The Power of Thanksgiving
Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year: Thanksgiving. On this day, we get to pause, reflect and recognize the things in our lives that are worth rejoicing. If you are like me, I tend to focus my eyes in the future on what we are building, how we are improving and growing. These are great things and have served me well over the years. It is this yearning for more, for improvement, and vision that has helped me accomplish the things that I have. Thanksgiving is a different kind of day. In addition to some wonderful time with family, fantastic food, and great football, Thanksgiving is a reminder of the power of gratitude.
“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” ~ John Milton
We could all use a bit of thanksgiving, and not just on a Thursday in November. As church leaders, gratitude has the ability to impact our communities and create a contagious culture. Below are a few brief thoughts on thanksgiving:
It eliminates entitlement: There are few things that are more unattractive than a feeling of entitlement. This cancer can creep into our lives and churches leaving the root of bitterness and victimization. Taking the time to reflect on the things that we are thankful for helps to prevent this attitude. Thankfulness is a realization that things could have gone another way and we are grateful for the things that have brought us to where we are today. The true posture of gratitude gives thanks, not just for the easy or positive things in our lives. Gratitude is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal to fight our tendency towards self-centeredness.
It celebrates the journey: None of us became who we are on our own. Each of us is a mixture of our influences, gifts, experiences, and history. The story our lives tell is the theme that is created with the small decisions we make every day. Giving thanks forces us to take the time to look backward and reflect on where we have been and how far we have traveled. Life can be a lot like driving a car. We need to keep our eyes on the road ahead of us, but we have a rearview mirror for a reason. If we don’t use look back from time to time we are likely to need some repairs in the future.
It creates a culture of hope: Gratitude isn’t just good for us, it is good for everyone around us. Practicing gratitude helps others pick up the habit. If we do this enough, we can begin to create a culture that is more recognized by hope than by fear, offense, and protection. Gratitude makes us open to life. As people of God, we have more reason for hope than anyone, but often we are more recognized by our fear than our confidence.
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. Chesterton
It’s more than rose-colored glasses: Gratitude isn’t about ignoring the hard things in life and just staying positive. To do that you would have to reject genuine circumstances that are often difficult and painful. Some of the most authentic expressions of gratitude are rooted in difficulty. Reflecting on the impact a loved one made on your life after they have passed, expressing the perspective that is gained overcoming cancer, and finding the good in someone that has wounded you are all forms of gratitude.
It’s good for our souls: Thankfulness isn’t something that comes naturally for most of us. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that I am drawn to the Psalms. Reading through the Psalms, we see a relentless celebration of the beauty, power and blessings of God and his creation. It is good for me to reflect on the good and perfect gifts that we all too often take for granted.
You may be wondering why a technology company is sharing their views on a subject like this. While many of our partners and others think of us as a technology company, the core of what we do is based on a belief that the Church is God’s hope for a troubled world. If the tools we build help churches deepen engagement and grow their impact in some small way because of what we do, we are thankful. It is a privilege to serve and work alongside such amazing partners.
That is what we are most thankful for this year.
How are you creating a culture of thanksgiving in your community?