Butterflies, Cornucopia, and Gratitude

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It’s early Sunday morning. Lately this means I would be getting ready to hit the road, or getting ready to preach later this morning. I was planning to be waking up on the Panhandle out in Western Nebraska this morning. But for the first time in two and a half years, my preaching and visit plans were thwarted by the weather.

Pastor Rich Sheridan and I were making the trip together yesterday across the state, and we found ourselves driving in snow, wind, and ice on the freeway. Conditions were only getting worse. So about three hours on our journey, we did some math. We probably would have made it to the Panhandle, but it would have been many, many hours later than planned, and after much more stressful driving and hours of ice, wind, and snow. We would have been utterly exhausted, not the best recipe for preaching and visiting congregations.

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The full length of our cornucopia. A sign of harvest and a tradition of decorating for Thanksgiving in our home.

As the roads worsened, we made the call to turn around. That was a first for me. To make that phone call to the pastor I was to be visiting, I did feel a little disappointed. However, in emailing what I would have preached, I hope that was helpful. I also hope to reschedule my visit for soon after winter ends. Pastor Rich and I will hopefully make that trip across the state again together soon.

As for the rest of the story, we made it home. But it took nearly twice as long to drive back home as to what it took to get to where we were when we actually turned around. The weather worsened, and the roads weren’t great all the way back to Omaha. Add in the traffic from after the Huskers’ game, and well, it was the perfect recipe for a long, slow, but ultimately safe drive home. If nothing else, we felt validated in our decision to turn around when we did. And grateful to be home safe and sound, after not the most fun winter driving.

So awake as I am this morning, suddenly without any formal responsibilities other than being dad- I’m not preaching, piano/organ is covered by others today, etc. It’s going to be a different kind of Sunday for me. And I am okay with that. Grateful actually to be able to just show up and be part of the community of the gathered for worship today both this morning and later in the evening for the congregation’s Thanksgiving service. Grateful.

Speaking of grateful, I took a long look at our family’s cornucopia the other day. Over the years we have added pieces to it, and now it pretty much can fill an entire table runner, as a full center piece. Not every piece has a story, but some do. Most important for me though are the pieces that are the least traditional. Butterflies. 

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Zooming in on the display, perhaps you can find one of the many butterflies that are a part of it?

Butterflies are probably a more common symbol or decoration for Easter or spring. But in my family, they are a sign of life, hope, and resurrection that I associate with this time of year. They just make sense in my mind for Thanksgiving. At least three important people in my family have passed away near Thanksgiving. My Uncle Danny who I am sort of named after, passed away a year and a half before I entered the world right before Thanksgiving. On his grave stone sits a butterfly. Maybe that’s why I have started putting little butterflies in our cornucopia? I’m not sure exactly.

But in more recent times, both of my grandpas passed away in November before Thanksgiving, one year a part. So it would be easy to get discouraged or sad this time of year. Instead, however, I am grateful. I am grateful for the memories of these loved ones.

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And one more butterfly

I am grateful to have been entrusted with part of their stories, and shaped in part by them. And I am grateful for the image of the butterfly joining us at the table, a reminder of Thanksgiving feasts of years gone by with both grandpas at least gathered around my family’s table. And grateful for the image of the eternal banquet feast I know that they are a part of.

As we turn to Thanksgiving this week, I hope that you too are able to take some time to reflect and give thanks. Maybe there might be a little sign of something calling you to dwell or look at a new. For me this week, it has been the butterflies in the cornucopia. What might be calling you to stop and wonder? To pause and share a moment of gratitude?

Gracious and Generous God, I give you thanks for safety on the roads yesterday and for understanding colleagues and congregations who are part of your church together. Help us be able to make that visit soon. But in the meantime, help us to take time to celebrate, give thanks, and share our gratitude for all that you entrust, but most importantly for You. Thank you for this abundant life that you offer- for meaning and purpose, relationships, and a love so deep and abundant that you offer it to all. For this and so much more I give thanks. In your holy name, Amen. 

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