A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to “clean up” the bird’s vocabulary. Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and stuffed him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s hand and said “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate behavior and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable conduct.” John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, “But before we continue, may I ask what the turkey did?”
Ah it’s turkey time again, and whether your turkey is frozen or fresh today is one of the best times of the year. On Thanksgiving I have permission to eat all I want, I get to hunt ducks and geese for two days and I can watch football to my heart’s content. It doesn’t get any better than that. It is a time for family, a time to enjoy one another’s company, a time to give thanks as we look back on our lives over the past year. And most of us have much to be thankful for. Believe it or not, this Thanksgiving I am actually thankful for Gaston and the sewage laden flood waters that spewed from my basement toilet and filled the kids play room and utility room four feet deep. As I like to say that flood Feng Shui’d our life. But now our reconstruction efforts have just been completed. After a lot of effort, money and paper work we have a new play room and a new furnace. And this Thanksgiving I am thankful that I get to huddle with Melissa and the kids around a roaring, though faux, gas fire in our fireplace – a bonus we installed along with our new furnace. It even has remote control so I won’t have to get up out of my turkey induced tryptophan stupor to turn the thing on. It is very fun.
What are you thankful for today? I mean besides the obvious. Where are the hidden blessings in your life this year, the little blessings that often come about as a result of difficult circumstances? It’s amazing isn’t it that if we look hard enough at our lives we can almost always find some little thing to be thankful for even when we look at the bad things, the hard things, the sad things that have happened to us in the past year. The destruction of our basement was a very minor event compared to what some people went through this year, especially those who lost someone they love or had to face a difficult illness. But I am at heart an optimist because I believe God never stops giving us gifts even when life appears to pull the rug out from under us. As the author of Deuteronomy says in our lesson for this morning – “Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.” Without doubt the wilderness is no place any of us want to be but as Moses and the people of Israel discovered, even in the wilderness there are blessings along the way. Today is the day to remember those blessings.
The truth is if we can’t keep our hearts attuned to the little blessings, the hidden blessings that God gives to us, then sooner or later we may well begin to miss the larger blessings as well. If we can’t spot the small blessings bestowed upon us we run the risk of becoming like the frozen turkey discovered by the parrot. We run the risk of freezing our hearts to the point that we see few blessings, if any at all.
Think for a moment about the people in your life. Not the fun people, the nice people, the people with whom you have a comfortable, easy relationship. Rather think about the people who bug you, trouble you, disappoint you. If you are like most families you may well be spending a chunk of your holiday weekend with a disproportionately large number of these folks. Do you give thanks for them? Can you find the blessing in your life that comes because they are a part of it? Or have you frozen in your mind who you think they are and what you believe they have to contribute? The crazy aunt, the whiny over-indulged sibling, the hypercritical mother, the non-emoting father, the cousin who always drinks too much – do you give thanks for these people even at their worst? Because although it may seem hard to believe, they do bless you, they have blessed you, and in most cases your life would be the poorer for their absence. Family dynamics are often difficult, complicated and exhausting – especially over the holidays. But all these people have blessed you if for no other reason then the fact that their presence has made you into who you are today. Even the pain they have caused can be a blessing when that pain causes growth and better prepares you to deal with the struggles of life.
In closing, we need to remember that our forefathers and mothers who built this wonderful country were not so much thankful for something as they were thankful in something. In bounty or in want they were thankful. In feast or in famine they were thankful. In joy or in misery they were thankful. There is a big difference between being thankful for things and being thankful in all things. Let us this Thanksgiving Day learn to be thankful in all things. Let us learn to say thank you God for all our struggles – as easily as we say thank you God for all our blessings. Let us learn to say thank you God when we have only a little – as easily as we say thank you God when our lives are rich and full. Let us learn to say thank you God for the challenges confronting our nation – as easily as we say thank you God for the bounty of these United States .
Pray today that the God of grace will give us thankful hearts and willing hands. Thankful hearts that we might never forget all that we have been given. Willing hands that by our very lives we might give something back in return. Amen.
 Brett Blair, November 2000.