Thanksgiving: The Way It Is

It’s much the same this year as it was last year….and the year before that. In the week before the Thanksgiving holiday, many TV shows in the United States have a Thanksgiving-themed episode. They generally follow the same plot: a holiday dinner with family that turns into the height of dysfunction.

As I recall the Thanksgiving meals I’ve shared over the course of my life, while there were a few that included some frustrations and hurt feelings, most of them were pleasant enough. As I consider more closely the meals when someone left the table in anger, the cause was usually fairly consistent: a combination of fatigue and unmet expectations.

Based on what is depicted in the TV shows, it would be fair to conclude that there isn’t a family in the United States that can be together without significant drama — an including perhaps throwing food at each other. But I hardly think this is the case. Instead, I suspect that on this holiday when more people travel in the United States than any other and when the focus is a grand traditional meal, people often come to the table with heightened expectations for “the perfect Thanksgiving” as well as weariness from the hustle and bustle involved with travel, holiday preparations, and other stresses in life. Is it any wonder that families would have heated moments over the holiday?

Perhaps….just perhaps…it would be better for us all to allow ourselves to look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday and the time with family and friends with a bit more realism. Things probably won’t go as planned: the turkey may be dry, the mash potatoes lumpy, someone will probably have a political view with which no one else agrees, and someone else would rather just watch football. Thanksgiving isn’t a time to focus on how “picture perfect” life can be. Instead, it’s a time to simply be thankful for life as we experience it.

None of our lives are picture perfect. There are good days and bad days and far too many mediocre days. It’s always been that way and doubtlessly will be so for future generations. Yet, it’s precisely the realities of life (the good, the bad, and the uneventful) for which we give thanks on this holiday.

And so, on this Thanksgiving, perhaps we can be on guard against unrealistic expectations for a “perfect” Thanksgiving meal. It probably won’t happen. Instead, perhaps we can learn to live in the moment and appreciate life as it is with those aspects that delight us and the aspects that irritate us. For it’s all part of what it means to be alive. And as for being alive: Yes! I’m truly thankful for that!

Photo credit: Photo credit: EraPhernalia Vintage . . . [”playin’ hook-y”] ;o via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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Advent: A Spiritual Journey

 

It is without a doubt that my favorite season of the Christian liturgical calendar is Advent.  As someone drawn to the contemplative dimension of life, the four-week opportunity marked by hopeful anticipation touches my spirit deeply.

This year, I’m inviting you to join me for a virtual Advent retreat.  Over the four weeks before Advent, we’ll use video clips, readings and have time for personal reflection as we explore themes of waiting, illuminating, preparing, and longing.

With the rush of Christmas activities, the weeks of Advent often seem lost in pre-Christmas festivities.  Perhaps this virtual retreat can provide a balance to the business of the season while engaging in the spiritual practice of Advent.  This will be a rich opportunity to wait in quiet and with hope for the fulfillment of an age-old promise and share the depth of the experience with others.

This retreat will be offered through PATHWAYS Theological Education.  I’ve been working with PATHWAYS for about six years and chair the board which oversees the program.  It will be a great opportunity to learn more about other aspects of my work by connecting through PATHWAYS.

To register for this Advent: A Spiritual Journey, visit

www.pathways-ucc.org

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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A Larger Perspective on Life

Miami Beach, Florida:  For about six years it was my home.  Living there always meant that no matter how much work I was doing, I could feel like I was on vacation in just a few minutes. That’s because the beach was just a few minutes drive from my home.  Of all my memories of Miami, one that continues to nurture my spirit is walks along North Miami Beach.  I’d park my car along Ocean Terrace near 73rd Street and walk over the pathway to the oceanfront.  When I lived there, few people frequented this area.

There’s something very unique about walking along the ocean shore, with the grit of sand beneath my feet and the waves rolling up and splashing against my ankles.   The sound of the ocean deafens most other noises creating a profound sense of solitude.  And the horizon…..yes, the horizon expands out and melts into the sky.  It seemed like I was looking at the far ends of the earth.

What I appreciated most about walking the beach was the perspective it gave the rest of my life.  It was as though the roll of the waves in and out carried my worries and stresses far away from me.  Thinking about my concerns from the perspective of the vastness of the ocean, my worries seemed to melt away.

I’ve always been something of a worrier.  I’ve been known to keep myself up at night, tossing and turning, spinning conversations in my head attempting to work out difficult situations.  When I was in my twenties, I talked about this problem with a good friend who told me she shared the same bad habit.  She told me how she was starting to overcome night-time worries that kept her awake.  When she became aware that she was tossing and turning, awake because of a problem, she got out of bed, turned on the lights and pulled back the covers.  She’d ask herself, “Who’s keeping you awake?  Is it so-and-so with whom you had a conflict?  No!  So-and-so isn’t in your bed keeping you awake.  You’re in your bed keeping yourself awake.  So-and-so is sleeping peacefully and concerned at all.  Stop it and go to sleep!”  I tried that strategy a number of times and in many ways it worked.

Today, I don’t find myself sleepless over day to day things, but sometimes conflicts with loved ones keep me awake.  I remind myself of my friend’s advice and it helps.  But even more helpful is when I use my imagination and remember what it’s like to walk the beach, hear the ocean, feel the sand between my toes….and remember what it was like to be on the shore.  Then I remember that my concerns are so very small when compared with the vastness of the ocean.  In fact, my concerns are really nothing at all.

One aspect of wisdom is to be able to view our lives from a different perspective.  While our worries and concerns are important to us, from a larger perspective, there’s often not much worth the energy we put into worry.  I have found that I am able to have that wider, broader perspective from nature:  walking the beach, hiking in the desert, or taking time at a mountain vista.  Of course, when I’m bothered and stressed by life’s concerns, I just can’t head to the mountains to get away. But I do have wonderful memories and the gift of imagination which allow me to visit those amazing places in my mind.  When I do that, my life takes on a right-sized context.  It’s then I can remember that my worries and troubles, like other things in life, are not permanent.  Perhaps that’s why I hold dear the words to the mystic, Teresa of Avila:  Let nothing trouble you; let nothing disturb you; all things are passing; God alone suffices.

Today, the closest beach to my home is a five-hour drive…..but with my imagination, I can be at Miami Beach once again.

Photo credit: CCoLicense Pixel.com

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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