Songs of the Season: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Every Wednesday to the end of the year we’re going to take a look at a seasonal song or hymn. With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, today we’re looking at a harvest festival hymn written in 1844 called “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.” The first verse is the one that most people recognize if they grew up or currently spend time in more traditional churches, and the one we’ll focus on today:

“Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!”

The first word reminds us to gather. That’s what the first Thanksgiving in the US was and that’s what we do with Thanksgiving today. In this day and age we’re able to do so much living from our homes: we can have just about everything sent or brought to us. But this song is a reminder of how important it is to gather together and celebrate all our blessings.

Also highlighted in this hymn is the change of seasons and why we celebrate when we do. We’re just past the end of the regular growing season for our part of the world in the US and winter is starting to show, which is a perfect time to celebrate how successful the growing season was, especially since many transition to a slower pace of life in this new season.

The final part of this verse is a focus on God. Yes, we can be thankful for other people, the things we accomplish together, and the things we individually accomplish, but even behind all of those things is God supporting everything. So much of what we celebrate on Thanksgiving, the harvest and our blessings of food, relies on the weather, something that none of us really has control over. We have some influence over the harvest, but God also plays a big roll. It’s a reminder to thank God for all that He supplies us with, and the blessing and promise of the future Jesus died and rose again so we could have.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

A Psalm of Thanks and Celebration

As we head into this week of Thanksgiving celebrations (including giving thanks for big deals and discounts from our favorite companies), I wanted to talk today about the words of Psalm 100. You may have read them recently, heard them preached on this past Sunday, or read an article about them recently, it’s a popular passage for Thanksgiving reflections. Why? Let’s take a look at it:

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

The chapter starts off where all thanks should begin, and that’s with God. Even if you don’t have much to be thankful about this year, you can be thankful for God’s presence in your life and the (good) plans He has for you. It also begins with a reminder to worship God, something we may struggle with between non-church commitments that seem to conflict with church opportunities. Then it reminds us to make time for joy, and to remember that God made us and knows who we are and what’s going on in our lives and the plans He has for us. And just as He is our God, we are His people. It’s a unique relationship that we’re so blessed to have because few relationships with someone in the position God is in (like a CEO or billionaire or other big public figure), are as close and intimate as ours can be with God.

The second half of the chapter is a reminder to celebrate and why to celebrate. Thanksgiving is a day about celebrating the life we have, the country we live in, the people we love, and all the other blessings in our lives. It’s a time to thank others and thank God for their role in our lives. As to why we celebrate? Love is one of the best reasons out there, both God’s love and the love we can have for each other. If you ask anyone who has loved and been loved, they’ll tell you that nothing compares and they would rather know love and have lost it than to never have loved. Fortunately, God isn’t planning on stopping loving us anytime soon, so for generation upon generation we’ll be able to celebrate God’s love for us.

What are you celebrating and being thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Making Time to Give Thanks

This week in my weekly devotional I shared about the story of 10 men being healed of leprosy from Luke 17, and thought I’d share an additional thought here today. In short, the story goes that Jesus is traveling and 10 lepers call out to him for help, Jesus tells them to go visit a priest, they do so and are healed, and then one comes back to thank Jesus. It’s an interesting story about men who are willing to ask for help and follow through on instructions that may not seem like they’ll do anything, as well as how touched Jesus was by someone making a point to thank Him for helping them.

Most of the stories about Jesus and His interactions with people are short. The Bible gives description so you can feel like you’re there, but it’s not the same as watching a video recording of the whole thing play by play, so while it does make complete sense as you read it, it’s certainly possible that there are some things left out. There’s no mention of if they thought He was crazy or if they questioned how walking to see the priest would help their leprosy heal, if there was anything else said between the lepers and Jesus, or if Jesus and the lepers were alone or if there were other people around. There’s also no mention after Jesus tells them what to do that they said “OK, thanks” or anything like that before they headed off to see the priest.

But the second half of the story is devoted to the interaction between one man and Jesus, and how one of the healed lepers comes back to thank Jesus and Jesus is amazed that only one made a point to find Him and thank Him. I can see why people who were previously outcasts would be very interested in moving forward finally with their lives and being able to embrace those who they hadn’t been able to be near in however long, but the story reminds us of how important those few extra minutes that it may take to thank someone can be. It’s clear that like us, Jesus liked to be appreciated for how He helped.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no mention that “OK, thanks” or anything like that was said before the lepers took off, which it should have been, but even if it wasn’t one man knew that it was better to give thanks late than to never give thanks. As we head towards Thanksgiving, I encourage you to make a point of thanking others, even if you’re a little late in doing so.

Reality Reflections: Celebrating Veterans

This month is all about being thankful, and today I’m thankful for all of the ads I’ve heard over the past few days, signs I’ve seen, notes posted online, and stories I’ve heard shared about veterans, and the companies and people who are stepping up to support them and their families. Every year it seems like more companies are recognizing that not only is it good business to share that you support veterans, it’s also good for morale within your company, your community and your country. They’re absolutely right that it’s good business and good for morale, but it’s also a reminder that companies have a choice to make about how they lead, and choosing to lead by supporting veterans is a great way to lead.

As people and customers, we too have a choice in who we do business with, who we donate to and how or if we participate in supporting the people around us that we share this world with. Everyone has a need of one kind or another, all of us have basic human needs to be met, and on top of those needs some people have needs because they’ve screwed up in life or have made bad decisions, others have needs because they’ve been dealt a bad hand in life, and others like our veterans may need help because of the sacrifices they’ve made.

So yes, today and every day I’m thankful for our veterans.  I’m also thankful that I’m able to personally support organizations that support veterans, thankful that I’m one of the businesses that supports veterans, and thankful for all the ways businesses are stepping up to not only support but also recognize and celebrate our veterans. Some veterans say that they are who they are and did/do what they did and don’t feel a need to be recognized, but everyone needs to be recognized when they do the right thing, do the brave thing, or put their lives on the line, so make sure you find a way to give back or thank a veteran this weekend.

Peace and Gratitude

Saturday is both International Peace Day and World Gratitude Day. Both gratitude and peace are topics that we talk about a lot and are so crucial to our society becoming a healthy community rather than one fraught with tension, hatred and violence. Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how you can have more peace in your life and how gratitude can positively impact your life.

Let’s start with gratitude. Why? Because having more gratitude towards life and each other can help increase the amount of peace we have and spread into the world. A simple place to start infusing your life with gratitude is to say “thank you” more often. Say ‘thank you’ when someone holds the door open for you, say ‘thank you’ when you remember where you put something, say ‘thank you’ when someone helps you with a project at work, say ‘thank you’ when you get a gift, say ‘thank you’ when someone hands you a plate at a meal, say ‘thank you’ when you wake up, say ‘thank you’ when you go outside and see a beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds, say ‘thank you’ when you get good news, say ‘thank you’ when you get done with that day’s top priorities.

Those are just a few of the opportunities each day you may have to be thankful, but with each one comes the opportunity to say out loud or just think the words ‘thank you’ to reinforce to others and your own brain the good things that have happened. Having lots of gratitude in your life doesn’t mean that things won’t go wrong or won’t be discouraging from time to time, but if we’re more focused on being grateful we won’t be the wet rag in our relationships, at our places of employment, or on social media, the person who contributes to the violence and hatred in the world.

So how do we have more peace in our lives? Start by saying ‘no’, ending relationships, and leaving situations that hurt you physically or mentally. Making separation, however big or small especially to start, from the people and situations that tend to get us into trouble, increase our stress levels and cause us hours and days of anxiety, frustration, angst and hurt will help us create more peace in our lives. You may not be able to make full separations from some of these situations now or ever, but the more separation you can make, the more you can do to remove yourself from situations you know will trigger you, the more opportunities you’ll have to put yourself into situations that will be good for your physical and mental health and leave you with a feeling of peace.

Like many other things, gratitude and peace begin with you. You can’t make anywhere near the impact on the world around you if you don’t start with your own life first. What role do gratitude and peace play in your life?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Enduring Thanks

I have trouble believing we’ve reached the end of the month. It feels like just yesterday when we started our month of being thankful. As I was thinking about what to write about today I was having trouble settling on just one thing, and it reminded me how it’s possible to be thankful every day and not feel like you’ve run out of things to be thankful for. Each day brings things to be thankful for, and they may be things you were thankful for yesterday but are thankful for again today, or it may be something you haven’t experienced in a long time or ever. There’s no shame in being thankful for things that remain and consistently bless you in your life.

Today though I’m reminded that life does continue on, that we can rebuild and recover, that love does endure, that hearts can be fixed, that sometimes there is a fairy tale ending, and it always can get better. There are men and women out there around the world who come to the rescue when we need the help, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, but always giving of themselves and their families. But even when we’re not in need of a huge sacrifice, sometimes just having someone do something a simple as holding open a door or getting an item off a high shelf can make a big difference in our day.

Life doesn’t end because of one bad day or one destructive natural disaster.  With some hope, encouragement, support and a thankful heart we can find the strength to keep going and make a better next chapter of our lives.  Living in this advanced world means that we’ve got lots of options and means to choose something better for ourselves at any time.  And with each choice, each new day, each new chapter, each new relationship, each new beginning, each new ending, each challenge, we’re given the opportunity to live and be thankful, if we so choose.

Today, and every day, I encourage you to choose the high side, the positive side, the good in life, and let that be your guide and your motivation for living.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: shared knowledge

Yesterday I was talking about all the emails I got for Giving Tuesday (which raised over $125 million for non profits). For the rest of the holiday season we’ll be getting a steady stream of emails about deals or donation opportunities. As I was thinking about this I was reminded how lucky we really are. Technology has advanced in so many ways over the past two decades, and along with that technology information has spread as well.

Now doctors in China can tap into the knowledge of doctors in Canada. Archaeologists in South Africa can reach out to cultural experts at various universities and museums around the world. Students can get a first hand look at something they’re studying live through cameras posted half way around the world. Parents can get more answers to the medical conditions their children have. Almost anyone can get an education on whatever passion, interest, hobby or skill they have. Not to mention all the information that’s just fun or cool to learn, including those cute animal videos.

I know there’s been a lot of talk this past year about the misinformation and fake news, and it’s definitely an issue. But I think the good far outweighs the bad when it comes to being able to share information. It’s also easier than ever to connect (privately) with people who have similar experiences and interests as you, and can help you heal from or navigate through challenges you’re facing.

I’m thankful for all the information we have at the touch of a few keys, as well as the ability for that information to be sent to us as we desire. Having newsletters, blog and podcast subscriptions, devotionals, inspirational messages and educational bits that get sent our way via email and social media, means that not only is that information out there, it’s coming directly to us without us having to search. This not only helps with keeping us inspired and encouraged but also with making sure we learn something new every day.

So what are you thankful you’ve learned recently?