Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving, What It Means To Me and What It Can Mean

It's that time of the year where we, Christians and everyone else, are "supposed to" focus on being thankful and giving, on peace and reconciliation. I see countless posts and hear countless lectures of the subject of gratitude that seem to scold hearers about "not being thankful." Yes, God has been good to each one of us. He loves us and, in Christ His Son, has sacrificed all things to rescue us from the power and penalty of sin. He has good plans for our lives. I can fully understand why we are so often shamed and scolded into "being grateful." It's forever trite but true that no matter what we may face in life, others are facing what they, at least, consider to be worse and more traumatic events and struggles. I agree that we all need to be reminded that life does not revolve around any of us and that everyone faces suffering and struggles in life. These are undisputed facts. When I was growing up, in St. Louis, Missouri, I was always being told that I was a "chronic complainer" and I'm sure that there was a lot of truth in this. Complaining is defined as "expressing dissatisfaction with something." There is nothing wrong with expressing such dissatisfaction; it's where our focus lies, on what we have or what we don't have. No matter who we are or what we face, we all lack many things we wish we could have. All of us also have many good things in our lives. As my late stepdad would say, "Whatever the good Lord gives you to face, He always balances it with something good."

I'm the first to admit that thankfulness does come hard when I deal with depression spells that I believe to be induced, at least in part, by the long-term use of anti-convulsants. Thankfulness does come hard when I see how many people, who seem to not give God a passing thought and who don't help others, seem to skate through life and enjoy health and wealth. And "preachers" give off the false impression, in their "teachings," that if we serve God and love him, that we will be "blessed in life and enjoy health and wealth." The Bible says that those who obey God are "blessed in all they do," but this does not reference good, easy, fun circumstances. The Son of God, when He lived a perfect life as the God-Man, suffered more than all of us put together, especially in right before and as He was dying a horrific death on a cross. Thankfulness comes hard when I think of the people whom I have helped and shown support to, who have often "repaid" me by removing me from their lives because I had shown them my fallibility. But I am learning that it is by focusing on Jesus, NOT on people, that makes it easier to give thanks 27/7 and 365 days a year. For as long as we look at people and compare our life's journeys, whether they are better or worse, we fall into the old comparison trap that is a waste of time.

We Christians have far more cause to be thankful than non-Christians do. We have all received not only the "common grace" that all humans have and in the form of blessings of various sorts. We Christians have also received God's unique grace in Christ. We have many great and precious promises. We have access to His Presence, every minute, every hour and every day of the year. We have been freely forgiven of our countless past, present and future sins of thought, word and deed. In Christ, God gives us His love that He declares NOTHING can ever separate us from. NOTHING. He gives us His Spirit, who gives us power, guidance, teaching and comfort and yes, conviction, as we need these at any given time. He has promised us Heaven, where we will gain all that we ever longed for here and could not find. He has given us Scripture, which is His message, His love letter, to us. He calls us His children, His sons and His daughters. Yes, I'm the first to say that I fail to remember HIs many benefits in this spiritual realm. But, we must not forget and must always remind ourselves, each and every day of the year.

Thanksgiving is that time of the year when we look forward to "taking a break" from watching our weight and our typical diets, and "splurging." I'm not saying that's wrong! I'm looking forward to eating a bit more this upcoming Thursday than I usually do. Not much. I would not okay using the holidays as a license to drink, because that contributes to drunken behavior and drunk driving, which kills people. It is also the day before what we call "Black Friday," which can be another topic altogether. We all are aware of the hype about that day, with all the commercials. This is a "tribute" to the greed and the materialism of so many of us who insist on shopping as early as possible to save a few bucks. We give lip service to the need to focus on our blessings and to spend time with family, but Thanksgiving, like any holiday, is a time of unrealistic expectations. We confuse "the holiday spirit" with "being happy," whether we mean "the Thanksgiving spirit" or "the Christmas spirit," with "being happy." We forget that "giving thanks" is not an emotion but is an action, and can be done even when we don't "feel happy" or our dreams don't come true.

During these holidays, I'm thinking especially of all of those who are estranged from family members or other once-important people in their lives, often because of greed or disputes. I'm thinking of all those who have lost loved ones in the past 12 months. I'm thinking of all those who will spend their holidays behind bars, because of wrongful or overly-harsh convictions. I'm thinking of the victims of recent weather disasters like the people in the Philippines. I'm thinking of those who are fighting terminal illnesses. I'm thinking of those who are spending more holidays missing a loved one or who have not found justice for them. I'm thinking of those who are being put down as "extremist" because they choose not to participate in the holiday traditions or in "black Friday." I'm thinking of all those who dread, rather than look forward to, these holidays because their disabilities keep them from liking the rich holiday foods or social gatherings. For many these holidays are a hard time.

What do the holidays, including Thanksgiving, mean to me? Frankly, because of my life circumstances, I have often not looked forward to them. Yes, I'm thankful for God, for His love, for my family and my life. For starters. I'm also thankful for you who visit this blog and who read it. I'm thankful for those of you who have signed my autism petition. I'm thankful for each of you who will sign up to follow this fairly new blog. And I'm thankful to those of you who have "liked" any of my Facebook pages, found on the main page and on a static page, of this blog.

The first photo is courtesy of MorgueFile, is by seriousfun, and can be found here.

The second photo is courtesy of MorgueFile, is by Seemann, and is found here.

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