Giving Thanks versus Being Thankful

Norman Rockwell’s “Give Thanks”

This time of year, we spend a lot of time preparing for Thanksgiving. The planning of family gatherings, elaborate meals, annual football games and the celebrations of friends and traditions make this my most favorite time of year. The messages from pulpits and even in the television shows we watch all focus on the very message we ought not to forget:  give thanks. Unfortunately, many of those messages seem a little misguided.

Giving thanks isn’t an edict we must obey. It isn’t something we are obligated to do. God isn’t some big taskmaster standing firmly in the sky, looking down on us saying, “There, now, think about all the blessings you have and all those who have nothing. Give thanks.” That’s really no different than forcing our children to say please and thank you in some outward display of manners as a toll/reward for the behavior we want.

Living a life of gratitude, of being truly thankful for what we have – right now – is the true essence of Thanksgiving. God isn’t the stern parent asking us to say we are thankful like we command our children to learn their manners; I believe he is after seeking our obedience. He is asking us to be joyful and content with where we are in life today and for the circumstances we find ourselves in. For when, in all things, we can truly give thanks, we have achieved the true spirit of gratitude and being thankful.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.
–Melody Beattie

Outrageous living comes from a place of gratitude, acceptance and joy. It is being thankful that today, we are exactly where we are supposed to be and doing everything in our power to live fully, show kindness, lead others and give back. It is wholeheartedly embracing that as our purpose.

It is being content that tomorrow will bring tomorrow’s opportunities; today is about using this time – in this place – to live the outrageous life that is ours, make a difference and be ready for what comes next, with gratitude.

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