I've been musing these last few days on the difference between "being thankful" and "giving thanks."
In some ways, a Christian celebration of Thanksgiving and a secular celebration of Thanksgiving aren't any different, but I think there is an important difference that lies in the distinction between these two phrases.
To "be thankful" often means no more than recognizing that there are a lot of nice things in one's life that could just as easily not be there. We look around at the roofs over our heads, the loved ones around us, the food that we have to share with them when they come, and we're glad for those things. We see that not everyone has them, and that there are no guarantees that we always will either-- or that we necessarily deserved them in the first place.
If that's as far as we go, however, all we have is a vague sentimentality.
Giving thanks, on the other hand implies a definite object for our thanksgiving; thanks are given to someone, not just felt. For the Christian, the object of our thanksgiving is God Himself-- our Creator, Sustainer, and Provider.
As soon as we recognize the reality that God is the one to whom we are to give our thanks, the content of our thanksgiving will be transformed as well. God's blessings to us go far beyond the physical, tangible things that we can see around us. This is why a Christian perspective of thanksgiving can go beyond sentimentality; it has an answer for the hard reality of intense suffering. Even for those who are not experiencing physical blessings, the abundant spiritual blessings possessed by every believer are more than sufficient to merit our thanks to the One who has given them to us. We have been redeemed from darkness to light, given the Spirit to dwell within us, granted access to the Father, and united with Christ. We are God's children, His chosen ones whom He loves. How can we not give Him thanks?
But we can take this one step farther. We are to give thanks not only for what God has done, but also for who He is. Giving thanks is one form of praise. God is, in Himself, inherently worthy of our thanksgiving. As we thank Him for His goodness, mercy, love, holiness, power, and sovereignty, we also praise Him and give Him glory.
That is a distinctively Christian expression of "being thankful."
May this, dear friends, mark us all the year round.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
We were taking pictures of our neighbors in front of the limousine they hired for their anniversary. We looked inside and said, "We've never ridden in a limousine before!" The chauffeur said, "Get in, I'll take you around the block." So we all piled in. Not one of us had ever been in a limo. There was fancy lighting, soft music, and a glitzy drink bar.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Sunday, November 17, 2013
We did Italy this year for our Annual International Unit Study. (Click here to see pictures from the past twenty or so celebrations.) Laura and I, being the only ones left in school, read books about Italy and wrote reports. (She wrote about holidays in Italy and I wrote about an Italian monk named Savonarola.) Then to culminate our study, we had everyone over for a beautiful feast with decorations, costumes, and dancing.
Mama set the table really nicely for dinner. She got the wine bottles from an Italian restaurant because they were just throwing them away. The candles dripped wax down the sides and made pretty red stripes all around the bottle.
The first course of our meal was this lovely antipasto tray made by Mama, along with a salad.
On the right is a polenta layer cake from Sardinia, which is kind of like lasagna except made with layers of solidified polenta instead of pasta. It was surprisingly easy to make and the fennel gave it a very unique flavor. The other things in the picture are white beans with sausage and Milanese Minestrone with pasta on the side.
This was our last course: fruit, nuts, cheese, cookies called "love knots", and pizzelles. Katie made the pizzelles using a recipe passed down for generations in Ray's Italian family. It has apparently had some modifications over the years as the filling includes ingredients such as chocolate chips, maple syrup, and an enormous amount of nutmeg.
Laura and I dressed up as nuns.
Mama and Anna went for the peasant look.
Peter was Julius Caesar!
Even James wore a costume.
Here is everybody else. John had the mafia look, Seth went so far as to put on a hat, and Ray combed his hair the way his Italian grandfather did.
We finished the evening with reading reports, singing the Italian anthem, and dancing some Italian folk dances.
Monday, November 4, 2013
We see lots of people walking or riding by our house, but these are by far the cutest.
We had lots of fun playing Cranium for my birthday. Here is Papa acting out "rope twist". Mama had to tell him what it was first.
Samuel loves spending time with "Uncle Seth" even when he's just doing math.
I got my picture taken with a heron.
John and Megan did haircuts on the campout so they wouldn't have to sweep up the hair.
Everyone loved this wagon on the campout.
Left to Right: Nathaniel, Belle, James, Elijah
Here are the same children in the same order a year-and-a-half ago.
They are a lot cuter now.
Papa grew a beard while he was in Alaska, but he shaved it off recently.
The original six.
With everybody else.
This is cooking turned into a science experiment. The garlic turned this strange color after sitting on the garbanzo beans for a while.
We did some folk dancing for Peter's fourth birthday.