As I write this, it’s just a few days before Thanksgiving.

Right now the world is on edge because of recent terrorist attacks and threats in Europe.  Our sense of insecurity gets amplified as we watch TV commentators and political pundits debate what could happen next and argue the best strategy for preventing another attack. All the while we allow fear to creep more and more into our daily.

The result of this climate of fear is that our “what if’s” and insecurities hang like a pall and threaten to swallow us with a sense of foreboding and despair. Our fears can prevent us from enjoying God and being thankful for the moments, people, places, and things that He has given to us.  We fearfully project into the future even as the blessings of the present slip by us unnoticed and unappreciated. Ironically we end up grieving these same blessings even more when we look back and realize what we missed.

Abraham Lincoln first proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in our country even as the U.S. was reeling from a devastating war within our borders.

Security was a scarcity.  Fears ran high. But this amazing leader enjoined our nation to make a deliberate choice to be thankful to God as he proclaimed:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Thankfulness is a choice we make. An attitude of gratefulness allows us to soar above our present circumstances. I witnessed this first-hand last weekend.

Ken and Chris

Late last week I got a call from my friend Ken.  Ken is a gifted musician, Christian illusionist, and also
serves as Santa Claus to many, many people (He definitely has the look, temperament, and laugh!) In the past couple years Ken has battled and overcome prostate cancer and this summer had successful surgery for kidney cancer. While he was in the hospital recovering he found out his wife Jody was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Jody has gone through aggressive therapy for this condition with grace and courage and is doing ok.  Amazingly, neither Ken nor Jody has allowed their trials or circumstances to flood them with foreboding or despair. They have instead chosen hope, love, faith, thanksgiving…and joy! I’m convinced it is because of their sense of thankfulness to God, love for each other, and service to other people that they continue to shine like stars and point people to God.

Anyway, Ken knew that I’ve been a lifelong Vikings fan and haven’t been to a game in many years due to ministry commitments. So when he called and asked me to join him at the big Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game, I jumped at the chance. As we were making arrangements for getting to the game, Ken asked if I would be willing to wear a special Vikings hat that he created.  With a little trepidation, I said yes (even as I secretly wondered how people would react to us!)

On Sunday early afternoon, Ken arrived to pick me at my house dressed in a memorable Vikings outfit, and soon had me wearing an equally unforgettable Vikings hat.

When we arrived at the parking ramp near the stadium, we donned our hats. We then spent the next couple hours walking around the stadium concourse interacting with fans.

Let me state this more clearly: I was just along for the ride. Ken was in his element, and he was amazing! He greeted, joked with, and high-fived both Minnesota Vikings fans and Green Bay Packers fans, many of whom asked to have their picture taken with us. Two newspapers and a television reporter asked to take our picture, and Ken cheerfully obliged.

The entire time we were at the game I saw a man whose focus was on entertaining the people who came into our path, not on his own trials and challenges.  Ken genuinely cared for all the people who came up to us. During the game, the stadium camera zoomed in on this ambassador of joy and thanks. It was so cool to see his face, and afterwards people came up to him and said, “I saw you on the big screen!” On the way home he talked with gratefulness about his wife, children, and grandchildren. I don’t think I ever heard any complaints or negative words come out of Ken’s mouth.  I didn’t hear or sense any fearfulness from him. Only thanks.

Ken showed me a lot about being thankful. 

Above and beyond our circumstances, insecurities, and fear, we still have God, who is faithful and will never leave or forsake us. When we embrace this reality, thankfulness and joy will flow in and through us like a flood. This is real worship.

After my time with Ken I have a renewed sense of gratefulness for my wife, sons, daughters, daughters-in-law, and three incredible grandchildren (and another on the way).  Even as there are no guarantees for any of us on this planet, in Christ we have the certainty that God is good, and He holds us in the palm of His hand, with good plans and an amazing eternity for all who live in and for Him.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

his love endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:34

This Thanksgiving I choose to be thankful… with or without a crazy hat!

God bless you.