Thanksgiving does not come in a can.



Back twenty eight years ago Connie and I were dating. I finished my sophomore year at UK and prepared to spend the summer working at a church camp in Eastern Kentucky.


On the day I was to leave I loaded all my belonging into my car “the Turd”. I drove a brown Corolla station wagon. Somehow my always punctual girlfriend was running late. When she did arrive she brought along her roommate Mary Beth dashing my hopes for romantic goodbye smooching. These were more genteel days! Besides being late and lugging along her roommate Connie was acting a tad goofy. So with a peck on the cheek I drove off to wilds of Eastern Kentucky.


After a day of cleaning, arranging bunks and camp orientation, I called Connie from the camp pay phone. I was ready to tell her all about the camp, but Connie keep asking “How was the drive down”, “Did you see anything interesting on the drive?” or “Notice anything on your way of town?” Weird! Finally, Connie flat asked: “Did you not see the sign?” “What sign?” I replied? “The sign I painted for you and hung over Interstate 75 at six in the morning!”


I had missed a queen sized sheet on which Connie had painted in red, white, blue and green “Paul I love you CJ”   On the morning of my departure, Connie arose before dawn and coaxed her roommate Mary Beth to drive out to a bridge on I-75 and help her hang the painted sheet embossed: “Paul I Love You CJ” Connie choose a bridge at the top of long hill up from the Kentucky River Gorge. She selected a bridge that you had to look at for maybe a quarter mile uphill.   They tied the banner to the bridge railings and weighed it down with a cast-off sneaker on each bottom corner to keep it unfurled.


I drove out of town, down I-75, across the Kentucky River Gorge, up the hill, under the bridge, and right past the banner declaring her love for me: “Paul I love you CJ”. I failed to see the sign!


  • Do we see the signs?
  • Do we see the signs of the Creator’s love all around us?
  • Do we hear the whispering of the Holy Spirit?
  • Do look for the signs of Christ’s love for us?
  • Are we thankful people?
  • Do we look about and see the unseen hand of God?
  • Do we offer praise to God?
  • Do we say thank you God for the thousands of everyday blessings?


  • Are we ungrateful guests of God, living unmindful lives?


  • Thanksgiving is a Biblical word.
  • Thanksgiving is a religious word.
  • Thanksgiving is the soul acknowledging God’s goodness
  • Thanksgiving is the soul seeking to see goodness in life.
  • Thankfulness is a foundational Christian value.
  • Indeed, thanksgiving makes little sense apart from God.

The Psalms are full of thanksgiving 95:1-7

Come, let us sing to the Lord!     Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to the Lord with thanksgiving.     Let us sing psalms of praise to God. The Lord holds the depths of the earth in his hands     and clutches the highest mountains. Come, let us worship and bow down.     Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for there is one God. and we are God’s people,    we are like sheep under our Lord and shepherd’s care.


  • When did we last shout praises to God?
  • When did we last paint our faces and jump about at the sure beauty of this life?
  • When did we last leap to our feet whistling for an encore of thanks to God?
  • When do we quietly bow our souls, cease our striving, and remember The One Who Made It All?
  • When do we kneel reverently before our Lord, not asking but remembering?
  • How often do we hear God’s whisper to “Come, Come bow down, Come worship, Come shout”?


Thanksgiving is essential to worship! The Chronicler explained to an ancient and exiled people, who were recovering and rediscovering Temple worship the ways of worship. “ The duty of the Levites was to help Aarons descendants in the service of the temple of the Lord: to be in charge of the courtyards…the purification of all sacred things … the baking of the bread and setting it on the Table. They were also to stand every morning to thank (offer songs of thanksgivings) and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening.” (1 Chronicles 23:28-30 NIV)     (Nehemiah 11&12)

Thanksgiving opened and closed all Temple worship. Worship without praise and thanksgiving is centered in the attendees needs and may fail to even consider the Lord.   The Bible does not present worship rooted in the attendee’s needs.


The thankful soul sees God’s hand.

Giving thanks connects us to a deeper spiritual living.

Thanksgiving connects the soul to the giver of life and salvation.


Thankfulness is not a plastic happiness, unrealistic optimism, or failure to acknowledge life’s difficulties.


Facing the cross, Jesus gave thanks for a meal, redemption and friends. Jesus took the bread and gave thanks to his heavenly father… after the meal, he took the cup and again gave thanks to his heavenly father…. Matthew and Mark tell Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn after they shared the last super.


Acts 16 tell us that after being arrested and beaten for preaching around midnight Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison. They rejoiced for being counted worthy to suffer with the Christ o the Cross.


Thanksgiving means: to give thanks:

Listen to the Synonyms for thanksgiving: “grace, benediction, blessing, invocation, petition, gratitude, favor, acknowledgement, and appreciation.”   These are all spiritual words!

  • Thanksgiving is a deep spiritual response to God.
  • Thanksgiving is a deep spiritual response to Life.
  • Thanksgiving looks for the signs!


Thanksgiving is not as shallow and fleeting as happiness.

Happiness comes and goes. Happiness is defined as “a feeling of contentment or pleasure”. Happiness is an adjective describing a received state. Thanksgiving is the action of offering thanks.


A confusion of happiness and thanksgiving may muddle our spiritual lives. I can be thankful while not happy. We can be happy and not thankful!

Thanksgiving is a root gratitude to God. The Bible teaches Thanksgiving as a root value. Happiness may be a resultant condition of thankfulness, but the Bible does not promise happiness or even tell us to seek it.

Thanksgiving is not a commodity to be purchased, ordered, or downloaded. Our consumerism is not good at Thanksgiving, because it is not a commodity.  Thanksgiving does not come in a can.

People can be fabulously wealthy, and have all manner of things and not experience inner thankfulness.

People can be poor, or sick, or needy and possess deep thankfulness.

Thanksgiving is not achieved by the accumulation of goods or even good experiences.

Thanksgiving is a soul seeing the signs.

Thanksgiving is a soul resting in God.


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4

  • Do you hear the Apostle calling us to direct our minds to the things that are lovely, excellent and worthy  of praise?
  • Do you hear Paul teaching thankfulness as an intentional turning one’s mind to things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise?

The thankful souls see God in the goodness and beauty of simple gifts; like instant oatmeal, a catchy melody, an easy laugh or warm coat.

Thankfulness grounds the soul in God.

Being thankful is an inner rope that pulls us closer to God.

Thanksgiving ponders the opportunity before each of us.

Thanksgiving is the soul saying: “Thanks, be to God!”


Thanksgiving begs the question: “Thanks to whom?”

Thanksgiving makes little sense without someone to thank! The other day, we went to a restaurant to eat dinner.   As we headed to our seats we chatted with two families from the church and one of Connie’s patients. After a nice meal, our waiter showed up with five servings of baklava. Setting down the dishes she smiled and said: “compliments of your friends at table twenty seven”.   That was nice, but we had three sets of friends in the restaurant and no idea who sat at table twenty seven.   We did not know who to thank! We had too many friends in the restaurant! . We did not know where to offer our gratitude!

The ungrateful soul, the unthankful life, only has itself.   Ungratefulness is a rugged and isolated individualism. Let us never live as God’s ungrateful guests!

Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep God’s commandments. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses … and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”  But remember the Lord your God, for it is God who gives you power to get wealth! Deuteronomy 8:18

 Will we look for the signs of God’s love?

Will we shout Thanksgivings to God?

Will we slow down enough to compose some thank you notes in our souls?

Will we live grateful and generous lives?

Come, let us worship and bow down.

Come, let us give thanks to the Lord our maker!

Come, let us be intentional in looking for the signs of God’s grace and goodness.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s