Happy Thanksgiving!

A Benediction

written by the fabulous Rev. Maren Tirabassi on her blog, Gifts in Open Hands

For this Thanksgiving season …
May you be blessed in your waking and in your sleeping.
May you be blessed in your travels and in your homing.
May you be blessed when you give and when you receive,
when you sit at tables of welcome
and when you walk together in peace.

Wishing everyone a Thanksgiving filled with blessings and gratitude.

Thanksgiving poster

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 25

Home is where the heart is.

My kids are not necessarily fascinated by my blog. But they have noticed that they have not made my “thanksgiving fest” list. It did make them wonder – you are grateful for us, aren’t you?

And the answer is of course – yes. A thousand times yes. My cup –and my heart – overflows with love and gratitude.  And the fact that all five of us will be together for Thanksgiving is the biggest blessing of all.

  • The adventures of raising children
  • Seeing those children evolve into interesting, good-hearted, fun adults
  • Looking back on school years with the ups and downs of three teenagers in one house
  • Countless hours of transporting these aspiring thespians to rehearsals leading up to spectacular productions
  • Our cross-country camping trips filled with outdoor adventures

For these things and so many more, I give thanks.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 24

 “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.”  Meister Eckhart

The data is in – all this giving thanks stuff?  It’s good for you.  There is science to prove it. Gratitude is not just some “religious” practice. It turns out that intentionally taking time to count your blessings and focus on the positive in your life is good not just for your spirit, but also for your body.

Scientists have found that blood pressure goes down and hearts get healthier when people practice the act of gratitude.  You can listen or read the NPR story.

Aren’t you glad you know that?  Now you have another thing to be grateful for.

I give thanks. Over and over. For blessings, large and small.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 23

“He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.”  Psalm 23

There is something about water that is good for my soul. We live near a pond that offers renewal in every season. Swimming in the summer is an obvious pleasure, but walking on the ice in the winter, seeing the leaves reflected in the mirror-like stillness, and watching the earth come alive – all of these are reasons to leave unfinished housework behind and head to toward the water.

One of my favorite pastimes is kayaking. Not whitewater, Eskimo-rolling, daredevil kayaking, but gliding along still waters, enjoying a gentle current, and exploring shorelines with their flowers, birds, and berries. Some favorite kayaking memories include

  • Paddling under the night sky, enjoying the reflection of the full moon in the water
  • Gliding so close to a beaver lodge that I could hear the beavers squeaking and splashing inside
  • Coming face to face with a blue heron as he hunted in shallow water for fish
  • Watching a bald eagle soar overhead

I am blessed to live in an area with an abundance of ponds, lakes, and streams.

Whether it is roaming far afield and exploring new vistas or paddling on local, familiar waterways, sitting in a kayak surrounded by water brings peace to my soul.

I give thanks for still waters that restore my spirit (and the kayak that helps me explore them).

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 22

“The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.”  Matthew 11:28

Across the country today congregations will be collecting turkeys and canned goods.  During our “Thanksgiving Sunday” service here in East Woodstock, our Sunday School children will parade down the center aisle of our sanctuary to present bountiful food offerings brought in by our congregation.  We will keep some of the food in our church cupboards for times when we are called upon to provide an emergency meal. The surplus will be distributed to nearby food pantries and emergency shelters.

Following worship today, members of our outreach committee will prepare 28 Thanksgiving “baskets” (actually sturdy boxes) that will be filled to overflowing with fresh carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, stuffing mix, oven-ready rolls, apples, and of course a turkey. These will be delivered to local families who are finding the holidays a challenge for any number of economic or emotional reasons.

We won’t solve world hunger or even local food shortages today. But I hope we will share God’s Good News of concern and caring, along with a much-needed meal.

I give thanks for the compassion and generosity of my congregation.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 21

“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.”

My family always hosted Thanksgiving when I was growing up. We could expect about 20 people to arrive ready to enjoy a day of eating, skeet-shooting (a bottle of champagne to the winner, a can of beans to last-place finisher), more eating, a walk before dessert, followed by a lively game of charades.

One of my favorite memories is listening to my mother whistle Thanksgiving songs while immersed in the holiday preparations. She would whistle  “We Gather Together”  as she readied the turkey for its long oven sojourn,  then move on to  “Over the River and Through the Woods” as she mapped out the table seating chart and counted napkins and silverware.

We might hear  “Come ye Thankful People Come” she peeled potatoes or “Great is Thy Faithfulness”  while she baked an array of pies.

Cooking with musical accompaniment – a holiday tradition at our house.  My mother isn’t much of a singer, but she can whistle with the best of them.

I give thanks for Thanksgiving songs and hymns that remind me of the joy of the season.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 20

“Come, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”   Matthew 11:28

These days if you say the words “health care” too many people think you are starting a political argument. The health care system in our country is not perfect but I know that I have more access to skilled, state of art health care than the vast majority of the world.

  • When I dial 911, someone arrives at my door – quickly.
  • When I am sick, I can get an appointment with my doctor.
  • Even though I don’t enjoy any of these procedures, I have the luxury of having preventative screenings like a mammogram, colonoscopy, or even a routine dental check-up.
  • If I’m sick on a weekend, I can go to a “minute clinic” or acute care setting.
  • If – heaven forbid – I would be diagnosed with a serious illness, I have the opportunity to seek a second opinion and then choose from a myriad of treatment options.

That is not the case for most of God’s children all over the world.

  • UNICEF says that a child will die every 30 seconds today from malaria.
  • Lack of basic nutrients like Vitamin A or iodized salt can mean the difference between life and death in infants and children.
  • Save the Children is one organization that works to prevent malnutrition and low birth weight babies. Children die every day because their mothers had no prenatal care.

And me? I have a choice of pharmacies whose shelves contain an embarrassing number of generic and name brand drugs, open 24 hours/day.

I give thanks for nurses, doctors, EMTs and access to good medical care.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 19

Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.”   Psalm 34

I have a love-hate relationship with computers and the internet.  I despair at the amount of time people spend looking at their phones and I worry we are raising a generation of children who won’t know how to talk with one another and enjoy a lengthy, heart-felt conversation.

On the other hand, I enjoy texting with my daughter while she is away at school and revel in the pictures of college adventures she shares on Facebook. I marvel at the instant communication that allows me to keep up with family and friends across the country and around the world. I amazed – and grateful – that I have instant access to information about weather and news. I appreciate the vast array of movies I can enjoy on my laptop while relaxing with a cup of tea on my couch.  And I would be embarrassed to tell you how often Google provides a complete Bible quotation for my sermon when I can only remember bits and pieces of it.

Undoubtedly the internet can be used in any number of vile ways and can waste precious hours. But when I am mindful and intentional, the computer can open the world up to me and that can be a blessing.

I give thanks for computers, the internet and the many ways we can connect with one another.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 18

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”   Luke 10:27

Over the years we have been blessed by wonderful neighbors.  When our children were young, we lived next door to a family with four children close in age to ours.  We sometimes joked that we should simply install revolving doors in our houses because we never knew how many children would end up where.  Shared meals, sledding parties, borrowing the proverbial cup of sugar, combined birthday parties – so many life events were made sweeter by sharing them.

A move to a new house brought new neighbors. We have been blessed by gifts of homemade maple syrup, the welcome sound of a plow clearing away mountains of snow, and the joy of a Christmas cookie exchange.

I give thanks for neighbors who offer caring and thoughtfulness.

What are you thankful for today?

Thanksgiving Fest Reflections of Gratitude: Day 17

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Exodus 20

My Sabbath – my day of rest – is not Sunday.  Sunday is filled with worship, an opportunity to meet and greet most of my congregation in one place and one time.  Sunday is just about my busiest day of the week.  And I love it.

But for Sabbath rest, nothing beats camping.  We have gone camping at national parks from New England to the Grand Canyon and to the West Coast.  We have also gone camping about 6 miles from our home.   While it might be fun to have dramatic landscapes and breath-taking vistas, the real joys of camping are the quiet moments.  It’s sitting by the campfire, talking and singing. It’s time to play cards and board games.  It’s an opportunity to go swimming, kayaking, and hiking.  For me, camping means disconnecting from the computer and the phone and re-connecting with family and nature.

I give thanks for camping, time away, and the experience of Sabbath.

What are you thankful for today?