photos and writings by June Friesen
Thanksgiving is a time of showing appreciation to God for all of the things that He has given to us, particularly in the harvest of crops. It often is a time when families/friends gather to visit and eat together. Many churches have special services either on the Sunday preceding the holiday and/or on the holiday itself. A familiar passage from Psalms is often read:
PSALM 100 (The Passion)
1 Lift up a great shout of joy to Yahweh!
Go ahead and do it—everyone, everywhere!
2 Worship Yahweh with gladness.
Sing your way into his presence with joy!
3 And realize what this really means—
we have the privilege of worshiping Yahweh our God.
For he is our Creator and we belong to him.
We are the people of his pleasure.
4 You can pass through his open gates with the password of praise.
Come right into his presence with thanksgiving.
Come bring your thank offering to him
and affectionately bless his beautiful name!
5 For Yahweh is always good and ready to receive you.
He’s so loving that it will amaze you—
so kind that it will astound you!
And he is famous for his faithfulness toward all.
Everyone knows our God can be trusted,
for he keeps his promises to every generation!
As you gather–as I gather–with family and/or friends, what will we take time to celebrate this year? Over the past 20 months or so, most of us have seen as well as experienced many changes in our lives–as well as in the lives of those around us. Some of these changes may have been welcomed, but many were not so welcomed. In fact, some of the changes we have been forced to make have often brought feelings that were less than grateful. Yet each one of us reading this is still here, and in that, there is a cause for giving thanks to God. So how did you respond to reading Psalm 100 just now?
How does one enter into God’s presence with joy? With a password of praise? With a gift of thankfulness? Is it even possible to embrace God when we may feel that His absence in our world at present has never seemed more real? After all, if we are God’s people, we are told God hears and answers the cries of our hearts. Have our cries for health, of eradication of this pandemic, fallen on deaf ears? Yet, I ask, do many if not all of us still have some gifts of praise to lift? If we are able to read this, we have eyesight. If we are able to observe the photos, we have eyesight. Most of us have some sort of electronic device that is making it possible to read these words.
I admit that there have been times over the last 20 months that I have felt cheated as I have not seen most of my family. I have missed holidays, birthday and graduation celebrations, and potlucks with church family. I have missed the freedom to come and go as I may choose, where I may choose and when I may choose. Yet, as I take time to pause–to remember what I have now that I did not have before; I am now blessed with even more things and even more people in my life than 20 months ago. Through technology–particularly computers and cell phones along with the wireless worldwide internet–I have been able to continue our church worship services (although different than before) and we have grown. I have been able to facilitate two small groups where we study discipleship books. As a family, we have been able to meet via zoom gatherings over thousands of miles on a regular basis. We were even able to attend the graduation ceremony of one of our granddaughters via zoom–which we probably would have missed entirely if there were no covid issue. Yes, as I look back over this time, I see that what some might call a great problem has actually given me opportunities I would not have had before. So today I celebrate and give thanks to God because I allowed God to help me think outside of the box I had chosen to live in; God encouraged me to be open to new things, really new things, like recording a sermon every week and sharing it with my congregants and then meeting on zoom every Sunday for sermon discussion time, sharing and prayer time. Oh, and I have been able to meet new people and make some new friends who I have grown to love and appreciate through zoom ministries.
What has changed in your life in the past year? The past twenty months? Why not take some time today either alone or with family/friends and consider what new things God has brought into your life during these times? What are the things that you can gather and bring into His presence as ‘praise offerings?’
GOD: WE GIVE YOU PRAISE
Awesome God, Creator of the entire universe –
Creator of the solar system,
Creator of the day and night and the lights for each,
Creator of the water systems and replenishing rain and snow,
Creator of the incredible plant system that fills the entire world
With such beauty, incredible food gifts and so much more,
Creator of the animals that roam the earth and the ones that swim in the seas,
Creator of humanity in varieties of colors, shapes, personalities and abilities,
Creator of the gift we as humanity have to know You and to relate to You while here on earth.
We give You praise and glorify Your holy name.
Awesome God, Creator of forgiveness –
Forgiveness for that first mistake in the Garden of Eden,
Forgiveness for the blindness many of us embrace causing us to grumble and complain,
Forgive us for the deaf ears many of us embrace to block out the cries of the poor, enslaved and broken in spirit and body,
Forgive us for our lack of appreciation for the abundance that many of us have while others wish for but a bite or two of nourishment,
Forgive us for the times we do hoard or have hoarded things such as natural resources, food and opportunity for clean water –
While others are suffering and dying of malnourishment, hunger and thirst.
God today as we pause –
Please forgive us for these things we now have realized in our own spirits as sinful thoughts and/or actions;
Please receive us into Your presence to give You alone our praise for this day of life we have,
Please accept our confession and cleanse our spirits so our worship of You is more pure,
Please allow us move forward from this day of gratitude
Into the world gifting the world where we are with a new blessing.
I invite you to pray the following prayer with me:
God in heaven,
Today I come to You asking You to help me bless others around me with peace, with love, with forgiveness, and with a feeling of Your Presence. May I carry this thankful spirit within me and embrace it especially in those moments when I am feeling less than thankful. Help me not to focus on the struggles of my life with Covid and its residue but rather to embrace life and use it to care for and minister to others. Thank you so much God for bringing me to this day, to this moment – I love You so. In Jesus’ Name, amen and amen.
Explore what childlike characteristics shape us into the people God intends us to be. Be encouraged to develop fresh spiritual practices that engage all our senses and help us to live a new kind of spiritual life that embraces the wonder and joy that God intends for us. Embrace the gifts of Awe and Wonder in this giftable Book and Prayer Card Bundle! Use the beautifully designed Prayer Cards alongside the book to enrich your reading and assist your contemplation, bundled together for convenience and savings!