PRACTICAL WAYS TO INCORPORATE THE PRACTICE OF GIVING THANKS INTO YOUR THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION.
LET THEM GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HIS UNFAILING LOVE AND HIS WONDERFUL DEEDS FOR MANKIND. — PSALM 107:8
Psalm 107 is for out-loud reading.
It’s an expression of thankfulness to God by his gathered people (read more about Psalm 107 here). But it wasn’t just for reading, the book of Psalms was the hymnbook of God’s people. They would corporately gather and thank the Lord for his love and good deeds towards them in song. And the refrain (our verse) affirmed their practice: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind” (Psalm 107:8). They were speaking and singing about what they were doing—giving thanks. This is a right and good thing for God’s people to do, to gather together and thank him. And as we come together this year on Thanksgiving, I wonder: How might we do the same?
How might we incorporate giving thanks into our Thanksgiving celebrations?
I’ve brainstormed and asked friends how they give thanks on Thanksgiving and I’ve compiled some ideas for you here. Depending on your gathering, you may want to modify some of the ideas in order to be sensitive to non-believing friends or family members. Some of the ideas are great for the kiddie table, some are short and sweet, and some could last all day. But, whether or not you choose to incorporate any of them, I hope this list will start you thinking about how you might give thanks to the One who deserves all our thanks on Thanksgiving and every day.
Tell thankful stories.
Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” Whether we’ve had a hard year or a good year, God’s people have reasons to be thankful. Sometimes in hard times (maybe even especially in hard times), we see most clearly how God has pulled us through. Oftentimes, our stories of thankfulness are the very thing others need to hear to find hope and also give thanks. So, go around the table and ask people to share a short story of gratitude. This is a non-threatening opportunity to share how we’ve seen God at work in our lives with those at our table who don’t know Jesus.
Read or recite a poem.
This is a great choice for an older or an artsy crowd. Even for our non-Christian friends, reading a good poem is a great way to start off the meal. One lovely poem to consider is “Gratefulness” by George Herbert. It starts with this line, “Thou that hast giv’n so much to me, / Give one thing more, a grateful heart.” It’s a lovely choice, but might be a bit out of reach for our younger people. Another poem to consider is also a prayer. It comes from the Puritan work The Valley of Vision. It starts “O my God, / Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, / my heart admires, adores, loves thee, / for my little vessel is as full as it can be, / and I would pour out all that fullness before thee / in ceaseless flow.” (Find these poems in their entirety here.)
Share your thanks in a prayer.
Even at non-religious gathering, saying a prayer before the Thanksgiving meal feels like the “right” thing to do. If you find yourself at that table this year, share that you’d love to give a prayer of thanks, if they wouldn’t mind. And before you pray, you could involve the other guests by asking if they have anything they’re thankful for that you could offer up in your prayer.
Sing a song together.
Ok, you bold people and gifted singers. This is for you! Why not lead your people in a sing-along? Or if that might seem like a stretch for your crowd, grab a friend and sing a duet. “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint is a lovely song that praises God for all his blessings. Here’s a snippet: “For the beauty of the earth, / For the glory of the skies, / For the love which from our birth / Over and around us lies. / Lord of all, to Thee we raise, / This our hymn of grateful praise.” (Find the whole song here).
Read a psalm of thanksgiving.
If you’re not already familiar with Psalm 107, it tells four stories of God’s salvation. It starts off by saying, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story” (Psalm 107:1-2), and goes on to detail the Lord’s consistent response to save his people when they cry out to him in times of need. With just five short verses, you might also consider Psalm 100. It begins, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Psalm 100:1-2). Find the full psalms here along with the other poems and prayers.
Give thanks to God for each other.
This is a really great practice for our friends at the kiddie table. Just have them go around the table and give one reason they’re thankful for how God has created the person on their left—maybe how they see God’s kindness in that person, or his creativity, or how he has gifted them in different ways. This also works great at the adult table, taking turns focusing on each person at the table. Let everyone say one reason they are thankful for that person.
Be grateful first.
All of these suggestions are great, but they will ring hollow if we don’t have grateful hearts ourselves. Ironically, Thanksgiving can be a time when we really struggle to be thankful. It presses in on us, making us anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or just plain grumpy. We might not feel excited about our prospects this year. We might dread annoying uncle so-and-so. Or, we might tend to exhaust ourselves with expectations of perfection. Old wounds and bitter feelings might threaten to keep us from joy and gratitude. And the truth is, so many of us are just a bit heartbroken on Thanksgiving—missing loved ones, broken by our family situations, or without a place to go where we feel we belong.
Whatever our hurts, whatever our hurdles, we can take them to God. My encouragement to you (and to myself) is to carve out a private space on Thanksgiving to find genuine thankfulness in our hearts—confessing our thanklessness, sadness, or anxiety, and centering our hearts instead on God’s unfailing love and wonderful deeds on our behalf. My hope is that our thankfulness would be evident and contagious, so the people at our table would feel the grace of God too and find it in their hearts to thank him.
How will you incorporate a practice of thanking God in your Thanksgiving celebration?
Thanks for reading,
Meet Natalie,Dwell co-founder
Hi there, I'm Natalie. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what God is doing in your life!
ON THE PODCAST
Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell Their Story // Vera Schmitz & Natalie Abbott
How have you experienced the goodness of God? Psalm 107:2, just a few verses before our memory verse this month, says, “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story,” and that is exactly what we are doing here today! Join Natalie and Vera as they share about God’s unfailing love and wonderful deeds in their lives, pointing not just to the good gifts and acts of deliverance, but to the Giver himself. May these stories of God’s kindness spark reflection and thankfulness in your own heart today as you dwell on who he is and what he’s done, and share those stories with those around you.