Thursday, November 27, 2008

What Makes You Come Alive?

A message for Thanksgiving Day from Doctor Howard Thurman…
Introduced by Charlie Leck

Here’s a little message I wouldn’t mind leaving behind for my grand grandchildren. It comes from Doctor Howard Thurman.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
My grandchildren, Doctor Howard Thurman was born about the same time as my father, your great-grandfather, who you never got to know. Your great grandfather never taught me anything about Howard Thurman. He probably didn’t know about him. I was nearly 30 when I first read about Doctor Thurman. He was an author of prose and poetry, a theologian, a teacher and a leader in the civil rights movement. In his lifetime he met many distinguished and famous people, but no one impressed him more than Mahatma Gandhi.

Thurman brought Gandhi’s message of non-violence back to the United States with him. Thurman’s thinking and writing greatly influenced Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr, and he eventually served as King’s spiritual advisor. Because of his influence on King, he’s been called one of the most important figures in American History. At the time of his death, his autobiography, With Head and Heart, was published in Chicago.

Thurman defined the work of Christmas this way:
  • To find the lost

  • To heal the broken

  • To feed the hungry

  • To release the prisoner

  • To rebuild the nations

  • To bring peace among others

  • To make music in the heart

Those would be good thoughts to keep in our minds as move into the Christmas season.

I won’t write a blog today, Thanksgiving Day, so instead I’m bringing you a special Thanksgiving message. A nephew of mine, one of your cousins, dear grandchildren, sent it along to me because it was used to open a meeting he attended recently at Boston University. Thurman was the first black dean at that institution. I was flattered that my nephew said the litany made him think of me.

This piece by Thurman is a perfect prayer for us to have in our hearts on this wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Howard Thurman

In Your presence, O God, we make our Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

We begin with the simple things of our days:

Fresh air to breathe,

Cool water to drink,

The taste of food,

The protection of houses and clothes,

The comforts of home.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

We bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that we have known:

Our mothers' arms,

The strength of our fathers,

The playmates of our childhood,

The wonderful stories brought to us from the lives of many who talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and diverse kinds of magic held sway;

The tears we have shed, the tears we have seen;

The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its reminder that life is good.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We finger one by one the messages of hope that await us at the crossroads:

The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of our security,

The tightening of the grip of a single handshake when we feared the step before us in the darkness,

The whisper in our heart when the temptation was fiercest and the claims of appetite were not to be denied,

The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page when our decision hung in the balance.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We passed before us the mainsprings of our heritage:

The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before us,
without whom our own lives would have no meaning,

The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;

The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp, and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which they would never see,

The workers whose sweat has watered the trees, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations,

The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons, whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places,

The savior whose blood was shed with the recklessness that only a dream could inspire and God could command.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

We linger over the meaning of our own life and commitment to which we give the loyalty of our heart and mind:

The little purposes in which we have shared with our loves, our desires,
our gifts,

The restlessness which bottoms all we do with its stark insistence that we have never done our best, we have never reached for the highest,

The big hope that never quite deserts us, that we and our kind will
study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the children of God as the waters
cover the sea.

All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel, we make as our sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee, Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.

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