The cycle of seasons progresses apace with pickups, hunter orange, deer unlucky enough to be flushed and squished along roads from the interstate to gravel. I saw the first flush of ducks high above today. I told Blake I wished I could paint during this season, but all I can do is describe the light, the textures, the grass, the barn boards, as reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth. The fading sun leaves deep shadows and well defined planes on every farm stead. This year, a few trees still sport glowing crimson leaves and the crab apples are resplendent with jeweled fruit, even as some folks jump the gun on Thanksgiving and hang their Christmas lights in celebration of the milder weather.
I suffer no such temptation. The Thanksgiving feast and festivities are coming to our house so pumpkins still line the steps and the mantle above the fireplace is warm with autumn colors. E-vites have been sent and menu possibilities fill the ether. The kitchen and dining room will groan with tempting dishes as each family contributes a special favorite and most bring along something new and experimental as well. Without closing my eyes, I can smell the aromas and feel the warmth of a dozen steaming oven-to-table dishes. For once, the entry hall, the stairs, the dining room, the kitchen will ALL be warm without the aid of the gas log. The sound level will be dangerous. We are too numerous to add the clink of china to the conversation in my imagination, but wine and water glasses, sippies and coffee mugs will overflow the sink even as turkey tableware fills the trash.
Glen gave a thoughtful sermon on prayer last week, reminding us of the example set by our Lord regarding prayer. He showed us a particularly useful mnemonic device utilizing the word ACTS. ACTS stands in for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. The obvious lesson of the sermon is how frequently we turn our prayers on their heads, beginning and maybe even ending with what we want or need: Supplication. I was reminded of the show we just finished, in which Cinderella begins and ends the musical with the fairy tale words, 'I wish'. The entire story revolves around the consequences of those self centered words, both happy and tragic. The wishes of the characters range from trivial (I wish to go to the festival) to the heart felt (I wish we had a child!). But in each case, the wishes set into motion events that prove that the "ends" don't necessarily "justify the means".
This is why Jesus gives us direction. Start at the beginning, recognizing the greatness of our Father, the Creator and Sustainer of all. As we praise Him, we are acutely aware of our shortcomings. And if we aren't, then the prompt 'Confession' shows us our error! Don't come before the altar without asking forgiveness; get right with your Father, children.
Only then is it time for Thanksgiving. Think about that! But after reflection, we will be even more thankful, not just for temporal blessings, but for the existence of such a powerful God and His overwhelming grace in forgiving our wrongs against Him and each other. Every Sunday, we sit in a circle and let the little kids pray. Every week, we attempt to speed the process by telling them to tell us just ONE thing they are thankful for. But they can't do it! Instead, prayer time stretches way past the ability of the three year olds of the group to sit still as each little child tells God thanks for every person they know. The little children lead us by example, I laugh to myself, even as I attempt to keep the kids around me on their carpet squares.
I am the first to admit I always get to Supplication in my prayer. So many to pray for! So many people, loved ones, tests, travel, illnesses, for which to ask aid! So many answered prayers as well. Its pretty hard for me to keep things in proper order as I drive down the road, or, for that matter, lay my head on my pillow! One more thing to confess, I guess.
We may sing the Grace song on Thanksgiving...or perhaps Charlie will offer his usual thoughtful and inclusive thanks before our meal. At any rate, with lots of kids in the house, I doubt we stand for a lengthy prayer. But as I cook, set the table, confer over appetizers, wait for buzzers to go off, and welcome our loving family to the meal, I will, this year, try to spend some time in Adoration and Confession, even on this Thanksgiving day.