Thanksgiving!

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Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew  from “One Foot in the Grave”. (BBC)

Today is Thanksgiving, a national holiday celebrated in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November. The tradition dates back to the 17th Century, the time of the Pilgrim Fathers.

In the West we have so much to be thankful for, but you wouldn’t think so listening to TV characters like Victor Meldrew from the BBC’s ‘One Foot in the Grave’. Not since the days of Alf Garnett has anyone in a British sitcom complained so much about life. Nothing ever went smoothly for Victor! Below is one of his typical rants, (from the episode ‘I’ll Retire to Bedlam’ 1990).

“Butterflies in the stomach, bees in the potting shed, loonies in the lavatory. I wonder what bounteous joys the rest of the week have in store? Bubonic plague? Nest of scorpions in the hoover bag? Late night shopping at Budgeons?”

Sometimes we develop a critical spirit without realising it. It’s good to listen to yourself once in a while – you might be surprised at what you hear! Instead of complaining, it’s good to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving, encouraging others and looking for the good in people. And it’s possible to do that today, to develop a positive spirit and become a person that others love to be around; remember, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Admittedly, it’s not always easy to look on the bright side of life. Some troubles are very real, especially if we’re facing eviction or divorce or have poor health for example. But looking for the silver lining in life, focussing on what’s good, does indeed lift our spirits, helps us to de-stress and promotes peace of mind and heart. I remember standing on a railway platform with some minutes to wait for a train. There wasn’t much to look at: either the pile of litter that had collected nearby, (symbolic of the local area), or some bluebells springing up from a grassy bank. I chose the bluebells!

There is something in our human nature that wants to say ‘Thank you!’, and often for a natural event, like the birth of a baby or a beautiful sunset, or even for our safety following a near-miss when driving! But the act of thanksgiving prompts the question, who are we giving thanks to? I guess it’s to the One who designed human life, the divine artist who paints the skies and who cares for you and me.

Another Brexit?

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It was indeed another Brexit moment: Donald Trump winning the race to become the 45th President of the United States of America. It was a result that very few thought would really happen; greeted by some with joy and by others with dismay. The latter included: Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and J. K. Rowling, who all tweeted their sadness at the result of yesterday’s vote. “Gonna cry my false eye lashes off tonight.” was Katy Perry’s first response. Other reactions recorded in the media included:

“He’s a threat to the present and future immigrants of the country.”

“Pretty scared right now, I won’t lie,”

“This can’t be real.”

Just as some in Britain are refusing to accept the outcome of the democratic vote for Brexit, there are those in the USA, who are already protesting on the streets after losing the election.

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Madeline Lopes and Cassidy Irwin march with other protestors in Oakland. (Picture: Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group via AP)

Looking back over the campaign, Donald Trump said some terrible things about Latinos,  immigrants, African Americans, women and the disabled. Yet his victory speech showed a calmer, more conciliatory, some even suggested a more presidential, side. In her losing speech, Hillary Clinton said that America “owes Donald Trump an open mind and a chance to lead.” Even President Obama said this morning, “We all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens.”

It’s true that if Donald Trump follows through on some of his more extreme election promises, life will become much harder for some, particularly for minorities, but surely it behoves us all to give Donald Trump a chance to start again. Wouldn’t we want that for our self? And who knows, the reality of political life may bring a swift end to some of his wilder ideas?

Turning from politics for a moment, it seems to me that some people’s deep-seated fears and horror over Donald Trump’s victory do show a concern for minorities, but also a sense of helplessness, in that our lives are subject to the ebb and flow of political changes and world events, and in our human frailty we have no defence. However, we are not without hope in this world. There is one greater than the presidents and politicians; one who knows and cares for us individually. Psalm 46 reminds us that when the unexpected happens:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, … The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. … He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”  (Psalm 46)

Because He is there, working unseen on our behalf, we can live and let live. We can accept the decision of our fellow citizens, and continue working to make this a world fit for all.

I’m Gonna Run Away From You

Wouldn’t it be great to hop into a time machine and escape the troubles of the 21st Century? Or just say goodbye to that annoying boss, spouse, in-laws, loan shark or school bully! The video above is just for fun, but for some people running away from your problems seems the only way out.

Linda’s husband had been declared legally dead in 2003 after disappearing from his home in Indianapolis ten years earlier. On the day he disappeared, Richard Hoagland phoned his wife at work saying he was ill and was on his way to hospital. That was the last time she heard from him. She was left to bring up their two sons, Matthew and Doug, alone; a broken woman.

Fast forward to July 2016, when police one thousand miles away in Pasco County, Florida arrested him for identity fraud. Since fleeing Indianapolis, he had stolen the identity of Terry Jude Symansky, a deceased fisherman, married again and had another child. And his reason for running away? He had “family issues with his wife and children.”

Richard Hoagland isn’t the first of course. Lord Lucan, for instance, vanished in November 1974 after the murder of his son’s nanny at their home in London’s Belgravia. He has never been found. Then two weeks later, John Stonehouse, the British Member of Parliament, and alleged secret agent for Czechoslovakia, faked his own death on a beach in Miami, but was arrested in Australia one month later.

Life isn’t easy, but running away is not always the answer. Jesus told a story about a son that ran away. He took his share of his future inheritance, ran to a far country and spent everything, while having what he thought was a good time. When the money was gone, reality hit. He was reduced to feeding pigs for a living. Eventually he came to his senses and realised that his father’s servants were better off than he was. So ashamed of his failure and planning to ask his father for a job, he headed for home. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and filled with compassion he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. His past mistakes were forgiven and forgotten; he was a member of the family once again.

So what about us? What about you? Is there something in your life that you can’t face alone? Something that you’d like to run away from? As Jennifer Benson Schuldt writes for Our Daily Bread: “The reality is that we aren’t on our own. God is there, ready to help and comfort us … Jesus understands our fears and problems because He lived on the earth as a human and endured the same types of trouble we face … All we have to do is turn away from whatever scares us, and run in His direction.”