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Thanksgiving:
Finding Peace Through Giving Thanks

by Archie Wortham

family eating thanksgiving dinner
thanksgiving image © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

It's Thanksgiving time again. "When faced with problems that threaten to steal your peace of mind, learn the meaning of the word imperturbability.'" I think Charles Allen said it first. I first encountered that word in John Steinbeck’s novel, "The Grapes of Wrath." Then recently Steve Goodier sent me something in an e-mail that talked about this word.

Apparently, two artists were asked to depict a peaceful scene on canvas. One artist drew a picture of a beautiful countryside. He included a sun to illumine green grass, and added a picturesque farmhouse with grazing cattle. There was a farmer walking behind strong plow horses, making his field ready for spring planting. The whole scene seemed to personify beauty and quiet tranquillity.

The other artist chose to draw a majestic, rugged cliff. He included gnarled trees that jutted from the craggy mountainside. Dark clouds hung low and fierce jagged streaks of lightening slashed across the sky. At first glance, this picture embodies violence, chaos and rage. But when one looks more closely, one sees in one of the crevices of the rocky mountain, tucked back just out of reach of the wind and rain -- a nest with two small birds. Unconcerned or unaware of the impending storm, they appear calm, cozy and peaceful as they patiently wait for the turbulence to pass.

Is that not the way life so often seems? We may want peace to surround us, but storms rage. Problems and pressures threaten to steal our peace. Yet imperturbability, or inner peace, doesn't leave when circumstances change. It's a peace greater than the problems of life, built on assurance that the tempest will finally pass; and that we’ll survive the storm, grow stronger because of it. Imperturbability is the result of a peace that surpasses understanding. Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amidst the storm. That’s what we should strive for, and be thankful when we arrive at those moments of peace…that surpass understanding.

However, our lives are so encumbered by so many situations that keep us from seeing peace in everyday struggles. It’s like in the movie "Remember the Titans," as one of the characters relates, "Before you reach for hate, remember the Titans."

I’m not sure what your habit is for Thanksgiving. There are a lot of things for you to do and remember. You can go to someone’s house. You can have someone over to yours. You can go through the whole day not giving thanks, or spend the entire day reflecting over the beauties of life, imperturbability--what God has in fact provided to you.

Most of you who regularly read this column know my parents did not raise me. In many cases, I let that fact make my life a rugged cliff, gnarled trees with jagged streaks of lightning across the sky. Though I was nestled in the comfort of a nest that gave me everything I needed, I did not appreciate the love and care my aunt and uncle gave me because I wanted my mother and father to do that. Often I could not understand how my mom and dad could abandon me. Focusing on my abandonment hindered me from appreciating the warmth and comfort I had. Life is like that. Many times we just can’t stop and accept the kindness we around us, because of the kindness we feel others owe us. Sad, but true. My past illuminates how I never fully learned to accept the gift of imperturbability until I had children of my own. Never really learned that imperturbability consisted of the moments shared together, bonding, and experiencing life as we learn the habit of thankfulness.

Like many habits, thankfulness is something we learn. If we are not teaching our children to thank us for the things we do, then how can they realize the importance of thanking others for the things they do? Our society is becoming full of people who think they are entitled to things they have not earned, like peace, when they have done nothing to earn that peace. Granted, we are free to choose our course in life, but that freedom doesn’t mean we are exempt from trials and tribulations, jagged trees and lightning. Thanksgiving reminds us to give thanks for the good, and thankful we can work through the bad. If you look hard enough, I’m sure you will be able to find nests in your life, no matter how jagged the cliffs might be. You must look for it, to find it, and be thankful when you do.

May this Thanksgiving give you something more to appreciate than complacency, harmony, and a full stomach. May this Thanksgiving give you imperturbability through finding additional ways to bond better with your kids.

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