Guest Editorial for a Spiritually Meaningful 2010 Thanksgiving Day:
By Reverend Tom Tsagalakis
As we begin preparation for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I was reflecting on St. Paul’s words found in Thessalonians. He says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is such a grand invitation and one that can change our lives when we live pouring forth a grateful attitude.
Several years ago, I remember Lianna Bivoino sharing a story at our Lenten retreat on the subject of giving thanks. She told us about her commitment to give God glory in all circumstances even after her home burned down many years ago! She told us of the many experiences that blessed her after the apartment burned down and how she was able to approach life differently after this tragedy. Family, friends, and strangers came out of nowhere to offer a helping hand, and for that she was grateful.
‘Giving thanks in all circumstances” doesn’t mean to thank God ‘for’ the circumstance but giving thanks ‘in’ all circumstances. It means that we strive to give thanks ‘in’ all circumstances however challenging and bad our situation may be. A grateful and thankful heart is good for you; it’s good for those around you; and it is the key to peace and harmony! Having a grateful heart opens a space to respond to problems and conflict with possibility and hope. This grateful attitude keeps us from complaining and judging and promotes solutions and healing.
Charles Swindoll says it well with his definition of Attitude. He said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.”
“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”
Let us train our minds and hearts to focus on developing a thankful and grateful attitude in all circumstances. In doing so we will become more peaceful and healthy mentally and spiritually, knowing that no matter how much of life is cracking and falling down around us, God is here offering His grace, blessing and direction.
When faced with a crisis of a home burning down, news of being diagnosed with a disease, a friend committing suicide, a family member being overtaken by addiction, or simply having a difficult day, many of us tend to focus on despair and fear. Many focus on the problem, what ‘could have’ or ‘should have’ happened. We become consumed by the problem and the problem seems too big, too negative and impossible to handle. When we focus on the negative, we cease to embrace God’s grace and generous mercy.
St. Paul lovingly tells the faithful Thessalonians to stay focused on what is good, to keep their hearts and minds on the God of peace, to keep moving forward to having the mind of Christ. He says, “Be at peace among yourselves. Admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but ‘always seek to do good to one another and to all.”
During the season of Thanksgiving and at the start of the Nativity fast, it is a time to expect the good, be ever grateful for our blessings, look for the light and you will find it. No doubt, life is full of failures, rejection, pain, suffering, and conflict. But we shouldn’t get stuck there. Like the old Chinese proverb says “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair”.
Let us commit to developing a grateful and thankful heart. When we practice this we are capable of seeing what is truly good and fruitful. Elder Paisios says we must seek to be like a bee. He says, “A bee’s main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and go to sit on top of the sweet.” “If we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: ‘’I don’t know. I can only tell you where to find the flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all the evil”.
So lets strive to be thankful and grateful seeking the good things in life! Practice identifying things you are grateful for and thank God for these blessings every day!
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!