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we've become complacement:
the freedom of thanksgiving or the bondage of slavery?
by candy green gustavson
11.26.09
general

It was a Thanksgiving message, and I wasn't sure I heard him right, but, yes, this past Sunday The Substitute Preacher said, "We've become complacement." Not just once, but three times. I knew what he meant, of course, and his message was spot on, so the school marm in me doesn't hold it against him.

The Preacher--the real and regular one--is further south spending the Thanksgiving holiday with his wife's family. The point of The Substitute Preacher's message was that we get tired when things don't go the way we would like, when hard times come, when we have to try hard to be good and do things properly. When these things happen, are we going to be content or complain?

It got me thinking--which is exactly what a good message should do--even if I suffer from complacement.

The nation seems to be in a transition time, but no one knows, for sure, to what we are being transitioned. Gold is selling at ten times what it was the last time I paid attention. The American automobile industry has bit bottom and now even Toyota is having a rough time. Japan and Korea, NPR informed this week, have taken off ahead of us in some techno area; we are going to have to work hard to catch up and be innovative. A couple of wars are going on--today young men and women will have to be thankful from a distance.

Insecurity makes us cling to what we know. Being thankful can set us free.

When my husband died in New Zealand, one of my sons experienced mental troubles and had to be hospitalized for a time. He was the one I would have turned to and leaned on, being the most like his dad. I kept thinking he was going to snap out of it and we could all return to some kind of corporate grief. However, grief doesn't work that way. As someone told me, most of the time we feel like a dog and want to go lick our wounds all by ourselves.

One Sunday I met this son at the chapel on the hospital grounds for a service. I was sitting on a pew weighed down thinking of our loss, my son and the hope I had that he would be instantly healed. The lay minister spoke on the same Bible passage The Substitute Preacher did this past Sunday, First Thessalonians 5:14-18: "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone...."

And here is the really hard part: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Remember Franny in Franny and Zoey by J.D. Salinger? She tried praying without ceasing and fainted.

But, it's the "giving thanks in all circumstances" that was especially challenging as I sat in the chapel of the mental hospital with my son. Then it hit me that God just might be using my son to get the message through to me. Suddenly, I could see that I was trying to control things as we parents usually get into the habit of doing. I was set free that day to let my son grieve in the way he needed to, to see that I needed help as well, to see that although my husband and the father of my children was gone, I still had a Husband and they still had a Father. Best of all, I began to be able to say Thank You again.

The minister told us how his wife had had to be hospitalized. Together, they learned that no matter how heavily her mind was under attack her spirit could still rejoice and give thanks to God in the midst of it all. There is great power in that message because it is true: no one--not any religion, not any nation--foreign or domestic, not poverty, not sickness, not loss of work--can take away our power and ability to give thanks in every circumstance.

To do less is to slip into the bondage of slavery.

Here in America we have to deal with the history of the physcial slavery of Africans. The music and songs and lyrics of thanksgiving of this great people were used to help them overcome their bonds. Today, one of the greatest gifts America has is the treasure of these songs of victory in the midst of slavery. In all the earth, only in the Psalms is there any comparison to these songs of hope and deliverance: the underground railroad lyrics, "She is coming, get on board...there's room for many more;" "Wade in the Water;" chain gang songs; "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and so many, many others. You can find them at www.negrospirituals.com

As a nation we are going to have to rouse ourselves, wake up from our slumber, put off those things that have no value but weigh us down. Slaves on their way to freedom travel light. Let's lighten our loads. Find out what spoils and what endures. Be thankful.

This week in India a group slaughtered tons and tons of animals in a mass sacrifice. That seems like a very difficult thing to do.

Sometimes it's harder to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving--but it's something we can do---not just one day a year---but every minute, every day, every week, every month, all year long.

And it doesn't cost a thing.



ABOUT CANDY GREEN GUSTAVSON

late bloomer, fontanelle of the baby boomers...full of hope, believing in life-long learning, mentoring, doors opening...mother of four, grandma of one: I cultivate gardens in both hemispheres of earth and brain...

more about candy green gustavson

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