When the Thanksgiving holiday came around in Canada, which was usually the second weekend in October, I saw it primarily as a long weekend. In order of importance were: a day off school and eventually work, one extra night to stay up late and an extra morning to sleep in, for-sure church attendance that Sunday (Mom’s idea), and of course the signature turkey meal.
I remember my first American Thanksgiving in Missoula, Montana. I took a year off from the electrical trade to travel around North America with a ministry team of college agers. We would visit churches performing concerts, dramas, door-to-door visitation and discipleship training. I was the sound man. For the life of me I could not figure out why there was such a big to do by the Americans on the team regarding Thanksgiving, and why they felt so disheartened about not being able to be home with their families to celebrate what was obviously a major deal.
Seventeen of us were sardined together in the Missoula Pastor’s home around the make-shift extended table. The signature turkey meal was before us with a few new-to-me American staples of sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce with more than just cranberries in it. The table talk consisted of shared memories of favorite Thanksgiving traditions, peculiar relatives, anticipation of football games, hunting for the best Friday deals, but most of all what seemed like generous portions of sharing gratitude for God’s blessings, family & friends, country, and most of all the opportunity to simply pause and reflect upon so much that was good.
The Missoula Thanksgiving was 28 years ago this week. Over these past 28 years I’ve seen Thanksgiving take the lead in my heart over other holidays to seal first place. Christmas was stiff competition. The main reason for its prominence…pause.
Like you, it seems as though my “RPM” meter from September till now has been on a steady increase confirming the pace my body has tried to keep. Most of it good. Most of it incomplete. But this week in November it is as if a grace has come my way pushing the pause button. And when the button is pushed good things happen…
- I feel more present with Susan and Liam.
- I get to bake a few well crusted pies.
- I sleep in.
- I notice again how big the sky is.
- I actually like being around people who can tend to annoy me.
- I don’t worry about the pressing things I still need to get done.
- I recall the miraculous things that did get done.
- I get re-amazed (sometimes to tears) at the beautiful people in my life.
- I can’t believe the good work and calling God has invited me to do.
- I enter a mindset of anticipation of what is yet to come.
A friend of mine last night quoted Karl Barth as saying, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” Maybe that’s what I notice most this time of year because of pausing…a joyous gratitude. The Psalmist says it this way, “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy” (Ps 63:5-7). This week I wish for you pause in order to experience joyful gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving.