2009-11-19 / Editorial Page

Dear Hearts and Gentle People

The long table is laden with every food imaginable including the fattest, shiniest turkey we could find. All of us are seated and waiting, some with fork in hand. The most important ritual at this Thanksgiving feast has not yet been performed and we all instinctively know that.

The silence is deafening. Our thoughts are on Thanksgivings past when first my granddaddy, then my daddy would lead us in the blessing. Both have gone on to glory now and we are left to substitution, the next in the patriarchal line of elders who will inherit the honor, or the curse.

I remember when my late brotherin law, the jokester, took the reins the year after my daddy died. All our heads were bowed; the room was quiet with all the children shushed. Seconds passed. An eternity.

Then he began, "God is great, God is good, Let us thank Him for our food…." A few heads sprang up ready to laugh only to see Mack's head bowed and his eyes tightly closed. In childlike fashion he was thanking God in the way he had been taught as a child and when he was done, not a single word was said in derision.

I always appreciated that act of childlike vulnerability and unabashed courage. For the first time in my life, I think, I began to consider the words of grace said over the family meal….what they really mean and from whence they come, our hearts or our heads.

My grandfather's blessing was simple and one, no doubt, he had learned from his elders back years ago. "Kind Father, pardon our sins and give us thankful hearts, for these and all our many blessings, we ask for Christ' sake."

My daddy's was very much like that, a tribute to the father-in-law for which he cared for the last twenty years of my grandfather's life.

I've heard many blessings throughout my sixty-odd years and many of them about as unconventional as they come.

"Over the teeth and past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!" was a favorite of one of my cousins, who shall remain nameless, for fear he is still using that at the ripe old age of forty-four.

"Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Whoever eats the fastest gets the most!" was another stand-by in a pinch.

"Lord, Bless this food and then bless some more; 'cause I have eaten here before!" sounds like it might have originated at my house.

"Lord, we know, without a doubt, you'll bless this food as we pig out." I don't know the origin of this one but I do know it's a blessing that would cover a Thanksgiving meal quite nicely.

As we celebrate next week a day of thanksgiving, I wonder how many hearts will be prepared to express sincere thanks for blessings that are ours…too many to count?

We have become a thankless society in many ways and take so much for granted: our health, our homes, our freedoms, and our country.

I see fewer and fewer people with each passing year who are faithful enough to unashamedly bow their heads in a public restaurant and give thanks for the blessing of food. And when I do witness a couple or a family, heads bowed, hands entwined, I get cold chills up my spine and experience a renewed pride in our Christian nation, such as it is.

I encourage you, dear hearts, whatever your blessing of choice, display an attitude of thankfulness next Thursday as you gather with those you love. Do it if you are alone, eating bacon and eggs, a crust of bread, or not much at all. If you can think of nothing for which to be grateful, reconsider the man on the cross who died for your sins and mine.

I don't know about you, but I am a rotten excuse for a human being but God loved me enough to save me from myself, my bent to sin and my selfishness. That's a blessing I can understand and say grace over!

My neighbor's little four-year-old girl was asked to say the blessing when her parents had us and some others over for dinner one weekend. She shook her head "No" repeatedly and one of the guests asked her, "Emily, aren't you going to ask God to bless this food?"

"No sir, I ain't. My mama's a good cook."

Emily was thankful, she just saw no need to state the obvious.

So, whatever blessing you choose this Thanksgiving, please say it from your heart, not to please men but rather to please the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Hearts.

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