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A Thanksgiving Reader: Thoughts for Cultivating Gratitude

Thanksgiving Day joins together friends and family to feast, laugh, and reflect upon the innumerable blessings of God upon each of us; some of the most important ones gathered around the table. And, while for too many, Thanksgiving has morphed into “Turkey Day” – a day to eat too much, fall asleep watching football games they don’t care about, and plan Black Friday shopping – the intentional act of giving thanks is important.

Thanksgiving should remind us of the need to cultivate gratitude as a habit of life, not simply an annual tradition. So, in the interest of cultivating thankful hearts, here is a brief “reader” for Thanksgiving Day – a collection of quotes that can be used at your family gathering, around your Thanksgiving table, or even personally, as you reflect upon what God has done for you and your loved ones.

  1. “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
  2. “Gratitude is like that. It transforms. It is such a force that it cannot coexist with selfishness, with discouragement, with discontent.” – Rachel Jankovic, Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood
  3. “Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  4. “Of all the things he could’ve chosen to be done “in remembrance” of him, Jesus chose a meal. He could have asked his followers to do something impressive or mystical–climb a mountain, fast for forty days, or have a trippy sweat lodge ceremony–but instead he picks the most ordinary of acts, eating, through which to be present to his people. He says that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. He chooses the unremarkable and plain, average and abundant, bread and wine.” – Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
  5. “A Psalm for giving thanks.Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
    Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
    Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
    For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.”
    – Psalm 100
  6. “Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we’re related for better or for worse. . . and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.” – Rick Riordan, The Sea of Monsters
  7. “Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence…To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that ‘something more’ is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.” – Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World
  8. “The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.” – G.K. Chesterton, Autobiography
  9. “Do not resent your place in the story. Do not imagine yourself elsewhere. Do not close your eyes and picture a world without thorns, without shadows, without hawks. Change this world. Use your body like a tool meant to be used up, discarded, and replaced. Better every life you touch. We will reach the final chapter. When we have eyes that can stare into the sun, eyes that only squint for the Shenikah, then we will see laughing children pulling cobras by their tails, and hawks and rabbits playing tag.”
    ― N.D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl
  10. “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” – Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being (commenting on her own failing health)

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