Incomprehensible thanks

My heart is full.  So thank you.

Those of you who serve our country, thank you.

If you have served and gone to school on the G. I. Bill, then you join generations building an incomprehensibly astonishing country, complete with shortcomings the whole world can see.  Please continue building.

If you returned broken, marred, missing parts of body or soul, then you join a long line bleeding in blues, khaki, and camo: striving to rebuild bodies, minds and lives in countless re-enactments of America’s miracle.  Please don’t give up rebuilding.

If you’re eating turkey, or an MRE, or you’re quietly hungry again tonight, then fall in.  Queues of hungry men and women reach back to Valley Forge’s freezer, doing the impossible in Inchon or sweltering in malarial silence.  Please don’t shirk attempting the impossible with your wearied best.

And if you’re quiet in flag-draped box, ferried home by those who cannot flinch at your final high cost paid.  Come take a place with the mighty and abased, heroes with names on small white crosses and stars in quiet, landscaped hills.  Hallowed by you ransoming my dream.

No less so, Christ lovers, who were not surprised when those fearing your faith ushered you horrifically into eternity.  You, did John certainly see in his Revelation, crying to God at justice delayed to the last chance for those martyring you to come to His grace.

Incomprehensible. Price.  Possibility.

If you served my country or Lord, thank you.  May my courage in these dearly bought days, address my debt to you at a Banquet to which we’ve been invited on death’s other shore.

23 December

I sit here at the breakfast counter, the granite cold, hot tea hot, cat curled up next to me, and gray ice outside for as far as I can see.  Brandon swirled in from his Northwest Odyssey with friends at midnight.  He is sound asleep, and Jill is preparing to do battle wih WarMart.

I can’t work in the field, have no other crashing deadlines, and so I am awaiting Christmas.  I put it off this year, but here I am awaiting Christmas.  I practiced this so much through the years.  I thought I would bust as a boy for Santa Claus, while trying to remember Jesus as the Reason for the Season.  I don’t think I got high marks in that effort.  But as a child, I was also a Baptist.  I know, you just let my IQ dip twenty points.

Baptists were / are strange about Christmas.  The preacher thundered that we should not worship at Sears and preached salvation sermons all through December until the last week.  Then we exploded a cornucopia of Christmas cantatas, music, orchestra, bells and pageants in the last week.   It was as if, even when ignored, Christmas exploded at church every year.

Grew to find the rest of Christendom celebrating something called Advent.  Boys and girls had Advent calendars, so my sons did.  Families had advent wreaths, so we did.  Churches celebrated by hanging the Green(s) and I always felt sorry for the Greens, but we celebrated — waiting.  We celebrated expectation.  We learned to embrace the building, pent-up hope for Light, for Salvation, for One to make a right world and us righteous.

Grew up to weep because loved ones slip away just in time for Christmas.  Sons, daughers and friends die in hospital beds, on battlefields we can’t easily pronounce, or at parties and in cars.  People lose homes, health, and hope — while practicing expectancy.

Which made me revisit Advent.  Made me revisit celebrating expectation: such a powerful narcotic.  Made me watch my spouse wonder if she could imagine and hope for something too wonderful for Heaven’s actuality.

So sitting here and expecting my family to gather, talk, eat, build fires, tell stories, and play games, and enjoy the Grandest of grandbabies (fill in your own names here) I realize that this is my favorite time of Christmas.  The waiting.  I cherish the expectation because all Christmases have had that slight tinge — just as the wrapping paper settles in the flurry of opening and you stare at another pair of socks or tie that begs to be exchanged  — that down here, Christmases never quite fill the billing.  Never were intended to do so.  Nothing can quite fulfill the expectation here.

Only in Heaven can a yearning, can a hope so great due to our dire need be met or exceeded.  And just there, right at that point lies the ache.  Beyond all the marketers’ empty promises that reduces us to consumers, can a Place, a Person exist who makes our needs and hopes and brokenness vanish without leaving the salty tracks on our cheeks?  Did He really visit us?

We have practiced being let down for so long, invested so much in the practice, will we even know how to respond when not let down?  I can’t wait to know.

In memory of Anastasia, Thomas Kincaid, Tom Johnson, Vincent, and Greg.

I may not know much about thanksgiving

I may not know so much about Thanksgiving.  I have used silly phrases such as, “I don’t feel very thankful.” And “Here it goes again.”

Fairly depraved. 

I think that the most thankful people feel it the least tonight and tomorrow. 

The ones that have been travelling for fifteen hours and may not make it past cancelled flights and road crews trying to keep up with falling sleet, ice and snow.  They know. 

The men and women in uniform who may feel only a tear or a lump in their throat at the thought of Thanksgiving, and still go out on patrol; walk out and preflight their very cold aircraft; or stare at the prosthesis that may as well be Mt. Everest as far as ease of use.  They know more about thanksgiving than I do.

The same is true for First Responders, Emergency Room doctors and nurses, who grabbed a bit of the terrible turkey at the Station House or Cafeteria with luke warm coffee.  They know more about Thanksgiving and what it truly costs, than I do. 

The Pilgrims had buried a staggering number of their own in that first year and winter.  They had their noses rubbed in their mistakes, missed opportunities, and “if only I had” bashings.  So scheduling the feast with the Indians, their only neighbors, took courage.  It has always been a holiday that looks beyond the cemetery, with great hope at the children, at the mom-to-be, and the land and its opportunity that is so very much harder than you had dared imagine. 

It has always been the holiday that chooses to thank God, when screaming or whining is easier, closer to your heart. 

The expense.  It is the expense that makes the smells, sounds, tastes, and minutes so terribly wonderful, deep, abiding. 

So to those of you travelling, guarding, and responding, if this is not the Thanksgiving, then may one truly wonderful find you.  I am grateful for you.  And if it is with cheese and crackers and a salty tear only, may the Father from whom all good gifts come take note and bless you.