Let's pause to be thankful

Rev. Norman Franklin

The world has gone mad, bonkers, off the hook. "People don't believe the truth when it's right in their face, facts are up for debate, empirical science is someone's opinion." An analytical framing of the mood of our times by Gil Grissom, CSI: Vegas.

Everyone is entrenched in their own point of view. The nation is divided and aligned along ideological lines of conservatives, progressives, moderates or liberals. Each clamoring for the mic, each purporting what is right for the country, each vehemently intransigent. Civil discourse, I believe it was something that occurred prior to 2008. I'll have to do a deep dive into the archives to verify that. But for now, we are a nation of people bitterly divided.

The good thing is that a pause is here, we are moving into what I like to call the 'warm and fuzzy' season. A contagious fever sets upon us. Our personalities change, the rough edges are smoothed out, our hardness, our abrasiveness is softened by a new spirit of thankfulness, compassion and cordial exchanges. The warm and fuzzy fever will last until the end of the year.

It is contagious. Vitriol dissipates, furrowed brows are displaced with smiling faces, and kind words of well wishes. Hateful discourse is subsumed to a spirit of love for one another and holiday cheer.

Thanksgiving kicks it off. It concludes at midnight New Year's Eve.

It is tradition to let down our defenses during this season. A very strong and compelling tradition. In 1914, during World War 1, the opposing armies held an impromptu cease fire on December 24th and 25th . The troops left their trenches and congregated in the field between them. They fellowshipped, shared cigarettes, laughter and good cheer. The war resumed the next day. Observing tradition for the sake of tradition lacks transformational impact.

Thanksgiving is about pausing to give thanks and appreciate all that God has blessed us with and for the grace to experience it. Families gather, relatives come from near and far, children are home from college; there is an abundance of food, laughter, fun and memories shared. For the day, the world is alright. We are family. "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body: and be thankful. (Col. 3:15)

Again, tradition intervenes to reign, Black Friday. Consumed by the Christmas hype, we rush away to the stores, stomachs full, food digesting, great deals waiting. Caught up in the frenzy, we push and pull and sometimes lose sight of civility in our determination to secure the discounted items. For the next three weeks, the warm and fuzzy fever metastasizes into delirium, a buying frenzy. It's tradition. Our gratefulness for the birth of the Savior, the Prince of Peace finds expression at the cash register, mounting credit card debt and gifts under the Christmas Tree. We are filled with the spirit of love, of giving and compassion for the poor. It's the tradition of the warm and fuzzy season.

Let's put a pause in the traditional madness and reflect on things for which we have to be thankful for.

I want to pause to give thanks to God for what He has done for and with America. Even in our mess ups, even in our missteps at the genesis of this great country, even with our disingenuous embrace of liberty and justice for all, even with our fragmented ideologies laced with hierocracy, God has still granted us to stand as an example of what a democracy could be. We have yet to reach the potential in us. In the grace of God, we have been striving for it since our declaration as a nation.

We have experienced Great Awakenings - a time of religious revival, one in the 1700s and another in the 1800s, yet we have continued to look askance at injustice, at oppression while bowing at the altar with our tithes and offerings of sacrifice. Oppression is stopping others from being able to maximize and experience everything that God made available to them. (Definition of oppression, Eric Mason, Woke Church, page 68)

But even in that, God blesses us with a call to moral consciousness. "Woe to you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (Mathew 23:23)

I pause to give thanks because God is not through with us, we have yet to reach the greatness He has planned for us. We are family, a multiethnic, multicultural and diverse family. "As broken as we are, and as separate and splintered and filled with schisms, we are siblings. We are called Christians, followers of Christ. That's a high calling to live up to isn't it? Our name requires us to live like Christ because we're family." (Eric Mason, Woke Church, page 61)

I pause to be thankful that God is patient, longsuffering; He does all things in His Sovereign will and in His time. I am thankful that our God knows all and sees all and that He looks through the lens of the love of a Father. He providentially works all things according to the counsel of His will. He is bringing us together as one family.

I am thankful for the opportunity to write for the Commonwealth Journal as a Community Columnist. I am thankful for Editor Jeff Neal for the 'reach out' after I submitted a commentary during Black History Month. I am thankful for the privilege of sharing from an African American point of view. I am thankful that through my weekly commentaries, you have learned that there is more to the African American than what we discover in the month of February. We have opinion, attitude and perspectives that may differ from the prevailing wisdom of the day. I am thankful that it is received with appreciation and value.

We love America. Our differing opinions do not diminish our love for country nor constrain our desire for justice.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not a dreamer yearning for a congenial integrated society: He was an advocate for justice and righteousness.

"Justice points to extrinsic execution of the heart of God, and righteousness means intrinsic impact by the heart of God. You have to be intrinsically changed by God in order for justice to be done." (Eric Mason, Woke Church, page 50)" Unfortunately," Mason continues, " today justice seems to be seen as a liberal word, not a word that pervades the Scripture."

As we pause to remember the blessings of God and give thanks, let us ask God to create in us a new heart, a clean heart as the psalmist asks.

The goodness of God and the greatness of God warrant far greater pause to give thanks than the moments before the meal, and the time spent together before we rush off to the dottiness of Black Friday sales mania.

Let's pause to really show our thanks for the abundant grace and bountiful blessings we enjoy in America.

A spirit of thankfulness is one of the most distinctive marks of a Christian whose heart is attuned to the Lord. (Quote from Billy Graham)

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