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Cheryl and I don’t have a table for Thanksgiving.

Well, actually we do own a dining room table but it is currently in storage along with the rest of our furniture while we wait for our house to be built. In the meantime we find ourselves living a spartan life in a small apartment, on a small street, in a small village. Mind you we are very comfortable (thank you for caring) but we don’t have any of the ‘extras’ that most of us are used to.

We have some family coming to visit for Thanksgiving (it’s an open house) and they are under strict orders to bring their own chairs to sit on. Unfortunately there will be no perching, elbow to elbow, around a food-filled, multi-leafed dining table. Instead, soup and sandwiches are over there, help yourself, and you can eat off your lap.

Nevertheless my vivid, hopeful imagination has pictured the cast of family characters if everybody was able to sit around our table as usual. I can visualize their faces, their personalities and I can even imagine their interactions. Sitting around the table would be a loud and joyful event – food, conversation, laughter and love abounding. Such an impressive variety of abilities, interests, professions, hobbies, tastes, talents.

At this crowded table of my mind’s eye, Cheryl and I sit proudly at one end: matriarch and patriarch, which simply means we are older than everybody else in the room, responsible in some way or another for this gathering and we’re just taking it all in. We don’t have a table but with this group, that’s okay.

Do you know why I am able to imagine a classic Thanksgiving with our family? Because I know them. And we’ve done it before. There have been times in the past when we have intentionally set aside time to ‘table’ together.

This year, Thanksgiving is happening again. No table, no chairs, no turkey? No problem. We are intentionally getting together anyway.

Intentionality. It’s how we accomplish anything important. Intentionality gets us to work each day and helps us complete tasks. Being intentional is why we can remember birthdays, put gas in the car, make meals, and buy Christmas gifts. If we’re not intentional about what matters, then lesser things clog up our time and energy.

Early in the book of Matthew you can find Jesus’ incredible Sermon on the Mount. It’s well worth as many careful, thoughtful reads as you can give it. Near the end of chapter 6 he reminds us to be careful not to worry (tear ourselves apart) over material things, then he reminds us to be intentional about the things that matter.

” . . . seek first his [our Heavenly Father] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”         – (v 33, NIV)

Righteousness is something we prioritize.

The kingdom of God is more than mystical; it’s intentional.

Locals in our new town tell us that we are going to love the coming seasons, especially Christmas when there is a downtown event planned every weekend. But apparently they don’t limit themselves to Christmas.

This past week we witnessed a team of people of all ages, climbing ladders and reaching into trees and railings all along the main street in order to, um … hang rags. Well, they’re not rags, they are random strips of coloured cloth about 4 inches wide and a couple feet long.

There are extras available if you need them and every person in town is invited to use a marker to write something on the cloth that they are thankful for then hang it for all to see.

They are hung at readable, touchable heights and the street already has thousands of mini-banners festooned up and down the sidewalks. Everywhere we look colourful pieces of thankfulness are waving on trees, signs, railings, doors, and barriers. Nothing along the street is safe from the ribbons of thankfulness.

Some ribbons are inscribed with thankfulness for parents, children, church, community. Some for the weather or a teacher or a house or a friend or a hockey coach.

The entire town has become a fluttering celebration of waving, flapping thankfulness and it flows from the pieces of cloth out into the smiles and conversations of the citizens and tourists along the street. Everybody just seems kind of sunny and … well, thankful.

How does that happen? I suspect a group of citizens in the town have decided to intentionally celebrate and share Thanksgiving so they intentionally go about the business of making it happen.

And it happens beautifully. In fact, you can’t avoid it: thankful people are everywhere and it overflows into all sorts of unsuspecting bystanders.

They’re right there in front of us, reminding and reinforcing our thanks, sharing our joy.

Ribbons of thankfulness.

Ribbons of righteousness.

Know what? I’m not good at this stuff but whenever I find ways to be intentionally thankful, I feel more blessed and happy. Whenever I’m quiet and take time for God, I begin to feel close to God.

Love expressed is the only love worth having. When I’m intentional about the important things I become higher and deeper for having done it. And the ribbons multiply.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year I want you to know that God is not far away. A refreshed life is closer than you think. Intimacy with Jesus is possible. Thankfulness can overflow, even without a table.

I love those ribbons of righteousness.