We Can Still Be Grateful: a thanksgiving Jesus would approve of

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At church this last Sunday, Peter, our guest speaker, asked us to take a moment of silence and think of the things we are grateful for. It had been a while for me, a while since I’d made a list like this. But I wrote for a few short minutes:

I’m thankful for…

Goosebumps.

Worship.

My boys.

Community.

My husband.

This church space.

The Spirit of God.

Usually around this time of year, people on Facebook start their thankfulness campaigns, each day naming something they are grateful to have in their life. But this year, I haven’t seen anything like that, because we are surrounded, bombarded, distracted.

Now, I have my own thoughts about Thanksgiving, about colonists or pilgrims, about the Native Americans they encountered and the ways they treated them throughout those encounters.

But for this moment, I am focusing on the other things I know to be true–  the people, the spaces, the realities that I can be absolutely grateful for, whatever surrounds me.

For some of us, the holidays are going to be excruciating, no matter what side you’re on. So let’s re-shape things, let’s re-imagine those scenarios. Have your difficult conversations, stake your claims and understand each other, but then move on. Refocus.

We have so much to be thankful for, after all.

I wrote this on my Facebook wall last week:

Today I drank coffee out of my Hillary mug for the first time since election night. I also sat at my computer and watched leaves fall and birds chirp out my window. I also worked on my Potawatomi language class, offered by my Native American tribe. 

I drank the coffee, I thanked the beauty outside my window for her presence and I dug into the rich heritage of my ancestors.

This is how I fight back. This will be my daily bread.

Remember your gifts, your passions. Drink out of your favorite coffee mug and give yourself space to breathe, always learning. Then give yourself away to be the good.

And we will make it.

The feedback I got from these few words was overwhelming, words from other men and women who are seeking space. We’re all seeking these moments right now, no matter who we voted for, what our story is, whether we attend a church or a mosque or a temple or nothing at all. Whether we’re Native American or descendants of a colonist and French trader, we can still celebrate the depth of our gratefulness this week.

We ache for the quiet, we ache for the things that remind us of who we are, for the things that challenge us to become who we need to be. So with every breath of thanksgiving, we release something into ourselves, into our families, into the people we love AND those we don’t. We release something into the world around us, because gratefulness produces good and sacred fruit, and it is fruit of healing.

And if the church does its job, we are pointed back to the centrality of shalom, of Jesus, who gives us space to find ourselves, to bask in moments of complete thanksgiving.

So find those moments this week, dear friends.

Have the hard conversations, engage the world around you, and then sit back, gather at the fire, read the right book, drink the strong coffee, sip the glass of wine and remember where all the good that surrounds you comes from.

And moment by moment, our strength will be built up in that remembrance, and we will lean into the world outside with brave hearts.

I lay in bed watching live feed after live feed of a protest in North Dakota, watched police spraying indigenous water protectors with cold water in freezing weather. I asked what it means to be grateful in that moment, and realized that I will wither away if I cannot look around and find something good to hold on to.

When we stockpile ourselves with gratefulness, we are ready to pray. We are ready to engage and act and believe, because we are full.

We can pray for Syria.

We can pray for indigenous peoples in North America.

We can pray for our country’s leaders.

We can pray for our enemies and our friends.

We can pray for ourselves.

And we can invite the outsider to our table. We can acknowledge the wrongful genocide of indigenous peoples at the table, and lament, even in our gratefulness.

With gratitude we continue the pattern, to accept the work of being grateful and letting it transform us, especially this Thanksgiving week. That is what the holidays are about, a space that will keep us tethered to what is good and will keep us strong for those tough days that inevitably come to visit.

 

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