By Danny R. Von Kanel
How will you express your gratitude this Thanksgiving? How can you take the significance of the Thanksgiving holiday beyond eating turkey and watching football?
We have much to be thankful for. To help us express our gratitude this Thanksgiving, consider the following 12 ideas designed to help us raise the level of our thanks and gratitude.
A Way of Life
Every day set an example by being thankful. Let others hear you express your gratitude often and in a variety of ways—not just on Thanksgiving Day.
Attach a note to your bathroom mirror that says, “I am thankful for . . . .” Each time you look into the mirror, complete the sentence using a different name. Then find a way to thank that person.
From the first day of November through Thanksgiving, select one Thanksgiving related Scripture a day to explore with friends and church members.
Among others, consider the following: Psalm 26:7 and 95:2, Isaiah 51:3, Amos 4:5, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, and 1 Timothy 1:12 and 4:3.
Verbal Expressions of Gratitude
Go to 12 different people during November and express your gratitude to them verbally. Make sure to include your minister and Bible study leader as two of the 12.
The affluence we know in America can cause us to grow numb to the reality of hunger in many parts of the world. Participate in a 24-hour hunger fast—and then be thankful for how God has blessed you.
Contact other churches to see how they are focused on world hunger. Adapt what they did and use it to express thanks. Pray for those who go without food every day.
Reflecting on Your Past
Write thank-you notes to people who have been a blessing to you through the years. Allow your heart to overflow as you write and mail the cards.
We’ve all been blessed by people in our past. Identify those people who have blessed you (and are still living) and find a tangible way to say thanks—a phone call, an e-mail message, or a personal visit.
I sent a teenager a thank-you card once that caused him to ask his mother to do a painting of the card. He then attached the thank-you card to the back and hung the painting in his room.
Music, Movies, and TV Programs
The Thanksgiving holiday has provided inspiration for many songs, movies, and TV programs. Choose a few albums and programs to listen to and watch during the holiday.
Check your local TV program lisitngs, rent a movie, or purchase music online to download.
If your minister preaches a Thanksgiving message, take notes. Thank your minister for the message and spend time that afternoon reflecting on his words.
Those who preach are encouraged to know their messages are touching lives. Your kind word of thanks may be just what he needs to hear. Show him how you have outlined his message. Let him know you will reflect on it more that afternoon.
Choose a family (within or outside your church) who would be encouraged by an unexpected expression of generosity. Make a gift basket and take it to them.
Think about someone who has dramatically touched your life. Try to recall what this person’s help, comfort, and kindness meant to you. Let your gift basket reflect the gratitude you feel for the person who blessed your life.
Serving the Needy
Consider volunteering in a food pantry once a month in the coming year. Volunteer to serve at a food pantry, soup kitchen, or inner-city mission on Thanksgiving Day.
Make a list of Thanksgiving worship songs and sing them in your personal quiet time. Ask God to use them to minister to your spirit.
Consider the following hymns: “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” “We Gather Together,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” “Now Thank We All Our God,” “Count Your Blessings,” “My Tribute,” and “Thank You, Lord.” Consider also including some contemporary praise songs: “Your Great Name,” “I Can Only Imagine,” “Live Like That,” “How Great Is Our God,” “Lead Me to the Cross,” “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”, and “Come to Jesus.”
Purchase Thanksgiving cards or print them from your computer. Send them to people who may not receive a card this Thanksgiving. Your list of recipients might include senior adults, shut-ins, and children or families of men and women who are incarcerated. Prisoners and their families need to know someone cares. Your Thanksgiving card needs only to say, “I care and am thinking about you on this Thanksgiving Day.”
Plan a holiday get-together and advertise your gathering as a “Thanksgiving Party.” Send invitations to those you wish to thank. Stress the importance of their coming. Make it fun and lighthearted, and don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Nothing beats tears of joy. Let those who come see your heart when you say thanks.
These suggestions can help move you in the right direction as you develop a heart of gratitude this Thanksgiving season. Taken together, these 12 ideas form a recipe for grateful living—impacting your life for years to come.
Danny Von Kanel is a freelance writer in Franklinton, Louisiana.
Thoughts on Thankfulness
“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”
—Henry Ward Beecher
“That action is not warrantable which either fears to ask the divine blessing on its performance, or having succeeded, does not come with thanksgiving to God for its success.”
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
“Begin by thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving.”
“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson