November 16, 2013 in City

Faith and Values: Acknowledge God’s hand in your Thanksgiving

SteveMassey
 
About this column

Three times a month, three community columnists weigh in on matters of faith and values. The Faith and Values column appears Saturday and features artist Donald Clegg, of Spokane; retired Methodist minister Paul Graves, of Sandpoint; and Steve Massey, a pastor from Hayden.

‘What do you say?”

The restless youngster stopped briefly, glanced at the clerk, then at the piece of candy, and shyly recited a phrase scripted by his questioning mother, and generations of moms before her: “Thank … you.”

Watching that scene at the grocery store recently brought a smile to my face, and surfaced memories of prompting my own kids to “say thank you.” As that little boy walked away, one hand grasping his candy, the other his mom’s shopping cart, I was struck by something easily forgotten by the time we’re pushing our own carts.

Thankfulness is a learned behavior; it becomes part of our nature by thoughtfulness and habit. Gratitude simply is not our default setting.

Ingratitude and its ugly twin, entitlement, are prevailing vibes in our culture. And it’s no wonder. Cynicism seems a natural posture in the face of so much around us going wrong, left undone or hopelessly messed up. Check today’s headlines: they’re mostly bad news.

Of all dispositions that require an awakening nudge, thankfulness tops the list.

Happily, we’ve a corrective national holiday coming up to point us in the right directions: outward to life’s myriad blessings, upward to their divine author.

Thanksgiving, by definition, acknowledges and celebrates the goodness of God.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” declares James 1:17.

In other words, thankfulness has an object: God himself, “with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

While God doesn’t change, people certainly do. How quickly we flit between joy and despair, hope and pessimism, gratefulness and discontent. This tendency is common to all of us, and it’s what makes thanksgiving deeply personal.

Thanksgiving is a personal choice, not an emotion that randomly interrupts our routines uninvited.

Do you choose to be thankful?

The Bible affirms this choice, telling us that gratitude is “the will of God” for us. Because God is by nature good, and always active in our lives, we experience his goodness on an ongoing basis. Relationships, natural beauty, basic provisions, even life itself … all are evidences of God’s presence and goodness.

Ingratitude, very frankly, thumbs its nose at God.

That little boy at the store grasped his candy, and busily moved on to the next thing, begging mom to get something out of a grocery bag for him. In just a few seconds, the candy he hadn’t earned – and didn’t necessarily deserve – was old news.

No, he is not a spoiled brat. He’s just a typical person: busyness and boredom with blessings militate against gratitude in all of us, don’t you think?

Ironically, this time of year that we call “the holidays” is often so full of activity, commitments, and obligations that many people just want it all to be over. Thankfulness and wonder at God’s grace often are drowned in the din of busyness and familiarity with life’s good things.

If we want to be grateful people, we’ll do well to leave margins in our lives – even this time of year – to stave off a sense of being overcommitted, overtired, and overwhelmed. And in those less hectic margins, we’ll also do well to consider the simple blessings that, however familiar, are ours by divine grace, not entitlement.

Even life’s tiniest pleasures, like a youngster’s candy, bear the fingerprints of our gracious God.

That boy, his mother and a piece of candy conspired to impart a helpful reminder. They’ve helped me resolve to slow down a bit and delight in God’s blessings, recognizing they are mine not by right, but gracious privilege.

Our God, an ever patient parent, awaits the only sensible response to His goodness.

What do you say?

Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or steve@haydenbible.org.

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