Editor's note: This column orignally appeared in the June 20, 2007, edition of the Fort Mill Times.
When I was a child, often at birthdays or at Christmas, when I received lots of wonderful gifts, my mother would prompt me, "What do you say, Sally?"
"Thank you," I would respond on cue. But "thank you" is more meaningful when it flows out with enthusiasm and without prompting. Then all can tell that it is heart felt.
I've heard this kind of enthusiastic response from my nieces and nephews when the gift received is just what they longed for. Sometimes I hear the actual words "Thank you!" but in these times I'm just as likely to see the gratitude in their joy, excitement, and love.
The Bible speaks often about giving thanks to God, the giver of all good things. Psalm 30 concludes with the writer saying, "O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever." The psalmist had experienced bad times. He suffered from ill health and almost died. But God restores him to health and he gives God the thanks. The psalmist recognizes God as the one who blesses - the one who provides.
God blesses us also. I look around and am amazed at the blessings in my life. I have a job I enjoy. I live near my brothers and sister and their families. I have a supportive church family. As a community we are also greatly blessed. Fort Mill is growing and gaining many new citizens. This is a thriving community. Look at your life carefully. I'm sure that when you do, you will see many blessings from God.
But in order to truly give thanks we need to recognize that these blessings are gifts to us from God. They are not earned. They are not from our own efforts. They are not even within our own control. Rather they are a gift from God.
When we truly realize the magnitude of this gift, we are filled with joy, excitement, and love. We are overwhelmed by the graciousness of the gift. We can do nothing but give thanks.
But true thanksgiving is more than words. True thanksgiving is made real in our lives. It is manifest in our actions. True thanksgiving is an offering of our lives to God. We do this when we commit to live in active relationship with God and when we commit to serve him by serving others. When we are truly thankful we commit our whole lives to God - offering all that we have, our time, energy and resources.
The remarkable effect of thanksgiving is that when I am truly thankful, then I become even more aware of the blessings God has given. It's as if my eyes are opened and I suddenly see things that had been hidden. Suddenly I realize just how much God has blessed me. When I realize this, I must give thanks. To refuse, would be terribly ungrateful.
So, instead of waiting for someone to remind us to say "thank you" sing it out with joy. Praise God each day for his kindness and grace. Live lives that share God's joy and blessing with the world. Then in this way, like the psalmist, we will be thanking God forever.