before Sutherland Springs,
before the Harvest Music festival,
before an opiod epidemic killed roughly 64,000 people in the US last year...
Our national collective misery meters can’t stop sounding alarms, and it’s five days until Thanksgiving.
In a more personal way, I know plenty of people first hand who are knee deep in their own difficult stories, right now, right here.
My young friend slogging her way through her first year as a single mom,
a friend of a friend figuring out what it means to have been a mom for, oh, say...6 hours, from birth to death,
another family reeling from a suicide they didn’t see coming or even if they did, couldn’t stop it,
children who were fatherless now fending for themselves because they’re motherless,
families being torn apart by (pick one, or maybe pick them all) drug abuse, infidelity, mental health issues...
friends facing overwhelming health battles and financial headaches,
grandparents raising grandchildren because somebody’s got to do it...
on and on, a chain of pain wrapping itself around those we love.
And now, Thanksgiving.
I’ve been realizing that if I’m going to make it to/through this day without numbing the pain or faking it, I’m going to have to dig a little deeper to find my way to gratitude. So I’ve been digging around in the Book that always calls me to look closer and find more of what I need.
In the Bible, thanks/thanksgiving is mentioned for the first time in (of all places) Leviticus, a book that is probably in “flyover country” for most of us most of the time. (It’s the book where the wheels usually fall off the New Year’s bandwagon goal of “reading through the Bible.”) But here too is “good stuff,” which I discovered as I read about bringing a peace offering for thanksgiving. (Leviticus 7:12-15 and 22:30)
Sacrifice of thanksgiving (12, 14, 15, 29)
Loaves mixed with oil, wafers smeared with oil, fine flour well mixed with oil (12)
Eaten on the day it is offered, leave none of it until the next morning (15)
It shall be eaten on the same day, leave none of it until morning. I am the LORD. (22:30)
The word used is “towdah,” meaning an extension of the hand, an offering of thanks or a sacrifice of thanksgiving; worship by the presentation of songs of thanksgiving and praise that extolled the mighty wonders of the Lord; shouts of jubilation and thanksgiving. (from Strong’s concordance.)
it’s Your grace pouring in, sloshing out,
my heart and hands upraised,
tossing thanks to You (ta-da!) like a child with a bag of confetti.
Other days, other seasons, my thanksgiving is a sacrifice.
The storehouse seems undersupplied, and I must search with diligence for thanks to give. I mindfully embrace the truth that You give good gifts, and I look until I find them, find You,
and Spirit mixes well the flour dust of my days with Himself,
smears small wafer windows of time with the shine of Presence,
and I know – it’s You,
this gift is from You.
Today it looks like this:
and it’s all grace.
Great blue heron floats in silently, slender wings bearing an impossibly large body,
and I know I’m carried too.
Flock of geese honks by somewhere in the early mist, maybe they’re lost but they’re still honking (is that their song? that’s the best they can do?!) and I know I’ll sing too, though I’m still not sure where I’m headed and my voice breaks when my throat tightens and tears pour down.
Still, I will bring my sacrifice of thanks...for this very day,
leaving none of it until tomorrow, offering it all up here, now.
(I’ll start again tomorrow, new, like You start with me, new day, new mercies, new gifts.)
For You are the LORD.