awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new. Ralph Waldo
Autumn in the lyrics
of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow appears like a goddess boldly spreading benedictions on the land:
“Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banner, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than the brightest silks of Samarkand.”
That line of verse conjures Tamerlane’s famed city on the Silk Road where
Marco Polo stopped to sell his wares and where seven centuries later I too would go via Tashkent, Uzbekistan on a Peace Corps
mission. Then as now Autumn would be a season of fullness and fertility,
marking celebrations of the harvests with tables there in the open market filled with whatever
you care to think of: exotic aromatic spices,
brooms, baskets, oriental carpets, ceramics, traditional medicines, fresh vegetables,
dried fruit and nuts, traditional sweets, honey, dairy products and wonderful freshly baked bread. Fast
forward today on this side of the globe the Autumn harvest fills barns and silos with grain, apple orchards are ripe for picking,
and roadside wagons are loaded with pumpkins and assorted gourds. Almost every
small community here in the Shenandoah Valley celebrates the harvest with a festival of some sort or fund raisers for one
or more worthy cause.
Autumn in America rightly concludes with this great festival of gratitude. It
also reminds us of the inevitability of our passing. And here, there is a thanksgiving
of another sort. Robert Louis Stevenson chooses an autumn day for his trek to a cemetery in his essay “An Autumn Effect”.
Enroute, he delights in caroling larks, the gray-painted woods, the bustle of school children, stout ploughmen, and shepherds
leading flocks. And he takes time to pause, to be thankful for stillness, for
lives well spent, for love that endures beyond the grave. So November on our side of the planet becomes nature’s “elegy”
as the woods yield to chilly nights, the first frost, scarlet and golden leaves, and the last sunset before the first snowfall.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough,
and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures
into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings
peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melodie Beattie
“In life with Jesus Christ, death as a general fate approaching us from without is confronted by death
from within, one’s own death, the free death of daily dying with Jesus Christ.
Those who live with Christ die daily to their own will. Christ in us gives
us over to death so that He can live within us. Thus our inner dying grows to
meet that death from without. Christians receive their own death in this way,
and in this way our physical death very truly becomes not the end but rather the fulfillment of our life with Jesus Christ. Here we enter into community with One who at His own death was able to say, “It
is finished.” Quoted in Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.
Get your attention on that Jesus, and He will get you – your surrendered,
obedient attention. Then all that is in Him is transferred to you, all His forgiveness,
grace, love, power, compassion, health – His everything….”Changed into His likeness.” Was there ever such a destiny and such a reward? Changed into
the likeness of the most wonderful Character that ever lived upon this or any other planet – that is the highest and
noblest destiny and reward that has been offered or can be imagined. I who have
been made in the image of sin am now being made in the image of the Savior. That
puts back my shoulders, makes my blood run faster, gives a sense of dignity, even royalty, to life. That spoils me for the little, the base, the low; the big, the high, the magnificent grips me. And I follow – tremblingly at times, for this puts me into the highest heaven and the deepest humility
at one and the same time. I am beholding the “Glory,” and I become
filled with “Glory.”E. Stanley
Jones, in his autobiography, A Song of Ascents…theme taken from Psalm 121.
Our meditations should become every day deeper and more interior. I say deeper, because by frequent and
humble meditation upon God's truth, we penetrate farther and farther in search of new treasures; and more interior, because as we sink more and more to enter into these truths, they also descend to penetrate
the very substance of our souls. Then it is that a simple word goes farther than whole sermons. Francis F. Fenelon, The Inner Life