thankful but not in church – thanksgiving notes

Thanksgiving eve, more often than not, I have spent at church. Some songs. A homily/devotional/meditation about being thankful. Opportunity for people to stand up and tell what they are thankful for. For the past 7 years, I mostly planned them. For several years before that, I went. Growing up, we went to the service and then had pie.


I tried to talk people at our previous church into having pie. I thought it would be a great idea. I remembered how much I looked forward to finding chocolate cream. And then a couple years ago I talked to my mom about the idea. She said that having to get stuff ready for Wednesday night and then getting stuff ready for Thursday was part of why she frequently had migraines on Thanksgiving (which I never knew about). I didn’t suggest it again.


Tonight we weren’t in church. Our current place doesn’t have a service. Instead we were in downtown Fort Wayne. Hope was singing with her high school madrigal group at the courthouse. Andrew was running between the many events, covering the evening as a reporter for the local evening paper. Our kids are growing up.


While Nancy and I and Andrew were standing talking, a guy walked up and said, “Excuse me for a minute. Can I talk with you? I’m with the [other paper in town].” We started laughing and introduced the other guy to his competition. He felt foolish.


When I lead the services, I used to divide the time for people talking into two parts. Some people would talk. Then we’d sing. Then they would talk. It always took some people awhile to get up the nerve to talk in front of people. I understood that struggle. I was that way as a kid.


There were always tears as people talked about the spouse that died or the cancer they were facing and then talked about God’s support in the middle of it. Old people after difficult lives talking about God being faithful. Because of those crises, we often sang a couple of Swedish hymns. They are melancholy.

For example

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace the none can measure,

Thanks for love beyond compare!

Whether or not we agree with the writer’s conclusion, there’s an honesty in this song that acknowledges that life isn’t smooth. (but I agree with the writer).


If I would have been in church tonight, I would have talked about being thankful for a smooth transition into a new job and new church this year. I would have talked about being thankful for the opportunity and challenge I have to talk about God in everyday language, as if my Invisible Friend is real. I would talk about watching my wife and our children growing in understanding how God built them. I would talk about the people I’ve gotten to meet this year, some online, some voice to voice, some face to face, that are encouraging me and stretching me. I would talk about all of that.

If I had been in church.

Of course, if I had been, I wouldn’t have told you.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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