November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving is Every Day: Transformation Through Gratitude




…the problem is, we celebrate Thanksgiving on this one day, but it’s something we should be celebrating every day.

Dr. Gary Welton

Turkeys in a garden in East Weymouth, Mass.

Turkeys in a garden in East Weymouth, Mass.

What is this new sub-discipline of psychology called positive psychology?

Positive psychology was developed as recently as 1998 to seek understanding of the fulfilling aspects of the human experience. It counteracts psychology’s historic focus on mental illness and dysfunction.*

Psychologists Robert Emmons and Robert Stern, upon reviewing the research on the benefits of gratitude, concluded that gratitude has …dramatic and lasting benefits in both the physical and psychological realms.*

Physically (an attitude of gratitude) can

  • lower blood pressure
  • improve immune functioning
  • increase energy

Psychologically (an attitude of gratitude) can

  • reduce depression, anxiety, and substance abuse
  • provide protection from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, and bitterness
  • may offer some protection against psychiatric disorders

(An attitude of gratitude) is larger than the effects of optimism, hope, (more…)

November 25, 2014

Give Thanks for the Ordinary



When the extraordinary becomes ordinary and the ordinary evolves into entitlement the need for giving thanks dissipates.

When I first visited Kentuck Knob I wondered why Frank Lloyd Wright located the structure a distance back from the knob, denying residents the opportunity to view the knob’s spectacular sunrises over the rolling Laurel Highlands hills, the Youghiogheny River gorge and nearby farmland.w of the .

I learned that Wright chose the location away from the peak to enable the house to become part of the landscape. It’s also my understanding that he also chose that location so that persons who wanted to experience the view had to make an effort, had to walk from the house to the knob—because he understood that a scene of beauty readily available would soon become commonplace, making it ordinary, and therefore less miraculous, less profound.

When we first visited our community of Laurel Mountain Borough it was magical. The one-lane gravel roads, the forested atmosphere, the almost eccentric aura contrasted with the cookie-cutter world we were accustomed to. We felt like we were being transported back in time to an era reputed to be less stressful, to a back-to-earth time. It was magical.

Gradually this profound, magical, feeling dissipated. The sense of uniqueness and magic evolved into the commonplace, the ordinary.

This evolution from the miraculous, the profound, to the commonplace, the ordinary, is a part of the human condition. Once a situation becomes ordinary it evolves into entitlement.

Which brings me to a statement I read in the November 23, 2014, newspaper column, Giving thanks can be a challenge. The quote is somewhat altered: That which was a pleasant and gracious (experience) year quickly becomes an expected entitlement. That for which I was thankful in the past, I now assume to be my right.

The author, Gary Welton, professor of psychology at Grove City College (Pennsylvania), noted that he’s been blessed with incredible health, yet I have never appreciated it. I have only taken it for granted. Only when I am ill do I recognize the incredible gift I have been given.

That for which we feel entitled we don’t feel thankful for. It it belongs to us so there is no need to give thanks.


Perhaps we need to step back from the commonplace, the ordinary, in our lives and revisit it with new eyes. So today (and every day) I will be thankful for (in no particular order):

  • my morning coffee, and the persons who planted the seeds, grew it to maturity, picked the beans, prepared them for market, and transported them, all so I can enjoy my morning wake-up time
  • my morning newspaper, and the journalists (who sometimes risk their lives) to research, interview subjects, and write the copy; and for the delivery person who brings it to my newspaper box in the wee hours of the morning so I can relax reading it while partaking of my morning coffee
  • my gray cat King and his former owner, who abandoned two cats in our community, one of which adopted our family. King offers us companionship, adulation, and conversation
  • my family, without whom I would not be who I am today
  • the dishes that clutter my kitchen counter, waiting to be washed and put away. I am no more entitled to this luxury than is the person living in a hut eating out of pie tin
  • water that flows freely from  my household taps, water I am no more entitled to than the woman who must walk a mile to find water to fill the jugs she carries back to her home.

I could continue, but I think you have the idea.

Do you agree with the items on this list? For what do you feel entitled, so thoughtlessly leave off your list of things to be thankful for? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

May you and your yours have a blessed Thanksgiving.

October 8, 2010

26 Devotions Based on the Alphabet: The Letter E



Monte Holland

Several persons have expressed an interest in having my husband, the Rev. Monte W. Holland, post an online series of devotions. Through their encouragement, Monte will post a weekly devotion on CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS. To read the introduction click on 26 Devotions Based on the Alphabet: Introduction. Click on 26 Devotions Based on the Alphabet: The Letter D to read the previous post on the letter D.

Return to this site each Saturday to read his devotions.  Carolyn C. Holland



 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! (Psalm 100:4)

1Make a joyful noise unto the [Lord], all ye lands.2Serve the [Lord] with gladness: come before his presence with singing.3Know ye that the [Lord] he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.5 For the [Lord] is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (King James Version)

     How is our thankfulness ratio? What is the balance between the list of things that we have by God’s doing and the list of things that we assume are ours by our own doing?

     As USAians we probably calculate the ratio far too low. We are “hard work” people. We assume that people are usually poor because they don’t work hard enough.

     As a poor person passes, do we think There but by the grace of God, go I?

     God as the provider is central to our faith. My parents taught me to be gracious and thankful. They taught me to express gratitude to those who did good things for me. They taught me to bestow praise where praise was due.

     Our “E” verse reminds us to keep God in the center of our praise and thanksgiving.

     Yet, when times get tough, it’s easy to stop being thankful.

     August was a challenge for me. I struggled to get enough water from a drought-stricken spring that supplies my tenants in the Slippery Rock area. Frankly, I was reaching my wits end, having no good solutions on the horizon. And yet (more…)

May 22, 2009

The “Meow” Chorus: A cat symphony on a Greyhound Bus



A Cat Symphony on a Greyhound Bus

     The bus passenger carried a suitcase—an ordinary enough looking valise, dark brown with stains and stickers identifying places its age and destinations. It was one of several unmatched pieces she was traveling with.

     She was returning to her hometown after a years sojourn in a strange city. All her worldly goods were in these bags. Ordinary items. Clothes, a few books, financial records, photos and a favorite glass from the state fair.

     But another bag held one thing that was not ordinary. She held it tight to her side as she stood in the bus line, waiting to board.

     As the line shortened, she grew nervous. Could, she, would she, be successful? After all, there were rules. And she was intentionally and uncharacteristically breaking one of them. (more…)

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