Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2016

This year I am grateful for

My family which continues to grow

Trinity Lutheran Church in Lindstrom, where I serve as Interim Pastor.

My running buddies who also like to drink coffee

For hiking trails and  hiking friends

For the gifts of worship and centering prayer

For the simple joy of being alive in Christ.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

For what are you grateful?

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Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less

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Advent starts immediately after Thanksgiving; so does all the hoopla of Christmas shopping.

Growing up I was blessed to be part of a traditional yet wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. First my family would go to church in the morning, sing hymns, and offer prayers of thanks to God. Then we would come home for the fantastic meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, fresh-baked rolls and all the goods. Then after the meal we would take a break, either play a family board game or watch a football game before we ate the most delicious pumpkin pie. It was a wonderful, joy-filled day.

But it all changed when I entered Junior High. Oh we still had the church service, and the huge delicious family meal. We would still take a break prior to the pie. But instead of playing a board game or watching football, I had work to do.

Paper BoyI had an afternoon paper route for the local paper.

Normally my five mile route was manageable on my bicycle; the paper was only 24 to 32 pages and fairly light and the total load of 100 plus papers was not overwhelming.

But on Thanksgiving day, that all changed. The paper always swelled to over 100 pages due to all the advertisements. Every store in town had ads or inserts for the biggest shopping day of the year: The Friday after Thanksgiving; Black Friday.

But did I care about all those ads? Not a bit, since it only made folding and delivering my 100 plus papers so difficult. I grew to hate all the advertising hoopla that kicked off the Christmas Shopping frenzy. As I made the trek around the neighborhood, I wondered what all that shopping frenzy actually bought?

On average, each American spends over $700 on Christmas presents. That is nearly 200 billion dollars. The next question: What is one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: what about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don’t remember because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed.

AC_Spend_ICONAdvent Conspiracy challenges us to rethink our Christmas shopping frenzy. Spending Less is not a call to stop giving gifts, it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year. So much of our spending goes right onto a credit card which adds a new stress when January’s bill rolls around. By Spending Less, or spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.

Spending Less is an invitation to reconsider what (or who) is at the heart of Christmas. Jesus came into the world to give us life: vibrant, faith-filled life. He did not come to make sure there was large pile of presents under the Christmas tree. He came to set us free, even from the dangers of rampant consumerism.

What would Spending Less look like in your home?

Lord Jesus, help me to keep my focus on you, even as I take out my credit card.

Create in Me a Right Spirit of Gratitude

A favorite prayer of mine is a simple request: Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Based on Psalm 51:10-12, the sentence starts a piece of the Lutheran liturgy which continues to echo in my soul. The short hymn was sung as the offering was presented.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation
and uphold me with your free Spirit.

A key way for the Lord to renew a right spirit within me is through gratitude. I confess that I can slip into periods of fear and distrust, when I am closed to God’s Spirit. The right Spirit of God is one of thanksgiving for many, many, many blessings that shower around me. A practice for me at Thanksgiving is to start a list of gratitude.

The_Risen_Lord by artist He QiThe gift of Jesus and his eternal love and grace for me.

The gift of life in which I live, and breathe and have my being.

The gift of creation where beauty and wonder surrounds me each day.

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The gift of family who love, encourage and support me in my calling.

The gift of God’s family where we can experience God’s love and joy.

The gift of God’s Word that promises vibrant life in Christ.

The gifts of baptism and communion where God’s Word penetrates and enriches our world.

group Bible AdventureThe gift of Resurrection Lutheran Church where I am called to do what I love.

The gift of families who energetically enter into the life of Christ.

The gift of worship where I can sing God’s praise and enjoy being a child of God

The gift of many children in worship who love to share Jesus in special ways.

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The gift of friends who run beside me in the race of life, even on the craziest of winter days.

For what are you thankful?

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the Lord of my Life.

Thanksgiving Practice

Tomorrow our nation stops for Thanksgiving. It is good and right to do so but among all the feasting, family, football, and frivolity, how much time will be given to thanks? May I recommend a simple spiritual exercise that you do early in the morning, prior to the feasting, family, football and frivolity.

  • Take a simple sheet of paper and pen.
  • Number it  1-12

1)
2)
3)
. . .
12)

  • Beside each number write the name of someone for whom you are thankful.
  • Pause for a moment to thank God for that person and to ask God to bless him or her.

Carry the sheet through the day and during the short pauses in the feasting, family, football and frivolity, remember the people and thank God again.

Let us actually practice Thanksgiving this year.

I thank my God every time I remember you. (Phil 1:3)

Lord Jesus, thank you for remembering me.

Thankful Lips

Lips will be active this week. Smiles will break out as distant families reunite for Thanksgiving.  A big part of the day is the feast that we enjoy with our lips, tongues, mouth and stomachs. Yet it is also a time for us to speak words of thanks to God and others using our lips as the means for such expressions.

All Smiling Lips at the Harvest Festival

The reason “Lips” are my focus is the scripture text that we had in worship yesterday. In Isaiah six, the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God, gloriously enthroned in the heavens. The prophets heard angelic beings rock the temple with their thunderous song, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” As the prophet experienced this vision, he realized his own sinfulness and cried, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

I am struck that Isaiah focused on his “unclean lips.” He might have said “unclean heart,” if his will and emotions were sinful. Or he might have said “unclean hands,” if his actions were the center of his sin. But he centers on the lips and thus the words he and his people have used to betray and deny God. I think of my own “unclean lips” when I profess my utter trust in God in worship but then walk into the world and deny him by the words I use at home or the office. Like Isaiah, I am guilty of “unclean lips” that do not express God’s love and faithfulness on a consistent, daily basis.

Yet the good news in Isaiah six is that our lips can be cleansed. An angelic seraph used a live coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips, cleansing him of sin and guilt. The coal symbolizes the burning love of God that cleans, forgives and restores us. With God’s forgiveness, our lips can become trumpets to declare God’s faithfulness and love.

Yesterday at worship, I showed a short humourous video from Igniter Media that captured how our lips can be changed this Thanksgiving. A preview of the video is here.  As we gather for thanksgiving, may we truly give thanks to God and listen to each other.

How will you use your lips this week?

Lord Jesus, may my lips declare your praise.

A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving seems like an odd holiday to me. After all shouldn’t we be thankful every day? Why give this virtue a special holiday? We don’t set aside a holiday for patience, joy, peace, kindness or hope. (We might consider Valentine’s Day as the special “love” day, but that is a blog unto itself). Still a thanksgiving story seems appropriate.

In the 1930s, George Strester remembers his father who tried farming in Nebraska in 1873. Thanksgiving was approaching and the family had a tough harvest due to the dry and dusty summer. They wanted to give thanks, but the pantry was nearly bare, so George’s father decided to butcher the cow. It had become nice and fat from eating a variety of vegetables, including some rotten onions, but had gone dry and was not giving any milk.

The children all shed a few tears when Old Broach the cow was killed, for she was a family pet, but the family needed to have something to eat. The cow was butchered the day before Thanksgiving and the next day George’s mother planned a real Thanksgiving feast. — a large roast of meat with potatoes and carrots lay around it. Something the family had not had for years.

However a peculiar odor filled the house as the meal was cooking. Mother said it might have been something on the stove, which now was causing the terrible odor. The table was set and the roast was brought out and how delicious it looked. George’s father first gave a prayer of deep thanks for the many blessing that the family had enjoyed and then he carved the roast, placing a liberal helping of meat, carrots and spuds on each plate. George’s mother took a bite and looked at her husband; he took a taste and looked at the kids.

George took a mouthful and his stomach heaved, – horror of horrors, the taste of rotten onions had permeated every piece of beef. Their cow had not simply fattened up on vegetables, but on rotten onions. Their entire dinner was spoiled and all they had to eat were johnnycakes with nothing to put on them.

Still George observed that though his father was greatly tempted, he did not say any cuss words, but decided on that day, to quit farming and reaffirm his vocation as a Methodist minister.

The Strester family took a moment that could be called a family disaster and turned it into a memory of laughter and joy. It was also turning point in their lives. Their father rediscovered his calling and the family was able to adapt to the changes.

God takes our crisis points, small or large, and turns them into his moments of joy and thanksgiving.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your gifts of grace, love and joy.  Create within me a thankful everyday.