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Posted: November 19, 2010 12:30 a.m.

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Showing gratitude on Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday conjures up images for most Americans of turkey, football, pumpkin pie, time with family and friends.

We often forget that Thanksgiving is supposed to be about just what its name suggests, giving thanks to God for the blessings he has given us. Some local church leaders have advice on how to make Thanksgiving more meaningful for you and your family.

Chad Caldwell, Pastor of Journey Church in Covington, says that gratitude is an antidote to selfishness.

"In our culture the attitude of thanks has been replaced with the never satisfied attitude," he said. "But thankful people are happy people. They realize that they are owed nothing and what they do possess they do so by the grace of God."

According to Renee Rutledge, Director of Celebrate Recovery at Eastridge Community Church in Covington, a thankful attitude reminds us of the good things in our lives that make them better.

"When we’re not deliberately thankful, we miss the blessings, we miss the gift that life really is, and we miss happiness," she said.

True gratitude is more than just a prayer before a gathering of family and friends.

"There are many ways you can show others that you know how they’ve helped you. You can write them a note, make them a card, give them flowers, make a ‘thankful award’ to give to someone, or do something nice for them," said Andrea Hayes, director of E-town Children’s Ministry at Eastridge. "It’s important for us to tell people how much we appreciate them and how grateful we are to have them in our lives. If we don’t, they may never know."

Caldwell said Thanksgiving is a great time to serve the less fortunate.

One suggestion is to help the Newton County Food Pantry with its Thanksgiving Dinner for needy families at Sharp Learning Center. Volunteers are needed on Wednesday to help prepare food and on Thursday to help serve. Call the food pantry at (770) 784 0037.

Often, children and teens are relegated to the "kids’ table" or get lost in the shuffle of the day’s preparations, but young people can play an important role in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

"We challenge our students to pour out God’s love through service to others and our community," said Philip Carroll, student pastor at Covington Christian Church. "It can be as simple as encouraging a friend with a phone call or text, helping around the house with a cheerful attitude, or even serving at a local food pantry. One thing our students are doing this fall is collecting socks and towels for folks in Covington who need them."

Sherri Cummings, assistant director of E-town at Eastridge, said her daughters have collected food for the food pantry instead of trick-or-treating.

"I think that the act of them actually delivering the cans of food gave them a sense of accomplishment but also made them appreciate what they have. Plus, they still got candy," she said.

Church leaders noted that gratitude is not something that is limited to one day a year. Instead it is an attitude that permeates every day.

"Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13,’I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength,’" said Caldwell. "So give thanks in such a way that it becomes a lifestyle just like Paul’s."

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