Taking Count…

Thanksgiving and Christmas bring with them so much pressure and tension.  The pressure to try to make everyone get along.  The pressure to make everyone happy.  The pressure to keep up with the Joneses.  But I’d like to put a little different pressure on us this holiday season.

Last week I had a chance to travel back home, which for me is near Chicago, and enjoy some down time with my family.  I look forward to Thanksgiving each year because it’s the one big holiday that I can relax.  Christmas and Easter bring with them a lot of tension and expectations as a worship director.  As I was home, I took some time to intentionally remember all the things that I am thankful for.

My wife…  Our home…  A family that, although we don’t always see eye to eye, loves each other unconditionally…  Enough money to have an amazing Thanksgiving feast…

You get the picture.  I could, if I’m being honest, write a list that would nauseate you because it would be so long and sound so cliche.  But that’s exactly what we forget to do.  We take all these things for granted…like they’re just expected. Or, even worse, a right.

But they aren’t.  Everyone’s list looks different.  And even in what seems like the worst of times in our lives, we have so much to be thankful for.

So I’m pressuring you.  I’ll bet you didn’t expect that when you started reading.  I want you to take time this week, and throughout the Christmas season, to make a list of all the things you need so desperately to be thankful for.  And don’t make a small list and lose it.  Keep it running so you can truly look back with gratitude and humility for all the amazing gifts you have in your life.

When we live a life of gratitude, all those pressures and expectations carry with them less weight.

Having a Happy Thanksgiving When You’re Not Happy and You’re Not Thankful

Aaron Keller | Student Ministry Leader

First, let me just say Happy Thanksgiving! Wherever you are, I hope it is a time full of joy and blessing. For me, Thanksgiving has always been a fun holiday to celebrate. However, I suspect that if you are anything like me . . . human . . . then there are times when you are not happy and you are not thankful. Perhaps, even today on Thanksgiving (especially if the Vikings lose) you may not be feeling all that “thankful.” Paul takes this idea of thanksgiving even further in Scripture when he writes in Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” How can we do this? How can we be thankful in every situation! In this world we live, where the effects of sin are everywhere, we are constantly caving inwards, subjecting ourselves to every whim of our desires and emotions, and unfortunately, the advice we are often given is “conceal don’t feel.” We are told to just fake it till you make it, pretend you’re thankful. This is not God’s way, though. If we look at the Psalms, we see rather that God desires to hear our raw emotions. Sometimes we are tempted to play games with God as if He doesn’t know what we are feeling, but God just wants our hearts. And yet, God does not just want our emotions to play dictators of our lives. They are important and important to express, but we do not submit our lives to them. Rather, we submit our emotions and indeed all of our lives to God and His Word. It is so interesting that the Psalms, arguably the most honest and raw writing in the Bible, begin in Psalm 1 with the following advice: those who follow God delight and meditate on His Word and thereby are “like a tree planted by the rivers of water.” This is the key to being thankful and the key to where we start! Being thankful in every situation is not about how we are feeling. We do express our feelings but it begins with submitting ourselves to God’s Word in any and every situation. When we do this, we become like “a tree by the rivers of water” no matter where we are at. We can be a tree by the river even in the desert times of our life. In Jesus we have rivers of living water that will never run out. We have life in abundance. When we take time to focus on and submit to God’s will for our lives, we will truly be able to give thanks in every situation regardless of how we are feeling. Spend some time with your Heavenly Father today!