Essay, Faith

The sacrifice of thanksgiving

First published 23 November 2013. I’m not by nature a happy person. That doesn’t mean I’m an unhappy person. I just don’t go around all day thinking sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. I see the good and the bad.

I’m also a bit of a type-A personality. I have a considerable internal drive to make things better and to fix what is broken. I spend a lot of my time frustrated because I just can’t fix it all. Sometimes the problems are beyond my abilities, and frequently I lack the resources I need.

So you see where my focus is: more on the bad than the good. I’m aware of the good but I feel the bad.

The other day in some words in a psalm caused me to stop dead. From Psalm 50, verses 14-15 and 23:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.

sacrifice of thanksgiving? I know all of these words individually, of course, but strung together in that order I struggled to understand them.

So I asked, because this came up during a Bible study. The leader said, “One way to look at it is that you’re giving up ingratitude. But thanksgiving itself really is a sacrifice.”

It left me more puzzled than satisfied.

But as I studied it and thought about it, I came to see that just because something is always wrong, and some things are very wrong, it is a sacrifice to set it aside for awhile and be grateful for what is good and right.

This helped me realize that I had lost touch with something important. 15 years ago, my life fell apart. And as I put my life back together, the bad days and bad things dwarfed the good. I had to search hard for the good. They were usually very small things, and they were always very few in number. But I looked for them, because finding something good in every bad day was the knot at the end of the rope to which I clung.

My living room in the morning
One small thing for which I am frequently surprisingly grateful: the morning sun streaming through my front windows. I love how the warm light plays against the wall.

Thanks to a lot of hard work over the past several years, there’s way more good than bad now. But I’m still that guy who wants to fix and improve things – and often that’s all I can think of.

It’s hard to sacrifice it and offer up thanksgiving to God.

Perhaps that’s why it’s a sacrifice. When things are truly going poorly, when the biggest thing I have to be thankful for is mighty small, it can really hurt to thank God for it. And for some reason, at least for me, when more is right than is wrong it’s easy to focus on the wrong. It is still surprisingly hard to thank God for what is good.

And a sacrifice – you should feel it. Otherwise it’s not a sacrifice.

Standard
Road Trips

Turkey tracks

On this Thanksgiving Day, enjoy these photos of the famous Route 66 turkey tracks. When Illinois paved what would become Route 66 in concrete, a turkey walked into the still-wet road and left his mark for the ages. They’re in Illinois, on an old alignment of what is now State Route 4 north of Carlinville. Click here to see the location on Google Maps!

Turkey Tracks

Turkey Tracks

Turkey Tracks

Turkey Tracks

From our 2013 Spring Break trip along Route 66.

Standard
Faith, Personal

The sacrifice of thanksgiving

As we head into our Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, here’s a rerun from 2013 that seems extra relevant now. There’s always something wrong in our lives and in the world. Sometimes it threatens to crush our spirits. Can we pause for a minute to reflect on what’s good and right, and be grateful for it?

I’m not by nature a happy person. That doesn’t mean I’m an unhappy person. I just don’t go around all day thinking sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. I see the good and the bad.

I’m also a bit of a type-A personality. I have a considerable internal drive to make things better and to fix what is broken. I spend a lot of my time frustrated because I just can’t fix it all. Sometimes the problems are beyond my abilities, and frequently I lack the resources I need.

So you see where my focus is: more on the bad than the good. I’m aware of the good but I feel the bad.

The other day in some words in a psalm caused me to stop dead. From Psalm 50, verses 14-15 and 23:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.

sacrifice of thanksgiving? I know all of these words individually, of course, but strung together in that order I struggled to understand them.

So I asked, because this came up during Sunday school. And the teacher said, “One way to look at it is that you’re giving up ingratitude. But thanksgiving itself really is a sacrifice.”

It left me more puzzled than satisfied.

But as I studied it and thought about it, I came to see that just because something is always wrong, and some things are very wrong, it is a sacrifice to set it aside for awhile and be grateful for what is good and right.

This helped me realize that I had lost touch with something important. A dozen years ago, my life fell apart. And as I put my life back together, the bad days and bad things dwarfed the good. I had to search hard for the good. They were usually very small things, and they were always very few in number. But I looked for them, because finding something good in every bad day was the knot at the end of the rope to which I clung.

My living room in the morning

One small thing for which I am frequently surprisingly grateful: the morning sun streaming through my front windows. I love how the warm light plays against the wall.

Thanks to a lot of hard work over the past several years, there’s way more good than bad now. But I’m still that guy who wants to fix and improve things – and often that’s all I can think of.

It’s hard to sacrifice it and offer up thanksgiving to God.

Perhaps that’s why it’s a sacrifice. When things are truly going poorly, when the biggest thing I have to be thankful for is mighty small, it can really hurt to thank God for it. And for some reason, at least for me, when more is right than is wrong it’s easy to focus on the wrong. It is still surprisingly hard to thank God for what is good.

And a sacrifice – you should feel it. Otherwise it’s not a sacrifice.

Standard
Personal, Stories Told

Making traditions up as you go

A rerun from Nov. 2011, with an update at the end.

It’s my ex-wife’s turn to enjoy Thanksgiving with our sons, so I’ll be home alone tonight. Don’t weep for me – we had the family, the fine china, the turkey, and the post-dinner coma last Saturday.

Table set and ready

When I was small, we always had Thanksgiving with Mom’s family and sometimes again later with Dad’s. Mom’s family usually gathered at my grandparents’ palatial retirement estate – a narrow mobile home on a small lake. I swear we crammed 40 people in there every year. People ate their dinner anywhere they found a spot to squat.

My grandparents were the glue holding the extended family together, and after they passed nobody much wanted to gather for Thanksgiving. So we started having Thanksgiving at home, just the four of us. We did it up right with all the fine dishes and silver handed down generation to generation. When I married, we added new family members as they arrived. Eventually, eight of us fit around the table.

These days we have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving in even-numbered years and whenever it works out in odd-numbered years.

We have adapted to every change. We were sad each time to see old traditions pass, but soon our new traditions had taken root and began to create memories just as warm as the old.

Things have continued to change since I wrote that four years ago. My older son is off to college; he and his brother had Thanksgiving with their mom this year. My parents sold the family home and moved to Indianapolis last year, so we no longer drive to South Bend for this holiday. I have a girlfriend, Margaret, who has four children of her own. I invited them, plus my parents and my brother, to my house for Thanksgiving. My mom, Margaret, and I worked together to prepare the meal. It was crowded at the table, and a lovely time was had, but even so my sons’ absence was felt.

Standard
Faith, Personal

The sacrifice of thanksgiving

I’m not by nature a happy person. That doesn’t mean I’m an unhappy person. I just don’t go around all day thinking sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. I see the good and the bad.

I’m also a bit of a type-A personality. I have a considerable internal drive to make things better and to fix what is broken. I spend a lot of my time frustrated because I just can’t fix it all. Sometimes the problems are beyond my abilities, and frequently I lack the resources I need.

So you see where my focus is: more on the bad than the good. I’m aware of the good but I feel the bad.

The other day in some words in a psalm caused me to stop dead. From Psalm 50, verses 14-15 and 23:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.

sacrifice of thanksgiving? I know all of these words individually, of course, but strung together in that order I struggled to understand them.

So I asked, because this came up during Sunday school. And the teacher said, “One way to look at it is that you’re giving up ingratitude. But thanksgiving itself really is a sacrifice.”

It left me more puzzled than satisfied.

But as I studied on it and thought about it, I came to see that just because something is always wrong, and some things are very wrong, it is a sacrifice to set it aside for awhile and be grateful for what is good and right.

This helped me realize that I had lost touch with something important. Going on ten years ago now, my life fell apart. I had made some bad choices, and I reaped what I had sown and more. And as I put my life back together, the bad days and bad things dwarfed the good. I had to search hard for the good. They were usually very small things, and they were always very few in number. But I looked for them, because finding something good in every bad day was the knot at the end of the rope to which I clung.

Thanks to a lot of hard work over the past several years, there’s way more good than bad now. But I’m still that guy who wants to fix and improve things – and often that’s all I can think of.

It’s hard to sacrifice it and offer up thanksgiving to God.

Perhaps that’s why it’s a sacrifice. When things are truly going poorly, when the biggest thing I have to be thankful for is mighty small, it can really hurt to thank God for it. And for some reason, at least for me, when more is right than is wrong it’s easy to focus on the wrong. It is still surprisingly hard to thank God for what is good.

And sacrifices – you should feel them. Otherwise it’s not a sacrifice.

readmore2

Standard
Personal, Stories Told

Making traditions up as you go

It’s my ex-wife’s turn to enjoy Thanksgiving with our sons, so I’ll be home alone tonight. Don’t weep for me – we had the family, the fine china, the turkey, and the post-dinner coma last Saturday.

Table set and ready

When I was small, we always had Thanksgiving with Mom’s family and sometimes again later with Dad’s. Mom’s family usually gathered at my grandparents’ palatial retirement estate – a narrow mobile home on a small lake. I swear we crammed 40 people in there every year. People ate their dinner anywhere they found a spot to squat.

My grandparents were the glue holding the extended family together, and after they passed nobody much wanted to gather for Thanksgiving. So we started having Thanksgiving at home, just the four of us. We did it up right with all the fine dishes and silver handed down generation to generation. When I married, we added new family members as they arrived. Eventually, eight of us fit around the table.

These days we have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving in even-numbered years and whenever it works out in odd-numbered years.

We have adapted to every change. We were sad each time to see old traditions pass, but soon our new traditions had taken root and began to create memories just as warm as the old.

Standard