I Hope Everyone Has A Happy Thanksgiving

By John J. Duncan Jr.


Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was the pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City from 1932 to 1984. He died on Christmas Eve in 1993 at the age of 95.

He wrote The Power of Positive Thinking and several related books with sales of many millions. He founded Guideposts Magazine in 1945 which even today has a circulation in the millions.

Rev. Billy Graham said in 1966 that “I don’t know of anyone who has done more for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale, or have meant any more in my life for the encouragement they have given me.”

Dr. Peale’s influence lives on today through his books, magazines, and pamphlets. For many years I have started each day reading the Daily Guideposts Bible Study along with my morning prayer.

I recently came across a pamphlet published in 2008 with a Thanksgiving article Dr. Peale had written many years earlier. In that pamphlet he talks about his friend, Dr. John Riley who practiced medicine until he died in his 90s, and who at that point was the oldest practicing physician in the state of New York.

Dr. Riley told Rev. Peale, “If a person would each day deliberately practice thanksgiving, he would thereby activate new sources of energy and power within him.” Dr. Riley then said “Every day of my life, when I rise in the morning…I have a prayer and give thanks to God for my good body” and each part thereof and then other blessings.

Dr. Peale also wrote about Professor William Stidger, a great theologian, who had a nervous breakdown. He said Stidger told him he sat for months in abysmal gloom, thinking “everything was hopeless.”

Stidger said a friend told him he could “come out of his despondency by practicing thanksgiving” and suggested that he write a letter of thanks to someone who had helped him in his life.

He thought of an old teacher and wrote her. He received this in reply: “Dear Willie, when I read your letter I was blinded with tears, for I remember you as a boy and as I think of you now I see you as a little fellow in my class. You have warmed my old heart!”

The teacher continued: “I taught school for fifty years. Yours is the first letter of thanks I every received from  a student, and I shall cherish it until I die.”

Stidger then wrote 500 such letters, and whenever he later felt depressed, he would re-read some of the letters he had written and some of the replies.

A little over a month after my wife, Lynn, died, I wrote a Focus column listing 25 great blessings in my life. Among those were my mother and father, and Lynn.

Every morning some place early in my  prayer, I pray that Mama and Daddy and Lynn are all in Heaven now and that they are the happiest and healthiest they have ever been. I also pray that Pat Gleason, Zane Daniel, and Bill Vaughan are there, too. All of them did so much for me.

When I was a boy and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always tell them I wanted to be a lawyer. Later, I was blessed with 16 fascinating years as a lawyer and judge.

In my early adulthood, I developed a desire to follow my father into Congress, then I was blessed with 30 fascinating years in Congress.

My other biggest dream as a young adult was that I wanted to get married and have children. God blessed Lynn and me with four children, and now nine grandchildren.

I am just amazed that when so many never even have one good marriage, I have now been blessed with two.

My friend John Wood told me several months ago that he had a theory that a man should marry someone very different from himself in a first marriage so that he would be stretched in a good way. But he said at our age, we should marry someone much like ourselves in order to be truly happy.

Lynn and I were very different. She was more ambitious and much tougher than I was, both in good ways. She was strong in areas where I was weak and vice versa. No one was more loyal to me than she was or did more for me.

As regular readers of my column know, as a youngster I went to Sunday School and Bible School with my new wife, Vickie, until I was 12. She was a year behind me at Chilhowee and Holston.

She taught elementary school for 31 years and then took care of her first husband for five years until he died with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Vickie and I are so much alike in almost every way. Everyone who knows her describes her as one of the sweetest, kindest people they have ever known.

We have only been married for six months, but she has been a great blessing to me and has made me very happy, and I hope I have done the same for her.

Happy Thanksgiving!