“Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
-1st Thessalonians 5:18
Can you believe it is almost November—the beginning of the Holiday Season?
I don’t know what your tradition is, but in my family along with turkey and dressing we have the tradition of circling the table listing what we are thankful for. However, other than that, gratitude didn’t play a big role in the holiday. It wasn’t until about 7 or 8 years ago that I heard about practicing a month of Thanksgiving. No, that didn’t mean turkey and dressing everyday—as good as those foods are, I believe most of us would tire of them after awhile. It meant taking time each day to thank God for something, and to write it down/type it in.
Thanksgiving is something essential to the Christian faith, and our scripture contains those words “give thanks” 70 or more times (depending on the translation), and gratitude has positive effects on our health. Amit Sood MD of the Mayo Clinic says: ‘counting your blessings each day has been shown to significantly increase your happiness — and your physical health. In addition to helping you get more sleep, practicing gratitude can boost your immunity and decrease your risk of disease.” So, let’s all be sure to give thanks! That should be easy!
Yet, like many other healthy habits, there are times when giving thanks can be incredibly difficult. I remember one such time for me was at the Memorial Service held at Annual Conference in 2018. It was 3 months to the day after Matt died and we were gathered in the very sanctuary we had planned to marry in. I heard from the mouth of our bishop these familiar words from the Great Thanksgiving (our communion liturgy):
“The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you,
Father Almighty (almighty God), creator of heaven and earth.”
The words “always and everywhere to give thanks to you” hung so heavy in my ears that day. I had spoken them dozens of times at the communion table, and heard them even more. This time it seemed different, because truth be told, I didn’t want to be there that night, and I had considered writing to the bishop and asking to be excused, but something in me had chosen not to. Yet, just a few minutes later God used the “chance assignment” of serving communion to help me discover something to give thanks for. God used the very people I was serving to remind me that while things didn’t turn out the way I hoped, I wasn’t separated from love, God’s love, Matt’s love, or the love of my Christian family, because love never ends (1 Corinthians 10:13). In fact, some depictions of heaven don’t sound that different from a large Thanksgiving dinner!
I am not the only one to experience profound blessings and an encounter with God in a place I didn’t want to go. The very movement and later denomination of Methodism began with John Wesley going somewhere he didn’t want to, and look at how it changed his life and even the world. Perhaps being open to God’s presence even when it is tough will change our worlds too.
The holidays are for some a time and space they don’t want to go. At times they are filled with joy and at times they are filled with grief and sorrow. Let’s be sure to reach out and encourage each other and ourselves with gratitude. So I invite you to join me I n this month of Thanksgiving. Write down each day something you are thankful for and when times are tough take a moment to read them. If you like, you can share them online with us via Facebook using #algiersumc and #monthofthanksgiving as hashtags. You can also share in a list that will be placed in the entryway, or you may choose to hold them privately. Those things that are shared publicly I plan to include in worship on November 21st.
Let’s get this month started a little early with some thanks—thank you to all the incredible people who helped host teams this month (and please forgive me if I miss someone)—Jack and Debby, Peggy, Paul and Mary, Charlotte, Cherry, Mike and Sue. Thank you to all who have helped with our roof situation, especially Emilie and Jack. Thank you to those who help keep our technology going: Jeff and Rooney, Evan, Debby, Jack et. al. Thank you to those who helped with Laity SundayL Charlotte, Rooney, Brian, Elaine, Jeff et al…and to Cresside who watches the children. Thank you to Judy and Patti helping with communications, Sarah with Angel Tree and worship…the list could go on and on. Thank you to these three incredible teams of folk who travelled from the Midwest, Northeast, Texas and beyond to help people in need, the donors that have supported the work, and finally thank God for unfailing love and for bringing us together. What are you thankful for?
Thanks be to God.