Thanksgiving isn't actually a church holiday. And none of the pastors at churches I've served in the last twenty years want to recognize it. But it seems to me to be the one national American holiday that can safely make the cut. Principally because the object of thanksgiving is to thank God for the harvest. In the other American holidays the object is America. God may bless America, but the object is America, and we are being gracious enough to allow God to bless it along with the rest of us. In fact, God had better bless America and if he doesn't like it God can get lost. That's how some of my fellow citizens seem to feel about the matter if you come right down to it.
But at Thanksgiving the object is to thank God, which seems like a safe theme for a church service. Some churches have special services for the holiday. We don't at Faith UMC, so we have to cram it in, usually either the week before Christ the King Sunday, or, as is the case this year, the same week. But then, our bishop kind of got things rolling by coming to our church on November 3rd, which meant (for various reasons) that we didn't have our usual All Saints Day service until a week later, and for some other reasons we had to have our churchwide Thanksgiving dinner earlier than usual--on the same day as the All Saints Day service. The next day was Veteran's Day and it snowed so much it looked like Christmas. I wondered whether we might want to do Easter while we were at it. Get all of the holidays out of the way at once. (By the way, I'd like to send a shout out to all my Jewish friends playing with their new dreidels at Thanksgiving dinner for the first and only time until 79,811 A.D.!)
There are lots of nice thanksgiving hymns, some of which are personal favorites of the choir director, who is the one trying to get it smuggled into the service to start with. But thanksgiving also models such a pleasant attitude that it seems like it ought to be noticed, and practiced, whenever possible. I say pleasant because when you are being truly grateful for something you generally feel better about life than you do when you are not. Like innumerable other things in life, gratitude is a skill which can be practiced, and the better your skill level the higher your general level of happiness. Mind if I practice on you a bit?
I'm thankful for the usual suspects, of course, my generous family, my interesting friends, my engaging wife. After I draft this blog some of us are going out for pizza to a new place. Exploration is always a fun thing for me, as is pizza. My wife is overcoming her prejudice against pizza to partake with us. Hers will probably have pineapple on it, but what can you do?
Our friends make Tuesday night bible studies fun. Bible studies are infinitely better when there are people who have interesting things to say about things and you don't have to really on really broad and creaky study guide questions. Our conversations are what make the evenings worth the time.
My wife is also a great conversationalist, and a good reading partner. We have probably read at least 2000 pages of great and not-so-great literature during our over 15 years together.
I'm thankful to have a nice warm church to practice in nearly every day, and a stupendous Steinway piano and a smallish but mighty pipe organ (it has everything included, just not in mass quantities). I get plenty of time to practice on it, and I am learning this semester that there actually is time for everything somehow if you don't worry about how you are going to get everything done and just keep working. I am thankful to countless dead persons who have provided so much wonderful organ and piano literature that I can access so easily thanks to the efforts of countless more people who are putting it on the internet.
Speaking of the internet, I have traded emails with people from all over the world and learned things I wouldn't have without the ease of access to so much information. Not to mention being able to share all kinds of music and musical thoughts with you, wherever you are. Some of folks are on the other end of the globe listening to me play the piano right now. I've never been able to figure out why I'm so popular in China, but thanks.
Fast forward to this week: a kind woman in Scottland whom I have never met except through email and blogging sent me an email to ask if my family was ok after the tornadoes that ripped through central Illinois this week. We are. Some are not, but it amazes me how human networks mobilize to take care of persons in distress. Also, as the typhoon in the Philippines has made abundantly clear, there are concerned and compassionate people all over the world.
At choir practice this week a woman whom I had not seen in a while gave me a book she had written. I was at first confused why she was handing me the book until I saw the author. It was a book of poetry. I had visited her in the hospital at least a year ago (which I didn't even remember) and given her a CD of my music to listen to while she was there (I probably smuggled in our mini CD player for the occasion). She wanted to share something of her creation now. I was touched.
Some other members of our congregation are not in such fine shape this holiday. They have moved in some cases far away and we are able to get updates from concerned parishioners and sometimes for the people themselves. It is a close family.
We will be with ours this week, consuming the customary bird and stuffing and watching the football on the television with the niece and the nephew running about the house joyously.
Finally, I would like to thank you for bothering to read this blog. Unless you are a spambot. In which case I'd like to wish you a