This Thanksgiving our family opted for an alternative celebration. Usually, Thanksgiving has followed a familiar routine: Cook (my wife only), drive 90 minutes, gather with lots of extended family, eat lots of food, sit for another hour or two while the men watch a football game, and drive 90 minutes home. I enjoy seeing family, but we were in a rut with this routine. So this year, we left. We are in Tucson, Arizona, enjoying the sunshine and time with each other. This is a familiar place to us. My children have grown up coming here once or twice each year since they were infants. My wife and I have come here for over 25 years. While my wife’s father used to have a vacation home here, after he died about 10 years ago, we have continued to come to a place with deep and wide associations for us. We know the streets, have a church we attend, visit favorite restaurants, take familiar hikes in canyons and on mountains, lament changes, and soak up a place that is radically different than home and, yet, is so like home in its familiarity.
So, how will I celebrate this day? I hope to do some of these things that I have tried to do in the past. Maybe you’d like to try some of them too.
Praise God. Read a Psalm, alone and/or with the family, and spend a few moments in prayer in thankfulness to God. Psalm 136 is a good one. I like taking it and applying it to my own personal history, not just the history of Israel.
Take a walk. Be thankful for God’s creation. That’s easy here in Arizona, where the unusual vegetation and mountain landscapes easily call forth praise, but it can happen at home as well. Find the beauty and provision that is around you, and thank God for it.
Sing. As I’ve said, Christmas songs are out on Thanksgiving. Try something like “Be Thou My Vision,” or “What Wondrous Love Is This,” good hymns to set your heart in praise.
Thank God for trouble. If God works all things for the good of those who love Him, then even our troubles are ultimately for our good. I don’t mean enjoy trouble, I mean that we simply adopt the perspective of faith, trusting God to bring good out of bad,
Write letters to people to whom you are thankful. Sure, you could email them, but somehow an email doesn’t have the same weight as a short letter. The past several Thanksgivings I have selected three people to send a thank you note to --- some from the distant past. It’s a good remembrance.
Listen to your children. Because I’m on vacation, I’ve been able to do some of this already, but I find that at such times as these I learn things about my children that I miss at home amid all the distractions.
Read George Washington’s Original Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. You can find it here. He was told by Congress to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness." Nowadays, we have a lot of vague thanks being given, but little acknowledgement of the Giver of blessing.
In society at large, there is little left to this special day, other than turkey, a vague sense of thanks, and planning for shopping on Black Friday. But for Christians, it can be different. Happy Thanksgiving.