Tag Archives: thanksgiving

A Litany of Thanksgiving — by Howard Thurman

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In Your presence, O God, we make our Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

We begin with the simple things of our days:

Fresh air to breathe,

Cool water to drink,

The taste of food,

The protection of houses and clothes,

The comforts of home.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

We bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that we have known:

Our mothers’ arms,

The strength of our fathers,

The playmates of our childhood,

The wonderful stories brought to us from the lives of many who talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and diverse kinds of magic held sway;

The tears we have shed, the tears we have seen;

The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its reminder that life is good.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We finger one by one the messages of hope that await us at the crossroads:

The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of our security,

The tightening of the grip of a single handshake when we feared the step before us in the darkness,

The whisper in our heart when the temptation was fiercest and the claims of appetite were not to be denied,

The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page when our decision hung in the balance.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We passed before us the mainsprings of our heritage:

The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before us, without whom our own lives would have no meaning,

The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;

The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp, and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which they would never see,

The workers whose sweat has watered the trees, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations,

The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons, whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places,

The savior whose blood was shed with the recklessness that only a dream could inspire and God could command.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We linger over the meaning of our own life and commitment to which we give the loyalty of our heart and mind:

The little purposes in which we have shared with our loves, our desires, our gifts,

The restlessness which bottoms all we do with its stark insistence that we have never done our best, we have never reached for the highest,

The big hope that never quite deserts us, that we and our kind will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the children of God as the waters cover the sea.

All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel, I make as my Sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee, Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.

  • Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart, 147-149
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ThanksLiving

Meister-Eckhart-Quotes-25-The-Best-OnesOur church family has long prepared and served periodic meals for the weekly meetings of a local ministry that serves marginalized people in Malibu. After the meal there is a Bible study for those interested in staying, which ends up being a decent number of people. Last week, the message from the ministry leader was part sermon and part motivational speech that encouraged those in attendance to live with courage. I was particularly impressed by the connection he had with the motley audience. It was obvious that they liked him, which I suspect is in large part because he likes them.

At the end there was a short time of prayer — short because it was getting dark and the audience was well aware of when the city bus made its last run through Malibu. As the leader went person to person for short prayer requests, I was stunned to hear that the emphasis of a majority of people was on how thankful they were to God for their blessings.

Marginalized. Poor. Damaged. Broken. Homeless. And thankful.

I got in my car as the sun descended over the Pacific Ocean and drove back to a beautiful home on an immaculate university campus. And as I headed out I drove past this slow line of individuals that will cause citizens to roll up their windows and lock their doors. They were headed to the bus stop. To the beach. To the woods. To God knows where.

I have much to learn from those good souls. The car and the house and the job and the respect of society — none of it is worth very much if I do not live thankfully. To live thankfully regardless of circumstances is a true sign of success regardless of the outside packaging. 

Season of Giving (Exams)

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The end of November launches a holiday season in these United States, but for those involved in formal education it is also a season of papers, projects, and examinations.  Thanksgiving break does provide a break from classes, but not from work, as our youngest daughter bemoaned on her short trip home from college.  There is no rest for the wicked.  There are turkey sandwiches, sure, but no rest (yet).

Law school is particularly relentless.  The killer combination of a single grade-determining final exam and a pernicious grading curve that pits all-star students against one another for a handful of A’s produces a motivation that is not helpful for proper digestion.  If you want to experience stress with all of your senses, visit your neighborhood law library.

During this season of final exams, popular metaphors include heads down, noses to grindstones, shoulders to wheels, and so on, but not much related to actually looking up.  Unless looking up information or in desperation count.  From my seat in a law school, while I strongly recommend long hours and hard work, I also advocate periodically looking up for a little perspective.  Specifically, the following perspective:

Carol Dweck famously teaches the advantage of a “growth mindset” as compared to a “fixed mindset.”  For the latter, final exams are personal evaluations (i.e., I am good at this or bad at this; smart or stupid; etc.), but for the former, the exams merely reveal information helpful for growth and improvement (i.e., How can this make me better?).  And in case you are wondering, growth mindset leads to greater success than is ever possible with a fixed mindset.

This is a season of giving—professors giving assignments/exams, and students giving their very best effort—but the frenzied effort from the students is misspent if motivated by fear of failure as defined by a letter or number.  Instead, everyone is better off if the heroic efforts are motivated by the capacity to grow and learn.

Study hard, my friends, and look up long enough to remember that you are here to learn and not to be graded like cattle.  And learn well.  A real break will be here soon.

Remember Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-crewI confess that I didn’t read the instructions very closely, but I’m pretty sure we can stop being thankful now that the holiday has passed.  I’m not 100% positive on this, but since we are apparently expected to line up at midnight and explode out of the starting blocks like Usain Bolt to beat our fellow citizens to the hottest deals, it seems that the time to appreciate what we already have has now passed and that we need new things for which to give thanks!

As the Black Fridays Matter shoppers launch a frontal assault on economic stagnation today, it is my understanding that one can now accomplish said shopping from the comfort of one’s own home.  Note to self: Remember to be thankful for that next year!  Although racing through a shopping mall plus a little mixed martial arts with your neighbor is undoubtedly a nice way to burn calories from the holiday feast.

I’m kidding.  Mostly, and sort of.  Good ol’ capitalism depends on this annual injection, and most of our pocketbooks could use the good deals offered today both for things we really do need as well as for things we really do share as expressions of love in this season of giving.  But you have to admit—the quick-change artistry from pausing in gratitude to sprinting for acquisition is humorous at least, and if we are honest, we may have a tiny little predisposition for going overboard.

But my thoughts today have less to do with shopping and more to do with memory.  Specifically, I don’t want to forget to be thankful when life hits the accelerator again.

Yesterday was pretty fantastic.  My little family was reunited, and we were honored to host a diverse group of friends for feasting and fun (and football).  We even had multiple international friends with us for their very first American Thanksgiving!  Our time together was a strong reminder of our personal blessings in this wonderful life.

I would like to experience that feeling on more days each year than the fourth Thursday in November, and if I can think crazy thoughts, maybe even every day?  In this frenzied life, I like to think that each and every day has enough space in it to pause and appreciate the good.

The Thanksgiving holiday may just come once each year, but maybe it can make such a strong impression as to lead us to infuse a little thanksgiving in every day.

The Thankful Life

3a61a4b7fda80b09de018f928e04a03dI once heard a speaker say that you could give everyone a sheet of paper with a line down the middle, ask everyone to write all the reasons to be happy on the left side of the paper and all the reasons to be sad on the right side of the paper, and everyone could fill up both sides.  The question is: Which side of the paper will you live your life on?

This week, by holiday, this particular nation asks everyone to pause and live on the thankful side.

I am thankful for the invitation.  I believe that I will.