Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pilgrims and Martha Stewart Aside, What is Thanksgiving?

Recently I went to and typed “What is Thanksgiving?” In less than a quarter of a second the computer displayed over 23 million links! Evidently, there are many ways to describe Thanksgiving. Here is my take on it:

Where to begin?
I could start in 1621, when the first American Thanksgiving feast is recorded to have taken place and end with the many things that have grown out of America’s tradition of giving thanks each fourth Thursday in November -Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football rivalries, turkey trots, and Black Friday to name a few. But I think the best place to start is with the God of Isaac and Abraham because long before the first U.S. President, George Washington, issued the first national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1789, David, a man after God’s own heart, wrote these words, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”  (Ps. 95:2-3)

So what is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to continue celebrating God’s abundant goodness. It’s not meant to be a burden (though we often turn it into one) but an excuse or – if I may be so bold – a reason to gather with family and friends, take a break from school and work, and remember and rejoice in God’s faithfulness. The day should not only beckon the question, what am I going to serve/eat/clean/do, but also – most importantly – for what am I thankful to God? Furthermore, our attitude of thankfulness should not depend on how much food and family surround us on Thanksgiving Day. David wrote the above words during a time in his life when food was not a commodity and many of his family and friends had turned on him.

How to prepare for Thanksgiving? (Aside from Martha Stewart’s advice)
I encourage you to think outside the box and give greater meaning to your Thanksgiving Day – for yourself and your family. This may look like reading scripture, praying, singing hymns, sharing, and serving. My fondest memories of Thanksgiving are from serving and sharing – serving my mother and sisters by helping them to cook and clean, serving the homeless by waking up early on my day off, driving downtown and passing out food, and sharing with my family specific reasons that I am thankful for them and for God. Furthermore, Thanksgiving Day is a great opportunity to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Lord. Thanksgiving is the pre-party to Christmas! All the things that we are thankful for on Thanksgiving spring from the gift of Jesus Christ.

While some of us don’t know the three essential ingredients for green bean casserole – green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and dried onions – and others, Americans included, didn’t know that pumpkin pie was probably not served at the first Thanksgiving meal, we all, no matter what country we come from, know Jesus Christ, and isn't He something to be thankful for! As Christians, we are called –invited, commissioned, entrusted –to give thanks to the Lord. We should not only give thanks on the fourth Thursday in November over a spread of turkey and stuffing, we should give thanks every day. We need to have a ThanksLIVING attitude!

[I wrote the above piece for the Trinity Wives Fellowship newsletter. Trinity Wives Fellowship is a great group of ladies whose husbands are attending seminary at TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). Some of the wives are from America and many others are from all over the world. ]

On a personal note…
Each year Satan tries to mess up my Thanksgiving Day – maybe you can relate – I worry about preparing the food and coordinating the oven schedule and stress over strained relationships with a family and friends. This year, more than ever, my joy will be a target of Satan’s as I will celebrate Thanksgiving without family (thankfully, I have a husband to keep me company!!). Jonathan and I will be on-call at the shelter and therefore unable to leave the property. For the most part I have accepted this as an opportunity to invest in our marriage and family rather than as a sentence to do jail time. I’m eager to cook a Thanksgiving dinner on my own! We often joke that we’ve invited some of the good dogs from downstairs to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. But, I know that I must be careful with  my jokes and . I worry that in my attempt to distract my emotions with cooking and baking I may forget that Jesus will also be dining with us.  You see, we may be off from work and school on Thanksgiving day but Satan is definitely on duty – and yet, so is God!

If you are like me, prone to stressing and fussing on Thanksgiving Day, pick out a bible verse and tuck it in your apron pocket so that you are ready for battle. And remember that your battle is not with the turkey, the oven, your husband, or sister. I’ve selected Psalm 95:2-3 to memorize on Thanksgiving Day.

“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”  (Ps. 95:2-3)

More about Thanksgiving
This first Thanksgiving feast probably included: Lobster, rabbit, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, onions, leeks, honey, radishes, cabbage, and carrots

Today's traditional Thanksgiving feast would include: Turkey & gravy, stuffing, yams (sweet potatoes), green bean casserole (among other casseroles), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Did you know that Thanksgiving Day is also observed in Canada, Liberia, The Netherlands & Norfolk Island?

For some devotionals & Bible verses on Thanksgiving go to

For videos & articles on the history of Thanksgiving go to

For Thanksgiving type recipes go to