Many of you recently celebrated the national holiday known as Thanksgiving. The concept of this United States holiday has been associated with the Plymouth village colonists called "Pilgrims."¹ Various sources attribute the “First Thanksgiving” as a feast celebrated in 1621 after the first harvest attended by Native Americans and Pilgrims. History credits Abraham Lincoln as the proclaimer of Thanksgiving Day as a national United States holiday to be observed in November.²
Activities often associated with this holiday include gathering of family and friends, prayer, eating, and relaxing. This year, Thanksgiving celebrations were different and unusual, taking on a “dream-like” atmosphere. This year’s holiday celebration was full of unexpected and unique approaches to old traditions.
Face masks, greater than normal space between people, virtual get-togethers with family and friends, less cooking and more online ordering of food, and outside dinner-serving claimed center stage.
Despite all the modifications, the essential ingredients of a traditional family dinner remain constant. Prayer and thankfulness become essential to the gatherings.
We may question the need for thankfulness given all the challenges swirling around us throughout this year. Our “normal” has almost become extinct and replaced by a “new normal.” Here are a few of the reasons for being thankful despite the negatives associated with the thankfulness:
COVID-19 burst on the scene uninvited.
So What! It provided an opportunity to find out what it feels like to prepare and survive “white water rafting.” We are still in training.
Most of the entertainment venues like sports were halted.
So What! Many of us took to the streets, sidewalks, and beaches to run, ride bikes, or walk. Our children and pets spent more quality time with us, and we discovered our legs and feet are remarkable assets to our bodies. We adjusted and became less stressed about winners and losers.
We have to wear face masks and keep a certain distance from others.
So What! We could cut down on our getting dressed to go-out time, and our personal spaces became wider. Besides, when is the last time you heard anyone cough and sneeze near you? According to a chief nutritionist, a sneeze can travel as far as 200 feet, and a cough releases airborne particles that can travel from 5 to 200 times the distance.³ How’s that for a shout out for facial masks!
We have to disinfect everything.
So What! We learned some new ways of doing things, like singing the “Happy Birthday” song while keeping our hands clean with soap and water. Hand washing became a new adventure for kids, which automatically reduced the “carrier” syndrome among children (and some adults) who rarely washed their hands. Hand sanitizers became our “trendy” accessory, We also learned that bleach could do more than remove stains.
We have to stand in line to buy groceries.
So What! If we had money to buy groceries, that is a blessing. We also met some of our community while waiting to go into the store. One of the best outcomes to be thankful for, the stores now clean the carts! I rarely remember this happening before COVID.
Apart from these, we continue to enjoy the privilege of celebrating Thanksgiving. Even more important is we have the freedom to give thanks and pray.
Giving thanks is an attitude. It should be within us to be thankful 365 days a year. Thanksgiving provides us the opportunity to express both our gratitude and our need for dependency upon God. We pray and give thanks for all of the gifts we have received. With joy, love, and in friendship, we can celebrate with others His everlasting goodness.
¹en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Thanksgiving_(United_States)
Some of you may have seen the commercial where the little dog is pulling on the rope (tether) of a hot air balloon that has just been launched for a short ride. He is pulling with all of his might, fiercely growling while displaying great perseverance and determination to bring down the balloon.
I am reminded of my friend’s little dog who has several squeaky toys. As part of his playtime, he will furiously shake his stuffed Easter bunny and pull on it with his teeth. He acts like a predator destroying his prey. Sometimes some of the stuffing comes out of the toy.
Rope-tugging and shaking stuffed toys bring great benefit to our four-legged friends: exercise, strengthening the teeth, satisfying their animal instincts, and more.
On the other hand, this same type of behavior by a person or group of persons comes about when they become highly aggravated or dissatisfied with a situation that they feel helpless to change; or they expected different results but were left with “nothing has changed” results.
Picture a scene where people break windows, deface and destroy buildings, or throw bottles. Or they cause harm to others, name call, use four-letter words, and participate in other illegal actions. These behaviors are products of frustration, anger, disappointment, and fear. The sad conclusion to this is the creation of a “no-win” situation.
There are two parts to this state-of-affairs: Part 1 is the cause, and Part 2 is the solution.
Part 1 – Cause
Putting your trust in tangible things or other people, especially those in high-level positions, can be shakier than an earthquake. No matter how admirable their intentions, like all of us, they are imperfect. I am not referring to physical traits or appearance. It is a serious waste of time to criticize physical imperfections. What I am speaking of are the flaws that guide our thinking.
If you ever played a game of darts, you know the ultimate aim of winning is to hit the center bulls-eye. A dartboard is designed with a numbering system that encourages accuracy. The more accurate the player, the more points he or she earns. When we make decisions, we should always aim for the bulls-eye. Try counting the number of times we miss the mark for a variety of reasons.
It is very unwise to build the foundation of your life journey on another person, whether it be a leader, a system, spouse, family member, or best friend. We are all subject to the same frailties, weaknesses, and flaws.
Part 2 – Solution
As humans, we want to put our trust in something firm and constant. This becomes a rather challenging desire because, occasionally, there is a hiccup. A hiccup is how we might view an interruption, malfunction, change, or error. Mankind is frustrated by the world hiccups that we feel helpless to change. Like the dog who shakes and tears at his stuffed play toy, we often return to our early childhood behavior when we feel powerless to fix the bad stuff.
Freedom from frustration is a gift to enjoy when we have faith and believe that no matter what the outcome of a seemingly unchangeable situation, God is sovereign with thoughts and ways so much higher than ours. (Isaiah 55:9) When extreme disappointment slaps us in the face, we do not have to rip, tear, or destroy.
Things that seem unchangeable are only unchangeable in man’s perception. When our spiritual aim is straight for the bulls-eye, nothing is impossible with God!