A Thankful Heart

There is so much to be thankful for. The more of life I experience, the more I am aware of this. With the beauty that surrounds us, the people we love, always another new experience awaiting, and a God who loves us, there is really an endless list of things to be thankful for.

It is so easy for our minds to focus on what we have lost, or what we lack. It is easy to feel hard done by or to anticipate hardship. There are so many things wrong with this world. The impact of sin runs deep in this world and affects our daily lives. The impact of the fall from the perfection God created can often cause us to be overwhelmed.

I returned home recently from a wonderful trip to Arizona. It was full of hiking, sporting events, and awesome experiences shared with my brother-in-law. As I was scrolling through my pictures a few days later, I started thanking God for the things I captured on camera. I became thankful for the gift of each moment and experience. Joy rose in me as I acknowledged the gifts from the giver of life.

 

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There is a song by Housefires with lyrics “life is a gift and the giver is good”. This is profound. One can experience this truth through responding in thankfulness to the good gifts God gives. A gift received with a thankful heart brings endless joy.

Less than a week ago marked one year since the passing of my father. It is interesting to be reflecting on this as Thanksgiving approaches. To mark the day, I spent a few hours doing something my father loved to do – watch the waves beat against the rocks. As I did this I started to thank God for the gift of my earthly father. I began to thank God for ways my father loved me: for the way he wanted to experience things with me, for the trips we took because he wanted me to experience spring training baseball with him, for the conferences we went to so I could experience God in new ways, for the way he spent hours watching me play sports and throwing a baseball and football or shooting a basketball in the driveway, and the way he had me write out the ten commandments over and over so I knew why I was being disciplined.

Some of these things I never received with joy or a thankful heart from my father. This week I took time to thank God for the gift of a father who loved me in these ways. I was filled with joy. Even though these experiences are in the past, I have joy today in them. Over the past year, I have handed over what I have lost to God. The disappointment and the pain have been handed over, but even during the process there was reason to be thankful. On this side of the cross, joy is found. On this side, my heart is filled with thanksgiving, and my tongue sings his praise. I still experience moments of sadness, but the reason to be thankful is always there. The joy is within arm’s reach as I thank God, as I recognize the truth of the gifts given. I could have held onto the pain, but Jesus has offered to take it with him to the cross. Why would I refuse?

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
(Colossians 1:15-23)

Colossians 1 has been changing the way I look at everything lately. The simple but profound truth of the cross changes everything. This is what our faith hinges on, and it impacts everything. Peace, wholeness, and rightness are all available through the cross. Death is defeated. This is not an abstract thing. All of the impacts of sin can be placed on the cross with Jesus. Not just the impact of my own sin, but the hurts and the wounds I experience can be excised and placed on the cross with Jesus. This in itself is a great thing we all can be thankful for.

What sin has touched can be made perfect again by Jesus. The taint of sin has been removed. This means that in everything there is a reason to be thankful. What God has created is a perfect gift we can receive and give thanks for. And for those things tainted by sin, we can gratefully experience the transforming touch of Jesus.

I am thankful this year for the gift of people I love. I am thankful for the wonderful creation around me. I am thankful God is making all things new. I am thankful for The Cross. I am thankful he has made himself known to me. I am thankful for his invitation to join in the process of seeing others’ eyes opened to the wonder of God. I am thankful there is so much more life to receive from such a good gift giver!

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