The Rev. Jill Jarvis, Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N. 1100 Road:
My life is blessed with many gifts. In fact, my very life — that I exist and am given this brief time on earth — is a miracle for which I’m profoundly thankful. There is beauty and goodness in this world that fill me with wonder — the pink sky at sunset, the cry of a newborn, the love that surrounds me and that I feel for others. I’m also grateful to have a wonderful family, friends and faith community.
These blessings sometimes seem to be such an integral part of life that it’s all too easy to leave them unnoticed and unappreciated; they become like background music. Yet they are all gifts — unearned and unsolicited — and the faithful response to a gift is gratitude. For me, that requires an active spiritual discipline of mindfulness. I slow down to consider what life would be like without such beauty and goodness, and I’m filled with gratitude for what is.
One of the most basic religious truths for me, is a deep understanding of the inherent unfairness of life. As poet William Blake wrote: “Some are born to sweet delight; Some are born to endless night.”
When I consider the many privileges I have due to accidents of birth and life circumstances — health, education, fulfilling work, more than adequate food and shelter — I resist the culturally-induced hubris of believing I independently earned and deserve these. Seeing the disparities between my life and others’ lives, I know it could easily have been otherwise. I recognize my good fortune for what it is.
But witnessing the pain of others and simply feeling grateful for my own privilege is not an adequate response to life’s inequitable blessings. The only faithful response is a question: “What can I do to make the world more fair?” — followed up with action.
— Send e-mail to Jill Jarvis at email@example.com.
The Rev. Nate Rovenstine, pastor, Lawrence Wesleyan Church, 3705 Clinton Parkway:
The answer to this question is very clear to me, and I would assume to most readers. I am most thankful for relationships.
The fact that we are thankful for relationships is because we are created in the image of a relational God. Because we are in his image, we delve into the mystery, pain and joy of love. We risk vulnerability in order to gain intimacy. Sometimes we get hurt, but because we are created in God’s image, we keep seeking out relationships, sometimes in unhealthy ways.
Johnny Carson once said, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”
Relationships are tricky. We so desperately want and need to be in relationship with others, and yet it can be so very painful. Many of our relationships are broken and damaging. Like porcupines on a cold night, we find it hard to get close, even though doing so would shield us from the cold.
It is God’s desire to be in relationship with humanity that motivated him to send his son to this planet. Because our relationships are broken by sin, Jesus Christ came to earth in order to restore a right relationship with God, and to enable us to build healthy relationships with others. For this reason, I can’t separate thankfulness from faith, as the question implies. Healthy relationships are impossible without faith. Because of Christ’s love, I have placed my faith and life into his sovereign care. The resulting relationship brings healing, depth and meaning to all other relationships in my life. For this I am thankful.
— Send e-mail to Nate Rovenstine at firstname.lastname@example.org.