Last week our college Lifegroups hosted Thanksgiving parties – hundreds of students gathered in houses and apartments to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and everything in between! These parties are a great way to invite friends into community and also begin preparing our own hearts (and stomachs) for the Thanksgiving holiday.
But, we also acknowledge that as great as these parties are, most of our students are looking forward to a Thanksgiving at home. Even for me, though no longer a student, there’s something about going to my hometown, being in my parents’ house and taking in all the familiar sights and scents. During this season we are expected to reflect on all we have to be thankful for and intentionally express gratitude at a new level.
Sometimes that can feel difficult.
BUT I’M MORE CONVINCED THAN EVER THAT THANKSGIVING IS A LIFESTYLE, NOT MERELY A HOLIDAY.
I wanted to give you a few practical challenges you can try out while you’re home for Thanksgiving. My hope is that thankfulness will eventually become the natural overflow of our hearts no matter the season.
- Begin every prayer with “Thank you, God..” // Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving…” If you start your conversation with God every day by expressing your thanks, you’re paving your own road into His presence…brick by brick, you’re entering in. Before you begin asking Him anything else, take several moments to really think about who God has been, is and will be for you, and the amazing things He has done, is doing and will do for you. Then, tell Him “Thank you!”
- Make a list and pick out the highlights // For a set amount of time (10-30 minutes), sit down with a pen and paper and write out anything and everything you’re thankful for. Engage things in your heart and mind that you typically take for granted – ask the Holy Spirit to help bring things to mind. After you’ve made your list, go through and circle the ones that stick out to you most, or seem most significant or special. For those items that you circled, pinpoint a person you can thank (If it’s your car, who helped you buy it? If it’s that vacation you took last month, who was with you or helped pay for it? If it’s for your education, who worked hard to provide while you were in school?) Then, either tell that person face-to-face or write them a note expressing your thankfulness – this doesn’t have to be a long, risky conversation, but rather a simple acknowledgement.
- Do something that says, “thank you” // Don’t just let thanksgiving come out of your mouth, but also out of your actions. Help clean up the kitchen after a meal. Offer to take the kids to the park. Be a good steward. Give up the best seat in the house for movie night. Pick up some flowers to take home with you. Give hugs. Our generation can kick entitlement out of the house, if we’ll step up our game and actually express thanksgiving with our actions out of love, not just with our mouths out of obligation to a holiday.
I pray that this Thanksgiving is restful, refreshing and fun for you and your family. I pray that we all walk in greater revelation of all that we have to be thankful for, and greater obedience to express that thankfulness to God and to those around us. Let’s let the thanks keep rolling straight through every season.
By Meredith Gordon – College Ministry Staff