By Monte Sahlin, November 20, 2017:      

In the United States we have this tradition of celebrating a Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday in November each year. Other nations have similar celebrations, most of them at other times of the year. The worst thing about this tradition is the idea that we only need to take time to be thankful once a year. My Adventist parents taught me to express thanks to God every morning and evening for the simple gift of life itself and all the little things we usually take for granted.

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It does give me the opportunity to have my three daughters and their husbands and my four grandchildren together for a special occasion. As busy young professionals (whom I am very proud of), I don’t see them often enough, although they text or call or Email me or my wife every few days.

I have crowded so much into my life, that it is only as I grow older and I am forced to slow down that I take the time to count all of the blessings that God has poured out on me. I am blessed with great friends who, over the years, have put far more work into things that I have dreamed than I did myself. Those dreams would never have become realities without them and I don’t say “Thank you” often enough.

I am blessed with a family who loves me more than I deserve! I am blessed with a wife who accepts me in all my quirks and takes care of me no matter how much of a burden I am. They all give me more than I can ever give back to them.

Most important, my family and friends make real to me God’s love. Several of my favorite theologians have taught me that it is these relationships that embody (make flesh) the actual texture and character of God’s love to us in a tangible form. They have taught me to see God’s love in the everyday relationships around me. They remind me to be grateful for the smallest blessings and never take them for granted.

That is a large part of what I will bring to the Thanksgiving feast on Thursday this week. Humbled by how much they love me and how much God has given me over all my nearly 70 years of life. Maybe they will let me direct the question around the table, “What are you thankful for this year?”

I must say a word of thanks to the many tens of thousands of church members, volunteers, students and colleagues who have rallied around one goal after another over the years. So much good has been done in urban ministries, in community service organizations, in disaster relief, in congregations, in research projects, in writing and media creations, in conferences and gatherings, in classrooms and in conversations that I have had some role in, but it has always been more because of what others have invested than the little I was able to contribute.

I am thankful this year for the fact that Adventist Today is able to reach out and touch in one way or another, through one or more of our media, a total of more than a half million people. This includes many who share an Adventist faith (regardless of where they go to church or are part of a fellowship) and a number who simply want to keep informed about the development of the Adventist religion because of family connections or their interest in religions. I am thankful for the opportunity to share news and information, provide a platform for a wide range of opinion, and touch the lives of those who need friendship or a pastoral touch. This is what Adventist Today is all about.

Among Adventists there have always been some who question whether we should celebrate Christmas or Easter (despite a clear endorsement from our founders), but I have never heard anyone question the celebration of Thanksgiving. This is true even as we have become a more and more international faith with the bulk of our members in nations that do not follow the United States calendar nor understand American traditions. Giving thanks is one idea that never seems inappropriate to anyone at any time.

In a grateful approach to life with the feeling that there is an abundance of blessings and we need not cheat one another nor be the Scrooge at the party, God is present no matter how secular the context. It is God who give us the instinct to be thankful and feel blessed. It is fundamentally Adventist to have an instinct that looks to the future and sees God’s vision of a world in which the lion lays down with the lamb, and there is no more destruction, death or disaster, only hymns of thanksgiving before the throne of the universe.

That is my faith this Thanksgiving week!

Monte Sahlin is the CEO of the Adventist Today Foundation. He served for 45 years as a pastor and denominational executive at all levels of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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