Saying “Thanks” on Thanksgiving Day

I wrote this for another blog on Thanksgiving Day, 2009.

I’m usually up before the rest of my family. This morning is no exception. They are sleeping right now, enjoying a morning where they don’t need to get up and get going on a busy day. The house is quiet. The table is set. And in a few hours, this place will be transformed into a place of laughing, hugging and conversation when 16 of our relatives come over for noon dinner today.

I’ve heard that those who work for Microsoft in countries other than the United States enjoy Thanksgiving Day too – not because it is a national holiday for them – but because the sheer number of emails emanating from Redmond slows to a dribble. Email fatigue gets a rest and for two glorious days, they don’t get bombarded with the normal 300 – 400 emails. I suppose, for them, they are thankful for what they don’t receive.

In America, it’s traditionally called “Thanksgiving Day”. The day was originally set aside early in our culture when survival was – literally – a life or death matter. It was first celebrated by the pilgrims in 1621 to thank God for His provision in giving them what they had needed to survive their first year in the new world.

Today, it’s a national holiday. We eat, watch football (American style), spend time with family and talk about what kind of shopping we’ll do on black Friday. But rarely, do we actually take any time to express gratitude for what we have. I’ve always wondered about this: if you don’t believe in God, then who do you thank on Thanksgiving? Being thankful is the act of acknowledgement that someone else has helped you in some way and you thank them. Another word for this is being grateful. I’ve always wondered how one could be thankful if there wasn’t someone to thank.

In America, we live in the most rich, the most luxurious, most technologically advanced society this world has ever known. For many, today isn’t a day to stop and thank the Lord for all of His goodness and mercy to us. It’s just turkey day or perhaps a day off from work – which for many, is enough to put a smile on their face. I recall how Senator Barry Goldwater (back in the ’60’s) was asked why he didn’t vote to approve another national holiday in honor of someone that I can’t recall now and his response was this: “The average American doesn’t give a damn about who the holiday is for, they just want another day off from work!” Because Thanksgiving Day falls on a Thursday, it’s really a two-for-one: Get the holiday on Thursday and most businesses will also give you Friday off as well. Not a bad deal, eh? I fear that many in our country like this day simply because they get two days off from work.

So, with a little counter-culture flavor, I would like to express my thanks to the Lord for that which I have and for that which He has given to me. Note that I didn’t deserve any of this and it’s only by His grace that I can say thanks for:

  1. Salvation: his forgiveness of my sin and his gift of living with Him in heaven. I quite literally was “rescued from the dominion of darkness” and was “brought into” a personal relationship with Him. Anyone reading this can have this gift – you simply need to ask God for it and He will give it to you. It will cost you nothing and yet, paradoxically, it will cost you everything you have
  2. I thoroughly enjoy being a business owner and am thankful to the Lord for the business He has given me.
  3. My family – I have a GREAT family. My wife and children love me. This is a huge blessing that I don’t deserve
  4. My church – we’re settling into a new church for us. We’ve been attending for roughly 2.5 years and are just now starting to feel at home in the church. We’re making some good friends and getting know our extended family.
  5. Community: I’m so thankful to live in Maple Grove, MN. I know most reading this from the south will think I’m crazy – all that cold weather, snow, ice, etc… But the truth is that you cannot find a better place on the planet to have summer and fall than Minnesota. We have a safe town that is clean and well-kept. We have a good balance of retail and professional services. And we have a good infrastructure to build on. For all of this, I’m thankful.
  6. American Military – I’m very grateful to our servicemen and women who voluntarily join our military to help protect and defend this country, both here and around the world. While our country has made mistakes in foreign policy and our military has made mistakes too, I remain proud to be an American and deeply grateful for those who defend our country. This isn’t to say that I agree with all that the politicians direct the military to do, but it is to say that I support those who serve our country.

Today – I hope you take some time to get alone and thank the Lord for all that He has given you. God has been more gracious, kind and giving to us than any of us have ever deserved. His generosity and grace deserves our “Thanks!”.

Bill English