One of the first images of Thanksgiving that pops into my head is when Kimberley and I drove down to San Francisco a few years ago. It was in the summer, not anywhere near Thanksgiving weekend. And it didn’t involve turkey, or 16 people packed around a 10- person table, or a worship service that ended with an all-stops-pulled Now Thank We All Our God.
Actually, we rented a car in Vancouver and headed south from there. Kimberley had booked a Toyota Corolla, but when we told the manager of the Avis that we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary, he gave us a red 2013 Mustang GT convertible for the same price. First time I ever kissed a man right smack on the mouth.
The next couple of weeks were kind of magical for us. I remember cruising down Hwy. 1, along the coast of southern Oregon beside the sparkling Pacific, our shoulders sun baked, our hair flying and the music blaring. Kimberley and I would go for miles without speaking, but we knew what the other was thinking. We were thinking of everything we had. Marriage, friends, children that we loved, work that allowed us to pay our bills but also fulfilled us.
We drove into the Napa Valley and spent 5 days there, biking through gorgeous vineyards, riding on trains, partaking of the bounty of the land. They were dream-like days. In short, we were . . . . basking. I think we all know what that’s like. When we are surrounded by beauty and warmth, we bask. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, at least according to the Bible: “I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy . . .” (Ecc 3:12)
Fast forward to September of 2020. We’ve all seen the news footage of the damage done by wildfires in California and Oregon. Tens of thousands of people dislocated, hundreds of homes lost. The California I remember in my dreams was so beautiful. And now the word “basking” has changed to “devastated.”
It happens in life, doesn’t it? And into the celebration of Thanksgiving comes the question “What happens when the storm hits?” And, God knows, the storm will hit. COVID has been our out-of-control wildfire since March. For us. For everybody. Much has been lost, and as much as the glass-half-full people have encouraged us to find the good in it, we struggle to find things we have gained.
Beyond that, many of us are living through the myriad of gale force winds that we know is just the nature of life – unemployment, illness, political corruption, and uncertainty of what the days ahead hold.
Here’s another verse from Ecclesiastes 3: “God will make everything beautiful in its time.”
This is Jesus 101. Even when we are surrounded by the storms of life, God has a plan. There is some kind of bigger picture that we’re not seeing. And all things will work together for good for those who trust God.
But, just as important, is this tag the author puts on the end of the chapter at Ecc 3:12 “I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy, and to do good while they live.
To do good. That’s how the storm is calmed. That’s how the fires are put out. If I had to choose one teaching of Jesus that I truly get pumped up about it’s this one. I think it’s because I know that people get it. All people understand the applied theory of this. It spans all religion, background, race, or creed. When we love, things are changed. When we do good, differences are made.
It’s not easy to do. In fact, Jesus said that living in this way is a cross to carry. But he also said it’s the only way to true joy. Bob Marley sang about it. “Wanna be happy? Yah mon, (translation, yes man) love ya brother and ya sister while you live.”
In this season of thanksgiving, we thank you all our God, that you will make everything beautiful in its time. We believe in that promise. But for today, help us to be good to each other, and to the world, so that all might find happiness. Yah mon.