Archive for November, 2010
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it occurs to me that turkeys are now the most thankful group to be found anywhere. They have survived another Turkey Day. Many of their fellow turkeys did not. You may be thinking that turkeys are not thankful, and you are probably correct. I am not even sure they are able to process that they should be thankful. They do not even know the danger they were in leading up to the holidays. Much like some of us.
I would imagine that many of you went through the process of everyone telling what they are thankful for this season. I am confident that Jesus was mentioned. It will not be the first time this season that His name will be brought up. After all, Christmas is coming. But I am not sure we really process how incredible it is that unholy people like us can live with a holy God forever.
Sometimes we even forget the danger we were in. My rebellion against God, my stubborn insistence that I do things my way, and my refusal to honor God should result in being separated from His presence forever. But he sent Jesus to bring me back. Now I get heaven, not hell. And that is a great thanksgiving story.
So I do want to be thankful for a God who lets my future be determined by His actions, not mine. And I do not want to take that for granted.
In the movie Shenandoah, Charlie Anderson, Jimmy Stewart’s character, sits down to eat with his family and prays the following: “Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.”
Whether we admit it or not, that’s a fairly common attitude. In fact, it’s so common that God warned His people about this ungratefulness thousands of years ago. In the book of Deuteronomy, He told them: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)
The fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. For most people, it’s a day of eating, watching sports and enjoying time off from work. Far too often, the idea of giving thanks gets lost along the way.
So what’s the point of giving thanks? I can think of several positive things that come out of our taking time to give thanks for what we have received:
- Giving thanks helps us to appreciate what we have. It’s all too easy to focus on what we don’t have rather than recognize what we’ve received. It’s healthy for us to take stock of what’s been given to us and then to give thanks for those things.
- Giving thanks helps us to be aware of those who have less. When we realize that what we have was given to us, we are better able to share with others. They are as deserving of God’s blessings as we are.
- Giving thanks gives us more security for the future. When I realize that blessings don’t depend purely on my strength, I can be more confident going forward. Just as God has blessed me now, He can bless me in the future.
- Giving thanks is the right thing to do. We teach our children to do it, yet sometimes forget to do it ourselves. God is pleased when we give thanks to Him.
If you don’t feel close to God at this time, maybe giving thanks to Him is a good way to begin fixing that relationship. Take some time to recognize the good things that He’s done. We have lots of time for complaining about the bad; let’s stop now and thank Him for the good. It will do us a world of good.
I hate to ask directions. It may be because I think that I can find my destination on my own. But when it is fifteen minutes until a speaking engagement is scheduled to start, and I cannot find the address, even I realize that I need help. Maybe I am afraid I will look incompetent or that people will look down on me. After all, the premise of asking for directions is that someone knows how to get you to where you need to be. They know something I do not.
My dislike may come because I have had bad experiences asking for directions. I hate the phrase “you can’t miss it”, or “don’t worry, it’s easy”. Some people do look at me as if I am incapable of understanding the clear directions I am being given. Other times people have been rude, or they acted like I was imposing on them. And I have been given wrong directions. I have been told to turn left while they pointed to the right. I have had people get in animated disagreements over the best way to tell me how to go.
But sometimes it works. People are nice. They are helpful. They walk out and point, or they have me follow them, or they reassure me that it is difficult to find and they are glad I asked. And when that happens, I am glad I asked. I get where I needed to go.
This must be how it feels to ask for spiritual guidance. You may have realized that you would like a relationship with Jesus, but do not know how to get there. Now you want help. Some are afraid that asking for guidance will result in experiences like sometimes happened to me when asking directions. Maybe you have had a bad experience in your spiritual search… and for that I am sorry. But there are people who not only will help you, but they want to help you.
I can put you in touch with people like that.
She sits in a straight backed desk chair, dressed in a festive shirt and sweater, slowly and carefully unwrapping each item, running her fingers over the surface as if to absorb the impression contained within. Then she carefully hangs the treasure on just the right branch somehow knowing the place had been reserved for it only. Her white hair gleams, the result of the decision to cease the hair coloring addiction and go a la natural a year or so earlier. Her eyes dart from the item to its assigned place and a smile curves her lips, as images of years past flood her mind.
To my wife of 40 years, Christmas is wondrous time and decorating the tree may be the single best part of the season. It’s not the ornaments, but the memories they evoke that bring her so much joy. Each ornament has a story; the parachuting Santa Clause when both of our sons jumped out of a perfectly functioning airplane, the flannel Beefeaters from Harrods’s when we visited England, the ornaments purchased to commemorate the births of our 3 grandchildren, the handmade wreath with our middle son’s picture from first grade. These are Christmas ornaments some decades old, chronicling our life’s events, big and small. When the grandchildren help decorate the tree, she has told them the stories so often that they now say, “and this little ferryboat was when you and Papa went to some island, isn’t it Nana?” and then she tells about our brief visit to Martha’s Vineyard some 15 years ago.
The scene takes place every December and every year new memories are added to the tree. Every year she unwraps them, and remembers. I am envious of her gift and am thankful that she freely tells all who listen, the memories of our family.
In our family, the green artificial pine tree with its multicolored lights and ornaments is the Brant Family Memory Tree.
So this holiday season as you gather around the Thanksgiving table and sit by the Yule Tree also remember the words of the doctor as he described that night long ago:
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord and this will be the sign to you; you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”
So what are your favorite memories of the Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Do God and Jesus have a part in your families celebration of those days?
Has the reason for the season been forgotten?
What does “and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men” look like to you?
I’m a bibliophile. A book lover. I’ve always loved to read. My sisters taught me to read before I started school, and I’ve been an avid reader ever since.
Books can teach us a lot. There have been books that have changed the course of history, both for good and for bad. Books can have a lasting impact, far beyond the lifetime of the author.
Maybe because of my love of books, I used to think that God basically said, “OK, world… here’s a book that tells you everything you need to know. Read it and do what it says.” Then I actually read that book, read the Bible, and discovered that that’s not what happened at all.
God never just sent a book. He always sent people. When He wanted to give His Law to the people in the Old Testament, He didn’t just drop a book out of the sky. He called a man named Moses, interacted with Moses and the rest of the people, then gave laws to Moses for Moses to teach the people.
When God’s people strayed from that Law, God didn’t send books or letters to correct the problem. God sent men, His prophets.
When God was ready to bring salvation to all men, He didn’t do it through a book. He did it through His Son, Jesus.
When Jesus wanted to pass on His teachings, He didn’t write them down. He told people and had them tell others. Those first followers of Jesus did write books, but the emphasis of their ministry was on people talking with other people.
From the beginning, that’s how God has worked. He works through people. We now have the Bible, a book which God’s people didn’t have in the beginning. We can learn about God’s nature and learn about His will for us. Yet God continues to work through people, people in a community of believers that encourage one another.
Even the times in the Bible where we see people reading God’s Words, we always see them doing it in the presence of others, helping one another to understand what is written.
God gave us a book. We should read it and learn from it. But we must never neglect our need for other people, our need for God’s church.
If you aren’t a part of a church, I’d like to help you find one. God never intended for you to try and go it on your own. You need His Word, but you need His people as well.