Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. A day to celebrate eating too much and preparations to spend way too much money the following day…. wait, that can’t be it.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably have at least some familiarity with the “Thanksgiving story…” how the Pilgrims came to a foreign land, not really knowing what they would find then they got there. They left all the comforts of home in pursuit of an elusive dream that we all long for… freedom. Theirs was a freedom to worship as they saw fit. Maybe the freedom you seek take another form, but there it is. And then, late in the year they gathered with family and friends of old as well as new friends met in a “New World” to thank God for the blessings they had received and for the freedom they had found to live and love and worship as they desired.
And so we continue the tradition on the fourth Thursday of every November. Thanksgiving is a day we stop the busyness of life and the hectic schedules to remember how blessed we truly are and how much we have to be thankful for. And there is much to be thankful for.
The mere fact that I live in America, by default, shows how blessed I am. I have heard it said that if you live in the United States, have a roof over your head, and have a car, you are within the top 3% of the wealthiest people on planet Earth. Well, that’s me. A few years ago I took this fact for granted. Today I am more educated. I realize how blessed I really am. And I think differently about these things now as well. Even today, at Thanksgiving dinner, my father prayed over the meal before we began and he thanked God for the blessings we have and asked to bless us more in the upcoming year. It seems it is a cadence and ritual thing to say on Thanksgiving. But I think now that I am already so blessed, I don’t need any more. I really don’t. No, instead I think the time has come to take that blessing given to me and give it away to those who need it more.
And so I count my blessings
– I am thankful that all of my family is in relatively good health. There has been no major catastrophe within our midst, really ever. That is rare, and I am incredibly fortunate for it.
– I have some of the most amaing friends. I realized, especially in recent weeks, how good my friends, especially a select group of them, really are, and I come to the conclusion that I don’t really deserve them but they are mine anyway. It’s hard to believe that I get to belong to a community so close that cares about each other, or that I get to spend so much of my time sharing life with them.
– Along the same lines I am grateful for the community I am a part of in regards to my church. Even more so I am thankful that I get to be a part of group chosen to lead them. When I step back and think about it I can’t understand how it all happened or how I got where I am. I don’t understand how I deserve the honor of serving the community as a whole in the position I have been given. I don’t understand why I get to do the things I do, but I do. I am excited about what the future holds.
– I’m a tech geek, and so this may sound incredible stupid and geeky, but I am thankful for the Internet. Yes, the Internet. And for this reason: I have been connected to so many people across the globe that there is no way I would have met otherwise. There are a few new friendships I have made this past year solely via the Web. Some are only a few states away. Some are on the other side of the country. Others are literally on the other side of the world. It blows my mind how small Earth has gotten and how easy and quickly two people one, three, or a dozen time zones apart can be connected and talk and share life just as if they were in the same room.
– Finally, I am grateful that I get to live where I do and that I am blessed the way I am. I am grateful that I am able to help others, whether through the little girl I sponsor in Central America, through world relief funds, or through programs we are starting up in 2008 to bring hope and life to dying communities (more to come on that in 2008). 🙂 I am convinced now that the American consumerist mindset of “more more more” is a fallacy and actually sucks the life out of you instead of adding to it. I find that I feel most alive when I am doing things for people, and the more “sacrifice” it is to me, the more alive I feel. Jesus’ teachings about giving and sacrifice and finding life when you give your own away resounds in my mind and heart, and I think I finally understand what it means to live.
Looking back, I see a similarity, that all the things I am thankful for are related to relationships to people. “Community” is a topic that has been close to me the past several months. I understand what Acts 2 was talking about:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)
Community. It’s what our souls long for. To be wanted and loved. To belong. To fit in. Can you think of anything more terrifying than being alone. Alone by yourself, or even worse, alone while surrounded by others? Community is what dives is and motivates us. When we belong we are free to live and to love and to share and to experience life to the fullest. And so, this year, I am thankful for the community of people I am surrounded with and for the things we are able to do to bring peace and hope to this world when we work together.
What are you thankful for?