A sense of Thanksgiving

by Major Carol SeilerI love the fall. It has been my favorite season forever, and is one of the joys of living in areas that actually have seasons. In southern California you just have to remember what fall is like–or else drive into the mountains. There is something invigorating about crisper weather. The color changes remind me of heaven’s artists dripping color from the tops of trees. It is breathtaking to see red maples, yellow birch and orange oak leaves streaking through dark green pine trees, racing up the sides of mountains where red sumacs challenge gray granite brushed with snow dust.

From a texture point of view, it reminds me of wearing sweaters and wool jackets again. Clothing has more texture and weight. Flannel sheets and thick quilts provide great texture. Food has more taste in the fall with stews, squashes, pies and breads. Lettuce is nice enough, but has no substantial texture in the realm of food! Living the first half of my life in a seasonal climate helped me appreciate the wonderful contrast of warmth and light of home to the dark and coldness of a biting November day. I enjoy the new year that clearly starts in September, not January. As a younger person it was going back to school, as an older person it has been new resolutions or opportunities. My regret in Army life has been that so much of the fall is consumed with Christmas preparation, that the lessons of harvest, giving thanks and faith in regeneration gets lost.

Now, some of you might think I am romanticizing this season. I might be, but it never loses its magic for me. Let me share some of the lessons that fall has taught me. One is that of harvest. What is planted in faith many months before, what is watched over and cared for during the wet spring, heat of summer and uncontrollable environment, shows the fruit of that labor. I am so grateful to know that even if I cannot see the fruit of many labors or even my whole life, I know that in God’s precious cycle there will be a harvest. “And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.” (Galatians 6:9, LB)

I am reminded in the fall about giving thanks for the blessings. Thanksgiving is not just the signal of the start of kettles, or the reason for a thousand football games and loaded tables of food. It is a reminder to be thankful for our lives, for the amazing grace of God that allows us to have access to him, for the good and the bad that stretch us as we try to live with kingdom values in this world. Sometimes we do it right and sometimes we don’t. But every day is another opportunity and for that I am thankful. It is also a reminder that in response to God’s goodness and love, “I am compelled… and will…”

The root of thankfulness comes from the healing power of God. Thankfulness compels response in worship and action in living as a forgiven being.

The story of the lepers in Luke 17: 11-19 demonstrates this truth. Jesus healed 10 lepers who asked for mercy, and they all ran with joy when their leprosy disappeared. One stopped and returned, shouting “Glory to God, I’m healed.” According to Scripture he fell face down in the dust before Jesus, giving thanks. And Jesus told him: “Stand up and go, your faith has made you well.” Giving thanks makes us well where it matters ­ in the soul. Acknowledging the source and depth of healing makes us well where it matters. Giving thanks in the fall reminds us who is actually responsible for the miracle of growth and maturity of the fruit.

The third lesson in the fall is the signal of a promise of regeneration. You know, you can “feel it in the air,” that the cold winter is coming. All the analogies could come alongside here. The “winter of life,” the hardships of the dark days, the blizzards that cause us to “lose our way in a storm,” the frozen ground and hardness to the seeds…you know them. But I have never yet seen winter where there wasn’t spring following. It might take longer some years, but it always came. The regeneration of seeds happened. Flowers bloomed. Trees ran sap and tiny buds burst out. Inside the hardness of a snow-covered or frost-bitten earth ran the source of life. I love the promise that there is regeneration and life and beauty even when it seems that life is the coldest and darkest.

Is it a perfect analogy? Probably not, but these cycles of life that (for me) start in the fall fill me with a reassurance that God remains in control. I need that, and want to always remember to turn back to Jesus and fall on my face and shout “Glory to God!”

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