In a recent blog, Father Stephen Freeman raises the bar of thanksgiving from a simple holiday to the higher place it should hold in our hearts:
The act of giving thanks is among the most fundamental acts of love. It lies at the very heart of worship – in which, in the words of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex, there is an exchange. In giving thanks we make an offering which itself is always inferior to what we have received – but which is itself an enlargement of the human heart. To live rightly in the presence and communion of God is to live in a state of constant thanksgiving. For from Him we receive all that we have – our life and existence, all good things, the hope of redemption, and the joy of communion. The offering of thanksgiving is the acknowledgment within our heart that we ourselves are not the author of any of these things, but are rather the recipients – those who receive gifts from God.
To live rightly in the presence and communion of God is to live in a state of constant thanksgiving, Father Stephen says. He’s right on target (as he almost always is—his blog Glory to God for All Things is worth checking out), so here are the things I’m most thankful for. I hope they prompt you toward the “exchange” Father Stephen mentions.
I’m thankful for a God larger than my ideas, preconceptions, experience and intellect who gives me glimpses of glory that blow my mind and fill my heart with praise.
I’m thankful for a home where my wife and I are continuing the work of building sanctified lives together through the changing seasons of life. Thirty-eight years of marriage later this week, that presently includes two grown children, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, three grand-daughters with another on the way, and two dogs (a main one and an auxiliary one). A home filled with love and faith, prayer and Scripture, NCIS, Georgia and Clemson football, and genuine peace. As I grow older, I cherish home more than ever as the place that gives stability, nurture, sustenance and grace to the rest of life. As Pam and I grow older our ministry to families simply has become the accumulated experience of our own own marriage and home life.
I’m thankful for my children and their families, who continue to be the source of blessing to Pam and me in more ways than we ever would have imagined. An old Irish proverb speaks of the family as people “Living in the Shelter of Each Other.” That’s what ours has been. Even now, with the kids living far away from us, the connection with them is undiminished in terms of love, shared faith, playfulness and good humor.
I’m thankful for my friends, men and women down through the years, as well as those from more recent times, who have improved the trajectory of my life through their affection and support. CS Lewis says somewhere that the love friends share is the highest kind of love because it’s the least self-interested. I don’t know if I would go that far, but just knowing there are men and women who I can count on to look out for me—even as I do for them—and who tell me the truth, make my life a richer place.
I’m thankful for the church, with all its successes and failures, all its worship and ministries, all the tradition that sometimes makes me crazy and all the unexpected expressions of sacrifice and humility that characterize the people, all the stuff we get right and the stuff we get wrong. Because the local church (and I’m a local church guy much more than an institutional guy) really is the place where divine grace is experienced. I’ve been at this pastor gig for over thirty years now and feel like I’m still learning new things almost every day—that’s exhilarating.
I’m thankful for the stuff God’s given me and my family. To tell the truth, I never thought I’d be as blessed as I am. I’m learning the truth of 1 Timothy 4:4, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
God is good; life is great; and remembrance of past blessings makes me even more eager for what’s in store in the future. Thanksgiving will be a blessed time in our household this year. I hope yours is, too.
For a look at why we love Thanksgiving so much you can go to one of my previous blogs here.
(This is an edited version of an earlier blog. Thanks to Wall Street Journal for the image)