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The Benefits of a Thankful Heart (Thanksgiving 2020)

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Episode Synopsis

This Thanksgiving may feel a little different for many of us, and hard to celebrate. Heidi and Jani think through four biblical ways that giving thanks lifts our hearts above the difficulties that can cloud our lives.

Audio Transcript

Jani: Well, here it is the week before Thanksgiving.

Heidi: I know. Can you believe Thanksgiving is already next week? I mean, I feel like the whole month of November went by in a blink.

Jani: It did. I know it did, my goodness.

Our Topics for TOday

We want to do a couple things on this podcast. We want to talk about Thanksgiving, we want to let you get to know us a little bit better, but we also want to encourage you because we know that this Thanksgiving (2020) is going to be difficult for some of our listeners, isn’t it, Heidi?

Heidi: Mhm. We know that with the pandemic, some of your tables might be emptier, you might not be getting together with family like you normally do or even if you are there might not be as many people there. It’s just with COVID, everything looks a little bit different in life these days.

Jani: It does. And some women are worried for their parents—their parents want to travel and they do not want them to because of their age—and others, as you said, may have someone missing from their table. Some families have been struck with COVID and they’re just too sick to have a Thanksgiving. We have friends like that, don’t we, Heidi? And others, as you say, their travel plans may be stymied or thwarted because of COVID. So Heidi and I realize that and we are praying that the Lord will restore your soul and give you reasons for Thanksgiving as you listen today.

Jani & Heidi’s Plans for THanksgiving

I wonder, Heidi, maybe you could tell our listeners, what your Thanksgiving plans are? Do they look the same for you this year or are they different?

Heidi’s Plans

Heidi: You know what, they actually, thankfully, look the same for us this year, although I wouldn’t say that we have a tradition. I think it varies year to year. Some years, Mike and I just want to celebrate Thanksgiving with just our little family and so we’ve done that in the past.

Other years, like this year, we will visit with some extended family. I’m thankful that my mom and her husband and my aunt and uncle, they’re very cautious of the virus and so we feel like we all have been cautious that we can come together and celebrate. So I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year. And I’ll be making the turkey, Jani, that’s my favorite part of the whole Thanksgiving: getting up at 6am and—I don’t really like gutting the turkey, I have Mike gut the turkey—but we’ll like gut the turkey and wash it and season it and make the stuffing and put it in the oven. So I’ll be cooking all day and we’ll be having two families over for dinner that night.

Jani: Wow. And do any of these families have children? It sounds like they’re all adults.

Heidi: They’re all adults this year.

Jani: Okay. Oh, well, the Lord bless you in that. We’ll be thinking of you as you make that Turkey.

Heidi: Yes, make the turkey and all the sides. I love hosting Thanksgiving.

Jani’s Plans (includes leftovers!)

What will you be doing this year for Thanksgiving, Jani?

Jani: We’ll be staying here, and one of our children—our daughter, Krista, and her family—are going to be able to come. They have three small children and so we’re grateful for that. We actually will be having our dinner at a friend’s home, our dear friends the Perrys.

Heidi: Yep, I was wondering if it was them.

Jani: You know Melinda and John and Rachel. We’ve always celebrated Thanksgiving with them. So it’s a fun tradition for us and Melinda is going to cook this year. So I won’t be doing the turkey. But somehow I think I might find a reason to make a turkey that week because I love all the leftovers.

Heidi: Yes. I love the leftovers, too. That’s one of the reasons I always volunteer to host and do the cooking.

Jani: Do you ever make turkey soup?

Heidi: Yes or turkey sandwiches. Nothing like having a bun and some turkey on it, and eating all the mashed potatoes and everything on the side. I could eat that for lunch every day after Thanksgiving.

Jani: I know what you mean. It can feed us for a couple of weeks, can’t it? I love that one big day of cooking and then the leftovers.

Heidi: And then the leftovers for one to two weeks.

Jani: Mm hmm. Good.

Celebrations may be different this year

Oh well, we do hope, dear listener, that you will be able to celebrate with someone. I know some of you won’t be able to.

I think of one young single friend we have, who is caring for her father, in a facility where she’s the only one allowed in to see him. And she can’t really leave. She is in his hospital room, and free for about 25 minutes, I think she told me, a day to go out and just walk a little bit in the facility area. She’s going to be alone this Thanksgiving and it’s hard. Some of you may find yourselves there as well.

What does the Bible have to say about having a thankful Heart?

So what does the Lord have to say to us, wherever we are, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves? Because Thanksgiving is one time each year where we as a nation have the opportunity to stop and think about the things that we do have to be thankful for. We get to turn our minds from the hard circumstances, the difficult ones, like our single young friend, so difficult.

Sometimes grief or loneliness or bitterness can cloud our spirits, but the Bible very wonderfully teaches us that a thankful heart can really help our spirits.

The Bible teaches that all of life is a gift from God. From Genesis 1 through the end of Scripture, he has created all things. Let’s turn our eyes toward him for just a few minutes and think what the Bible has to say about Thanksgiving.

I think right away of Psalm 118:1:

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. For his steadfast love endures forever.”

Psalm 118:1

Our Thanksgiving turns to him and we concentrate on him because he is good, and he has steadfast love that will endure forever. Our earthly trials will end someday, but never his steadfast love.

Heidi: I was gonna say, Jani, sometimes when I find myself walking through a heavier, hard season, one of my favorite things to do is just write down the promises of God that I can be thankful for and that I can cling to. You know, like, “God’s steadfast love endures forever,” or “He loves me and my children more than I could possibly imagine.” He promises to turn all things for good to those who love Him. He promises to “always be with us…never forsake us,” He promises to turn the darkness before us into light. I’ll make a list of those and I’ll just pray through those and thank the Lord even in the midst of my grief: “God, thank you that these promises are true, and that this is something I can hold onto.”

Jani: That’s so good, Heidi, it really is good. Because we serve a promise-keeping God. He will keep all those promises. I think that’s so wise to have a list of promises you can go back to. And even if your heart doesn’t feel like it, you can say them. Do you find the Lord works in your heart as you do that?

Heidi: I always do. I can’t think of a time that I’ve done that exercise and not left feeling hopeful and thankful because there is hope in who our God is. There’s hope that he promises to never leave us. And so no matter what grief-stricken, hard place, I would find myself in, Jesus is right there with me. And I can’t meditate on that promise without feeling hopeful and without feeling his comfort.

Jani: Hmm, that’s so good.

A Few of God’s “Wondrous Works”

Sometimes, Heidi, for me, along with the promises of God, which I love to review and claim and meditate on as well, I like to think about his wondrous works. Psalm 107:8 says this,

“Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man.”

Psalm 107:8

1. Dogs

I mean, sometimes I just look at our little black lab, and I think God thought up dogs. The world didn’t have to have puppies in it to make it the world. He could have created a world without puppies and dogs, but he thought of dogs. That’s a wondrous work. Our little Nixie is a wondrous work.

Heidi: I love your little Nixie.

2. Crackling Fires

Or Jani, I think of fires; the warmth that they bring, and that crackling sound – God didn’t he could have just had fire but the fact that it has that crackle and that warmth and that it moves and changes shape, that brings me so much comfort. I love sitting in front of the fire reading my Bible every morning.

Jani: Hmm.

3. Color

That reminds me of another thing that I love about God, he created color. You know, he could have created a black and white world. He didn’t have to create color. But think of all the glorious color, even in a sunset or a sunrise or in a friend’s eyes or in the fall season. Most of the leaves are down now but the past few weeks have been glorious.

Heidi: They have been.

4. Community

I think of community. I’m so glad that God made friends like you, Jani Ortlund. Like friends to share our joys with and our sorrows with. Friends that we can reach out to. I’m so thankful for community.

Jani: Yes. Oh, that’s so important these days, isn’t it? I think we’ve realized how important it is since we’ve been confined in partial or complete lockdowns, we’ve had to be so cautious. And yeah, I agree. Heidi, I’m grateful for your friendship and the friendship of others who love the Lord.

5. Food (Including Coffee & Chocolate!)

I can’t let the wondrous works of God go by without talking about food.

Heidi: I was just thinking, can I say coffee? I’m so thankful for his wonders work of coffee. What foods are you thankful for?

Jani: Well, you know how I love tea, but kind of along coffee, I love chocolate. Oh, dark chocolate. Mmm. I mean, think of all the different foods. We feed ourselves three times a day (or more with snacks in between), and usually it’s a variety of foods at each meal. God could have said as he fed the children in the wilderness, “I’ll give everyone manna and water and there we go.” But no, he has given us so much. He’s such a God of variety. What a wondrous work.

Well, we could go on and on.

Heidi: Yes, we could.

Scripture Passages on Thanksgiving

Jani: But let’s turn the podcast now to some of the Scriptures that we have about Thanksgiving.

Heidi: There are so many.

Romans 12:1

Jani: There really are and why Thanksgiving is good for us, healthy for us, helpful for us. Even in our dark times when we feel we have nothing to be thankful for. Heidi, would you read Romans 1:21 for us?

“For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to him. But they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts darkened.”

Romans 1:21

Jani: Yes. Oh my goodness. They did not honor Him as God or give thanks to him. And so their hearts darkened. I think the Lord is telling us here that Thanksgiving helps keep our hearts and minds healthy. It’s hard for a thankful spirit, to wander in the recesses of depression and darkness day after day. Thanksgiving can really help. Now, obviously, we oftentimes need other help counseling, sometimes medication, all of these things that God has made available to us, but Thanksgiving is one of the tools that he uses to keep our hearts and minds healthy.

It says again, for although they knew God, they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks to him and they became futile. That means their minds thought about trivial things, or vain things like, “Well, I don’t deserve this, I deserve better.” Or their thoughts were ineffective. They couldn’t get to the other side of what they needed to think through. And their hearts darkened. So Thanksgiving is one of the means God has given us to keep our minds in the light. Our souls following God.

Ephesians 5:20

It’s interesting to me, that Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:20, that we’re to,

“[give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 5:20

Heidi: That’s a hard one, Jani. Giving thanks for everything.

Jani: That’s really hard for me, Heidi. I know when we lost our first baby, it took me a long time before I could thank God for that. Eventually, I was able to thank him for being God, and knowing what was best for this baby, and knowing what was best for our family.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

But it’s really hard to give thanks always and for everything. I know I’m not like that. Paul says again in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (after he’s told us to pray without ceasing), he says,

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Somehow, if I’m wondering what God’s will is for me in this situation, I know at least I can give thanks for it. “Lord, how can I thank you for that deer jumping out at Ray and his crashing my new car?” You know, how do I? Well, I don’t know but I’m supposed to. So Lord, help me. I’m going to thank you for that deer, you knew that deer, it was your creature, you created it. And for some reason, you wanted Ray to hit it? Maybe it’s saving the life of some child in the car behind him? I don’t know. But I will thank you for it in all circumstances.

What are some of the circumstances that are hardest for you to thank God in, Heidi?

Heidi: I mean, I always the Lord has just presented Mike and I with some different medical challenges over the years, and having to go to my endocrinologist, you know, for labs every two months and having to get various scans done. Those are always hard circumstances for me to give thanks in. You know, thankfully, I’m almost five years out and so I can see many of the blessings that have come from that. So I feel like in some ways, I’m on the other side where I can say, “Lord, you really use that in Mike and I’s life. You taught us how to love other people in suffering.”

But even in those moments, when it’s hard, if I can’t thank God for that circumstance. I love how it says “give thanks in all circumstances.” In every circumstance, I find myself in I can always find something to give God thanks for even if it’s not that particular circumstance, right then, I can say, “But God here are all the blessings that you’ve given me in my life. And here is who you are in my life.” You know, we can always find some blessing that God’s given us to be thankful for.

Jani: Yes, that’s good. That’s good, Heidi.

Other Benefits of Thanksgiving

Well, let’s keep talking about other benefits of Thanksgiving.

1. Thanksgiving Magnifies God

Heidi: Here’s one in Psalm 69:30,

“I will praise the name of God with a song. I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

Psalm 69:30

Jani: Our Thanksgiving magnifies him.

Heidi: It’s almost a form of adoration in a sense, how we’re called to adore God.

Jani: Yes, and I feel when we thank God, when we offer him Thanksgiving, even in all circumstances, it puts the spotlight on him. In a sense, we have a magnifying glass on him and it makes him bigger to us at least. We’re concentrating on him. We’re showing all of His glories when we thank him for who he is. So Thanksgiving magnifies God.

2. Thanksgiving Helps Us Pray

Thanksgiving helps us to pray. Think of Philippians 4:6. It says,

“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

It helps us. Thanksgiving helps us turn everything, all those requests, over to God. “Lord, I need you here. I thank you that you’re listening. I thank you that you’ve brought me to this day, I thank you that you’re going to see me through it. And ultimately, this obstacle is not the end of my story. You are.”

So in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. There’s that open invitation: “Bring them all here, Jani. Pour them out before the Lord,” but with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving helps us pray.

3. Thanksgiving is Part of What Heaven Will Be Like

Finally, I love that Thanksgiving is part of what heaven will be like. Heidi, would you read Romans 7:12 and let me just set up the stage here. This is while the angels and elders in the four living creatures are before the throne of God. They’re worshipping Him and what are they doing?

Heidi: “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Jani: Hmm, did you hear that word “thanksgiving” in there? I think we’re going to spend eternity thanking God. I think we will never be able to run out of reasons to thank him.

And so, thanksgiving restores our souls by getting our hearts off the heavy things and onto God, our king and Savior who is working all things according to His purpose, and from whom we will never, ever be separated.

To our Listeners

We are so thankful for you, aren’t we, Heidi?

Heidi: We are so thankful for our listeners.

Jani: Yes, we’re really grateful that they listen week by week and we want to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. We do want to let them know…

Heidi: That next week we will be taking the week off and spending the time with our families. So we will not have a podcast episode published next week but we will be with you the week after, but we just we wish you all a very, very Happy Thanksgiving.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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