Thanksgiving. A whole holiday centered on gratitude. What a terrific idea. Nice job, President George Washington!
Back in 1789, he declared it, "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God."
But the invitation to express gratitude to God goes back much farther than early U.S. history. Let's travel back in time a couple thousand years to the period in which the biblical book of Psalms was being composed.
There are many Psalms rooted in a spirit of gratitude. They make a perfect spot for a devotional appetizer before all the Thanksgiving platters arrive on the table.
I encourage you to grab a Bible from somewhere in your house. Any translation will work. I'll still be here when you get back. Please go get one. Now open up to the middle. You will likely land close to the Book of Psalms. (Option B: the Bible is also available online)
Now read Psalm 100. At several church events in the past week, we've spent some time exploring this particular psalm. In Confirmation, we read it a few times aloud. Then we each composed our own version. A personally-authored psalm of gratitude.
It was a great experience, and I encourage you to try it this year. Perhaps you could carve out a few moments before or after dinner tomorrow. Or wake up first thing in the morning and compose your psalm with a warm cup of coffee. Find a time for this exercise in intentional praise. Invite your kids and parents and great-aunts to do the same.
In our individual psalm, we can be 100-percent honest and real with God. That's what the original authors did, too.
I would imagine that the past year has provided quite a smorgasbord of highs and lows. Maybe you've had the best year ever. Or maybe it has literally been the worst year you've ever experienced.
Perhaps tomorrow you'll be hosting a house crammed completely full of relatives and friends. Or perhaps your family has dwindled in size and you'll be spending the day in quiet solitude.
We all enter into the day of Thanksgiving from a unique vantage point. So be extra kind and graceful to others this week (and every week).
For some, it's a well-loved holiday. The view is like one from a mountain-top with beauty in every direction. For others, the Thanksgiving view is more like the bottom of a cavernous valley. It takes all the strength they can muster to get through the day.
Verse four of Psalm 100 declares, "Enter God's gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."
Whatever we've come through since last November, in the days ahead we get to pause and look around. Where were the gratitude glimmers? Where were the moments and experiences for which to give praise? Dwell in this space of gratefulness. Soak it in like a sponge.
For the last few years, I've shared a prayer with you for the pre-Thanksgiving column. This year, I think Psalm 100 should be our prayer. And the version you write will be a prayer, too.
However you opt to celebrate the holiday ahead, I encourage you to find a way to express some intentional thanksgiving. To the God who knows us, loves us, and walks with us always, we give our eternal gratitude and praise.
The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: theladypastor.com.