It’s my favorite time of year again. The leaves have changed and are at their peak. There is a sugar maple tree on the south side of our house that is glorious in its expanse of pure yellow. I like to sit under it and just soak in the color. I don’t do it enough, but every year I make myself sit in its splendor at least once, even if it’s just 10 minutes. Fall is welcoming. It calls us home to crackling fires, warm soups and stews, and extended family time at Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is simply a time to give thanks. But do we do that? And better yet, is the giving of thanks to be reserved for only this one time of year?

As my children were growing up, I wanted them to know the real story of Thanksgiving, the history of the Mayflower, and the people who sacrificed so much to come to the new world. Mostly I wanted my kids to know about their faith — faith that inspired great courage and modeled for generations to come heroic lives of gratitude and thanksgiving.

In 1620 and 1621, the Pilgrims had nothing but gratitude. Today we have everything but gratitude. Thanking God is, for a Christian, a reflection of a heart that trusts God. The brave men and women who risked everything on the Mayflower voyage were utterly dependant on Him. Their story reveals much about which they could have been fearful, but the overriding lesson of their lives is one of gratitude. Theirs is an example to us of great faith.

Reading the stories of their journey over the Atlantic, their first winter without shelter, and their severe lack of food and clothing and protection is shocking to our modern way of thinking. But in the midst of their deprivations, they expressed gratitude to God. They understood that being grateful is a choice. We think being grateful is a result of being happy. We believe if circumstances are good, we can be grateful. But they understood the biblical command on gratitude.

[verse reference=”1 Thessalonians 5:18″]…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you[/verse]

All circumstances.

In the midst of an uncertain world, threats and dangers that do not go away, we as Americans should still give thanks. If the Pilgrims could, we can. Closer to home, the majority of us live with plentiful opportunities and an abundance of comfort unknown to millions around the globe. And then there is the air we breathe and the warm light of the sun — daily gifts from the hand of God. Are we grateful for these? The truth is, gratitude is not natural.

We all need to be reminded and guided in the habit of giving thanks in all things, whether we are adults, children, or grandchildren.

But the greatest gift for which we must give thanks regularly is our freedom. We are free to worship and speak and to go and come as we please in this country, and that alone is a gift we do not adequately appreciate. My prayer is that we will grow in gratitude in this nation and that we will value our freedom more highly, always giving thanks to God, for it is all from Him.

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