A House Divided Gives Thanks

The past several years I have read to my Sunday School class President Lincoln’s declaration of the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. We always think about the Pilgrims, but it was Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War who created the holiday celebration we’ve just experienced together. What amazes me are the circumstances:

It was the mid point in the Civil War, but no one knew that.

His mother died of a terrible disease when he was nine and his beloved sister who cared for him died in childbirth ten years later.

He only had one full year of school.

At this time, two of his sons had died during childhood (another son would die of heart failure eight years later).

Abraham Lincoln is reported by many to have suffered from depression for most of his adult life. His wife Mary was later committed to a sanitarium due to her deteriorating mental condition.

Mary Todd came from a family that owned slaves and continue to during the presidency of Lincoln.

He worked each day in the White House, while across the street soldiers were being buried each day.

The sound of cannon fire could be heard from nearby conflict.

This family certainly had and continued to endure terrible hardships. I so often wonder how this great man was able to write the proclamation and to inspire his nation to remember all the reasons they had to give thanks.

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State

 

When I read this  each year, it inspires me to put my life in perspective and to count my blessings and give thanks. What about you?

In All Circumstances

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
– I Thessalonians 5:18

No matter what happens to you, God’s desire is for you to search for the truth, for everything and anything that deserves thanks. When we belong to Christ, we live a different kind of life. We live a redeemed life that can see beyond the horizon and into a future of hope and promise. This shapes our perspective. It enables us to see much more than immediate threats and lonely burdens. When we belong to Christ we know that we are never alone and that the here and now lasts but a moment.

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”
― John Henry Jowett

It’s easy to say thanks for all the obvious blessings. Now, spend a season of time finding a way to give thanks for the trials, deserts and mean people that have come into your life. Don’t do what comes natural. Do what comes because you are living a supernatural life!

“…love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The message of Paul to the Thessalonians isn’t to look for the good things in your life and say thanks. That’s easy. Even pagans can pull that off. Paul is teaching that there is a blessing to be found in every page of your story. Search for the work of God throughout your life. The lesson here is to begin and never stop the practice of speaking thanksgiving every single day.

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

Full of Thanks

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – I Thessalonians 5:18

Much easier said than done, right?

How do you say thanks when your world is coming apart or when bad news is knocking at the door? What happens when your heart has just become dull to eternity all around you? Gratitude is the secret of changing everything and bringing heaven down to earth.

It really is a way of thinking a mindset that you develop over time. It’s all about your perspective and then it’s all about your habits.

Stop and think about someone else. We’re unconscious because we don’t spend the intentional and regular time it takes to cultivate thankful patterns of thought. We spend way too much effort and energy stewing about our losses, grievances and trials. These are so easy to remember. But usually, for most of us, too little time is invested in all that’s gone right in our lives. It just takes the will to stop and think about some truth…where you are, who you are and all the people and experiences that got you here… and are getting you there.

“Life for most of us is full of steep stairs to go puffing up and, later, of shaky stairs to totter down; and very early in the history of stairs must have come the invention of banisters.”
– Louis Kronenberger

Notice the path you’re on, how did you really get here? There are countless blessings, opportunities and significant people all along your way. Say thanks at every turn. Send a note of thanks right out of the blue. Acknowledge what is true, what is right. In so doing you will set things rightways in your own mind and spirit.

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stop long enough to speak the truth, to others and to yourself – you have so much to be thankful for. Speaking the truth helps to confirm what’s real and to chase away fear, doubt and second-guessing. Try and find a way to interject gratitude into your gossip. Start an email with a thank you. Call someone out of the blue and tell them how much they mean to you. Change the story you’re living by engaging in more truth-telling.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Build habits, think about thanks and say thanks as often as you can. When you are around people and when you’re busy with your own stuff, you need to stop and notice things. When you do, you will find what needs to be appreciated. What needs to be expressed more often. Make a list. Take names. Keep a roll of stamps in your desk. Buy a box of thank you cards. Send out a handful of text messages every week. Before you start your busy day, think of a way to say thank you to someone and then do it.

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” – Saint Ambrose

When you fill up with thanks, it doesn’t leave much room for other stuff. “I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart…” (Psalm 138:1) When we are filling up our minds and hearts with thankfulness, it tends to push out the pessimism, anger, and sadness that so often weighs down our daily steps.

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory” – French proverb

Being thankful, no matter what, is God’s will for us. Let’s live today in His will. Let’s live in gratitude.