I have been reading the words of thanks as my friends post daily their thoughts on gratitude—an excellent exercise in the recognition of an abundant life. Family, work, friends, health, nature, sunshine, pets, food, shelter, joy, and on and on goes the list. If the practice becomes one of daily exercise, we wake every morning to the wonder that a new day brings, knowing we have much for which to be grateful. And we can name them – one by one.
I am reminded of a song that says, “Give thanks with a grateful heart” and I cannot help but wonder if the mind and heart always work together in giving thanks. We know in our minds that we can list those things for which we are thankful. We know in our minds that we have a warm bed. We know in our minds there is food in our refrigerator. We know filling our car with gas is routine. And yes, we are thankful for those seemingly simple abundances. We have been given so much and we want to express it.
But does the listing of our abundances give us a grateful heart? Which comes first—gratitude or thanks? Of course, it is gratitude which must come first. We recognize somewhere down in our soul that we are part of an amazing plan. Just look up on a starry night. Spend some time there and you will feel that you belong in some plan that is bigger than yourself. Gaze into a sunset or watch rain falling orderly outside a window and tell yourself, “I am a part of this life and I have a great benefactor who loves me. God, it is you and I feel this gratitude in my heart.”
Gratitude in our hearts is an emotion we feel when we strip away all the noisy stuff of the world that says we have to have this or that to give thanks. And gratitude can still be residing in our hearts when our world has fallen apart, when our hearts are broken. Gratitude is simply saying the first verse of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.”
Thanksgiving then, is the overflowing of our grateful hearts and then becomes this joyous, outlandish listing of blessings. The Psalmist goes on to say, “He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.” Don’t you love that? Even as wars, famines, floods, storms, diseases, and disasters surround us this Thanksgiving, God alone prepares for us a table of abundance. A table full of love and assurance that in His care, we have everything we need. And we are more than satisfied. Our hearts are full of gratitude to Him.
The sharing of our gratitude then becomes thanksgiving. We must share our gratitude, for if we don’t we are not being thankful to God or to our fellow man (and that, by the way includes spouse, parents, children, co-workers.)The writer of Hebrews calls thanks the very fruit of our lips:"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."(Hebrews 13:15)