If you are not feeling overwhelmed by a world of bad news these days you probably haven’t been paying attention. Or you are overwhelmed with your own personal and family struggles. Either way our inner bucket of thanksgiving may be near empty or just plain dry. When you have to think hard and dig deep to find gratitude for anything, Thanksgiving Day is not the most welcome day of the year. The thought of Thanksgiving Sunday worship might be sounding a hollow clang of emptiness that you don’t want to endure.
At the same time, worship on Thanksgiving Sunday might be just what we need. Rather than cocooning into solitary or family seclusion, being with good people (even though they are not perfect), and entering into the rhythms and cadence of worship brings its own comfort and peace. Hearing ancient words that still speak to our humanity and community can both challenge and heal. Singing into and out of emptiness becomes a bold statement of defiance against all who bring only hate, fear and violence. Engaging in conversation, both superficial and deep (sometimes at the same time) over tea, coffee or . . . Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino! . . . can be soothing and affirming. Know that a warm, welcome awaits you and a community which understands emptiness and brokenness will be there waiting with it.
Turning off the internet and TV and ignoring the News for a few hours, or, more so the whole long weekend, can also give the mind, heart and soul a break and help us gain a new and healthier focus. Other parts of our brain are engaged when news of disaster is not flooding our senses. The 24 Hour News cycle by itself is overwhelming. Conflict, catastrophe, calamity give headlines that “sell eyeballs” to advertisers – as more people watch, the more revenue will come in for the whatever media outlet you are watching. Media publishers put it this way, “If it bleeds, it leads”. Good news has trouble getting moved up from the bottom of the news barrel. A sad side effect of this approach to the “news” is the violent impression of the world it gives media consumers, people like you and me. You may find it hard to believe but historians tell us that we are living in a remarkably peaceful time.
Walking or being outside and unplugged can rewire our brains when we give attention to our senses. Autumn is a sensory delight with colourful, crunchy leaves, crisp air, new smells, the bright sun lower on the horizon, blustery days and chilly nights. All remind us of nature’s eternally changing beauty, reinforcing our need for this kind of Sabbath practice. Death is all around us and yet we live, we give thanks.
I am not suggesting we ignore the troubles of the world, our families or ourselves. They are real and they are important. Being overwhelmed and empty, however, reduces our capacity to respond reasonably and effectively. Spiritual practices enable us to engage our God, each other, and ourselves, connecting us with basic, powerful resources that we might make wise decisions and be responsive to the problems that confront us. We might even feel more alive and grateful! A hope, not a guarantee.
May the happiness of Thanksgiving find a nesting place in your heart this weekend.