"What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
...to You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving" (Psalm 116: 12, 17)
October blew through our house. I can hear my children counting down, "Only one more month until Christmas!!!!!!"
Only one more month. November. What about Thanksgiving?
I feel all too often our culture frolics through all the hay rides, pumpkin patch visits, planting of the mums and apple picking October has to offer. We celebrate all month long the beautiful weather, school parties, and football games all leading up to the great climax of The Fall Festival... Trick or Treating.. the giant reveal of our costumes.. or better yet.. our children's costumes. We enjoy running through the streets at night all the while filling our bellies of deep laughs at our costumed selves and WAY too much candy. Then what?
November is greeted about as well as the empty candy wrappers lying on our street, come November first morn. It's welcomed and pondered maybe only a little more than the tootsie pop I cleaned out of my bushes, or the rotting pumpkin I threw away. It's a breather. It's a "let's get things together" break until the Christmas hype arrives.
I don't want to skip over Thanksgiving. I want to relish in it. I want my children to find GREAT GREAT value in the gift of giving thanks. Yes, the gift.
...to you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving...
Have you ever really counted your blessings? Other than on Thanksgiving day. Have you sat down and daily counted them. Try counting the blessings money cannot buy. Do this. Do this and then tell me Thanksgiving isn't something we as Christians should make more of. To me, it's more than just a story about a journey. It's about the story of MY journey. My life as a Pilgrim... traveling through and living in this world I am not ultimately intended for. Thanksgiving is a time of celebrating what we have been given in Christ. As I read the 116th Psalm I can't help but worship our most awesome GOD.
I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: "O Lord, I beseech You, save my life!" Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.... what shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, oh may it be in the presence of all His people....to You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord......
Thanksgiving is realizing what we have in Christ. Thanksgiving is preparing our hearts for Christmas. In focusing on our gifts in Christ and the grace He has bestowed us during our journey, we are reminded of the One who took the greatest journey... the most miraculous pilgrimage. Emmanuel. God became man. Thanksgiving is finding the joy.. the blessing.. in this broken world. Choosing to be thankful is our offering to Him. It is continuing our hope. It is living out our faith.
Many days I choose not to live thankfully. I choose to not hope in Christ. I live as though this is the reality. But scripture speaks otherwise. I have been rescued from death... my eyes have been rescued from my tears.. and all that will or has caused me to stumble.. from THAT ALSO I HAVE been rescued. Yes, a mystery, but True.
So this November I have created a Tree of Thanksgiving. It sits on our kitchen table. Each night we pull out a tiny leaf ornament with a scripture passage relating to praise, thankfulness, or blessings. We read it and try to memorize it. We talk about it and those who engage are rewarded with a piece of October candy. (I think we have enough to last us through the month... :) ) The kids think it's great. Chris praised me for my creative idea and thanked me for being so thoughtful for our family. But really... I did it for me. I want the reminder. I NEED the reminder. It is my heart's cry to love my Lord if only just because He hears my voice and my supplications. Isn't that miracle enough? The God who created all things hears my small voice. My small insignificant voice. Oh, yes, I have SO many things for which to be grateful. I should spend all year dwelling on thanksgiving.. every day.. every hour.
Baby steps. It's difficult in trials to count the joy. Perhaps this is why the psalmist called it a "sacrifice of thanksgiving." But in Christ, we are promised that it is there. The hunt begins. The ending better than the beginning. The view from the top, breathtaking.... I just need to begin the climb... up my Tree of Thanksgiving...one rugged branch at a time.