Being Thankful

At church this morning, the topic was Thanksgiving.

We had a baptism today, and our pews are usually packed (at least in the first five rows) whenever that happens.  The baby who was being baptized is related to the pastor, who is Welsh.  During the children’s service, the pastor was asking the kids what they were thankful for.  A little girl said that she was thankful for her “nine”.  That didn’t make sense to me (she’s thankful for the number 9?), until the pastor explained to the congregation that “nain” (pronounced “nine”) is the Welsh word for grandmother.  I thought that was cool.  It’s like the American Jews I have met who look, talk, and act like most Americans, yet they call their grandfather “zaideh”.  They have preserved part of their culture.

I enjoyed the pastor’s sermon.  The pastor referred to the line that grateful people get to be happy twice: when something good happens to them, and when they are thankful for the good thing that has happened to them.  I myself think that it’s good for my soul when I am thankful or appreciative for the good things that I have.  I think about gratitude a lot, and I would probably do well to think about it more often than I do!  I’m thankful for necessities, such as having shelter, for I cannot imagine how I would cope if I were homeless.  But I’m also thankful for things that I simply enjoy.  For example, my Mom, her husband, and I watched a DVD of Fringe last night, which had excellent episodes.  This was after a long period of not watching Fringe because we were waiting for a particular DVD of it to be available to us on Netflix.  Well, last night, I was happy twice: I enjoyed Fringe, and I was also happy when I was thankful for having watched Fringe!

Thanksgiving can be a difficult concept, though.  How can I be thankful and think that God has blessed me, when there are so many people in the world who lack necessities?  John Shore tackled that question here—-not satisfactorily, in my opinion, but at least he did try to tackle it.  I’m reluctant to say that God has blessed me and not others.  But I still think that it’s good—-for the sake of my own attitude, that is—-for me to be happy about the things that I have and the people who are in my life.  As far as others are concerned, all I can say is that thinking about those who lack should motivate me to donate to charity.

My pastor mentioned another issue: that of bad memories.  One of our texts was Deuteronomy 26, in which God commands the Israelites to remember in their thanksgiving their bitter experiences in Egypt.  The pastor inquired how we can be thankful when we have so many bad memories.  I was thinking about this issue last night.  I have my share of bad memories: people who have rejected me, things not turning out as I had hoped, etc.  These memories make me question if I will ever get a break.  Plus, I fear that life will bring more and more bad memories as it proceeds.  But my pastor said that we can put our bad memories within a positive context, as we remember that God has a plan for our lives and as we come to see those bad memories as something that can teach us.  I would say that his advice fits my situation, though I would be very reluctant to tell everyone who has experienced a trauma that they must see their trauma in that way.  In my opinion, there are some things that are so bad, that it would have been better had they not occurred at all.  I don’t put my bad experiences in that category.  I can only speak for myself, and, looking back, I can see things that I could have done better, particularly in social situations (though there are also times when I wonder what exactly I did wrong).

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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