Thanksgiving For What Matters, Part 3

I won’t belabor this. It’s just a simple observation.

Frequently, in the Old Testament, where Israel expresses thanksgiving, the phrase “for His love endures forever” or “for His unfailing love,” also often preceded by “for He is good.” Perhaps just as frequently, you will find the word “praise” in the same verse or nearby.

And, as I’ve pointed out in a separate post earlier (The Thirteenth Apostle’s Thanksgiving), when Paul expresses thanksgiving, it is very often thankfulness for his fellow believers.

It strikes me as a contrast to what we believers express thanks for today: a free country, food, blessings (generic language, sometimes, for exceptional wealth), and — yes — friends, family, church family. All the things that bless us.

Sure, there are plenty of hymns of thanksgiving in scripture — for deliverance from slavery, defeat, disaster; for flocks and fertile fields; for all kinds of temporal blessings that make life bearable to enjoyable.

But how often do we include in our thanksgiving a praise for God’s goodness, and the recognition that His love endures forever?

Maybe if we did so more often, we’d be more thankful for God’s goodness to — and sovereignty over — the entire world (as the singers of scripture repeat again and again, in addition to their laud for His preservation of Israel) rather than just our nation, our friends, our family, and our own satisfaction.

Thanksgiving in Want, Part 2

It’s been a long time since I posted Part 1 of this short series, based on some devotional thoughts I shared at church years ago. In fact, I’ve since lost my notes from it and am reconstructing from very poor memory. But this is what I think I talked about next:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. ~ Habakkuk 3:17-18

I know this passage of scripture doesn’t speak directly about being grateful, but it does communicate the joy that should accompany our gratitude — even in times when there doesn’t seem to be (as) much to be thankful for.

These two verse are near the close of a prayer of Habakkuk that was a psalm or song of Israel; a song of praise for God’s power in nature — His power to provide as well as withhold blessing; His sovereignty to do so.

It’s the theme of Psalm 22, 3542, 4356, 69, and doubtless many more. Whatever happens, “yet will I praise the Lord.”

One entire tribe of Israel’s twelve, the Levites, was commissioned to stand and give  thanks to the Lord every morning and evening (1 Chronicles 23). Rain or shine, famine or plenty.

It is in the culture of this thanksgiving-in-song that Habakkuk can write his song of joy in the midst of want and disaster.

So ingrained is it in the heart of Daniel, that even in captivity he still bows to offer this thanks three times a day — even though it might cost him everything (Daniel 6:10).

And knowing what is about to befall Him, Jesus can serve the Passover and still give thanks for the bread and the cup that will come to represent His body and His blood (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22).

This is how it becomes the question for His followers: Will we still give thanks whether we eat meat or abstain (Romans 14:6)? Will we fix our eyes on the eternal and give thanks even when our temporal world is wasting away (2 Corinthians 4)? Will we trust in His providence and give thanks even when it is not immediately in evidence (Philippians 4)?

Will we give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)?

Thankless Thanksgiving

An atheist’s life must be trying indeed
with no end of strife and yet no faith to plead

with moral compunctions that have no real source
and choices at junctions but no certain course

surrounded with beauty and no One to praise
no feeling of duty, no paean to raise

awash in abundance yet no One to thank
swayed by the influence that God is a prank

tempted to be hateful or angry or vexed
still moved to be grateful yet somehow perplexed

on thankless Thanksgiving, the atheist’s need
– forgive my forgiving – must be trying indeed.

The Thirteenth Apostle’s Thanksgiving

A Prayer of ThanksgivingIt’s that season again – my favorite of each year – when we gather and give thanks, and I just wanted to take a moment to share something that I’ve found the apostle Paul was thankful for … in just about every epistle he wrote:

  • I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:4
  • For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. ~ Ephesians 1:15-16
  • I thank my God every time I remember you. ~ Philippians 1:3
  • We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people … ~ Colossians 1:3-4
  • We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:2
  • We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:3
  • I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. ~ 2 Timothy 1:3
  • I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, … ~ Philemon 1:4

So it’s not really a surprise when Paul urges believers to do what he has been faithful about doing:

  • I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2

This Thanksgiving holiday – among all the other blessings (and challenges!) for which we thank God – perhaps we should include the fellowship of believers, the church, the nations, their leaders, and individual brothers and sisters whose faith and love has inspired us.

Those we know … those we’ve heard of. Even the writers and readers of blog epistles like this one. Even when we may not be right all the time. Even when we may not get all of our facts straight.

I am prayerfully grateful for each of you.

(And you thought I was going to blog about Matthias.)

Thanksgiving in Bounty, Part 1

I led the devotional at my home church Wednesday evening, November 25 – ambitiously choosing to do a survey of the History of Thanksgiving … without even getting to American history; just sticking to the Bible. My next few posts will summarize the main points.

In a quick survey of the 144 uses of words in scripture with “thank” as their root, I didn’t find any reference to Genesis 4, where the tradition of sacrifice seems to begin.

Cain and Abel offer gifts before God, evidently having heard dad Adam and mom Eve speak of hearing God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and reasoning that a God who could take a form which enjoys walking might also enjoy eating. Scripture doesn’t record either God or their parents requiring them to do so. I believe that, knowing God was Lord of all His creation – giving growth as well as life – they made these offerings out of the thankfulness in their hearts.

Cain offered “some” of the fruits of the soil. Abel offered the fat portions of the firstborn of his flock – the ones he had known longest; which had, in a world with few people, been most familiar and most dear.

So the first references to that root word “thank” in scripture are about thank offerings and how to offer them. And they emphasize that both the meat sacrifices (Abel) and grain sacrifices (Cain) were acceptable and to be appreciated.

The sons of Adam and descendants for generations afterward offered these gifts to God out of the gratitude of their hearts until Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his own son Isaac, something which – in spite of any reasoning that God could raise him to life again (Hebrews 11:19) – almost certainly could not have been done out of gratitude. So God put a stop to it, and provided out of the bounty of His creation a ram with horns caught in the brush (Genesis 22:13). The next verse adds: “So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'”

This centuries-long chain of thank offerings leads me to believe that the first kind of thanksgiving that people celebrated – recognizing God’s bounty – was most pleasing to Him when celebrated from the heart.


I made that typo today while trying to rush together the bulletin for my church; trying to squeeze five days of work into two-and-a-half.

It’s a fortunate – and possibly freudian – error. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. (Sorry, Angi. I know yours is Christmas. And the only reason that I’m not fussing about putting up Christmas decorations tonight, before Thanksgiving, is that we’re having your faculty Christmas dinner Sunday before our friend has to have his major surgery.)

It isn’t the food. It isn’t the football games. It isn’t even the gathering of family (when we can). There’s just something inside that wants Thanksgiving to be a year-round, 24/7 thing. I want every day to be one of my blogging friend JettyBetty’s Thursday Thanksgivings. (She faithfully writes one every week.)

I want it to be an ongoing holiday. A moveable feast of gratitude. A lifestyle.


Four years ago I wrote this inverse-rhyme poem for my weekly column in the Abilene Reporter-News; a column called “Parenting on Purpose.” I haven’t always lived as brightly the fluorescent hues of thankfulness I painted in that work – kids can be challenging! – but I am more grateful to God for them and for their mother than words can ever express:

I’m grateful my kids’ toys aren’t neat
and that their shoes litter the floor.
It testifies – no less, no more –
that they have hands and feet.

I’m thankful though they don’t come home
the moment playtime ends.
It tells me they have good friends
within a few yards’ roam.

I’m even glad for muddy floors
and grubby, smiling faces
and dug-up garden places.
For they love to be outdoors.

As costly as they seem,
I pay for jerseys and the Y
– and gladly, too. Need you ask why?
It means they’re on a team.

For practices that run too long
and games in cold and heat,
I’m thankful. Even when they’re beat,
they’re healthy and they’re strong.

I’m thankful though my children view
a bit too much TV.
It says to me they hear and see,
and want to know what’s new.

I’m thankful for the homework check
I must conduct each night.
Though answers are not always right,
I learn when I inspect.

I’m grateful when my children’s grades
are not quite up to snuff.
It shows me they try hard enough;
like mine, their memory fades.

I’m glad to see a teacher’s note
with praise or warning there.
It proves their teachers care
and my kids’ learning isn’t rote.

I’m grateful for each curious rule,
and each fund-raising drive.
Though wits and wallet won’t survive,
it means they have a school.

I’m thankful though I am accused
of never being fair.
My role as judge is always there;
I’ve never been recused.

I’m thankful when “Let’s go to the park!”
they goad – though other matters task.
I go – and hope that they’ll still ask
four decades down the road.

I’m thankful that they think of me
as worth much of their time.
(Though “Hi, Mom!” is what they would mime
on national TV.)

I’m glad to see their reams of art.
Stick-figured Mom and Dad
in colors wild – the fun they’ve had
while drawing from the heart.

I’m grateful though the lyric’s wrong
and when they sing off-key.
For it means all the world to see
their hearts are full of song.

I’m thankful though my children fuss
and fight with one another.
It means they’re sis and brother,
and I know they’re part of us.

I’m thankful when they flip their lids,
as well as when they sing.
Because, as much as anything,
I’m thankful for my kids.

Thank You for My Wife

Inspired for the nth time by a re-reading of my friend Jackie Halstead’s article about Examen in the New Wineskins archive (and prompted to read it again this week by Greg Taylor), I’ve resolved to blog between now and Thanksgiving about nothing but the things I’m thankful for – in no particular order; just as they occur to me when I ask myself “What am I thankful for?”

Angi is the first thing that comes to my mind. I met her at church in the singles class. She was wearing a brown suit and had the bluest eyes I have ever seen. She was enduring a trying divorce; mine was seven years behind me. I don’t know what she saw in me, and I only perceived a fraction of how extraordinary she is!

I didn’t see how joyful she could be until her mom, Harriette, visited. When I saw them together, a few pews ahead of me, I had an experience I still find difficult to believe. Inside my head, a silent voice said to me: “You could be very happy married to this woman for the rest of your life.” It wasn’t the same as having a conversation with yourself. It was someone else’s silent voice. I can’t say it was a guarantee or a prophecy; I think of it more as a nudge.

We group-dated. We double-dated. We dated. Angi immediately set to work editing my closet while I was out of town and replaced some of my cheap outdated duds with some nice, quality gear.

Together with some friends from church – and Angi’s mom! – we dressed like crooks from the 1890s and robbed a tourist train operated by the dad of a good friend, Bob McClanahan.

So when it came time to propose, it was on the luncheon train at Eureka Springs. Angi looked just like this.
I handed her a poster that I had designed on my computer at work that featured a picture of her from the “robbery” and it said:


Angela Laird Pfeiffer
Charged with:
Consortin’ With A Convicted Fella,
Stealin’ His Heart,
Givin’ Away His Clothes,
An’ Robbin’ Him Of Any Hopes
Of Bein’ Happy Without Her



She said yes to becoming my wife. We married that winter and I don’t think I’ve bought myself a stitch of clothing since; she keeps me in fashion. She’s now mom to our two adopted children, baker of world-class sugar cookies, and in October conducted a women’s retreat at church that ladies are still raving about. She’s the Dean of the College of Professional Studies at UALR; teaches at the Clinton School of Public Service, Pepperdine University, and elsewhere as requested; and has been a consultant to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in her field of specialty, conflict management and resolution. I married way over my head, but just right for my heart.

We’ve moved a few times as her career has progressed, and I’d follow her to the ends of the earth.

I am convinced that there is no one else even remotely like her on the face of the earth and no others need apply.

So today, my prayer of examen is simple:

Thank you, God, for my unique and beautiful wife.