by James A. Wilson
I am forever advocating the deliberate cultivation of a heart of thanksgiving because it alters perspective in a dynamic way. This is not about whistling in darkness, but choosing to believe there is something to whistle about, giving thanks in advance of discovery. When we make that choice hidden opportunities are revealed, unimagined strategies attempted. Miraculous powers and gifts are manifested; they were present all along – gifts from God – but unmanifested until thanksgiving set them free. As Thanksgiving Day arrives we can receive it as an excuse for too much food and football, damn it with faint praise – well, at least I’ve got my health – or make it what it is intended to be – a day to be glad for what we have and humbly glad for what we discover post-thanking the God Who gives all things and works all things together for good in those who choose to thank Him first and question Him after.
We need to choose to thank Him for 2019 as it appears to be if we would see it as it actually is.
We have seen the boundaries of our freedom expanded this year. Unemployment is lower than it has been in nearly a century because business owners labor under fewer regulatory restrictions than in that same span. Americans on welfare are fewer than most remember. Our nation is energy independent, no longer hostage to oil producers who hate America; all these things enhance our ability to care for our families. Freedom to take this responsibility personally – instead of depending on government is a fundamental freedom. It is something for which to give thanks whether in wealth or just getting by; billions of our fellow human beings are in neither category as we understand them.
Yet I keep saying the rubber meets the road of a thankful heart when we choose to give thanks for things nobody wants, and it does. I planned a lovely little getaway to Salt Lake City for my family when we realized my wife had a few days off from work leading into the Thanksgiving holiday. We would spend one night and get to do early Christmas shopping at Ikea; we would explore what is supposed to be the finest aquarium this side of Monterey Bay in California. Then our toddler came down with tonsillitis; my wife was soon showing similar symptoms, and as I write I am not feeling much better. Our hotel reservation was non-refundable and we clearly had no choice but to cancel. I had a choice to give thanks for the disaster of our plans or curse my bad luck; I gave thanks.
It turns out a heavy snowstorm was headed into the middle of our route; I am macho enough to say I could handle it, but common sense – driven by our very real health crisis – dictated otherwise. In the meantime we found out a friend was already in Salt Lake City and happy to get the one item we could only obtain from Ikea and bring it back to us. And the room? When I called the booking agent in an attitude of thanksgiving and humility – because I was well aware the reservation was clearly labeled non-refundable and I was entitled to nothing – they graciously cancelled with no charge, not because they had to but because they could. I don’t like it when my girls are sick, and I sure don’t like it when I am. But the bottom line is we get some quiet time we desperately need because something bad happened and we chose to meet it with thanksgiving instead of you-can’t-do-this-to-me. Attitude changes equations.
Half the Pilgrims who gave us the tradition of Thanksgiving died of disease and starvation during their horrific first winter – 1620 – in the new world. They hung in there, gave thanks, and made friends with neighboring Native Americans. By Fall 1621 they were well enough established to host the tribe that helped them. They served turkey and other local game, seafoods, local vegetables including pumpkins (although not in pies) and fruits. None of them imagined for a moment they had been anything but blessed in the good times and the hard; they knew too well their survival and later good living was beyond their ability to provide. They worked hard because their God tells them to work hard – so as to better appreciate His promised blessings – per Zechariah 8:9-17 for anyone interested. The rest of us do well to follow their example.
Such an attitude shapes the equations of our lives and puts us in touch with the really real.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at firstname.lastname@example.org