Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fill in the Blank!

Let’s try a fill in the blank quiz.

Now thank we all our _ _ _.
Thank _ _ _ _ _ _for little girls.
He had only _ _ _ _ _ _ _ to thank.
We can thank our lucky _ _ _ _ _. Answers: Lord, God, heaven, himself, stars.

It's Thanksgiving week in our great nation. Whom do we thank for what? Wait a minute. Do we thank, at all? When did you last hear anyone express thanks? Maybe from a salesperson; or a phone call requesting a favor; a gift received; or for advice given? I find genuine thanks to be so rare it can actually cause an awkward silence. In fact that happened this week when I complimented a salesgirl on her efficiency and pleasantness. She didn’t know what to say.

My dad taught us gratitude with statements like, “God is having fun with THAT sunset, isn’t He? Or Look at these rose bud petals. They won’t open until tomorrow. I wonder why. What do you think?”

Thankfulness is a learned behavior. When I did prison research on the self-concept of the delinquent male, I noticed as a young graduate student, no matter what I did to teach, encourage, nurture or entertain the inmates, the word "thanks" was absent from their otherwise colorful vocabularies. They had No word for gratitude. There was no such attitude. Even on my last day with them, when I brought cake and punch and gave a party for their help with my research and took pictures and said I would miss them and meant I drove off, the empty cry of my heart was not for their physical poverty as much as for their spiritual wasteland. No one had taught them to say or feel thanks.

At best, they misinterpreted my loving kindness as "coming on." At worst, they didn't notice me at all, except that I was the only female there. These young men were locked out of a beautiful emotion that frees us to receive and pass it on. There are folks outside of prisons, in their own personal lock-ups, who do not know how to give thanks. Some read their horoscopes and breathe a sigh of relief when they come true. Some thank their lucky stars. Many say "Thank God" without a clue. Then there are those blessed sorts who follow the lead of J.S. Bach who wrote on every page of music, "To the Glory of God." Others practice I Th. 5:17, 19 where it says to give thanks in all circumstances bc this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you, and so no matter what, they’re able to praise the Lord anyway! Thankfully some are very "thankful to God for His unspeakable gift" in Jesus Christ.

My Thanksgiving memories are rich. I look back on 28 years of relatives coming to our house, ages 1-95...Nannie, Pickie, Spooky, Ada & Arlie and others. I'd order a fresh turkey from the farm. Jennifer made pilgrim hat place cards. We'd ask God's Grace for our own garden red raspberries to hang in there and one year everyone got two on their plate! The children played violins, oboe and piano with me after the pies. And we'd pass a cup for each person to put in a kernel of corn with thanks to God for something that year.

Time marches on. No more fresh turkeys. He raised 'em for 42 years and finally quit. Says he couldn't get the hang of it! The older relatives are with the Lord. The kids are all grown up and have flown the nest!

"What's your favorite Thanksgiving memory?"

I see a nine year old boy. It's Thanksgiving Day. His parents are readying the house. He's practiced his violin. His room is clean. The sunny day beckons and he's free. Mom fusses over food. Dad arranges furniture. Three sisters are doing their thing. The guests arrive. Mom calls out the back door. No answer, but her eye catches something small leaning against a tree. She crosses the patio to pick it up. In her hands she holds the faith of a child. He has nailed together wood scraps into a 9" cross. At the top is carved a crown. Running down the length are the letters CHRIST. A small paper shaped man is placed on the nails and from his mouth are penciled the words, "Father forgive them."

Company's here, Brooks!" I call out, with moist eyes, as I hold the best thanks of all from a very small boy. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? And to whom?

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