Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Thanksgiving Day Special

Volume 4 No. 248 November 26, 2014

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Mayflower and the Plymouth Beach viewed from the Plymouth Rock. Photograph by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
Mayflower and the Plymouth Beach viewed from the Plymouth Rock, MA.

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword: Thanks Be To God

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are reminded of all that we have to be grateful for this year. The day marks a chance to gather with family and friends to share a meal and give thanks to God for our blessings. We are also thankful for a shelter above us, and for living in a country where we can practice our faith without being persecuted or tortured.

Unfortunately, as you know by reading articles published in the Malankara World Journal throughout the year, in many parts of the world, Christians are tortured, persecuted and killed just for being Christians. Some of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East have no homes and may be living in refugee camps. ...

2. Inspiration for Today

I. HISTORICAL REFLECTIONS ON THANKSGIVING DAY

3. Why the Pilgrims Really Came to America (Hint, It Wasn't Religious Freedom)

The Pilgrims had their blind spots, but they were men and women of deep conviction who grappled with fundamental issues still relevant to us today. There is much in their example we might learn from. ...

4. The First Thanksgiving We Don't Remember

When the Pilgrims spoke of holidays, they used the word literally. A holiday was a "holy day" set apart for worship and communion with God. Their reading of scripture convinced them that God had only established one regular holy day under the new covenant, and that was the Lord's Day each Sunday. Beyond that, they believed that scripture allowed occasional Days of Fasting and Humiliation to plead with the Lord for deliverance from a particular trial, as well as occasional Days of Thanksgiving to praise the Lord for his extraordinary provision. Both were solemn observances, marked by lengthy religious services full of prayer, praise, and instruction. ...

II. PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

5. Count Each Day As a Blessing by Dr. Seena Mathew

Every day I look upon my daughter I am thankful she is in my life. She is a true gift from God. As the Bible says, "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3). During this Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful caring family, a job that I love, and my daughter is in a daycare where she is cared for like she is their family. I am most thankful that no matter how hard my day is, I can always look at Maia's smiling face and feel joy in my heart. ...

6. Thanksgiving - Living in Gratitude 24/7/365

Thanksgiving should be a natural part of the Christian's prayer. How can we pray without first giving thanks for all He has done? When we pray thanks, we must also live out thanksgiving with our words and actions.

Saying thanks for the blessings received is not something Americans discovered after the pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, MA. Bible is full of examples of our forefathers offering thanks to God. The first instance of that is reported in Genesis 4:3-4 when Cain and Abel brought their first-fruits to God. ...

III. FEATURED ARTICLES

7. Thankfulness: In Everything?

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says, "Make your petitions known. Pray to God for what concerns you, what troubles you, what you desire; but, in everything, give thanks." If we are able by the grace of God to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving in what we do, say, and are about, we will know a life that is at once more challenging and more fulfilling. ...

8. Unexpected Thanksgiving

We have much to be thankful for. The blessings of Creation--home, family, health, bounty. The blessings of Redemption and Sanctification--forgiveness of sins, righteousness before God, the sure hope of everlasting life through Christ our Savior; the church, the means of grace. The list goes on and on.

So why don't you go on--at least a little bit--throughout the day today? Do something unexpected: Give thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day. Not many people do that, you know. I mean, actually, verbally, give thanks to God, out loud, for his many blessings. Hardly anybody does that anymore. Surprise people a bit. Give thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day. Shock your relatives. Amaze your friends. There's more to this day than football and turkey and getting ready to go shopping. The really amazing, unexpected thing to do on Thanksgiving Day is to thank God. ...

9. Don't Forget God on Thanksgiving Day

It seems that at Thanksgiving we thank everyone and so we should. We wish everyone a happy "Turkey Day." We should thank the people that have contributed to our lives, we should consider our forefathers, and we should praise our family and friends. But let's not forget God. He is the source of all blessings. ...

We truly have much to be thankful for, don't we? Giving thanks to God for all he has done should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. Is that true of you? Or has the spirit of ingratitude hardened your heart and chilled your relationship with God and with others? Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true sprit of thankfulness. ...

10. A Life of Thanksgiving

Pausing to express gratitude to a great and mighty God is the reminder of this national holiday. But Thanksgiving is more than a holiday for the grateful believer -- it's a way of life. Bo Baker said, "Thanksgiving is grace dressed in unselfishness, gratitude spelled out in personal concern and character showing its colors like the lovely leaves of fall."

Thanksgiving is an attitude, a natural part of Christian character. Let's look at one short verse of Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "... in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." ...

11. A Prayer for Thanksgiving

12. Hymn: Now Thank We All Our God

13. Thankful People Are Happy People

Research shows that gratitude is a powerful force for creating positive changes in individuals, families, and organizations. In fact, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a research professor of psychology, "The expression of gratitude is a kind of metastrategy for achieving happiness." Some of the more detailed findings, published in books like The Happiness Advantage, Flourish, and Optimal Functioning, are: ...

14. Tips on Eating Healthy This Thanksgiving

Plan ahead. "When you're faced with that big sit-down meal at Grandma's, plan to stop before you get so full that you're uncomfortable. Sure, the food is delicious and evokes all sorts of wonderful nostalgia, but you don't need to overeat to enjoy the memories. Chew slowly, savor each bite, and really appreciate those special dishes. It's a much better way to enjoy them than doing the stuff-and-suffer." ...

15. Recipe: Chocolate and Coffee Crusted Turkey Breast with Cranberry Pear Chutney

A unique crusted turkey breast full of seasonal flavors. ...

16. My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe

John Boehner, Speaker, House of Representatives, USA, shares his family secret to a great Thanksgiving Turkey.

If, like me, you're responsible for the turkey, then you've probably got some special ingredient or some way you make it that you've perfected. For me, it's brining the turkey. From my kitchen at home in West Chester, Ohio, you can see exactly what I mean. ...

17. Seven Things to Be Thankful For

18. Giving Thanks: Understanding the Biblical Emphasis of Thanksgiving

The attitude of thanks is more important than the act of thanks. God's evaluation of our hearts has not changed since the creation. When the Old Testament prophet Samuel was surprised at God's selection of young David, God told Samuel, "The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Our instructions are just the same - "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). ...

However, far more important is the issue of how God's people practice thanksgiving all the time. At the core of our hearts are the firm beliefs of our mind, and at the core of our actions are the attitudes of our hearts (Matthew 15:19). Foundational to all of that is how we approach the text of Scripture - and undergirding that approach is how we treat the information in Genesis. One cannot please God without understanding Genesis (Hebrews 11:1-6). ...

19. Gratitude: How a Bucket of Ice Changed My Paradigm

I was doing gratitude all wrong. I was trying to manufacture it, or simply retrace or recall it - but that's not how gratitude works. Gratitude takes us by surprise. It overwhelms us and fills us with wonder. In it's truest form gratitude can't be captured on a list or strategically felt it in less than a minute. If I wanted to shake my imbalanced life, tallying good things at the end of an otherwise disconnected day wasn't going to straighten me out. ...

20. About Malankara World

Foreword: Thanks Be To God

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are reminded of all that we have to be grateful for this year. The day marks a chance to gather with family and friends to share a meal and give thanks to God for our blessings. We are also thankful for a shelter above us, and for living in a country where we can practice our faith without being persecuted or tortured.

Unfortunately, as you know by reading articles published in the Malankara World Journal throughout the year, in many parts of the world, Christians are tortured, persecuted and killed just for being Christians. Some of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East have no homes and may be living in refugee camps.

The Islamic State's (ISIS/ISIL) invasion of Iraq has left 90% of the nation's Orthodox Christians displaced, fleeing religious persecution and ethnic cleansing, according to Ghattas Hazim, Greek Orthodox Bishop for Baghdad, Kuwait. In Baghdad, he said, only 30 of 600 Christian families remain, while in Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and one of the cradles of Christianity, it is widely believed that all Christians have left except for a few elderly or handicapped- perhaps fewer than ten Christian families remain there. Basra reportedly is not home to a single Christian anymore.

Maronite Archbishop Elias Nassar of Saida in Lebanon told that 'God only knows' if there will be any Christians living in the Middle East in 20 years time due to the severe persecution they are facing. The situation is indeed very bleak there.

On April 22, 2013, two Metropolitan Archbishops of Aleppo, Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, were kidnapped while on a humanitarian mission to release abducted priests in Syria. We still do not know what happened to them. It had been so long! Please remember them and pray for them on this Thanksgiving Day.

It is estimated that 1,000 Christians have been killed and another 450,000 were displaced in Syria an year ago. More than 85 churches who have been destroyed, burned, or otherwise desecrated in Syria alone!

Sister Hatune Dogan, a member of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church under the Holy See of Antioch, has toured the world extensively and seen humanity at its finest as well as worst. She has visited Iraq and, most recently, in Syria several times in recent years. She has witnessed many examples of atrocity and suffering over the years. But the situation of Syrian Christians in Iraq and Syria has shocked her. She described a recent experience:

"I met with a man who had gone out one morning to tend his fields. He did so in all innocence, as part of his daily routine. He suddenly looked up and saw a body, then another, then another. All of them with their heads cut off. He looked to the next field and then to the next and realized there were hundreds of murdered and decapitated people, all of them Christians. He still shakes even now when he describes the experience because of the trauma."

"There are slaughterhouses, many slaughterhouses, in Syria where Christians are taken to be tortured and slaughtered. People who are not political, who do not choose or take sides in the conflict, are taken from their families, kidnapped, forced to deny their faith and then - whether they have or not - are killed, often by beheading. This is not about siding with the government, not about siding with President Assad, but about sheer persecution of a peaceful but vulnerable minority." (1)

Since 2010, an estimated 11,500 Christians have been killed, 3500 were injured and thousands more displaced as Boko Haram has advanced through Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states in Northern Nigeria. Most of us know of their abduction of hundreds of Christian Girls from a school in Nigeria. No one knows what happened to them. It is believed that they were forced to convert to Islam and then, perhaps, sold as slaves. Last month we read about the killing of a Christian Family in Pakistan by throwing them in fire.

Professor Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University in an address delivered at the Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia noted that 75 percent of the world's people (more than five billion humans) live in countries that significantly restrict religious freedom. He called North Korea and China secular tyrannies that are hostile to religion. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Pakistan are "religious tyrannies." Russia, he said, was a hybrid of secular and religious tyranny.

Prof. George compared Islamic radicalism in the Middle East to the secular totalitarians of the 20th century (Nazis and communists). The Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and their offshoots are the "new totalitarians" who are persecuting Christians, Jews, and other religious groups. He noted that the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East may well turn the cradle of Christianity into its graveyard.

The miracle is that in spite of these dreadful conditions, the faith of Christians are becoming stronger, not weaker. That surely is a blessing!

For many in the world, however, this Thanksgiving marks another day when they struggle to put food on the table for themselves and their families. Those of us fortunate enough to enjoy a satisfying holiday meal with our loved ones must remember that it is our duty to serve our community and help enrich the lives of our friends and neighbors.

Yes, we do have many blessings we are are thankful for. For American Arch Diocese of Syriac Orthodox Church in North America, we are thankful for a new Archdiocesan Head Quarters campus including a cathedral and a Bishop's House. My home parish, St. Mary's Cheria Pally, East Pampady, Kottayam Diocese, has gone through a complete renovation as part of century celebrations and looks as good as new now. The church has also extended humanitarian aid to many deserving families. That certainly is a true blessing!

We have said a tearful goodbye to our Late Lamented Patriarch HH Zakka I Iwas earlier this year. We are thankful for our new Patriarch, HH Ignatius Aphrem II.

On Thanksgiving, throughout the holiday season, and beyond, let us cherish our blessings and our time spent with family and friends. Let us also spread blessings to others by giving back through volunteer work.

Lastly, I want to thank the members of the Board and the people who have helped us publish Malankara World Journal. We also thank God for the readers and many newsletters and internet forums that publish Malankara World Journal so as to increase its reach. We could not have done anything without them. I also want to thank my family for their support and sacrifice in this mission.

We wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

FootNote:

1. Michael Coren, "The Suffering of Christians in Syria", October 31, 2014

Inspiration for Today
"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."
H.U. Westermayer

"Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude."
E.P. Powell

HISTORICAL REFLECTIONS ON THANKSGIVING DAY

Why the Pilgrims Really Came to America (Hint, It Wasn't Religious Freedom)

by Tracy McKenzie

Thanksgiving is approaching, and before we turn on the football game or rush off to the mall, the more traditional among us will honor the day by reminding our families of the story of the Pilgrims. And in keeping with tradition, we'll get much of the story wrong. Most of the inaccuracies will be trivial. In our mind's eye, we'll remember the Pilgrims decked out in black suits and enormous silver buckles, seated at a long table loaded with turkey and pumpkin pie. It would be more accurate to imagine them adorned in bright colors, seated on the ground, and enjoying turnips and eel, but these are superficial differences that don't change the meaning of the story very much.

That's not the case with how we remember the Pilgrims' reasons for coming to America. The belief that the Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom is inspiring, but it's just not so. Religious persecution had prompted the Pilgrims to move from England to Holland in 1608, but none of the Pilgrim writers so much as hinted that a desire for greater religious freedom led them to leave Holland for America in 1620. By their own account, Holland was a place where God had blessed them with "much peace and liberty." They cited factors other than religious persecution in explaining their decision to seek a new home across the ocean.

Boiled down, the Pilgrims had two major complaints about their experience in Holland:
(1) They found it a hard place to raise their children and
(2) an even harder place to make a living.

Dutch culture was too permissive, they believed. Pilgrim William Bradford commented on "the great licentiousness of youth" in Holland and lamented the "evil examples" and "manifold temptations of the place." Compounding these challenges was what Bradford called "the hardness of the place." Most Pilgrim families lived in houses with no more than a couple hundred square feet of floor space. The majority labored as textile workers, carding, spinning, or weaving in their own homes from dawn to dusk, six days a week, merely to keep body and soul together.

Plymouth Rock - where the pilgrims landed. Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
Plymouth Rock - Landing Place of the Pilgrims
Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

The Pilgrims' justification for relocating to America reminds me of Jesus' parable of the sower. You remember how the sower casts his seed (the word of God), and it falls on multiple kinds of ground, not all of which prove fruitful. The seed that lands on stony ground sprouts immediately but the plant withers under the heat of the noonday sun. The seed cast among thorns springs up and then is choked by the surrounding weeds. The former, Jesus explained to His disciples, represents those who receive the word gladly, but stumble "when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake" (Mark 4:17). The latter stands for those who allow the word to be choked by "the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things" (Mark 4:19). In emphasizing the Pilgrims' supposed search for religious freedom, we make the primary menace in their story the heat of persecution. As the Pilgrims saw it, the principal threat that they faced in Holland was not the scorching sun, but strangling thorns. To their credit, they were determined not to let the cares of this world weaken their faith or undermine their church.

This makes the Pilgrim story so much more relevant to us. When we hear of the Pilgrims' resolve in the face of persecution in England, we may nod our heads admiringly and meditate on the courage of their convictions. Perhaps we will even ask ourselves how we would respond if, God forbid, we were to endure the same trial. And yet the danger seems so remote, the question so comfortably hypothetical. Whatever limitations we may chafe against in the public square, as Christians in the United States we don't have to worry that the government will send us to prison unless we worship in the church that it chooses.

In contrast, the Pilgrims' struggle with "thorns" speaks to us where we live. Their hardships in Holland were so . . . ordinary. They worried about their children's future. They feared the effects of a corrupt and permissive culture. They had a hard time making ends meet. They wondered how they would provide for themselves in old age. Can you relate to any of their worries? If so, I encourage you to revisit the Pilgrim story this Thanksgiving season with new eyes. Set aside the caricatures - the ridiculous hats and silly buckles - and see instead their courage and perseverance and the heavenly hope that undergirded both.

The Pilgrims had their blind spots, but they were men and women of deep conviction who grappled with fundamental issues still relevant to us today. There is much in their example we might learn from.

About The Author:

Robert Tracy McKenzie is professor and chair of the History Department at Wheaton College and president of the Conference on Faith and History, a national organization of Christian historians. He is the author of The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us about Loving God and Learning from History (IVP).

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

The First Thanksgiving We Don't Remember

by Robert Tracy McKenzie

Although we often caricature them - imagining them in ridiculously tall hats with enormous buckles - the story of the Pilgrims' "First Thanksgiving" is rich with insight and inspiration. The Pilgrims were human and bore the imprint of the Fall with all its attendant sinful consequences. They were sometimes judgmental and intolerant, prone to bickering, and tempted by materialism. They were also people of remarkable faith and fortitude: common folk of average abilities and means who risked everything in the interest of their families and their church.

Pilgrim Colony in Plymouth Plantation as viewd from the Church
Pilgrim Colony in Plymouth Plantation as viewed from the Church
Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

Their trial began in 1620 with the voyage of the storied Mayflower, a 65-day-long ordeal in which 102 men, women, and children crossed the stormy Atlantic in a space the size of a city bus. Then followed a cruel New England winter for which they were ill prepared. Due more to exposure than starvation, their number dwindled rapidly, so that by the onset of spring fully half of them had died. Fourteen of the eighteen wives had perished, and widowers and orphans abounded. That the Pilgrims could celebrate at all in this setting was a testimony both to human resilience and heavenly hope.

Backyard Garden in Plymouth Plantation
Backyard Garden at Plymouth Plantation
Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

Yet celebrate they did, sometime in the autumn of 1621 after God had granted them a bountiful harvest. It's an inspiring story, and it's good for Christians this Thanksgiving to remember it. I don't know about you, but I am always encouraged when I sit down with Christian friends and hear of how God has sustained them in hard times. Remembering the Pilgrims' story is a lot like that, although the testimony comes to us not from across the room but from across the centuries.

And yet the part of the Pilgrims' story that we emphasize doesn't seem to have been that significant to the Pilgrims themselves. Most of what we know about the Pilgrims after they left Holland comes from two Pilgrim writers: William Bradford, the long-time governor of the Plymouth colony, and Edward Winslow, his close assistant. Bradford never even referred to the 1621 celebration in his history of the Pilgrims' colony, Of Plymouth Plantation. Winslow mentioned it but briefly, devoting four sentences to it in a letter to supporters in England. Indeed, those four sentences represent the sum total of all that we know about the occasion! This means that there is a lot that we would like to know about the event that we will never know. It seems likely that the Pilgrims thought of their celebration as something akin to the harvest festivals common at that time in England. What is absolutely certain is that they didn't think of the celebration as a Thanksgiving holiday.

When the Pilgrims spoke of holidays, they used the word literally. A holiday was a "holy day" set apart for worship and communion with God. Their reading of scripture convinced them that God had only established one regular holy day under the new covenant, and that was the Lord's Day each Sunday. Beyond that, they believed that scripture allowed occasional Days of Fasting and Humiliation to plead with the Lord for deliverance from a particular trial, as well as occasional Days of Thanksgiving to praise the Lord for his extraordinary provision. Both were solemn observances, marked by lengthy religious services full of prayer, praise, and instruction.

Both Winslow and Bradford wrote at length about the occasion that the Pilgrims would have remembered as their first Thanksgiving Day in America. It occurred in the summer of 1623, nearly two years after the event that we commemorate. During that summer a two-month-long drought threatened to wipe out the Pilgrims' crops, and the prospect of starvation in the coming winter loomed over them. In response, Governor Bradford "set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress." The Pilgrims gathered for a prayer service that lasted some 8-9 hours, and by its end, a day that had begun hot and clear had become overcast, and for the next fourteen days a steady, gentle rain restored the parched earth. "But, O the mercy of our God," Winslow exulted, "who was as ready to hear as we to ask."

Having this sign of God's favor, Winslow explained, the Pilgrims "thought it would be great ingratitude" not to thank God publicly for his deliverance. And so "another Solemn Day was set apart . . . wherein we returned glory honour and praise, with all thankfulness to our good GOD."

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, perhaps we might remember both of these occasions. The Pilgrims' harvest celebration of 1621 is an important reminder to see God's gracious hand in the bounty of nature. The Pilgrims' holiday of 1623 - what they would have called "The First Thanksgiving" - more forthrightly challenges us to look for God's ongoing, supernatural intervention in our lives.

About The Author:

Robert Tracy McKenzie is professor and chair of the History Department at Wheaton College and president of the Conference on Faith and History, a national organization of Christian historians. He is the author of 'The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us about Loving God and Learning from History' (IVP).

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

Count Each Day As a Blessing

By Dr. Seena Mathew, Austin, TX

During the holiday season, we often find ourselves reflecting on what makes us thankful. This year my thankfulness is in abundance as I welcomed my daughter Maia into the world last May. She is my first child and thankfully, when she arrived, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by family who traveled from all parts of the country to be with me, support me, and welcome her into the world. It was such a blessing to spend two months bonding with her while I cared for her night and day. When that fateful day came that I should return to work I was reminded to be thankful I had a job to return to. Not all was joyous on that occasion however as my heart broke when I realized I would soon have to part from this baby that I had carried for 9 months and then spent every moment with since she was born over the last 2 months.

My first day at work was difficult being parted from the tiny little creature that brings me so much joy. I then thought about what a blessing it is to able to contribute to my family's finances and help provide a wonderful example for my daughter. I often wondered what type of care my daughter was receiving when I was away. My questions were answered shortly after we began daycare.

Maia-November-2014

One day when dropping Maia off at daycare a teacher approached me and explained they had noticed a bruise on her body that we hadn't seen there before that morning. This mysterious bruise had us questioning the cause and it was suggested to call the pediatrician. Thankfully the pediatrician was able to see Maia later that same day. On careful examination, the doctor observed not only the large bruise but also pin size bruises all over her. The doctor ordered a blood test. Later that evening we received the results. It was determined that Maia had a low platelet count or thrombocytopenia. Her numbers were so low that she was immediately admitted into the local children's hospital. While driving her to the hospital, I called my husband to notify him of what was happening. He was working in Arizona at the time and, thankfully, was able to fly back to Texas later that night.

Maia and I spent several days in the hospital. She was barely three months old, enduring things that many adults have never had to deal with in their entire lives. I often wondered why this was happening to her and why now? She was so young, and seeing the nurses struggle to take blood from such tiny veins to check her platelets broke my heart every time. To add to our sense of dread, the doctors were unsure what caused the thrombocytopenia due to Maia not quite fitting the normal criteria for such a condition. Additional tests were conducted on both Maia and I in an effort to track down a cause.

While we were enduring one blood draw after another, her daycare teachers called to check up on her and see how she was doing. It surprised me to hear from them since Maia had only been attending there a short time but I was thankful for their well wishes and their thoughtfulness in calling. We also were thankful for Dr. Zach Achen for visiting, praying, and counseling us while we were in the hospital. The doctors were eventually able to determine a treatment to bring her platelet count back up enough to allow us to leave the hospital. I was receiving phone calls and emails from all over the world with family and friends sending their thoughts and prayers for Maia for which we were very grateful. Our follow up visit to the doctor a couple of days later indicated that Maia's platelets had dropped slightly though nowhere near the original "scary" levels. Thankfully after about a month her platelet numbers began to rise again and cleared her from additional treatments.

Every day I look upon my daughter, I am thankful she is in my life. She is a true gift from God. As the Bible says, "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3). During this Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful caring family, a job that I love, and my daughter is in a daycare where she is cared for like she is their family. I am most thankful that no matter how hard my day is, I can always look at Maia's smiling face and feel joy in my heart.

Thanksgiving - Living in Gratitude 24/7/365

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

"Thank Him for everything, because everything is good" (St. J. Escriva, "The Way").

"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2).

Paul in this Colossians passage ties thanksgiving closely to prayer, as he also does in the 1 Thessalonians 5:17 verse:

Overflowing gratitude springs from a life of continuous, ceaseless prayer.
(1 Thess. 5:17)

Thanksgiving should be a natural part of the Christian's prayer. How can we pray without first giving thanks for all He has done? When we pray thanks, we must also live out thanksgiving with our words and actions.

Saying thanks for the blessings received is not something Americans discovered after the pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, MA. Bible is full of examples of our forefathers offering thanks to God. The first instance of that is reported in Genesis 4:3-4 when Cain and Abel brought their first-fruits to God.

We then come across Noah in Genesis 8:20. Noah, as a thanksgiving offering, built an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Abraham was willing to offer the most precious of his possessions to God - his son Isaac as described in Genesis 22. Jacob and Moses continued the tradition. (Genesis 35:14 and Exodus 10:25) In the book of Old Testament alone, there are 692 references to making offerings to God.

The verbal form of thanksgiving through psalms and prayers originated after the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan. David illustrated how to give thanks to God in the Book of Psalms. Offering thanks to God is recorded in the Old Testament 64 times and in the New Testament 45 times.

Jesus wanted to teach us the importance of giving thanks to God. So, every time, he broke bread, he looked at heaven and gave thanks and shared the meal with others. (See Matthew 15:36; Matthew 26:27; Mark 8:6; Mark 14:23; Luke 2:38; Luke 17:16; Luke 22:17; Luke 22:19 and John 6:11) Jesus' practice of offering thanks are also reported by his disciples in Acts 27:35 and 1 Corinthians 11:24. Paul's epistles are full of teachings on the importance of giving thanks to God.

The Thanksgiving is also practiced in Heaven as described by St. John in the book of revelations. (See Revelation 4:9; Revelation 7:12 and Revelation 11:17)

So from the first book (Genesis) to the last book (Revelation), the bible tells us the importance of thanking God. How come we don't practice it?

The Bible also talks about several instances of extreme ingratitude.

The first one that comes to my mind is the story of the lepers as described in Luke 17:11-19.

It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

Taking a good look at them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."

They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus' feet, so grateful. He couldn't thank him enough - and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus said, "Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?" Then he said to him, "Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you."
Luke 17:11-19 (MSG)

We can write books about this topic. I just want to point out a few salient features in this story.

  • In the ancient Israel, Lepers were segregated from general population. They were prohibited from coming in contact with the others so as to prevent the spread of this disease. (like the Ebola patients are quarantined these days.) Before they can return to the community, they have to show themselves to a priest who will certify that they are healed. (see Leviticus 14)
  • Jesus haven't healed them initially. He just told them to go and show themselves to a priest. They all went. They knew that Jesus has power to heal. (They addressed him as "master".)
  • They got healed on the way due to their faith. Nine of them proceeded to the priest so as to get a clean certificate and return to their Jewish community. The Samaritan, despised by the Jews, seeing that he was healed, turned around and went back to Jesus to thank him.
  • Jesus knew why the 9 lepers didn't return to say thanks. But he raised that question anyway.

By this example, Jesus is telling us that when we receive a blessing from God, we should immediately thank God. Other things can wait. God loves a person with a grateful heart. He will shower his blessings on him.

If there is a poster child for ingratitude in the bible it is the Israelites while they were being liberated by Moses from Egypt. Yes, we all know the story very well. After Joseph died, a new Pharaoh came to power who didn't know about Joseph. He was concerned by the sheer number of Israelites in Egypt and decided to control them by making them slaves. Big infrastructure projects were started and the Israelites had to toil day and night with limited food to work on these projects. They cried to God to free them from the Egyptians. God remembered the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and planned a rescue mission. Yes, it would have been easy for God to plan a simple rescue mission. But God wanted Israelites to witness and experience the power of God firsthand. He hardened the heart of Pharaoh repeatedly and delayed the rescue. He sent plagues, killer birds and other disasters to Egypt with the grand-finale of killing all the firstborns of Egyptians while sparing the firstborns of Israelites. This convinced the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. (Exodus chapters 5-14)

During these days, the Pharaoh has made the life of Israelites harder in vengeance. This would have been an important lesson in life. Nothing comes easy in life. Before we see the glory, we will have to experience suffering. Jesus, years later, had made it clear, "If you want to be my disciple, you have to willingly take my cross and follow me." Sufferings is an integral part of our life. A true Christian gets closer to God when he goes through the 'valley of the shadow of death' because 'God is with us; his rod and staff will protect us' as David eloquently said in Psalm 23.

But Israelites were not like that. Every time, they faced hardship, like spoiled children, they complained and abused God. For example, when they thought they were trapped between the red sea and the advancing Egyptian army, here is what they said as documented by Moses in Exodus 14:10-14:

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them - Egyptians! Coming at them!

They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, "Weren't the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn't we tell you this would happen? Didn't we tell you, 'Leave us alone here in Egypt - we're better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.'"

Moses spoke to the people: "Don't be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you're never going to see them again.

God will fight the battle for you.
Exodus 14:10-14

Read that passage again and reflect on it. The confidence of Moses Surrendering to God and the Israelites with no faith.

In Exodus chapter 15, we read about a "Thanksgiving Celebration" organized by Moses and Miriam, the sister of Aaron.

But, as usual, Israelites had short memory. They had seen a series of miracles from God to feed them with manna, and flesh from birds, God provided them clean water from a rock, etc. However, every time they faced a small setback, they complained and complained. God, finally, got fed up with them. He decided that he will make them wander through the desert for 40 years so that no one except two (Caleb and Joshua - Numbers 26:65) in the current generation will witness or experience the "land of milk and honey" he had promised the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Ingratitude can be very costly as Israelites discovered too late. It can also be interpreted as 'Lack of respect.'

Paul talked about this in Romans Chapter 1.

"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him…"
(Romans 1:21)

Byron Yawn in, "Did not… give thanks" gave a great explanation of this. I would like to quote Byron here:

Paul captures the very moment mankind turned away from God and chose self-sufficiency and autonomy over "creatureliness." God gave us life and in return we took credit for it. The clay told the Potter to get lost. We refused to acknowledge our utter dependence on Him. Or as Paul put it, we did not "thank Him." To this day, man foolishly imagines himself to be his Creator's equal living in the delusion of self-sufficiency. Humanity is in a state of perpetual ingratitude.

In this context thankfulness takes on an infinitely greater meaning than we imagine. It is not simply a matter of remembering to be grateful for something we receive. He's not talking about courtesy. What Paul means is deeper. "I am grateful to God for giving me life and allowing my life to find its greatest joy in Him." "Thanks" is used by the apostle as a synonym for worship. We were created to both acknowledge our need for HIM and to find in HIM our greatest need. In this sense, thanksgiving is at the core of what it means to be human. To be alive is to acknowledge our dependence on God. To be fallen is to ignore the same dependency. This is why "ingratitude" is the best way to describe our rebellion against the Creator. This is also the reason being thankful is one of the hardest things for fallen human beings to do. We don't need God, or anyone else, so who is there to thank?

We take God for granted. We think we are entitled to it like Israelites did. Didn't God make a covenant with their forefathers? Yes, He did and God kept His covenants. But God can make the 'Journey' interesting!

We should be thankful for everyday we are alive. It is a gift or 'present' from God. Yesterday was history. Tomorrow is a mystery. That is why today is a present. Only God knows what tomorrow holds for us.

But we can face tomorrow confidently, if we trust in God. His rod and staff will protect us from the valley of the shadow of death. We can trust Jesus when He said, "I will be with you till the end of the world."

Many of us are like the nine lepers or the Israelites. We think God owes us. We deserve the blessings. When we have this mental attitude, we are ungrateful.

When we face headwinds, do we say, like Job's wife, "curse the God and die?"

We pray to god for a miracle. When God is slow to answer our prayers, we get mad at God. When God answers our prayers, we do not acknowledge or give any credit to Him. We give credit to others.

I know of people who had been diagnosed with incurable cancers like pancreatic or ovarian or late stage breast cancer. All their friends spring to action. They organize continuous prayers and fasting. A prayer ring is organized so that there is uninterrupted prayers. God answered the prayer just like He did when Ninevites fasted and prayed. The person goes to the hospital for the next check up or surgery. They get the good news. The cancer is completely gone!! The God answered the prayer. What happens now? In most instances, the doctors try to find a rational explanation for this unexpected turn of events. May be it is a case of "spontaneous remission." May be there was a mistake in the tests done earlier or it was a case of misdiagnosis before. Science has answers for everything except for the work of God. God's role was completely forgotten. (No thanks either.)

Does this reminds you of the nine lepers or the Israelites wandering in the desert?

If you keep your heart open to receive the blessings, you will not be disappointed. I have personal experience of it. I have experienced instance after instance of God answering prayers and blessing our family. When we face the inevitable headwinds, we have the confidence that God is on our side and that nothing is going to happen to even a strand of our hair without God knowing it. It is part of God's plan. We do not know what it is; but if we keep our hearts open we will discover it later.

Recently we faced such a situation. My granddaughter, Maia, was diagnosed with a situation where her platelet count has dropped to a precariously low level. (In an accompanying article, my daughter Seena has described the details.) But a few miracles happened. First, the daycare center discovered a bruise on her body and called my daughter and informed her right away. (We normally would have waited to find out what is happening thinking that the child may have rubbed somewhere.) My daughter was free at that time; she called the doctor; the doctor happened to have an appointment time available when she called. So, she took the baby to the doctor right away. (Do you see the so called coincidences stacking up? Are they mere coincidences or a carefully planned sequence of events orchestrated by God so that we can experience the Glory of God?)

Again, rather than just dismissing the child with a comment like "let us see what happens in a day or two", the doctor decided to order a blood test immediately and discovered very shortly that the child is in critical condition and immediately admitted her to the hospital. My cousin, Dr. Anila George MD, a pediatrician in Boston, told me later that the only thing that saved the life of the baby was the quick intervention. She was also amazed at the turn of events unbundling that quickly.

Dr. Jacob Mathew with Maia - August 2014
Dr. Jacob Mathew with Maia - August 2014
Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.
Photo by Dr. Seena Mathew

My reaction to the situation when my daughter called me to convey the bad news was surrendering to God to do the right things, whatever it was. We called all the priests we know and asked them to pray for the child. My wife called her brother in N. Parur and asked him to go immediately to the Parur Church and arrange a special qurbana. And then go to Edappally and make a special offering in the church there. The Eight Day lent this year was very special. By next Sunday, my granddaughter's condition was downgraded from critical to stable. But we still drove 200 plus miles to Detroit to attend the church and to offer our "thanksgiving" for the answered prayers.

Reflecting over these progression of miracles, I am reminded of the angel of God appearing to Abraham at Moriah when he was ready to sacrifice Isaac:

And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said,
Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him.
-
Genesis 22: 11-12

Close your eyes and reflect on the situation. Abraham already had his hand up with the knife to kill Isaac! Do you hear the urgency in the voice of the angel? Abraham was very old at that time - over 100 years old - and he may have been short of hearing too. The kid needs to be saved. Perhaps, there were more than an angel shouting at Abraham (like they appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth of the Savior on Christmas.)

I see the same urgency with which God and angels were working on saving Maia's life.

We often criticize our priests and bishops of not caring for the people or lack of "pastoral care." I saw a remarkable example of how pastoral care was supposed to work in this case. Rev. Fr. Zacharia Varghese, a Malankara World Board member and the first priest born and brought up in North America to be ordained as a priest, had a big role to play in this miracle. First, Seena picked that school because Zach achen's infant son was attending that school and achen and kochamma talked very highly of the school to Seena. When achen heard about the situation of Maia, he immediately went to the hospital to console and comfort Seena and to offer prayers. He made several visits thereafter and prayed. That is the pastoral ministry in action as conceived by Very Rev. Abraham Kadavil Cor Episcopa, who was charged to initiate this ministry by our Archbishop His Eminence Yeldo Mor Titus.

Yes, miracles and blessings pour out to those who believe and trust God. Two years ago, my son miraculously escaped from a car accident. He was on a highway driving at 70 mph when a deer jumped in front of the car. In the aftermath, the car flipped several times and was totally destroyed. My son, walked out of it with minor bruises only. People surviving accidents at that speed without serious injuries is really unheard of!! Do you see God protecting him under His wings like a hen protecting its brood under her wings?

We can be thankful to have a personal savior Jesus Christ who has promised us that "He will be with us always - good times or bad" and that nothing will happen to us, not even a strand of our hair will fall, without His knowledge. We may not always know why certain things happen to us in our lives; but God has a plan and purpose. We are safe under His wings. We need to trust Him to do the best for us.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by.
Psalm 57:1

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
- Philippians 4:6

Yes, there are many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving Day.

I want to close this with a quote from Melissa Kruger from Charlotte, North Carolina on the subject of "The Key to Having a Thankful Heart."

Thankful hearts are the fruit of time spent in the presence of the Lord. As we first give thanks to Him, we abound with love, joy, patience, and kindness to others. Perhaps in the midst of cooking the turkey, setting the table, and cleaning our homes, we need to step away from all the planning, serving, and even the people that we love so that we can have time to prepare our hearts.

As we quiet our hearts before the Lord, offering up the sacrifice of praise for His goodness in our lives, we prepare our hearts to experience the joy of giving thanks. Counting our blessings instead of counting our bitters allows us to to experience the truth of Proverbs 15:15, "The cheerful of heart has a continual feast."

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Thankfulness: In Everything?

By Gary D. Stratman

Scripture: Psalms 100; Philippians 4:4-9

The most important attitude that we will ever nurture, that we will ever exhibit, is the attitude of thanksgiving. I am more convinced of that every day. The attitude that makes the difference is an attitude of being thankful, of being grateful.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says, "Make your petitions known. Pray to God for what concerns you, what troubles you, what you desire; but, in everything, give thanks." If we are able by the grace of God to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving in what we do, say, and are about, we will know a life that is at once more challenging and more fulfilling.

I saw a cartoon not long ago of a family gathered for a common meal. The father said to the mother, "I don't want to complain about leftovers but haven't we already said grace over this meal three times?" He didn't want to complain about leftovers ... but he did. He wanted to give thanks in all things but he found that a little difficult to do. The greatest challenge and opportunity we have is to give thanks in all things.

In All Things Obvious, Give Thanks

In all things that are obvious, give thanks. So what does that mean? There are some good things so close at home, so obvious, that we forget to give thanks for them.

Paul begins this letter by saying, "At every remembrance of you (or every time I think of you), I give thanks for you." The next time you recognize the following thought in your mind or you hear it as you say it aloud, stop and take notice: "It goes without saying." When it comes to thanksgiving, it does not go without saying.

You remember that story about the ten lepers healed by Jesus? Nine went on their way and only one came back? That one person, a Samaritan, knew that it doesn't go without saying. The first opportunity of giving thanks in all things -- and thus changing our attitudes and our lives -- is to give thanks for the obvious things. These are the people and other blessings so close that we seem to look right past them.

When we were going through the Bethel Bible Training up in Madison, Wisconsin, several of the folks doing the teaching were descendants of Norwegian pioneers. They used to tell stories about themselves. The Norwegians, they said, were not known for expressing their feelings very freely. One of the speakers said that he knew a Norwegian farmer, however, who loved his wife and appreciated her so much that one day he almost told her so.

Norwegian or not, that's the way we are sometimes. It's so obvious that we forget to give thanks. The Psalm says we are to give thanks for God's benefits. Think for a moment of the benefits of being here right now: We can laugh and sing and cry. These benefits are a part of God's wonderful love for us. One of the greatest benefits of being fully alive is to give thanks for all of God's benefits. What benefits go unnoticed because they are too obvious?

As we have many children here it would be interesting to ask, "Have you ever given thanks for the wonderful miracle of your body?" A great architect said there's been no invention like the human hand, and it's true.

Children (of all ages), have you thought about your noses lately? Suppose that your nose was on upside down. Every time you would sneeze, you'd blow your hat off. That's right. And if your nose was on upside down, when it rains you'd drown. That may sound silly but you know what I think is sillier? Forgetting to give thanks to God who created this marvelous miracle called our body. The Bible says we are wonderfully made. We are!

Although we are wonderfully made, we're too small to cling to all of the thankfulness that wells up in us. When we want to thank God, it spills over and we begin thanking other people. When we're truly thankful to God, we begin to thank people for what they have meant to us. We write a note. We make a phone call. We stop a person in our busy schedule and say, "You know, I really appreciate you." Thanksgiving -- it is not a time of the year but an attitude of the heart that changes people. We are to give thanks in all things obvious.

In All Things Obscure, Give Thanks

Obscure? What does that mean? It means opportunities that are hidden, people that we don't see right away, things that seem of little value until we take a closer look.

In this passage Paul says, "Whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report or gracious ... think on these things." It means calculate. Stop and ponder. Think about them for a while and begin to see that these "things obscure" go beyond our casual seeing.

"Give thanks for those things that are true." That word is a wonderful word. It means not only that which is true in terms of truth-telling, or honest speaking, but also those things that are solid, of lasting substance. It is not what flits away, is here today and gone tomorrow, but the enduring things: to give thanks for friendships that don't just blow away in tough times; to give thanks for a marriage.

We were at a conference where the President of Princeton Seminary was the speaker. His daughter came to him one day and said, "I've looked around and there just aren't any good marriages. I'm so discouraged. I don't want to get married." I've heard that many times and I must admit that it seems to be true. But I loved his response. He said, "I'll tell you one marriage that's good. It's the marriage of your mother and I." She said, "Oh, that doesn't count." And he said, "It counts!"

And that's what I want to say, It counts! It counts to give thanks for those things that are true and that endure.

Paul says whatever things are lovely, think on those things. This suggests that whatever people are loveable and amiable, give thanks for them. There is a famous psychologist who calls some folks "noxious people." They are people who seem to make us sick because they're always negative and pointing out our foibles, inconsistencies and the things we've done wrong. But he says there are also "nourishing people" in our lives. Give thanks for those who nourish you, who feed you, who are a part of God's gracious plan to build you up.

Whatever things are of good report, whatever things are valuable, give thanks for them. Even though you can't see the value at first, meditate, calculate, reckon, think on them and they become more clear. Even in those things that are obscure, give thanks.

In All Things Objectionable, Give Thanks

I saved the toughest for last and you know it. In all things objectionable, give thanks. This is the one with which we have the most difficulty.

"Do you mean to say I am to give thanks for this tough patch that I am going through?" "Am I supposed to give thanks for this thorn in the flesh that doesn't seem to be taken from me?" That's a tough one, isn't it? But if we are to have an attitude of thanks that can transform the situation, we are to give thanks in all things objectionable.

Quite naturally you may say, "I'm not going to give thanks for this illness," or "I'm not going to give thanks for what this person has done to me." Then at least start here: Give thanks for the Presence of God in that situation, that God has not left you. Even though you had a setback, God is still present and willing to redeem the situation. Then there's the next step. Begin to realize that even through the worst circumstances God can work. Isn't the risen, living Christ the great reminder that even the evil of the cross can be transformed into new and exalted life?

I remember Corrie ten Boom. She died after many years of serving the Lord. What a remarkable, gracious lady. She and her family lived through the Nazi holocaust and they hid Jewish people in their home who would otherwise have been killed. When she was in a Nazi prison camp it was such a flea-ridden, terrible place that she couldn't stand it.

Her older sister Betsy said, "But I have found something in the Bible that will help us. It says, 'In all things, give thanks'." Corrie said, "I can't give thanks for the fleas." Betsy said, "Give thanks that we're together. Most families have been split up." Corrie thought, "I can do that."

Her sister continued, "Give thanks that somehow the guards didn't check our belongings and our Bible is with us." She gave thanks for that. But Corrie would not even think of giving thanks for the fleas. Later they found out that the only reason they were not molested and harmed by the guards was because their "captors" were so repulsed by the fleas that they would not go in. Give thanks even for those lowly creatures!

In the town of Enterprise, Alabama, there is a monument in the middle of the town square. You'd think it's probably of a Confederate general. It's not. It's a monument to a boll weevil. A boll weevil is an animal that destroys cotton. That town depended upon cotton. In 1915 the boll weevil destroyed their livelihood, but through this they learned the importance of diversified farming. They learned to plant peanuts, corn and other crops. In two years they erected a monument to the boll weevil to be a reminder that through a terrible event, good things came to their town.

The Old Testament patriarch Joseph said to his brothers, who sold him into slavery and would have killed him, "You meant this to be for evil but God meant it for good." That was his monument to the power of God to bring good out of apparent evil.

God can use even the worst in the circumstances of this fallen world to bring the best about. You know why we can believe that? Because God certainly did not want His Son to die on the cross but, when it became necessary, the despised instrument of death became the way we could come to know God. The cross became the means by which we can give thanks in all things, those things obvious, obscure and even objectionable. In everything, give thanks.

Unexpected Thanksgiving

by Rev. Charles Henrickson

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

It was an unexpected thanksgiving. I mean the thanksgiving recorded in Luke 17, the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. The thanksgiving that we find there was quite unexpected. And that may give us some guidance and inspiration for the rest of our day today, that we too may do some "Unexpected Thanksgiving."

Oh, now you would expect people to give thanks to the person who healed them, when they had just been healed of a dreaded disease like leprosy. It was a kind of a walking death, in a way. It ostracized you, cut you off, from the rest of society. It cut you off from God, really, since you were considered "unclean" and not able to go to the temple. To be a leper was a lousy lot in life.

So you would think, to be cured of that, you would be moved to render the most heartfelt, deep thanksgiving to God and to the person who was the agent of God's healing. That's what you would think. Yet nine out of ten of the healed lepers didn't. They didn't stop to think about who this man was who healed them, who he must be, in order to do such a mighty, divine work. They didn't come back to thank him and to praise God.

But one did. And that was the unexpected thing. The one who came back. He was, it says, a Samaritan, a foreigner.

The other guys, they were all Jews, presumably. They should have got it. They should have made the connection. "Let's see, man heals lepers. Nobody can do that, only God. We've heard of this Jesus doing other such works. Maybe he's more than just a teacher. Maybe he's more than a prophet. Maybe he's. . . ." See, those guys should have got it. They should have come back running, falling to their knees, thanking--worshiping--their Messiah.

But no. Who's the only one who comes back? The Samaritan. An ethnic, religious half-breed. The Samaritans didn't have their theology straight. They were looked down upon as a mixed race. This is not the one you should expect to "get it." But he does, or at least he's beginning to. He can see that God is working through--that God is in--this man Jesus, in a way beyond what he thought at first. He comes back and thanks Jesus, and Jesus commends him for his faith: "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

"Your faith has made you well." "Your faith has saved you," the Greek could also be translated. Your faith has made you whole, saved you, made you well, in body, soul, and spirit. You see, when you come to Jesus, you get a whole lot more than just a temporary, physical healing. That's what the ten lepers had been asking for when they cried out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." The act of mercy they were looking for was a physical healing, to be cured of their leprosy. But Jesus has more in store than just that. Yes, there was an unexpected thanksgiving, from the Samaritan, for the healing. But more than that, there was unexpected mercy, from Jesus, more than they were asking for. Jesus is in the business of healing the whole person, restoring us not for just a few years but for eternity. The healed Samaritan was getting a whole lot more than he was expecting when he came to Jesus.

So it is for us. We get a whole lot more than what we might think when we come to Jesus. There is mercy way beyond what you expect. You would expect that good people, maybe, would get special favor from God. They should expect to receive blessings. But the unexpected mercy is that God shows grace to sinners like you and me. Not people that deserve anything. Sinners. What we should expect is only wrath and displeasure. But God shows his mercy toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God shows his grace toward the weak and ungodly, people who are unable to help themselves or even inch themselves closer into God's good favor. But that's what God does. He's in the forgiving-sinners business. He's in the showing-mercy business. He's in the healing-and-restoring-sinful-humanity business. That what he does.

And he does it in Christ. Jesus is the agent of God's healing. The mercy and grace come through him. Christ is God in the flesh, God come to earth to do the saving-sinners job. The healing of the lepers is a demonstration of this. It's an advance showing of what's in store for our fallen creation because of Christ. It is unexpected mercy. God forgiving the very people who had rebelled against their Creator, and that's us. Christ going to the cross is the way it happens. Jesus takes into his body all our sin and bears that unbearable burden on the cross. God's Son pays the price we could not pay. Sins are forgiven. And thereby death's hold on us is broken. Humanity will be restored as surely as Christ's resurrection pioneers the new creation. Our dead, rotting flesh will be raised up new and glorious, perfectly whole, on the day when Christ returns. This is mercy way beyond we sinners should ever expect.

"Your faith has made you well." Your faith has saved you, made you whole. Not because it is "your faith," as though you has something to boast about. No, "your faith has made you well," because it is faith in Jesus. Christ is the one who makes your saving faith saving. He packs the salvation into it.

And it is total, complete salvation, as complete as the job that Jesus accomplished. Your sins are forgiven, all of them. Your salvation is assured, forever. Your body, and all of creation, will be restored, perfectly whole. It's as sure as your Savior, and that's as sure as can be.

This unexpected mercy, more than you could ever dream of, prompts, brings forth, unexpected thanksgiving. Here's what I mean. Even when times are tough, even when circumstances are such, that people would not expect you be thankful, you are. "In any and every circumstance," as Paul says, you can rejoice, you are content, you have something to be thankful for. That's because your joy and contentment and thanksgiving are not dependent on this or that passing circumstance. Your thanksgiving is greater than your circumstance, because you have received unexpected and unfathomable mercy. It's more than anyone could imagine. And it's a sure thing. And so you give thanks.

Even in the midst of an extended economic downturn, such as our country has been experiencing, we give thanks. When disease is racking our bodies, when distress is haunting our minds, when our conscience is troubled because of our sins, the gospel sneaks in once again and reminds us whose we are and what Christ has done for us, and then thanksgiving returns. Unexpectedly, perhaps. People don't expect you to be thankful in such times, but you are. Maybe you even surprise yourself.

To be sure, we do give thanks to God for the various blessings that come into our life, the unmistakably good things that come our way: the birth of a healthy grandchild; the diagnosis that turns out OK; the prospect of a surgery that will fix this or that problem; the fact that we have a roof over our head and clothes on our back and food on the table. These are all good things, and we do give thanks for them. National blessings, too, which is what this National Day of Thanksgiving is supposed to be about: bountiful harvests; an incredible supply of natural resources; relative prosperity, when looked at in worldwide and historical terms--Americans are so much better off, even when there's a slight dip in the economic line. We give thanks to God for these things.

And as Christians, we have all our spiritual blessings to thank God for, too. That we have the gift of faith, to trust in Christ our Savior--this is the work of the Holy Spirit, creating and nourishing our faith. We thank God for the church, where we hear the saving Gospel and receive the Blessed Sacrament. Freedom to worship in this blessed land--not everyone has this freedom in other parts of the world. We give thanks to God for all these blessings. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

So we have much to be thankful for. The blessings of Creation--home, family, health, bounty. The blessings of Redemption and Sanctification--forgiveness of sins, righteousness before God, the sure hope of everlasting life through Christ our Savior; the church, the means of grace. The list goes on and on.

So why don't you go on--at least a little bit--throughout the day today? Do something unexpected: Give thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day. Not many people do that, you know. I mean, actually, verbally, give thanks to God, out loud, for his many blessings. Hardly anybody does that anymore. Surprise people a bit. Give thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day. Shock your relatives. Amaze your friends. There's more to this day than football and turkey and getting ready to go shopping. The really amazing, unexpected thing to do on Thanksgiving Day is to thank God.

Yes, unexpected Thanksgiving for unexpected mercy, God's bountiful mercy in Christ Jesus our Lord, more mercy than anyone could ever ask or imagine!

Don't Forget God on Thanksgiving Day

By Rick Ezell

Scripture: Psalm 8:1-9

Nine-year-old Charlie was asked to say the blessing for the Thanksgiving meal. Charlie was always the polite one of the boys. Billy was the mischievous one. Charlie began his prayer by thanking God for his family and his friends, naming them one by one. Then he began to pray for the food. He called every item by name: the green beans, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, corn, bread pudding, the apple sauce, dinner rolls, the pecan pie, and the chocolate cake.

Then he began to pray about the turkey. He prayed, "That turkey looks so juicy and good. Thank you, mom, for preparing it. Thanks for the car that brought the turkey home from the grocery store. And for the man at the market who bagged the groceries and put them in the car. And thanks for the meat department worker that put the turkey on the shelf, for the worker who took the turkey off the truck, the driver of the truck who brought the turkey from the meat packaging company, for the ones who cleaned the bird and wrapped it up, for the farmer who raised the turkey."

Charlie paused. "Have I left anyone out?" he said to himself. By now, the whole family was wondering when his prayer would end. They were hungry and ready to eat.

Just then Billy, Charlie's mischievous brother, blurted out sarcastically, "Well, you've thanked everyone but God!"

Without missing a beat, Charlie said, "I was getting to him."

It seems that at Thanksgiving we thank everyone and so we should. We wish everyone a happy "Turkey Day." We should thank the people that have contributed to our lives, we should consider our forefathers, and we should praise our family and friends. But let's not forget God. He is the source of all blessings.

Someone once remarked that the worst of all possible moments for an atheist is to feel truly thankful and have no one there to thank. Most of us are not actual atheists, but sometimes we may be practical atheists. An actual atheist has no God to thank. A practical atheist has a God to thank, but never thinks of doing it. We never get around to God.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday at a time in American history when Americans were prone to see their rich country — and their good fortune to be born in it — as a direct gift from God. They spoke of the heritage of the Pilgrims who gathered after the first harvest to thank God for the bounty that was theirs. According to tradition, their good friends the Indians brought turkeys and venison and together they enjoyed a great feast in primitive Massachusetts.

Turkeys by the millions now die in November and pudgy Americans (at least 76% of us are overweight) will snore with the television remote control rocking on their stomachs, having fallen asleep watching the gridiron gods wrangle out their contests in noisy bowls of Astroturf. But who received thanks for the good life?

Will we ever get around to God? Or have we simply forgotten him?

America is proof that the blessings of God can wean us from remembering the necessity of God. Will we remember God this Thanksgiving? Will we thank him for who he is, what he has done, and what he has given us?

Consider God

Psalm 8 is the joyous ode of a man who can't believe his place in the created order but is eternally grateful for it. David, the writer, perhaps alone one night stares at the vast expanse of the sky and considers the God who put it all into place. David, if you notice in this psalm, begins and ends with God. He doesn't forget the source of all blessings.

Consider God's name. "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth" (Psa. 8:1). The name of God expresses the sum total of his attributes. It is more than a moniker; it is the embodiment of his character. When God revealed his name he was making himself known, revealing himself to humanity, and inviting intimacy with the created.

Consider God's glory. "You have set your glory above the heavens" (Psa. 8:1). The glory of God is the essence of his nature, the weight of his importance, the radiance of his splendor, the demonstration of his power, and the atmosphere of his presence. God's glory is the expression of his goodness and all his other intrinsic, eternal qualities.

Consider God's heavens. "When I consider your heavens . . . the moon and the stars, which you have set in place" (Psa. 8:3). With the night sky stretched out before him he literally "sees" the moon and the stars. We can marvel at the heavens today with greater wonder than David. We know that in one second a beam of light travels 186,000 miles, which is seven times around the earth. It takes eight minutes for that beam to go from the sun to the earth. In a year the same beam travels almost six trillion miles. Scientists call this a "light year." Eight billion light-years from earth is halfway to the edge of the known universe. The vastness of the universe is the vastness of God.

Consider God's fingers. ". . . the work of your fingers . . ." (Psa. 8:3). God's fingers, according to David, set the stars in place. His fingers, mind you, not his hand or his arm, reveals the power of God. Far less power dwells in the hand than the arm and in the finger than the hand. To create stars, planets, and galaxies, God needed only his fingers. The created order is the work of God's fingers.

Consider God's care. ". . . what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Psa. 8:4). The greatness of God extends beyond the Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy, and a hundred million universes that are tossed into space as mere handfuls of stardust; it extends to man. God thinks of us. He remembers us. He keeps us in his heart and on his lips and in his eyes. Before such overwhelming physical odds and such seemingly endless space and time, God thinks of us and sees us.

Thank God

For all these things we should be thankful.

Because of God's name, we should be thankful that we are invited into a relationship with God. When God revealed his name, he made himself known to us. He no longer was a distant deity separated from his creation. He chose to move into the neighbor, take up residence with us, and allow himself to be known. And in being known we take on his name, his character. Like an old printing press that rolled over the characters, imprinting the paper, God has impressed his character, his likeness, onto our very nature. In knowing God we take his name, Christian, and have his character rubbed off on us.

Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary, wrote in his personal journal:

"I walked out on the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious, to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God — what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth! I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him . . . If only I may see Him, touch His garments, and smile into His eyes."

Here was a man thankful for his relationship with God. Here was a man who was known by God and knew God. He shared his name and his character.

Are you thankful for your relationship with God? Or has it grown stale and common place? Do you take it for granted?

Because of God's glory, we should be thankful that he has allowed us to share in his likeness. We don't possess that glory, we radiate it. Like Moses returning from Mount Sinai whose face was radiant after meeting God, our faces shine like a glow-in-the-dark figure, too. Paul wrote, "But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him" (2 Cor. 3:18 LB).

As believers we have been given the awesome privilege and responsibility to reflect God's glory. A poem given to me by a friend says:

"We, like the moon have no light, no energy, no power. Yet, we, like the moon when touched by the Son — cast his brilliance on the blackest of nights."

A little girl was on the way home from church when she turned to her mother and said,

"Mommy, the preacher's sermon this morning confused me."
The mother said, "Oh! Why is that?"
The girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?"
"Yes, that's true," the mother replied.
"He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?"
Again the mother replied, "Yes."
"Well," said the girl, "If God is bigger than us and he lives in us, wouldn't he show through?"

God wants to show through our lives so we can cast his light on the dark world. That is an important role that we play. Do you thank God for the role he has given you to play?

Because of God's heaven, we should be thankful that God is preparing a special place for us. Life is more than the here and now. Life has a future focus, and for believers, an eternal home. Heaven is a prepared place for those who chose to call God their Father.

We have Jesus' word on that. He told his disciples not to worry about death, not to worry about their heavenly residence, and then gave them a reason,

"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2 NIV).

It is more beautiful than we could ever imagine. We couldn't begin to put it into words. When asked, "What is heaven like?" R. G. Lee replied, "Heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create."

Sometimes it is good to thank God in advance for our heavenly home.

Because of God's fingers, we should be thankful for the creation that we enjoy. Sometimes we get so busy, so complacent, and so selfish, that we forget to see the beauty of God's creation as a gift to us. That why, in my opinion, we should visit from time to time the mountains and the ocean. Those places remind us of God's creation and the overwhelming beauty that are ours because of the work of his fingers.

Oftentimes I'm afraid we overlook the simple gift of creation and fail to thank God for the beauty around us.

Bob Edens was blind. He couldn't see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming.

"I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow," he exclaimed. "I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can't believe red. I can see the shape of the moon — and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is."

The next time you step out at night see the stars and thank the One who put them in space. The next you catch a sunrise or a sunset, say a prayer of thanks to the one who created it. Or for that matter when you see a rose, or a babbly brook, or a rainbow, or that first blanket of snow, don't forget to thank the One who gave it to you and me, no strings attached. Just a simple gift so we can enjoy.

Because of God's care, we should be thankful for his presence. It has been said that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Do you realize how much God cares for you? Do you grasp that you are always on his mind? You are constantly under his watchful eye? The word translated "care" in the NIV is sometimes translated "visit" in other translations. It means "to attend to, to observe." God, like a caring friend, a good doctor, and a loving pastor all rolled up in one, focuses on our needs. Sometimes we don't see him, and other times we don't feel him. But God is there. He quietly intersects our lives meeting our needs when we need him most.

Remember the footprints story? A man looks back on his life and sees two sets of footprints. One is his; the other is God's. As the man observes his life, when things are going well there are two distinct sets of footprints. But, interestingly, when life is difficult and the times are trying there is only one set of footprints. He questions God, as to why he leaves him when life is hard. God responds by saying, "My son, you don't understand. When there is only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."

God is a caring God. Like Hallmark cards, "He cared enough to send the very best." When he saw our need for forgiveness he sent his one and only Son to die for our sins. He did for us on the cross what we could not do ourselves. For that we should be eternally grateful.

We truly have much to be thankful for, don't we? Giving thanks to God for all he has done should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. Is that true of you? Or has the spirit of ingratitude hardened your heart and chilled your relationship with God and with others? Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true sprit of thankfulness.

To be grateful, after all, is to see God, the world, and ourselves aright — to recognize that all of life is a gracious gift from his hand. We are all God's debtors. It is truly to believe in a God. This Thanksgiving I hope you don't forget God. Make sure he is first and last on your thanksgiving list.

About The Author:

Rick Ezell is a writer in Naperville, Illinois.

A Life of Thanksgiving

By David L. Chancey

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:18

The 19th-century English writer Harriett Martineau was an atheist. One day she was walking with a friend and enjoying the glories of a beautiful fall morning when suddenly she burst out, "Oh, I'm so grateful!"

Her Christian friend replied, "Grateful to whom, my dear?"

If we are going to say "thank you," then logically we say "thank you" to somebody. Pausing to express gratitude to a great and mighty God is the reminder of this national holiday. But Thanksgiving is more than a holiday for the grateful believer -- it's a way of life. Bo Baker said, "Thanksgiving is grace dressed in unselfishness, gratitude spelled out in personal concern and character showing its colors like the lovely leaves of fall."

Thanksgiving is an attitude, a natural part of Christian character. Let's look at one short verse of Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "... in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

First, thanksgiving is appropriate in every occasion. "Give thanks" is a command, an imperative. Giving thanks is not an option for the serious Christian. Also, this command is present tense, so the instruction is to keep on giving thanks.

Give thanks in everything .... in all circumstances. Paul is not saying give thanks for everything, but in connection with everything that happens. In every circumstance, no matter what or where, you can still thank God. That's God's imperative to the growing Christian. Paul is speaking here of a life marked by thanksgiving.

Not everything that happens to us is good, but God uses everything that happens to work for our good.

Sometimes we don't know whether something is good or bad, but we can be thankful God is working for our good in everything.

Not only is thanksgiving appropriate in every occasion, but also: thanksgiving should abound naturally in the life of every growing Christian. Thanksgiving is the natural response to the grace and goodness of a great and wonderful God who cares and provides. Thanksgiving should overflow from the life of the Christian. Listen to these appeals for a grateful heart:

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and he thankful" (Col. 3:15).

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col. 3:17).

"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2).

Paul in this Colossians passage ties thanksgiving closely to prayer, as he also does in the 1 Thessalonians verse. Overflowing gratitude springs from a life of continuous, ceaseless prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). Thanksgiving should be a natural part of the Christian's prayer. How can we pray without first giving thanks for all He has done? When we pray thanks, we must also live out thanksgiving with our words and actions.

A father was asking the blessing as usual at breakfast, thanking God for His bountiful provision. Immediately afterward he began to grumble about the hard times, about the meal and the way it was cooked. His daughter interrupted,

"Daddy, do you think God heard what you said when you prayed a little while ago?"
"Certainly," the dad replied with confidence.
"And then did He hear what you said about the bacon and coffee?" she asked.
"I'm sure He did," the dad replied, not so confidently.
"Then which did He believe?" the little girl asked.

What naturally abounds in your life? Gratitude or grumbling? Is your prayer of thanksgiving consistent with your life of thanksgiving?

Finally, thanksgiving is the secret to a happy Christian life. Key to contentment and wholeness for the Christian is learning how to express thanks; not complaining, criticizing or grumbling. For many people the first response is criticism or grumbling. That's the sign of an ungrateful heart. If God uses everything to work together for good, how can we not be thankful? When trials come and work for our spiritual maturity, how can we not count it all joy?

Paul said being thankful, along with rejoicing always and praying without ceasing, is God's will for our lives.

An immigrant shopkeeper had a son who kept complaining, "Dad, I don't understand how you run this store. You keep your accounts payable in a cigar box. Your accounts receiveable are on a spindle. All your cash is in the register. You never know what your profits are."

The old man responded, "When I arrived in this land all I owned was the pair of pants I was wearing. Now your sister is an art teacher. Your brother is a doctor. You are a CPA. Your mother and I own a house and a car and this little store. Add that all up and subtract the pants and there is your profit."

That was a man with a grateful heart and a thankful life. He's a good example for all of us -- grateful for what he had.

When Martin Rinkhart wrote one of our most popular Thanksgiving hymns, it was the worst of times in Europe as the Thirty Years War was taking place. Rinkhart and his congregation suffered the full force of war's savagery. Their little village in Germany was invaded and sacked three times with almost everything of value destroyed. Many died.

Rinkhart looked death and destruction squarely in the face and sought God's strength in deep, searching prayer. When he rose, the burdened minister had his answer from God. Nothing had really changed. They could still praise God with a thankful spirit!

God's presence and power were so vivid in his heart that Rinkhart expressed his feelings on paper. Then he composed a tune and shared it with a few members. It caught on and became "Now Thank We All Our God," a hymn that expresses profoundly our deepest feelings of gratitude.

This Thanksgiving, let's express genuine gratitude that springs from a life of giving thanks to God. 

A Prayer for Thanksgiving
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

Dear God, You have invited us to give you thanks, and this is what we wish to do. We are living in a time of great anxiety, but you have offered us a way out of anxiety. We long to know your loving care.

We pray to you because there is no one so good, so high, so holy, and so merciful as you. Thank you that you have invited us to bring our petitions and our requests to you. Who else can we go to for wisdom, or for hope, or for guidance?

We pray for the victims of violence wherever they may be found. We pray for those in authority, that they would seek and find the wisdom that comes from above. We pray for peace in the world. We pray that you would help us live in obedience, with integrity, based on the dignity you have given. And we pray for peace in our own hearts, a peace that proceeds from your forgiveness, the wholeness that comes from your restorative touch.

We thank you for creating a world you called "good." We thank you that despite the evil that has entered the world and still wages war in our own souls, your own goodness is undiminished. We thank you that we have seen

honor that is bolder than shame...
mercy that is wider than cruelty...
truth that is straighter than deception...
faith that is stronger than treachery...
hope that is deeper than desperation.

We thank you for the ordinary things: the bread we receive today, the breath by which we live today. And we thank you for the extraordinary things: the strength we didn't know was possible, and the discovery of truths we didn't know we didn't know. We thank you for the immeasurable grace shown to us in the coming of Jesus Christ, the hope of the world.

In His Name, Amen.

Source: Mel Lawrenz, The Brook Network

Hymn: Now Thank We All Our God

by Martin Rinkart, c.1636
tr. by Catherine Winkworth, 1856

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav'n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Thankful People Are Happy People

by David Murray

Research shows that gratitude is a powerful force for creating positive changes in individuals, families, and organizations. In fact, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a research professor of psychology, "The expression of gratitude is a kind of metastrategy for achieving happiness." Some of the more detailed findings, published in books like The Happiness Advantage, Flourish, and Optimal Functioning, are:

Consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely.

When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.

By noticing more kindness you'll experience more of it in your life. Counting kindness interventions involve taking daily tallies (mental or physical) of kind acts committed and witnessed, and have been shown to increase people's levels of positivity.

Gratitude encourages moral behavior and helps people cope with stress, trauma, and adversity.

It also inhibits negative comparisons with others and pushes out and replaces negative emotions.

When we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.

Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives

Thankful people feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising.

In The Happiness Project, the best-selling biographical experiment in positive psychology, Gretchen Rubin explains the benefits of increased thankfulness in her own life:

Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you're grateful for what you have, you're not consumed with wanting something different or something more. That, in turn, makes it easier to live within your means and also to be generous to others. Gratitude fosters forbearance – it's harder to feel disappointed with someone when you're feeling grateful toward him or her. Gratitude also connects you to the natural world, because one of the easiest things to feel grateful for is the beauty of nature.

Increasing Gratitude

We can increase gratitude in our lives by intensifying the feeling of it for each positive event, by increasing the frequency of it throughout the day, by widening the number of things we're grateful for, and by expressing gratitude to more people. Some positive psychologists, like Jessica Colman, also encourage the practice of "savoring" which has three phases:

1. Anticipation:

Generating positive feelings before an event occurs.

2. Present enjoyment:

Generating positive feelings in the present by intensifying or prolonging them through thoughts and behaviors.

3. Reminiscence:

Generating positive feelings by looking back on an event in a way that re-kindles positive emotion.

In Flourish, Martin Seligman identified four kinds of savoring:

1. Basking:

Reveling in or making the most of praise or congratulations.

2. Thanksgiving:

Experiencing or expressing gratitude.

3. Marveling:

Being filled with wonder, astonishment, or awe.

4. Luxuriating:

Delighting in the experience of the senses.

Some more practical activities for increasing gratitude are explained in Optimal Functioning:

Gratitude Journal:

Write down what you are grateful for each day, and describe in detail why each good thing happened. This draws the attention to the precursors of good events and helps people become aware of more things to be grateful for, deepening the experience.

Gratitude Essay or Letter:

Write an essay about, or a letter to someone to whom you feel grateful. Explain why you feel grateful in detail. If you write a letter it is not necessary to deliver it, but delivering it can produce even more positive emotion for the writer and the receiver.

Gratitude Partner:

Plan to practice gratitude regularly with a partner by sharing good news and discussing things you feel grateful for. Respond actively and constructively when your partner shares, feeling the joy and gratitude with them when they share their blessings.

Meditate on the Feeling of Gratitude:

Sit in a quiet place to meditate, call to mind things you feel grateful for, savor the feeling of gratitude, and let it impact your whole body.

Express Gratitude Directly:

Make a habit of thanking people authentically for the things they do for you and the impact they have on your life.

More blessed to give than to receive

As far as I know, none of these positive psychology experts have Christian faith. And yet God is using them not only to confirm the Bible's teaching about giving (of thanks) making us happier than receiving (Acts 20:35), but also to work out the practical details of how to increase gratitude in our lives for everyone's benefit.

It's the kind of thing that makes us wonder how unbelievers sometimes seem to have more understanding of biblical principles than Christians! But the Apostle Paul helps us make sense of this. He says that when unbelievers, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, they show the work of the law written in their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).

About The Author:

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Tips on Eating Healthy This Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is only a few days away. For most of us, the holiday is marked by time spent with family and extreme overeating. Caroline Cederquist, M.D., a bariatric physician specializing in weight management and creator of diet delivery company bistroMD, says that the holidays don't have to make the numbers on your scale climb.

"Big, abundant, sit-down dinners are likely to make their way into the schedule of even the most harried and hurried among us," Dr. Cederquist states. "Thanksgiving is a day when many of us feel the need to break all the rules when, in fact, it is possible to enjoy the feast without ruining a week's worth of healthy eating."

"Perhaps the most important attitude adjustment is to be sure that you're not thinking of yourself as a person who is trying to lose weight or avoid junk," Dr. Cederquist explains. "If you're trying to eat better and get healthy, then think of yourself as a person who eats well and makes healthy choices."

Cederquist goes on to say that it helps to be forearmed with a few defensive thoughts to call up in case someone brings that plate of cookies right over to you. Think of what motivates you to be eating better and getting healthy to begin with. "We have our patients write these out on index cards and keep their top motivations with them for quick reference in moments of temptation."

If someone is particularly insistent about trying to ply you with sweets or goodies, be ready with a polite way to decline. "But don't say, ‘I'm dieting'", Dr. Cederquist warns. "That's only going to invoke sympathy and good-natured encouragement to live a little."

One avoidance strategy she suggests is to plan ahead. "When you're faced with that big sit-down meal at Grandma's, plan to stop before you get so full that you're uncomfortable. Sure, the food is delicious and evokes all sorts of wonderful nostalgia, but you don't need to overeat to enjoy the memories. Chew slowly, savor each bite, and really appreciate those special dishes. It's a much better way to enjoy them than doing the stuff-and-suffer."

Ask for small servings or serve yourself small portions to start with. "If you're truly still hungry, go back for more," Dr. Cederquist reminds. "That way, you can leave room for seconds of the really delectable dishes."

If you're the host, one trick to help slow the overeating at your holiday party is to try for buffet serving rather than putting all the food on the dining table.

"We actually recommend this to patients year round so that when they're at home they fill the plates from the stove and bring them to the table," Dr. Cederquist says. Repeated studies have shown that if food is within arm's reach, more will be eaten. If you and your guests have to get up to grab seconds, less food will be consumed overall.

Source: BistroMD

Recipe: Chocolate and Coffee Crusted Turkey Breast with Cranberry Pear Chutney

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

A unique crusted turkey breast full of seasonal flavors.

Chocolate and Coffee Crusted Turkey Breast with Cranberry Pear Chutney

by Chef Stacey

Ingredients:

Turkey:

2 teaspoons Instant Coffee
1/2 teaspoon Iodized Salt
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Baking Cocoa
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
3-5 pounds Boneless Turkey Breast

Chutney:

1 pear, peeled, halved
2 cups Red Wine
1/3 cup Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
1 tablespoon White Vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F (160 deg C).

For the turkey: In a medium bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients.

Pour the mixture over the turkey breast, coating all sides well. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°F (75 deg C). Remove netting and rest for 15 minutes.

For the chutney:

In a medium saucepan, bring the pears and wine to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes then turn off heat. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Drain and refrigerate until cool. Dice pears and reserve.

In a medium saucepan, simmer the cranberry sauce and vinegar for 10 minutes or until the berries burst and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the pears and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Reserve at room temperature.

Slice the turkey and serve with the chutney.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Servings: 6

Recipe Courtesy of Chef Stacey, ALDI Test Kitchen

My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe

by John Boehner, Speaker, House of Representatives, USA

What's not to love about Thanksgiving? It's a time to gather together, catch up with our loved ones, and of course, try to impress them with our cooking skills.

If, like me, you're responsible for the turkey, then you've probably got some special ingredient or some way you make it that you've perfected. For me, it's brining the turkey. From my kitchen at home in West Chester, Ohio, you can see exactly what I mean.

If you end up giving this a try, let me know how it goes. As for side dishes, I'd recommend my grandmother's creamed spinach. You can't beat it.

No matter what you make, or how you make it, Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. This is the day our forefathers set aside to reflect on how blessed we are to live in this great nation under God. It's a beautiful thing.

The Boehner Brine

Ingredients:

8 quarts water
6 bay leaves
2 cups Kosher salt
3 tbsp peppercorns
1 head of garlic
16 oz pure maple syrup

Directions:

Bring the brine close to a boil, then let it cool.

Put a bag in a five-gallon bucket.

Wash the turkey and remove the insides. Put the turkey in the bucket. Pour the brine over to cover the turkey. Keep the turkey submerged.

Let it stand overnight in the refrigerator or outside if it is cool enough.

After 24 hours, take it out and rinse it off.

At that point, it's ready to be cooked.

Directions for Roasting the Turkey:

Follow the cooking directions on the Turkey

(If using ovens use 325 deg F or 160 deg C. Cook till the internal temperature reads 170 deg F or 75 deg C)

Speaker Boehner recommends cooking till the inside temperature reaches 160 deg F or 70 deg C.

First bake or roast with the breast side down for the 50% of the total cooking time.

Turn it over and bake it through.

Take out the Turkey and cover it with aluminum foil. Let it sit for another 1 hour (Resting time.)

Serve.

Video URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rnrlikPjeQ

Seven Things to Be Thankful For
* For automatic dishwashers. They make it possible to get out of the kitchen before the family come in for their after-dinner snacks.

* For husbands who attack small repair jobs around the house. They usually make them big enough to call in professionals.

* For the bathtub -- the one place the family allows Mom some time to herself.

* For children who put away their things and clean up after themselves. They're such a joy you hate to see them go home to their own parents.

* For gardening. It's a relief to deal with dirt outside the house for a change.

* For teenagers. They give parents an opportunity to learn a second language.

* For smoke alarms. They let you know when the turkey's done.

Source unknown

Giving Thanks: Understanding the Biblical Emphasis of Thanksgiving

by Henry Morris III, D.Min.

Evidence for Creation

It may be a curious reflection on our Western culture, but the "thank you" of normal social interchange does not have a counterpart in the Bible. The declining custom of writing thank you notes has some implied connection to the biblical emphasis, but those social manners are more related to our sense of reciprocity than is reflected in Scripture.

Please do not misunderstand. It is a good custom to respond to someone's gift or help, and all of us should express our pleasure for the effort extended to us from another person - even if the necktie is "strange" or the flowers make you sneeze. The old cliché still applies - it's the thought that counts. The custom of "thanksgiving" is helpful, both as acknowledgement and as encouragement. But the emphasis in Scripture is much more specific, revolving around the concepts of confession and praise.

Confession

There are two Hebrew terms translated with the English word "thanks" in the Old Testament. Towdah is most often connected with sacrificial thanksgiving "offerings" (Leviticus 22:29, 2 Chronicles 29:31). Yadah is used more frequently and is most often translated "praise" (Psalm 18:49, Isaiah 25:1).

Both of these terms are built around the idea of "confession" - as in listing or acknowledging sins committed and forgiveness granted. Both terms are used of private as well as formal occasions, and they consistently imply vocal expression (speaking out loud), repeated communal expression (as in corporate worship), and often formal celebration, as demonstrated in the following passages:

And Joshua said unto Achan, "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me." (Joshua 7:19 )

I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD: That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. (Psalm 26:6-7 )

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. (Nehemiah 12:27 )

Praise

Interestingly, the major Hebrew word for "praise" (halal) is not the same as the companion word coupled with the idea of "thanksgiving." As noted, the connection between towdah and yadah is confession - indicating that understanding why we are grateful is inseparable from the act of expressing and acknowledging that appreciation. Perhaps it could be expressed this way:

Confession involves recognition of our failure to meet God's holy standards.
Thanksgiving is the means whereby we acknowledge the receipt of God's forgiveness.
Praise is the overt vocal and often public expression of that acknowledgment.
Often, the act of praise is expressed in singing. Hebrew poetry uses parallel phrases to emphasize the central thought. This is easily seen in the Psalms, where the English words "praise" and "thanks" are translations of the same Hebrew word, coupled with "sing."

I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high. (Psalm 7:17 )

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. (Psalm 30:4 )

Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. (Psalm 33:2 )

I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations. (Psalm 57:9 )

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High. (Psalm 92:1 )

Agreement

The New Testament emphasizes that the individual who thanks God should be in such close agreement with God that the act of thanksgiving is in harmony with the rationale behind the thanks. The Old Testament, however, focuses on visible actions as evidence of obedience.

The historical nature of the Old Testament and the Hebrew language is most easily understood by its emphasis on physical behavior - hence the emphasis on the sacrificial system and the focus on the location of the tabernacle and the temple. That context underscores the emphasis on confession and praise as a part of thanksgiving.

The nature of the New Testament as well as the Greek language is more easily understood through doctrine and the intellectual fulfillment of the prophetic message. The four gospels record the historical events that implemented the work of the Messiah. The epistles that follow examine the theology of that work and outline the spiritual attitudes that should motivate the "twice-born" to emulate the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. Thus, the thanksgiving of the New Testament believer moves from the sacrificial confession and formalized activities of the nation to personal responsibility, agreement with Scripture, and open confession of biblical truth.

Informed Thanks

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Romans 6:17 )

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:12)

Intercessory Thanks

Wherefore, I also…cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16)

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)

Imperative Thanks

For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. (Romans 15:9)

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:17 )

Obviously, the attitude of thanks is more important than the act of thanks. God's evaluation of our hearts has not changed since the creation. When the Old Testament prophet Samuel was surprised at God's selection of young David, God told Samuel, "The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Our instructions are just the same - "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).

America's official celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday is good policy and surely should be observed by our nation. Most churches practice some form of public thanksgiving in weekly worship services. Most Christian organizations acknowledge God's call and provision for their ministries. It is likely that most Christian families "say grace" at meals. Those are all good practices.

However, far more important is the issue of how God's people practice thanksgiving all the time. At the core of our hearts are the firm beliefs of our mind, and at the core of our actions are the attitudes of our hearts (Matthew 15:19). Foundational to all of that is how we approach the text of Scripture - and undergirding that approach is how we treat the information in Genesis. One cannot please God without understanding Genesis (Hebrews 11:1-6).

Thanksgiving - the attitude as well as the act - is enriched by both the knowledge of and confidence in the authority and accuracy of the Word of God.

About The Author:

Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.

Gratitude: How a Bucket of Ice Changed My Paradigm

by Kindra Hall

I was feeling a little out of balance.

You know that feeling? The one where when someone asks you how it's going you have to physically restrain yourself from releasing a deluge of information including but not limited to the health of your children, the location of your spouse, and your crazybusy (yes, one word) schedule in the days to come and those just passed.

I hate that. For several weeks I just couldn't shake that unbalanced feeling.

So, one morning while the kids were eating breakfast and Michael was messing around with the hole in our screen door that was letting entire colonies of mosquitoes into our home, I decided to attack that feeling head on. I snuck into the other room and onto the Internet searching for solutions to "feeling out of balance." Google had several suggestions:

  • Yoga. But I've never been very flexible.
  • Meditation. But I've never been very good at sitting still.
  • Tightrope walking. But I'm not crazy.

I was just about to give up - my family was getting suspicious of my 3-minute absence - when something caught my eye. It was a headline that said something to the effect of "Gratitude, Nature's Cure All." Apparently, a heaping spoonful of gratitude is all an unbalanced soul needs.

Though I could hear the noise level in the kitchen rising, I anxiously kept searching. I wanted gratitude strategies. Something I could implement in just a few seconds at the beginning or end of each crazy-busy day.

I scrolled swiftly and found a link claiming Oprah attributed her massive success to a gratitude journal. Jackpot! Just then I heard the unmistakable sound of a cup of milk crashing to the floor and the cry of a toddler and I knew I had just seconds to spare.

'For 16 years, every night before bed Oprah writes down five things she is grateful for that day," the article said. Practical and quick, I thought, totally doable. I'm feeling better already.

"Kindra," my husband appeared in the doorway having given up on the mosquito war. "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to be more grateful!" I exclaimed frantically. Michael merely raised an eyebrow. Off to a great start, I thought.

However, I spent the rest of the day on a gratitude roll, making mental notes of things to record. That night I ceremoniously pulled an untouched journal from a stack of journals I have collected, and numbered five lines.

I am grateful for:

My adoring husband.
My precious son.
My feisty daughter.
My work.
My friends.

56 seconds later, I closed the journal. Done! And while I didn't necessarily sense an increase in balance, as I lay my head on the pillow, I started planning my very own "Favorite Things" episode.

For three whole days I lived an efficiently gratuitous life; spending 56 effortless seconds before bed jotting down my five items. Then came the fourth day…

The fourth day was a crazy-busy imbalanced blur. I'll restrain from sharing the details.

I crawled into bed that fourth night crabby and exhausted. Just before I passed out thought to myself, "Oh shoot. I forgot to be grateful." I sat back up, hastily pulled my journal off my nightstand and numbered the lines.

I am grateful for…

Spanx.
Iced coffee.
Nutella.

I stopped at three. I didn't have time for this. It was dumb.

I immediately abandoned my gratitude strategy - it just wasn't working. And I was pretty sure if I sat down with Oprah and asked for the truth about her gratitude journal she would lean forward and in a throaty whisper say, "Oh honey, I only made it three days… ain't nobody got time for that."

These thoughts and others raced through my mind that Thursday morning while I drove my three year old to preschool. Per the usual, he talked the whole way - the only person on the planet who can outtalk me. On that particular Thursday, the one-way conversation centered entirely on the color turquoise.

"Oh! Look Mama! I just saw a turquoise car! Did you see that turquoise car? Mama! Did you see that sign, that sign was turquoise. Oh! Mama! Look at the sky, the sky is kind of turquoise. The ocean is turquoise too. Oh! Mama! Look at that gate! It's… it's… TURQUOISE!

"Mama!" he crescendoed from the confines of his car seat. "Mama! There is just so much turquoise in the WORLD!"

He paused. Then slowly, quietly, thoughtfully said…

"This is my world. My beautiful, turquoise world."

There was breathless wonder in his voice. He was completely overwhelmed…

With gratitude.

I pulled into the parking lot and sat for a moment.

I was doing gratitude all wrong. I was trying to manufacture it, or simply retrace or recall it - but that's not how gratitude works. Gratitude takes us by surprise. It overwhelms us and fills us with wonder. In it's truest form gratitude can't be captured on a list or strategically felt it in less than a minute. If I wanted to shake my imbalanced life, tallying good things at the end of an otherwise disconnected day wasn't going to straighten me out. I had to engage in my own turquoise world and from the confines of my crazy-busy days, be aware of its beauty.

That night I pulled my mostly untouched journal from the nightstand and instead of writing five things, I wrote about the one time I drove my son and all his gratitude to school. It took me 30 minutes. And for the first time in a long time, I felt my balance return.

In this month, when we take time to be with the ones we love and give thanks…

In this month where things start to get crazy-busy and completely off kilter…

It is my hope, for you and me that our tables are filled with laughter, food and heaping spoonfuls of real, overwhelming gratitude.

About The Author:

Kindra Hall is an author, speaker, and storyteller with over 20 years of experience. She works with organizations and individuals to help them discover, craft, and deliver their personal stories in order to increase reach and revenue.

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