This morning I saw one of those FaceBook jokes in which the Fairy Godmother was saying to Cinderella, "Then the clock will strike midnight and Halloween will be over and then BAM Christmas carols everywhere!"
I chuckled, closed FB, and headed out the door on a run. Both the sunny blue November sky and last night's residual chocolate on my waistline compelled me out the door. As I ran (slowly jogged) in the chilly breeze with geese flying overhead and leaves rustling all around and the browning grasses waving, I was struck by the beauty of November. Thankfulness overflowed, and I breathed in deeply.
Then I remembered the FB joke, and I was struck by its poignant truth...that we as a culture go straight from the silly fun of Halloween to the hustle and bustle of Christmas (with both seasons drowning in commercialism), and we pretty much ignore the season of giving thanks that falls in between.
Oh, we eat our turkey and pie, no doubt (we're great at indulging our own appetites, aren't we?)
But isn't it interesting that we go straight from a silly holiday of indulging in candy and costumes (having spent weeks planning costumes and pumpkin patch trips and jack-o-lantern carving) directly into a season of spending too much and racking up debt as a means of showing love to one another (something that has become a far cry from our humble Savior in a manger), and in between neglect to take time to just breathe and give thanks to God for the blessings that abound?
This morning I realized (God whispered) that really Thanksgiving is an invitation from God to just take a breath...to "be still and know that He is God..." (Psalm 46:10) In between the expenses of costumes, candy, pumpkins and pumpkin patches for Halloween and the expenses of gifts, decorations, and travels at Christmas, we have this sweet gift of Thanksgiving...in which we simply sit back and thank the Giver of all things for the bounty of the harvest, for the freedom to worship, for our family and friends, for health, provision, protection, and breath itself.
Unfortunately in our commercialism-obsessed culture, even this time of giving thanks has been totally hi-jacked by Black Friday, which now has crept its way to beginning immediately after we swallow our pie. Our feasts aren't even digested yet and we're making schedules and lists of where to go when to buy what. Our tables of thanks have been flooded by newspaper advertisements that we have to clear away to even make room at the table for our turkey, corn, and loved ones.
How can our hearts honestly give thanks when we're simultaneously making lists of things we "must" get?
This day of giving thanks is therefore interrupted by the anxiety of wondering if we're going to get the best deal or not. In contrast, giving thanks costs nothing, brings peace rather than anxiety, and fills our hearts with gratitude to overflowing. What a gift to be still before God, breathe in deeply, and simply say "thank you."
So, as I turned my calendar today, God whispered to me to take time to give thanks....to use the weeks prior to Thanksgiving to prepare our hearts for thankfulness, much like we use Advent to prepare our hearts for the coming of Immanuel.
Our plan is simple...each suppertime as we say our highs and lows of the day, we'll also say one thing we were thankful for during the day. Sure, it'll add two or three minutes to our already chaotic supper table, but it'll be worth it. We'll write them down, and then on Thanksgiving morning, (maybe over donuts) we'll read through our lists of 27 days' worth of thankfulness.
Before indulging in the turkey, gravy, or pumpkin cheesecake, we'll just take a deep breath and reflect on the goodness of God's gifts.
So, what about you? How do you prepare your family's hearts for thankfulness in the midst of this season? After paying off the credit card from school supplies and new shoes for everyone, and then the credit card on which you purchased snow boots and Halloween costumes, and before you begin the Christmas shopping...how do you pause and give thanks?
When the checkbook is stressful and the calendar is crazy, what helps you to take a deep breath? In the midst of this "gimme-gimme" commercialized culture, what enables you to see God's gifts abounding? And how have you been successful at training your children in thankfulness?
So today, friends, as we turn the page of our calendars, how about we pause, take a deep breath, and remember the God who gives us each breath.