There is an appropriateness to reviewing a book on giving thanks during the month of November, there is also an irony because Dustin Crowe begins his book The Grumbler's Guide to Giving Thanks by pointing out that "the assumption that giving thanks isn't a year-round practice further convinced [him] of our need to reexamine thanksgiving" (18). Before getting to his confession of not giving thanks as often as he should or having a mindset which allows him to readily give thanks, Crowe provides the reader with a 15 question quiz which helps reveal to the reader if their gratitude is more self-focused or God-focused. He explains that "self-focused gratitude grabs on to the gift alone [while] Biblical gratitude wraps its big arms around the recipient, the gift, and the Giver" (83). Crowe wrote this book because he realized that giving thanks outside of the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving is rare and, even when it is given, it lacks the depth which is found in Biblical thanksgiving; this perceived lack of depth has caused giving thanks to lose its place of importance in the life of a believer.
As he read through the Bible to study what it says about giving thanks, Crowe noticed that "Biblical gratitude is gritty gratitude. It's honest about brokenness and affirms difficulties and disagreements all around, and yet, it sees reasons to give thanks in all things" (23). The reason that Biblical gratitude is able to see reasons to give thanks is because in the act of thanksgiving there is a movement "from realizing what God has done to revering Him as a God who does such things" (35). This is the goal of Crowe's book, he does not want to explain what it means to be thankful and provide the reader with three easy ways to increase in their thankfulness, rather he wants to explain what it means to be thankful and then point the reader to the One they are to be thankful to.
When we define thanksgiving as including the gift and the Giver, it reveals how "walking with God leads to thanking God, and thanking God helps us walk even more closely to God" (49). As we recognize that thanksgiving plays this role in the life of a believer, it becomes a weighty action which can strengthen and grow our faith and hope. While giving thanks won't remove the hardships or temptations, it "offers people a way to know, trust, and rest in [God]. By looking up and giving thanks, grumblers become grateful, and the grouchy find joy" (62).
While people may not start their day hoping to be grumpy or grouchy, Crowe observes how the busyness of our lives and the siren calls of our phone can cause us to focus on what is next rather than what is present which can cause us to forget to say "thank you" or to be oblivious about what we are to be thankful for. It is not only the world around us which can make our moments of thankfulness fleeting but "our pride and sense of entitlement, [which causes us to] greedily gobble up blessings without recognizing them as gifts" (75). Crowe offers several ways which can help cultivate gratitude: being present, noticing and reflecting on what things are, being specific to God about what He has given, remembering what God has done, and intentionally moving from recognizing to vocalizing things one is thankful for. He reminds the reader that thanksgiving is not an optional thing in the life of a believer, but it should be a core practice of the Christian life. Giving thanks is a powerful thing believers can do since, "through giving thanks, we point believers' eyes toward God. We disciple and pass on our faith to children and adults. And it's a nonthreatening way to brag on God and show what He's like to those who don't know Him" (105).
While, because of Crowe's conversational writing style, The Grumbler's Guide to Giving Thanks is a quick read it offers the reader plenty to reflect on and be challenged by when they put the book down. Through the book Crowe not only pleads with the reader to not "view thanksgiving as something to tack on when things are good or in one month of the year" but rather to see it as "the means by which we plant our feet in the firm footing of God's steadfast love in the past so we have traction to walk forward" (138). At the end of each chapter he provides several suggestions of how to practice the main themes of what was just read. These suggestions range from starting a journal to starting one's day off with thanksgiving to reading specific Bible passages to participating in the Gratitude Challenge at the back of the book - a 30 day challenge to read what the Bible says about giving thanks, intentionally thanking God, and keeping a record of the blessings God has given. Crowe does not just shout that there is a better way of giving thanks but he then shows the reader how they can begin to practice this better way.
I would highly recommend this wonderful "how to" manual on giving thanks for those who are wanting to live a more thankful life which will lead to a greater awareness of who God is. This book provides several helpful and practical ways in which thankfulness can become a daily part of one's life regardless of how close Thanksgiving they may be.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Moody Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255