I grew up watching the Charlie Brown holiday specials. It was a bit of a ritual in the family and a sign that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were coming. The specials were full of memorable scenes and quotable lines. One of the Charlie Brown-isms that always stands out for me is the classic, "Good grief!"
This was his phrase for every absurd action, every difficult circumstances, and every hurtful comment, and the storyline of every special gave him many opportunities to use it. Of course, this fit Charlie Brown's character: slightly depressed, often teased, and always coming up on the short end of the stick.
I know people like that. Sometimes, I've owned that characterization in my own life. The pathway there is not hard to find or difficult to follow. Something negative happens that grabs our attention and we begin to meditate on it. Soon, we notice other negative things in our lives and in the world around us. We become disgusted, hurt and depressed, and before you know it, life becomes one large and lengthy sigh.
This is exactly where the power of thanksgiving comes in. As we begin to identify the blessings in our lives and give voice to the good things we see; as we open our eyes to the beauty and wonder that surrounds us, is within us, and is us thanks to God, we change the focus of our attention. That simple, but powerful, change opens our eyes to more blessing and beauty and begins to reshape our attitude.
Developing this attitude of gratitude is much more than rehearsing a list of positive affirmations about ourselves. Sure, there is some value to looking at in the mirror, while speaking reminders of our self-worth, but that can easily become a daily narcissistic celebration. Real thanksgiving does more than celebrate us, it celebrates what makes life valuable. It recognizes the power and presence of God, and remembers those who bring goodness into our lives. Thanksgiving affirms the gifts, big and small, that season our lives with grace. It sees what makes life meaningful and gives us the tools to make life sing.
The Bible says that we are to enter God's gates with thanksgiving. When we begin to offer thanks for life, we take the first steps in bringing our hearts closer to God. God still wants to know our hurts and our pain. God still cares about unjust parts of our lives and the world. Thanksgiving does not limit our ability to seek God's answer to evil, but it sets the attitude of our heart in the right place to see what God is doing in the midst of painful circumstances and keeps us from losing ourselves to those circumstances.
This Thursday, as we celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving, we will have an opportunity to “say grace.” This moment of thankfulness may be just the ticket to seeing life in a new way. Instead of defining our lives by negativity, we can find our identity in God. Rather than adopting a heart that speaks “good grief” we can embrace a spirit of “good grace.”
A chorus I remember singing in church when I was young said, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.” This Thanksgiving, may you see, count and name your many blessings and may you be filled with Good Grace.