Wednesday, November 23, 2011

a column about Thanksgiving

Editor's note: I feel like I write this particular column every year around this time. So I apologize in advance. As always, feel free to comment here or find me on Twitter.
Thankful for these, and all our many, many blessings

I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

Like most people, I grew up blessing every meal, in pretty much the same way.

My dad — and, I later found out, his dad — bless every meal with the same words almost every time. Some version of the following: “Gracious Heavenly Father, we’re so thankful for these and all our many, many blessings.”

Blessings, like all rituals, can become something of a repetitive pattern after a while. Repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed enough times, and eventually you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.

So it wasn’t until recently that those words — “we’re so thankful for these and all our many, many blessings” — really provoked much thought in me.

To be honest, ours isn’t a culture where being thankful is considered much of a virtue. The culture of never being satisfied — “staying hungry,” to put in the language of sports — and always moving upward doesn’t lend itself to counting blessings.

Still, I can’t remember a year when stopping and being thankful could be more necessary. The year started with icy blizzards, has featured long-running scandals, drought, wildfires and a debate over illegal immigration that seems to become dumber by the day. Even the one time of year that should be the most fun — football season — has been obscured by a scandal so sad and disturbing I don’t even like the idea of putting it in print.

In the midst of it all were the worst storms that ever hit this state, a killer track of tornadoes that turned the whole world upside down for all of us. When the sirens went off last week, it was like a terrifying memory flashing back. No storm siren will ever sound quite the same, after April 27.

To be honest, watching the news — and, truthfully, writing the news — isn’t the sort of thing that makes a person think about how blessed they are, or how thankful they should be.

And that’s probably why we need it so much. We need to be reminded of all the things about this world that are right. We need to sit still for just a few minutes, eat a little too much food, watch a few football games we don’t care about and share meaningless chit-chat about relatives who may or may not still be alive. We may even need to be moderately embarrassed by that one family member who talks too much and says goofy things at the dinner table (in our family, it’s me).

That’s one of the many reasons I can’t wait until we’re around the table so we can share in that blessing one more time. You never really know how many times you’ll get to hear it.

* Rich Mullins' "Hard to Get" is one my favorite songs ever, even though he only recorded it through a lousy tape recorder he probably bought at K-Mart or something.

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