“Daddy, why are we just buying the things that YOU want, but we aren’t buying the things that I want?” This was a question that our three-year-old daughter, Kyra, asked recently. Five-year-old Chantaya quickly chimed in, “Yes, Daddy, why DO you always buy food, fill up our water jugs, and buy boring things like that…just the things YOU want to get, but you never buy new toys for us? We need more than just food and clothes!” It was almost amusing as they began to passionately express their injustices and shared the great burdens that were on their little hearts. I will share a bit later of the rest of the “drama” that took place….
Thanksgiving. What comes to your mind as you think of the Thanksgiving season? Is it more than a table filled with turkey, pumpkin pie, and all the other delicious foods that accompany it? You may envision spending special time with family, or just spending a quiet afternoon relaxing and sipping coffee, a latte, or eggnog. Maybe your church has a special event planned that includes feeding some of the homeless or lonely people in your community. Whatever it may be…you will probably reflect, at least briefly, on your blessings and thank God for them. Is this the “art” of thanksgiving? Is giving thanks something that you have truly mastered or is it just something that you reflect on during this season? How are you practicing the “art” of thanksgiving?
When I think of mastering the “art” of anything like music, painting, baking, etc., I realize that it is something that is acquired only after much practice. You do not master an art by doing it once a year or halfheartedly attempting to focus on it for a day. It becomes an art only after intense focus with many times of practicing–even when you don’t feel like it. Giving thanks works the same way. I have found that if I wait to give thanks until I feel thankful, I will never get the practice that I need to become “accomplished” in this “art”.
Thankfulness will open the door for us to experience more of Jesus’ presence in our lives. Thankfulness is really built on an absolute trust in God. When we trust that God does ALL things WELL, we can give thanks for everything that He allows to come our way. Why is it so hard for thankfulness to flow freely from my heart and lips, after all the blessings that God has given to me?
I believe we need to fully grasp that ALL good things (family, friends, possessions, our health, abilities, our time, etc.) are GIFTS from the hand of our Father. We have never been entitled to all of these blessings, so we need to be grateful for them, but also prepared to let go of them. Whenever we experience a loss of any kind, the best response to it is to praise God for giving it to us, if
even for a season, and then praise Him for how He is now going to fill that void.
A few weeks ago, one of our older daughters was wanting us to buy something that we felt was a legitimate need. However, after some other expenses came up, we finally concluded that we couldn’t make this purchase right now. She was feeling a bit discouraged knowing that, because of our traveling ministry, she is not able to find a part time job to save money for this item. We told her that God knew our situation and that He was much bigger than our need. We determined to thank God for how He was going to help us in meeting this need and trust Him for the timing of it as well.
Just a few hours later an almost unbelievable thing happened. We received a phone call from a friend in another state, saying his church wanted to bless our family with this item. No…that’s not quite accurate. They wanted to bless us with one that cost three times more than what we had hoped for! Totally amazing!
Just as I LOVE to see my little girls’ eyes light up when I give them something special, I totally believe that God delights in doing the same for us. He takes pleasure in showering us with special blessings. However, when we become demanding rather than grateful, I believe He withdraws some of these blessings so we learn to keep the right perspective. I realize that it is important that our girls don’t begin looking at possessions to bring them joy or happiness. I know it isn’t healthy for them to expect a new toy or piece of candy every time we go to a store, or for them to think that life is all about them. Is this maybe how God looks at us? Does He choose to not give us something that our heart longs for because He knows we would become ungrateful and take our eyes off of Him?
As our little girls began playing the self-pity game, I pointed out to them that Daddy was making sure they had what was most important. It wasn’t that he didn’t love them or didn’t want to give them new toys, but he was also making sure they didn’t have to go hungry or cold.
After I explained that we have a limited amount of money to spend and that we want to make sure they don’t need to be hungry, they came up with a solution. It was more like a bargain! They both decided that, rather than eating lunch and dinner that day, they were going to save the money we would have spent for those meals, and the next day, we would use that money to buy them a new toy. Chantaya said, “It’s okay, Mommy. I’m not hungry anyhow, and this way you can buy me something tomorrow! I only want FIVE new things…two baby dolls, a stuffed puppy, a paint set…and I will even buy the last thing for you!” (They made it until two o’clock that afternoon before deciding that they were hungry and wanted to eat instead!)
I am convinced that if our little girls wait for a gift until Christmas, they will be more grateful for it than if we bought a toy today. I will be attempting the challenge of helping them to be grateful for their used toys that they have to play with right now. However, I recognize that the biggest challenge that I face is MY personal struggle to be grateful for what I DON’T have or what I wish God
would provide for ME. When I thank God for what I DO HAVE, for HOW He will be providing, and for how He is using what I DON’T have, then I am practicing the art of thanksgiving!
Is Thanksgiving only a season that you go through, or are you following the command of Jesus, “In EVERYTHING give thanks…”? (I Thess. 5:18) Let’s get back to practicing the lost art of thanksgiving!