Today we offer thanksgiving for those other things.
For troubles that shape and sharpen our patience,
for doubts that let faith moments shine,
and for confusions that keep our lives from being rigid.
For sufferings that help us share another’s grief,
for fears that mark real terror in the world,
And for pains that open our eyes to joy.
For sorrows that join our hands to hope
and for loneliness that leads us to the heart of God
For all these gifts by which we have become
more human, we give thanks.
Let our thanks reach out
and embrace the daily small ingratitudes of our lives.
—Maren C. Tirabassi, Touch Holiness
Well my friends, here it comes. “The Holidays”. With an Upper Case H and a Holi-Mackeral. It’s like a monster that has its own energy source and that you have no control over. Despite my supposed “spiritual wisdom” (HA!) which reminds me that all that consumer driven holiday-ing is not what it is about, I can see the ubiquitous presence everywhere I go (and everywhere I click) and I feel the frenetic pace of The Season encroaching. Fifty times this week I found myself feeling breathless and saying to myself—it is not even Thanksgiving—relax, one thing at a time is all you can do, focus on what matters and sign out of facebook, prioritize relationships over production, and do not complain about how busy you are! But dang, I am busy. We are all busy and there is never enough time to do everything we want to do. So what….? What should I do? How do I prioritize? Where is the balance? Help me Jesus!
Well of course taking a breath and practicing an attitude of gratitude is one approach to maintaining balance and a healthy perspective on it all. I consider this coming “Thanksgiving Sunday” and Thanksgiving Day high, holy days. Thanksgiving is that one holiday that does not require resisting any secular or commercial influences and it puts us in touch with the universal spiritual practice of expressing our gratitude. Praise the Lord—no one is fighting about this holiday, there’s no culture war going on (although I guess that is not true any more as we are facing the effort of retailers to be open on Thanksgiving Day—argghhh) and everyone, no matter what faith tradition or cultural background can at least (in theory) say something about that for which they are grateful—if only that “I got up this morning and my feet hit the floor”. Our Christian faith, our prayer and worship practices and the spiritual practice of stewardship are all about expressing gratitude. My own 12-Step informed spirituality is grounded in seeing and expressing daily reasons for gratitude—a day of sobriety, a lesson learned, a story shared.
So often, especially when we are sitting around the table on Thanksgiving Day, when we ask ourselves about that for which we are grateful, we express thanks for the things we have—family, friends, jobs, community, a meal, a roof over our heads, recovery, our health, the well being of people we love, healthcare, the end of treatment for an illness, the beauty of the earth. And (can I get an Amen?) we are (and should be) grateful for all of that—God has abundantly blessed us in so many material and relational ways.
But how about giving thanks for the experiences that are not material and are, at least on the surface, not so positive? These kinds of things often drive us to our knees, and when faithfully experienced, end up in bucketful of life lessons learned and souls deeply transformed. This prayer of thanksgiving, written by UCC Pastor and Poet, Maren Tirabassi, does just that—it offers thanksgiving for “those other things”—and it literally broke my heart—wide open. I am so glad for it. Maybe you will be able to use it as well. Maybe you will even be able to sharing it at your Thanksgiving Table this year… for these are universal experiences for which we all can be grateful.
As I sat at my desk to write this reflection I wept for a while at the wonder of this prayer. Do me a favor, find a quiet space and go back and read it again—only this time I want you to pray it, slowly, deliberately—and out loud. Thank you God for troubles. Thank you God for doubts. Thank you God for confusions, sufferings, fears, pains, sorrows and loneliness. Thank you God for those moments when we become more human. Beloved, for today, may God lead you to Her heart and may you be reminded of everything about which you might Thank God this Holiday.
Blessings, Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade, firstname.lastname@example.org
…and Thank you Maren for your poetry and your wide open heart.