A new meaning for Thanksgiving

This year we make the choice to be thankful

The following is a guest editorial written by Paul Bernard, pastor of the Lake Almanor Community Church.

This year, Thanksgiving is taking on new meaning.

I’m not sure what happened in 2016, but for our family, it was a year marked by tragedy and loss. People we once laughed with, admired, and loved, people we couldn’t picture being without, all gone. Gone far too early, far too soon.

It seemed like gray clouds followed us around much of this past year, occasionally unleashing violent tempests that shook us. We weathered each storm, hoping and praying it would be the last, only to be awoken a few weeks later by the gale force winds of the next storm on the horizon.

We couldn’t see it at the time, but there were several stacked up at sea, waiting to make landfall.

With each loss, there was a little something inside of us that broke. It was like something had fallen off the shelf and we would go in to try to clean up the mess.

It seemed we were never quite able finish the job before the house shook again and more things would tumble from the shelves. A lot of our days this past year were spent inside, trying to clean up the broken pieces.

One of the saddest things about loss is that our culture does not have much tolerance for it.

People will turn up for memorial services and send their condolences, cards and flowers which is all very nice, but then they get back to their daily lives.

I’m guilty of doing this too.  We go back to our jobs and our families and our favorite pets and we forget about the broken people and damaged lives we just encountered. So often, people are left to deal with the mess of grief on our own.

If we’re not careful, cynicism and anger can sneak into the cracks of our broken hearts as we sweep silent floors alone.

That is why Thanksgiving is so important.

Elie Wiesel is a Romanian Jew who barely survived the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Holocaust. His mother, father and younger sister all lost their lives during that event.

Even with the horror and suffering in his own life, Wiesel once wrote, “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.”

If we cannot find something to be thankful for, even in the darkest of our days, it means that we have lost a piece of what we were created for.

You see, even though we live in a fallen world, we are not a fallen people.  We are not a broken people.

We were created to breathe in beauty from this world. Thanksgiving and gratitude push us to find that beauty. They force us to reevaluate our lives through the lens of goodness rather than cynicism and anger.

This year for our family, Thanksgiving is taking on new meaning. This year, we are searching for ways to be thankful even as storms rage.

We will choose to be thankful for those beautiful mornings as the mist rests along the causeway of Lake Almanor.

We will be thankful when we sit down to dinner together as a family.

We will be thankful for warm fires in the woodstove on cold nights.

Most of all, we will be thankful for the love of our Father in Heaven.

Each of these things is a little miracle that might be easily missed when it’s stormy outside.

The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

This means I can even offer my grief to God with thanksgiving. Because even grief can hold beauty.

Grief is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of being human.

Grief is the cost of loving someone deeply.

I would never trade love for a painless existence.  I do not think that would be a good trade.

This year, we are just going to make the choice to be thankful.