Personal Journey

To You. From the Turkey

This Thanksgiving, stop. Halt the cooking, put your flour-dusted, pumpkin-splattered ear up to the knobby pink mountain of white meat and listen.

As you scoop your third helping of baked marshmallows with a dab of sweet potatoes, and your nether regions fuse to the chair, take note.

When your uncle walks in wearing a Make America Great Again hat and you’re tempted to rip it off his head and challenge him to a proper duel, pause.

When they’re late. Again. And the glory has congealed on the stove, and you’ve taken so many “test” bites you could be the one in the oven, and you wonder how come, if you can cook an entire dinner and be on time, why can’t they shower and show up on time? When you’re tempted to walk out on the whole thing, mark the headless guest of honor.

In the quiet moments of Thanksgiving Day 2017, hear what the turkey has to say:

No matter how pretty and right you think you are, time and circumstance will eventually catch up with you, and you will be shoved someplace where it’s very, very hot. – Brian Lageose

This is strait talk from the de-feathered guest of our tabletops. Want to read it elsewhere? Try Luke 16:19-31.

Admittedly, I lifted Brian’s quote quite out of context and used it for my own agenda. But Picasso has my back with his famous quote: Good artists copy; great artists steal. And honestly, Brian’s turkey has a Cassandra aura that begs to be repurposed. No matter how pretty, how polished, how published (for my writer-friends), how smart or powerful, how fat we or our wallets are—time and circumstance…

The good news is, we don’t have to be shoved someplace very, very hot, even upon being overtaken by time and circumstance. Thank you, Jesus and free will.  Every Thanksgiving I’m drawn again into the familiar glow of gratitude that God sent His only Son. And now, let’s end on a moment of laughter (or, depending on your tastes, disgust) I offer the following absurdity:

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Personal Journey

Thankfulness: Just Do It

Thankful: conscious of a benefit received.

I don’t love their shoes, but I’d nominate Nike slogan creator Dan Wieden for the Nobel Peace Prize. Just do it–applied en masse could cure obesity, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and empty toilet paper rolls. The downside would be impulse marriages, divorces, suicides, and job walk-offs– impulse suicides notwithstanding, the other issues could be summarily fixed by reapplying the same slogan.

When it comes to cultivating thankfulness, the power of stepping to the plate cannot be overstated. Can a person just-do-it: become thankful?

99% of the time, I think we can. Job (unluckiest man in all of history) and folks like him in the midst of tragedy, inmates on death row, and Hillary Clinton are the 1% exempted from manning up to thankfulness. The rest of us have no legitimate excuse.

I say that because I believe thankfulness is a decision, not a state of existence. But it’s a decision I get to make over and over again in response to each new stimulus that comes my way. Some stimuli are easier on the consciousness than others, but a true cynic can twist any circumstance into cause for thanklessness.

Extreme example: Bob’s work gives turkeys to their employees. One could be thankful for the turkey or one could see the turkey as a frozen boulder of responsibility, the death of a sleep-in, endless leftovers, hours of viscid carcass-picking. One could focus on the PTSD she’ll surely acquire from the pressure of cooking said turkey perfectly and on time. Or how spiritually dark it is to reach into the “cavity” and pull out a bag of slick organs and then stuff it again with wet, stinky bread. What about the dishes? What about the blackened carbon fused to the roasting pan?

A person dead-set against gratitude could complain that if the company really cared, they’d give admittance tickets to someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner. Then said ingrate could complain the menu options were too sparse or the company too dull, etc.

One can almost always choose to see circumstances as benefits received or blows received. The choice is ours, and we get to make it over and over.

When I feel myself seeing only blows, I take the following steps:

  1. Pray. I ask God to forgive my feelings of entitlement, which stink like rotting gizzards.
  2. Read Psalm 23 and ask God to fill me with thankfulness.
  3. As a final insurance against ingratitude, I request an appointment with the Ghost of Christmas Future, that I might see the end of the matter and appreciate I am not there, yet. Translation: I imagine my grave and pray God helps me seize the day.

Ever reflect on how thankful a live turkey ought to be? Consider the reasonable complaints of a November turkey: The crowded farm conditions and toxic air, the ever-present poo between his webbed feet, the corn, corn, corn on the menu every day, and the disgusting realization: he inadvertently became a cannibal when the farmer mixed in a carcass with the cornmeal. Oh what a horrid life he has, getting fatter and fatter by the day… until the moment he enters the kill room. Too late, he’d embrace all those “rotten” circumstances if only he could have back that beating heart, that air, those feathers, his organs not in a bag.

If being thankful is consciousness of benefits received, then we can all be thankful to be alive, to have the opportunity of tomorrow and all its possibilities.

Life delivers an array of circumstances to which we can react. With every one are you conscious of a benefit received? I don’t think we have to be thankful for the blows or the sucker punches… but how about being thankful the blow wasn’t death, wasn’t a sucker gunshot wound to the aorta. If you peel it down, cup-half-full thinking is the motto of the day. Nothing profound or philosophical, just the Nike slogan do it. And by do it I mean choose to see the benefit, not the blow.

When, at the table of extravagant feasting, the turkey is dry, the hostess is crotchety, the cranberry sauce is canned, republicans are on one side and democrats are on the other, just do it. Be thankful you’re all together. Alive. Free. Thanksgiving 2013 036

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6,7

Personal Journey

The Thanksgetting Holiday

Thanksgiving 2013 034Abe Lincoln gave us our country, whole and emancipated. He gave us debate (along with Douglas). He gave us a war and saw it through to the end, at which time he decided that some purposeful, focused gratitude was in order. Although Lincoln’s religious leanings seem pendulous, his moral compass was true. As his election ushered in the Civil War, I wonder if he felt the weight of all that death? Not having the benefit of hindsight, he would naturally ask himself if holding the country together was really worth all those boys and all those graves. Although some of the political creativity he employed to save the union would fall under the-end-justifies-the-means… here we are. I’m thankful for a strong country that has seen precious little terror, relative to the world. How appropriate that the one who initiated Thanksgiving is the one we can thank for our oneness and all the blessings therefrom.

Thanksgiving, contrary to popular belief, didn’t start with the pilgrims and Indians. Rather, the Thanksgiving holiday was initiated by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, when the war was finally turning in his direction and he could name some tangible, national blessings for which to thank God publicly. His address follows. I long for a person who would lead our country, who would say this because he believed this:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity… Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. – Abraham Lincoln

Like all American holidays, Thanksgiving is mutating into something else: Thanksgetting.

Last year people were still up-in-arms over the Black Friday coup. I remember because I wrote a post, adding my voice to those of the protestors. Now Thanksgetting is the status quo. It should shock us how smoothly our priorities slip. This year we won’t hear a peep about whether or not it’s rude to leave the table for the tent-spot on the sidewalk. It’s expected. Part of the holiday. I get the lure. It’s like hunting. I hunt for thrift-store bargains all the time and consider it cathartic to roam the isles smelling of old dust and chemicals, to pray before slipping my leg into a pair of jeans that may be home to a spider, to pray that I not get chiggers or lice or any of the other things one can also get in expensive department stores, but they smell like cinnamon or flowers, so I forget to pray there.

Which leads me to the point. It smells nice in America, so we forget to pray. America is like the Starbucks of the world: a bubble of soft jazz music, nobody-judges-you-ever, and the aromatherapy of roasting coffee and sugar. We are lulled by our luxuries into believing that everything will always be alright, that an arsenal of flowers will win the day, and we can think theoretically without ever having to take our ideologies to the test kitchen.

I invite you to read and re-read Lincoln’s proclamation. It’s not a light read, I know. But it’s a step toward a heart that understands the magnitude of God’s providence and the miniscule amount of gratitude we collectively show Him. As a nation, I’d love to see our culture return to thoughts like these. It begins in my heart when I actively pursue gratitude. It begins in yours when you decide to focus on what you have as opposed to what you covet.

Thanksgetting doesn’t have to be our holiday this year.

 

 

 

Personal Journey

How To Be An Idiot This Thanksgiving

Pass me the sweet potatoes… and the Black Friday Ad.

The talk this Thanksgiving is whether or not to shop the Black Friday specials, which have slithered into Thursday, and onto our Thanksgiving table. Passions run high on both sides of the turkey. Some folks can’t pass up a deal and will gladly sacrifice dinner no matter how much it ticks off the hostess. With a voracious lick of their lips, they’ll set down their greasy forks, pat their fat, full bellies, and rush out to grab a spot in line at Best Buy or Walmart. Others have taken offense at the intrusion– nay, the kiss-off, the Thanksgiving Table has endured, and they steadfastly refuse to leave the table or open an ad until midnight, Friday: the moment shopping is supposed to begin. They’ll be singing “Kumbaya” around the free range turkey and praying for America to shed its materialistic skin.

To shop or not to shop. That is the question. If you shop, you’re a selfish, materialistic pig. If you don’t shop, you’re either a tree-hugging idiot abstaining for religious reasons, or you’re just a plain old idiot who doesn’t even know the glorious deals out there for the taking.

Like so many of our holidays, Thanksgiving today wouldn’t recognize itself even a generation ago. It’s inevitable that holidays go through metamorphoses over time and because of changes in our cultural values. But we’re not becoming butterflies. The changes in our holidays aren’t pretty. How did we forget to be thankful for the little things? Food. Life. Freedom. God. A sunrise. A table with plates. A job to hate. Kids to manage. Butterflies.

Rather than questioning whether or not to shop this Thanksgiving, perhaps we should question how to be thankful. Perhaps we should question everything: look at Thanksgiving with fresh eyes and a new perspective. See all that we enjoy and take for granted because we’ve never lacked. I’m willing to be the idiot who misses a Black Friday deal; I’m not religious about Thanksgiving, but I love God and try to love what He loves. I close the ads because I don’t want to open myself to coveting or discontentment on the one day in 365 that’s designated for thankfulness. I lack nothing. Neither do you.

Happy Thanksgiving, 2014