Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. Thanks Giving. Giving Thanks.

It seems a bit vaporous on Thanksgiving day to just say, “I’m thankful.” On this day we are good at inquiring and responding to questions asking for what we are thankful. Many of us ask family around the table, and even kids in school, to name what each person is thankful for. My grandson, Julian (Jude), brought home a Thanksgiving craft wheel this week that he made in his 4 year old “Little Elks” preschool class . He could spin it, pointing to things on his list. His chosen responses consisted of Candy, Balls, and Mommy :).

I believe it is important to take time to be thankful and this holiday gives space for that. Right before we begin to write Christmas lists for what we want, and go into the biggest spending sprees of the year, we look around and evaluate the good we already have. In sincere communal gratitude one can almost sense the forgotten beautiful wisps of “Content”, “Enough”, “Satisfied”.

But, implicit in both thanking and in giving, is a direct object and indirect object. I am not a language scholar (in fact, I’m sure I’ve already dangled a few participles above) but I believe both of these verbs, give and thank, are transitive: “characterized by having or containing a direct object” (merriam-webster.com). “A transitive verb, used with a direct object, transmits action to an object and may also have an indirect object, which indicates to or for whom the action is done.” (cliffsnotes.com) In the same way that we don’t just buy birthday or Christmas gifts, or write thank you notes, and give them to nobody in particular, it completes the intention and benefit of giving and thankfulness to direct our gratitude to someone or Someone.

So, in this short blog post I want to remind us all this day, and every day, to name our direct and indirect objects, the target and reason and catcher of our thanksgiving. Yes, it includes family and friends, but also, let’s address our ultimate Provider. Name the Lord. Direct words to Jesus. Thank God. Acknowledge that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17).

I end this post with a prayer of Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer and invite you and your loved ones to use it, or any prayers from your hearts, to address the Giver, the Lover, the Lord Christ—to name both for what, and to Whom, you give thanks.

A LITANY OF THANKSGIVING*

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us:

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea,

      We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,

      We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,

      We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and time to rest and worship,

      We thank you, Lord.

For all who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,

      We thank you, Lord.

For all who earnestly seek after truth, and all who labor for justice,

      We thank you, Lord.

For all that is good and gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,

      We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,

We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;

      To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father,

      and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen

*https://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/BCP-2019-MASTER-5th-PRINTING-05022022-3.pdf

The Coronavirus…Is it Real?

“I see it, I see it,” said Hazel, pointing to my small paisley decorated retractable tape measure.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“The virus. I see the virus!”

For over a year now our lives have been rerouted and turned upside down because of “the virus”. Hazel has often referred to “the sickness”. Hazel is four and, despite being her grandma, I declare she is nigh a genius. 🙂 Her mind is continually picking up things said, things seen, things smelled, and integrating them quickly into her vast repertoire of knowledge, then easily figuring out a way to express those new discoveries. So, like a true nurse educator and science lover, I said,

“Oh, nobody can see the virus except with a very powerful microscope. But Hazel, here… (I pulled up the image on my phone), this is the coronavirus. See, they made a picture of what it looks like under a microscope.”

PHIL.cdc.gov

Even Julian, my curious two year old grandson, came near to see it too. They both studied it.

Hazel paused for a while…..

“But, is it real?” she asked.

“Well, this is a picture of it, but this is not the actual virus here in my hands.” I said.

“What?” answered Hazel.

“Well–like when I have a picture of you–see?” I showed her a picture of herself on my phone. “That is a picture of you. You are real, but that is not you. You are real, but that is just a picture of you.”

At this point I was even getting confused. We started taking pictures of things with the iPhone and then showing the real thing next to the picture of the real thing, but she kept saying,

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

This was the first time I had encountered Hazel being stumped and it surprised me.

But it got me thinking. Thinking about this world she’s raised in. Watching TV, animation and news come into the living room back to back. Every Christmas and Easter we walk the tightrope of whether Santa or the Easter Bunny are real. Then there’s God and Jesus. We read Bible stories and then Paw Patrol stories, Anatomy books and books of fairies, then of angels. We go to church and say grace at meals and even whisper prayers in the air from time to time:

“Is there really a Chase and Rubble? Is that really what my body looks like inside? Are angels real? Are fairies? Is God really real? Is Jesus God?

What is real?

And, how do you explain that to a four year old. And how do we even know that ourselves?

Because of art and books and movies and TV, and video games, anyone’s imagination can become visible. So, anything and everything seems real when brought to the vision and hearing–especially to that of a child. Is this touching on why Jesus said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Children are sponges and readily receive the reality of the kingdom of God. Even great thinkers like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton entered kingdom realities through the portals/wardrobes of childhood’s believing. To my logical mind, this seems reckless. Hazel has imaginary friends and talks to them. Who knows, but that to her, our prayers seem like talking to imaginary friends. We have “pictures” of Jesus, but we explain that’s not really a photograph or even painting of the real Jesus–nor is the picture the actual Jesus himself. And then there comes the explaining that not all people even believe that God is real. And not all people believe Jesus is God. He wants us to come to him in faith. Our belief in him is what takes us to the doorknob to open the door and “see him”.

But this is not just a God conundrum. There are some who do not believe there is a coronavirus and they live as though there isn’t. There are consequences to that action; but the virus doesn’t exist or not exist, infect or not infect, its substance and reality do not change, based on whether we believe strongly enough in it. It just is what it is.

Hazel and Julian in the time of “the virus”

The God of the Old Testament introduced himself as, “I Am Who I Am.”

The substance, the reality of God, does not rely on our belief, but our faith in him opens or shuts the door to our friendship with him. Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do the crowds say I am?” Then Jesus asks the REAL question: “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?”

Jesus introduced himself as I Am:

“I am the bread of life.”

“I am the light of the world.”

“I am the door.”

“I am the good shepherd.”

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” he asked.

Do you believe this? Is God real? … even if we don’t have a microscopic close up photo of him? Are you living like God is real? Today Jesus asks each one of us what he asked his disciple:

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Scriptures referenced above include Exodus 3:14, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18, Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20, John 6:35, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11, John 11:25, 26, John 14:6, John 15:5

Covid-19 from the farm

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I began the morning while it was still dark–6:30ish a.m.

A quiet house

Heating blanket on

Furnace catching up from nighttime turn down to morning turn up

67 to 72 degrees

No coffee yet

Papers shuffled

Nest made

Bible at side…waiting

Candle lit

A week ahead

The new way…

Last week I was “off” from babysitting because it was my daughter’s spring break; but the whole world is shuttering now for the novel coronavirus–isolation, lockdown, shelter in place….  On Wilmore Anglican Church’s Sunday morning sermon Facebook feed, Hule echoed musings by Andy Crouch who was referencing Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist, asking:  Is this a blizzard? a winter? or an ice age? We went into this thinking–a blizzard–just a few weeks.  Now it’s apparent it will be at least a winter.  But with political stalemates and the tenacity of those numbers and climbing curve, and the falling stock market, we are all wondering if it’s ushering in a new metaphorical ice age.

Lord, You are in control and You are good!  Hule’s quote of “Granny Rene” is right:

“God is God.  God is good.  And God loves us!”  This is what we know.

But God, what are you up to?

I am reading the Old Testament book of Job.  What God was up to in Job was not apparent to Job’s children, his employees, his country, his wife, his friends–not even to Job; but from heaven’s perspective it was made clear.  In human eyes we might say, “That’s not fair!”  “I don’t get it!”  But God is God.  His ways don’t have to be explained or justified.  He is sovereign.  We are not equipped to push back the works of God, or meant to question them.  God allows Satan, with limits, to seemingly wreak havoc at times for His own purposes.  Jesus himself experienced that:

His corona–His crown–His thorny, blood-stained crown, because God loves us;

His isolation and His own body shut-up, quarantined–in a cave, a tomb,

While hell was harrowed.

And Job lost it all:  his livelihood; his house and farm; his children and his wealth.  When he faced the sudden calamity, the sudden blizzard, he said:

Naked came I from the womb

Naked shall I return.

The Lord it is who gives

and the Lord takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

And “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”  God is good.

Then entered winter.

Satan was given even more permission and Job’s body was ravaged.  Was it a novel virus that was unleashed on him?  His wife told him to “curse God and die.”  And Job said, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”  “And in all this Job did not sin with his lips.”  When we never acknowledged that it was the Lord who gave and it was the Lord who provided good all along–when we think it was our own goodness that brought it about—besides being extremely blind and arrogant–we don’t know what we don’t know.

How is it that we believe so often that we create the good but it is God who brings the bad?  And how is it that we believe it’s all about us?  That our purposes are at the center instead of God’s purposes?  Do we fault God for acting like God?  …for putting His purposes above our own?

The suddenness of Job’s losses brought on a stunning: a sitting together on the ground in silence together for 7 days before a word was uttered.  A 7 day silence.  7 days of ground-sitting together before a word was spoken.  Something gigantic is there–something absent from our culture; a language few of us speak!  A practice foreign to our list of possibilities: sitting together 7 days in utter silence.

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know that I

Be still and know that

Be still and know

Be still and

Be still

Be…

It’s that empty, wordless nothingness–

Silence

Stillness

No raging

No questioning

No figuring out

No philosophizing

No doctoring

No leading

No consulting

No data collecting

But sitting still with the circumstance together with a few friends in wordlessness–on the ground:

We are but dust and to dust we will return.

Naked came we–Naked shall we return–Blessed be the name of the Lord!

This is part of practicing Lent.

And what we always know is:

God is God.

God is good.

God loves us.