|UNITY OF VANCOUVER
3814 FRANKLIN ST. VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON 98660 360-696-0996
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
November 21, 2021
All Rights Reserved
THANKFUL LIVING OPENING THOUGHTS
Do you remember what Thanksgiving was like when you were a child? Do you remember how your family celebrated and what you most looked forward to?
When I was a very little girl, our family would come together for Thanksgiving and Easter dinner at my mother’s parents’ house. Her youngest brother was 16 years younger and still living at home and since and my father acted as his parents it was natural for them to want to do it. When he graduated from high school and joined the army and went to Korea that tradition stopped but it is what is still ingrained in my mind. What I remember most about it was that my grandmother would pray before the turkey was served. I didn’t know then that she had been raised Lutheran and only recently become Roman Catholic to sing in the choir. In fact, I didn’t learn that piece of information until mom moved into with us in Vancouver and she let it slip one day that we hadn’t always been Roman Catholic. She also said that I probably shouldn’t feel any guilt about leaving the church to become a Unity Minister since my grandmother had said she was so proud that since I didn’t become a nun as she had wanted, that I became a Minister and in the Catholic Church only men could do that, so she felt one up.
That however is another story for another time.
Anyway, grandma would pray and pray and pray, offering prayers in English before moving to Latin and finishing up with a flourish and most comfortably in her native language of Slovak. The more comfortable she felt in speaking the louder she got, and she would pray for every relative living and dead and for starving worldwide. We were all cold, tired and hungry from the long car trip over the river and through the woods to grandmothers’ house and just when she seemed to be winding down, she would just be taking another deep breath before praying on in the next language. Did I mention she also spoke some Russian, Polish, Hungarian, and Rumanian? We all grew to appreciate her language skills even though we had no idea what she was really saying. The fact that she said it for such a long, long time is what is imprinted on my memory. As she continued to pray now and then I’d sneak my eyes open to make sure the food was still there; sometimes even reach out to touch it to see if it was getting cold. She would pray on until everyone gave up hope of eating, I was slouching on my chair and my baby brother was asleep on the floor. Perhaps that was the cue to stop. I’ll never know if she had a secret formula but what I find funny today is that what I most remember about the earliest thanksgivings of life was that prayer that drove us all crazy and made us so incredibly thankful for that first bite of turkey.
I invite you to close your eyes. Remain in that quiet place where you can experience the presence of God. And in that silent place, quietly affirm: I am open and receptive to the experience of God as my own indwelling Christ presence.
And as you move into Christ consciousness feel a sense of gratitude welling up in your soul for all the simple goodness in your life. Give thanks for the Christ presence that lives in you and for the awareness of that living, loving Presence radiating through you now.
Take a moment to reflect on 2021 and all the things for which you are grateful. Yes, even the challenges have been lessons through which you have grown.
Give thanks for the lessons of love and compassion. Give thanks for the lessons that have taught you to be more understanding. Give thanks for the lessons that have taught you patience, forgiveness, and tolerance of yourself and others. Give thanks for the awareness that you grow through every lesson in your life. Now I invite you to bring to your mind’s eye the faces of people in your world for which you’re most grateful. See the light of God shining in each one of them, expressing to you love.
Now move to another area of life for which you are grateful. Perhaps it’s your job, friends, or sense of inner peace. Take a moment now to say: Thank you, God for the simple goodness that expresses naturally in my life. Thank you for the talents that I am expressing right now, for the abilities and the creativity that I am expressing in my life. Thank you, God, for this beautiful body temple that facilitates my movement on this plane of life.
I especially thank you, God for everyone reading this prayer and for my loving and caring church family. Even though we are currently apart in body we are always together in Spirit.
As I pray, I enfold all of you in God’s light and love and I pray that you feel my heart-filled gratitude for your love and support. I am grateful for my presence here with you in this moment of prayer and know that we are empowered by our prayer times together. The power of prayer has brought us this far and it will carry us until we are all together again.
In the absolute consciousness of thanksgiving, we say thank you, God for the simple goodness that emerges naturally in our lives and blesses us, and for the lessons through which we grow. Amen.
Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate everything around us, no matter what it is. It’s a wonderful tradition to have a special day to officially take time to say, “Thank you.” Since the word ‘thanksgiving’ has the same root word as the word ‘think’, it is very fitting that on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day we begin to think about the reasons for which we’re thankful; to think about the wonderful world in which we live; to think about all the opportunities we have to worship freely and in a place like Unity where we can grow at our own speed without anyone judging or condemning us or telling us how our Christ presence has to express.
We have so much to be thankful for including the anticipation of winter. Metaphysically winter represents a time of reflection and rest. It is a time to stop and to look at our lives and to examine what thought seeds we are planting and reaping so that if we don’t like what we’re experiencing, we can plan to plant new thought seeds so that we can reap a new crop that we do desire to experience. Winter is the time to think about yourself in the same way nature does. Set aside some time to just reflect on this idea: Nature rests in Winter. Nature takes a Sabbath time to be dormant and as the Buddhists say, “See what wants to happen.”
We can choose to live our lives in harmony with nature rather than fighting it. We can choose to live from an attitude of gratitude and learn be in harmony with our own indwelling Christ nature. When we do, all we need flows naturally into our lives. In his book, The Mystery of John, Charles Fillmore says, “When the soul is lifted up in prayer and thanksgiving, there follows an outflow of love that fills the whole house or body with its odor.” That would be even better than the smell of pumpkin pie and turkey and stuffing to experience each Thanksgiving.
The Bible says, “Come before the presence of the Lord with thanksgiving.” This means to live every moment of life from the awareness that God’s presence is everywhere—wherever we are God is. From this perspective, we see that life is so full of goodness that we want to give. We want to give more simple goodness out into life.
Jesus understood the power of thankful living. He thanked God for everything and always did more than was expected of him, including saying thank you before receiving. He was teaching us to say thank you for the good we see and the good we don’t see. To say thank you for the things in the visible and for the things that are in the invisible moving toward us. Jesus gave thanks for the opulence of God’s universe and abundance constantly expressed in His life. We reap the effect of what we sow- it’s just common sense.
According to Unity minister Charles Roth, “Thanksgiving is a mental state, an environment of mind, an attitude of attraction and acceptance. God responds to your thankful heart by opening the inner gates of supply, releasing your good in overflowing measure. In the language of Spirit, it’s God’s way of saying, “you’re welcome.” Give with a heart full of gratitude and sow seeds of love and kindness and it will return to you in one way or another. Be the best You that you know how to be and give everyone in your life a little extra thanks this week.
For the remainder of our Thanksgiving lesson, I’m going to share some inspirational writings I have collected over the years. I hope you enjoy these simple gifts of Spirit.
For generous friends with hearts as big as Hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms. For feisty friends as tart as apples; For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them; For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible; For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and as good for you; For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussel sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions; For friends as unpretentious as cabbage, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter; For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes; For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings; and finally for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter; For all these we give thanks. My wishes to each of you for a week filled with what gives you joy.
FROM A CATHEDRAL WALL IN GERMANY:
Thus speaketh Christ, our Lord, to us: Ye call me Master, and obey me not; Ye call me Light, and see me not; Ye call me the Way, and walk me not; Ye call me Life, and desire me not; Ye call me Wise, and follow me not; Ye call me Fair; and love me not; Ye call me Rich, and ask me not; Ye call me Eternal, and seek me not; Ye call me gracious, and trust me not; Ye call me Noble, and serve me not; Ye call me Mighty, and honor me not; Ye call me Just and yet you fear me.
Religion is meant to be a simple, joyous activity involving your whole self: body, mind, and spirit.
NATIVE AMERICA VERSION OF THE 23RD PSALM
The Great Father above a shepherd Chief is. I am His and with Him I want not. He throws me a rope and the name of the rope is love and He draws me to where the grass is green and the water not dangerous, and I eat and lie down and am satisfied. Sometimes my heart is very weak and falls down, but he lifts me up again and draws me into a good road. His name is WONDERFUL.
Sometime, it may be very soon, it may be a long, long time, He will draw me into a valley. It is dark there, but I’ll be afraid not, for it is in between those mountains that the Shepherd Chief will meet me and hunger that I have in my heart all through this life will be satisfied.
Sometimes He makes the love rope into a whip, but afterwards he gives me a staff to lean upon. He spreads a table before me with all kinds of foods. He puts His hand upon my head and all the ‘tired’ is gone. My cup He fills till it runs over. What I tell is true. I lie not. There are roads that are ‘away ahead’ will stay with me through this life and after; and afterwards I will go to live in the Big Tepee and sit down with the Shepherd Chief forever.
PSALM 139 Paraphrased – by Jim Taylor in “Everyday Psalms”: Wood Lake Books, 1994
I am transparent to you, God.
You can see right through me.
I can hide nothing from you.
You read my body language,
And detect my deepest feelings.
The tiniest quirks of my handwriting reveal everything going on inside me.
You know what I’m going to say before I’ve thought it through.
I look around the world, and you are there.
I look within my psyche, and you are there.
Emotion and intellect are one to you.
You know me better than I know myself.
I could not stand knowing myself that well.
I need some hidden corners still to discover,
Some mysteries still to unfold.
Only you can cope with total knowledge.
How can I have a life of my own?
If I study science, you are there.
If I explore economics, you are there.
From charmed quarks to exploding galaxies,
From icebergs to dinosaurs to industrial toxins-
Wherever I turn, you will turn up too.
You insinuate yourself into every crevice of my life.
Even if I bury myself in my work, you break in,
And upset all my careful apple carts.
You drag me forward by my lapels.
In the small of my back, you keep shoving me.
I cannot keep you out of my life.
You are my permanent partner.
I have nothing to hide from you. Go ahead-look into my soul!
Clean out any festering sores; Make me fit to share life completely with you.
AN INTERVIEW WITH GOD
“Come in,” God said, “So you would like to interview me?” “If you have the time,” I said. God smiles and says, “My time is eternity and eternity is enough to do everything; what question do you have in mind to ask me?” “What surprises you most about humankind?” I said.
God answered: “That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live neither for the present nor the future. They live as if they will never die, and they die as if they had never lived.” God’s hand took mine and we were silent for a while, and then I asked, “As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?”
God replied with a smile:
· To learn that they cannot make anyone love them. What they can do is to let themselves be loved.
I sat there for a while enjoying the moment. I thanked God for the time and for all that God has done for me and my family, and God replied, “Anytime. I am here 24 hours a day. All you have to do is ask for me and I’ll answer.”
People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
People will never forget how you made them feel.
Here’s a little poem by James Dillet Freeman that was in Daily Word a long time ago.
God, I give thanks for many things,
But most for being me.
As well as I can tell,
Myself is what I’m meant to be.
I might have been much more,
Perhaps a wise man or a saint,
But I’ll not fret with vain regret.
I can’t be what I aint.
I might have been much more, no doubt,
But I am all I’ve got.
So, I’ll give thanks for what I am,
And for what I’m not.
Myself is what I’ll try to be.
Could I be this, no more.
I think that I would then be true.
To all God meant me for.
Religion is meant to be a joyous experience. For example, there’s a story in the Bible where David went out to bring back the arc of the covenant to Jerusalem. To the ancient Hebrews, the Arc was their most sacred object. Have you seen ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc?” Anyway, when David went to get this very holy object, he took a company of young people along with him. All the way back to Jerusalem they played lutes and lyres and beat the drums. David took off all his clothes and put on a little apron that the priests wear and danced the whole way back to Jerusalem.
I’m very thankful religion doesn’t have to be exactly that way because I’m not much of dancer – but here’s a song about dancing and singing.
Life is full of simple gifts. I pray that each one of you spends some time singing, and dancing giving thanks for just the simple gift of being you. God bless you!
Here is my best closing Thanksgiving Joke. If you have a better one for me to share next year, send it in!
Did you hear the story about the farmer who got up out of bed on a horrible winter morning? It was freezing outside. He went out to the barn to milk his cow. After he finished, the cow turned to him and said, “Thank you for a warm hand.”
What do you think?
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