November 20 – The to, for, and in of Thanksgiving

HarvestI will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. – Psalm 9:1

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Yes, of course, Easter and Christmas are more important. But Thanksgiving is my favorite. I love the time of year, the colors and crisp air. I love the day with its food and maybe some football. But most of all, I love Thanksgiving as a time to be with family. This year Becky and I will be with the Boston branch of our family, and that means Caleb, Esther, and Gideon time – time with Lena and Ada one month later! Their parents may be around, too.

Psalm 9 is a Psalm of David, so I join with David in giving thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. When we’re back from Boston, I will not only recount his wonderful deeds, I will have photos to show.

David makes a vow of thanks to the Lord before he gives thanks for the bounty of his wonderful deeds. Modern American Thanksgiving tends to focus on the for side of the equation. We make our lists and sometimes wonder if this year’s list is longer than last year’s. We give thanks for and then head off to a Black Friday sale.

Thanksgiving for is list making; a good thing to do. My list is long. Thanksgiving to the Lord is gratitude making, calling us further into the shelter of shadow of his wings.

It is as if, though, the Apostle Paul ups the thanksgiving ante. Not only to – though always to. More than for and longest list wins. Paul adds in. In all circumstances. When the list of sorrows and fears, failures and disappointments is much longer than our thanksgiving for list, we give thanks to God.

In times such as ours we give thanks. Christians in Paris and Beirut mourning the death of loved ones give thanks in their circumstance. Christians in Burundi fearing the rising tide of violence give thanks in their circumstance. Christians in Langhorne quietly struggling through unemployment and relationships that are stretched and stressed give thanks in their circumstance.

What kind of craziness is that? It is a sane craziness that knows that the God we meet in Jesus Christ does not pluck us from our circumstances, but comes alongside us in our circumstances promising never to leave us or forsake us. With us through the valley of the shadow of death, he has promised, rod and staff at the ready, to walk beside us until we are safely through it.

I am going to make a thankful for list again this year. I know it will be long. But along with grandkids and good health, Becky and our children, the LPC family and the privilege of serving at LPC, the sights we have seen and the things we have done – along with all of that, I want to make a in all circumstances list.

I am going to pray thanks to the Lord for his presence in all circumstances. It may not be easy. Lord, thank you for your comforting, protecting, exhorting, encouraging, admonishing, strengthening, disciplining, punishing, loving presence in:

  • That relationship that always seems to get caught on snags of one kind or another
  • Those times when self-doubt feels so much larger than God-confidence
  • My struggle with little habits that bring no good
  • Situations personal and pastoral that threaten to overwhelm
  • Decisions that are hard to make and harder to know where they may lead

Lord, thank you for your presence in the circumstances of my little world – so safe a world in the midst of terror, war, disease, famine, violence, hatred all around.

Thanks to the Lord for his coming into all the circumstances of my world.

See You Sunday