Happy Thanksgiving!

Or is it?  Most of us in the US will be getting up early to cook a turkey and pull together the meal of the year.  Family may be coming over and this is a test to see how well you can handle the stress.  There are some of us that love this kind of thing, doing all the work, watching family enjoy the meal, seeing some of the family that you haven’t seen in a while.  And then there are the rest of us….

Yes, I’m one that hates the stress and bother of having a ton of people at my house.  Let me give you some background on this:  My mother was one of the above described people.  She loved nothing more than fixing a ton of food and seeing 20 to 50 or more people descend on our home and enjoy themselves.  She actually catered my wedding reception for over 200 people without blinking an eye.  I grew up underneath this shadow.  Of course, while growing up I helped my mom do all this.  Thanksgivings, Christmas, she even had an open house on New Year’s Day every year.

Thankful HeartsFast forward about 15 years.  My mom is in a nursing home; suffering from multiple strokes and seizures.  It’s November and my dad calls to ask what I’m going to do for Thanksgiving.  Well, gee.  I’m backed into a corner and tell him I guess I’ll fix up a dinner.  Then it’s the transportation issue for my mom.  She’s in a wheelchair and unable to walk.  Lucky me that I’m working for an agency that transports handicapped individuals and have access and training to get my mom and transport her to my house (with permission, of course).  My brother abstains from driving an hour to come, so it’s just my parents and my family.

I wanted the day to go perfectly because this was probably my mom’s last Thanksgiving (it was).  Coordinating cooking with transport wasn’t easy.  Taking care of mom’s needs and handling it all was harder.  So, in the middle of all this…  I drop the turkey!  ON THE FLOOR.  I almost had a nervous breakdown.

The day didn’t get better after that; in fact, it went downhill.  Dinner was delayed while we cleaned up the mess (have you ever cleaned up the mess a dropped turkey makes?  Yuck!)  Mom started having seizures and didn’t stop.  I had to abandon it all to take her back to the nursing home.  The day, in my eyes, was a complete failure.

I let that day color the rest of the time I had with my mom.  I didn’t do everything with the grace and poise that she always had.  I didn’t meet the standards that she had set when I was younger.  I wasn’t good enough.

Since then, with God’s grace, I have a different outlook on the whole Thanksgiving holiday.  Looking back, I would have rather spent time with my mom and dad and family and maybe fixed a simple dinner.  I’ve learned since that time that you don’t have to have turkey.  We’ve had spaghetti, lasagna and mac and cheese in these past years.  We’ve invited people to join us at our simple family meals so they won’t be alone.  Yes, we still have turkey on occasion, but only if we feel like doing the whole deal.  Otherwise, it’s just dinner.

Be thankful and cherish what you have right now because you may not have it tomorrow.  Relax and love your family around you; they won’t be here forever.  Try not to get wrapped  up in the preparations of the meal.  If problems come up, and you know they will, take it “with a grain of salt” and continue on.  The world won’t come to an end. And remember to Thank the Lord always for this day and the other 365 days after it.

 

What’s Up With Friendsgiving?

My husband mentioned “friendsgiving”  the other day.  I guess I had seen the word a few times, but really didn’t take note of it — some new advertising ploy, I figured.  Evidently, though, it’s becoming a trend.

What is it?  Well, from what I am able to glean from the internet, it’s a sort of potluck feast you arrange with your friends — sometimes in lieu of Thanksgiving with family, sometimes on the Wednesday before or Friday after Thanksgiving.  On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a bad thing, I mean, why not celebrate our friendships?  Why not get together with the folks we value most?  Still, I find it a bit disturbing.

At a friendsgiving feast, I am encouraged to invite the people I care about most.  I can’t choose my family, but I can choose my friends.  It’s a modern tradition, and no, it didn’t originate on the sitcom, Friends (although there were some Thanksgiving episodes) — it was indeed first used in an advertising campaign for Bailey’s Irish Cream.

The first Thanksgiving, on the other hand, was an actual historic event.  You know the story.  After the first year in America only 53 pilgrims from the Mayflower had survived.  Disease and starvation had claimed the rest (originally 102).  However, at the end of that year, with the help of the local Indians, they found themselves with an ample food supply to face the coming winter.  Sometime between September and November of 1621, a feast to celebrate God’s provision was held.  It included recreational events, and the Wampanoag Indians, along with their leader Massasoit were invited.  It has been celebrated on and off since America was formed and in 1863, during the Civil War it became an official federal holiday.

In summary, Friendsgiving is all about ME.  Having the food I like with the people I choose.  Thanksgiving is about community and GOD.  Thanking the one who created us for sustaining us every day.  It seems that our holidays (which by the way  started as holy days) are becoming more and more secularized.  Thanksgiving is about celebrating our friends and rushing out to get those Black Friday bargains;  Christmas (again, originally Christ’s Mass) has turned into what my husband calls the “gift-giving holiday.”  We’ve replaced God with some new idols — friends and shopping.  We’ve turned days meant to be sanctified times of rest and worship into days characterized by overeating, overspending and stress.  It’s not what God intended.

Anyway, tomorrow, I hope you celebrate your friends and your family and your country, not as things you have earned and deserve, but as blessings from  God that you don’t deserve (this is called grace) — because that’s what they are.  Don’t stress, don’t shop — just be still and know that He loves you and so do I!

 

Thankful Saints

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18

We’ve adopted a new routine in our adult Sunday School class.  Each week before we begin the lesson, we try to answer this question:  Where have you seen God at work this week?  Most of the time, we see God at work in the good things that happen to us — someone recovers from illness;  we enjoy a beautiful day;  a friend encourages us;  and so on.   Today I’m reminding myself that God is at work in our difficulties also.

Our lesson last week was the story of Joseph.  Things just seemed to get worse and worse for him.  He’s sold into slavery, accused of rape, cast into prison.  It would be easy to feel that God had forgotten him.  Yet this was far from the truth!  God was at work.  He had a plan to bring good out of all the bad.  We all know that in the end, Joseph is becomes a respected advisor to the Pharoah, and is able to save his family and others from famine because of his God-given ability to interpret dreams.

The verse above tells us that, as saints,  we should give thanks in all circumstances.  God has a plan, and He’s working things out in ways that will ultimately benefit us and others.  We just have to trust Him.  I admit this is hard for me.  I’m sure it’s hard for you as well.  Keep this verse in your heart today as you give thanks.  Thank God for the good things, and also for the bad things He will use to bless you and others in His good time.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.  God loves you and so do I!

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner #2

Since I blogged about table prayers on a previous post, I thought I would include this prayer we sing before meals at our Vineyard Via de Cristo retreat weekends.  Once again, we are inviting Jesus to take part in the meal with us.

Thankful for Stress!!

Giving thanks to God is easy when times are good. Sitting around the table this Thanksgiving with family, it is easy to remember why I am so blessed and thankful for all of the things that God has given me. But what about in the more trying of times? I have always been a person who dislikes conflicts and gives in easily to stress, so there are certainly times when I am not feeling very thankful. Usually it is just something small- a stressful day at work, a real estate deal that fell through, or an angry customer or client. Do I give thanks to God for my blessings during these times? Nope- instead, I usually resort to self pity, complaining, and sharing the conflicts around with friends and family members.

Reading this verse helps me put things into perspective:

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is important to remember how insignificant the specifics of each day are; it is just a drop in the pool of what is the ‘big picture’ or ‘God’s Plan’. It is comforting to take peace in knowing that everything is a part of this large plan; and that instead of feeling stressed, I need to look for the learning experience and grow from each small catastrophe in life. God is great and life is good!!

Teaching Thanksgiving

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise.”  Deuteronomy 11:18-19

I was in South Carolina this week with my daughter and my granddaughter.  Both of them said in elementary school, they were taught that the thanksgiving feast was about the pilgrims thanking the Indians for their help in surviving the winter.  I explained that although they may have invited the Indians as a gesture and friendship and thanks, the primary intention of the pilgrims was to thank God, who brought them to the new world and graciously provided for them there.

This led me to think about how we all have a responsibility to teach God’s truth, not only our children, but everyone with whom we come in contact. In the anecdote above, you can see how quickly even historical truth can become perverted by the world.  If we don’t teach God’s word, in a generation or two, it may be lost.  This happened in the Bible (for an example, read about King Josiah in 2 Kings chapters 22 and 23) and it happens today.  Martin Luther wrote the catechism so that parents could teach their children about God each day in their own home, not just once a week in church.

So don’t allow Thanksgiving to become “turkey day”.  Use it as reminder to have an attitude of thanks every day, all year long.  Let your children, your grandchildren, your friends and neighbors know that you are thankful to the God for all that you have and are.

 

Martin Luther on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Thoughts from Martin Luther Excerpts from Luther’s Large Catechism (1529) The Explanation of the First Article of the Apostles Creed

I hold and believe that I am God’s creature, that is, that he has given me and constantly sustains my body, soul, and life, my members great and small, all my senses, my reason and understanding, and the like; my food and drink, clothing, nourishment, spouse and children, servants, house and farm, etc. Besides, he makes all creation help provide the benefits and necessities of life—sun, moon, and stars in the heavens; day and night; air, fire, water, the earth and all that it yields and brings forth; birds, fish, animals, grain, and all sorts of produce. Moreover, he gives all physical and temporal blessings—good government, peace, security. Thus we learn from this article that none of us has life—or anything else that has been mentioned here or can be mentioned—from ourselves, nor can we by ourselves preserve any of them, however small and unimportant. All this is comprehended in the word ―Creator.‖ Moreover, we also confess that God the Father has given us not only all that we have and what we see before our eyes, but also that he daily guards and defends us against every evil and misfortune, warding off all sorts of danger and disaster. All this he does out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as a kind father who cares for us so that no evil may befall us. Hence, because everything we possess, and everything in heaven and on earth besides, is daily given, sustained, and protected by God, it inevitably follows that we are in duty bound to love, praise, and thank him without ceasing, and, in short, to devote all these things to his service, as he has required and enjoined in the Ten Commandments. Here much could be said if we were to describe how few people believe this article. We all pass over it; we hear it and recite it, but we neither see nor think about what the words command us to do. For if we believed it with our whole heart, we would also act accordingly, and not swagger about and boast and brag as if we had life, riches, power, honor, and such things of ourselves, as if we ourselves were to be feared and served. This is the way the wretched, perverse world acts, drowned in its blindness, misusing all the blessings and gifts of God solely for its own pride, greed, pleasure, and enjoyment, and never once turning to God to thank him or acknowledge him as Lord or Creator. Therefore, if we believe it, this article should humble and terrify all of us. For we sin daily with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and property, and with all that we have, especially those who even fight against the Word of God. Yet Christians have this advantage, that they acknowledge that they owe it to God to serve and obey him for all these things. For this reason we ought daily to practice this article, impress it upon our minds, and remember it in everything we see and in every blessing that comes our way. Whenever we escape distress or danger, we should recognize how God gives and does all of this so that we may sense and see in them his fatherly heart and his boundless love toward us. Thus our hearts will be warmed and kindled with gratitude to God and a desire to use all these blessings to his glory and praiseThanksgiving Thoughts from Martin Luther Excerpts from Luther’s Large Catechism (1529) The Explanation of the First Article of the Apostles Creed