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This is not the Thanksgiving any of us have planned for. We had hoped that the virus would be under control long before now. We dreamed of Thanksgiving meals with the people we love.  We longed that by now we would have a bit of normalcy in life. But that is not the Thanksgiving we have.

Instead, the Thanksgiving we have includes in Arizona over 277,000 diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 6300 families will have an empty chair at the table. In addition to all of th, I don’t know how you keep track of the number of people who have lost their jobs, or businesses that have furloughed employees or closed their doors altogether.

No, this  is not the Thanksgiving any of us wanted but it is what we have.

In the middle of all of the challenges, is it possible to experience the presence of God? Is it possible for gratitude to explode rather than despair? I suppose it is no surprise to anyone if I said that it is. I firmly believe that true gratitude is possible when we open our hearts and eyes to see what God has done. The scripture passage that inspires us to look at this pandemic time differently is this:

Philippians 4: 4-8 – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What would it look like if every person of faith found a way to “think about these things”? Would it change the way we approach Thanksgiving Day? How might we live differently, when we can’t live the way we wanted to?  Here are some ideas:

  • When you go to the grocery store hide handwritten thank you notes on the store shelves for the employees to find. Let them know that they are your heroes.
  • Donate to a foodbank and pray for those who need the donations you are providing.
  • If you can afford it, leave an extra blessing amount when you leave a tip for someone.
  • If you order take-out from a restaurant, when your food is delivered to your car hand the person a handwritten thank you note.
  • Implement a “restaurant of the week” campaign for your church, where people are encouraged to pick up a meal. Be sure to leave that thank you note, letting the restaurant know they have been selected as your church’s restaurant of the week.
  • Send thank you notes to people you work with.
  • Call someone who lives alone and chat for a while. Think especially about someone who may be experiencing their first Thanksgiving alone this year.
  • I’m trying an experiment in my neighborhood. I realized I will not see my family for Thanksgiving, but I will see my neighbors.  We pass each other as we go for a walk. We wave when we see one another taking out the garbage on collection day. We see each other at the mailbox. So my experiment is to create a neighborhood online group. I sent e-vites to the people I had email addresses for, (very few) and placed notes on doors inviting neighbors to join the group. The goal is to encourage all of us to learn each other’s names and find a way to connect more than a wave or a nod.
  • What creative ideas do you have?

This may not be the Thanksgiving any of us anticipated, but it can still be a time filled with true gratitude.

I invite you to join me in finding an intentional way to express thanks, embrace community, and engage in thankful actions. I believe that when we fill our days with meaningful actions that love expands and gratitude fills the empty spaces.

Give thanks, my friends, with a grateful heart, and let that thanks overflow to touch another person’s life.

I look forward to hearing the stories you will have to share.

My prayers are with you
Susan

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