The next six weeks are some of the busiest on the calendar. Between now and Christmas, life can easily swallow us up in a whirlwind of holiday preparation and activity. Yet, these busy weeks also hold some of the most sacred moments of the entire year…if we will intentionally look for them.
Thanksgiving, in particular, is easily passed over without us really pausing to give God thanks. Below are five simple suggestions that have helped me use this holiday to draw closer to the Lord through the month of November.
- Write out your blessings this month.
Johnson Oatman Jr. got it right when he wrote, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” God “daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19), but we best rejoice in them when we name them one at a time. I challenge you, between now and Thanksgiving, write out your blessings. Grab a pen and paper, and begin listing them. Make it an ongoing daily project for the rest of this month.
- Intentionally express gratitude every day between now and Thanksgiving.
We are all recipients of others’ kindness—in more ways than we even stop to realize. Every day, between now and Thanksgiving, intentionally express your thanks to at least one person. You may do this via a note, a phone call, a public word of thanks, or any number of creative ways. Thank your spouse, your children, your employer, your employees, your teachers, your extended family—anyone who has invested in your life in any way.If you have ever received a note of sincere and specific thanks, you know how this will encourage others. As a side benefit, it will also deepen your own gratitude.
- Give to somebody this month.
I know that Christmas is generally when we give to family and friends, but this year, add Thanksgiving to your gift holidays. Using God’s blessings to us to give to those in need increases our own recognition of what God has given to us.Give a Thanksgiving dinner to someone who can’t afford it. Pay the bill at a restaurant for someone you don’t know. Have someone over for Thanksgiving who would otherwise be alone. Find a way to be a blessing to somebody else. We can focus on what we don’t have and how we are struggling financially ourselves; but if we do, we miss a blessing!
- Have your children write their blessings.
We have a family tradition of making personal thanksgiving lists on Thanksgiving Day. After dinner, we each take a sheet of paper and write what we are thankful for. My wife has stored these lists over the years. It’s cute to read now what our children wrote when they were very young and see how little it took to make them thankful. Even as they grew older, writing these lists helped to shape their minds and hearts toward gratitude.
- Attend the services at your church with an expectant spirit of praise.
This last tip is pretty basic—but it is vital. The average person attends church wondering, “What can I get out of today’s service?” And many Christians don’t even attend at all when they feel too busy—especially if they don’t see any personal benefit in it.Choose instead to look at each church service as an opportunity to return thanks to the Lord for all He has given to you. Go wondering, “What can I put into this service?” Bring a heart of expectancy and a spirit of praise. Each church service is a chance to corporately obey the admonition, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).
Holidays are busy times, but don’t miss the opportunity they afford for increased focus on the Lord and sacred moments of drawing near to Him with a heart of Thanksgiving.