As I stand at the head of our extended dining room table I run through the ingredients.
Food, in abundance, that took all day to cook? Check.
Family gathered? Check. (This year, it is my sister’s family of grown sons plus Kevin, a new friend of theirs.)
Football playing on the TV in the background? Check. (But not during dinner.)
For many families, it’s faith that’s missing. Sure, there might be a quick prayer to acknowledge that God might have a role in all this. (As if he would ever need for us to pass him a role.) But I suspect that what is often called thankfulness on this day is really just contentment. We first surround ourselves with what brings us happiness, then we recognize how good it makes us feel.
But contentment falls short of thanksgiving.
I’ve been meditating on Psalm 147 this week. Here’s the psalmist’s recipe for a grateful heart:
 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love. (ESV)
What’s the proper response to the provision of God? Verse ten tells us that it’s not self-sufficiency, not trusting in a system of self-protection. (Both images refer to being prepared for battle.) Or, I would add, any self-congratulations.
But what brings God pleasure – even delight – is our humility before him. Our awe at his generosity. Our hope that any future goodness hinges solely on his steadfast love. Gratitude is an acknowledgement of our need for him. This pleases him, not because he craves dependents, but because humble hearts are the fertile ground in which his Kingdom of restored relationships grows.
After dinner a guitar appears. My nephew then leads us in a spontaneous time of worship. I dig out my guitar to join him. Kevin, it turns out, is a worship director at a hip start-up church, so I find camel-skin drum for him. Soon the room is filled with voices, singing in soaring harmonies:
I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God!
This is true thanksgiving.
Gracious and giving Father, how we are so grateful for your daily blessings. For family, food, fellowship – everything around us speaks to us of your love. And as we look to the future, it is your love that brings us hope. With humbled hearts, we thank you.