How thankful I am that Thanksgiving is a national holiday. For those of us who follow Jesus, however, thanksgiving is so much more . . . thanksgiving is a way of life, even our lifeline. Giving thanks is our pass into the presence of God (Psalm 95:2). When we express our gratitude to God, we also honor Him (Psalm 50:23) and extol Him (Psalm 69:31). Thanksgiving is even equated with a pleasing sacrifice (Psalm 50:14). Giving thanks to God is also the means of proclaiming His great deeds (Psalm 105:1, 107:22) and giving Him the credit for the good things we enjoy in this life. It can be quite challenging to express gratitude when life is especially difficult, yet we are actually commanded to give thanks always. The apostle Paul made it clear that doing so is not optional. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I can remember being angry and a bit indignant about this command. I am to be thankful about being falsely accused, mocked and denigrated, misunderstood, mistreated, and rejected for Jesus? I grasp that some painful processes are necessary for our growth. THE VINEDRESSER prunes our branches for more fruitfulness (John 15)—jobs are lost, relationships end, or perhaps we move. THE POTTER repairs our marred places—I sometimes imagine life’s pressures as His hands molding and reshaping my character (Jeremiah 20). THE REFINER’S FIRE—I equate with persecution or the awful intensity of being evaluated, like defending one’s thesis (Malachi 3:2). Each of these comparisons equate pain, grief and hardship with growth. I can look back on my life and see repeatedly how God has worked such difficulties together for good (Romans 8:28), but why would He command us to be thankful in the midst of them?

Some time ago, I was prompted to begin my daily journal entry with a thank you. Reviewing each day’s events and interactions looking for reasons to thank God became an eye-opening and rewarding process. It has greatly improved my attitude and increased my awareness of God’s participation in my life. Identifying the focus of my thank you’s has become a habit that grows my hope and builds my faith. I am much more aware of how protected I am by God’s Angel Armies and how timely are some conversations or texts. I am becoming quicker to observe and rejoice in the beauty around me as well as the kindnesses and friendship extended to me. It does not mean that everything is going well or all problems have been resolved.  I still live in a fallen world filled with enemy activity among some oblivious sinners. Nevertheless, I am increasingly conscious of God’s presence and His activities among us. I am quite sure that this habit of collecting reasons to thank God is more beneficial to me than it is honoring to Adonai! No wonder it is a command to give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness keeps us connected to God, our lifeline. Seeing what He is doing today enables us to rejoice on credit for tomorrow!

To celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this year, I’ve made a list of 24 reasons I’ve found to thank God—using each letter of the alphabet as a prompt. I offer it to you, our Heritage of Hope alumni, in appreciation of your ongoing support. May we each grow in hope as we give thanks to our God who is indeed most worthy.

A to Z: REASONS I GIVE THANKS TO GOD

ACCESS TO ABBA—the audaciousness of my prayer life sometimes reminds me of little John-John under JFK’s desk in the Oval Office. My Father also has an important job, but I am his kiddo and welcome. Thank you, Abba! A BABY’S BELLY LAUGH—is so infectious, I must laugh with them. Thanks for laughter. COMPLETION OF A PROJECT—gives me much, much satisfaction. Solomon nailed it. The end of something is better than its beginning . . . Ecclesiastes 7:8 Hallelujah for every finished project! DEPENDABLE FOLKS—who do what they say they will do. How can we not shout thank you when God puts such a friend on our team? There are several such folks in my life, and I am very thankful. ENERGY—We all know tired, but what a joy it is to be energized and excited to do something. I appreciate such energy enough to go to the gym to keep it coming. FELLOWSHIP—this warm connection is often shared with friends, but what an amazing gift when experienced with strangers who also know Jesus. Thank you, Lord. GOODNESS AND MERCY— DO follow hard after me every day (Psalm 23:6). Since I started looking for my thank you’s, I am much more aware of how the Shepherd cares for me.

HANDWRITTEN NOTES—personal mail! Over the years, I have filled a very large basket with such notes from dear friends. I am saving it for a bout of depression that will be short-lived, I am sure. Thank you, God, for every note and every friend. INTIMACY with God—I rejoice greatly every time God speaks to me in words or brings Scripture to mind. It almost seems more intimate, however, when He gives me ideas or hints of them. Today, it was a startling analogy—comparing my walk with Him to surfing?! He was encouraging me to catch and ride the waves of his Holy Spirit instead of wearing myself out in my own power. It was an odd quiet time with me watching a U Tube surfing video—in  November!! Thanks, God, for stretching me in new directions. JESUS REVEALED—from Genesis to Revelation—makes hopeful and meaningful sense of this life. Thank you, God, for my Bible. KINDNESSES—especially unexpected ones. “The car in front of you already paid for your order.” Woohoo! LEARNING—that ushers in new perspective or an aha moment. I look forward to an eternity of investigating and discovering the wonders of creation, your people, and Yourself. Thank you.

MEMORIES SHARED WITH FRIENDS—who know from whence we come and love us anyway! When and where our connection was made doesn’t matter. Having a common reference point seems anchoring as the culture changes as well as our roles in it. Comparing life stories and new perspectives with folks who’ve shared part of ours is so validating and encouraging. Thank you, Lord. NO—The power and privilege of saying no saves me much pain and conflict. I can say no to dessert, no to gossip, no to damaging attitudes and relationships, or no to the blame game. Thank you, Father, for the gift of choice. OPPORTUNITIES TO BLESS—with something as simple as a smile, a nod, or stopping for a pedestrian. Help me see these opportunities, please. PRAYER PARTNERS—those faithful friends who say they will pray and then do so. I had one ask me in church this morning if I had reached a decision about a certain matter. How faithful!  Thank you, God, for those who will pray with and for us. QUESTIONS ANSWERED—it is so satisfying to obtain needed information and solve the problem. Thank you for leading me, Lord. RECOGNIZING—someone I know and love in a crowd unexpectedly. Driving to pick up Dan at the completion of a Cycle Oregon, I was waiting at a red light while a seemingly endless stream of cyclists rode across in front of me. Admiring all these folks who had completed approximately 500 miles in a week of riding, I suddenly recognized my husband’s strong legs going by in that mass of riders. Thank you, God, for this delightful moment in our marriage.

STORY—how I love to hear or read a good, compelling story with interesting characters. I am rich with many books to read and a library at my disposal. I am even more thankful to be making new friends these last few years and discovering their back stories. They tell me stories of adventure, love, tremendous challenges overcome or endured, sorrows, new discoveries, and both wisdom and humor pour forth in the telling. My cup runneth over on this one. TRUTH COMING FORTH—after puzzling over a blind spot in my life is a good if painful thing. Conviction usually hurts, but 1 John 1:9 declares confession to be the way to forgiveness and righteousness. Thank you, Jesus, for making a way for me to you. Amen. UNDERSTANDING— is a glorious gift whether given or received. When I worked as a counselor, it was a very special moment when I heard and responded in such a way that my client felt understood. Whatever their burden, it was in the moment of being heard that it began to be lifted. I see this repeated in everyday conversations. It may be just a nod, a smile, or eye contact that says, “Yep, I get that. I’ve been there. I experienced that too.” To be heard and understood is such a blessing. Open my ears and heart, Lord, every day.

VISTAS AND VIEWS—of God’s creation where the scope prompts awe. The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, or the full moon on a clear night humble me. Thank you God for beauty. WATER tumbling over rocks makes a delightfully soothing sound that refreshes my soul. I thank you Lord, for placing us so close to the Lewis River that I hear this sound at least weekly. XO’s—at the end of a letter or note meaning hugs and kisses! Thank you for affection warmly extended. YOU—OUR HERITAGE OF HOPE SUPPORTERS. Thank you for sharing your stories with us, for spreading the word about of Heritage of Hope, and for your generous donations.  Because of your support our ministry reach is expanding, yet we are able to keep the HOH Workbook and DVD series affordable. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ all night long—Thank you, Father, for rest and a multitude of reasons to give thanks. You do indeed pour out your blessings like rain. Please enable us to recognize them.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name (Psalm 100:4).