November 20, 2013 - We are in the midst of this season of frenetic activity and nonstop celebrating (or at least preparation for celebrating) someone has all too accurately dubbed "Hallowthankmas."
While I am not sure of the origin of the term, I am certain that I know the experience of this busy, too often stressful, and yet hopefully joyful and fun time of year. It all begins in October (or is it even earlier now?) when Christmas decor shows up right next to Halloween costumes and ends early in the New Year.
Of course one of the hazards of this headlong holiday blur is that we may mostly end up exhausted and fail to appreciate or enjoy any it. I guess that's why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year.
It really helps me press the pause button and take the time to "count my blessings." On Thanksgiving I try to focus on appreciating the simple blessings of life that mean so much but that I all too often take for granted: precious time with family, the food on our table, the friends we have, our church, and the many other blessings we have received from God.
Of course taking time to really reflect on our lives and God's goodness is a good habit to develop for everyday. For me it's a matter of being intentional to pause long enough to remember that today, just like any other day, has 86,400 seconds in it – and to decide to use at least a few of those to say "thank you!"
I once read a little story about a grandfather who was asked by his young granddaughter if he liked the turkey this year – a question often asked nervously at holiday tables.
The grandfather responded he liked the turkey very much and in fact he tries "to have a little turkey every day." Confused the little girl asked what he meant. He explained that he has a tradition in his life where each day he says thanks to God.
So even though Thanksgiving Day will come and go, there is no reason we too can't "have a little turkey" every day. And of course if you don't really like turkey you can substitute ham or fish or green beans or corn or tofu – what matters is the reminder that all is gift and that there is a giver to thank.
One of the most important ways I try to say thanks to God every day is in my giving to God's work and to others. Such "thanks – giving" may be something material or it may just be sharing a smile or a word of encouragement or an extra dose of patience and love to someone else.
My prayer is that our generosity will flow as we give thanks through our giving to those around us, both just down the street and on the other side of the globe.
Psalm 100 puts it this way:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
You might consider putting these words on your refrigerator or taping them to the bathroom mirror or typing them into your smart phone, so that they can help you begin each morning with a "little turkey." Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
The Rev. Jonathan Heierman is pastor of Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church