I came across a phrase recently that sounded strange to me: “Thanksgiving Discipline.” These words seem inconsistent. For me, thanksgiving is occasional and related to emotion. Sometimes I feel thankful; other times not so much. The occasions of thankfulness are tied to infrequent flashes of unexpected good fortune or the sudden recognition of continual blessing. Discipline implies effort and focus. In fact, discipline is kind of a socially unacceptable concept. It involves something we do and not happenstance.
Yet, our attitude of thanksgiving should be constant. It provides the foundation for the encouragement of others which allows for the making of disciples. That’s our mission and thanksgiving, gratitude, and encouragement are the path. Love of God and neighbor require a focus on God and neighbor. Focus on ourselves robs us of gratitude and promotes fear and insecurity. If we look to God and what He’s up to we can’t help but be thankful. Looking in the mirror promotes fear, insecurity, and ingratitude.
How can we practice Thanksgiving Discipline? Maybe there are clues in the way we celebrate Thanksgiving Day? On Thanksgiving we focus on God and his blessings. There’s no reason that should be limited to an annual event. We sometimes go around the table and say what we are thankful for. It wouldn’t hurt to make a list of the things we are thankful for and check and update it daily. On Thanksgiving we sit at a table and eat a meal together. Maybe if we did that everyday we would know more about what God is doing in our family and have more to be thankful for. On Thanksgiving we focus on the good things. I don’t know why we don’t cook turkey or corn bread dressing more often during the year. I don’t now why we treat ourselves to our favorites only on holidays. Shouldn’t we enjoy our favorite foods, people, and activities as often as possible? Maybe if we focused on the best things, we wouldn’t be distracted by the not-so-good things. That would have to up our thankfulness. On Thanksgiving we often focus on the homeless or others who are less fortunate. It makes us appreciate what we have. No doubt that would be a great daily practice.
An attitude of gratitude makes it easier to be an encourager. If we can be more constantly aware of what God is doing for us, it flows that it will be easier to encourage others. Brighten lives sometimes means contributing something concrete, but more often it is accomplished by sharing a better more thankful attitude.
It seems we can discipline ourselves to be more thankful and more encouraging. Everyday can be about Thanksgiving. We really should; after all it is our mission.