Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays as it is the only holiday where we gather for the specific purpose of being thankful to the Lord for all that we’ve been given.

All of us face challenges–financial challenges, health challenges, relationship challenges, job challenges, you name it. And those challenges can get overwhelming unless we take a step back and reflect on the goodness of God. Psalm 30:12-13 speaks to this: “You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. So that my glory may praise you and not be silent. O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”

In the United States, we live in a time when some people would like to remove every connection between God and country, yet our Founding Fathers clearly saw God as the source of the bounty in this country. On November 26, 1789, our first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, George Washington spoke of that day as, “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

Many other countries around the world also designate a specific day of the year as their day of thanks. Almost all religions of the world have ceremonies of thanks to God and many are focused around the harvest season. I believe that the origin of giving thanks to God comes from deep within the human heart and it is a natural response to a loving and gracious God.

Attending Mass as a family is a way to thank the Lord. The Opening Prayer for Thanksgiving Day Mass reads: “God and Father of all gifts, we praise you, the source of all we have and are. Teach us to acknowledge always the many good things your infinite love has given us. Help us to love you with all our heart and all our strength.” What a beautiful way to start Thanksgiving Day!

Google “Thanksgiving Bible Verses” and you’ll get about 25 verses to choose from. Ask each family member to pick their favorite and read it aloud before the Thanksgiving meal, then share why they chose that specific verse.

Encourage each person at your dinner table to thank each of the others at the table for something over the past year.  This helps draw everybody closer together as each person shares their personal thanks.

Gratitude is an important virtue. It helps us concentrate on the realities in our life–when we are grateful, it helps us focus on the blessings in our lives instead of the day to day irritations.

During this time of Thanksgiving, it is easy for us to spend a day being grateful, but are we grateful to God the other 364 days of the year for everything he has given us? We challenge you to go beyond Thanksgiving Day and live a life of gratitude throughout the year!

Consider starting a Gratitude Journal. By taking time each day or once a week to write down the things for which you are grateful you can focus on those things that often escape notice but are so important.  Being consciously grateful helps you discover what you take for granted–job, family, freedom, birds, faith, friends, and the very air you breathe.  Each of these things, no matter how important or mundane, is a gift from God for which we should be thankful. Recalling all of the gifts that have come your way is fun to read later, and you can savor those special moments over and over again.

Another way to bring gratitude into your everyday life is to have each person at the dinner table share three things that happened that day for which they are grateful. In a family with young children this can range from the amusing (“I am grateful I didn’t have to sit next to any girls on the bus”) To the profound (“I am grateful I got to see Grandma today–she is getting old.”)  But whether or not there are children in the family, the gratitude discussion at meals helps keep thanksgiving at the forefront.

At bedtime, each of us can spend a few moments in silence to reflect on our day and say a prayer of thanksgiving about the things we experienced during our waking hours. We are showered with blessings from God each and every minute of the day and night and it is right to acknowledge those blessings.

Use your 5 senses to concentrate on the wonder of the world around you.  Touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, and hearing helps us to appreciate what a miracle it is to simply be alive. Once we start noticing the small things around us, it’s easy to get out of our natural tendency to see what is wrong and instead focus on all the little blessings we receive daily

Look for opportunities to thank the people around you and tell them how much they mean to you. Instead of a text, or phone call write and mail a hand-written note to express your thanks. The person who gets it will know you took extra time and thought, and they will appreciate your extra effort. Who doesn’t enjoy getting something personal in the mail, which is such a rarity these days?  When you say “thanks” be specific. Instead of using general phrases like “thanks for your help,” one of the best ways to show your gratitude is to acknowledge something specific about how they helped or what their help meant to you.

By taking time each day to think about how blessed you are, you can focus on those things that often escape notice but are so important.

This year, instead of November 22nd being one day of Thanksgiving, have it be the first day of a year of thanksgiving. “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will delight and rejoice in you; I will sing hymns to your name, Most High.” (Psalm 9:2-3)

To all of you who listen to us on the radio, read our blogs and experience the compass Bible studies, we offer our heartfelt thanks!

We wish each and every one of you a happy and blessed day as we offer thanks together to our God. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Compass Catholic podcast this week shares gratitude stories from our Compass family.