CHRISTIAN LIVING | Anne Lim
Friday 29 May 2015
What do you have planned for this Saturday? The first day of the weekend can be one of the busiest in the week, what with children’s sport, shopping, laundry and catching up on other chores. The to-do list can stretch so far beyond our capacities that at the end of the day all we have left are feelings of guilt, inadequacy and discontent.
But the challenge to Australia this Saturday, May 30, is to stop, slow down, look around and say thank you to all the people who make your life better. It’s the National Day of Thanksgiving.
“The world seems to be getting faster and faster, with more pressure on people, and people now having to work until they’re 70 years old,” says world-renowned landscape photographer Ken Duncan, who is a National Day of Thanksgiving ambassador. “And if it’s not Ebola that’s going to get you, it’s bird flu, swine flu, the global financial crisis, interest rates, global warming, the list goes on.
“A lot of people are doing it tough out there just trying to stay alive and work on their superannuation plan, and the great divide between the rich and the poor is getting worse. And so there’s pressure out there, and people get dragged into the whole thing, and often they just don’t have time to stop and look around them and think – how amazing are my children! Look at them – they’re healthy, they’re alive! Or I’m alive, and I’ve got hope!”
As a photographer, and a Christian, Mr Duncan feels blessed because he has the opportunity to spend a lot of time reflecting on the awesomeness of God’s wonderful creation.
“With photography, you’re forced to stop; you’re forced to look at what’s happening. You’re not just moving on to the next picture frame. And when you get back you have to look closely, stay in the moment and, as you do, you begin to see, ‘Wow, this is what was really happening at that time; this is what was trying to be revealed to me by God.’ At the time you don’t fully comprehend it.”
Mr Duncan believes the Day of Thanksgiving, now in its 12th year, is a chance to “go out and put love on people” who have been walking with you through life, whether Christian or non-Christian. And by focusing on the blessings in your life, all the worries and anxieties that usually crowd your mind will begin to vanish.
“It’s just a wonderful day to think about who are those people and how can I thank them – by having a barbecue or something like that or taking them out to dinner. Even churches – here’s a great chance to outreach to those people around you. And don’t turn it into an ambush marketing event where everyone’s trying to sign them up for God’s honour roll. You don’t need to do that. The Holy Spirit touches people’s hearts. Just love ’em.
“And you’ll be surprised when you have that approach how responsive people are to want to know more about why you’re doing this. And that’s where you get a perfect opportunity of saying ‘Well, at the top of my list, I’m thankful for God that he sent his son that I have life’.”
The Australian Prayer Network initiated the National Day of Thanksgiving 12 years ago. “It started at the grassroots,” explains APN’s Brian Pickering, “People said we need to celebrate our Christian heritage and values, so the Australian Prayer Network gathered Christian leaders and went to see the (then) Governor-General Michael Jeffery and he instigated it on 11 February 2004.”
APN estimates that about 1600 communities and a quarter of a million people across Australia are involved in the day, sending greeting cards, pinning a ribbon on someone and doing other acts of kindness. Koorong Christian bookshop distributes special Thanksgiving cards, ribbons, balloons and business cards.
“It’s a whole day festival in some cities,” Mr Pickering says. “We let people use their creativity and encourage churches to see it as a tool for evangelism and mission. We’ve heard of a prison chaplain getting people to write to their family to thank them for visiting them.”
Each year has a special focus on a segment of society and this year the spotlight is on fathers, father figures and mentors, as well as people who work in the finance industry in non-profit organisations.
To find out how you and your church can get involved, visit www.thanksgiving.org.au