As we head into Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the cultural and historical context in which we observe the holidays. So much is wrong with the world, so many people are suffering, enough for Pope Francis to call the celebration of Christmas a “charade.” As for Thanksgiving, I cannot celebrate the narrative of the Pilgrims and Indians at peace together, considering the story’s historical outcome (still awaiting repentance and reconciliation). And while I am grateful for the abundance in my life, I feel pain and a sense of responsibility because I am aware of the widespread suffering of our time.
Still, I am grateful for my life, for creation and all its gifts, and especially for the Giver. This became clear to me years ago:
“Part of my spiritual practice is to spend time in the wild. It is also my joy. Each day is an adventure. I often see deer, sometimes a fox or bobcat. Once I saw a Great Horned Owl and stood looking up at it in awe for over an hour.
“One morning in the spring of 1988 I went jogging down the dirt paths in the woods behind my home toward Deer Creek, as I did almost every morning. I was reflecting on what I had read earlier in the morning in Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, specifically advice from John Wesley about fasting: “‘Let our fasting be done unto the Lord, with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father who is in heaven.’ That is the only way we will be saved from loving the blessings more than the Blesser.” I had fasted and practiced other spiritual disciplines, but I had never thought about fasting in this way. Wesley’s words were a mystery to me.
“On my way back up the path, I stopped in my favorite sacred grove. The dogwood and manzanita were exultant, showing off their blooms. The pines, firs, and cedars seemed to raise their branches in praise, creating a beautiful canopy of varied greens sparkling with the rays of the morning sun. Birds of all kinds sang their own unique songs, joining together in an amazing chorus of joy. The soft mat of pine needles invited me to stop again and pray, to open my eyes, ears, and heart to the splendor and magnificence of God’s creation, of which I felt so gratefully now a part.
“As I rose and started toward home I reached a spot where the sun was breaking through the trees. It seemed at that moment like heaven itself was shining down, illuminating the earth. In the beaming, radiant light I felt a God of infinite love showering me with all the blessings of creation.
“Standing in this light I suddenly remembered Wesley’s words about loving the blessings more than the Blesser and it dawned on me: I had been like a child at Christmas opening present after present, saying “thank you” and then looking around to see what was next. I had been “grateful” and had prayed my thanks. But I had forgotten or had never really known what I only now remember: the Giver, the God of Creation, the Spirit of Love at the heart of the universe, loves each of us deeply, desires the best for us, wants life to flourish and blossom, and through the creation showers us with evidence of self-giving love.”
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude and all the blessings of God.
This blog post includes an excerpt from Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado (Fortress Press). Order from local bookstores or find it online.
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