Can you remember the first television show you saw that featured food and cooking? Although the official Food Network did not start until April 19, 1993, there were a few early cooks in the kitchen broadcasting their savory delights. For example, Julia Child released a television special February 11, 1963, on how to make an omelet.
If there ever was a holiday built around the kitchen it is Thanksgiving. And if there ever was a cultural quality in need of widespread revival it is a “thankful heart.” Somewhere along the road to rugged individualism, many of us outgrew gratefulness. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving recipes, I have listed five ingredients that are 100% organic and will help grow a healthy thankful heart. What are the five ingredients?
1.) Reflection: An honest parade of the past
Our Western world isn’t very good at reflection. We’re too busy enjoying the present or strategizing for the future or getting things done. The ability to stop, think deeply and drink in the days behind us is not a natural muscle set for most of us. Everything is about efficiency, productivity and winning.
Thanksgiving, however, requires reflection. Look back and thank God for the things He has done for you—the people He has put in your life, the experiences He has given you, the heights you saw and the depths you learned from. You don’t have to get handcuffed to nostalgia, but looking back can be such a powerful spice for the heart.
2.) Humility: Get my photo off center stage
I’m not talking about a “humble brag,” as in the old, “I can’t believe I made CEO at 27. I was just trying to do my job as well as I could.” I’m talking about real humility, humility like Tim Keller defines it (referencing C.S. Lewis) in his phenomenal (and short) book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of your self less.”
I’m honestly not sure how it works, but it does. Listen to your kids laugh, watch your direct reports come up with a new strategy on their own, facilitate the praise of a peer, and without even trying, you find yourself becoming more thankful. Thankful for what God is doing for someone else. Thankful that you even get to ride along with Him a bit. Thankful that He lets you watch.
3.) Appreciation: Especially for the small stuff
Here’s a practice to try for the rest of November. At the end of the day, as you lie in bed about to go to sleep, review your day. Take 3 minutes and mentally work through your day. Every time you remember something good, give thanks for it. Every time you remember a failure, face it and move on.
The practice of saying “Thank you” for small things makes you realize how many seemingly small blessings actually play a huge role in the presence of joy in your life. We often price or size ourselves out of appreciation. In other words, if the gifts don’t keep growing and the value doesn’t keep increasing, we are not immediately appreciative.
4.) Sifting: Strain out the poison
Have you ever put the wrong ingredient in a recipe? A pinch of the wrong thing can totally ruin the entire cake. Or, have you ever pulled out the bread, about to make a sandwich and you notice a green spot of mold staring at you? Certain things creep into our thinking or even our behaving that dramatically poison the thankful heart. Here are a couple reminders:
This is what the Lord says: The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength; the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth. But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
5.) Contentment: Focus on what I have, not what I don’t
I’ve been an entrepreneur for three decades now, so I know from firsthand experience the craving for something new, something else, something more. It’s not bad to look to improve things, but chronic dissatisfaction kills thanksgiving. We spend so much time focusing on what we don’t have (disposable income, fun co-workers, a collaborative work environment, a peaceful home, etc.) that we never just sit grateful with what we do have.
It’s like Peppermint Patty says in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, “What kind of a Thanksgiving is this, Chuck? Where’s the turkey? Where’s the mashed potatoes? Where’s the cranberry sauce? Where’s the pumpkin pie?”
Thanksgiving is “just” a day, but it is a day that pushes us to God. The opposite is what G.K. Chesterton, paraphrasing an earlier British poet, described when he wrote, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.” If you’ll let it, thanksgiving has the potential to change your life and connect you to God as never before.