A mere spark ignites a great fire. Forest fires ignite from dying campfire ash. Small actions, thoughts, and words hold the power to foster healing, inflict pain, summon joy, and much more. Often a person’s faith and character are not tested by the greatest trials in life, rather the small daily battles.
For better or worse–Life happens in the details.
Thanksgiving began as a three day festival where the Pilgrims celebrated their autumn harvest, alliance with the Wampanoag, and–after a brutal winter–their survival. This shared celebration later became a national holiday. Our heritage calls us to celebrate, to give thanks, and to remember some of our country’s earliest settlers.
Like a sparked forest fire, life often leaves destruction in its wake, tempting us toward despair, not thankfulness. But when we take the small things–the gifts, the blessings, along with the indestructible truth of God’s love and kingdom, we find the beauty in the ashes–the new life bursting through more lush and abundant than before.
More often, daily battles grind our souls into weariness. The small things. We brace ourselves for the worst case scenarios but we are tripped up by the minor annoyances. Could it be that we are not living lives of true thankfulness, joy, and peace? We relegate these emotions to special holidays, and simply white knuckle it through the rest of life. I certainly hope this is not the case for you. It is no way to live abundantly.
I’ve struggled with what thanksgiving looks like in daily life. I know the act of giving thanks holds great power. It is strongly connected to the ideas of grace and joy. When I eventually learned more about this interconnected mystery and its power in One Thousand Gifts (affiliate link), my perspective in life changed. Now I see it all over the Bible, all over Jesus’ life, all around me: The power of living a life of thanksgiving.
How can we become people of thanksgiving?
Praise–Taking time to praise God. To keep in the forefront of our minds that God is the source of all good things and worthy of our praise. Whether this manifests itself in singing songs or simply sharing a way God has blessed your life with someone else, there is a realigning that happens in our hearts when we praise God and give Him glory. Even more so during the storms of life.
Observe–We rush past many gifts in life. Slow down and take time to notice. As Ann Voskamp did in One Thousand Gifts, take time to list at least three gifts a day. These are simple, beautiful, everyday moment gifts: a fat grey squirrel pawing away in your backyard, the warm sun on your skin, the laughter of children drifting in from an open window. When you open your eyes to beauty, your perspective and world change.
Give–Be a blessing. Take time to bring joy to someone else. By doing this, you reestablish your priorities, your time, and your heart to God. Slip a sweet note in your spouse’s lunch. Invite the older lady next door over for ice cream sundaes. Deliver cookies or other goodies to your local police or firefighters. Write someone a thank you note. Endless ideas await you.
Live it everyday–It is easy to give thanks when good things happen. You can’t help but feel happy when the warm spring sun breaks through. But what about when dark, rainy, dreary days stretch on and on? What about when everything feels like it is falling apart? What about when grief strikes? Thanksgiving is still possible. We see this when Jesus offers thanks shortly before he is arrested and killed, all the while knowing it was coming. We see it when Paul, a man often imprisoned for what he preached, wrote “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Personally, I am learning this lesson–and often relearning it–daily. Worries press in, fear arises, and anxiety seeks to control my thoughts, words, and actions. But this year, Mitch and I are striving to see with clearer eyes the truth of God.
As we seek to do this every day, God reminds me again and again of Philippians 4:4-13:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
These ten verses hold incredible truth about what it looks like believe IN God, not just about him. May we truly realize that nothing in this world or life that can steal our peace and joy unless we let it. And there is nothing in this life that can ever separate us from the love of God.
When we internalize this truth, everything changes: beauty is more evident, peace more tangible, and our lives–ultimately indestructible.