Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving

27
Nov
20

Thanks Be to All

viol

I dislike violence.

I mean, I REALLY dislike it.

I can’t stand violent sports like boxing or Mixed Martial Arts… although I somehow find a way to make an exception for the violence of American football.

I immediately turn away from gratuitous violence on both the small and big screen.

I am so queasy about violence I even have a hard time watching contestants as they are eliminated on game shows. 

Which, I suppose, is why I have such a hard time facing up to the violence that helped pave the way for the life I lead today. 

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, our time of gluttonous gratitude gatherings. And even though it was a somewhat isolated feast for Joan and me this year, it was still quite enjoyable. 

The Thanksgiving holiday always causes me to think back and remember the things I was taught in school about the origins of this special national holiday.

I can still remember being part of a pageant in the fourth grade that commemorated the first Thanksgiving feast… with “Pilgrims” in their construction-paper hats and collars sitting down with their “Native American neighbors” (wearing their multi-colored construction paper headdresses) to thank them for their valuable assistance in coping with the fierce North American winter. 

Nowhere in my entire formal education, however, did I learn about the genocidal violence inflicted upon those original people by the European settlers … violence that was justified as necessary to promote the advance of “civilization.”

Or, if I ever did hear about it, I probably turned away in denial, preferring to believe a more sanitized version of American history. You know… the version where the Europeans and the Native Americans all sat down around a big conference table and respectfully agreed that it would be in everyone’s best interest if those First People uprooted themselves from places they occupied for centuries and squeezed themselves into tiny settlements in some of the most inhospitable parts of the American West. 

As we now know that version is just not the way it happened. Blood was shed. Lives were lost. Families were destroyed. Terrible violence was employed in order to “open up” this country for European expansion. 

Yes, I still believe it is good and necessary to give thanks to God for the bounty and blessings of the life I lead today. It is necessary to admit that I have received unmerited grace and favor, and to be continually humble in receiving it.

But I believe it is also necessary to admit – as much as I detest it – that violence also played a significant part in placing me where I am today.

Today – the day after Thanksgiving – has been officially designated as Native American Heritage Day. And in an historic first, it is worth noting that there are now more Native Americans serving in the U.S. House of Representatives than ever before in our nation’s history. There are six; three women, three men. Three Republicans, and three Democrats. 

To celebrate and sum up the importance of this day, I will close with this fitting quote from one of them:

“Native Americans have a unique opportunity to educate their children and fellow Americans about the legacy and hardships Native Americans have overcome. We know the stories of our ancestors and we pass them on to future generations. Our history and our sovereignty are what bind us together.”

  • Markwayne Mullin, Congressman, Oklahoma, a member of the Cherokee Nation

We also remember that it is the undiluted, unconditional, universal love of God that binds all of us on this awesome planet together.

In our thanksgiving, let us remember to give thanks to ALL who have gone before. 

Abundant blessings; 

25
Nov
20

In Which Circumstances??

Would you look at this mess? 

A worldwide killer virus is floating around in the air, seeking out the most vulnerable among us, killing record numbers of people, especially people of color… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

Not only did this virus cause Joan and I to cancel our plans to join the rest of the family for a long overdue gathering, but now it has been rude enough to smash our SCALED DOWN Thanksgiving plans… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And what about those working parents out there? What about the folks who have to figure out some way to do their jobs over a video screen, supervise their (often reluctant) remote-learning children, put meals on the table, and maintain a home? 

And you want them to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And in this time of roiling turmoil outside, when most people can hunker down and bask in the comforting embrace of home and hearth, Joan and I instead wake up each morning to face a construction zone full of dust and noise and sheetrock and extension cords… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And even though some of the dust of the recent election seems to be settling and new, orderly pieces appear to be falling into place, we still face the reality of a nation deeply divided along racial and political lines… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And seriously… don’t even get me started on the endless litany of aches and pains and visits to doctors and chiropractors and physical therapists and testing sites and pharmacies and all that other stuff that seems to go hand-in-hand with having attained a **certain** age… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

I have to ask: God, are you sure you really understand what you are asking of us?

I mean, do you have any concept of what we have to deal with down here in the land of flesh and blood and traffic lights and fire ants? 

Do you have the slightest notion of just how tough it is to make it from Point A to Point B some days… even without today’s extra stressors of disease, sleaze, and unease?

And then it hits me; of course you do!

You know EXACTLY what we are up against. You are intimately acquainted with every ache, pain, fear, frustration, joy, disappointment, dream, distress, annoyance, and heartache we will ever face… in a thousandlifetimes.

You know us because you loved us enough to BECOME us.

Nothing about this human experience is foreign to you.

AND YET… you still command us to GIVE THANKS…

… in ALL circumstances. 

You know what? I might just give it a try.

I mean, shoot… whining hasn’t worked.

Throwing a one-man pity party hasn’t worked.

Sulking over here in my corner hasn’t worked. 

Maybe I’ll try your way instead.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Abundant blessings;

04
May
20

Caution? or Fear?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)

Tilt A WhirlLast night I was in our kitchen making a salad. No biggie.

After chopping the tomatoes, I realized I still needed a few leaves of baby spinach for an iron boost. I turned around to the refrigerator, opened the door, and bent down to the open the vegetable-crisper drawer.

All of a sudden, the room started spinning and I became very woozy and disoriented.

Damn!” I thought. “Another vertigo attack.”

I have had these before, so I knew what to do. Joan helped me to the couch where I laid down and immediately began engaging in the Epley Maneuver. (Here is a helpful little diagram of the Epley Maneuver for those who are unfamiliar with it).

It had been more than a year since my last encounter with the vertigo monster. I have undergone countless neurological tests to determine what causes them. However, the best anyone can come up with is a diagnosis of “Benign Positional Vertigo,” meaning that sometimes, when I assume certain positions, little stones of calcium in my inner ear get dislodged and bring on the impromptu Tilt-A-Whirl.

I stop and do a little Epley-ing and the ride stops. The nausea induced by the spinning lasts much longer, but the spinning itself is usually tamed pretty quickly.

I was distressed because I really thought I was done with these. That is until BOOM! There it came… out of the clear blue sky.

As I lay there with the cold compress on my head, (thank you, sweetheart), I began ticking through the “what ifs”.

  • “What if I get a bunch of these back-to-back?”
  • “What if this happens while I’m driving… or walking the dogs… or mowing the lawn?”
  • “What if this is something more serious than misplaced little calcium stones?”

And then – without missing a beat – I began to strategize a whole new life pattern that would help steer me clear of any vertigo-induced mishaps. I probably shouldn’t drive a car anymore. I should probably wear a football helmet while out walking. Maybe it would be wise to pad all the corners in our house with Styrofoam bumpers!

That’s when I knew I had crossed over… from CAUTIOUS LIVING to FEARFUL LIVING.

It made me wonder if I really knew the difference between the two.

We are certainly in a time now when smart (and compassionate) people engage in cautious living. We stay inside unless absolutely necessary. We keep a safe distance from others if and when we go out. We wear face masks and gloves. We wash our hands with ridiculous frequency.

It is good to be cautious when a highly deadly, highly contagious virus is loose in the land.

But when do we cross over from wise caution to unwise (and we might even call it unfaithful) FEAR?

In these global pandemic time, the line between those two is very fine indeed.

The answer lies there in the word “spirit.” Caution might lead us to do exactly the same things that fear would. Fearful and cautious people both wear facemasks, don’t they? The difference is the SPIRIT with which they put them on.

And maybe – just maybe – we can keep ourselves on this side of the CAUTION/FEAR line by exercising some GRATITUDE. Because you see, when we pause and give thanks for the infinite blessings we still DO have, we are too busy to count up the things we MIGHT NOT HAVE should disaster strike.

I tried it last night after my vertigo attack and it was amazingly effective! I said, “Thank you God, for this Epley person… whoever he or she was.” “Thank you that I have this loving wife by my side to soothe me and bring me a cold washcloth.” “Thank you that I was here in my home when this happened and not out on the highway.” “Thank you that this is really nothing more than misplaced bits of calcium.”

Be cautious, yes. But do not fear.

 

… but don’t even get me started on that New York Times article about the arrival in this country of those Giant Asian Murder Hornets!!!

24
Feb
20

Short and Sweet

“For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.”
                                                Psalm 103:14-16, NRSV

 

Ice cream cartonWould this ice cream taste as sweet if I did not anticipate the bottom of the carton?

Would these daylight hours be as precious if I never saw the lengthening of the shadows?

If I believed these moments on the telephone with my grandson would be endless, would I savor them quite this same way?

What part does the fleeting nature of her smile play in its utter holiness?

Is my awareness that the melody will fade somehow central to the joy it brings?

What if the certainty of death was really the secret sweetener of life?

We regularly shake our fists and rage against the fragility, finiteness, and temporary nature of our joys… insisting they become life’s permanent features.

How much wiser an investment of my emotional capital would it be to heed the wisdom of the ages and exercise my gratitude muscles during those sweet, special, holy, precious moments of life.

Is it possible that the grief we feel at life’s passing nature comes from our realization that we failed to hug it tightly to our chests while we had it?

“Dear God… Help me make today the start of a new practice of gratitude and thanksgiving for everything you have laid on my plate.  AMEN.”

10
Dec
18

Chex Mixed

Chex cerealLast week we had some friends over.

No big deal… it was just a friendly gathering to eat food, catch up on each other’s lives, and share a laugh or two. Or three, if needed.

As good guests often do, these brought an appetizer to share.

They brought CHEX MIX.

Do you know Chex Mix? It is a delightful, savory combination of the three kinds of Chex cereals (wheat, corn, and rice) with little pretzel bits, nuts, and other assorted nibbles. It is then coated all over with some kind of butter and garlic drizzle and tossed in a bowl.

Delicious!

As I helped myself to my second serving of Chex Mix I could not restrain the memories it evoked.

Growing up, my grandfather worked for the Ralston Purina Company in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to making Purina Dog Chow, Ralston Purina is also the producer of Chex cereals. And so boxes of Wheat, Corn, and Rice Chex always occupied a place of honor in our family’s pantry.

With enough sugar and milk I could work with Corn and Rice Chex. But in an outrageous act of family treason, I now admit that I absolutely detested Wheat Chex.

BLECH, as Charlie Brown used to say.

My personal preferences, however, never stopped dad from buying all three flavors of Chex. But I knew that ignoring the Wheat Chex and just eating the other two was never a solution. Dad would simply refuse to restock any Chex cereals until ALL Chex cereals – including that ever-so-nasty Wheat Chex – were gone.

And so, as I stood there in my kitchen in 2018 casually popping a handful of Chex Mix into my mouth, it inevitably brought scenes of my grandparent’s kitchen in 1960s St. Louis to mind.

I suddenly remembered their parakeet Billy and all the little phrases he used to say. (“Billy go sleep now.” “Hello!” “Pretty bird!”). I thought about the warm smells of baking bread and the small, carefully manicured front lawn. I thought about the box of wooden matches sitting there on top of the toilet tank… only to be lit when the air needed a little purifying.

I was surprised, though, to discover other, less genial memories crowding in on my moment of reverie. I remembered growing up that I usually poured milk made from a powder/water mixture over my Chex cereal. That was because milk from a bottle was too expensive for our family.

I remembered other times of “doing without” and uncertainty from my childhood.

Chewing my Chex also caused me to think about my dad’s memories of the emotional distance between him and his father. He often expressed a hope that he and I would become much closer as father and son.

I was seriously taken aback. “Is that how this is supposed to work?” I wondered. “Shouldn’t my nostalgic recollections only be sweet, special, and Hallmark-colored?”

“What’s up with this other, dark, brooding stuff crowding its way in?”

But I had to confess that this little detour was a good reminder.

It helped me remember that when Jesus described his mission as bringing the world “… life abundantly” (John 10:10, NRSV), he did NOT say that he came to bring only an abundance of pre-sweetened Corn Chex.

It helped me remember that authentic abundance means a rich supply of ALL life’s flavors… the bitter, the sweet, the tangy, and the sour.

It also helped me remember that we are called to give thanks for that abundance… remembering that God’s love for us and our connection to God is the real sweetener in our bowl.

So at the next Christmas party, we happen to attend, I will be the guy making a beeline for the bowl of Chex Mix… and giving thanks for each of its abundant morsels.

Even the Wheat ones.

25
Nov
18

Be My Guest

Catering staffHaving family visit for Thanksgiving – or any occasion, really – is a real treat.

Especially when those family members live far away and you don’t get to see them very often.

Electronic communication – as convenient as it is – is no substitute for seeing people in the flesh, up close and personal.

But I have to admit… the only thing better than having dear loved ones around the table – sharing stories, telling jokes, eating turkey, and watching movies – is waving goodbye to them as they leave.

Because let’s face it, houseguests screw up the whole routine.

I mean, look; they don’t get up in the morning when we do.

They like different kinds of activities.

They don’t watch the same TV shows.

When they try to help cook, they don’t know where the nutmeg is kept. (Or the coriander. Or the oregano. Or the spatulas.)

When they try to help unload the dishwasher – as sweet and helpful a gesture as that is – they invariably put things in all the wrong places.

Lord knows they can’t help it, but even the most lovely, loveable houseguests force hosts to ADJUST!

Heaven forbid!

Wow! Am I really that old? Am I really that cranky? Am I really that set in my ways that I would allow the petty inconvenience of having to relocate the coffee cups completely overshadow the joy of a family get-together?

Jeez… I sure hope not.

Over and over again the Bible commands us to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2, Luke 14:7, Romans 12:13, Exodus 22:21, etc.).And so if the command is to show hospitality to people you don’t even KNOW, how much more necessary is it – do you suppose – to show hospitality to people you are actually related to?

Being resentful – or even slow – to make a few small, necessary adjustments for the sake of my guests’ comfort shows I care more about my routines more than I do about them.

And when you come to think about it, isn’t HOSPITALITY really one of the big, underlying themes of the Christmas season?

Every chapter of the story seems to ask a different kind of hospitality question; who will make room for the Christ child in her womb? Who will make room for the young travelers in their inn? Who will welcome the newborn Savior into the world?

None of us here in 2018 had to answer any of the questions those folks did. But there is one question we might all take a moment and ponder: Who here today will make room for the infant Messiah in their heart?

 

*Special blog postscript: As if sensing my need to enlarge my hospitality skills, God has dumped a massive blizzard on our home here today, canceling all flights out and giving us TWO MORE DAYS with our out-of-town loved ones!




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