Thanksgiving Prayer

O Creator of all that is, how can I begin to offer thanks when everything comes from you? To list what I am grateful for would exhaust all the time I have and still not scratch the surface. Maybe thanksgiving is not counting my blessings but a way of life that begins with the humility of admitting what I think is “mine” really isn’t.

Why is that so hard, Lord? In my head I know the truth but when fear of not having or being enough grips my heart then I start taking account of “my” possessions instead of simply enjoying what you have shared with me. When I see how easily my stuff, my security can be wiped out by wildfires or floods then the hoarder in me says, “You can’t relax. No matter how much you have it will never be enough!”

My head knows better, but my heart wants to live in the land of scarcity and hide away some extra food or cash for a rainy day. My money lies when it says “In God We Trust.” The truth is I monitor the stock market and buy insurance to protect the things I value most. My calendar and checkbook reflect my true priorities. I find it hard to afford a meager 10% for the source of my very being, but go into debt to “own” the status symbols the world values.

And besides Lord, it’s not easy to have a grateful heart in a world plagued by the ravages of climate-change-inspired storms. It’s not easy to give thanks while protecting myself from the threats of terrorists and racist vigilantes. People around me are dropping like flies from drug addictions and suicide. We are all so controlled by our electronic devices and enslaved to consumerism that there’s just not much time left over to give thanks.

Amid the festivities of the Thanksgiving holidays remind us Lord that it is only in you that we live and move and have our being. May our menus always include generous helpings of humility and gratitude that overflow in abundant sharing with those in need. And may there always be time no matter how hectic the day may be to be still and know who we are and whose we are. Amen

Thanksgiving and Confession

As usual, I approach another Thanksgiving with mixed feelings. Of course gratitude is always good for our souls. Every day should be a day of giving thanks for all the many blessings we have that we often take for granted.  But the Thanksgiving holiday is when we celebrate a particular time when the early settlers in this country, a group of starving immigrants, were saved by the radical hospitality of the indigenous Native Americans who had lived here for centuries.  And if we, almost 300 years later, are called to remember the true history of the founding of our country and not get stuck in the sanitized grade school myths most of us were taught then Thanksgiving must also be a day of confession and atonement . The reality is that the hospitality of the Native Americans was repaid with abuse, deceit and genocide. There can be no real grace or forgiveness unless we face the harsh truths about our heritage.

So it is with humility that we must come to the Thanksgiving table, and the ironic truth is that the very freedom we have to gather and overindulge this week is a sign of God‘s grace. For we do not deserve the wealth and abundance that  so many of us enjoy, but through the grace of God our sins of colonialism and aggression have not brought down judgment upon us. But we will never truly be a people at peace until we honestly look in the mirror of history and take a hard uncomfortable look at our flawed human nature.

As long as we try to live up to the falsehood of American exceptionalism or the myth that we are somehow God‘s chosen people to be a city on a hill we will dwell in some sense, even if it is subconscious, in guilt and shame.

I am sorry if this rains on your Thanksgiving parade, but I am again mindful of that Scripture from I John: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But here’s the good news and the real reason we can give thanks this week and every day. John goes on to say, “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)

Like you I am thankful for my blessings, my family, my health, but the bottom line is that I am most thankful for the gift of God’s undeserved redeeming grace.

Thanksgivukkah

As we approach another Thanksgiving feast, among the many things I am grateful for are those of you who read my posts in this blog. The number of views this month has been phenomenal and heartwarming, and I thank you all for the encouragement it gives me to feel the appreciation and support I draw from knowing that my words in some small way matter to you. I send my best wishes to you and yours for a most blessed Thanksgiving.

In a rare alignment of calendars, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah both fall on November 28 this year, and some people are calling it “Thanksgivukkah.” The two celebrations fit together well because both are opportunities give thanks for God’s blessings and renew our trust in God to provide what we really need in life. Today’s Columbus Dispatch had a great reminder if you, like me, need a refresher course in Jewish history: “Hanukkah commemorates the reclamation by the Maccabees of the Second Jewish Temple [in Jerusalem] after it was desecrated by Syrian Greeks in the second century B.C.E. The Maccabees found only one day’s worth of suitable oil to fuel the menorah, but it miraculously lasted for eight days.”

By way of counterpoint, that great source of wisdom, Facebook, gave me a friend’s post today from Somee Cards that says, “Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”

Both stories made me pause to ask myself how thankful I really am, and how much do I really trust God to provide what really matters in life. The first line of Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” How much of what drives us in life are wants masquerading as needs? That’s an important question any time, but especially this week.

I remember worshipping several years ago at a small church in a low income urban neighborhood where material blessings were hard to come by. We sang one of my favorite hymns that day, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” During the singing of that great hymn my attention was drawn to a member of the choir, a woman who is totally blind. As I looked at the pure joy and peace on her face as we sang the words, “All I have needed Thy hand has provided,” I was moved to tears of humility and shame. How often do I throw myself a pity party for some irritating inconvenience or minor ailment, while others suffer the real “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” with grace and gratitude?

My prayer this Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and for the consumer-driven madness of Black Friday is for a simple faith in the providence of a God who takes one day’s oil and says, “Trust me. You’ve got enough.”