Truly blessed…

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house–with all the local family present…Mother, son and grandson, daughter and son-in-law, and grandson and new granddaughter-in-law. I had decided that I wanted to do most of the cooking this year, and one of the things that made it possible was that I was able to take all week off of work (I had some vacation I needed to use or I would lose it).

So…Wednesday I got several of the dishes ready…cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, dressing, and sweet potatoes. All I had to do with them Thursday was put the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes–and then bake the ones that needed baking.

Thursday morning was putting the turkey in at 7:00…then setting the table, and getting the green salad ready…baking the casseroles and the mashed potatoes…and waiting for the rolls, pumpkin and pecan pies to arrive with other family members.

We had everything ready for eating at 2:00–and asked my 87-year-old mother to offer the blessing…not just on the food, but for our gathering.

While the food was delicious, what was more important was the fellowship. We shared family stories, initiated the new member of the family into our tradition of hand-knit Christmas stockings, played several games of bowling with the Wii–including getting the matriarch to bowl a game (and she bowled a respectable 124!)….

We were–and are–truly blessed. Our family members all like each other, and we live close enough that the immediate family can get together at these special times. But even more than that, we are blessed to live in a country where we can feel safe…where we have freedom to gather…

And so…as we shared together–and were also aware of the news coming out of both Bangkok and Mumbai–we realized again the blessings that are ours…and give thanks.

Thanksgiving = Thanks-living

Another week and it’s Thanksgiving…so what am I thankful for? (These aren’t in any particular order–just as they came to mind.)

  • My family – my husband who has been a strong support…my children and grandchildren, whom I adore…my parents who gave me a strong foundation…my brothers–with whom I argued as a child, but with whom I now have a closer relationship…their spouses and children who have enriched my life in so many ways…and of course, the extended family that became mine when my husband and I married almost 40 years ago
  • My church family…which extends worldwide
  • An awareness of the presence of God in so many times and places…coming to know that the Good Shepherd walks with me through those dark valleys…and that there is a sunrise that follows the dark night of the soul
  • Music! At this time of year I especially appreciate the opportunity to listen to Handel’s Messiah.
  • Living in a country where there are still many opportunities
  • I still have a job.
  • Our 4-legged “child” who at times lives up (or down) to his name–Rascal–and yet who gives unconditional love and makes me laugh when I need that. (He’s bigger than this now.)
  • Books! I love to read…I love having a library where I can get books…
  • Candles…there’s something special about having a candle burning…
  • Chai…and peppermint ice cream. Not necessarily at the same time–but I’ve always loved peppermint ice cream since my dad would churn it when I was a kid…and any more I can only get it this time of year.
  • Internet, which makes it possible for me to be in touch more easily with family and friends
  • The incredible diversity of our world…in nature, in people, in the ways we connect with each other, in the ways we experience the Divine…
  • The ability to offer to others…

And that brings me to the second part of my blog title…

If I give thanks for so many things, does my life show it? Am I thanks-living? or just living? Sometimes I think I do better than others…but I hope that ultimately my life shows more thanks-living.

May you have a blessed thanksgiving time with whoever you choose to share it with.

Bash or not?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had some e-mail exchanges with a friend of mine. She’s wanting to borrow one of my nativities for a service at her congregation, and I think I will probably be able to help her out.

While we were discussing that, she invited me to the service–and said she’d “be glad to share in some bashing of the church” if I was still so-inclined to do so.

Now, some brief history that led to that remark…

Because of some decisions made in the last three years that affect our international headquarters, she and I both lost our jobs there. I was fortunate to land another full-time one…she was offered a part-time one and worked there for a while…but finally got tired of dealing with “stuff” and has moved to another organization (where she loves what she’s doing).

There were a couple of years when I really was not a pleasant person to live with–angry with the church leadership…resentful and angry at the lack of congruence I saw between words and actions… I really was well on the way to becoming a bitter old woman!

Thank God I was able to get with a counselor and work through my reactions and issues. Do I still have concerns? You bet! Do I still raise issues? Yup.

But do I still feel like bashing the church and church leadership? No… That really doesn’t solve anything–or do anyone any good.

Do I blame my friend (and other friends) for feeling that way? No, I don’t. I’ve walked the road they’ve walked and understand how difficult it can be to trust the church when feeling betrayed. But I don’t want to go there again…and I’ve come to understand that any time there are people involved in an organization, there are going to be issues and decisions that I won’t agree with.

My faith is not in the church, although that is where I am feeling called to live out my commitment. It is in God…and in the presence of the Prince of Peace and the Comforter who walked with me on the road during what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul.

McCain and Obama Speeches

Election night I stayed up to watch the returns…haven’t been as involved and interested in┬áthat since the Kennedy election! But I wanted to know how the election was going to turn out–and then I wanted to hear the speeches.

I felt that John McCain returned to his true self in his speech–this was the man that I had respected when the campaign began. If only he had stayed true to himself…and not let the party “handlers” morph him into something else… I appreciated his support for the man who had been his opponent and who now is going to be–as he put it–“my president”. I think this was his last shot at running for the Presidency–and while I felt his legacy was going to be tarnished by the personal sniping and negative attacks, I felt he moved toward redeeming himself in his concession speech.

When Obama came out, I was a little surprised. Most other times, the victor has come bouncing onto the stage–but Obama came out more somber than I had expected. Some of that may have had to do with the recent loss of his grandmother–but I think some of it was an awareness of the gravity of the situation he now faces.

I appreciated the fact that he did not gloat over the extent of his victory–and that he acknowledged that there are many whose support he has yet to win…but asked for their help and called us to unite. Looking at the election maps at CNN and NPR makes it clear that we are still in many ways divided along Civil War lines–that we are still struggling with that legacy.

I believe that we have a new opportunity before us–a chance to change the politics of division and begin to pull together as the United States of America. May we all be willing to give it a chance.

The End…or the Beginning

Well, today’s the day…

I got up at 5:45 to go to the polls…stood in line for about an hour to vote. Not as bad as I was afraid it might be–or as I think it will probably be later today. My number was 73, and quite often we haven’t reached that many voters by the end of the day…and this was only an hour in.

I am so ready for this election to happen! I hope it’s the end…but I’m also afraid that it may only be the beginning of another round of complaints/arguments.

Why is it so difficult for us to work with each other? I can understand disagreements with each other about our perceptions of the issues and how to deal with them…but if we can focus on the goals we are trying to meet, surely we can come up with a variety of ways to work on them.

This campaign has had so many ugly moments–personal attacks, refusal to take people at their word, pandering to the worst in human nature…

I hope and pray that we can find ways to bridge the gaps–no, the canyons–that have either been exposed or have developed between good people on different sides of issues. Disagreements do not make someone else an enemy–and often there are valid differing ways of looking at a problem.

May we come to recognize that all of us are Americans who want the best for our country–and may we be willing to work together to find the best solutions.