In everything give thanks.
- I Thessalonians 5:18
I dont remember the adult sermon that day, but the childrens story, somewhere between the invocation and the second hymn, is with me still.
What do you see? the minister asked the little ones clustered around him on the altar steps.
A dozen heads leaned forward, staring at what looked like a blank sheet of paper in his hands.
I know! one child called out. Its a black dot.
A black dot? the minister echoed. Dont you see anything else? What about all this white space around the dot? he asked, before launching into a spiritual application as easily understood by eavesdropping adults as by the kids: Lets not just notice the bad things in other people, but look for the good things, too.
The almost blank page with its almost invisible blemish, Im afraid, is a more accurate picture of my daily thoughts than the list of blessings I compose on cue when Thanksgiving rolls around. Though Im profoundly grateful for family, home, health, friends, etc., that other list, those complaints I detail with great frequency and plenty of forethought, often overshadows the good.
Perhaps you know the feeling: the temptation to minimize the major, and maximize the minor, to take the large pile of blessings for granted - and fume when the check-out line is too long, the weather is disappointing, or someone cuts you off in traffic.
ust now, as Thanksgiving nears, two recent majors have heightened my chagrin at these reversed priorities, and magnified my attention to the good.
The first is the just-completed election process, and the tendency even now to dwell on a campaign season that angered us with its tone and went on too long. But Im sorry I didnt focus on the fact that we have an election at all, that in this country losers arent executed or found fallen on their own bayonets the morning after another ruler or ruling party takes over their lost position. Theres still room enough on our blank sheets of paper to list our thanks for a country that allows her citizens to cast a vote, and her candidates to win or lose, without bloodshed or fear.
My second Thanksgiving reminder is whats happening around the world today. In reality, from Iraq to Afghanistan and here at home, its difficult to see anything but big, black, dots on the international page. Terror, both in the documented past and the unpredictable future, grabs most of our attention, and we strain to find the good.
I dont dare hope this evil will suddenly go away, never to return. But I sense a coming together of the worlds leaders, a more determined effort than ever before to work together to rid the world of at least some of those who would do us harm. Im thankful for a God-led president, for those who give him counsel, and for those in other lands and here at home who carefully weighed their course and joined their hands to ours.
We live in a blemished world, but we live in a good world, too. My Thanksgiving wish for all of us is that we thank God for the resources to pay for our purchases at the end of a check-out line, the ability to buy and drive the cars that sometimes bog down in traffic, and the wisdom to see what God is still accomplishing in His world.
May we have the vision to see all that unmarred, blank space, and use it to list the things for which even the most profuse thanks are inadequate.
Finally, my brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8)
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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