One Thanksgiving, our daughter sewed several large blocks of letters which together read, “GIVE THANKS”, and then she hung them on a string over our dining room windows. We left them hanging there through the years as a reminder to always give thanks. Last month I was doing some thorough cleaning, and noticed that the letters that were depicting this vital message were very dusty, so I took them down to wash. When I asked my husband if I should put them back after they are washed, he replied that we’ve had them there long enough.
Those letters in our kitchen got very dusty, and in my own life I have let this message become dusty in a similar way. How does giving thanks become dusty? By neglecting to attend to the action and attitude of giving thanks. By bemoaning what could have been, instead of thanking God for what was, and is, and will be someday. We may have the desire to give thanks, but we must go beyond the idea and actually give thanks to God in everything.
We are to give God thanks in everything because our God is always present in our life, and He is present in our deaths. We all go through many deaths before we come to the end of our earthly sojourn and experience the physical death of our bodies. These deaths include losses of various kinds, whether it is a death of a loved one, moving away from loved ones, loss of health, loss of a significant relationship, loss of work, or any number of losses. Death is part of our humanness, and even animals and all of nature share in the experience of pain and loss. Death is part of this earth.
Jesus taught us that unless we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, we are not worthy of Him. Saint Paul exhorted his disciples that we must “die daily”. So from this we see that death is essential for true life. We are to accept the disappointments, the losses, and the pain we encounter in our many deaths, and in these times we can choose to give thanks to our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks to God in these times of darkness because we know by faith that God is with us, wanting us to keep on the path to eternal life. We give thanks because we have hope and faith in the blessed Kingdom of God, both in this life, and in the life to come. We give thanks for the loving-kindness and faithfulness of our King.
Even in our losses, God is always present with us, for He never forsakes or abandons us. As little children look up to their parents, trusting them without question, so we also, as children of God are to trust God to lead and guide us throughout our earthly journey and over to the other shore when our time arrives. We can choose to always give thanks as long as we hold onto faith in God, and the hope we are given from walking in this faith.
God has been telling me that the key is thankfulness. What key is he talking about? This is the golden key which unlocks the riches of God. What are these riches? These riches include the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, kindness, and self-control. They also include eternal life, the resurrected life without pain or sadness. As we strive to enter the narrow gate, having our minds fixed on our Lord, we can live life daily in giving thanks to our Lord and King. He is worthy of our thanks at all times!!!
Whether we live in Africa or America, or in any other place on this planet, the Kingdom of God encompasses all of humanity. God is present with each of us, and this truth will bring peace to our separations as we commit one another to God’s loving care. I discovered a prayer for our Tanzanian- Kenyan family which directs my heart to commit their lives to our Heavenly Father’s loving care.
Prayer from Anglican Prayer book: For the Absent
O God, whose Fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts of the earth: We humbly beseech Thee graciously to behold and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to Thee, may be bound together by Thy love, in the communion of Thy Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of Thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us all take heed to give thanks to God each and every day for the life He grants us.
May the peace of Christ be with you,
and our community at Christ the King Anglican Church.
I give thanks for the Diocese of Lake Victoria,
and our East African family,
including my namesake, Julie Ann, in Kenya.
I give thanks for sunrises over Torch Lake, Michigan,
And looking forward to meeting our first grandchild!