I decided to sit down briefly at my computer this morning before my family and I really begin our Thanksgiving Day celebration of family, food, and fun. (If you don’t count watching Clifford on PBS with laundry going in the dryer as part of the celebration.) It occurs to me there are some significant ironies and lessons to be learned from this day we call Thanksgiving. Ironic that in a land that affords so many of us such religious and social freedom, as well as opportunity and wealth, we have designated only one day to celebrate and say thanks for our many blessings. Even more ironic that this special day has so evolved that its central feature is no longer expressing thanks to our loving Father in Heaven for giving us so many good gifts. Now it seems for so many Americans the day is primarily about stuffing ourselves with, well. . .stuffing. And turkey and ham and beans and potatoes and bread and pecan pie and all our favorite family recipes. And let’s not forget my personal favorite – the cranberry “sauce” that comes straight out of the can with a slow ssshhhhluck, still in the shape of the can, that you then slice and eat to your heart’s delight. And all of that is just the first trip through the kitchen buffet line. Seconds, anyone?!!
So here is my encouragement to you on this Thanksgiving Day: Eat your special food, enjoy it, and be thankful for it. Enjoy the time with your family, and be thankful for it. Mourn the loss of those special family and friends who are not with you today, and be thankful they were there to become a part of your life and memories. Say your special prayer today at the dinner table with your family, thanking God for the many blessings in your life (and try to resist the temptation to offer up a token thank you a la Jimmy Stewart at the dinner table in Shenandoah). By all means, take time today to consider your many blessings, past and present, and offer thanks to God for each one. You can make this such a great day of meaning, gratitude, peace, and serenity by genuinely expressing your thanks throughout the day.
But this is just one special day of the year. If you are anything like me, the rest of your life is full of challenges and stresses and hassles and disappointments – the kinds of difficulties that easily threaten our peace of mind and spirit. And sometimes these threats to our sense of peace are even more rampant during the holidays! Let me share with you one of my most treasured discoveries. It actually comes straight out of the Word of God. Four short verses of scripture that offer an incredible promise. A promise that depends on my willingness to adjust my focus and attitude.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:6-9
Let me point out two things from these inspired words of guidance, and leave it with you to experience for yourself. This passage begins and ends with a promise of peace. Go back and read it again. It isn’t a hint of peace. It’s not a hope for peace. It is a promise! Twice in just four verses! But notice this promise is not without condition. It is based on a willingness for me to do my part. I am promised peace from God (and I’ve already established how much I need it) so long as I am willing to adjust my focus and attitude in a particular way. When I am willing to train myself to be thankful for what I have, to dwell on the good things in and around my life, and live my life with humble gratitude for all God has done for me and taught me about living well, I will be blessed with both the “peace of God” and with the comforting, encouraging, uplifting presence of the very “God of peace.” Now that’s a seriously sweet reward – better than Nana’s yummy pralines!