track. Thanksgiving is that time of year when we like to reflect on what we have to be thankful for. There are a lot of differing opinions as to how Thanksgiving came to be. Some say religious; some say it has nothing to do with God. I found the following on Wikipedia, and while I do not always look at that as a reputable site, I think this is a fairly unbiased report of history:
“Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682, and then by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, political influences affected the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations. Various proclamations were made by royal governors, John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress, each giving thanks to God for events favorable to their causes. As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, `as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God’.”
Personally, I love that the Pilgrims took the time after their first winter to thank God and the Native Americans that helped them survive it. It is a good thing to intentionally set aside time to give thanks for the good things that we have and for the people that support us. That tradition has carried on, and in two days, many of us will sit around a table with family and friends and take a moment to give thanks for all that has been good in our lives over the last year.
Is that what Thanksgiving is about, though? Just the good things? I don’t believe it is. There are a lot of things that I see in my life that are good, and I am thankful for them. I have a wonderful wife, two great kids, a great family, some very good friends, a roof over my head, and so much more. I am thankful for them. They bring joy to my life, and I can’t imagine life without them, but I have other things that are not as “good.” If you’re expecting a list, too bad! Let’s just say that we all have things that we would change if we could. The question is, are we thankful for those things, too?
Four years ago this past April, I abruptly lost my job. It was nothing to be thankful for – or was it? It was during that time of my life, when so many things were falling apart around me, that I was able to finally get a real grip on my relationship with God. He became real to me. He was not just that God that we sing about on Sunday. He became a Father I could cry out to. A Protector from those out to hurt me. I found a Friend in His Son, Jesus that I could talk to about what I should do next.
By Thanksgiving that year I was in a new job, and things were still rough but sorting themselves out one small step at a time. I remember feeling so thankful for all that God had done that year. He allowed me to go so low, to a place where I could do nothing for myself. I needed to be there so I could give it all to Him. I am so thankful for that hard time. It is a part of who I am now, and it is because of His love for me that I am able to say we need to be thankful in all things! Through relationship with Christ we are given the power to BE thankful in all things!
If you spend much time reading this blog, you will see that I have a fascination with trees. I love the fact that God does, too! He uses them all through the Bible to give us lessons for living, and when you study how they live and grow, you can see even more of God at work in your life! That is why I am drawn to Paul’s words in Colossians 2:6-7. There is a progression laid out here for the Christian life that we can follow to truly experience Thanksgiving in our lives on a daily basis:
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
– Colossians 2:6-7
1. Receive Christ – If you haven’t done that, then you will find that thanksgiving will probably never extend much past turkey, stuffing, and pie. Wonderful things, but they will do nothing for your eternity or for your personal growth. (With the exception of your waistline.)
2. Walk in Him – As a believer, we are called to walk as Christ would walk. We should do the things He did, and live according to the words of God. It is by walking in Him and with Him that we get to know Him and understand Him for who He is and what He did for us not just in His death, but in His resurrection! We are made to know Him!
3. Rooted and built up in Him – As we follow and learn, we begin to put our roots down into what we know to be true. Every time we see God come through for us, we grow a little deeper. Our branches spread a little farther. We begin to show the life in us as we are growing in our faith in Him.
4. Established in the faith – Here is where we learn to stand firm and strong when we start to see the sun beat down on us making us feel dried out. The cold winds tear at us, and we feel alone. It is when those hard times hit us that we look to God. We are in pain, but we are rooted in Him. He gives us His living water to keep us alive. He shows us His love when we feel nothing but hate. He protects our soul when it is being ravaged by the world around us. It is hard to be thankful in the middle of pain, but that is when we see the true effects of what we are grounded in.
5. Abounding in thanksgiving – I don’t think we need to wait for the storm to pass to feel thankful. It is easy to be thankful when we are through the storm, but if we are truly walking in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in our faith in God, then we can always look around and see something to be thankful for! Every day! No matter what we face! It is what sets us apart from those who struggle through life with no hope. Our firm foundation in Christ is our hope! It is our reason for being thankful, and it is why we can have Thanksgiving every day of the year!
I admit this is not always easy, and it doesn’t always come quickly. The Christian life is a process of growth. Just like a tree does not get planted one day and produce apples the next, we will need to go through a time of growth. Trees might not visibly grow for a few years, but they are busy during those times putting down roots that will make them thrive later. We might have times where we struggle to be thankful, but if we know Christ, are walking in Him, and are putting our roots down deep in our relationship with Christ and being established in our faith, then the natural outflow of that will be a life of abundant thanksgiving!
Relentless Growth is not something that just happens. It requires a decision to be made daily to be thankful for a God who loves us and is there for us, even when He feels so far away sometimes. We were made to know Him and to be close to Him. We were made to draw on Him and to experience relationship with Him. We have so much to be thankful for in Christ! As believers, we can’t let it just be one day a year. Every day we need to make that choice to be thankful!
Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to my friend Joe for inviting me to this Thanksgiving week of blogs. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am. Please read all the blogs of the contributors as they get posted here each day. Follow their blogs, share, and enjoy them throughout the year!
The Overboard Life – Joe Castaneda
The Musing of a Life – Bev Everett Landgrenen
The Real Life – Terry Porter
Danny Ray – Danny Ray
Be Extraordinary – Traci Castaneda
Making Life Beautiful – Becca Forrest
Relentless Growth – Tom Tanner
I look forward to hearing from any and all of you. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
(So, if every day is Thanksgiving Day, shouldn’t I be seeing more pie?)
Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong