I love the fall season. I love it for a number of reasons. Hockey season begins anew – a sport that I played year after year as a child. Football season begins. Baseball is at the height of its season. OK I am a sports nut. But I also love the fall colors. I love the moderate temperatures during the day and the cool nights. I love the food that comes with the season; apple cider, apple pie, turkey and stuffing… I also love that Christmas is right around the corner. But first there is Thanksgiving. A holiday that I have always enjoyed. Thanksgiving, a day in the fall, to reflect on the harvest, and to give thanks to God for all the things that he has given to us.
There is an event in the Bible that while not a traditional “thanksgiving story” illustrates the underlying theme of thanksgiving for us very well. In the book of Joshua of the Old Testament we are given the historical record of the Israelites as they enter into the promised land having already escaped slavery from Egypt. The story starts in chapter 3 where they are on the final stretch with nothing but the Jordan river separating them from their final destination. God intervenes at this point in a miraculous way. They are about to cross over the Jordan river, and just like when the people crossed the Red Sea coming out of Egypt, God will again part the waters as they enter into the promised land. So history records that Israel crossed the Jordan, the priests and all the people crossed over on dry ground. But then something really cool happens, something we often gloss over. Joshua is told by God to pick out 12 men, to go back into the Jordan river and pick up 12 stones and to set up a memorial there in the middle of the Jordan. Oh to travel back in time and see this.
Now, I share this bit of history for a reason. The first is simply this, what God requested back then for the people of Israel, I believe he also desires of us. God in asking the people to set up a memorial is clearly desiring for the people to always remember the blessings that He has provided. I am convinced that this same attitude is one that He desires for all of us today to have as well. I believe that God is desiring for all of us to look back on our lives and see God’s blessings with thankfulness. The second thing is that we should set up markers, memorials, monuments to God’s goodness. These aren’t idols. These are reminders. These are things that we should keep around us so that when we see them, we are pointed back to God. How easy it is to forget the good when we look around us and see a lot of bad. All the more reason though then to have these memorials. We need to catch ourselves whenever we feel that frustration building, when we have that itch to be critical. The memorials will be reminders, so we can look and see what God has done and change our perspective.
Some of us walk around frustrated, complaining, perhaps even feeling defeated. Now I don’t know everyone’s’ situation, and in fear of generalizing too much, may I simply suggest that one of the biggest problems we have is that we lack the attitude of thanksgiving. This could be problematic given Thanksgiving is coming up. But let me remind you, the cup truly is at least half full. God is feeding us. God has given us the breath of life. God has provided friends. God has provided us with families. Most of us reading this can celebrate that we have shelter over our heads. We who live here in the Wellington region have an abundance.
So in reflection, as this Thanksgiving season approaches, may I suggest that we evaluate ourselves and check for a disgruntled, or critical, or complaining spirit and work to replace that with an attitude of gratitude. Work on it for a day. Try and go a whole day without complaining, and in its place offer up thanksgiving to God. Then try for two. How about a week? When you have mastered a week try a month. To help you along the road, try to do what the Israelites were asked to do. Set up a monument to remind you of God’s goodness. Something simple. Something to remind you that every day, God is there and He is wanting to do good things for you.