Along with the gathering of family and friends around a bountiful table of food and conversation, many take this opportunity to remember their blessings. This short Thanksgiving devotional with Bible verses and tips for giving thanks this day and the year through is a good place to start.
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The following article is contributed by Rachel Schmoyer. I am so happy to be sharing her thoughts on giving thanks this Thanksgiving day and every day throughout the year. I do hope you will take a moment to visit her at Read the Hard Parts where she writes on the sometimes difficult to understand parts of the Bible. She is a gifted writer and has graciously consented to being a contributor and sharing here on Grateful Prayer Thankful Heart over the next few months.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday gathering. When I was a child, we ate our Thanksgiving feast at my grandparent’s house. My grandmother brought out her beautiful tablecloths and china and glass serving bowls so we all thirty of us could eat family style in her long dining room. After the turkey and stuffing were eaten and the pie was passed around, my grandfather set in on washing the dishes and then we continued to spend time together as a family. Although my grandparents are no longer living, my extended family still gathers together. Now we gather at my aunt’s church fellowship hall since no one has a house big enough for all of us. In addition to the aunts and uncles and cousins we also have invited a number of in laws and friends to join us, too.
Our Thanksgiving Day featured a number of traditions. We eat corn pudding and my mother-in-law’s stuffing which has both bread cubes and potatoes with lots of butter and parsley and eggs to hold it together before it is baked. She doesn’t really have a recipe since she learned to make it by watching previous generations of her family make it in the Pennsylvania Dutch way. For dessert we have cheese pie, not cheesecake. Cheese pie is much better! Light and fluffy, it is not as rich and heavy as cheesecake so you have room for all the other desserts, too. Since I learned how to brine a turkey, I’ve been on turkey duty. I carefully roast it the day before, then slice it and warm it in a crockpot for our dinner.
After we eat our meal, we play bingo. Bingo is a game that everyone can play, young and old. Once the pie has been passed around, my mother passes out the Bingo cards and her button box. Each person takes a handful of buttons to use as markers for the cards. My mother is the caller and she brings wrapped small gifts that you get when you call Bingo. But don’t clear your cards! We keep playing until the presents are gone, all 100 plus of them.
But it’s not the food or the game that really make this my favorite holiday. Halloween is fun, but there is candy to purchase and costumes to put together and parties at school to attend and then lots of candy that I’m constantly telling my kids (and myself) not to eat too much of. Christmas is wonderful but it is a lot of work, too, both at church to prepare special gatherings and at home to buy and wrap presents. But Thanksgiving is different. Although I need to bring some food, once we sit down at the table to eat, I can just slow down and feast on the presence of my loved ones around me.
Thanksgiving in God’s Presence
Thanksgiving is also an invitation into God’s presence. On Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded of God’s presence through prayer and by enumerating our blessings. When my grandfather was living, he was the designated person to pray a hearty prayer before our meal. Now my husband usually does it since he is a pastor. But the beautiful thing is that God invites us into His presence with thanksgiving all year long. The Psalmist knew the importance of thanksgiving when entering the temple for worship. Psalm 95:2 says “Come into His presence with thanksgiving.” In Philippians 4:6, Paul encourages us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In this verse, thanksgiving is not just the attitude we are supposed to have when we ask God for our needs, but it is the answer to anxiety in every situation.
Giving thanks in God’s presence is a daily thing. We can do this in a number of ways:
- Start each prayer with thanking God for what He has already done for us before we ask for what we need.
- Write down our thanks to God to keep us in the habit of it. I have some friends who have a thankfulness journal and they write down one thing they are thankful for every day.
- Pray a prayer of thanksgiving before you eat every meal. Many of us grew up with this habit, but if you have fallen out of the habit, restart today.
May this Thanksgiving Day remind you to bring thanksgiving into God’s presence all year long.
Rachel Schmoyer finds simple truths in complex parts of Scripture through her Read the Hard Parts blog and speaking ministry. She is a pastor’s wife and mom of four school aged children in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. She has written a five-day devotional called Let’s Eat so you can prepare your heart for Thanksgiving. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.
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