Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

A Surprising Find on Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago I made the disappointing discovery that I had lost my Deaconess pin (again). And I shared that story here on the blog.

I wrote about how I was getting down on myself about losing something so important, but then it occurred to me that I lost it because I was wearing it a lot. And I was wearing it a lot as I cared for my mother-in-law, Elaine, in the time leading up to her death. And I was wearing it a lot as I worked in Elaine’s kitchen, cooking for the family in the days surrounding Elaine’s death.

So I came to terms with having lost it because those were good, important times to be involved in serving and such.

And I really had let go of the need to berate myself for losing my pin.

But the fact still remained that I did not have my Deaconess pin. And that was still an issue for me, because it still is an important signifier of my ministry.

And then I started this new job as the interim minister of a church near where I live. And I really felt odd not having my Deaconess pin on at this new gig. This is the first ongoing job I’ve had in a very long time, and I preach there every Sunday and they call me Deaconess there and everything. So, to not have my pin on was just not right.

I had almost made up my mind that I was going to call up the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA) and order a new pin–if you’re counting, that would have been my fourth pin. But I still held out hope that I might find my pin somewhere. I kept checking and rechecking any place I might have left it.

Even Wednesday night as I was packing my tote bags to come for Thanksgiving at my father-in-law’s house in Houston, I rechecked the side pockets of the bags. But the pin still wasn’t in those same crazy pockets I had checked a bazillion times before.

And when I got to the guest room where we sleep at my father-in-law’s house, I looked once more on and around the desk and bed just in case I had missed the pin there before. But it still was not there.

It wasn’t anywhere obvious. I didn’t give it a whole really lot of thought. And it was late, and I was tired, so I put it out of my mind and went to bed.

By Thanksgiving morning, I had entirely forgotten about the pin. There was work to be done because I was the chief cook for Thanksgiving dinner for 24 people. And that alone is enough to think about. But this was at my in-law’s place…in Elaine’s kitchen…without Elaine.

And I tried not to think too much about this being the first Thanksgiving without Elaine. Because there was work to be done.

So I was just focusing on what needed to be done. Turkey was roasting and other prep was underway. I was in the zone.

I had chopped up all the celery and onions for the dressing, and I needed to get a pan to sauté them in. I knew exactly which one I wanted–the giant, enameled, cast-iron skillet. Of all of the utensils in Elaine’s kitchen, this one is by far my favorite.

It’s a heavy pan, and it’s a bit hard to get to as it is nested under a stack of other heavy pans, each layer carefully separated by protective layers of paper toweling. I could explain to you the intricacies of how everything is stored in Elaine’s kitchen, but the main thing you need to know is that it is really a pain to get this pan out of there. But it is my precious as pans go, so I am always willing to do the acrobatics needed to get it out.

And as I made the final contortions to pull the prized pan out of its place and prepared to remove the paper towels from inside it…there, on top of the paper towels, inside my favorite pan was my Deaconess pin.

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There’s my Deaconess pin–right where I left it apparently–inside my favorite pan in Elaine’s kitchen!

 

It made total sense that it was there. Because that is my favorite pan. And I was the last one to have used it. And I was the one who put it away–partly because I was the one who got it out, but mostly because it’s even harder to put away than it is to get out. It must’ve fallen off while I was putting the pan away, landing so softly on those paper towels that I didn’t even realize it had fallen there.

Finding it then–on the first Thanksgiving without Elaine, and there–inside my favorite pan in Elaine’s kitchen, finding it like that was the perfect encouragement. And I wept. And then I put my pin on and cooked.

It’s not like the pin gives me super powers, but symbols do have meaning. And that pin helps me remember who I am, whose I am, and what I’m about. I know those things even without the pin, but sometimes when life and ministry and kitchens get overwhelming, I forget to remember.

But there is so much work to be done in life and ministry and kitchens that I want to be sure to remember my identity as a servant, my belonging to a gracious God, and my purpose to share love and hope and joy in all I do and say.

Now, I don’t have to call the LDA and order a fourth pin after all! And I can wear it the very next time I preach! And each time I look at it, I will always think of Elaine. And I will have this story to tell about the surprise of finding my Deaconess pin inside that favored pan on Thanksgiving 2014.

Thanksgiving Message

As we take time as a nation to give thanks, it helps to remember the source of all that we are and all that we have. This Thanksgiving Eve sermon explores this idea based on Deuteronomy 8:7-18, and Luke 17:11-19.

Recorded on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Greenvine, TX.

 

Click the link to listen to the message or scroll down for the full manuscript:

http://www.spreaker.com/user/5989422/dirt-wilderness-and-the-unclean

 

Dirt, Wilderness, and the Unclean

A group of scientists were excited they finally had the ultimate breakthrough. They decided to tell God they didn’t need him any more.

“Oh really?” God asked them. “Are you sure you don’t need me for anything anymore?”

“We’re certain, God. We can do anything you can do. We can even make human life.”

“Okay,” God agreed. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll show you once how I do it and I’ll even let you take notes before you give it a try.”

And so God reached down and got a handful of dirt and right before their eyes he created a person.

“So you really think you can do that?”

“Just watch us, God!”

And so one of the scientists squatted down to pick up some dirt. As he handed it to another one of the scientists, God looked over his shoulder.

And God snatched the dirt from them and said, “Get your own dirt!”

 

It is often easy to take for granted what we have and what we can do when things are going well for us. We often continue to strive for yet more. And we frequently buy into the belief that we did it ourselves. Like those scientists, we may even fall into the trap of believing that we don’t even need God anymore.

But God is the one who provides. Even the dirt that we turn for crops or dig out to build our houses—even that is the Lord’s doing.

In our passage from Deuteronomy, the Israelites are being given land where they can live and thrive. But they are warned not to forget that it was God who brought them out of slavery, it was God who provided for them in the wilderness, and God himself gave them the ability to make a new life for themselves. They are reminded that when they have their new life in the land of plenty, “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’”

God is faithful to love and care for us, to provide for us. When we’re at the top of our pay scales, it is still God who gave us the ability to work in those jobs. In the times of “plenty,” it can indeed humble us to remember the times that weren’t so great. For even in the difficult times, the wilderness times of our lives, we know that God has brought us through.

In the passage with Jesus healing the 10 lepers, one of them returns to thank Jesus. Now, we can’t know whether the 9 others are failing at gratitude. Could it be that this one—a foreigner even—recognizes something deeper about Jesus? Jesus tells him, “your faith has made you well.” Could it be that his faith in Jesus goes deeper than just being thankful for being made clean?

Not only did Jesus heal him, but Jesus was willing to come near him even though he was unclean! And Jesus was willing to heal him even though he was a foreigner—a despised Samaritan! This Jesus who came alongside him despite his current situation, was in fact, God in-the-flesh.

From one person to the next, none of our circumstances are exactly alike. Some of us may be experiencing times of plenty while others are in times of need. Some may be confident of their direction in life while others of us are wandering in some kind of wilderness. Some of us may feel well and whole while others are struggling with unspeakable ailments that keep us down.

Whether it’s the time of our lives or the worst time imaginable, God is with us. God is active and present with us every day—no matter our circumstances. God made the dirt, he is present with us in our wilderness times, and he comes alongside us at our weakest and most vulnerable points. And when we become touched by the depth of his love, when we feel his presence with us despite our circumstances, it is then that gratitude is possible.

And so, in this time when our nation makes a point to give thanks, it is my fervent prayer for you that you may see all of life as a gift from God. And may you recognize him as your source, your strength, and an abiding presence with you no matter what.

Happy vs. Blessed Thanksgiving

The last way to be happy is to make it your objective in life.

—”Nick Smith” in Metropolitan

I try not to say, “Happy Thanksgiving” when I remember. Instead, I prefer to say, “Blessed Thanksgiving.”

Why?

Because happiness is just way too elusive.

How are happiness and blessedness different?

Happiness is a feeling and feelings change frequently. Also, happiness is often closely tied to our circumstances–when they’re good we feel happy; when they’re bad we don’t.

Sometimes–even on holidays–or especially on holidays–it is really hard to feel happy. In fact, sometimes holidays can accentuate circumstances that are pretty crummy.

But blessedness just is, no matter how we feel and regardless of our present circumstances. We are all blessed in some way.

We are blessed with life and most especially we are blessed with a God who loves us. One of my dear theology professors used to say, “God loves you for Christ’s sake and will never let you go.”

When the message of Thanksgiving is that we should be happy, I go a little Scrooge. Partly because we can’t just flip a switch and be happy.

But also I think gratitude is deeper than that. Gratitude is tied to blessings–to those realities of life that are despite feelings or circumstances.

When we can see that which is true in our lives because of the God that loves us no matter what, we may not necessarily get giddy-happy, but we can begin to access a deeper sense of gratitude for God-with-us.

So when I say, “Blessed Thanksgiving” it is a prayer of sorts–that folks may know God’s love and grace in their lives amidst fluctuating feelings or shifting circumstances.

I am blessed by each and every one of you and the way you each stand as reminders of God’s love for me. I pray you will know the deep and abiding love of God in your life.

Blessed Thanksgiving!

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