PASTOR COLUMN: Look around! There are so many reasons to be thankful

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Ahhhh ... mornings have the cold snap of fall, frost is on the ground, the leaves are beautiful in yellow, orange and red ... and I am thankful.

Days are hectic with appointments, phone calls, paperwork and people ... and I am thankful. The house needs cleaning, groceries must be bought and the laundry needs attention ... and yes, I am thankful. Calls for prayer, hospital visits, births and weddings and answered prayers ... and I am most definitely thankful.

Thankfulness is our choice, regardless of where we are or what our circumstances, health or finances. When we choose to see life as an endless opportunity to be thankful, it will change us and others ... for the good! It's important for our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving. Without it, there is something inside us that dies a little each day.

Fortunately, the areas of our lives that seem to be on life-support are easily revived with a grateful heart and perspective. "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." II Corinthians 9:11.

When I was 7, I remember waking and noticing how bright it was outside my window. My room felt chillier than usual. When I hopped out of bed to pull back the curtain, the most beautiful blanket of brilliant white snow greeted me. I let out a shout.

The first good snow of the season was exciting!

I was so excited at being able to stay home and play and thanked God for the winter wonderland.

Money was scarce, so we didn't have snow boots or nice warm winter jackets. We did get extra pairs of socks and sweaters and we still had our knit hats and scarves from the previous winter. My mother had to think about how to keep us dry and warm as we clamored to get outside. She must have been thinking about that as she fixed us hot cocoa and toast. At last she said, "After you finish your cocoa, I want you to go put on all your pairs of socks, two pair of pants and your sweaters, then come back to the kitchen before you go outside."

We hurried to obey. When we raced back to the kitchen, Mom had large green garbage bags and Wonder Bread wrappers, solid white, with different colored circles.

Mom said, "You are going on a special adventure outside today and no other children will have the same outfits to go play in the snow! You have permission to play as long as you would like outside and don't worry if your clothes get wet! When you get too cold, just come in and we'll dry and warm your clothes by the woodstove and you can go right back out!"

My little brother and I looked at each other as if we'd won a million dollars! Our mother had exuberantly turned the green garbage bags with cutouts for our heads and arms into special "snow shields" for our bodies and the Wonder Bread wrappers into snow boots! We used strips of cloth for belts and rubber bands to hold up our "boots."

I had an epiphany as I plunged my foot through the upper crust of the snow, hearing it crack as it gave way to the drift below. I remember what it felt like against my foot and what a Wonder Bread wrapper looked like gathered by the rubber band just at my knee. And I was thankful, with all of my being, at that exact moment. Life was good. Life was more fun than I could ever imagine! I felt sorry for the kids who didn't get to have "snow boots" like mine.

"In that wonderful day you will sing: "Thank the LORD! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! Sing to the LORD, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world." Isaiah 12:4-5.

Each day, all day long there are countless things to be thankful for. The trick is to be mindful of them. One way is to say "Thank You" aloud to whomever thanks is due.

When we speak, our minds have to stop thinking and listen to what we're saying. For good or for ill.

When we choose a thankful approach to life, it changes us. Even when things are difficult.

Being thankful doesn't mean we won't have challenges, but it does govern how we respond to them, and to those around us. How we respond is really the issue. Without a thankful, humble heart, we can become proud and arrogant when the blessings start to pour in, "Well, I really deserve this ... and so much more ...."

Pride and arrogance stink, but we can't usually smell it when we're giving off that odor.

How about when times are tough? A humble, thankful heart that looks for things to be grateful for in the midst of chaos will always have sweet, inviting fragrance. Such a person exudes the grace and peace of Christ regardless of events.

The key to a life filled with joy and "the peace that passes understanding" lies in understanding there is always something to be thankful for - we just have to dig to find it.

"All of this is for your benefit. And as God's grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory." II Corinthians 4:15.

The most precious thing to be thankful for is found in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

He brings hope to the hopeless, joy to the mourning, dreams to the devastated. His mercies are new every morning.

He has a destiny and plan for each of us so far beyond anything we can comprehend ... and I am more thankful than words can express. Not just for myself, but also for you.

I look forward to those calls about answered prayers, conversations at Walmart about how life is going … I am thankful for you. I am thankful for the times we stand together and say, "Yay God!! Way to go! Thank you, God for coming through again and again…" Those shared times of thankfulness are precious gifts to enjoy.

"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts." Psalm 145:1-4

To this day if I walk by a loaf of Wonder Bread in a grocery store, I smile and get and a mental image of my brother and me. Joy and thankfulness well up inside me, and sometimes I just have to laugh out loud, delighted by the goodness of God.

"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20

Happy Thanksgiving! I pray you will have a holiday season and life filled to overflowing with thankfulness and blessings. Allow God to touch your heart as you remember that you are loved and thanksgiving is not just an event, it's a way of life.

The Rev. Mikki Jones copastors Grace Christian Center with her husband, the Rev. Dave Jones Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write should call Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312 or email her at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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