Among the many detractions encountered with the early commercial promotion of Christmas is the lost significance of other seasonal joys and holidays. When Christmas trees appear in the stores next to Halloween pumpkins, we are herded into the spending rush for gift giving that will improve the end-of-the-year retail bottom-line. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving has become “Christmas-lite” in many households, and more emphasis is put on “Black Friday” sales than an appreciation for the wealth that is soon to be tapped.

This week brings us a unique opportunity to brush strife, fear, and anxiety aside for a few moments and concentrate on the positive things for which we can be thankful. Although it is often ignored, there is tangible benefit in consciously making the effort to be appreciative of those things that give us satisfaction. I say “consciously,” because all too often we pay lip service to Thanksgiving without really immersing ourselves in its purpose. You can’t be genuinely thankful unless you sincerely identify those things that generate real gratitude. By purposely concentrating on the things that invigorate our pleasure, joy, and gratefulness, we can break the never-ending cycle of bracing ourselves for the negative influences that threaten our well-being.

I have found that purposely practicing thankfulness takes the edge off of high stress and adjusts my perspective into a more objective and realistic view of the state of things. Yes, I still have the challenges, pains, and annoyances that plague my daily existence, but they are placed in proper proportion to those that promote positive emotions. Troubles don’t go away and they may still dominate my attention, but they are denied the power to take more than their fair share of my awareness. By doing so, I remain the master of my emotions, my energy and my occupations. Chaos is reined in and order is restored…and with it a little peace of mind.

I started this year hoping to catch a break from the last few that have been full of trials and tribulations. Alas, it was not to be. I have had to contend with illness…my own and that of loved ones. Many of the negative predictions we feared as a result of downward trends in our society came to fruition. Some of those took innocent lives and brought terrible grief. We have seen the predictable backlash begin with a vengeance and with some fanfare. Where it will all lead and how far it will go is anyone’s guess. But, perhaps, it is time to give thanks for the storms that have been diverted and the assets still available to us. Politics has certainly shown us the ugliness that comes from trying to form God in our image. This week, I intend to help shun that trend, acknowledge him for the mystery he truly is, appreciate what he is willing to genuinely reveal of himself and offer thanks for his blessings.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
-Psalm 100:4

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