Thanksgiving: Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude in All Seasons

country homeschool thanksgiving

By Guest Post Author Ingrid Pechin

Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Hooray for Thanksgiving! For many of us, it’s our favorite holiday; a time for family traditions. School studies are set aside temporarily for another kind of labor, a labor of love and memory making. Favorite recipes (Mushrooms Berkeley comes to mind for our family) are simmering in shining saucepans on a crowded stovetop. A young lady is setting the table with fine china and real linen napkins, the ones with great grandmother’s carefully embroidered initials in the corner; or some years, with paper plates and napkins bedecked with acorns and a wreath of autumn leaves. Little brother is counting out enough silverware for each guest. Dad is mashing the potatoes and Mom is putting the final touches on the table, filling water goblets and lighting candles. Grandpa is making a salad with fresh crisp greens from his garden and Grandma is putting a last minute pumpkin pie in the oven as the sweet potatoes come out, in case more dessert is needed…that, and it’s always good for breakfast with a cup of coffee the next morning. The warm spicy aroma of an apple pie, savory stuffing and homemade rolls baking in the oven wafts through the air making hungry tummies growl. Uncle and nephew are helping set some extra chairs around the tables. Some children are gathered outside on the patio gathered around a table while a favorite aunt helps them finish decorating their own pair of clothespin Pilgrims. The gathering of beloved friends and family around the tables with mismatched chairs has commenced. Hearts are full and heads are bowed. Prayers are offered with sincere hearts. So many things to be thankful for! Thanks is given to God for food, for family, the roof over our heads, His providence, His mercy, His grace. How very much we have to be thankful for.

Another family is gathered with several other families around picnic tables in the woods finishing up an outdoor Thanksgiving meal. They are in jeans and jackets. The November air is chilly. It is a tradition. They have been camping with brothers and sisters in Christ from church every Thanksgiving for the last 11 years. After dinner, everyone is sitting around the campfire, wrapped in cozy blankets, with warm, luminous, joy-filled faces, lit a little from the glowing fire and a lot from within. They are content. Somehow, out here in creation, even without life’s luxuries (like running water, a hot shower, a soft bed, four walls and a roof), the worries and cares of the world melt away. Their hearts are full of worship. Someone begins strumming a guitar and voices are raised up in song and hymns of praise and thanksgiving to their Heavenly Father for His goodness and His love. Their sweet voices, young and old, are lifted high over the treetops into the expanse of the clear dark sky. The stars, bright and multitudinous, bring to mind Psalm 19:1-3, “The Heavens declare the glory of God;and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth, knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Now it’s quiet, save for the cracking embers of the softly glowing fire. Hot chocolate and spiced cider is sipped, bellies full and hearts fuller.

Have you ever stopped in wonder and awe at the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation that surrounds us daily? I mean, really have your attention arrested by the glory of God, by some wonderful work of His Hand, whether in the physical or spiritual realm? I’m sure you all have, we are beyond blessed to witness the amazing Arizona gilded edged clouds, against an orange, pink, purple, and blue backdrop at sunset; red rocky hills covered in Saguaro cacti covered in large whitish tinged with pink or creamy yellow centered blooms in the spring; the deep blue hue of the sky with huge, white billowing clouds on a cold clear day; a newly sprouted seedling in your garden; a newborn child’s precious, fuzzy little head nestled in her mother’s arms; the joy of witnessing our children’s growing awareness of and fellowship with their Creator. The overwhelming and humbling demonstration of God’s love for us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Much of the time, our thanksgiving is spontaneous and given in the moment as a response to one of His blessings or in acknowledgement of the awesome majesty of the work of His Creation. We offer up a private and quiet, “Thank you, LORD,” and sometimes we share our thanks aloud, singing praise songs along with our favorite artist. Sometimes thanksgiving is more formal, cultivated intentionally as on Thanksgiving Day. There is planning that happens and a whole day set aside. We gather together. Both spontaneous and formal occasions of thanksgiving are good, very good, in fact, but they are not enough; they fall short. That’s because thanksgiving is more than an occasional or even frequent emotion and more than a one day, two day or even three day celebration. God has more He wants to give us. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to give us a new mindset, new thoughts, His thoughts. Giving thanks to God ought to be the default attitude of His children, and in fact, our very purpose.

We are also told to give thanks at all times, in all things, and without ceasing. We are also told to be anxious for nothing, but to present our requests to God with thanksgiving. What a tall order! I need help being thankful in all things, at all times and to never be anxious but to present my requests to God with thanksgiving, never grumbling! How about you?

Do your children ever grumble or complain? Mine have; all four. Some did more than others, I won’t name names. They are like their parents. I don’t know about you, but I have definitely fallen into this trap. Grumbling and complaining is one of my pet peeves. Wait a minute, does having a pet peeve mean I’m a complainer? I’ll have to give that some thought. Hmm…“Pet” implies that I have a favorite annoyance. I guess it’s better to say, I find it highly challenging when my children complain or grumble. It’s no fun being the complainer or listening to the complainer. It’s contagious and soon everyone around is in a bad mood. We can even sound like we’re complaining when we give instruction and correction to our children. Our children are a blessing. They should know we believe that even when we are correcting and disciplining. We are so blessed but our heart gets focused on that one thing we can’t have or that one problem we want to go away and suddenly, all the goodness and blessings and riches in Christ, and His Presence with us, the truest of treasures, are hidden from view as we focus on that one situation that didn’t go our way or turn out the way we’d hoped. Complaining isn’t merely acknowledging a problem, it’s an attitude about a problem. It’s not even always audible and oftentimes it is not. Rather, it can be an attitude that reveals a lack of trust in God about that need or problem which reveals itself in worrying. It is a lack of gratitude for the goodness of God and a lack of humility for the grace and mercy we have been shown which shows itself in pride and self pity, thinking that we deserve better. It’s an attitude that fails to acknowledge God for Who He is and what He has done and that He is still doing. It is the opposite of thanksgiving.

The things that cause us to take our eyes off of Christ are often good things, things that please God, and honor Him like having obedient children, a clean and organized home, a job, health, five minutes of peace and quiet alone. Our hearts begin to wander after His blessings, instead of after Him. Our hearts can make idols of God’s blessings when He is all we need.

There are countless reasons for us to give praise and thanksgiving to God as His children. Instead, like our children, we allow disappointment, grief, and pain to overwhelm us. We get discouraged or fearful. We forget to give Him the praise and thanksgiving he deserves. Is it really possible to have a thankful heart in everything, at all times and release our fear into thanksgiving? Is giving God continual praise and thanksgiving really our purpose as believers? Let’s take a look at what biblical thanksgiving is, and what the Bible tells us as it relates to giving thanks.

The concept of thanks comes up 138 times in the Old Testament and New Testament combined. In Strong’s Concordance we can see several Hebrew and Greek words rendered as Thank, Thankful, Thanks, and Thanksgiving in English. There are 73 entries for the word rendered thanks and 28 for the word thanksgiving.

The most common word translated as thanks is:

3034. yahdah cast out, make confession, praise, shoot, give thankful,

A primitive root; used only as denominative from 3027 yad. Lit. to use (i.e) hold out the hand; phys. To throw (a stone or arrow) at or away; especially to revere or worship (with extended hands); intensively, to bemoan (by wringing the hands) -cast (out), (make) confess(-ion), praise, shoot, (give) thank(ful,-s,sgiving). See Hebrew yad.

The action is directed outward, open handed, aware and responsive. This is a thanks that directs our hearts to God in acknowledgement of Who He is and what He has accomplished already for us in Christ and that we trust that He is Good and a keeper of His promises.

We remember Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Some denominations call it the Eucharist which comes from the Greek word eucharistia that literally means thankfulness, giving of thanks.

εὐχαριστία, ας, ἡ thankfulness, giving of thanks

Usage: thankfulness, gratitude; giving of thanks, thanksgiving.

When we remember what Christ accomplished on our behalf, we remember with deepest gratitude, with thanksgiving.

I’d like to share some verses that have given me a better understanding of how I can cultivate a default attitude of thanksgiving.

A New Mind(set): God wants to renew our thoughts and attitudes. Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed any longer to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. KJV We read God’s word so that it can do it’s work in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Meditating on and memorizing the promises of God can help us to have thankful thoughts towards God.

A New Purpose: We have been rescued from our sin and the kingdom of darkness for the purpose of giving glory to God. ” 1 Peter 2:9 says, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. We have been chosen, given royal access to the King, been set apart for holiness, to be different from the world in order that we may show forth the praises of the One Who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light! What an incredible honor we have, that we should show forth the praises of Jesus. How peculiar we are from the world when we give thanks and praise to Him in all things and at all times.

In All Things: I Thessalonians 5: 18 “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” KJV • James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ESV We can give thanks in all things, even the things that cause us grief or pain or tempt us to fear. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. KJV This verse has always been such a comfort. It is not a Pollyanna optimism. It’s a being still and knowing that He is God in the midst of suffering.

At All Times: Psalm 34: 1 I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall be continually in my mouth. Psalm 71:6 I have leaned on You since birth; You pulled me from my mother’s womb. My praise is always for You. • Psalm 145:1 I will exalt You, my God and King; I will bless Your name forever and ever. Romans 11:36 says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” This is a quiet celebration of God in our hearts, that is the calm in the middle of a storm and reflects the goodness of God to those around us.

Thanksgiving, Not Fear: Ephesians 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. • 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. The command God gives us more than any other Scripture is to not be afraid, fear not. do not be anxious. I think it is derived from the first and second commandments to have no other gods before Him and not to make idols for ourselves to worship. The psalmist puts it this way, Psalm 73: 25-28 “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from You shall perish; You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. KJV. Telling of His works. There it is again, our purpose in Him. When we are discouraged or anxious, in times of grief and sorrow, thanksgiving becomes most important because it is in those times that we can glorify Him most, bringing Him the sacrifice of our praise and worship in the midst.

Result of Not Being Thankful. Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. NIV • I Corinthians 10:14-15 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? NIV

I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” NIV We bring glory to His name when we thank Him, when we praise Him, when we tell out His goodness to Him, when we come before His presence with Thanksgiving, and present our requests to Him. May God bless each of you and your families this Thanksgiving.

Psalm 100

A Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Looking for some great Thanksgiving literature books? Check out this post for recommendations on literature, poetry, and thankfulness journals.

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