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Getting to the Heart of Thanksgiving

While it is important to be thankful for our material blessings, as believers, we have something much more foundational for which we can be thankful. Let’s make it our aim to get to the heart of Thanksgiving this year.

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There are a lot of great articles and posts all over the web with creative ideas on how to help your children embrace the spirit of thanksgiving. There are “thanksgiving trees” where kids can write what they are thankful for on a tag and hang it from a branch. There are wonderful printables that prompt children to take stock in their many blessings.

But Thanksgiving isn’t only about thanking God for all of the “stuff” we have – although I would encourage us all to do that. And it isn’t only about counting our blessings – although we should.

A Christ-centered Thanksgiving must also focus on what we don’t have that we should have.

I am talking about the irreplaceable gift of God’s mercy.

What is mercy?

Mercy is the act of withholding a judgment or punishment that is rightly deserved – and the list of what we deserve apart from Christ is long and depressing. Here is just a sample for you to see the magnitude of this word.

We deserve:

  • separation from God
  • judgment
  • condemnation
  • punishment

The list is not pretty. But for followers of Christ, that is not the end of the story.

Why is God merciful?

God doesn’t love us because we are loveable. God loves us because He IS love and His very nature will not allow Him to be anything but loving. That love is the reason we have His mercy – it was love that sent His only Son to pay, in full, everything on that list above. They were paid for at the cross.

Being thankful for mercy

We will never get what we truly deserve if our faith is in Jesus. This knowledge can bring us to a place of deep and meaningful thanksgiving. Individually and as a family, we can meditate on the great mercies that God has extended to us as part of a Christ-centered Thanksgiving.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Meaningful Thanksgiving activities

1) Get out your Bible’s concordance and look up the term mercy. Research the word but also the concept. Think of people and situations from the Bible where God’s mercy was profoundly evident (such as David with Bathsheba and Moses at the waters of Meribah). You could even have your children add verses about mercy to your Thanksgiving day place cards.

2) Show mercy to each other. Once we understand the concept of mercy we can act in the image of God and extend that mercy to others. Sometimes this might take the form of turning the other cheek or reducing the severity of a consequence as a real life example of mercy.

3) As you rise in the morning, meditate on Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Ask yourself and your children: Why do those mercies have to be new each day? What about me and my heart makes it necessary for God to extend new mercies to me each day?

The purpose of these exercises is not to impart a sense of depression or low self-worth. In fact, if we study closely, it will have the opposite effect. When we see the necessity of God’s mercy, we can have a greater appreciation for the full measure of His love for us. He values us a great deal.

We are dearly loved, deeply forgiven and completely cleansed by the love the Father has shown to us in the form of His very own Son hanging on a cross in our stead.

Now that’s something to be thankful for.

[Photo credit: ladyheart from]

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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