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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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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

Trials and a Thankful Heart


Thankful heartI love holiday celebrations: Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day – steadily marching by in a series of remembrances of festive family gatherings, tasty seasonal dishes, decorations and lighting displays, parades and numerous holiday social events. Thanksgiving and Christmas rank the highest for me because they hold the most meaning in my life.

I was reading recently about a Thanksgiving celebration which took place in 1623 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the summer of that year Massachusetts crops were threatened by a shortage of rainfall “from the third week of May until the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat.” Fasting, rather than feasting was ordered by Puritan governor William Bradford, who recorded in his History of Plimouth Plantation, 1606-1646:

“They sett aparte a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble and fervente prayer in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer . . . Toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to raine with such sweet showers as gave them cause of rejoycing and blessing God. Afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers with enterchange of faire warme weather as through his blessing, caused a fruitfull and liberal harvest to their no small comforte and rejoycing. For such mercie, in time conveniente, they also sett apart a day of thanksgiving.” (Reported in Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar July 15, 2014)

It’s interesting that the Puritan’s trials produced humility, followed by fervent prayer, which resulted in blessings, that produced thanksgiving. Most of us would prefer to skip the first two steps: trial and humility.

Last year during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, I faced a trial of my own. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer 5 ½ years earlier and prescribed with mastectomy, to be followed by chemo and radiation. I was set to go that course when friends from several different places put me onto naturopathic treatment as an alternative consideration. For almost three years I followed a very holistic diet, exercise, and supplement regimen which resulted in a remission of the breast cancer. Then life got busy and the diet and health routine became harder to follow.

During the fall of 2012 a tumor began to grow in the same breast, and in the spring of 2013 surfaced from the breast. By late summer, there was a large tumor with periodic bleeds which were hard to stop and twice sent me to the emergency room. You may be asking why I did not seek medical treatment earlier.

Back in 2008 with my first diagnosis I had sought the Lord immediately about a treatment decision. At that time He gave me 5 specific words: 1. Don’t be afraid. 2. Trust me, I’m with you. 3. This is not just for you, but also for others. 4. Wait on me. 5. Be still and KNOW that I am God.

After the cancer returned, I began to pray fervently that the Lord would continue the healing which I had experienced those first three years. But that did not happen. Gradually through times of continued prayer for guidance, I met someone who had undergone moderated traditional cancer treatment; I sensed that this time the Lord was taking me in a different direction. I felt that He wanted me to experience His presence and healing in the more traditional approach, but to keep following His original five words to me.

I first consulted with a surgeon, to whom my primary care doctor referred me, who told me she could not operate on the tumor because it presented a stage 3+ cancer, and was of too large a diameter to afford proper healing if she were to remove it. I was referred to an oncologist, and a radiologist who had experience in the use of lose-dose radiation on such tumors, and was willing to take my case.

From early November through mid-December of 2013 I experienced five weeks of lose-dose radiation treatments, accompanied by a form of chemo pill. I began to turn the visits with the doctors and the radiation treatment sessions into times of prayer. Prayer for safety from the cancer treatments, for God’s healing hand in the cancer treatments, and prayer for anyone I met in the departments of oncology and radiology at the Paysen Cancer Center at Concord Hospital – doctors, technicians, nurses, office personnel, and other cancer patients and their families. I sensed God’s comforting presence during each visit.

The results of this trial and seeking God in it were, and are, many answered prayers: the complete destruction of the presenting tumor, a clearing of the cancer in the breast – all treatments without sickness or pain of any kind from the tumor – which I consider to be a miracle – I attribute this to God’s gracious, loving answer to my prayers and those of my family and many friends around the world.

There are other things from that trial for which I am thankful: remember God told me when first diagnosed not to be afraid? Even with the emergence of the large tumor and the sometimes severe bleeding, there was no fear – aggravation, yes, but no fear. I have been drawn into a deeper relationship with my heavenly Father, my husband, and our daughter (who, without being asked, took time off from work to accompany me to the hospital, just to be with me and to give my husband a break from the daily treatment routine). Also, many people have shared with me that my situation has caused them to trust the Lord more. Plus all the treatment bills were met, without any debt remaining!

I am thankful for every day of the life God has granted me on this earth. My husband has commented to others that he can see a deepening of my faith, a quieter more peaceful spirit. Each time I take a shower and see the scar from the tumor, I whisper a quick “Thank you, Father” to God for His loving hand on my life.

And I am thankful for the encouragement of Scripture:

James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 4:12-13  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Romans 5:3-5  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

If you are going through a trial right now, let it take you deeper into God and into faith in Him; this will result in a true heart of thanksgiving – appreciation for all that you have that is really important in life.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!!

Other posts on Thanksgiving:

Words of 2 Presidents:Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: A State of Mind – An Expression of Faith

Thanksgiving: A Time of Reflection

©2014, Marcy Alves

‘Tis the Season


Thanksgiving is over; Black Friday has come and gone – thankfully. Family and friends have  departed and quiet prevails in the house. Guest rooms are cleaned and back in order and the family dog has eaten his share of turkey.  Leftovers have been served until no one wants to face them again. No more gravies, stuffing, pies or eggnog until Christmas.

I’m glad we don’t eat this way every day.  But  the community effort in preparing the Thanksgiving meal, the family fellowship around the table, the camaraderie at the kitchen sink and dishwasher, and the shared football experience in the TV room, all add memories that are a part of the fabric of our lives. Shared experiences, shared memories are so important to remind us that we have lived – that our existence has been significant, if not to the world, than certainly to each other.

There is something special about the Thanksgiving through Christmas season. Year after year as we celebrate these two important events there is a nostalgia in the air that moves us to keep  in touch with each other – family with family, and friends with friends. We telephone to or receive calls from out-of-town family, thankful that the aging ones are still with us. Calls, cards, notes, or emails come from friends with whom we seldom communicate at other times of the year.

There seems to be a yearning to reconnect in a more tangible way during the holiday season. It’s different from Facebook communications, which is so general – a kind of put-it-out-there and see if anyone reads it.  Thanksgiving and Christmas communications are more like, “we think of you specifically, care about our relationship with you, and want to renew our personal connection”.

There is also a spiritual element to this season that is unlike other times of the year; the awareness of a God-connection. It’s a mystical sense of the “other world” that runs parallel with this physical one – the invisible, unseen dimension that came into our space-time zone some 2,000 years ago in the person of a little baby boy named Jesus.

Even though the spirit of this world has tried to get our attention off of that original gift from God, the light still shines brightly and the darkness has not been able to extinguish it. When we see the decorations in stores, on houses, and other buildings – and though their themes may be purely secular, they still remind us that something happened those many years ago that changed the course of the history of the world, and continues to change history as each new year is added to that history.

We are reminded in John 1:6-7, 9 of the entrance of this supernatural light:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”

and in John 1:14 of God in a human body:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

and in John 3:16 the reason that He who is light took on human flesh and brought a gift to us from His Father:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

There is a sense of joy and expectation in this season – and it’s not about material things – it’s about the God who loves His creation, who came to us to demonstrate that love.  The sense of the uniqueness of the this season goes beyond cultural, national and ethnic boundaries. Wherever there are those whose hearts have been entered by the Spirit of the Christ, Christmas will continue to be more than trees and lights and wrapped presents;  Christmas will be a time of embracing this God of love and His gift of life; a time of gratitude and generosity toward others. No Grinch can steal this memory from hearts that have been touched and transformed by this gift; which is in us light, love, and eternal life from our Creator God.

Welcome to the season of Christmas!

©2011, Marcy Alves

edited 2012

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