Packages began to arrive with paper turkeys, pumpkins, and pilgrims. If you thought The First Thanksgiving was a production, you should have seen the culture lecture Erin and I put on for our students my first year in China. Naive and energetic, we wrote skits, required practices, and learned more facts than I’ll ever need this side of Jeopardy. (Speedwell, anyone, anyone?! How about this one, 51 dead?!)
But Thanksgiving is more than a production, it’s a practice. A discipline really. A slowing down and feasting together. A remembering of how great is Thy faithfulness. So whether you are American or not; whether you will celebrate a formal Thanksgiving Day today or not, being thankful is a practice for all of us.
A phrase from President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation returns to my mind this time of year. As you may recall, the U.S. was in the midst of a Civil War that would end up taking over 600,000 lives and touching every citizen in some way. He wrote a Thanksgiving Day proclamation in 1863, smack dab in the middle of the war. He—and the country—were no longer naive about how quickly it would pass. He—and the country—still have much heartache to face before the war would end two years later.Yet, in the midst of it, Lincoln made this proclamation:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and even soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
The line that’s sticks out is “so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from where they came.“
If something is so constantly enjoyed we are prone to forget it, we need the practice of slowing down to notice and name them. Just as Adam and God sat down together to name the animals, there is power in naming the constantly enjoyed bounties with God. The parallels between 1863 America and 2020 The World are easy to see. We too are no longer naive about how quickly we can “move on.” We too are still in the midst of it. We too have constantly enjoyed bounties.
At Global Trellis, we are less likely to talk “member care” or “self care.” In our team meetings we talk about health. Health in the sense of growth and development of cross-cultural workers so that when hard, awful, suffering seasons come, a person has the margin to bear them a bit better. And when the good, wonderful seasons come, a person is able to lean in and enjoy them!
Part of health is a practice of thankfulness and that requires slowing down to notice and to name.
Ways to practice thankfulness:
1. Look back over photos from the year. Who do you see? What are you doing? Where have you been?
2. Do a quick body scan from head to feet and list all of the ways your body is working. (I am thankful I don’t deal with migraines. I am thankful that my eyes work. I am thankful for my sense of smell.)
3. Make a list of family members, friends, and teammates and list one word that comes to mind when you think of each person.
4. Read this list of attributes of God and see which two or three jump out to you today.
5. Read Psalm 92 in several translations.
Even in a year like 2020, there is much God has done that is “so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget.” Let us be a people who grow in our practice of thankfulness and of looking for God at work.
As part of this practice, I am pausing now and thinking of the many who make up Global Trellis. I am thankful for the interactions I have had with you! I am thankful for the talented, diverse, dedicated team that contributes to the content you enjoy. I am thankful for the individuals and organizations who have grown through Global Trellis. I am thankful for so many digital resources. (For example, WordPress, Picmonkey, Paypal, Stripe, Vimeo, Zoom, and many other sites I could bore you with. But until this moment, I had not noticed how many moving pieces come together to make Global Trellis able to accomplish our call of developing and growing cross-cultural workers! Talk about constantly enjoyed and easy to overlook!)
I am thankful that I could go on and on. Once you get started, I think you can too.
Open the photos on your camera and spend a few minutes noticing and naming blessings in your life that are so constantly enjoyed you have overlooked them. Share a few in the comments and let us enjoy them with you!
Have you ever been unsure how to release grudges with teammates? Or how to deal with your grief over too many goodbyes? Or what to do with disappointment with God? Or how to help people with these types of questions? This workshop is for you.
You can read the full proclamation here. Photo by Ethan McArthur on Unsplash