Weekly devotional: A joy and an ache

Photo: Faith Globe, flickr

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:1–5 (NIV)

Living as an American in the UK, for me high days and holy days bring not only joy but a corresponding ache as I’m away from family and friends. But I experience the most profound longing on Thanksgiving, which this year is next week on Thursday. I feel the loss of the nation gathered to feast around a table heaving with turkey, stuffing and gravy and of enjoying the friendship and lively conversation that ensues. Of course I understand why my now-countrypeople don’t celebrate this holiday – after all, the Pilgrims were giving thanks for escaping religious persecution in England. And such is the friendship between the countries now that we attend a service at St Paul’s Cathedral each year. And yet the longing remains.

Living today, I enjoy a mobility never imagined by the Pilgrims. My seven-hour airplane ride is a blip compared with their five-month journey across the choppy Atlantic in 1620. After they survived their first harsh winter, they invited the Native Americans who had helped them acclimate to join in a three-day feast of Thanksgiving. And so the tradition began, being solidified when in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving each November.

Psalm 84 reflects the greater ache that all pilgrims harbor – for sweet fellowship with God. Our experiences of love, community, belonging, and celebration are rooted in his character. And our longings for these experiences are a harbinger of what is to come when we are reunited with God in heaven.

For reflection: “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).


I write about these longings and how I found God, and myself, in Britain in Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity.

2 Responses

  1. Brenda Norris

    I spent a year in Germany back in the 70’s. It never occurred to me that they didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or the 4th of July LOL. Glad to be back on my own turf! Thank you for sharing your own longing for home. Bless you!

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