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Thanksgiving 2020

When I take things for granted, somehow they are never enough.

Yet, when I take them with gratitude, then I stand back and survey my life with awe and amazement.

GK Chesterton once said, “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

Blessings are not things we achieve for ourselves; they are gifts that come from God’s hands.

Sometimes we have to slowdown and step back so that we can re-discover the blessings we value most: our health, our unique talents, our loved ones, the breath in our lungs, the dawn of a new day.

Those are not things we earned … they are gifts from God.

Since we didn’t earn those things, all that is left is for us to recognize them and then live with gratitude.

The first couple of pages of your Bible paint a picture of what God had in mind for humanity, before our sin messed everything up.

Our blessings began with being created in the image of God and placed in the garden that supplied all our needs.

We have lost that original garden, but we are still surrounded by blessings … the big question is do we still recognize our blessings?

Some years ago, I heard a colleague tell about a man who soon after retiring started to feel lost without his job and victimized by his body slowing down.

So, he began a practice of pulling out a yellow tablet of paper every Thanksgiving, and line by line, listing all of the blessings in his life.

The first time he tried this, he was astonished that the list was so long.

Over the years, he began to experience losses in his life:

Some of his friends died.

In time, he had to sell the big family home and move into a smaller place.

He had to stop driving after dark.

His wife became frail.

He contracted cancer.

But despite those losses, every Thanksgiving his list of blessings kept growing longer and longer.

Clearly, gratitude is not about having everything we want, nor is gratitude about keeping everything we’ve had.

In time we will all give back some abilities, some relationships, some health … and eventually even give back our physical bodies.

At times, it can become a challenge to live thankfully because in every garden of life, there is something missing.

Genesis makes it clear that God’s original plan for our garden paradise did not include our having absolutely everything.

God gave Adam and Eve almost every fruit tree in the garden, but there was one they were denied.

Genesis 2:15-17 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Then, God placed that single, denied fruit tree right smack at the cross roads of where Adam and Eve had to walk every day.

That means that they were reminded daily that they were not created to have it all.

There is something missing from all of our gardens, and sometimes it feels like it is located right at the center of our lives.

For you it might be a particular type of relationship, something to do with your health, something from your past, or maybe a dream that has long eluded you.

Certainly, during this pandemic there are lots of things we are temporarily denied.

For some, that missing piece begins to define their life experience.

We can become so blinded to all the other blessings in life that we only see things that are missing.

But you remember that the Genesis narrative also says that you are created in the image of God.

That means you have the freedom and the ability to choose.

You can choose whether to go crazy by resenting what is missing, or to turn in gratitude for what God has given you.

That fundamental choice will determine how you experience all the remaining days with which God will bless you.

I’m always inspired by a poem that Melody Beattie is credited with writing:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

What will it be?

A life that is grateful for blessings even though something will always be missing, or a life lost in the insatiable yearning for more?