Recently I have challenged our congregations to think about what they have in abundance they can give away. What do our 8,000 members have that can be a blessing to 800,000 neighbors? I believe that every congregation has been uniquely blessed to be a blessing. Here's a simple suggestion of something you have to give away, especially today... THANKS!
Psychologist Dr. Robert A. Emmons, in an article on "The Joy of Thanks," says the physical and psychological benefits of being in a state of gratitude is almost equal to that of actual therapy:
"My colleagues and I are finding that gratitude, which we define as a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life, is more than simply a pleasant emotion to experience or a polite sentiment to express. It's, or at least can be, a basic disposition, one that seems to make lives happier, healthier, more fulfilling- and even longer." (Spirituality & Health, 4 [Winter 2002], 38ff. The Psychology of Gratitude published by Oxford University Press, USA, February 26, 2004.)
According to Emmons, recent psychological research shows that:
A person experiencing gratitude is protected from the destructive impulses of envy and greed;
The practice of gratitude as a spiritual discipline may cure excessive materialism and its attendant negative emotions of envy, resentment, disappointment, and bitterness;
Gratitude supports well-being by displacing resentment, regret, and other psychological states deleterious to long-term happiness;
Grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions-happiness, vitality, optimism, and hope-and greater satisfaction with life.
In other words, Thanks-giving is good therapy.
I like Thanksgiving. Everybody can participate. Young, old and in between, traditional and customary rituals blend with the new. No gifts are required. It is not a parochial religious holiday. It is the least commercial holiday we have. Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is one of our country's better habits.
By the time of the Revolutionary War, official days of thanksgiving were common in the colonies. But it was President Abraham Lincoln that set the annual day of Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November.
Thanks-giving is what grateful and blessed people do. It's what transforming and growing congregations do in worship and in mission, inside the sanctuary, and outside on the corner. A spirit of thankfulness is a sign of God's presence and an indicator of vitality. Thankfulness is our mission! I am blessed to belong to, and serve, such a thank-filled presbytery.
I hope your plans include special family and community gatherings as we give thanks wherever we are. May a spirit of gratefulness overflow in your life as we experience each day's surprises and joys ahead.
And as you do it, you'll say,
"Give thanks to GOD."
Call out God's name.
Ask God anything!
Shout to the nations, tell them what God's done,
Spread the news of God's great reputation!
"Thank God! God deserves your thanks. God's love never quits" Psalms 136.1.
"Thank you! Everything in me says, "Thank you!" Angels listen as I sing my thanks" Psalms 138.1.
"I couldn't stop thanking God for you-every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks" Ephesians 1.16.
"You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it's a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it's only right that we give thanks" 2Thessalonians 1.3.
(Texts from The Message)