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Thanks on the Threes

By Bill Lewellis

[This is a slight revision of a column published in The Morning Call in 2007.]

Near the southern end of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when New Jersey by way of the Walt Whitman Bridge is my destination, I listen to a Philadelphia radio station at 2, 12, 22, 32, 42 and 52 minutes after the hour. KYW promotes this minute as Traffic on the Twos. Listening helps me determine whether the Schuylkill Expressway or the Blue Route and I-95 North might be the better, or at least the less harrowing, way to my destination.

My occasional Traffic on the Twos practice has suggested another practice I've devised to help with a daily journey.

I give thanks for some happening or relationship of the preceding three hours as I reflect for a few seconds at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. Thanks on the Threes.

It helps, often in unexpected ways. When I'm inclined to complain, I search between the threes for something or someone to be thankful for.

St. Paul encourages us to "pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." Alice Walker advises us to "live frugally on surprise." Brother David Steindl-Rast asks if we've ever noticed how our eyes open a bit wider when we are surprised. Surprise is the beginning of living with a clue.

Be surprised, obviously grateful, as you walk thrugh a supermarket brimming with the gifts of God and the labor of people you'll never know.

Be surprised when your car starts tomorrow morning.

As a "high-use, low-tech" person, I'm surprised when my computer works, even though it works 99% of the time.

I'm surprised when I'm able to connect so quickly with somene by email, post something on a blog, download a podcast, lay out a newspaper with a computer program and convert the page files to specs required by a distant printer.

Using computer technology has been part of my job for many years, but I'm still surprised when it works. And I'm grateful for the Info/Tech person who fixes it when it doesn't.

When I sit with my laptop to write a column or sermon, I'm surprised to see paragraphs begin to appear on the screen, even though my head has been playing with the topic one way or another for days.

Someday, the words will not come. I will not chance putting thoughts together for public scrutiny. Someday, my sight and reflexes will not allow me to chance the drive to the bridge. Someday, my legs won't tolerate the elliptical workout I need to take time to do.

This Thanksgiving I will remember how good I have felt over the past month, after having experienced some six months of ill health earlier this year.

I hope I will continue to enjoy being surprised, continue to thank God on the threes, continue to be grateful that the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its parts.

"For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea ... For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, our friends ... For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve. For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity ... For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty and justice ... We thank you, Lord. (From A Litany of Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer)

[Bill Lewellis has been communication minister for the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Episcopal Church in 14 counties of eastern and northeastern ennsylvania, since 1986, and canon theologian since 1998.]


Karen Zapotok

I am thankful, right now, that I have found & read your column, found new thanksgivings, and heard you are feeling better than in the past! I am touched by the power of prayer that comes our way daily, if only we take the time to notice. To accept these prayers is another way to give thanksgiving.

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