Writing this song was like issuing a challenge to the universe - "Come on, make this difficult for me to keep on singing! Make these words a struggle." And just because it is Thanksgiving Eve, I am going to leave this one up for free for a couple of days. It's one of those tracks I really got my way on 100%. It's just the piano and my imperfect, small, human voice. Right there, saying the words I want so much to believe when it's difficult. No air brushed anything (although our fantastic friend, Brett, did work his usual magic here and there).
Someone asked me the other day, "So are you going anywhere for the holiday?" I answered that, yes, we were going to see my family and to also touch base with my husband's family. "Are you excited?" I must have answered too quickly - "Yes!" my friend said, "Are you really excited? . . ."
"I'm just glad they're all here and alive. We have some struggles like everybody else's family, but at this point in life, I'm just happy to be able to know where they all are, even if none of us come to the table perfect."
I don't say that lightly.
We're a family like yours. We have some arguments. We have some addictions and some recovery. We have some illness. We have some imprisonment and some job loss. We have some grief and some chairs that have been empty a long time - and we're still mourning some of that. We have each other - and because we're family, we don't always bring the best of ourselves to one another. Because it's us. You know? We bring our most broken things to this holiday table and the miracle is the fact that we all can break bread together.
So as Mom is setting the table with the almost-Advent decorations and we're talking about everything we have from the past year . . . as Dad is saying the prayer (always brief, but always makes me cry) . . . the miracle is us dropping away whatever it is we're dragging behind us.
I love them so much.
"Remind my soul that life is MESSY. Remind my soul to count the BLESSINGS. In ALL things, I give THANKS."
How foolish I was to pen those words and then expect them to be easy.
I know you. You're afraid your kids won't all show up this year.
I know you. You're watching everybody else leave town, but you can't afford it.
I know you. You're nervously making sure that the silverware is in the right spot on the table because you think your in-laws don't accept you already . . . if anything is out of place, you'll never earn their respect.
I know you. The hatchet still isn't buried between you two brothers, is it? And how can you sit across from each other and pretend it's ok?
How many of us does God know? God knows all of us. And God knows what it is that heals us. God knows what it is that teaches us how to be whole again. To give thanks for something. One small thing. What is it? Where is the thanks? Where is the part of us that gives the thanks?
"And with my eyes, wide open endlessly, beholding you in peace, a garment wide, stretched over me. And with my hands, wide open endlessly, receiving presently - whatever else this life may bring . . ."
Smooth move, Tullock. Go and say that and then see how easy it is.
It's not easy.
It never was for anybody.
Not for my brother, Jesus. Not for any of the teachers I've been reading . . . Gandhi, or Anne, or Jennifer, or for any of my closest friends. Not for my family. Not for my husband and I. Not for the people I work with - inside and outside of the church. It's not easy for any of us. There's no shame here.
I started out telling you about my family. About how I love them and I'm thankful to be able to see some of them this week.
Sometimes loving them the way I do is difficult to the point of being painful. Because it's so much.
You know that feeling, too, because you love your own people. You love them so much that you fight with them. You love them through all of this resentment and misunderstanding . . . and it's tough.
Do you think that the table where the last supper happened was free of confusion, hurt feelings, resentment, or doubt?
Is Holy Communion practiced only by the perfected?
The Thanksgiving table is a communion table. Whether it's family or you're celebrating "Friendsgiving" with a rag tag assembly of buddies. It's Holy.
Our heart can say to the hearts of the ones we love, "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven."
And the echo will come back to us from the Holy Spirit - "In the name of Jesus Christ, you also are forgiven."
This happens when we remember that life is "messy." When we remind ourselves that none of this "love" stuff is ever going to come out like a Hallmark movie. We're going to bring our imperfect, human , frail selves to the table and the beauty will not be the air brushed poetry we spout. It will be the honesty of our love in the face of real life.
May the God of Peace be in your heart and in your understanding. May He open up our whole entire being as we go into this time of gathering. May He give us His awareness of other people. May He make us new in the face of our outrage at injustice and our hurt in the midst of our families. May God be in our eyes and in our looking. May God be in our hands and make us helpful to each other.