Living Every Day Like Thanksgiving

     I truly love Thanksgiving. I was fortunate to grow up in a close, extended family that gathered yearly for the celebration, and we always had a huge, delicious feast to celebrate over. In its most ideal form, the holiday forms a perfect little picture of God’s ideal universe: God as a generous host preparing good things of every kind to be celebrated and enjoyed by us, his welcomed guests. An image of the world like that begins to change our perception. When we acknowledge God’s role as our generous host, and this world (broken as it may be post-sin) as a feast he has laid out before us, we start to live differently. We experience joy that comes with being given such a gift. We don’t live in fear, knowing there is no risk of scarcity. We can give freely knowing that God our host has done so and continues to do so. A posture of Thanksgiving molds us into the people that Jesus has called us to be.

     Outside of Thanksgiving Day though, what can we do to remind ourselves of this reality? Our default is not to view everything as a gift from the hand of God, so how can we train our hearts and minds to start processing the world this way?

     A practice that I have found particularly helpful is actually an extremely ancient one. Ancient followers of the God of Israel (and likely even Jesus himself) had in their repertoire a list of simple prayers that they kept fresh in their minds. The first half of the prayer went something like this: “Blessed are you, LORD our God, king of the universe, who…” The second half changed depending on what triggered the prayer. Different sights, sounds, smells, and daily happenings would determine what came next. For instance, if you were about to eat bread, you would say “Blessed are you, LORD our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth” or if you smelled a sweet-smelling flower, you might say: “… Who creates fragrant trees”. These short prayers were simple enough to memorize, and seeing as they were triggered by common events, they were frequently repeated. In doing so, followers of God would train themselves to focus their eyes on Him after almost any occurrence. It reminded them that the things they experienced were gifts from a generous host, and that they had license to live and give without fear knowing that God had already and would continue to provide for their needs.

     A lifestyle of thanksgiving does not demand elaborate prayers and difficult rituals. It doesn’t demand entire days focused on thanksgiving (though I’m certainly not complaining about a day dedicated to feasting!) It simply requires us to re-train ourselves to see sacred realities in things we usually consider mundane or “secular”. This Thanksgiving resolve with your family to try and memorize and pray some of the following prayers whenever you see an opportunity. Use every moment as an opportunity to see God, the generous host, and allow that to change the way you live and serve as a response. Below are several ones I’ve found meaningful, but you can find plenty more with some searching.

When eating fruitBlessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.
When Smelling a pleasant flower or treeBlessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates fragrant trees.
When hearing thunderBlessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Whose power and strength fill the world.
When eating new foodBlessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, through Whose word everything comes into being.
When receiving good newsBlessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who is good and does good.
When coming through a scary situationBlessed are You, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who bestows good things upon the unworthy, and has bestowed upon me every goodness.
When seeing a rainbowBlessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who remembers the covenant and who is trustworthy in his covenants and fulfills His word.
After a positive new experience/special occasionBlessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

     On our recent youth retreat, I even encouraged our students to write their own. Thanksgiving could be a wonderful time for you and your family to develop some new daily traditions. What activities happen every day that you can bless your host for?

Dan Vandzura