Living on Purpose: Giving thanks with an attitude of gratitude

Billy Holland
Billy Holland

Veterans Day, which we celebrated earlier this month, should have been a reminder to all Americans about how thankful we should be for living in a country where we are not being held under the terror of a dictator.

My wife and I have always been especially proud of our son, who is a Marine. He was injured in the service and has suffered every day since, but he keeps pressing forward and does the best he can. My extended family has personally suffered loss from war and has a deep appreciation for the sacrifice these men and women have made to protect our country.

My uncle Kenny Maye was killed in Korea, and I have his dog tags, casket flag and a rare military photo of him. He was only 20 years old in 1950. His cousin Thomas was drafted with him, and his body was never found. He is listed on the MIA memorial in Hawaii. They were so young, and very little remains of their existence. I often wonder about the lives they could have had. For everyone who has served and for those who paid the ultimate price for this great nation, we thank you.

You may wonder: How can I honor our military? On Memorial Day, you can pay respects to the fallen by attending memorial services within your community, laying flowers and planting flags on graves at your local veterans cemetery. Veterans Day is an opportunity to do the same, but it is also an appropriate time to show your appreciation to veteran friends and family who are still living. You can also recognize Veterans Day by flying the American flag outside your home, visiting or volunteering at a veteran facility, attending honor guard events and by thanking all veterans for their service.

As a chaplain for a veteran health-care facility, it's humbling to help those who were willing to die for us. You do not have to wait for a national holiday to show your gratitude to service members. Any day is a good day to support veterans and show your appreciation.

I've always enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with my family, but many times I find myself being distracted from the intended purpose. I must confess that between football, turkey and pumpkin pie there is not always a lot mentioned about why we are thankful.

So what is the real reason for the season? Well, traditionally it's simply a time we set aside to give thanks to God for what he has done for us. I know in my own life, I'm grateful to Christ for allowing me the opportunity to learn and grow in my relationship with him. I realize there are hard times and many problems and difficult situations, but, all in all, we are recipients of God's love and mercy as he longs to surround us with his peace.

I published a book a few years ago called "A Lifestyle of Worship," and it's about becoming determined to develop an awareness of God's presence in all we do to have a clearer understanding of what he is saying. It's a deliberate act to continually concentrate on how worthy he is of our love and worship! As Psalm 34:3 reminds us, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together."

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is more than a day off from work, a traditional ritual or a Black Friday sale. It's a state of mind where we can appreciate our relationship with Christ every day. It's wonderful to have a roof over our heads, good health, a loving spouse, children and grandchildren, but what about the opportunity to serve God? What about Jesus sacrificing his life so that all who believe can live with him forever?

Thanksgiving is to be a season where we count our blessings, but many of us have become spoiled. We are so distracted with trying to control our lives that we forget that declaring him as our Lord means we only do what he says. What we think about has everything to do with what and who we love. Having a grateful heart is the result of being transformed by a renewed mind, and this only comes with knowing God.

So we see that Thanksgiving is not only expressing our appreciation to God; it's being dedicated to doing his will. Those who desire to know him personally will discover that we do not love him for what he can do -- but just for who he is.

Dr. William F. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife, Cheryl, where he is an ordained minister, Christian author and community chaplain. To learn more, visit billyhollandministries.com.

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