Sunday, November 24, 2019

Blessings in Disguise

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness James 1:2-3 ESV.
When considering our blessings, a list seems easy when we can count good health, financial security, pleasures, and even people we love. But, should we add such things as pain, failures, and stress?
Is pain a blessing? Imagine being pain free. We’d have no twinges or sharp sensations signaling something is wrong and needs attention. Our nerves are made to send danger messages to the brain, so we can process and address the source. Without such indications, we could become incapacitated or die.
What about failures? All of us have them, but our response makes the difference in how we count them. Someone told Thomas Edison he was wasting his time trying to create the light bulb, because he had failed over a thousand times. He said they weren’t failures, but just unsuccessful ways to finding one that would work. Failures can be stepping-stones to successes.
Being thankful for stress seems counterintuitive, but studies show some benefits. The University of Buffalo surveyed 2400 people for four years. Those who reported more adversity and difficulties had better mental health and well-being than those who had less. And stress in nature can be positive:
·       Without struggling to shed its cocoon, the caterpillar would not become a butterfly.
·       Without pressure and heat, a piece of coal would not become a diamond.
·       Without an irritating grain of sand, the oyster would not produce the pearl.

Pain, failures and stress are never part of life’s pleasurable experiences, but they have purpose. We should list them with gratitude, counting them as God’s blessings in disguise.
“. . . give thanks in all circumstances” 1 Thessalonians 5:18b

Friday, November 15, 2019

Thanksgiving "Squashed"

November means jacket weather, pansy planting, harvest moons and Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this holiday seems lost in the shuffle--squashed between trick-or-treat time and Christmas. Among row upon row of Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations at stores, a person might find a couple of paper turkeys, a few packages of napkins and maybe a plastic cornucopia for Thanksgiving.

Artificial Christmas trees seem to sprout up in store displays earlier each year, just an aisle over from shelves replete with witch hats and plastic jack-o'-lanterns. Even before Halloween is over, Santa and his elves have moved in to stack their wares on kiosks, endcaps and shelves from floor to ceiling. Only the shrink-wrapped turkeys piled high in a store’s freezer section give credence to the November holiday. Thanksgiving is relegated now by most people as a hurried celebration piled high with food, family and dawn-to-midnight football.

While it's true that every day should be one of thanksgiving, the holiday itself is unique. What distinguishes it from all other holidays is the fact that it was not begun in honor of an individual or group or symbol. Thanksgiving began as an attitude toward life. Based on the oldest celebration in our country's history, it's an exemplary event started by the Pilgrims who came to this land in hopes of finding fertile soil for planting seeds of freedom. They suffered hardships and losses, yet on a harvest day in 1622, they shared a modest meal and thanked God for what they had.
That day became an annual observance and continued through the birth of the United States. Several presidents and many state governors proclaimed Thanksgiving days to be celebrated each year.

In 1863 during the midst of one of the most challenging times in our country's history, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Since then the observance has grown from being a day dedicated to harvest time to one of expressing gratitude for all things this free land provides in abundance and opportunity. Yet, sadly, the commercialism of the two holidays before and after has grown to diminish our recognition of its significance.

Thanksgiving is unique, and we should give it greater consideration, rather than squashing it between Halloween and Christmas. And like the leftovers we continue to enjoy from our tables on that day, our gratitude should overflow with glad expressions all year long.