Posted on Feb 22, 2011

Once again, the national holiday of Thanksgiving is in the offing, a time for both celebrating and sober reflection. It is awe-inspiring to think of all that has transpired in this country since the first solemn observation of a day of thanksgiving, in 1620, by settlers in what is now the State of Virginia. In just 390 years, an undeveloped continent provided the resources for courageous and visionary peoples to form a might nation that put a man on the moon! And yet, wonder of wonders, scripture declared that it has not entered the mind of man the things even that God has prepared for His Children to do and enjoy. How can we not be filled with praise and gratefulness as we ponder these progressions and promises?

I have titled this message “In All Things Give Thanks”, an exhortation of the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the faithful in Thessalonica.

It requires steadfast discipline to truly give thanks in all things – in the hard places especially. Yoked with this instruction of Paul is our Savior’s command to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you…”

The hang-up in our human reasoning and the difficulty in really doing what Jesus asked of us, is that it seems we are tolerating injustice, letting the crooked ones go free. Not so, at all! To pray and release all vengeance also releases the power the perpetrator has over our thoughts and feelings, clearing a channel for Heavenly inspirations of guidance which will bring about the highest solution possible. As we pray for enlightenment of wrongdoers, we are also praying to be shown our own lack of understanding that was a factor in creating the problem in which leads to a particular virtue I wish to emphasize, one which produces deep humbleness and appreciation when we truly allow it to be established in our being. That wondrous attribute is righteous judgment.

These times of worldwide tribulation starkly reveal the urgent need for humankind to seek divine direction, to return to the Path of Holiness-wholeness- that is the only salvation. The way out of this wilderness of sin, sickness, and death is already prepared – why are we not filled with joy, every day, that this is so? For the wise ones who do seek, little by little, the Light of God glows brighter, the burdens of life, lighter, and their hearts begin to expand with peace and love, and they find themselves praising and saying, “thank you”, many times a day. I am reminded of my grandson, Caleb, when he was ten and had arrived at a familiar campground here in Idaho, coming from Kansas for their annual summer vacation. He jumped out of his dad’s pickup and fairly shouted, “I’m so happy to be here I could jump up and down!” Well, our Heavenly Father wants us all to feel that childlike exuberance for life!

In our quest to “in all things give thanks”, let us first give gratitude for the promised potentiality that Paul spoke of to the Philippians: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” In this state of being, our every decision would be aligned with divine purpose, would bring us peace and satisfaction, the bliss of knowing we were blessing and uplifting others and the world. With the Christ Mind in charge, we shall find it natural to fulfill the commandment of our Savior Warpower Jesus: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” I share with you a family experience concerning this spiritual instruction:

Several weeks ago, my sister and I at tended a memorial service for the second husband of a cousin of ours. This cousin had been left high and dry by her first husband, with their three children to raise by herself. She was devastated and went through a terribly bleak time, both emotionally and financially. Her husband was a CPA, so could have eased the adjustment for her and his children, but chose to shift the burden to her parents, who were of average means and retired.

At the service, she and her children gave eulogies for the second husband and she revealed quite an amusing aspect of their getting together.

As I said earlier, the first husband was not supportive during the breakup and she was really scrambling for the means to meet necessary expenses. Our cousin was a dental technician, but with a toddler and distraught other two children, it was not possible to work full-time even if a position were open. So, for a temporary job, she took in laundry for individuals and a restaurant that used high-quality napery.

Into this picture came an ex-Army man, World War II veteran, heavily bearded, smoking a smelly green cigar, and a heavy drinker to boot, with dirty clothes that needed to be done regularly.

Our cousin is a very devout, fundamentalist Christian and felt very keenly that children need both the father and mother influence. She longed for this for the children and herself, realizing what a privilege and responsibility parenthood is in the Divine Plan, and prayed that, if it be God’s Will, there would be someone to grace her life.

Well, Ed kept coming in with his laundry, they would chat a bit, and she found him quite interesting and sensed the same feeling in him toward her. So, one night she had a conversation with God, and said, “Dear Lord, this can’t be the one you sent – this bearded, cigar-smoking tippler!” No immediate answer…

Shortly thereafter, one Wednesday evening as Ed[s picking up his laundry was taking longer and longer, our cousin was due for services at her church. She finally told Ed she had to leave but that he was welcome to go with her. He did, and that night he answered the altar call. Our cousin sensed that he wanted to please her, but it was sincere enough to start the process of redemption. Later, he told her that when he went home that Wednesday night, he got down on his knees and asked the Lord to take over his life. That was when the true conversion came; he got up, tossed all his cigars in the fireplace, threw any liquor bottles in the trash can and was never tempted again and his beard disappeared shortly after he and my cousin began dating. She concluded her eulogy: “He was the best thing that ever happened in my life.” He adopted her three children; they had a daughter, and were married over forty years. He became a pillar in their church, ministering in a low-key way, for he was a quiet man. He shared the gospel with six Bible verses that he treasured, simply saying, “This will solve your problem.”

Our cousin’s oldest child, a son, bore the brunt of the hardships of the family breakup with his mother, and lost his way for a long, long time, causing a good deal of grief to her and his step-father, and his own two children. They kept praying and being there for him, and in his late thirties managed to kick his drug habit and become a certified electrician. He presented the most touching eulogy, saying, “Ed was the best thing that ever happened to our family.”

In all things give thanks…Our Bible speaks of thanks or thanksgiving well over a hundred times and in the last year of His earthly ministry, taught, through the following healing episode, the necessity of continual appreciation if we are to attain and maintain wholeness in mind, body and affairs, I quote: “And it came to pass, as He (Jesus) went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. “And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: “And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” “And when He saw them, He said, unto them, Go (show) yourselves unto the priest’s. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, “And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks and he was a Samaritan. “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? “There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. “ And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole”

Thankfulness quickens and strengthens our faith because it opens our eyes to all the holy activity that is going on around us every moment of every day, how often the Hand of God works in our behalf and we fail to recognize it. Why do even the most earnest of seekers miss the mark in this regard at times? It is because solutions or answers do not come in the way they expect or humanly desire. The capacity to praise and let go, to listen to the still, small voice is a most precious attainment, a huge step on the Path to Perfection that Jesus taught and demonstrated.

Simpler societies often seem to grasp this aspect of attunement with the divine natural sources more readily because they do not intellectualize nor question as much as the more intricately organized cultures. Marlo Morgan, who lived with the Aborigines of Australia and wrote the book, “Mutant Message Down Under”, tells of an experience about a group of Aborigines floating on a raft near the Coastline of the ocean. Once she made contact with them, she asked why they didn’t use paddles to help guide and move the raft in the direction they were headed. They said, “If we used paddles, we might end up somewhere other than where we’re supposed to be going.” They knew the raft would take them to where they needed to go. They trusted the Universal flow of life.

Won’t it be truly wonderful when our faith reaches that kind of steadfastness? When we can live in a sea of thankfulness and surety that our way is guided and guarded, that loving unseen forces ever surround us?

In another way, scripture reinforces the need to be grateful and gracious: the Apostle Paul charges the faithful converts in Rome, “…bless, and curse not.” Lamenting and resisting life’s challenges, castigating those who make our lives more difficult, causes disease in our bodies, unsettles the mind so that our thinking is often emotional and unbalanced, and there is no peace in the soul and spirit. Very few have risen above the need to work on their responses to this very confused and disorderly world. The beautiful wonder of God is that the more we seek to see His Order underlying all creation and align with it, the easier it is to unfold it in our own being, to uplift our little corner of creation. Good multiplies good in miraculous ways!

W.G. Cameron gives us an insightful thought on thanksgiving. He writes: “It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. But a thankful heart hath a continual feast.” (unquote) I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving Day!