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.


Look up!

sunlit hills
Sunlit hills

Just a few days ago I happened to be walking along a British seaside pier. The school holidays were over, so the rides were closed, and children were few in number. Instead middle-aged and elderly couples were strolling above the surf, making the most of a cloudy day in late summer, with nothing to do but enjoy the breeze. Around them were stalls selling seaside rock in a colourful variety of flavours; souvenir shops surrounded by baskets of exotic shells, and windows filled with plastic trinkets and air fresheners decorated with frilly lace; music stalls selling CD’s of yesterday’s songs; mugs for sale emblazoned with pictures of your favourite breed of dog; a noisy amusement arcade clamouring for cash, and a rather bare café that along with its two customers had seen better days.

As I redirected my gaze, and looked up over the sea, I saw that the grey clouds were slowly beginning to move, and a beautiful blue sky was appearing, decorated with billows of white shining in the sunlight. Looking inland that same invisible sun was now shining on the hills that surrounded the town, picking out greens and browns, valleys and contours and highlighting them with gold. This was beauty on a grand scale.

How many of us look to what is plastic, to what is man-made for our inspiration, when our natural world displays the beauty, majesty and design of a Creator’s hand?

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”      (Psalm 19:1)