Thursday, November 20, 2014

One From the Hearth: Feasting with Gratitude


Sometimes getting a feast together descends into a rather unwelcome comedy of errors. Think back to those Thanksgiving Days (God willing, for you they are few and far between), when things did not exactly go as planned. You could be the most tactical of planners. You may have started working on that year's feast the moment the last turkey sandwich was made from last year's gathering. You might have been able, just this once, to get everyone (and I do mean everyone) on the same page with regard to what they were bringing so that the menu hangs together like something a fine French Chef would be proud to announce as the menu for the evening. And yet...and there is always the "and yet:" So many things can happen that may throw a wrench into the most carefully laid plans. 

I can remember one year that someone in our family forgot to turn on the oven. The turkey sat for hours, "uncooking," until someone noticed and finally cranked up the heat. We ate sides on time that year...and then turkey when it was done. Then there was the time that the potatoes burned in the pan...not enough water...and so the table went without mashed potatoes that year...oh, the loss. Then (and this was perhaps one of my darkest memories of loss on the holiday) no one signed up to bring pumpkin pie. Of course there were pies: apple, pecan, lemon meringue....even mince meat...but not pumpkin. That moment took me years to overcome.

Look as well to the travel plans, for those who are making the pilgrimage to home, to family or to friends one just doesn't see enough. With the day before Thanksgiving being THE WORST travel day of the year-without regard to the mode of transport-the possibility for calamity is always there. Once, I was scheduled to fly from Philadelphia to Detroit for a family Thanksgiving, and bought a plane ticket to save time and energy. With travel delays due to airline overbooking, weather and only the Lord knows what else, what should have been a simple, four hour trip wound up taking the same amount of time (nearly eleven hours) that I would have put into driving across PA, OH and the southern corner of MI. It was beyond a blessing to finally get to family in Detroit that year...and I remember that holiday as being one of the best we have had together as an extended family. And yet, there were moments of despair. Would I ever get to where I wanted to be? Each of us can point to a moment of time when the intended, gently gathered and well planned feast wound up going south.....

....and those are the moments for which I wind up feeling the most gratitude. Really, in the end, what matters most is being together-even if sometimes it is just in spirit. What follows is that anything can be a feast if our hearts and intentions are in the right place. A grilled cheese sandwich in a diner on an interstate far from home can be akin to sitting at the Lord's Table...if only we are willing to see the abundance on the plate in front of us and around us. In that moment, one is out of the traffic...one has warm food in front of them...one is likely among people who are in a similar place...and there is in that moment an opportunity to see and know that what we have here and now is more than enough to make a Feast of Giving Thanks.

Too often, we forget the real point of giving thanks...and too often we relegate that realization of gratitude to a moment seized from a tumultuous caloric bacchanal on the day for which it is officially sanctioned in our culture. We are given so much in this life, including life itself, that our awareness of the abundance in which we live, move and have our being is lost in the hum of white noise brought on by fear, exhaustion and anxiety that we might not have enough, that we might miss our connection, that we might mess up the timing....or that we might do the wrong thing at the precise, wrong time.

Get over that. Let it go. Give thanks.

It is a good habit to get into...and when we are in that zone of faithful practice, then something remarkable happens. We give thanks for cold ovens. We give thanks for ruined side dishes. We take a pause in grouching about messed up travel plans and know that we aren't alone in waiting on a resolution. We just might even be able to get over not having pumpkin pie, at least that once.

Give thanks. Feast with gratitude...and not just on Thanksgiving. Have the prayerful resolve to hold on to that sense of abundance and let it suffuse your life in such a way as to make even the most base, mean, anxious moments ones in which you can look around and say, "Thank you, God, for this life. For all of it..."good" and "bad" because by it I have had a chance to know, to love, to forgive and to be forgiven, to hope, to dream, to rage, to find peace.

For all of it....thank you.

Amen.

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