How many of you remember thanksgiving around 20 or so years ago? If you are like me, I recall with fondness the anticipation of turkey & dressing and dumplings. Boy do I love some dumplings. There were tables laden with goodies and aromas that made you feel surely like heaven was in the room. Pecan Pie, peanut brittle and fudge, it makes me hungry just thinking about it.
I remember mom and grandma scrambling to make last minute dishes, cousins running around the yard screaming with glee. My dad and uncles would be anticipating the football games, arguing about who would win and why and my aunts in a tizzy trying to gather all the kids to the room so Granddaddy could pray.
Some of the best memories I have are gathered around that big table with my family, laughing with my cousins, getting scolded by my aunts, getting that look of don't you dare by my parents.
But my greatest memory I have is listening to my Granddaddy pray. I can recall him as he thanked our God for many things including his family, but I remember most one word he always said. Father, I’m grateful for your goodness and for the many things you have blessed us all with, for Your presence in our lives.
As the years have flown by and people have died, or grown up and had their own children, everything started changing in slow motion. I wipe the tears from my eyes thinking about the day when God calls my grandparents home and I will not hear my Granddaddy pray.
Tenaciously I have tried to hold to the tradition of Thanksgiving, but like a cancer among us it has all but taken the very life out of what used to be my favorite holiday.
I’ve been pondering for a couple years now the phenomena of it all. When you go to the store Christmas shows up before Halloween has even came and gone. Here in America the fastest growing holidays are Halloween and Christmas, both of which are more about receiving than giving. I know what you’re thinking; yes, those holidays are about giving, but if you’re honest it’s more about giving out of obligation than really for the joy of giving. That’s another story for another time.
My point is that those two holidays have over taken Thanksgiving altogether. We rush through the meal trying to be the first to get to the paper full of coupons and sales for black Friday. Conversation centers around what store has what and what is the latest doo dad for the year the kids just got to have. What used to be cleared tables and dominoes playoffs now has become hurry up and eat and rush to the latest big box store to stand in line for hours for something we just have to have for our kids. Am I the only one that finds this odd?
In my pondering I keep going back to my Granddaddy’s prayer and this is what I think happened to this holiday. I think we have forgotten what it means to be grateful. Without gratefulness you can never be truly thankful.
My Granddaddy lived through many hard times, the depression and wars. Times were tough for him growing up. He didn’t have the opulent lifestyle that we all try to live today. He worked hard, prayed hard and loved his family. Life wasn’t taken for granted then. It was hard and you worked hard.
I believe this is why all these years later I still remember him praying Father I’m grateful. God indeed had blessed him with a wife and 6 children and many grandchildren. He had provided well for us all. He was grateful for what he had. Not once did I hear him ask for more. I remember the stories he told of his childhood of being poor. I remember my granny working in her garden (acres not plot) until she was too feeble to do it anymore.
Maybe this is what we are missing in Thanksgiving and why it is rapidly losing ground as a holiday. We have forgotten to be grateful. We have become rich and in need of nothing yet wanting more and more, therefore we have no need really to be thankful.
I think about the Psalmist David being thankful and giving God glory for His goodness in the midst of David’s madness. Why else would David say “You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies?
The apostle Paul said in whatever state I am in I am thankful. Whether I’m rich or poor, or have everything I need or I'm in severe want I am grateful to God. We tend to go in panic mode and scream at God for not getting us out of the bind quick enough. There's not much room in our heart for gratefulness, when we feel slighted by God.
I never really knew back then how deeply my Granddaddy’s prayers would affect me. Yet they have tremendously, because as I prepare to have one last Thanksgiving with my family I am grateful. I am grateful that I had 43 years with the greatest grandparents a kid could ever have. They have been a rock, an anchor in my life, even in the times it was nutty and chaotic they loved me.
I finally understand after all these years that it wasn’t the stuff my Granddaddy is grateful for, it is for the giver of all good things. He was grateful for God in his life. The focus of His heart was God Almighty and not the things He had provided.
I want to cry because I know their lives are fading quickly away and soon Jesus will take them home and the thought brings pain to my heart. Yet I am grateful for the legacy they will leave behind.
They taught me to love your neighbor as yourself and to love God above all else. They taught me to know with certainty that He will provide everything you need because He is faithful. They taught me to honor your commitments to God and your family and at the end of each day, be grateful for what He has richly given you. In short they taught me to be grateful for God in my life, because in Him and through Him I indeed have it all.
This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year, because it is a time set aside to recount the goodness of God throughout the year. It is a time to be truly grateful that we have God in our lives. This is what is failing in society, we have, yet we want more. We have removed God from the equation of our lives except when we need Him to be real, most of the time we feel pretty much self sufficient, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps so to speak. God's hand over us is never once a thought in our mind.
The pilgrims long ago understood this. This feast day was a giving thanks to God for what He had brought them through, what He had provided them despite great loss , gratefulness for the opportunity to start over in a brave new world. They were grateful and so must we be. You may not have all your wants but I guarantee you have everything you need. God has not failed to provide for you or me. So this Thanksgiving be thankful for God if indeed you have Him in your life! Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and mercy is everlasting! This is the heart of true Thanksgiving!
Try doing this; this Thanksgiving step out of the box and do something different, other than eating and saying fiddly things you are thankful for. Teach your children this year to be thankful for God who in His mercy loved you throughout the year. The one who brought you through extraordinary circumstances, who set a table before you in the presence of your enemies.
Teach your children as my Granddaddy taught me, life is about God, not about stuff. I want to teach my children in everything to give thanks. I don’t want them to just be a casual thanker; I want them to be grateful from the depths of their heart. This is what my Granddaddy taught me and I’m hoping to pass that legacy onto my children and grandchildren as well!
I’m hid with Christ!