Thursday, November 22, 2007

thanksgiving prayer

Editor's Note: Rob Shuler is a former Auburn offensive lineman who was a four-year letterman on Coach Pat Dye's teams from 1982-1985. Shuler lives in Nashville where he runs All-American Holdings, a private equity fund that buys troubled American and European companies. Shuler is a regular on the message boards and is wrote this Thanksgiving column about a friend in need who has lost family members in a traffic auto accident.
I learned to hate Alabama early in my career at Auburn. Being from Atlanta my main concern before arriving on the Plains was to beat Georgia. It all changed my first November in the Iron Bowl (Auburn 23, Alabama 22). The passion the players on both teams (most of them growing up in Alabama) displayed in the game was at a level of intensity I had never experienced. It was deeper than Georgia vs Georgia Tech (the rivalry I grew up watching in my backyard).

As our fans tore down the goal posts that afternoon I began to understand that this game was a build up of 365 days of waiting. It was what both Alabama fans and Auburn fans pointed towards the whole year not just in the football season.

After graduating from Auburn I eventually made my way up to Nashville, Tenn. Life would throw its share of curves at me and I ended up divorced and in an apartment eight years ago. And isn't God funny, he would give me a new neighbor, Jim Farmer, the former great Alabama basketball player.

Jim and I bonded immediately. He was an athlete who understood what it took to be great--he had dealt with life after sports and he had had his share of failed relationships. We'd joke with each other about the Iron Bowl, but as former athletes we both appreciated and respected the investment each player on both teams had put into the game.

For the most part we were unbiased in our observations about good play and bad play for our respective teams. I served as an usher just a few years ago in Jim's wedding, and wouldn't you know it, I had to walk down the isle with another usher, Mark Gottfried (Yes the head coach of Alabama and Jim's former roommate).

It was around this time Jim and I played in a celebrity golf tournament in Destin. At this tournament I would meet a guy who would become one of my closest friends, former Alabama running back Siran Stacy. Siran's smile lit up the room as he talked with me and others. He radiated a joy few people have.

Yes, he played for Alabama and I played at Auburn, but that failed to register in our long conversations that would follow over the last few years. We would talk about our families, our careers, and most importantly, our relationship with God. The good and the ugly. Our failings and struggles.

We were very much alike, and if most men are honest, like most men. We both were not satisfied with where we were in life, but assured each other that life is a process and that there is mercy and grace given to all. We became brothers. One black, one white, one Auburn, one Alabama. It didn't matter.

You see, Siran and I understood each other at a deep level and were able to encourage, laugh and challenge each other to move closer; closer to God, closer to our children, and closer to his wife (and for me closer to healthy relationships with women).

This has been a very difficult week for me. My Bama brother has experienced what I would not wish on my worst enemy. He has lost his beautiful wife and four of his precious children. He and his daughter Shelly are hanging tough in ICU. He will face enormous loss in the days, weeks and years to come. I don't know the words I will speak when I see him. I don't know if I will have the strength to help. I will pray that God in His great mercy will provide all Siran needs to make it through each day.

You see as we approach the Iron Bowl I'm lost for words. I don't really care any more who wins the game. I care more about my friend, who once was a rival before I knew him but now is my bother in the darkest hour I can't imagine and in need of much love and support.

Roll Tide, War Eagle, but most importantly, God be with Siran. As many gathered around the dinner table today to give thanks here are a three prayers offered by local clergy to help those with the responsibility of saying grace.

Our Father, we desire to have you sit at the head of this our Thanksgiving table that our childlike hearts may once again make our prayers of thanks to you, that we might remember again that you are indeed great as we have observed in the beauty and complexity of your creation, that you are good as we have experienced in blessings far beyond our comprehension and deserving, that this food for which we give thanks, like every good and perfect gift, is from you, that it is by your hand that we have been led through times of need and times of rejoicing, and, that you give us daily bread to nourish both body and soul.

For these, and every blessing, we, your children both young and old, repeat together the simple prayer of thanks for the ages. God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we all are led. Give us Lord our daily bread, amen

- Pastor Ron Boswell

Calvary Baptist Church, Wentworth

In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, we gather today to give thanks to God for his gifts to this land and its people. For God has been generous to us, as we ask God's blessing upon the food we will share with our families may we be mindful of those in need.

God most provident we join all creation in raising to you a hymn of thanksgiving through Jesus Christ your son. For generation upon generation, peoples of this land have sung of your bounty. We too offer you praise for the rich harvest we have received at your hands. Bless us and this food, which we share with grateful hearts. Continue to make our land fruitful and let our love for you be seen in our pursuit of peace and justice and in our generous response to those in need.

Praise and glory to you Lord God now and forever, amen

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

- Father Johnathan

M. Hanic

Saint Joseph of the Hills, Eden

In praise and thanksgiving for all our blessings we lift our hearts to thee, O God. Forgive us that so often we forget thee who art the great and good giver.

We are grateful for thy universe with its beauty and order, for our favored nation with its freedom and abundance, for the church in which we have learned to worship thee, for the homes which have given us their love, for all the friends who have helped us on our way.

We give thee special thanks for our knowledge of Christ and for our Christian heritage. Make us worthy of the stalwart souls who came to our shores in the early days and because of their faith in thee set apart a day of thanksgiving in the midst of danger and hardship.

May we be willing to share our blessings. If any deeds of ours can make it easier for those in distress or help to make a better world, may we be swift to perform them.

For Jesus' sake, amen.
What the world needs today is the goodness of conscience.

But we have got to be willing. After all, we the people have the power of choice and thought which determines our fate and, largely, the fate and well-being of life broadly deemed as "wild" (beyond our control) and "tame" (doing our will).

Since my earliest remembrance, the households of the Todd family and kinfolks always "gave thanks" ("returned thanks") to the Creator, whom we called God and Lord, for the food and drink on the breakfast, dinner and supper table no matter how bountiful or how meager.

Long after nightfall after the radio was turned off, the school work was done, Mother prepared the bedding for us youngsters and Daddy turned off the reading lamp, the three Todd boys were ushered off to bed to recite the old 18th Century children's prayer, which is fitting for all of God's children:

"Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take."

In considering what must be the world's tradition of giving thanks at mealtime at home in peace or on life's battlefields in times of war or in fighting the battles of homelessness, impoverishment, poverty, cruelty, sickness, indifference and neglect, I happened upon this American Indian - Iroquois -Thanksgiving Prayer. The prayer is one of great humility and thanksgiving:

Iroquois Thanksgiving Prayer

"We return thanks to our mother,

the earth, which sustains us.

We return thanks to the rivers and streams

which supply us with water.

We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines

for the cure of our diseases.

We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters,

the beans and squashes, which give us life.

We return thanks to the bushes and trees,

which provide us with fruit.

We return thanks to the wind,

which, moving the air, has banished diseases.

We return thanks to the moon and the stars,

which have given us their light when the sun was gone.

We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,

that he has protected his grandchildren from witches and reptiles,

and has given us his rain.

We return thanks to the sun,

that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.

Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,

in whom is embodied all goodness,

and who directs all things for the good of his children."

As I reflect on the goodness of the Iroquois Thanksgiving Prayer, I think of the pain, grief and loss which the world's peoples, not just the relatively affluent and prosperous Americans, have caused this marvelously complex phenomenon of myriad life forms called Planet Earth.

In our quests to survive, to prosper, to explore, to seek adventure, to expand and then to satisfy virtually unbridled lusts and to pack our fortunes with the ugliness of greed, we the people have caused the Earth to weep and wail.

Unlike nature's wiles (if wiles it be) or phenomena called volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tempests at sea, storms over land, floods, droughts, meteorites and pestilences, the so-called "progress" of people has resulted in the loss of great forests, the pollution of rivers, lakes and oceans, diminished fertility of the land and the extinction or threatened extinction of species of wildlife (both fauna and flora). The health of the people and the health of the land and the great vastness of water all have suffered as has the conscience of the world.

In his pursuit of a measure of humility and thankfulness ("meek and thankful heart"), English philosopher Izaak Walton (1593-1683) quoted French Jesuit preacher-moralist Nicolas Caussin: "He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping."

What the world direly needs today is the goodness of an abiding conscience, a sense of ethics that would bode well for healing the world and all that is in it, bar nothing. Amen.

For Denise Michna and her Caledonia family, this Thanksgiving is special because her daughter, Brittany, is cancer-free.

In October 2006, Brittany was diagnosed with neuroblastoma ― a type of cancer ― in which malignant cancer cells form in nerve tissue of the adrenal gland, neck, chest or spinal cord. In Brittany's case, the tumor was on the left side of her stomach.

"I thought her life was over. I had told my mom, right before Brittany was diagnosed, (that) I was too happy," Denise said recently as she watched the laughing, energetic 10-year-old at cheerleading practice.

Brittany is very active, her mother said. In addition to cheerleading, she also was on the St. Joseph's School volleyball team this fall. Brittany is now doing extremely well, surprising her doctors.

"They don't understand why she's doing so good," Denise Michna said. "They've never seen anyone gain weight during chemotherapy. They think it was the prayer and community support."

This time last year, Brittany was receiving chemotherapy treatments at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa, which she completed in June.

"In the beginning, there was a 50-50 chance she wouldn't make it. But the cancer is gone," Denise said. "She had a 12-hour surgery to remove the tumor and she lost her left kidney. But she has no side effects from the chemo or the low-dose radiation. Her doctors tell us she should be able to have children."

Brittany's prognosis is good, Denise said. Brittany will see a doctor for a checkup every three months for about a year, then every six months after that.

"I'm a lot better then when I was in the hospital," Brittany said. "I'm happy to have school work to do."

Brittany said she's also thankful for the chance to hang out with her best friends, Hannah Ohl and Kylee Moe, who were there for her while she was sick.

The past year was a challenge for the family to balance home and work with hospital visits, said her father, Blaise Michna Sr.

"I'm happy, on the whole," Blaise Sr. said. "But I'm still nervous and hope nothing reoccurs. It's real good seeing her coming back to her normal self. It's nice to be home as a family."

For Blaise Jr., 15, it means he knows who'll be picking him up from school.

"When Brittany was gone, it was hard," Blaise Jr. said. "It's nice to be able to eat at home."

This year, Denise said, her Thanksgiving prayer is different and it means more.

"It means way more than any other Thanksgiving," she said. "I thank God for not taking her. I feel so blessed. I get a tingle in my body."

Because she's so grateful, Denise says, she finds herself praying five or six times a day. "I pray all the time. I believe in the power of prayer," she said.

At Mass recently, Denise said, she found herself crying.

"I was crying happy tears in church," Denise said. "It felt so good to cry happy tears. Last year, I cried sad tears."

- Pastor Dr. Charles Hutchens


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