Entries tagged with “Thanksgiving”.


Sigh. In the last few weeks, I have suddenly found myself trying not to look. It is kind of like driving through the red light district or by a horrible car accident, though, and I struggle to not see what is around me.

”Christmas.”

Or as I like to call it, the December consumer season.

Why is it that the Church has been so ineffective against this tide of creeping conspicuous consumerism? Why is it that so many who follow Christ succumb to Mall Time instead of resting into Church Year Time?

While this may make me sound like a crabby old lady, in reality, I am sad. I overheard someone the other day say that they were already sick of Christmas and it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet. (Remember, Thanksgiving is supposedly the time when we as a nation stop and give thanks to God for all of our blessings. Now, the food has hardly hit our stomachs before the retailers want to drag us out for pre-Black Friday savings.)Image result for free photo Thanksgiving chasing Christmas away

The star that is in my town now goes on around Veteran’s Day. I used to anticipate its lighting; now, I try not to look at it because it makes me so sad.

Two things are happening, as I see it: the message of Christmas is being completely swallowed up by commercialism-run-amok. Children don’t even know Christmas carols anymore, only non-descript “holiday” songs. Even faith communities rush to get their Christmas programs over early in December so everyone “can enjoy the holidays.” Does anyone else think this is wrong?

The second thing I see happening is that, as the whole scenario gets so out of hand, there may be a backlash beginning. People are refusing to rush away from the table at Thanksgiving to go shopping. Advent and its themes are being re-discovered even in faith communities that have never heard of the Church Year calendar. Conspicuous consumerism is beginning to fade into memorable times and experiences together as family and friends. Handmade, local mean even more when gifts are given. Black Friday becomes a time to do alternative events, like being outside as a family.

God invites, even commands, us to celebrate but I challenge you to find true celebration in so much of what passes for “holiday cheer” in this culture. How many of us come to January exhausted and in debt, thrilled that the holidays are over? The Discipline of Celebration from God’s perspective leads to life and joy and goodness.

If what you are planning in the next five weeks doesn’t do that for you, it’s not too late to re-evaluate!

 

It is beginning to look a lot like November here at this old house. We have gotten two small snowstorms that have taken us from the lush colors of late fall into the more subdued colors of early winter. Thanksgiving is Thursday and Advent begins the following Sunday. I have my grocery list as well as piles of recipes related to cooking Thanksgiving dinner laid out to sort through. What to make this year that is new? What worked well last year and bears repeating. All of this is something I love doing. The Thanksgiving food magazines are my favorite periodicals of the whole year. I read them cover-t0-cover.

Turkey, gluten-free dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted brussel sprouts with proscuito and feta, cranberry sauce (maybe a new spicy version?), perhaps I will try a new baked onion recipe, pumpkin pie with a gluten-free crust and whipped cream: it is a creative outlet for me that begins days head of the meal itself.  Monday, I will shop and begin drying out the bread for the stuffing on Tuesday. The pie, stuffing, and cranberry sauce will be made on Wednesday and the turkey will go into the brine. I brined our turkey last year for the first time and it was fabulous. That is definitely going to be a repeat this year.

While cleaning up from dinner on Thursday, I will load the stock pot with the turkey carcass, vegetable cuttings and other food bits that are leftover, mostly from the preparation of the meal. They will be left to boil for several hours into a wonderful broth oblivion. Actually, I don’t really like to eat turkey all that much but I always cook one so I have something to stuff (my favorite part of the meal) as well as to boil down into lovely stock. The house never smells better than it does on Thanksgiving Day.

We also have begun our amaryllis bulbs. Beginning mid-November, we take one out of the box every two weeks and set it in a pot of granite gravel. I have decided that this year’s bulbs are a lot like spiritual formation. Right now, two are by the window. One has been growing for two weeks and has leaves that are 18″ tall and still growing. A lot of drama but no evidence yet of a red bud. It seems like the bulb is putting all its efforts into showing off and not on producing the whole point of the bulb: a flower.

The other bulb came out of the box with two flower buds already growing. They were white and bent over but in the week they have been in the sunny window, they have turned green and straightened up. This plant will be lucky to reach 12″ in height but it is bearing the fruit it was created to bear: flowers.

Two Amaryllis Bulbs

Two Amaryllis Bulbs

So it is with our lives, isn’t it? We all know people who are “all talk and no action,” like my over-leafed amaryllis bulb. Then, there are those quietly working in the background, even in a closed cardboard box like my other amaryllis bulb, who produce such beauty through their lives despite their seeming unobtrusiveness.

We have had amaryllis bulbs in the past that did nothing but grow tall leaves. Eventually, they went into the compost pile. Those that bloom, however, get carried downstairs to a place of honor where they can be seen regularly and enjoyed.

As we come into this time of Thanksgiving followed by the reflective season of Advent, we can use my amaryllis bulbs as a point of meditation. Which bulb do I want to be? If I want to be the flowering one, what steps do I need to take in the coming weeks to get there? Write down one or two things you can do that will lead you to “flower.” Share them, if appropriate, with someone who can gently remind you of your intentions and support you in your deepest desires.

Because isn’t that what the Incarnation is about: Jesus coming in the flesh so that we might live fully into who God created us to be, to become the flower the “bulb of our life” was designed to grow into?

As we begin this week of intentional gratitude, know that I am thankful for each and every one of you, my readers. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving festivities are gearing up here at this old house. One daughter got in yesterday, another comes in Tuesday. I have been going through recipes, planning the Thanksgiving menu. I love the November food magazines even more than the December ones, which seem so far removed from what Christian Christmas is all about let alone what a church musician and a pastor can reasonably do around leading multiple services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Plus, the Thanksgiving food magazines are a feast to behold themselves. The lovely food on lovely dishes get my creative juices flowing (no pun intended!). I don’t even necessarily focus on the eating of the food as much as I do making it. I love the creative process of cooking and baking.

Tomorrow, I will make the herbed gluten-free bread that will become the dressing. Tonight at Target, I bought a turkey brining bag and will start that process on Wednesday. Tomorrow, late morning, I will tackle the grocery store, bringing home the natural turkey I pre-ordered as well as a lot of other grocery items for the day (and the rest of the week, as we have to eat something those days as well). Somehow, in all the planning of the Thanksgiving dinner event, it is easy to overlook that there are other meals needed in the days leading up to the main event!

The other day, I dropped off the food bag to Emergency Family Assistance (EFAA). Each week at the grocery store, I buy a can of something from their requested items list and then periodically take it in to be distributed to those facing food insecurity. I wanted to get the cans of refried beans I had been collecting to them in plenty of time to help with their Thanksgiving distribution. The volunteer who took my offering was delighted as they had been out of refried beans for a while. It is very humbling to realize that tomorrow, I will  buy whatever I need and want without thinking twice about it, while a plastic sack of canned refried beans is going to make a real difference to someone else’s ability to eat this week. Making the periodic trip to EFAA is a good spiritual discipline for me as I struggle with my own tendency to overeat while too many, even in my affluent town, go hungry.

The Gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday, which this year came before Thanksgiving, is the Matthew 25 parable of the sheep and the goats. This famous parable of judgment is about sheep who fed and clothed those around them and the goats who didn’t. It’s deeper teaching can be summed up simply: the sheep (the righteous, the blessed) noticed those around them and sought to meet their needs while the goats (the unrighteous) didn’t. Both the sheep and the goats ask God the same question: when did we see you hungry or thirsty, naked, a stranger or in prison? The sheep want to know which of the many they cared for were Christ and the goats want to know how they missed seeing Christ. The punch line is that it is in the least and the last that Christ is found and that in some mysterious way, when we care for those, we care for Christ. It boils down to paying attention to others;in other words, it isn’t always all about me.

There is more than one way to be hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger or in prison and the question Jesus asks in the parable relates to intentional living in the world. Do I really see those around me or are they just a blur in the background of my self-referential agenda? Where can I feed someone’s soul with beauty and kindness or clothe their insecurity and vulnerability in a tense situation? Where can I rain showers of blessing into their dry and barren heart or help them break out of the prison of negative self-talk? Actual food, clothing, and hospitality count as well.

Feasting is good especially when it really is about stopping and saying “thank you.” We need true feasts in life but they are meant to be life-giving to those involved with them, to the earth, to those who work to provide the ingredients for them. Whenever we exploit the earth or people so we can celebrate, something has gone awry.

My grocery sack of refried beans won’t save the world from hunger but hopefully, it will save me from forgetting the poor and therefore, losing my soul. Those refried beans may be doing more for me than they are for those who receive them. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The mama bear and two cubs have been hanging around this old house this week. I haven’t seen them myself but John, walking home late at night, discovered the cubs playing in the neighbor’s yard. That meant mama was nearby but since there was a lot of banging going on at the dumpster at the other end of the alley, he assumed that is where she was and skedaddled past the two cubs. Several years ago, he had tried to photograph a mama and two cubs at the neighbor’s bird feeder. Quietly slipping out to the end of our front porch, he went to snap the picture of the happy family about 40 feet away when mama bear charged. By the time John made it back in the house, a distance of about six feet, mama had covered the forty feet. Bears may look lumbering and slow but they can move very fast!

Up on the mesa, where I do my morning walk, I have spent several mornings singing as I went along this week. It felt like I was the only up there, or at least on that section of the path at that moment, and I didn’t want to surprise mama bear or worse, get between her and the cubs. Fortunately, I have only seen their “calling card,” huge piles that evidence their diet of apples and other berries this time of year. They are busy packing on every pound they can before their winter’s hibernation begins around late November.

I have been focused on food myself this week. The first Thanksgiving food magazine came in the mail and I devoured it in one sitting! The Thanksgiving food magazines are my favorite of the whole year, more so than even the Christmas ones. The idea of cooking a turkey with all the fixings energizes me. I almost like cooking the meal more than eating it. The stuffing/dressing is my favorite. In fact, I joke they are the only reason I make a turkey! A slight exaggeration but I am not a huge turkey fan so I eat mostly stuffing/dressing and just enough meat to give me protein. Many of the various businesses I patronize regularly give me some kind of small gift or coupon during my birthday month, which is the end of October. This week, at the local spice shop, I got a free spice mix of my choosing and I chose a turkey rub in anticipation of Thanksgiving dinner.

The kitchen in this old house is quite small. We call it “a one butt kitchen” as it is more like a boat galley than a normal house kitchen. Yet, with John’s creative use of every square inch of space and my love of cooking, we have had some nice meals in the years that we have lived here. I have also managed to stuff a kitchen store’s worth of pans and gadgets into it! We are not restaurant people, preferring instead to put money toward “good” groceries, such as organic meat and unusual spices as well as equipment to cook with.

And don’t get me started on my cookbooks! I have literally run out of room for any more in the cupboard. Yet, I just saw a new one on Jewish and Arab cooking in Jerusalem that may have to become part of the collection…I read them like non-fiction travel logs. Food is such a cultural statement, as well as a political and theological one. What we eat, how we prepare it, where we obtain it: all aspects of food production and consumption speak to what we as a society and as individuals believe about ourselves, God, nature, and life itself. In our book, “The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation,” my co-author and I put a chapter in on the theology of food, which I spear-headed. It is an important topic to me politically and theologically as well as the sheer enjoyment of it. Grocery stores are part of every trip, especially when we are traveling internationally.

Unlike mama bear and her cubs, who are focused on eating enough to sustain a fast for several months, we, as a culture, are heading into a major non-stop eating frenzy. I invite all of us to enjoy and give thanks for each mouthful we consume in the days ahead.