Thanksgiving Devotions: Thank You For This Day

Every year, my daughters’ preschool teacher pulls the children aside individually and asks an important question:

What are you thankful for?

As a mom, I’ve grown accustomed to the tradition.  The week of Thanksgiving, I can check the bulletin board outside of the classroom and see what crazy thing popped out of my child’s mouth in that one moment with her teacher.

I think I’ve only ever had one year where a daughter was thankful for me.

Mostly, they’ve been thankful for loose teeth or funny things their dad does or some toy that I never see them actually play with.  This year, my girl was thankful for her stuffed animals.

Thanksgiving tends to highlight what’s important to us, usually family and friends more than toys, but still we’re motivated to be grateful at least one month, or week, or day out of the year.

Some of us start Thanksgiving journals and gratitude lists.  Others post daily Facebook status updates of what we’re thankful for this year (or sort of “daily updates,” more like once every few days with lots of catching up).

We’re sincerely excited to acknowledge the blessing and it’s beautiful in its season.

One of the things I love about my little girl, though, is that she isn’t just thankful for stuffed animals when the teacher pulls her aside for the annual preschool Thanksgiving assignment.

Every single time she prays, she begins with, “Dear God, thank You for this day.”

Mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, prayers in June or in December, if it starts with “Dear God” and ends with “Amen,” she’s thankful for the day she’s had.  Time-outs, sadness, fights with her sisters, none of that can mar her thankful heart.

I’m reminded of Daniel, who prayed in a similar way in Babylon.  Despite exile far from his beloved Jerusalem and his family, despite political intrigue and plots against him, despite religious persecution and antisemitism, still Daniel prayed.

And he didn’t just plead and petition God for help in the midst of sorrow or stress.

He “knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10)

He prayed on his knees.  Three times a day.  Every day.  Not so everyone could see, but in a manner people could notice if they chose to look his way.

And he “gave thanks.”

That’s why King Darius knew there was hope for Daniel even after he was shut up in a darkened den of ravenous lions and locked in overnight.

The King trusted in the God “whom you serve continually” (Daniel 6:16, 6:20) and his trust was not misplaced.

Daniel’s faithful, day in and day out, no matter what the circumstances, continual determination to get down on his knees and give thanks to God was blessed in that moment.  God sent the angel to slam shut the jaws of the lions until Daniel could be lifted out of the pit unscathed.

It might seem that the miracle was the reason to give thanks, and that’s what King Darius did, issuing a proclamation of praise to the “Living God” of Daniel.

But Daniel had been giving thanks all along.

Thanksgiving is over this year.  We’ve feasted and visited family and friends.  We’ve probably thought and even shared what we’re thankful for this year.

But I don’t want to just be a once-a-year grateful girl.

I want to be thankful for this day and the next and the one after that, regardless of the circumstances or annoyances or even fears.

I want to make it a discipline and attitude and habit of mind and heart to give thanks to God, maybe three times a day, maybe 20 times a day.

I want people to refer to my God as the one “whom I serve continually,” not periodically, or seasonally, or around the holidays.

When they see the lions’ den, I want people to know my God can rescue and deliver.

Don’t you?

If that’s our true desire, then our first step is today.  When everyone else has finished the annual mantra of thanks and the turkey is reduced to leftovers and others have moved on to Christmas lists and shopping, we make a choice to be thankful.

Today we choose to pause and give praise, give specific thanks, notice God at work and drop our head for a whispered moment of gratefulness.  We choose to look past the obvious and the bothersome or scary, to see reasons to thank Him “for this day” every…single…day of the year to come.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Thanksgiving Devotions: Bitter Ingredients and Pumpkin Pie

Almost all of my favorite Thanksgiving memories aren’t really of the feast itself, even though I still say it’s my favorite holiday.  Mostly I grow nostalgic for Thanksgiving Eve and the Wednesday night family baking sessions we had as a kid.

Some of our craziest family legends involve making the traditional chocolate meringue pie the night before the big day.

There’s something deeply relational about baking, whether it’s for someone or with someone.  I find myself even now telling stories as my daughters stir and imparting generational wisdom like: why the butter and sugar get creamed together first and how you have to pack down brown sugar when you measure it out.

Hugely important life lessons like that.

And maybe I learn something, too.

The last time we crowded around the table to make pumpkin pie, my oldest asked, “Mom, what does pumpkin taste like by itself?”

She thought it would be sweet heavenly golden goodness.  After all, this daughter and I share a passion for all things pumpkin—pies, breads, cookies and cupcakes.

But I knew the dark secret about pumpkin and I tried to warn her, “You can try it if you like, but just a small taste.  It’s bitter.”

She licked a tiny bit off her finger and made the appropriate “nasty” face.

How can something so incredibly delicious in everything we bake be so horrible on its own?

I pulled out the vanilla and she bravely tasted the tiniest droplet of that also, despite the grimace over the pumpkin.

Yup, vanilla doesn’t fair any better on its own.

She even smelled each of the spices before we measured them into the bowl.  It turns out that cloves, nutmeg and ginger are more potent than sweet and more pungent than enticing.

Photo courtesy of Viktor Janacek, picjumbo

Photo courtesy of Viktor Janacek, picjumbo

The eggs were runny, sticky and gross.

The salt was…well, salty.

All in all, it was utterly mystifying when we finished stirring and I handed her the spoon to lick, which she popped into her mouth with a muffled, “Yummmmm.”

The truth about baking is the truth about life.  We have a reason to be thankful for every ingredient, even the ones that seem too bitter or salty or potent to turn into anything mouth-watering and delicious.

As Christians, most of us have not only heard Romans 8:28 a million times, we’ve probably quoted it a few thousand times ourselves:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28 NKJV).

You may have even just skimmed through that verse just now because you’ve heard it so often and know it so well.

And yet, we tend to emphasize the “for good” part of this verse, which means we could be expecting instant pumpkin pie when life hands us a can of Libby’s pumpkin.

That job you lost, how can that be for good?

That time of sadness, that mourning, that separation and grief, the broken relationship and the conflict…..tastes so bitter.  It doesn’t seem possible for any of it to be “for good.”

Philosophically, we know the deal.  We’ve heard the sermons.  Maybe one day we’ll see how God turned these times of sadness and stress into blessing.  Maybe it won’t be until heaven, but at least then we’ll be able to see the good that came from the ugly.

It’s a long, hard lesson, realizing that “for good” doesn’t necessarily mean “right now” or “without pain.”

But it’s true, of course.  There are eternal perspectives and long-term visions that we just can’t see from our limited, finite looking glass on circumstances so up-close and personal.

There’s something about this verse that we often overlook, though.  God isn’t just working “for good,” He’s doing it so that “all things work together.” The good comes from the mixing of ingredients, the pooling together of the circumstances into one beautiful wholeness—His plan and will for Your life.

Rick Warren says it this way:

“The events in your life work together in God’s plan.  They are not isolated acts, but interdependent parts of the process to make you like Christ….If you will give God all your distasteful, unpleasant experiences, he will blend them together for good” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 195).

I’ve had Thanksgivings where gratitude came easy, practically gushing out of me in response to blessing.

And there were years where thankfulness was a discipline of the soul, a determined trusting in God, a sacrifice of praise.

Regardless of whether this year is easy or harder for you, remember that the pumpkin, the eggs, the salt, the vanilla, the spices aren’t delicious on their own.  But trust–and give thanks–that God will bring everything together and it will be sweet and for your blessing and beyond what you could imagine.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: A Messy Unraveling and a Thanksgiving Verse

We had made a mess.

So far, my daughter’s work at sewing class had impressed me.  She was getting into the groove of things: set the needle, angle the cloth, put down the foot, press the pedal, sew forward, backward and forward again, always guiding the material with her hands without getting her fingers sewn.

That’s a lot for me to remember, much less my six-year-old!

She was proud of her work and I was proud of her concentration and focus.  We’re learning, though, mostly together.  I’m probably not much more expert than she is.  So mistakes are inevitable.

During one of our rows of stitching, she slammed her foot down on the pedal like she was racing in Nascar without setting the needle and without clamping down the material.

We didn’t realize the extent of the disaster at first.  I just stopped her and we started the row over, correctly this time.  But when we lifted the finished row of material off the machine and flipped it over we saw a tangled, unraveling mess of string and knots where a row of straight and even stitches could be.

Sometimes mistakes and mess are like that, hidden underneath the surface.  We look like we have it all together and are happy and whole.

But we’re really unraveling.

And we can only hold it together so long before it all comes apart.

This Thanksgiving week, I’m thankful for mentors and teachers who can teach you how to get it right and what to do when you get it wrong.

But I’m also thankful for grace and fresh starts, for the fact that sometimes God lets us rip out the stitches, reset the material and start again.

I’m thankful that He never leaves us in an unraveling mess.  He’s always stitching us back together, with care and attention.

Our God is full of faithfulness, abundant in mercy and worthy of our praise, and our verse to meditate on all this Thanksgiving week is a reminder of that.

Psalm 100: A Psalm of Thanksgiving

 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King