God’s people are to ‘overflow’ with Thanksgiving

By Curtis Shelburne: Religion columnist

Sometimes we just make things too hard.

I was listening to one of Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegon” stories one day as he was talking about the deer hunting season that had closed up in (fictitious) Lake Wobegon right before Thanksgiving.

Keillor painted a word picture (which I’ve embellished a bit) of the locals watching as city folks came up in droves in their high-dollar Hummers and SUVs. The city guys flocking over to the Chatterbox Cafe for Dorothy’s coffee (any way you want it as long as it’s black and doesn’t end in é-as in latté or brevé) and a chance to retell last year’s hunting tales, were armed with brand new rifles with electronic scopes.

They had their faces painted black, anti-scent scent sprayed all over their skin and the “camo” clothing engulfing their bodies, a dozen assorted deer calls stuck in their pockets along with their GPS devices, and you knew they’d just been tracking deer because of tell-tale pieces of bark still stuck behind their ears from the tree branches they’d been wearing on top of their hats. If you walked in the cafe door and hollered, “Hey, Bubba!” half the guys in the restaurant would break their necks even though these guys might be computer programmers or investment financiers in their day jobs.

They went up to Lake Wobegon to bag a deer and to snag the unique excitement that buying meat at $200 per pound gives.

But the local guys who can go out and get a deer pretty much whenever they want one? Keillor says they drive out and park their old pickups, set up purple and lilac recliners, smoke cigars, play cards, tell jokes (often about city boys who dress like Rambo and spend $200 per pound for meat) and “ever so often a deer comes along and they shoot him.”

I’ll leave you to guess whose deer-bagging average is better.

Sometimes we just make things too hard.

Like giving thanks.

I’ll admit it — some biblical commands in that regard are a bit daunting. Giving thanks “in all circumstances” is a pretty tall order. I’m still working on “most” — with somewhat modest results. “In everything give thanks”? Well, ditto.

I’m afraid the witness of the church and Christian experience is unanimous: We don’t get to pick just the easy commands to try to obey. But the “giving thanks” injunction I’m focusing on this week, also from St. Paul’s pen, is this one: “Overflow with thanksgiving.”

In my experience, “overflowing” usually holds a significant element of surprise. I’m thinking of “overflowing” sorts of experiences after eating too much Halloween candy as a child. Or too much paper down the porcelain. Or forgetting to turn off the water while filling the baptistry.

Ah, but “overflowing” with thanksgiving is a great experience.

First, we choose to be grateful people. Then God surprises us by opening our eyes over and over again to the bottomless depth of his goodness and grace, and the countless reasons, large and small, we have to be thankful.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at ckshel@aol.com