Overflowing Thanksgiving in a Blizzard

As I write this on a Friday morning in Clarkfield, Minnesota, the wind is howling and the first snow of the season is flying. The accumulation is amazing. It’s a genuine blizzard on November 18, complete with a school snow day. The kids are cheering, but not their teachers, who have long term vision and understand the definition of “make up day.” Even a funeral scheduled this morning at another local church has been postponed.

In earlier generations, such a storm would have taken us by surprise. Farmers would have been surprised in the fields. Travelers would have been trapped on the roads. Productivity would have been halted. There would have been loss of livestock and possibly loss of human life. But vastly improved weather forecasting has turned this dangerous storm into a minor inconvenience, at least for those who heeded the warnings and have stayed indoors.

For some that will mean working in the barn instead of the field. For others, it will mean braving the meteorological elements and finding a way to their necessary work. For a few, it will mean the first popcorn and movie night of the season, the first installment of what will eventually turn into a raging cabin fever. But not quite yet.

It’s a good day to be thankful.

All of this raises a good question: Where does thanksgiving come from? Amazingly, it doesn’t come from abundance. The human response to abundance is happiness and satisfaction, often followed by a subtle desire for more. Local farmers will face a stiff test next year when they are tempted to compare the 2017 harvest with the 2016 harvest – and then grumble. Last year I said the same thing after the record harvest in our area, only to be surprised by another year of even greater yields.

Yes, God has blessed us greatly in 2016. Our challenge is to turn these blessings from heaven into overflowing gratitude from our hearts. This is complicated by a sure knowledge that such material blessings both come and go. There are good years and there are bad years… all of which are to result in thanksgiving.

How is that even possible? The starting place for gratitude isn’t bounty; it’s blessing. It’s not good grain; it’s a good God. It’s not preparing for a blizzard; it’s having a refuge when we’re unprepared for the blizzards of life. In a word, it’s grace. For all our lip service to grace, this is a hard lesson to learn. But I’ll try anyway.

Here are two statements to soften my heart: Abundance breeds complacency. Complacency breeds entitlement.

Entitlement kills thanksgiving. If we think we deserve bounty, it’s impossible to be thankful for it because thanksgiving comes from grace, which by definition is a blessing we don’t deserve. We must guard against complacency. Yesterday I guarded against complacency by raking wind-blown leaves, mowing the church lawn and searching out the snow blower. Blizzards come whether we’re ready or not. But we’re not entitled to a refuge from them.

Today is a good day to be thankful, not because I prepared yesterday, but because God’s grace has provided a refuge from the storm. To God be the glory, great things he has done.

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