The More We Are Thankful, The More We Are Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving morning, and I thought I’d jot off a few thoughts for the day.

The Judge is busy cooking. The Divine Miss M is watching the parade on TV. Daisy is freaking out. It must be it’s own special hell to be a dog with Thanksgiving cooking going on all around you.

Unlike many years, we’re here in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day instead of at the lake. Dennise’s Dad, sister, and our niece and her family, are coming over later. The challenge for Thanksgiving this year is for it not to seem like a chore. For it not to devolve into a rote requirement, like writing Thank You Notes for gifts we never wanted in the first place.

I mean, it’s been a challenging year, as I’ve noted several times. Lot of losses in our congregation. Lots of losses in our personal life too…mentors at church…a Mother…an Aunt. Even today, I am thinking of two church families who’ve lost a mother and brother in the last 48-hours.

Then, of course there’s the mess of the world. I mean, how can we sit here in our warm, safe homes while Ferguson is going on? So much distrust, from both police and citizens. So much anger and moral outrage.

Being a cop is a very hard job these days. So is just being a black man. I can’t truly fathom either one, truthfully. Neither are my experience.

I can say that it seems to me too many black men and boys (often unarmed, or with toy guns) are being gunned down by police. That is my observation. When I think of how dozens of white men parade through Starbucks, Chipotle, and Target with actual semi-automatic weapons slung across their backs, while black men and boys continue to be gunned down for carrying toy ones, or totally unarmed, I have to acknowledge, as a white man, that there is deep-seated racism still at work in our society.

That will anger defenders of the police, I understand. And, as I’ve said, cops have a terribly hard job. I’m a defender of them too. But they also have the greater burden. To whom much is given, much is required.

And it really is happening. I don’t mean to ruin your thanksgiving any more than it might be already, but here’s a horrible video that shows (Skip forward to the 2:25 mark for this story…) once again, another black boy (12-years-old) being gunned down by police, before he could ever respond at all. Just like the young man in the Walmart recently.

Citizens become more frustrated and angry toward police. Police become more distrustful of the public. People on all sides bow their backs, and stiffen their resolves, feeling morally justified in their positions. And 24-hour news cycle feeds our insatiable hunger for the titillation of it all.

As a friend said the other day, it’s hard to not see the images from Ferguson as a new kind of “Disaster Porn.” And everybody watching —both defenders of cops and defenders of the protestors— primarily to find their own preconceived version of reality reinforced by the tragedy of it all.

So, all these things are simmering in my head today. Meanwhile, it’s Thanksgiving. And I’m left with the same question I know many of you are left with: How to find the space to be thankful, even in the midst of it all?

Let me give it a shot.

And let me start with something that always helps slap me back toward gratitude: Louis CK.

The routine that first turned me on to Louis was a bit he did on the Conan O’Brien Show some years back: “Everything’s Amazing, and Nobody’s Happy.”

Have a look:

He’s so right. Everything IS amazing, and nobody’s happy. We are surrounded by social and technological marvels that people of another generation, hell even our grandparents, would have considered to be “miracles.”

Louis CK’s rant about how we are ungrateful for the “miracle of flight” is a metaphor for all of it. Far too often, we’re so busy plugging through our lives, churning past our daily “to dos,” that we fail to see the miracle of life. We fail to look up, to look around us, to notice who blessed we really are.

Consider this….

If you or your family make more than $40,000, then you are among the richest 0.5 % of people in the world.

If you have a college education, you are among the 6% most educated people in the world.

Very few of us do not know where our next meal is coming from.

Almost all of us have indoor plumbing, and central heat and air.

(That is, those I assume who will be reading this blog…)

Sometimes you’ve got to boil it down to the smallest part…the most obvious things…before we can truly broaden our thanks out.

But here’s what I know. Thanksgiving is a spiritual process. And the more we are thankful…the more we are thankful.

That’s the way it works. The more you practice the “practice of giving thanks,” the more things you find to be thankful for. The more thankfulness will grow inside of you.

And, especially if you are an idealist –especially if you’re one of those who years to change the world for the better– it’s very likely that you need to give thanks more often than you do. It’s very likely that you need, more often than you do, to “put your own oxygen mask on first.”

Because if we give, and give, and give we can become totally depleted and dangerously hopeless. And then we aren’t good for anybody. Even ourselves. In fact, regularly giving thanks is a part of how we can keep going back. As our own sense of thanks grows for our lives, we find the strength to reach out to help the world too.

The social problems that have caused Ferguson will still be there tomorrow. Everyone will have more to say about them then. So will the losses of your personal life.

But today, start the practice of thanksgiving anew for this year. Commit to be thankful and grateful for the things we often forget. Like the  blessing of a warm house or being among the wealthiest folks on the planet….etc…

Here’s what I did to start today: I went out and took look at the turning trees all around me. Here in Dallas, Fall comes late and almost always seems to peak around Thanksgiving Weekend. There were a lot of folks walking around the creek just now. Perhaps burning a few calories before they stuff their faces later.

IMG_2119I’m grateful for the beautiful trees all around me. Such a simple blessing. But, like Louis CK would say, one we can only see if we stop to consider it. I’m grateful for so much more too.

I’m grateful for my family and friends…musicians, longtime friends…family. I’m grateful to the beautiful people of Northaven.

I’m grateful for warmth and for the chance to be able to write you all of this right now.

I love Anne Lamotte’s writings, and especially what she says about prayer.

She says one of her favorite prayers is simply “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” That’s it. That’s the whole prayer. Deceptively, but perfectly, simple.

Start there.

Every small and great thing you can think of to be thankful for, just whisper the prayer, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

It won’t make the mess of the world go away. But it just might help you cope with it.

The more we are thankful, the more we are thankful.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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