I just returned from a visit to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with my family. It was a difficult decision to travel in this season, as the pandemic surges and authorities I trust have asked us all to pull back from activities that bring us into close contact with others, especially travel. If it wasn’t for the fact that my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer over the summer, I would easily have chosen to wait until next year.
This wasn’t our original plan. Months ago, my wife, Rona, and I planned that she would go to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with our daughters and my family, as well as to celebrate our daughter’s 25th birthday. After careful consideration and a great deal of consternation, we decided it was more important for me to spend what would most likely be my father’s final Thanksgiving with him. In order to minimize the impact we might have on others, Rona stayed here in Oregon.
Such is life in 2020, right? We are all making difficult decisions. So are all those around us.
Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday and it’s not really even close for second place. It is the one holiday that seems to me less diminished by the tarnish of commercialism. Even retailers seem to have realized that not that many people want to get a jump on Black Friday by heading to stores on Thursday—not that that keeps people from shopping online, of course. I also deeply appreciate that Thanksgiving is celebrated by almost every religious tradition in some sense and by people of no religious tradition at all.
In spite of the circumstances, I’m giving thanks and counting blessings this year.
I’m giving thanks for:
- The chance to live in such a beautiful place
- A loving, supportive family
- Two amazing adult children who are just good people
- A place to serve that is incredibly motivating and rewarding
- Incredibly talented colleagues and co-workers
- A wealth of gifted lay leaders
- Church members who continue to express their appreciation for what I have to offer
- The growing trust we share in one another
- And technology!
And I’m counting blessings, the kind Jesus identified in the Beatitudes:
- The gifts of reflection presented by isolation
- The ways people reach out to those in need
- The deeper appreciation I have for a simple smile when mostly they’re obscured by masks
- The passionate defense of the weak and oppressed I see in new friends
- The way more people appreciate the outdoors because gathering indoors has become hazardous
- The way the pandemic is helping us all evaluate what’s most important.
As we begin this new church year together, may we truly embrace the meaning of the season and it’s message of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. Give thank, count blessings, and walk in the way that leads to life.
Grace and peace,
Pastor John Fleming