With thanks and anticipation

For weeks before Thanksgiving we scour magazines and cookbooks and newspapers for the perfect recipes.  Our kitchen table looked a little like when I wrote that 25 page research paper....books and papers scattered everywhere.  Thanksgiving was a small affair at my parent's home this year, so we could cook anything we wanted!  No green bean casserole assignments or cans of jello-ed cranberries.  My mom and I cooked until 10 o'clock the night before, wrestling with the freshest dead turkey I've ever seen, and we were up again by 8am, rolling out brioche and snapping beans with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade playing in the background.  

When at last we squeezed in around the table to eat at 3pm, it was a feast to behold.  An abundance of food and blessings, with as much love and as much life as you could ask or imagine.

I found this Thanksgiving Prayer earlier in the week by Walter Rauschenbusch:
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
It's strange to me how quickly Thanksgiving is here and gone again.  Seemingly just a "stop" on the way to Christmas.  So I've been holding this prayer of gratitude in my heart as we begin the Advent season - a season of hope, anticipation, and expectancy.  These four weeks of Advent are fittingly the start of the church calendar.  I look forward to the lighting of a candle each Sunday leading up to Christmas.  This is, amazingly, when God begins the fulfillment of his plan of redemption.  I met someone a few weeks ago who I haven't forgotten after learning the baby she carries in her womb is dying.  She will carry and deliver her baby to term, knowing death is imminent (apart from a miracle).  I keep thinking of this woman and how uniquely she will experience Advent this year, praying the Master of the Universe would protect her from despair and offer her hope.

So with this in mind, as we move into Advent - a time of anticipation, gratitude, abundance, hope, redemption, and celebration - there are two things I hold in my heart. First, a question:
How do we encourage a sense of wholeness in all people?

And second, something my dad has reminded me of lately:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

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