"Monku ya na, kansha seyo" is a Japanese saying, meaning "Quit complaining; start thanking!" That simple sentence helped me lead 25 people in 10 Holy Land pilgrimages of 18 days safely from Japan to Egypt, Israel, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France and England. Usually the groups had about 12 Japanese, eight Koreans and five Chinese.
How did that work?
If anybody complained about a poor hotel, a bad lunch, a bumpy road or a thousand other things that sometimes picky travelers can gripe about, I compared it to Jesus traveling on a donkey. "No air conditioning, no reclining seats and no helpful stewardesses!" Then I'd ask them to kindly "Monku ya na, kansha seyo!"
At this Thanksgiving Season, let's remember, "I've never had it so good compared to somebody who's got it worse than me." Sometimes when somebody around me thinks they need something expensive, I joke, "Do you think a Cambodian sleeping on a blue plastic strip with a tarp for a roof needs that?" - When did Thanksgiving Day start? It started in God's heart when He said to the ever-griping Hebrews, "You shall offer it with the sacrifice of thanksgiving..." (Lev. 7:12).
God uses "thanksgiving" 40 times to remind them - and us - to give thanks and quit complaining.
We're ordered to "offer it at your own will...therefore shall you keep my commandments and do them" (Lev. 22:29). It's an order, yet we are to do it willingly.
God's promise is, "Offer unto God thanksgiving and pay your vows unto the most high God. Then you may call upon me (God) in the day of your trouble. I will deliver you and you shall glorify me."
God promises all kinds of blessings if we will listen to and obey His voice. The founding pilgrim fathers, running away from oppressive England and Holland, didn't start Thanksgiving. God started it and wants us to continue it.
North America's first recorded Thanksgiving Day was in Newfoundland in 1578. Another was held in Maine in 1607. In December, 1619, 38 men landed safely at Jamestown, Virginia. The English captain Joan Woodleaf, read a directive from his charter: "Your arrival date shall be yearly... kept as a day of Thanksgiving to God.
Then Governor Bradford (of the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth) ordered a three-day celebration in October, 1621, to "give prayerful thanks to Almighty God for the blessing of the harvest."
Those pilgrim fathers endured a harsh winter of unbelievable hardships, and then half of their community died. Yet the surviving 58 set a harvest table with fruit and vegetables and invited Chief Massasoit and his 80 Indian friends to eat with them, thank God and count their blessings.
A beautiful song written by Johnson Oatman and Edwin 0. Excell captures the feelings of these early settlers urging each to "Count Your Blessings, Name them one by one; Count your many blessings, See what God hath done."
So, start counting. Right now write down at least 10 good things that happened to you this year. Then sing, "Count your blessings, weigh them ton by ton."
What will your Thanksgiving be like this year? The women in the kitchen preparing a turkey with stuffing and trimmings, invited friends and relatives... the father slicing the turkey while a child reads Psalm 118: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy and loving kindness endure forever."
Then, before you eat, you can bless God. You say, "How can a mere mortal bless God?"
Here's how: "Bless - affectionately, gratefully praise - the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is deepest within me, bless His holy Name! Bless...and forget not one of all His benefits...Who forgives every one of all your sins and iniquities. Who heals all your diseases... Who beautifies, dignifies and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies..."
Now the women get out the pies and the men slip into the living room to watch the football game. Half way through, those who ate too much are asleep, snoring through the second half. Here in Japan, "Mother Morimoto" and her church will again feed about 1,000 homeless in Sanya...or, at least, until the noodles run out. Throughout the world hundreds of rescue missions will provide a meal for needy people.
Americans concentrate on family, turkey and pumpkin pie. Germany's festival is called "Ernkte Danke Fest" (Harvest Thanksgiving Festival) in the churches. Traditionally people brought seasonal fruit, vegetables and fresh bread, baked from new wheat or potatoes on Saturday, usually the last Sunday in October. Churches are decorated featuring a Thanksgiving theme. Children recite verses or poems and the youth sing and celebrate.
England celebrates as Harvest Thanksgiving, the last Sunday in October. People bring flowers or vegetables from their gardens, as well as canned goods. After the worship service, this food is taken to senior citizens' homes or given to charity. Norway, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries call theirs' Husteek Fest (Autumn Thanksgiving Feast) and celebrate similar to Germany and England.
You might gripe: "I haven't got anything to be thankful for! And, anyway, I don't like all this religious stuff!"
Then maybe the problem isn't with Thanksgiving, but with you, because Thanksgiving equals thanks giving. First of all, take from God by faith His Thanks giving gift to you and say, "Thank be to God for His unspeakable Gift," His most precious, beyond telling, inexpressible, free gift.
And what is that? His salvation, through Jesus, from sin and the assurance of a home in heaven. That's our wish, prayer and hope for you. For 40 Thanksgivings, my wife Lila and I have watched God provide for us and our four "made in Japan" boys, and He will also provide for you. When we first came to Japan in 1951, we lived on $125 a month, $250 for both of us. But then the yen was \360 to the dollar and we were rich.
All through these years as we have given out God's Word, He has returned to us more than we needed as we lived by faith. He provided all our needs, not wants. We might have wanted a Mercedes, but we got a Mitsubishi. A steak, but we got hamburger. A mansion, but got a used house!
Start where you are to be thankful. "Monku ya na, kansha seyo!"