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Thanksgiving: A State of Mind – An Expression of Faith


How do you celebrate Thanksgiving Day? Do you intentionally make the giving of thanks a part of your Thanksgiving observance? Or do you, as many other Americans, simply enjoy the meal with family or friends, oblivious to God’s many blessings in your life? If you are thankful, do you express your thanks outwardly?

Thanksgiving is not just something you do, it is also a state of mind, and an expression of faith that recognizes the benevolent unseen Being who is responsible for all good gifts that come our way.

As a child I felt there was something different between the Thanksgiving meal and other dinners, even though it was not the habit at our house to say a prayer of thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day;  in fact there were not many prayers said for any reason at our house. When I became a Christian as a young teenager, I asked if we could say a a prayer before the Thanksgiving meal, and my father permitted me to offer a prayer of thanks. My parents were not unthankful, but they didn’t express gratitude in prayer. We were not taught that what we had came from God’s hands, though He got credit for the rain when we needed it for our garden.

Now, as an adult, with my husband and family, and others with whom we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we make it a point to share at least one thing we are thankful for as we sit at the dinner table.

In these days of economic downturn, compounded with a slow recovery from the loss of jobs over the past several years, and the ever-increasing government debt, an attitude of  gratitude does not come easy; it has to be cultivated.

Here are some “gratitude starters” to help you develop a thankful heart:

  • a roof over your head
  • food to eat
  • clothes on your back
  • friends (come on, you must have at least one)
  • family
  • your job (your present job or one that’s coming in the near future because you are trusting God for it)
  • freedom of speech (while we still have it),
  • a free country that, in spite of its shortcomings, is still a place where foreigners are clamoring to get into
  • a sunrise or sunset,
  • trees and flowers,
  • snow, rain and early morning dew
  • the ability to walk unassisted
  • the ability to read
  • the senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing and sight
  • art and music
  • hundreds of other things

A Christian’s faith in a loving God is best expressed in the ability to see beyond present circumstances, as bad as they might be, and find things for which to be thankful. There are many blessings that appear to the person with a thankful heart.

There are numerous examples in Scripture of the offering of thanks, beginning with our Lord Jesus, who gave thanks to the Father every time He broke bread with the disciples and the throngs of people whom He fed with a few loaves of bread and a few fish (Matt. 14:17-21).  In the Gospel of John, Jesus thanks the Father for hearing his prayers:

 “ . . .  Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” John 11:41-42

The apostle Paul frequently referred to giving thanks: he gave thanks for people (Phil. 1:3), for the faith of converts (Rom. 1:8), for obedience of believers (Rom. 6:17), for spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:18), for victory over sin (1 Cor. 15:57), for answered prayers (2 Cor. 1:11), for people who cared for others (2 Cor. 8:15), for the gift of grace provided through Christ (2 Cor. 9:15), for financial support of the ministry (2 Cor. 9:12), for believers (Eph. 1:16), for pleasant memories of people (Phil. 1:3), for joy (1 Thess. 3:9), for strength and being chosen for service for God (1 Tim. 1:12), for everything (Eph. 5:20).

When should we give thanks and for what?

Eph. 5:15-16,19-20 “ Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  . . .  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Phil. 4:5b-7 “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It’s when we begin to express thanksgiving to God for everything and in the midst of everything, that our faith comes out and takes a bow and the peace of God settles around us like a warm blanket. Darkness is driven away and the glow of the Spirit shines in our inner being. This is true spiritual life – the life that Christ came to give us.

Col. 2:6-7  ”So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

What more examples do we need of thankful living in the midst of difficult circumstances, than the examples of the Apostle Paul and our Lord Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Paul received death threats and had to be sneaked out of a city for his safety; suffered shipwreck while being transported as a prisoner; was snake-bitten and beaten with a whip on several occasions; went hungry; was imprisoned and finally killed. But in the midst of it all, he gave thanks to God.

Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, suffered persecution, criticism, verbal and physical abuse, lies about his character, rejection, misunderstanding (even from his closest followers), beatings, chains, an unfair trial, and death on the cross. But His life was a continual picture of trust in and thanks to His Father.

Why were our Savior and His followers, like Paul, able to endure hardships and constant crisis in their lives and still be at peace and full of joy? I believe it was because of their thankful hearts that came from their constant communion with God, punctuated with prayers of thankfulness, based on what they knew of the heart of our heavenly Father. They lived within the sound of His heartbeat.

May you develop a life of daily thanks to God for His gift of life through Jesus, and His continual provisions for you out of His heart of love. May hearing His heartbeat cause your heart to resonate with gratitude for every blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

©2013, Marcy Alves


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Pastor Appreciation: Saying “Thanks”


When is the last time you said, “Thank you” to your pastor or priest? Or have you ever done it? October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”. It’s a time to say, “Thank you for your service,” as we stop to think about the pivotal role of “pastor” in the life and health of the local church body. This is a national awareness month, a time when we honor those men and women whose vocational ministry and spiritual calling is to nourish, instruct, and shepherd the sheep in their appointed area of God’s spiritual pasture.

These are men and women who have been called by God and have responded to that call by committing their lives to training disciples of Jesus and equipping their congregants to do the work of the ministry in their individual areas of gifting.

This is no easy task.

There are many sheep whose inclination is to wander off from the flock and become prey for predators, to be obstinate and un-teachable, to butt and bite the other sheep, to become “cast down” so that they can’t get up without help, or to become sickly from eating the wrong food.

My husband, David (who is a pastor) and I have been watching ABC’s documentary on the tape recordings of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States. On those forty+ year-old recordings she spoke of the terrible loneliness her husband experienced as he tackled the affairs of State, his sleepless nights, his doubts and fears over decisions he had made, and the tears he shed over the failure and loss of life resulting from such decisions gone bad, such as at the Bay of Pigs.

My heart is drawn to Mrs. Kennedy in her obvious compassion for her husband.  I identify with her sense of the weight of the burdens he bore, and with her desire to ease his distress. Although the responsibilities of the pastor do not compare with the weighty decisions of the President of the USA and their possible consequences of national importance, like the President, that’s where the buck stops if something goes wrong. And though the pastor is not involved in international wars, the spiritual impact of a pastor can have eternal results in the battle for good over evil.

Anyone who has not been a pastor cannot imagine the stresses and energy drain of pastoral ministry and the on-going spiritual warfare that is part of such ministry. Pastoral ministry can be an extremely lonely existence for the pastor, and for his wife and family.

I have watched my husband (my pastor) agonize in prayer over the course our church body should take and when things didn’t work out, to wonder about his ability to hear God. I’ve seen him flounder under undeserved criticism and misunderstsanding, fight against feelings of rejection or failure when families have left for greener pastures, wonder if he’s in the right place and if he should leave the pastoral ministry, puzzle over the lack of comprehension when he’s preached and taught what he believes is the heart of the Father – with sometimes little visible results. I’ve seen his struggle to accept a phone call when he’s already exhausted.

No one in his right mind who knew ahead of time about the temporal and spiritual challenges of pastoral ministry would choose such a vocation. Most of us who have been personally involved for any extended length of time (say, more than a year?) can no longer be casual or callused about the struggles inherent in pastoral ministry.

I have been a pastor’s wife for 20+ years now. Four of those years we were in local church youth/family pastoral ministry while also in part-time itinerant ministry. We also spent about 10 years in strictly itinerant ministry. Neither the years of youth-pastor ministry, nor the years of itinerancy,  during which we ministered to many pastoral couples, prepared us for the role of full-time local pastoral ministry.

We blush a bit now at the presumptions of some of our early “Come Away” ministries – four-day weeks of small group outreach to pastors and their spouses. We were encouraged as we watched their tensions lessen and their tired faces reflect some easement of their ministry stress.  But we did not know by personal experience the feelings of defeat and futility that pastors and their spouses often felt over their local church ministries. We now know it firsthand.

Besides the smile of our Heavenly Father that we feel in His presence, the warmth of His love that drains off the stress and exhaustion of pastoral ministry, there is one other thing that keep us going:  the expressions of gratitude from our church family.  There are things that make it all worthwhile: words of appreciation, the “ah-ha” reflected on the face of a congregant who “gets it” as he/she opens like a flower to the work of the Spirit, a simple “Thank you for that message”, or a sincere hug as someone leaves the worship service. And once in a while a card, or a gift, or a dinner invitation. Or we hear the pride in a voice as it says, “I’d like you to meet my pastor,” or, “You ought to visit our church sometime.”

If you are a member of a church, I’d like to challenge you – this month, this week, today – to think of a way to thank your pastor for his commitment and service to the Lord, to you, and to the rest of the church body. And if there is a clergy person from your past who positively affected your life, take a moment to contact him/her and say, “Thank you for caring about me and having an influence on my life. I’m a different person because of your influence.”

If you have a pastor for whom you are thankful, how about jotting down a few sentences and sending them to me. I’d like to include them in a post before the end of October. Also, share this post with others and remind them to thank their pastors.

Thank you!

©2011, Marcy Alves

This post is a re-post of an article from October of 2011. There is a sequel coming this week on ideas to express thanks to your pastor(s), entitled How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor.

Thanksgiving: A Time of Reflection


Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching.  All too soon, if not already, you will begin your preparations for whomever, whatever, and however you will be spending the day.

A friend of mine said recently, “I’m not interested in Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m just not looking forward to the holidays.”

I can understand the lonely feeling that is often experienced by singles during the holiday season; I was single once myself and away from home during several Thanksgivings and Christmases. It’s nice to be with family or a special someone to celebrate these holidays. Neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas began as a celebration of “me”, but rather as recognition of “us” and “Him”.

How did Thanksgiving begin?

There are several different scenarios regarding the original celebration of “Thanksgiving” on American soil. It is thought that the Spanish were first to celebrate a day of thanks in 1565 in St. Augustine, FLA. Later, in 1619 the Virginia Colony held a Thanksgiving feast in celebration of the one-year settlement of that colony. The Pilgrims in Plymouth, MA celebrated a good crop year with a feast of Thanksgiving in 1621.

Thanksgiving was established as an annual national event in the midst of the Civil War in 1863, by a presidential proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln, as an offering of thanks to God for His provision and preservation of the United States. It was thought that establishing a national day to observe the giving of thanks would help to foster a sense of American unity between the southern and northern states.

So you can see, Thanksgiving as a celebration was about “us” (a group of people) and “God” and our gratitude to Him.

This also demonstrated that during earlier times in our country there was a belief in “Someone” to thank, besides the federal government.

Thanksgiving Day is a time to reflect. There are many things for which I am thankful; some of which are the following:

  • my relationship with my heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus, who came not only to die for me on the cross, but also to show me what God the Father is like
  • a Christian husband who loves me and treasures our relationship above all other human relationships
  • family members – parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews
  • our “heart adoptions”

Though I was pregnant a couple of times, I was unable to maintain pregnancy; so God brought children into our lives, first as youth group leaders and in a youth pastorate. Then a “daughter” came to us in a more permanent relationship; she is like a birth daughter to us.  There are two other young women, foreign students, whom God brought into our lives who lived with us for several years – one as a teen and the other as a young adult – who are family to us. All three of our “daughters” now have husbands and families of their own. There are quite a few more loosely connected “daughters” in our lives.

In this we follow the pattern set for us in our own lives: my husband was legally adopted by a wonderful couple as a child of five years of age.  And after my parents died, a pastor and his wife took me as one of their three adopted daughters.

We also have a few “sons”, “nephews”, and “nieces” whom we have taken into our hearts along the way. There are others as well who have adopted us as their parents. I sometimes feel like the barren woman mentioned in Gal. 4:7 & Ps. 113:9:

“Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

  • Friends

We have many dear friends that we have made over the years, scattered across the country and around the world; people whose absence of years fades away immediately each time we are reunited with them. Plus there are many friends from our two pastorates. Some of these people are closer than birth family in our on-going relationships with them.

  • Opportunities

God has given me many personal opportunities over the years to develop and use my gifts of music, writing, public speaking, and spiritual ministry to bring others to Him and to encourage the body of Christ, across denominational lines. I’ve traveled up and down the east coast, in the mid-west, in Canada and in several other countries to share my faith in Christ with others. It has given me a broader picture of the body of Christ. There have also been opportunities for television work in my early ministry and for co-hosting a radio program with my husband for a couple years. I’m thankful for the ability to express faith in God through my current writing venues.

  •  Challenges

I am thankful for the many challenges in my life that have tested, tempered, and firmed my faith in a loving God who is worthy to be entrusted with my life. Losses, health issues, lack of regular income, disappointments, and some temporary discouragements have been a few of those challenges. They have served to secure my faith-walk and deepen my peace.

I trust that as you see Thanksgiving Day approaching you will get your eyes off of the minor disturbances of your life, and train your eyes to see the good things that often are obscured by petty irritations and worthless drains of spiritual and emotional energy – things that tend to empty your life of peace and joy, rather than to fill it with awareness of the good gifts of a loving God.

Ask God today to show you how you can add to someone’s experience of Thanksgiving Day – a call, a note or email, a visit, or an invitation to share Thanksgiving dinner at your house. Be sure also to share with someone else the things for which you are thankful.

©2011, Marcy Alves

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