1:00 P.M. EST Nov. 24, 2010
With Thanksgiving literally on the table this week, it seems everyone has gratitude on their emotional radar. And though it may seem a little odd that we need a holiday to remind us to be grateful for all we’ve been given, one United Methodist pastor thinks an annual November nudge might be a good thing.
“Lots of us find benefits in reminders,” said Brian Hardesty-Crouch, president of HolyMoments.org and a faculty member at Heartpaths Spirituality Centre. “I wonder if we forget to look for the good God is doing everyday and if the holiday doesn’t just remind us to do that.”
However, Hardesty-Crouch believes taking the time to step back, assess what is good about our lives and count blessings is important whether things are going well or not.
“It’s real that the holidays are not always happy,” he said. “In the hardest times, I’ve had to count on God’s grace and look for the signposts of that—whether it’s a smile or a phone call or just acceptance that life is hard right now. We don’t always have to feel happy like the songs they play at the mall.”
God’s love, said the pastor, is not conditional on our circumstances and whether we’re feeling great or challenged. “I want to grow in my love with God whether things seem to be going well or not,” he said.
“Thankfulness points me to God to remember all that God gives, but I don’t want the level of stuff I have received or not received to be the test of how much God loves me.”
Perhaps, said Hardesty-Crouch, it’s worth thinking of the holidays as “holy days.”
“That way even if we don’t necessarily feel happy about the holidays, we can still find a holy experience.”
When we asked some United Methodists to share what they are grateful for this Thanksgiving, their responses echoed Hardesty-Crouch’s words. The blessings of family, friends and, most of all, God’s love topped their lists:
Franklin, Tenn., Christ United Methodist Church
Thankfulness is my response to all God has done for me and those I love. I am blessed beyond my needs and expectations. The love that surrounds me from my family, my church family and other friends is my inspiration to love more. I am thankful for the humor in life and for the compassion people have for each other, especially in times of crisis and pain. This Thanksgiving I am particularly thankful for those who have pointed me to the reality of abundant life through faith. So I’ll put that blessing at the top of the list and be thankful and faithful.
Augusta, Ga., Liberty United Methodist Church (Hephzibah, Ga.)
I am thankful for my husband, who returned from his combat tour from Afghanistan in April this year, as well as my stepfather. I am thankful for those soldiers and veterans, past and present, who have laid down their lives and sacrificed on our behalf every day. I am thankful to have a beautiful, caring daughter whose heart is bigger than this great nation. I am thankful to the family and friends who have supported me and stuck by me in my darkest hours. And I am also thankful for the struggles and dark hours I had to live through to make me a stronger mother and person. Last but not least, I am thankful to the Lord; for without Him, I would not have these precious gifts and blessings. The struggles are blessings in disguise and without them, the good times wouldn’t be as sweet. Hau’oli La Ho’omakika’i (Happy Thanksgiving) & Ke Akua Ho'omaika'i Oe (God Bless you).
“Thankfulness is my response to all God has done for me and those I love.”
— Gilbert Lovell
Midlothian, Va., Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church
As we move into the holiday season, I find myself often reflecting on the things that are important to me and that make me smile day to day. I have good health, a wonderful girlfriend, friends and family that love me, and an overall good life. As I reflect on all that I have, I am reminded and humbled by the fact that God has blessed me and provided me with the opportunities that make me smile at the end of each day.
Randolph, Neb., First United Methodist Church
My family; God has given me the most wonderful family. My church family, who has always made me feel welcome and loved and supported. Every morning I wake up. My ability to see His beautiful creations. My Savior, Jesus Christ and the promise of a life with Him for eternity. The fact that God has always been with me and my family; I am never alone. I am thankful that I was born in a country as wonderful as the United States. For love, forgiveness and grace.
Debbie Boring Hudson
Lenoir City, Tenn., Martel United Methodist Church
I have so many things to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for my stepson’s safe and early return from Iraq; for my three beautiful daughters and their husbands; for my three handsome stepsons and their wives; and for my five grandkids, having a wonderful husband, having a job and having a God that is always there for us.
Max G. Mahaffee
Johns Island, S.C., Bethel United Methodist Church (Charleston, S.C.)
“I am thankful to the
family and friends who
have supported me and
stuck by me even in my darkest hours.”
— Moana Zamora
I am grateful this year most for friends (including my many church friends) and for family. My 95-year-old mother, Lillian Knight Mahaffee, passed away on October 28, 2010. It was only through the support, prayers, and gifts of time [of my friends] that I am getting through this. A member (Sid) of my church came to the funeral home and to the funeral, which was held on a Monday. When I thanked him for all of this after the funeral services, his response was something like, "We don't really need our friends when times are good. It is times like this that they are needed." This thought has stuck with me and supported me. Another member of the church (George) sent a wonderful sympathy card that said, "God never promised us a life without pain; only that He would always be there." This too is something for which I am thankful.
Philadelphia, Pa., Tindley Temple United Methodist Church
I’m thankful because I know more than ever before that I am loved and cherished by God, and that His purpose and will for my life is the best for me. I’m also thankful that I have had an opportunity to work. I am thankful to see my husband grow in the Lord, our son walk closer with the Lord, and other family members making sincere efforts to walk with the Lord. Finally, I am thankful for everything, and that we have all been blessed to see one more year to be thankful.
Albuquerque, N.M., Trinity United Methodist Church
This day I am thankful for all the broken places in my life, and there have been many throughout my 63 years. Because without the many tragedies and losses and injuries and sicknesses — and so many other 'trials and tribulations,’ — I would never have had the opportunity to experience the truly miraculous healing power of my faith in the Lord. His love for me has been proven on so many occasions: indirectly through the fervent and often unsolicited prayers of others; via the ears and shoulders of special friends who have selflessly endured my pitiful cries of 'unfair!'; and personally, in His patient way of waiting for me to give up, get out of the way, and give in to allowing His saving grace to work in my life, in my heart, and in my loved ones. I am grateful to have God's message imprinted upon my heart, but I am more thankful when my heart has broken places, and truly allows God to "fall in." Thanks, Lord!
*Passi-Klaus is a staff writer on the Public Information Team at United Methodist Communications.
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