A Cornucopia of Gratitude

November 28 is when the people of the United States of America will celebrate Thanksgiving in 2019. A cornucopia is a common symbol of the Thanksgiving season. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes a cornucopia as “a curved, hollow goat’s horn or similarly shaped receptacle (such as a horn-shaped basket) that is overflowing with fruit and vegetables.  It is used as a decorative motif of abundance.” It is also known as a horn of plenty.

Historically, one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations took place in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. This was after the colonists’ first successful corn harvest. I can imagine a goat’s horn filled with an abundance of harvested crops placed in the center of the table. It probably was a horn filled with plenty of corn, squash and pumpkins. Everyone expressed their thankfulness.

As a child, I remember my mother placing a cornucopia on our kitchen table during the Thanksgiving season. It was a horn-shaped wicker basket filled with artificial grapes, apples, and pears. (We ate the real fruit.) It was our horn of plenty. It was a reminder of God’s bountiful provision. We were thankful.

Today, I imagine myself being a cornucopia in the flesh. I am filled with an abundance of gratitude to God. I do not look like a cornucopia but my heart is overflowing with thanksgiving. A musical horn produces a pleasant melody when it is played. Maybe I am a human horn of plenty vocally expressing praise and gratitude to God for His bountiful blessings.

The following scriptures are examples of the spiritual fruit that is flowing out of my carnal cornucopia.

I give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
His love endures forever.
I Chronicles 16:34

I will give thanks to the LORD because of His righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.
Psalm 7:17

I will give thanks to You, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all
Your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1

I will come before His presence with thanksgiving,
I will shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
Psalm 95:2-3

I will praise the LORD. I will give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good; His love endures forever.
Psalm 106:1

Let me give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
Psalm 107:8

And whatever I do, whether in word or deed,
I do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:17

Thanksgiving is more than just the name of the holiday when we gather together for a feast of food. As we look at the cornucopia, may we be reminded of the true meaning of our Thanksgiving. May Thanksgiving Day be a day of giving thanks.

 

Continually Give Thanks


G
ive thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18

In the United States of America, we will be celebrating our national holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow. It is an opportunity for us to pause and thank God for His blessings upon our nation and our families.

All of our family will be together. Before we eat, we will pray and thank God for the food set before us. We will ask for His blessing upon our Thanksgiving dinner. While eating, each of us will express gratitude for at least one thing. It is easy to give thanks for situations where we have seen God move. However, can we give thanks for a blessing we have not yet received?

Jesus sets the example for when we should give thanks. Before Lazarus was raised from the grave, Jesus gave thanks for what was about to happen. John 11:41 says, “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard me.’” However, it is not until verse 43 that Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth. In verse 44, Lazarus came back to life. Jesus thanked His Heavenly Father for what He was confident His Father would do. Jesus gave thanks before He received the answer to His prayer.

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp explains that eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle. Ann writes, “Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation our Yes! to His grace.”

Thanking God in advance may not appear to make sense in the natural. However, Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Giving thanks prior to receiving the answer to our prayers reveals our confidence in God’s willingness and ability to answer our prayers.

Psalm 119:90 states, “Your (God;s) faithfulness continues through all generations.” The fact that God is faithful to answer our prayers is a valid reason to give thanks.

Giving thanks before we have received our request is an expression of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 NKJV says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In I Chronicles 16:34 NIV, we are told,Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.Ephesians 3:20 NKJV says, “(He) is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God is good and God is able. Two reasons to give Him thanks – even before we have His response.

Psalm 71:14 NLT says, “But I will keep on hoping for Your help; I will praise You more and more.” We thank God for what He has done. We praise Him for who He is. The more we praise God for who He is, the stronger our faith becomes regarding what He will do for us.

Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Asking and thanking are both aspects of prayer. God gives us the privilege of asking. We have the responsibility of thanking.

The Thanksgiving holiday gives us the opportunity to focus upon giving thanks. Most of the time, it is easier to ask God for something than it is to thank Him for what we have received. It is even harder to thank Him for what we are still waiting to receive.

I encourage you to take your thankfulness to a deeper level this season by giving thanks in all circumstances. God will bless you in return. He loves to hear you say, “Thanks, God!”

 

Preparing the Table

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

Today is the day before Thanksgiving in the United States of America. Many of us are busy preparing food for our dinner and all of us should be preparing our hearts for the holiday. Thanksgiving provides us the opportunity to set aside a particular day to focus upon those things for which we are especially thankful. While food will fill our stomachs, gratitude to the Lord will fill our souls for His ample provision and protection. Today, I want to combine thoughts of preparing food and preparing our hearts.  Let’s focus upon the table the Lord prepares for us. While I may be busy preparing physical food for a special day, the Lord prepares spiritual food for us every day.

You (the Lord) prepare a table before me . . . .
Psalm 23:5

What does the table the Lord prepares look like? I think of the table as being the communion table. When Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples, He instituted the Last Supper known today as the sacrament of communion. Matthew 26:26-28 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.’” The table and elements of communion portray Jesus’ broken body and spilled blood (the bread and wine/grape juice) upon the cross (the table). 

In comparison to the dinner table, the communion table has greater significance.  While gathering with His disciples for the Passover meal, Jesus showed us an example of gratitude. He gave thanks for the bread and the wine before He shared it with His disciples. We must make it a priority to give thanks to God for our blessings before we eat the food on our Thanksgiving table tomorrow.

Does the Lord offer additional “food” at His table? The bread and the wine/grape juice of the communion table are the best “food” because they symbolize Jesus.  However, I want to consider some additional spiritual food. First, there is milk and meat. Hebrews 5:12-13 says, “by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the nature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.Some Bible translations say “solid food” but the King James Version says “meat.”  Meat is the word I want to consider. Milk and meat can refer to physical food, but  what does the writer of Hebrews mean? According to translations of the Greek language, “milk” is gala meaning the basic teachings of true Christianity and “meat” is broma describing the deeper spiritual doctrine of the Gospel. Fruit is also available. Galatians 5:22-23 describes this fruit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

 Now I want to compare the  food I am preparing for Thanksgiving dinner to spiritual food. The Lord’s milk is not the same as the milk in the refrigerator.  Neither is spiritual meat like the turkey I am preparing to put in the oven. God’s milk and meat fill a spiritual hunger while my milk and turkey only curb physical hunger for a few hours. Although my cranberries and apples are tasty fruits, they are not nearly as life-giving as the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus, as the Bread of Life, is more satisfying than the yeast rolls I am baking.

What does the Lord ask of us regarding the table He has prepared?  Psalm 34:8 invites us to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”  We can be refreshed and satisfied when we are in His presence. Also, the foods placed upon His holy table allow us to savor spiritual food.  Psalm 119:103 says, How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!What a delightful table the Lord prepares for us! His bountiful table is available 365 days a year while my Thanksgiving table is prepared only one day of the year.

Today is the day of preparing food and hearts for the Thanksgiving holiday. Tomorrow our family will gather around the table to eat the food I have prepared. Before we eat, we will take time to bow our heads and offer a prayer of thanksgiving. We will continue to express gratitude throughout our conversation during the meal. We willGive thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” according to Psalm 107:1. We will also be thankful for the spiritual table where we can gather throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Back in Alignment

Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…

Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…

 

gratitude-2spine-4Recently I encountered some back problems. I have heard enough about spinal adjustments, misalignments, vertebrae, joints, discs, tendons etc.! Although this somewhat debilitating season lasted longer than I had hoped, I learned several lessons. Often when I face a problem, I look upon it as a time when I am put upon a shelf and I cannot wait until the struggle is past so that I can again be active for the Lord. This time, at the beginning I asked the Lord to use my injury for His glory. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declares that He has, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  If I was to trust God to fulfill the plans and purposes He had me, then I had to have faith that whatever was happening to me would be used in a positive way to glorify Him.

My problems began with a misalignment of joints in my spine. The chiropractor was able to adjust my spine but the tendons and muscles of my back had been weakened by the injury and were not able to support the adjustment. Little by little, my back had gotten out of proper alignment without my being aware of it. Then suddenly a sharp pain in my lower back got my attention. My discomfort helped me to realize that I can also allow my life to get out of alignment with the Lord. I decided that I did not want to wait for a sharp spiritual pain to make me aware of my need for the Lord’s strength. I believe the spiritual tendon that holds my body, soul and spirit  in align is gratitude. Gratitude keeps me in line with the Lord! I do not feel that it was by happenstance that I decided to reread One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp this summer while recuperating. The Lord’s hand has restored health to my back through the help of my chiropractor and the Lord has strengthened by faith through a deeper understanding of gratitude.

In her life, Ann Voskamp expresses gratitude unto the Lord by writing a list of gifts for which she is thankful. Her list of gifts includes not only good gifts but also hard gifts for which she has learned to express gratitude. Hmmm. Was my back problem a gift? Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God wastes nothing! Did God have a better plan for how I would spend a couple of months of my time than I had planned? Of course He did! Since I have now moved beyond the time of most limitations, I can  see how God used me in ways not possible if I had been involved in all of my normal activities. In gratitude, now I try to perceive that all circumstances are gifts from God.

If I were to make a gratitude list, one of my highest priority gifts would be God’s sovereignty. Although He does not promise that everything will always be easy, He is still my Lord. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The following three scriptures were helpful to me during my season of back problems.

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me;
It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and I will heal.

Deuteronomy 32:39 NASB
The
Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:21 NKJV
Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened,
and just as I have planned so it will stand.
Isaiah 14:24 NASB

I do not claim to fully understand sovereignty and gratitude and alignment but I am learning. However, an opportunity for spiritual growth came to me through the difficult time when my back was out of alignment. Often it is in hindsight that I can see the benefit of a hard time. God can reveal important things about himself and life through these experiences.

I want to emphasize two statements made by Ann Voskamp. She points out that the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is. (There were times that I doubted that there was any joy in the pain and stiffness I felt in my back.) And then she says that the art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible. (The longer I struggled, the deeper I looked for the possible gratitude and joy within during this season.) While experiencing a time when it was hard for me to move physically, I came to realize that the only way to move into God’s presence is was through gratitude. In Jeremiah 30:24, I am reminded that “The Lord shall not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the thoughts and intents of His mind.” The Lord had a greater purpose to achieve in my life than just helping me get rid of back pain. He wanted to teach me about gratitude – for that I am grateful!

I close my thoughts quoting Sarah Young from Jesus Calling for May 29.

I am with you, watching over you constantly, I am
Emmanuel (God with you): My Presence enfolds you in radiant
Love. Nothing including the brightest blessings and the darkest trials,
can separate you from Me. Some of My children find Me more readily
during dark times, when difficulties force them to depend on Me.
Others feel closer to Me when tier lives are filled with good things.
They respond with thanksgiving and praise, thus opening wide the
door to My Presence.

I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me.
Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you.
Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs.
When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to
be thankful. Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Note: I quoted two of my favorite books in this blog. I want to give credit to One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Zondervan, 2010 and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, 2004. I highly recommend both of these books for your reading.