Thanksgiving thoughts

I saw this picture recently

pilgrim refugee

…with these words….
1) “Where would we be if the Wampanoag hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

2) “Where would the Wampanoag be if they hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

These are two different thoughts, and both worthy of consideration.

These are good things to think about right now in light of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their very lives from areas of war and oppression. These are good things to think about in the week before we in America celebrate a day dedicated to giving Thanks.

The Pilgrims left England because their way of worship wasn’t allowed. They wanted to worship God in a manner that differed from the official Church of England. The Church of England was, at the time, equivalent with the government of England – go against one, and you’ve gone against the other. The punishment was fines for lesser offenses, and execution for greater ones. They decided to leave rather than change their way of worship, knowing that where they were going to was completely alien to them.

The people who lived in the area the Pilgrims landed were known as the Wampanoag, and they made sure that the Pilgrims had shelter and food. If it weren’t for them, the Pilgrims would have died out in short order as they were not used to living off the land. This is where the first Thanksgiving came from. Two different groups having dinner together. Sharing. Peaceful. Even though they didn’t share the same language or culture, they lived together in harmony.

However, over the course of time, the Pilgrims expanded and pushed out the Wampanoag. The Pilgrims weren’t interested in sharing. They’d forgotten their debt to the Wampanoag. They’d forgotten the tenants of their faith. Their diseases killed off the natives as surely as their guns did. The Wampanoag didn’t have a chance.

Native Americans all over the USA are marginalized. They live in reservations, they have low-paying jobs, little education, and rampant alcoholism. They lived much better before the white people came and imposed their way of life on them in an effort to “help” them. They didn’t need help. They were fine. They only needed help after the Pilgrims (and other settlers) came with their diseases and an insatiable need for more and more land.

How does this relate to today’s issues? If we in America show compassion to people who are different from us, will that result in our being pushed out, in our being killed? Will this nation become a Muslim nation? Wouldn’t this be fair, after what our ancestors did to the natives who were here?

But – should we allow fear to rule our actions? Jesus tells us repeatedly to not be afraid. Jesus tells us repeatedly to love our enemies, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.

Is there another way to act, other than the way we always have? A middle ground?

There is a fabulous re-imagining of Europe meets the Native Americans in Orson Scott Card’s book “Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus” – where time travelers go back to the natives and secretly inoculate them against the diseases. They also strengthen the native’s opinions and actions so they won’t let the Europeans push them down. They are able to live in peace after this.

Our government says they are worried about Sharia Law – forgetting that their ancestors pushed their own version on to the natives. We need a whole new way of thinking – where people share ideas and work together, with nobody higher or lower.

This is an amazing chance for us to learn from the past and re-vision a new future. This is a time of testing, where we can welcome in the stranger and become stronger because of it.

Consider a garden – one with just one kind of flower is boring. Having many makes it look beautiful.

Consider an orchestra – one with just one kind of instrument is dull. Having many makes it sound beautiful.

Consider a soup – one with just one kind of seasoning makes it taste bland. Having a variety makes it taste wonderful.

This is America – the land of immigrants. The land of second chances. The place where we say we are “The melting pot”, where we say “E pluribus unum” – which means “Out of many, one”.

It is time to let love and compassion rule us rather than fear.
It is time to truly be the “Christian” nation we say we are and take in the stranger, the lost, the refugee. Not because they are Christian, but because we are. Not to turn them into Christians, but for us to prove it through our actions.

Jesus himself was a refugee.

Matthew 2:12-15, his adopted father Joseph gets a message from God in a dream to escape their home and flee to a foreign land, because Herod had ordered every child under the age of two to be slaughtered.

“13 After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (HCSB)

Jesus himself was homeless –

In Matthew 8:20, talking to a man who wants to be his disciple –
20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” (HCSB)

We must welcome the refugee. We must do this fearlessly. We must do it because Jesus would do this. As his disciples, we have to.

The life of following Jesus isn’t simply about everlasting life after we die. It isn’t a life where we say the words and get the prize. It is a life where we live, every day, a life of trust and hope and joy, right now, serving everyone as if they are Jesus, and serving everyone as Jesus would serve them.

This is a living faith. Let us act like it.

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Thanksgiving, the other way.

I hate the holidays. They always feel like a nasty game of musical chairs. If you end up without a chair at a table, you are the loser. So everybody tries to find a place to be, even if that place isn’t that nice. We’d rather spend the holiday with people we don’t really like and who don’t really like us than spend the holiday alone.

Thanksgiving is the first of the holidays. I dislike Thanksgiving. I love giving thanks, I just don’t like Thanksgiving. It is a trial run for Christmas. Both holidays are where you push yourself into a role that isn’t you, to please people you don’t like.

The holidays have left me cold for years. They always make me feel artificial. I’m expected to cook when I don’t cook. I’m expected to cook foods that are only cooked this time of year. I’m expected to wear nice clothes and act nice and play nice.

For twice a year we get together with people we don’t spend time with during the rest of the year because we really don’t like them. If we liked them, we’d spend more than twice a year with them.

Perhaps this is why so many people drink during the holidays. Perhaps this is why so many people go out to see movies or to the mall during the holidays. That way they don’t have to spend any time with each other that involves any semblance of having to communicate with each other. Perhaps this is why so many police get domestic disturbance calls during the holidays.

Nothing puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” like the holidays.

I propose something different. Instead of doing the way that we’ve always done it, let’s do it differently. Let’s do it the way that we really want to do it. Let’s reinvent the holidays.

This year’s Thanksgiving could have gone really badly. I’d gotten into a huge disagreement with my sister in law. I’d realized that I’d been faking it going over to our parents in law’s anyway. Skip it. Skip it all. Why pretend anymore? I got tired of that gnawing feeling in my belly that says “something’s wrong!” I’d ignored it, suppressed it, hidden it. It was just part of dealing with the holidays. It was part of my childhood, ignoring that feeling. That sick feeling was just normal.

But this year I chose to do something different. Why spend time with people I don’t like? Why cook foods I don’t like, or that I only eat twice a year. I mean, I like sweet potatoes and all, but what about the fourth Thursday of November says I have to eat them? And why is there nothing healthy to eat on Thanksgiving? No fresh vegetables to be seen – everything is baked or broiled to within an inch of its life. It feels a little creepy to give thanks over food that is going to kill you.

It seems like the healthiest part about celebrating Thanksgiving means actually doing something to be thankful for.

This year was just my husband and I. This disagreement came just two days before Thanksgiving so there wasn’t enough time to wrangle an “Orphan’s Thanksgiving” like I’ve done in the past. We ate at the dining room table for the first time in a decade. We normally eat in the living room, while watching TV. This time, no TV. This time, candles. This time, just the two of us, facing each other, enjoying our meal, and spending time together.

It was very healing. It was exactly what I wanted. It was exactly what we needed. I caught a glimpse of what Sabbath is like.

We used special plates. We cooked what we wanted. There was turkey, sure. I don’t think it is possible for me to rewrite Thanksgiving without at least having turkey. But there was more, and it was healthy. It was all from scratch. Mashed potatoes made with purple potatoes, seasoned with cilantro and thyme. Sautéed carrots and snow peas, cooked in butter, white zinfandel, and turmeric. And crunchy bread – hoagie rolls, fresh from the bakery, heated up in the oven with a little butter. It was perfect. It was just enough, and not too much. I think we’ll do it again, and not wait a year to do it.

Maybe next week.

Today, I’m thankful for the courage to make new traditions. Today, I’m thankful for the desire to take care of myself. This was a good Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving rose

Here is a Thanksgiving rose for you. Why, you may say, is this a Thanksgiving rose? This picture represents so much I have to be thankful for, and I almost overlooked it.

thanksgiving rose

The rose came from a bouquet of flowers I bought half a week ago to beautify my home. Sometimes you need to buy yourself flowers. My husband understands that I like flowers; he just doesn’t understand which flowers I like. Rather than feel like he should read my mind, I buy my own bouquets. I think that is very healthy. You have to show love to yourself first. I’m thankful for self-care.

There were two roses in the bouquet. One was drooping by the second day. His neck had gotten crimped somehow and he couldn’t stand up correctly. Rather than let him droop and wither sooner than the other flowers, I decided to save him. I’m thankful for being thrifty. I’m thankful for being able to adapt to new situations.

The rose is in a glass bottle that I realized a week earlier would be good for a bud vase. Instead of putting it in the recycle bin, I decided to save it. I’m thankful for the gift of being able to see alternate purposes for things.

The rose has been on that windowsill for a few days, but I’d never seen it in that light. Today, just now, I was fortunate to notice it, with just the right shadows and color. It was pretty before, but today it is beautiful. If it had been with the other flowers in the bouquet it would not have gotten this attention. So sometimes adversity is good for us. I’m thankful for new ways of thinking. I’m thankful that I saw this beauty this day.

And then there’s all the stuff in the picture that isn’t the rose. I’m thankful for a house to live in. I’m thankful for a yard to play in that keeps me a little insulated from my neighbors. I’m thankful for a central air unit that works well on this cold day. I’m thankful for good windows. I’m thankful for the cheery sunshine. And I’m thankful for a husband to share it all with.

I had none of these things a dozen years ago. It has been so long that I’ve had these blessings that I’ve almost started to take them for granted. I’m trying to remember that every day is a blessing, and every day is a gift. When we start taking blessings for granted is when we start to forget how blessed we are.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, no matter where you are.