I had me just a whiz bang birthday this week. It was number 65 which calls for a celebration all its own. For my 60th I gave myself a big old party out here in paradise and invited about half the church. Knowing how much Beaven hates crowds that’s probably the only party I will ever get so I made the most of it and won’t expect another one in this lifetime.
So yesterday I settled on what might be the best gift ever from him: He agreed to give me total control of the TV all evening. I watched The View, some Oprah, and about fifty 45-second snippets from other shows. It was heaven. I can, and sometimes do, watch two shows at once but this is not Beaven’s style so I know this was a stretch for him to even stay in the same room as I gaily flitted all around the TV. For his birthday last year I let him be right about everything he said and did the entire day. Over the years, we have learned what treasures these small gestures are.
I taught the bible study class yesterday and decided that since it was my birthday I should get to talk about anything I wanted. Any Presbyterian worth her salt is going to talk about grace. So I chose Grace, Thanksgiving and Thanksliving.
I think I just invented that whole Thanksliving word. It’s not in spell check.
I have always loved Thanksgiving. It’s like my own personal holiday. When I was a little girl the entire family would gather around my birthday. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and all my cousins would come. We would have gobs of food and pies and I got to play with my cousins all day. It really made me feel special. When I got older I realized this hadn’t been my birthday celebration at all but the family Thanksgiving dinner. By this time, however, the die had been cast and Thanksgiving still remains “my” holiday.
There are no gifts to buy, no sensitive religious toes to step on, only eating and giving thanks. Everyone from Jews and Muslims to Rastafarians and Atheists celebrate Thanksgiving. It's the original multi-ethnic celebration. I worked at a manufacturing company once and we had our best pot luck lunch of the year for Thanksgiving. The Mexican guys brought tamales and menudo. The black guys brought greens and sweet potato pie. We cleared out room in the shipping area and set up tables. It was the one time of the year that everyone from the president of the company to the file clerk ate together with a sense of equality.
On Christmas and Easter we listen for God to speak to us. Thanksgiving is our turn to talk.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. My study began with Grace.
In theological terms, Grace is about Jesus taking a bullet for us. Except they didn’t have guns back then so they used crosses.
In Grace, God lets you off the hook for all the shabby, shitty things you do and God does this just because God loves you. Once you can wrap your mind around that one, then thanking God follows. If you understand just how incredibly much God loves you (see John 3:16) saying “thanks” just once isn’t enough and you get into what I’ve decided to call Thanksliving. I liked having a new word so I batted it about a lot in class.
Think about that time you got stopped for speeding and the cop let you go with a warning and you were so giddy with relief that you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time. Think about that feeling and multiply it by about a million or so. There won’t be enough ways to thank God for the gift. Not enough individual gestures so you get into a whole lifestyle of being thankful. Thanksliving.
I lived a sometimes bumpy childhood and watched my mother, father and only sister destroyed by drug and alcohol addictions. Yet I survived. I don’t have to go into details but I know how lucky I am. About the only hiccup my adult life has ever seen was my own brush with alcoholism. I went to the edge of the cliff, started falling but was able to grab a branch on the way down and stop myself. I quit drinking about 18 years ago. It's probably one of the hardest things I've done in my life but I have to admit it was a lot easier job for me than it is for some people. I know how fortunate I am. It so easily could have been otherwise. I understand Grace. I try to live a life of Thanksgiving.
Thanksliving is far more than “Giving Thanks.” It’s more than spending one beautiful autumn day eating more pie than is healthy. It’s more than one day or one act. It’s a total lifestyle. It means the way you live your life is one continuous act of thanks. It means you take care of everything God created: from the earth we walk on to all the other people who walk on it, too. Thanksliving is spurts of generosity intertwined with gales of laughter interspersed with tears of frustration over some of the ways we humans have mismanaged the world. Thanksliving means a desire to change the injustices we see.
Maybe Thanksliving can be as simple as the Golden Rule but with more laughter. That giddy, getting-off-the-hook laughter. The hilarious, free, laughter that bubbles up from your soul, goes all the way down to your toes and comes out to move your hands and your heart.
Thank you, God, for life, love, and laughter. And that thing Jesus did.