by Canon Mark A. Pearson
Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One,
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ His Son.
–Henry Smith, 1978
I’m willing to bet that we’re all thankful people. We’re not so self-absorbed that we take for granted everything good that comes our way. We do appreciate what God and others have done and continue to do for us. But I’m also willing to bet that we don’t think or speak that thankfulness as we should.
What To Give Thanks For
What do we give thanks for? We give thanks for things global, things specific and everything in between. In other words, for every good thing.
Global. One of my favorite prayers is The General Thanksgiving from The Book of Common Prayer. In it we are instructed to thank God for His “goodness and loving-kindness…” and then for “our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life….” While these statements can degenerate into mere platitudes unless they are fleshed out with specifics, they do remind us that God is the author of all that is good. Think global. Think big.
Specific. We thank God for things that are unique or particularly meaningful to us. While we would miss these things were they taken from us, we often take them for granted. I’ve disciplined myself to thank God for the things I photograph. In the photos below I’m reminded to give thanks to God for friends and fellow workers in Christ, and for my passion of baseball. I’m reminded to give thanks to God for our wonderful garden and orchard, and even more so for my even more wonderful wife.
“But above all.” General things, specific things, but what’s most important? A Christian would say, in the words of The General Thanksgiving, “but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.” Thanks, God, for redemption (possible because of Jesus’ atoning death), for means to access grace for daily life, and for assurance I will be in glory when I die.
How Do We Give Thanks?
With humility. The General Thanksgiving starts us off with the confession, “we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks.” It is difficult to give thanks if you think you deserve what comes your way. Our hearts can never be thankful if they aren’t first humble.
With God’s help. The General Thanksgiving has us ask God to “give us such an awareness of your mercies….” Ask God for the “gratitude attitude.”
With specific actions. Thankful attitudes are nothing if they do not lead to thankful actions. What can we do to express (and enhance) thankful attitudes? These actions might be helpful: Discipline yourself to thank God for six things (or whatever number you decide) in prayer before you ask Him for anything. Our tendency in prayer is “to get right down to business” by telling Him what we want. But isn’t thanking Him part of the business of prayer? Discipline yourself to thank God for things during your prayer before meals. My father, before we started eating our
Thanksgiving dinner, went around the table requiring each person to give two things for which he or she was thankful. Enter into worship with thankful gratitude. With The General Thanksgiving we pray, “that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise….” Enter into the service of others while pointing to God as the reason for serving. We pray “…giving up our selves to your service.” Mother Teresa said the reason for her sacrificial service was thankfulness for what God did for her. Do your part (with the grace of God and the help of others) to grow in authentic holiness. The General Thanksgiving speaks of our “walking before [God] in holiness and righteousness….” Holy lives are a way to thank God. “Give thanks with a grateful heart.” +
GIVE THANKS FOR THE FRUIT OF
THE EARTH AND FOR A WONDERFUL
WIFE. Dr. Mary picking apples
from one of our own trees.
GIVE THANKS FOR GOOD FRIENDS AND OUR NATIONAL PASTIME. Canon
notes, “A ‘road trip’ for me but a home game for the Milwaukee Brewers. Last Spring
I spent a delightful weekend at Bread of Life Charismatic Episcopal Church in Dousman,
Wisconsin. While there I got to go to the Brewers’ new stadium, Miller Park.
That’s me in the middle suitably attired in Red Sox gear, flanked with two of Bread of
Life’s clergy, Fr. Chris Berndt and Fr. Chris Keough. Fr. Keough, is a former professional
umpire (Double A level) and still works college games. Alas, the Brewers lost.