Thanksgiving

We were talking about how it’s Thanksgiving this week in the office, and someone made the observation that this year has just been so nuts, so nonstop, that it’s hard to believe it’s late November already. Wasn’t it just April, she wondered?

Yes, it was. Yet here we are. But, of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise; it’s not like they’ve moved Thanksgiving suddenly. It’s right where it always was.

I am sure some of why we feel this way is down to The World, the mad pace we all keep trying to satisfy it. But I think as well, there’s a sense of being caught off guard: what do you mean, I have to power down and be thankful? It jars us slightly, especially if we don’t live from a place of thankfulness. It’s interesting to see people’s reactions when you ask them what they’re thankful for–and they can’t answer in general platitudes, like just “my family.” Ask someone to get specific: who? Why? What in particular are you thankful for? That’s when they start looking up and away, trying to rack their brains for something specific. That’s when the pause starts coming into the conversation.

It’s an indictment, really, of our failure to live in a spirit of thanksgiving with God on a daily basis. But that’s not how we’re called to live:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

In all circumstances? Yep. When you’re overwhelmed at work, be thankful for the skills God gave you to handle the job in the first place. Frustrated that the car needs another repair? Then be thankful for having been given the resources even to have bought it in the first place. Disappointed by something your child did? Then for just having that child in your life to begin with: so many would-be parents ache at each miscarriage or stillbirth.

For many, our prayer life is lacking in thankfulness. We have our long lists of things to ask for; how much of our conversation with God is just telling him “thanks” for all that’s actually going right?

After Thanksgiving, we will begin moving into Advent, and we begin to turn our hearts back towards the manger and the One who came to show us the way. Look at the fact that at least five times in the Gospels, Jesus directly and publicly gives thanks to his father in heaven (Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21, Luke 22:17-19, John 6:11, John 11:41), and then take that as a new direction in your prayer practices. Work more thanksgiving into them, and then I promise you, you won’t be surprised by the fourth Thursday in November any longer, because you’ll be thankful the whole year round.

Happy Thanksgiving…

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Take Time to Give Thanks

It is an absolutely. Gorgeous. June. Day. And yes, since it’s the weekend, I have a ton of chores to do. It’s also still the busy season at work, and it won’t take much for my mind to wander to all I haven’t done yet there, as well. But you know where I am right now?

20170604_155713Yep: my backyard hammock, enjoying the soft breeze, the high-80s warmth, and a chance to reflect on what’s going right, instead of obsess (as I always do) about what’s not. A partial list:

  • There’s two racks of ribs in the smoker that will be absolutely delicious later this afternoon.
  • It’s Pentecost, and we had a spirit-filled service this morning, welcoming Tim back off the mountain and celebrating his Emmaus walk.
  • My high-school daughter passed her state Chemistry test, despite much angst, and she says her first SAT this weekend felt good too.
  • Both the kids participated in the (school-)year-end lock-in at church last night, reconnecting with people of Christ.
  • Twenty-four years of marriage–to the same wonderful woman, no less.
  • Being done with the lawn earlier than I’d feared it would take.
  • Making plans with my college roommate for a guys’ weekend golfing and etc. together this September, to mark our respective birthdays, and being able to grace him with free airfare (yeah, I had a ridiculous amount of miles).
  • My own connection with the Emmaus community, which I got to celebrate yesterday.
  • A roof, food, and love…what more, really, do I need?

And yet, how often do we actually stop to thank God for all that’s going right in our world, instead of just bringing to him our concerns? As Garrison Keillor wrote: “Thank you, dear Lord, for this good life, and forgive us if we do not love it enough.”

Jesus, you are amazing, awesome in power and love, and I start by celebrating you. But I also celebrate all that’s going right in my life, and I thank you for your hand behind me every day. Forgive me for the times I overlook your grace and your bounty. Free my heart to rest in those times that your love surrounds me, those times that things are going well, and leave me reminders often of how to turn back to you. In you precious name…Amen.

Thankfulness

We celebrated another Thanksgiving yesterday. The usual: the turkey (18# this year), the stuffing, the gravy, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the peas, the green beans (French style), the rolls, the cranberry sauce, the onions….  Brought my mom over, and College Boy was home for the week, his first time home in three months. All in all, a Thanksgiving like so many others.

Once we push back from the table, once we start “trippin’ on tryptophan,” do we rush into the next season and start decorating for Christmas? Or do we continue in thanksgiving?

To be thankful ought to be more than an annual occurrence. It ought to be daily, hourly–it ought to be a continual prayer of thanks to God for all he’s done for us. Stopping down once a year to be thankful ought to feel embarrassing: if this is the only time we’re thankful, there’s so much we’re missing in our life with God.

I’m thankful for

  • the opportunity to have experienced God’s love so vividly at Emmaus this spring.
  • finding Mom a nursing home that will take her next month, where she can get the kind of care she needs and can be safe.
  • College Boy and his adventures of the past few months: there’s a new maturity I see that heartens me, that makes all the struggles of high school worthwhile.
  • my daughter, despite being in the midst of the aforementioned struggles with high school. Her commitment to the Lord is strong and I appreciate all that she is.
  • my bride, for putting up with me nearly 24 years now. ‘Nuf sed.
  • grace, without which thankfulness is meaningless, and without which so much of the last year would have been impossible.
  • friends, family, coworkers, fellow pilgrims on the trail
  • my dog. I mean, who wouldn’t be thankful for her?
  • anyone reading this. Seriously: if you care enough to be following me and reading these words, I’m thankful that God has led you across my path.

The list, really, is endless. And isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t we live our lives so that they are a testament to how grateful we are to God for all he’s already done for us, instead of asking for the next thing?