Tag: Thanksgiving

What a wonderful Thanksgiving

This had to be just about a perfect Thanksgiving. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of my oldest son and my son-in-law, but their responsibilities kept them away, so that is something to be thankful for, as well.

Here’s a list of good things from the day:

— Wonderful, wonderful food. Way to go Trese, Kathy, Tiffany, Tabitha, Mom, Sharon, and probably others.

— A great, big crowd of people I love, including the Louisiana crew.

— Beautiful weather so everyone could spend a lot of time outdoors.

— A double rainbow in the sky late in the afternoon.

— Kids running this way and that and having fun around.

— Laughter, laughter, and more laughter.

— Football, with wins for the Texans and RG III.

— Both of my parents are feeling well.

— A new, used lawn mower — the zero-turn-radius thing makes fun driving.

Thanks, everyone who was a part of this day. You make my life sweeter. Here’s the roster, just for posterity’s sake:

Trese, Tiffany, Tabitha, Meredith, Cameron, Gene, Hilda, Sharon, Shawn, Savannah, Skyler, Madison, Tristan, Kathy, Thom, Katherine, Avery, Lydia, Rick, Kathy, and Luke.

Growing into our tomorrows

Thanksgiving causes us to look back in time and to look around us at today. The goal in looking is to be thankful. This surely is a very good thing, one which should be more than an annual occurance in the living of life.

What might be the downside? Possibly a failure to look ahead, to look to the future at what might be possible. How might we continue to grow, to become more than we were yesterday or are today?

Lewis Joseph Sherrill wrote in The Struggle of the Soul (1951) that in nature there is an “inward propulsion to grow.” He saw it in plant life. When a seed is “placed in suitable surroundings,” it will “germinate, swell, send out roots, send up a sprout, break into leaf, and eventually complete its cycle by producing seed again after its kind. This it does as if by a sort of inner compulsion. So strong is this compulsion that, in growing, a tree, for example, will lift, push, or split heavy obstructing objects in order to complete itself.”

In animal life there is similar inborn movement toward growth and change. “A young bird, for instance, acts as if there were an inner compulsion to learn to fly, to leave the nest, to sing, to mate, to feed and defend its own young, to migrate, and so on.”

As you might expect, Sherrill sees this among people, as well. “And in the human being we have also to reckon with a comparable kind of inward propulsion to grow, that is, to pass through certain stages as one moves toward the complete fulfillment of life.” (p.8)

There is, however, a darker side to the human tale.

“If this were all there is to the story of the human psyche, there would be little to human history except the recounting of the idyllic tale of happiness and progress. But the psyche knows another motive, one which seems to be peculiar to the human being, apparently not being found either in plant or animal life. It runs exactly counter to the inward propulsion to growth. It is a dread and fear of growth, a shrinking back from the hardships, the risks and dangers, the suffering, which are involved in each stage of growth.” (p. 10)

Reading that last sentence, I thought of Frodo in T. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. He did not shrink back from the hardships, risks, dangers and suffering associated with destruction of the evil ring. He grew as a man in the story, if not in height. He longed for the Shire of his past, but moved forward anyway. Yes, he’s only a fictional character, but good imaginary creations can illustrate truth about real life.

You may recall the story from the Hebrew Bible of Lot’s wife turning back to look back at the city from which the family had just fled. She turned to salt for disobeying God’s combat to look forward and not look back. Sherrill says the following:

“… [T]he soul takes on the role of Lot’s wife. Looking backward to the good things about to be left behind, and unable to go forward, one is immobilized into a pillar of salt which cannot escape from its own desolation.” (p. 10-11)

Some of us have turned to salt. We have looked back to the good times in our past and are afraid to move forward into new challenges. This is sad, but it’s more than sad. “In the last analysis this, as much as many other things of which the term is used, is rebellion against God.” (p. 11)

As we give thanks for the past and the present, may we give thanks for what God still has ahead of us if we will but be strong and move forward with power and purpose. Service is much preferred to rebellion, or should be.

Pilgrims on the road to somewhere

When I think of pilgrims I have images of men and women wearing funny clothes and having a thanksgiving dinner with friendly natives. The images come from my childhood, and they represent the religious dissenters who left England for a land where they could worship God freely.

Time distorts things. We have heard these people so long referred to as “The Pilgrims” that we have forgotten why we call them that name. They came to be called pilgrims because they were on a pilgrimage.

A pilgrimage means to go somewhere with a purpose, often of a spiritual nature, in order to gain some internal or external benefit. (Ferrell’s Unwritten Dictionary)

It generally is an actual journey to somewhere, but it also can be viewed as a metaphor for life.  

Lewis Joseph Sherrill says there are many metaphors for giving meaning to life, and pilgrimage is one of three that he cites in his 1951 book, The Struggle of the Soul. The three are treadmill, saga, and pilgrimage.

“Treadmill” is one of a number of metaphors used to “express the same general but dismal feeling toward life–that it has no meaning.” (4) People work, eat, sleep, and die. Sherrill associates it with many people who work in monotonous jobs. The metaphor, however, is not about their circumstances; it is about how they understand life.

“Saga,” as a form of story, chronicles the “vicissitudes and exploits” of a hero or heroine. When saga becomes a metaphor for understanding life, “it lifts the heroism and glamour of life to a poetic level.” Sound like any movies you’ve seen lately? “Thus the saga rises above the treadmill by exalting the distinctively human qualities which exist, if we can see them, within the treadmill. The saga teaches men to see and honor the humanness of the natural virtues, such as courage, patience, endurance, self-sacrifice, and the like.” (4-5) Saga has a two-fold value: “it shows wherein the nobility of great character lies and it shows the heroism of the common life. Even when trivial and preposterous, it still serves to lift the hearer a little way above the treadmill.” (5)

But don’t get too excited about saga; it has its problems. “… [T]he saga is secular in the root meaning of that term; that is, it concerns the people and the events of a saeculum, a particular age or generation; and again we must say that if there is more to sing than the saeculum in which the saga is laid, the saga cannot sing it. (5)

Yikes! Not able to sing a song that needs to be sung? So what’s missing? The answer rests in pilgrimage as a life metaphor.

 “… [P]ilgrimage is a state of mind before it is a journey, and many who deserve to be known as pilgrims can never take a journey of body. Yet they refuse to live in a treadmill. For some, who are pilgrims at heart, have to spend their days in the same round of constantly repeated activities as their fellows; but to them it is no longer a treadmill.” (6)

Note that pilgrimage does not have to do with a person’s outward circumstances; it has to do with how they approach life. Now, back to the limitations of saga and the benefit of pilgrimage.

“Life as saga, we saw, is life bounded in two planes. It can celebrate humanity, but it is essentially limited to humanity. And it can celebrate the saeculum, the current time, but it is limited to time.

“Life as pilgrimage, on the contrary, is open in both of the planes where life as saga is closed. In the vertical plane, so to speak, where life as saga is closed, life as pilgrimage is open to more than the merely natural and human, so that human existence is consciously related not only to nature and to humanity, but also to God who transcends nature and humanity. And in the horizontal plane, if we may again use a spatial symbol, where life as saga is secular in the sense of being limited by time, life as pilgrimage is open to eternity. It tastes what has been strikingly called ‘the power of an endless life.’” (6-7, quote in final sentence is from Hebrews 7:16)

All of us have a way of looking at life. We often don’t think about it or consciously form it, but it is there–a way of making sense of life. But it’s more than that because how we make sense of life affects how we live it.

I desire to live as a pilgrim, and I plan to eat turkey on Thanksgiving just like the Pilgrims did back in the seventeenth century. Well, maybe they didn’t, but I’m going to remember them when I eat mine.