The wind is blowing the clouds in, with the hope of rain or snow. This time of year, you never know. We’ve had the first frost, and the vegetable garden is brown and tangled. We’ve eaten the last cucumbers, and the tomatoes that weren’t killed by the frost are ripening in the spare room.

We’ve bottled the peaches, corn, squash and apples. Our storehouse is full of new jars of food. Bound by an industrious tradition, we have put away food for the winter. We always do it, and we are grateful that we have.

Another tradition looms in the near future – Thanksgiving. All over America, we sit down to tables laden with a plethora of food and dainties served on china and crystal. The candles flicker over the table showering light over the glorious event. We pray. We say thanks, and then it is over. We go about our lives preparing for the next holiday – Christmas.

Like little robots, we scurry from place to place in our air-conditioned cars, shopping in stores that are overfilled with the luxuries of life. We pick over the vegetables and fruit for the best and leave the imperfect on the stack. We move through the bread section and choose the loaves that suit our fancy. We open refrigerated compartments for milk, cheese and butter. We meander down rows of canned goods, choosing contents from glossy computer-generated labels. We sift through the frozen food section, deciding if we want to cook our own or buy something pre-packaged.

In the apparel section, we wrinkle up our nose at the latest fashion and buy only the clothes that tickle our preference. We don’t even notice that everything is made in several different sizes unless our size doesn’t happen to be on the rack.


The shoe section topples with shoes of every shape and size. We “ho-hum” while lifting this one and that one, scowling at the price and the quality before we meander on, complaining about the crowded atmosphere.

The furniture section is plush with comfort and convenience. We sit for awhile, thinking it would be nice to have new furniture instead of the year-old ones we have at home. We envy the color coordination of the display and wonder when we will have new paint and carpet. We curse our employer for not giving us a raise and more time off.

We gaze at that TV display and realize that ours is just a few inches smaller. We mentally calculate if we could squeeze one more payment out of our budget, before weary with envy, make our way to the checkout stands where we have to wait in line behind other disgruntled shoppers.

The checker smiles a half-hearted smile, and we exchange an empty greeting, and the purchases are loaded into our carts to be wheeled to our cars. Our credit card is put back into our wallet, and we push our carts from the store, weary with so much shopping.

I wonder what it would be like if the Mayflower travelers of 1620 were permitted to enter a Super Wal-Mart. If they got past the parking lot, they would fall on their faces with gratitude for the miracles that lay before them. Their tears would polish the floor at the thought of even being allowed to glimpse such magnificent wealth, and they would puzzle over our blindness and ingratitude.

We indeed live in a world of miracles! We see miracles every day, and we pass them over like they were part of nature. The sun rises and the sun sets, and we seldom take notice of the changing sky. We ritualistically say, “Thank you,” but our hearts are plagued with the numbness of having tasted too many sweets, seen too many colors and slept too many nights on velvet pillows. We do not notice the glory of God!

The Lord has a remedy for our numbness. It is called rejoicing. The Bible says:

“But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.

“Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH [Jehovah], and rejoice before him” (Psalms 68:3-4).

Rejoicing is different than just plain gratitude. Gratitude can be faked. You can smile and say, “Thank you.” You can even pray in the attitude of gratitude. You can name off your blessings one by one and not really feel grateful.

Rejoicing, on the other hand, means to delight in something or feel great joy. Rejoicing comes from the heart. In order to rejoice, you have to feel it. Your heart cannot be numb or indifferent. It must be soft with the recognition of the bounties God has given. In rejoicing, the emotions are tied to the words and the heart. You can’t fake that!

We are not just supposed to rejoice; we are to “exceedingly rejoice.” Exceedingly means to the extreme. Extreme means pushing the limits, going beyond what is expected.

Why would the Lord want us to go to the extreme of feeling joy?

When I was in an acting class years ago, I realized something about emotion and the ability to emote, or express feeling. Expressing emotions for good or ill, seems to hollow out caverns in the hearts. The more emotion we express, the deeper the cavern becomes. For example, if we hollow out the cavern of our heart and fill it with anger, eventually we will be able to rage with uncontrollable anger on stage. (Be careful, though, real life is not a stage. Anger will overpower us, if we allow it to go unchecked.) On the other hand, if we carve out the caverns of our hearts with rejoicing, we will be able to feel and express an infinite amount of delight and joy. It is interesting when the caverns of the heart are open, they can be full with other sentiments. We can fill those caverns with compassion and charity. This realization gives credence and understanding to Revelation 3:15-16:

“I know thy works that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”

The Lord wants us to be people of feeling and emotion. He wants us to express those emotions in a productive and compassionate way. He wants our hearts, our minds and our mouths to be connected. He isn’t looking for robots that express grateful words on Thanksgiving Day. He wants total and exceedingly great rejoicing over the great blessing He has given to us.

The Pilgrims rejoiced exceedingly at their bounty because they took note of every blessing. They were grateful for the food because they knew what it was to be hungry. They were grateful for the warmth of the fire because they knew what it was like to be cold. They rejoiced to have a family because they knew what it was like to lose family in the icy winter of 1620. They found delight in their apparel because they knew what it was like to wear rags.

It is difficult for Americans to escape the life of ease and opulence because we are surrounded on every side with wealth and prosperity, but we can take ourselves out of our affluence by prayer and by doing what the Lord commanded the children of Israel to do – fast! (See Isaiah 58.)

We can give our bread to the hungry. We can “delight in the Sabbath” of the Lord, and we can “satisfy the afflicted soul.” This doesn’t mean to give because we have means to give. We need to give until it hurts a little. Then and only then will the caverns of our hearts expand to be filled with the rejoicing that God intended on this Thanksgiving Day.

The wind is blowing outside and winter is coming, bringing a new season. Let this be the season where we not only count our blessings, we add rejoicing to make our gratitude complete. PD