Giving Thanks 2020

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Gratitude is in the news these days, or at least circulating on social media, because of an exchange between Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and one of his guests. When contestant Burt Thakur won, Trebek asked, “Any family members back home cheering you on?”

Thakur replied, “Here’s a true story: I grew up, I learned English because of you. My grandfather, who raised me — I’m going to get tears right now — I used to sit on his lap and watch you every day.”

Then he added, “It’s a pretty special moment for me. Thank you very much.”

Several days later, Trebek lost his cancer battle, but not before hearing “thank you” for the way he impacted this man’s life. The video clip has nearly six million views, as of this writing.

Saying “thank you” is always courteous and appropriate, but who writes “thank you” notes anymore? We should, and we should model gratitude for our children and grandchildren. Let them see you giving thanks to those who serve you, from their teacher to law enforcement persons to the clerk in your grocery store.

James Allen said, “No duty is more urgent than giving thanks.”

Giving thanks is a Christian duty commanded in scripture. For example, I Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

Giving thanks is not only commanded, but brings great mental, emotional and physical benefits. Robert A. Emmons, psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, did research on the scientific side of gratitude, its causes and potential effects on our well-being. As a result, he wrote, Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity. Here are some of his findings:

• Counting our blessings boosts our health. The research shows grateful people have less depression and stress, lower blood pressure, more energy and greater optimism.

• Counting our blessings slows down the aging clock. A daily practice of gratitude even slowed down some of the effects of neurodegeneration often occurring as we age.

• Counting our blessings lessens stress. The stress hormone is “cortisol.” When our bodies produce too much cortisol, this overproduction can deplete the immune system and raise blood sugar levels. Expressing appreciation lowers levels of cortisol and leads to greater resilience to stress.

• Counting our blessings and being thankful enriches relationships. Think about it: would you rather live with a grumbler or complainer or with a grateful person?

• Counting our blessings is good for the heart and waistline. The research found that people with high blood pressure who actively express thankfulness can achieve up to a ten percent reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease their dietary fat intake by twenty percent.

Counting your blessings is a great daily discipline. Research reveals people who take five minutes a day to list blessings and reflect on what they have instead of what they don’t have are happier people.

I’m counting my blessings. What’s on my Thanksgiving list this year? I’m thankful …

For my salvation and the way God loves me.

For the season the Braves had, short as it was.

For the freedom to vote.

For fewer campaign ads, though we still have to endure a few.

For forty years with my wonderful wife.

For my four children and eight grandchildren.

For my church family.

For the technology that allows us to broadcast worship and keep people connected.

For a good, hearty laugh.

For chocolate covered Oreos, Peanut M&M’s and York Peppermint Patties.

For our church staff.

For Christmas decorations going up early this year.

For Peppermint milkshakes from Chick-fil-A.

For boiled peanuts and a Saturday afternoon of college football.

For the privilege of preaching God’s Word and pastoring God’s people.

That my Mother and both in-laws are still with us.

For people who read this column and editors who run it.

For people who pray for me.

For the pastors in this community who truly cheer for each other.

That God is always with me, but especially in a year like 2020.

What’s on your list?

[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road, just past McCurry Park, and invites you to join them this Sunday for worship at 8:45 and 10:55 a.m. and Bible study at 9:45 a.m. Worship online by going to www.mcdonoughroad.org. Contact Chancey at dchancey@mcdonoughroad.org.]