Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.
– Psalm 95: 2-3
My Thanksgivings are a little bit unconventional.
If work allows, I spend it with my wife’s family in central Arkansas. It’s a time of food, reminiscing and lots and lots of relatives. But, in recent years, since I tend to work on the Friday after, I often spend it with my buddy and business partner Greg Moody and his fine family.
Greg is an amazing cook and host. We usually sit down to the meal by early afternoon and eat and drink and laugh for hours. Greg’s daughter is charming, his wife is always kind and the guest list usually includes mutual friends, so I always feel quite at home.
When things finally wind down I walk away thankful for Greg’s friendship and the hospitality of his family.
Part of that gratitude centers on how much the evening reminds me of the Thanksgivings I used to have with my family and friends years ago.
The formal sit down. The lifting of a glass or two. The banter of good, long time friends. It all gets me roaming the old hallways of my memory and this year, just thinking about the upcoming meal has gotten me started dusting off old thoughts and feelings a bit earlier than usual.
The last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother and one of my old friends Steve.
My mother passed away years ago, when I was in my early 20’s. I still miss her a lot and I catch myself wishing she could have met my wife and my daughter and my in-laws. But my more recent thoughts of her have veered in a different direction.
I’ve been remembering what a strong woman of faith my mother was.
She was a staunch Catholic and active in the church. She also was kind and friendly. Not a church-lady, more a cool, loud, funny salesman. She never met a stranger and to know her was pretty much to love her. When I hit my late teens and rebelled against the church she never turned her back on me. Sure, we had our dust-ups but in the end she was patient and simply had faith I’d figure it all out.
And it took some time but she was right.
My friend Steve, well, I’ve not seen him for years but he recently surfaced on Facebook. We met in my 20s, when I was big into war gaming and the Society for Creative Anachronism. Those were times when I pretty much did what I wanted with little regard for others. At my core I was pretty selfish and prideful.
Steve was part of a pretty close circle of friends that included Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, general searchers and folks who just didn’t give much of a flip. He was our Catholic. Looking back, I never remembered him doing anything mean, or dishonest or egotistical. He always just loved us all no matter how jerky we were.
I remember a Sunday morning decades ago when we were all piled in my car heading back home from an SCA event in another state. We were getting gas, exhausted from the weekend. From the back seat of my tuna boat sized car, Steve suggested politely we find a church and hit Sunday Mass. His idea was met with groans and good-natured nay-saying. It was clear we were not going to indulge him, our good friend, even though it was an honest and reasonable request. Boy, were we jerks.
In the face of that, Steve just smiled at us and took the flack. Looking back, I’m sure he made 5:30 p.m. Mass when we got to town despite his hoodlum friends. Likely he prayed for us. We needed all the help we could get.
Today, when I see his Facebook posts that boldly proclaim his faith I think of that guy long ago who was always kind, always gentle, always a servant of the Lord. I’m glad he was so patient and kind with us all those years ago.
This year, I’m feeling especially grateful for these two people of faith. My mother’s influence was significant and dramatic as most parental relationships are, while Steve’s was more subtle, there in the background seemingly unnoticed but vital none the less.
On Thursday I’ll be thankful that Greg opened his house to me, that I have a loving family, that we’re all healthy -all the blessings God has bestowed on me. But I’ll be especially thankful for these two Christians and their influence and love.
Thanks you two. I got there eventually.