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Making the Most of Thanksgiving

November 21, 2007

Pointing Families to the Cross on Thanksgiving Day

As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to suggest a few ways in which dads can lead their families to honor God and also create a few good memories. Frankly, my family doesn't go all out for this particular holiday because we genuinely try to cultivate gratitude throughout the year. But it is good to take some time on this day and reflect on how God has demonstrated his kindness toward our families. Here are some things to consider:

The first priority is to point to the Cross. Cultivate gratitude for the clearest and greatest demonstration of God's mercy, grace and love: the Cross. Let the Cross be the primary subject of your public prayers and let this be the first and foremost topic of "things we are thankful for."

Also, it would be appropriate to familiarize yourself with some of the history behind Thanksgiving and lead in a brief discussion about why we celebrate this holiday and how it points to God's goodness, mercy and providence. I have in mind a 15-minute discussion here. (Don't try too hard and stress that over do this.)

Lead in prayer. This does not mean that you should not allow others to voice their prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude, but you need to initiate and oversee this process. Make sure that after others have prayed, that you pray a specific fatherly prayer of gratitude for your family and God's goodness and mercy.

Finally, purpose in your heart that your expressions of gratitude will not be relegated to one day per year. Regular expressions of gratitude build humility, and a home characterized by humility is usually filled with harmony. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

There is also the important goal of creating some memories during these types of holidays:

If you have a son, let them participate in carving the turkey. Over time in this culture, he should master the skill of carving before he starts his own family.

Encourage moms and daughters to joyfully work together in any meal preparation and the cleanup. Preparing large meals is an important skill that can and should be learned and cultivated. This is a great opportunity for moms and daughters to build camaraderie, friendship and closeness.

Let your children practice leading in conversation with the guests you have in your home. Work with them in advance and teach them how to ask questions, keep a conversation going, and demonstrate interest in the lives of others. Plan to do this every time you have guests in the future. The skill will serve them the rest of their lives and help build up the church. Start teaching them this week.

If you will be around grandparents, try audio or video taping them as you ask them questions about their life, their history and interesting moments (wartime life, the depression, etc.). If they are believers, see if they can recount key moments of God's providence in their life.

Watching football is fun and I expect to watch plenty. But don't miss the opportunity to spend extended time with your children actually doing something. If weather permits, get outside. Throw the ball around. Go to a park. If the weather is bad, play some board games. How often do you really get a chance to just hang out with your kids? Isn't this a big part of Thanksgiving?

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