Thanksgiving Collection I

We have a winner! The winner of Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels is . . .

Gwen Witmer

Congratulations, Gwen – happy reading!

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914) Courtesy Wikipedia
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)        Courtesy Wikipedia


A holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving invites us to pause and give thanks as we pray, that mysterious communication between one’s heart and the mind of God. Writer C. S. Lewis declares his attitude before prayer: “The prayer preceding all prayers is “May it be the real I who speaks.” British author W. H. Auden expresses the mystery of prayer in a haiku: “He has never seen God, / but once or twice, he believes / he has heard Him,” quoted in The New Yorker, November 14, 2011.  And the British author John Baillie implores of God as he prays:

Let me use disappointment as material for patience.

Let me use success as material for thankfulness.

Let me use trouble as material for perseverance.

Let me use danger as material for courage.

Let me use reproach as material for long-suffering.

Let me use praise as material for humility.

Let me use pleasures as material for temperance.

Let me use pain as material for endurance.

Children in our church’s 2-year-old class learn that prayer is talking to God, and then they do just that when they clasp their fat, little fingers as they sing “God is great, and God is good” before snack time:

SSpraying Hands

“Keeping company with God” is the title of Part One of Philip Yancey’s book with the arresting title Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? He discusses also the language of prayer and the dilemmas of prayer including what one should pray for, the enigma of unanswered prayer, and “un-prayed answers.” (220)  Ah, the mystery of talking to God.


Lately I decided to cheer myself up by reviewing the bounty of God’s blessings. When the machinery of life goes awry–the doctor has a dire report, the car breaks down, a friend misunderstands–how can it be that I overlook divine intervention? My memory for blessing is so limited, and so I record evidences of God’s faithfulness:



Over the years, in fact since 1984, I have accumulated prayer cards, some printed with typewriter ribbon and later ones two-sided and computer generated. Most of what is on the card are names of family and friends who need help, but sometimes there is a condition humanly unsolvable that I pray God will remedy. The cards are speckled with dates recording what I regard as answers to prayer.


How soon we forget. How necessary to remember!

Denise Levertov, from Sands of the Well, expresses with clarity the “quiet mystery” of communication between God and [wo]man in two stanzas of “Primary Wonder” (vimeo):

Days pass when I forget the mystery.

Problems insoluble and problems offering

their own ignored solutions

jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing

their colored clothes; cap and bells.

                                              And then

once more the quiet mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamor recedes; the mystery that there is anything, anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything, rather than void: and that, O Lord, Creator, Hallowed One, you still,

hour by hour sustain it.

How do you practice gratitude?

During this Thanksgiving season do you have a story, long treasured in the family or a newly minted one to share? We’re ready to listen!


10 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Collection I

  1. What a beautiful testimony to the power of gratitude in your life and in the world, Marian. I love the wideness in your vision. I keep a journal sporadically, and it is often filled with my moments of wonder, ecstasy, delight in silence, and gratitude. But I feel ready to be more disciplined in both recording my gratitude and in recording prayer. Those cards of yours are amazing!

    I also loved the picture of the little girl’s hands in prayer. Her red polish. The “baby fat” still protecting her body as her innocence protects her spirit. Having just returned from a weekend in NJ with grandchildren, my story of gratitude is recent. I am grateful for eyes that light up and arms that surround me and for the new name “Grammy, Grammy!” spoken with such excitement from a little one that he has to jump up and down while he says it.

    I think that’s the kind of enthusiasm God loves to see from me, too.


    1. Thank you for your comment, Shirley. I can always count on your for an insightful assessment that widens the story. You mention “enthusiasm” at the end. I think that’s what it is all about: en-THEOS-iasm, the essence of God’s character.

      Soon that little boy will almost knock you down as he flies non-stop toward you for a hug. Ian, age 6, case on point.


  2. My children went to parochial school for their first six years plus 4 and 5 y o kindergarten. They learned to love God and to know Him. My daughter now has a three year old and we say a prayer together everytime she goes to sleep at my house, but my daughter doesn’t teach her, and has issues with it. I don’t understand it, except to say her values have changed. I feel sad about that because I worry where her children will find their strength.


  3. This prayer really ministered to me when I saw it on FB recently……….Dear God,
    Enlighten what’s dark in me,
    Strengthen what’s weak in me,
    Mend what’s broken in me,
    Bind what’s bruised in me,
    Heal what’s sick in me, and lastly,
    Revive whatever peace and love has died in me.


  4. I read Yancey’s book Where is God When it Hurts and loved it. One of the biggest obstacles between humans and a relationship with God is reconciling suffering. As Thanksgiving approaches, I think of all the things that I’ve learned during the times that I’ve suffered, and I’m grateful. It’s hard to feel that way during the pain, sometimes you’re just holding on day by day, but I cling to the assurance that He’s working all things for my good.


    1. Yancey is not afraid of confronting hard questions with other titles like Disappointment with God and Church: Why Bother? His books are always well researched with copious notes for each chapter yet with an engaging, narrative style. It’s good to know there are other pilgrims on the same journey!


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