A kind-of Thanksgiving column

Savin’ up for the things money can’t buy
Bill Lewellis
The Morning Call, Nov. 19, 2011

In The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides writes of two 1982 Brown University graduates backpacking through Europe. They part when Mitchell, on a religion quest, goes to India to serve at a guest house for the dying.

Working for a week within his comfort zone, Mitchell is challenged by an older man to color outside his lines.

The older man removes a dying man’s bandages, revealing putrid sores. Pouring water on the man, he says, “This is the body of Christ.” Not finding God there, Mitchell leaves Calcutta with a different prayer on his lips: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.”

I am thankful for God’s mercy on me, a sinner.

Doris died last week. A longtime editor with a difficult ministry in the onetime reactionary Diocese of San Joaquin, she wrote this to a colleague a week earlier.

“I have rather suddenly become filled with cancer of just about everything. This week is my last week of lucidity, then it's off to la-la land and eventually to heaven.

“You know how much Episcopal Communicators [a national organization] has meant to me all these years, and I am going to count on you to pass on the information and all of my thanks for everything everyone has done for me. Don [spouse] will let you know when I am gone. Doris.”

I am thankful for those who teach me to die with gratitude and trust in my heart.

Margaret, a onetime colleague, shared a nightly practice suggested in the book, Simple Abundance. “Every night, before going to bed,” she said, “I jot down five things about that day for which I am thankful.” Later, she told me how this practice changed her perspective on so many things, how it gave every day greater validity.

I’m thankful for all the blessings of this life.

"For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea, we thank you, Lord. For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends ... For minds to thik, 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)

I once sat at the coffee counter of a local Dunkin’ Donuts. A glass-shattering crash spun me around. I touched the hood of a car that had burst through the plate glass window. No one was hurt, not even the elderly driver who had accidentally hit the accelerator rather than the brake. Later that day, my eyes widened as I pulled a handful of glass pebbles from my jacket pocket.
I’m reminded to be thankful when I drive by a Dunkin’ Donuts, to be thankful for accidents where no one is hurt.

Onetime UPI religion editor Lou Cassels was syndicated in 400 newspapers. He died in 1974. A fellow journalist, perhaps at Lou’s funeral, said he wrote three columns and one sermon every month. I looked forward to reading all four.

I thank God for Lou Cassels.

Sermons may be found at times today in films and on TV; also in songs by Bono and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

Try on this refrain from a Springsteen song: You’d better start savin’ up for the things that money can’t buy.

I am thankful for sermons that catch me by surprise.

[Canon Bill Lewellis, blewellis@diobeth.org, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that. He has written hundreds of columns for newspapers and collaborated with Jenifer Gamber on the 2009 book, Your Faith Your Life: An Invitation to the Episcopal Church.]


Thanks on the Threes

By Bill Lewellis

[This is a revision of a column published in The Morning Call in 2006.]

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. I'd say surprise might often be the beginning of gratitude.

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 in the morning.

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

I have been surprised when I've been able to connect so quickly with someone by email or text, post something on a blog, download a podcast, find a helpful web site, 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 and my life 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.

I have been surprised during the past year how much I have enjoyed retirement, even though I have loved the work I had been doing at Diocesan House (Diocese of Bethlehem) for 24 years.

When I sit with my laptop to write a column or sermon, I'm surprised that words  begin to appear on the screen.

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 exercise  I need to take time to do.

This Thanksgiving I will remember how good I have felt over the past year, after having experienced some six months of ill health during 2009.

I intend to continue to be surprised, to thank God on the threes, 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)

[Canon Bill Lewellis, blewellis@diobeth.org, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that.]


Kazzrie Jaxen and The Drummers

At Grace Honesdale
Kazzrie Jaxen and The Drummers
Saturday, Nov. 27, at 2:00 p.m.
Thanksgiving to Mother Earth

The Drummers (Robin Rabii, Elai Tubo, Renis Rabii, Watoii Rabii, Venis Kevii, and Ed Gonzalez) are a unique all-drum ensemble with an eclectic musical style.  The compositions are based on themes that invoke liberation, inspiration, self-examination, and transformation.  The conga drum is the primary instrument of the ensemble and it is a powerful vehicle for transmitting the message of harmony on planet Earth.
 
Kazzrie Jaxen is an international artist, improviser, and composer.  As an improvising pianist and singer she has performed, recorded, and taught for over thirty years.  Known for her originality, virtuosity, and ability to transport an audience, her musical expression ranges from free improvisation to jazz standards, from original songs to vibrational journeys into the dreamtime.
 
This concert is intended to be a joyful celebration of our community and an expression of Thanksgiving to Mother Earth.  We will celebrate our friends and our earth through the magic and majesty of music.

Download poster in pdf below.

Download The Drummers Concert 11-10