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What's Up With Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving Days come and go. This year’s celebration will be gone in a flash. The calendar will turn its pages with all the slowness of a whirlwind. Soon we will be running to and fro in the midst of the yuletide season.
If we are not careful and deliberate, we will race past thankfulness without ever actually pausing to consider it. On Black Friday we may even surrender to the me-centric tensions of our culture and toss best intentions under the bus to clutch and grab for a hot ticket sales item.
Let’s be honest. We all know what we ought to do and how we ought to live. There is no puzzle hidden within words like civility or integrity or gratitude; it is not rocket science or brain surgery. We have a tendency to get tied up into knots over weighty issues that make for interesting debates, but do nothing to cultivate courtesy or appreciation.
We surely should not take our cue from those prime time cable shows where sarcasm and screaming matches are promoted as reasoned commentary. Dissecting the posture and indecision of the president or sorting through the malarkey produced by partisan infighting always makes for compelling political theatre, but what impact does it have on matters of the heart?
The Golden Rule
Our task boils down to the singular goal of being faithful to one profound precept Jesus of Nazareth embodied. The Golden Rule is pretty clear: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
That’s easy to understand, but its application is usually quite difficult. The societal expectations to be first and fastest up the ladder constantly coerces us to modify the requirement to treat others exactly how we wish to be treated.
We are like Swiss cheese, with various-sized holes separating what we know to be proper behavior and how we actually behave. We have an endless capacity to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time. In the high-pressure cooker of modern life our response to stress can often be completely inappropriate.
A Sweet Mystery
The struggle to consistently put the Golden Rule into action is ever present. When we fail, we have developed an automatic knee-jerk reaction that is almost universal in its sad predictability; we make excuses or cast blame.
Our ability to shed responsibility or become sniveling weasels apparently has few boundaries. We are fragile, fallen and fallible; we are riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. All of which is the everyday human experience.
Paul of Tarsus was no different than us; a flesh and blood man who wrestled with what it meant to apply these words of Jesus in the rough and tumble melee of the real world. He dealt with hardships, difficulties and setbacks. He rubbed shoulders with people who possessed the same lousy attitudes and personality quirks that we encounter.
Just like us, his motivations ran the gamut from self-serving to ambiguous to pure and noble. His writings reveal that he knew what it was to attempt to bridge the gap between reality and the ideal.
In his letter to the Romans he defined the human dilemma: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Who among us has not spent many dark hours brooding over that type of defeat? It is normal and commonplace, but no one has to remain in that quandary.
Paul certainly did not accept that emotional yo-yo ride as final. He engaged in a brilliant analysis that examined the complex meaning of faith, and then concluded “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Therein lays the sweet mystery of grace. We achieve some level of civility and integrity when we embrace grace and allow it to nurture an attitude of gratitude within us.
Is it possible to fully grasp the sweet mystery of God's grace?
Grace Freely Given
There is no question that our deeds habitually lag behind our knowledge. This is why God invented grace to freely bestow on us. It is grace that picks us up when we stumble, nudging us to persevere.
Marvelous, infinite, amazing grace is what God pours out to encourage us to keep working at narrowing the distance between knowing and doing; knowing the Golden Rule and doing the Golden Rule.
What’s up with thanksgiving is this: Thanksgiving and the Golden Rule are joined at the hip; neither thanksgiving nor doing unto others is to be confined to a single day. Counting our blessings ought to be a day by day action that we do as automatically as we treat others exactly how we desire to be treated.
Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to take stock of how we are doing in both areas. It is a time for honest reflection; and honest reflection ought to result in whatever attitude adjustments necessary.
The goal is for the deep truth and eternal promise of thanksgiving to become integrated into who we are; that only happens little by little and bit by bit. Progress is entirely dependent on our willingness to give away the grace we freely receive. May it be so in each of our lives.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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