MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: What are you looking at?
A wise man once told me that you tend to gravitate toward whatever your attention is focused on. A moth is drawn to a flame. A novice rock climber is taught to avoid looking down. A plow horse wears blinders so that it will only plow straight ahead. The argument has been given by multitaskers that it is possible to walk and chew gum simultaneously. In reality, walking and chewing gum are semiautomatic behaviors that do not require much thought.
I learned the truth of that saying when, one night as I was driving around a curve in the highway, I saw out of the corner of my right eye, at the top of a hill, the shell of a large house that was under construction, brightly lit to discourage trespassers. It so attracted my attention that I had to make a steering correction to avoid driving into the ditch.
October 31 is the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses. Few people think of that at all. Few people give much thought to the meaning of the name Halloween- an abbreviation for All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day. October 31 is also the day the Druids celebrated Satan and associated demonic persons and activities. In modern times, children- and more and more adults- dress up as various characters to celebrate Halloween, which has morphed from a day to a season, with homes and yards lit up and decorated several weeks in advance.
Thanksgiving day, supposedly a day for giving thanks, is still a day for family gatherings; but, for many of us, the emphasis is on the big meal, the football games, the Black Friday sales. Truth be told, most of us relegate Thanksgiving to a day, or, at most, a week.
The Bible has a lot to say about the benefits of thanksgiving, and the curses that result from being ungrateful. An example of people cursing themselves because of their ingratitude is the Israelites, who were delivered by God from slavery in Egypt. They grumbled and complained almost from the very beginning of their journey to the Promised Land. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness 40 years on a journey that could have been completed in less than a month. Only two men of the many souls over the age of twenty at the beginning of the Exodus lived to claim their land. Even their leader Moses, who lost patience with his followers, missed his blessing.
Within the past few months, many of us have suffered losses of loved ones, financial insecurity, and other calamities. One could ask, "What do we have to be thankful for- and why?"
We can be thankful for life and a reasonable portion of health and strength. Think about the various positive things in your life, and it all adds up. You may feel like you are going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death; but, remember the 23rd Psalm: The Good Shepherd has gone ahead of us to clear the path to greener pastures.
God does not need our thanks. He has survived since eternity past without our encouragement. We need to be thankful to remind ourselves God's loving grace and mercy have brought us through dangers seen and unseen. Thanksgiving gives us the faith to know everything is going to be all right. Sickness, poverty, and other flaws in this world are not God's fault- they are consequences of Adam's rejection of God. But, thank God for faith. It is by faith that we shall overcome if we keep on keeping on.
What is your attention focused on? Instead of waiting to make a New Year's Eve resolution, or even waiting until the official government Thanksgiving Day, I challenge you to today join me in making thanksgiving more of a daily priority in our thoughts and prayers. You will be glad you did.
Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.