Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5 NIV)
Thanksgiving Day, the time when anxiety levels spike due to clogged freeways, high expectations, and relational overload. And, it is the memory cataloging season to catch up with people you do not often spend enough time with–your immediate and extended families. We can easily get sidetracked with the downsides even while we attempt to be thankful for all the benefits afforded us in this life. When we do this inventory together, it makes us more capable as people to worship. There is power in gratitude. Praise takes effort, but it can change your life. What will we choose this Thanksgiving holiday?
The power of a grateful attitude is only equal to the object of our thankfulness. If I am appreciative of my material things–which I am by the way–my gratitude is a positive but perhaps a bit shallow. Having a HDTV, espresso machine, AC in inland SoCal, and a pantry stocked with more than the basics all speak of God’s blessings in my life. I need to be thankful, either in the tough times when short-selling a beautiful home or the bounty of acquiring a luxury comes my way. In fact, in both seasons praise and gratitude are choices that take effort.
My gratitude grows as I see–as the Psalmist sings–the grander benefits. Our soul sings deeply when we focus on the scope of the love and grace offered and given to us. What grander benefits? Knowing my sin is forgiven for all time is far more emotionally engaging than my espresso machine. Accepting that my Lord and God offers me healing and wholeness transcends that HDTV with thousands of channels. Yes, this is obvious. However, my material things do matter, too–simply, not as much as being pulled from a pit of darkness. It is a "both and" proposition.
Good things come! My gourmet coffee is a good thing. It can mean more because I know that it comes from above, not just because I have the ability to make a good latte each morning. My vigor comes out of reflecting on all of it–both the source and the visible little things God sends my way. My desires are fully in the right place when I grow this way. Rather than counting blessings simply on the surface, my heart sings from the core of my humanity. And, it all then goes to the surface things as well. After all, our physical bodies are not separate from our spirituality, are they?
So, the choice of gratitude may cause a bit of agony rather than simply calming the anxiety of the season. The pain of opening up our innermost selves to all that God offers is not simply a switch we turn on or off–we must work to sing praises to God at times. Thanksgiving is a discipline worth the effort. Why? Because we forget. Lord, help me not to forget!