Giving Thanks When You Don't Feel Like It

True or False: Thanksgiving Day was declared a national holiday during a time of unprecedented conflict and killing among brothers.

(Isn't this an intriguing photo?  Lincoln stands a head taller than the soldiers, yet he has great posture and wears a tall top hat.  In our age, we're hiding our physical quirks.  He's thankful for his!)

True

On October 3, 1963, in the midst of the U.S. Civil War between the Yankee and Confederate states (1861-1865), Lincoln delivered the Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. He reminded the country of what they did have. The losses were easy to see. 1 in 10 Northern men and 3 in 10 Southern men (over 600,000 American soldiers) died in battle and numerous civilians lost their lives as well.

And yet, Lincoln highlights some of the U.S. nation's blessings in the midst of tragedy:

- The ”everwatchful providence of an almighty God.” His love and blessings despite “national perverseness and disobedience”

- Peace with foreign nations

- Domestic growth: enlarged borders, population increase, growing industry (particularly agriculture and mining)

Right vs. Loving

Lincoln was often criticized for his unconventional view of God. In his day, religious leaders from both the North and the South claimed God was on “their side” and appealed to Him to resolve the war accordingly. Lincoln’s speeches present a contrasting viewpoint: our role is not to be right, but to be loving. It’s an attitude that both cost him and gained him his life. John Wilkes Booth assassinated him for it. Yet in an era of deep mourning, Lincoln found hope and perspective through it. Couldn’t you and I use some of that too?!

It Can’t Be All Bad...Even With My _________ (fill in the blank) Family Member

So, life is not perfect at home. Join the club. How might you be perpetuating or even aggravating the situation with a territorial stance?

Some years ago I decided to “fix” my husband, to help him become a “better father.” After all, as a woman and beginning mother, I was an expert in the subject (ha, ha). Besides, Humble Moi (that’s me in Normal Rockwell's "Sunday Morning" for the Saturday Evening Post) went to church and he didn’t, so surely God was on my side!

Every day I would identify one thing he did to contribute to a positive family life and I would compliment him on it. Think “behavior modification.” Forget “unconditional love.” To my amazement (horror at myself) I realized that my husband was already contributing a TON. It’s just that I had been blind to it. This exercise changed our family, because it changed me.

BeThankful

Since then our family, like yours, has gone through ups and downs.  For us it's three teenagers and a fourth in stow, job losses (note the plural) while college expenses loom ahead, spiritual variance, ageing parents, and the impacts of years on our own bodies and vitality....

And yet,

- God’s love flows in our home and I pray that each of us would know it more

- We basically get along with our neighbors, colleagues, teachers, and extended family

- Thankfully we’ve stopped the population increase (!) but the borders sure are growing as our sons gain in industry and experience.

Be Thankful. There is a reason. Finding it might even change you. Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. If you haven’t read President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, it’s short and it’s worth it. Click here.

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