Archives For thanksgiving

Certain stories in our family have a way of finding new legs year after year at our family gatherings.  One such story has its roots in my parents’ small farm town upbringing in the upper northwestern corner of Minnesota, where the North Dakota plains have invaded the landscape, and families earn their bread in the  rich black soil of the Red River Valley.

My dad was in 3rd Grade.  The assignment was to write and share a poem about “your favorite sport.”  One of dad’s friends stepped forward and shared, with great aplomb, the following legendary verse:

When I was a little lad

I ran to meet my Dad

O’er the fields so wavy

Oh, how I love to eat gravy

There is a simple perfection in this poem.  The affectionate relationship between father and son.  The eagerness of the son to join the father as a prelude to feasting.   The tip of the hat to the waving wheat fields, ready for harvest… a sign of provision and plenty.  And then, in a glorious climactic moment, the hailing of gravy.  Nay, the very pleasure of ingesting said gravy.  Economy of words.  Perfect.

I’m going up north today to revel in my family.  And to eat gravy.  I love Thanksgiving.

Not just the holiday.  The act.  Not just the family meal.  The relationships.  Not just the gravy…

But gravy is a big deal.

“Gravy” is the extra goodness that makes life sing.  More than brownish meat sauce.  It is the extra. The “beyond enough.”  The abundance of blessing.  The richness of the meal.  We could subsist on dry turkey and boiled potatoes, green beans and dry bread.  But why?  God has blessed in abundance.  When we eat gravy, we celebrate the love God has for us.  We feast, and thank the Giver.  The gravy is the the savory saucy goodness that signifies the fat of life.  Pressed down, shaken together, running over…  In America, we all are blessed with abundance.  If you are at a computer reading this right now, thank God.  Thank God for the warm place.  Thank God for the computer.  Thank God for electricity, and the ability to reason.  Thank God that you can read.

We have so much to be thankful for there are not enough seconds in a lifetime to express it adequately.

I saw a quote the other day that rang my bell:  “Thanksgiving is a prerequisite to joy.”

Yes and AMEN.  This is one of my most important goals as a dad – to raise gratitude-filled sons.  Because I also want to raise JOY-filled sons.

I believe my boys were created by God to live their lives celebrating Him in joy. Not a “ho-hum, work-a-day, give me what I got coming to me” life.  LIFE TO THE FULL.  Enjoying freedom from sin. Living in obedience to God as a joyful worship response to the God who gave us life and breath and heartbeats and mozzarella cheese.  And gravy.

The next few days in Bemidji, we’ll be in the thick of God’s greatest gifts.  Family who love us.  Abundant food.  Faith in God at the heart of our conversations.  None of it is lost on me.  God is a good God.  He is GOOD.  In the midst of the best times of life, and in the hardest, He is good.

When I takes that first gravy-laden bite (and the third… and the forty fifth…), I’m going to be saying a prayer.  “Thank you, God, that You are so good to me, though I don’t deserve your favor.  Thank you for your ABUNDANCE.”

Oh, how I love to eat gravy.


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“eating gravy is an act of worship :: thanksgiving precedes joy” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’ve failed as a father.

Perhaps there’s hope.  He’s only seven.  So I figure I have 11 more years with him under my roof, where his very food and shelter may be leveraged in the shaping of his character.

Levi Kyle is our precocious, out-spoken, Type-A+, heart-on-his-sleeve, leader-in-training, seven-year-old tornado-on-wheels of a boy.  He says what he thinks.  All the time.  I love that kid so much.

Where little girls (from what I’m told) only ripen into ever-increasing layers of complexity and emotional nuance, we are the parents of BOYS.  There’s not so much nuanced about their snips and snails and puppy dog tails.  And Levi has been endowed with an extra measure of boy-ness from His creator.  What Levi thinks comes out his face in a rush.  We’re working on it.

One of the blessings of people with a Levi-like personality is the immediacy with which you know exactly what they are thinking.  Whether solicited or not, you will get their opinion on the matter.  Whatever is the matter in the moment.  So listening to Levi as he grows up is an open window to his character development.  It’s fascinating.  Equal parts thrilling, comedic, and on occasion… a little unnerving.

“Dad, I want a credit card.”

“No.”

“Why not?!”

“You’re seven.”

“SO?!”

“You have to be older.  They won’t give you a credit card.  It’s a big responsibility.”

“What’s the big deal?  You just give people your credit card, and they give you whatever you want. Easy.”

“Right. But then you have to pay for that stuff.”

“WHAT?!  It’s NOT FAIR.”

Not fair.  Nice.  I’m a failure.

I’ve written before about Levi before and one of the most important values we are trying to instill in our kids… GRATEFULNESS.  I firmly believe that beyond a dynamic relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the most powerful indicator of happiness through this one go-round we have on the planet is the degree to which we embrace and practice the value of gratefulness.  Or thanksgiving.  Or gratitude.  Call it what you will, but that right there is at the top of my list as Dad.  I want to raise sons who are deeply grateful – for their life and breath, for their freedom, for the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance in heaven which we don’t deserve, for their future spouses, and for every cookie and every cup of coffee and every soul with which we have the privilege of interacting.  To embrace life to the full (John 10:10) and to be joyful always, full of thanksgiving.  For EVERY good thing.  THAT is what it means to live truly deeply profoundly happy.  And I want that for my boys.

“Dad?”

“Yes Levi?”

“When you get your driver’s license , do they give you a free car?”

“No.  You have to buy it.”

“WHAT?!  Sheesh.”

I’m failing here.  See, the opposite of gratefulness isn’t indifference.  You might think that.  How many people do you know who walk around and breathe the air and take in the sunsets and drink their coffee and haul their kids to soccer practice without a shred of “thank you God for this moment”?  Honestly, how many times has that been ME?  How many times just today?

But that kind of non-acknowledgement isn’t the opposite of gratitude.  The opposite of thanksgiving is ENTITLEMENT.

He’s only seven.  I’m going to cut the kid a lot of slack.  For now.

But Levi, and the rest of us, need to constantly be reminded that every blessing is a gift.  And there is a Giver.  And the Giver pours out blessing like rain upon the redeemed, the searching, and the hostile.  Even more, he has given us energy and creativity and the freedom to EARN even more blessing – like that shiny new car Levi expects to be granted unto him with no real investment of time or sweat.

Well dude, I’ll give you some grace.  You’re only seven.  But we’ve gotta get a handle on this entitlement stuff.  From now on, you will understand the value of that PBJ you ate for lunch and the IKEA bunk bed in which you wrap up at night.  According to a June 18 US NEWS article, the cost of raising a child to age 18 is roughly $222,360.  If I’ve done the math correctly, in your seven short years you’ve already cost us $86,473.

Levi, I’ll go halvsies with you.

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“i’ve failed as a father :: why my seven year old will be paying rent from now on” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’m so grateful to God for my life and breath, I don’t have the words to express it.

Every heartbeat is a gift to me. Literally. My five rambunctious boys bring me such deep joy – they are above my expectations in every way, and I love them and am proud of them to the moon and back.  I have the deep privilege of studying God’s word and the care of His Church in Seminary this year – an incalculable gift.  I enjoy the blessings of the love of my parents and in-laws, siblings, friends, and an unshakeable sense that God cares for me.

How can I not shout my thank you’s to God all day?

And on top of my every need being met, and my redemption as a Son, God saw fit to grant me a bride for my one time on this earth who is at the very top of my thank you list.  My favorite person ever. God the artist was showing off when He made Amy.

Now in my first year of Greek language study, my once razor-sharp grammar skillz (yes, with a “z”… I was THAT good) have proven to be JUUUUUST a wee bit rusty.  It has been 22 years, after all, since my last real grammar challenge.  Of course, the aforementioned crown jewel of my thank-you-God list was a 15 year 5th grade grammar teaching machine, so I avoid head to head grammar challenges with my wife to much the same degree I avoid rabid badgers, the Wiggles, or Ethiopian food.

And then today… on the eve of my favorite holiday of the year… I found what may be the Grand Mack Daddy of all run-on sentences. With a tip of the cap to my grammar champion wife, my fellow grammar-chewing Greek student Seminarian compatriots, and all those (like my eldest son and my travel-stained Literature teaching brother-in-law) who find words to be both an ocean in which to dive deep and a playground in which to frolic, I give you this timely and wonderful example sentence structure run amok…

The First Official Presidential Proclamation in U. S. History

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

 

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us;

 

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
 

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.       – G. Washington

 

THIS is why.  God bless you and your family, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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“why thanksgiving…  the MOTHER of all run-on sentences” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.