Unwrapping the heart of Thanksgiving

| November 21, 2011 | 1 Comment

PREPARATION

The family gathered around the Thanksgiving table and began sharing the things they were thankful for. The youngest sat there patiently listening. Then finally it was his turn. He looked at that big old turkey on the platter by his dad and said, “I’m thankful I wasn’t born with feathers!” His words will be remembered for a lifetime.

In the midst of debt, recession, unemployment, the mortgage crisis, and a pervasive nationwide lack of confidence, what have we to be thankful for?

People!

True thanksgiving is wrapped in people, not in things, or prayers, or “comments about the lack of feathers.” Because, people are made in the image of God.

Thankfulness is a gift from God; it’s an expression of a how big God is, not how successful we are, or how big our stash-of-stuff is. Thanksgiving is our day to honor what God has done and what He is about to do. It’s a celebration of God’s work in our lives. It’s our day to say thank you, in spite of disasters and failures and circumstances.

Thanksgiving gives us stories to tell, stories of people who have shown us the character of God wrapped in human skin.

I asked my network of friends to tell me about thankfulness and I received hundreds of responses. Here is a small sample.

“I’m thankful that God is giving me new vision,” offered Clyde. “He is showing me more than I ever imagined or dreamed. He has allowed me to see that houses, cars, bank accounts, etc. are things that typically get in the way of my vision for the people around me.”

“No matter where I am,” Dax responded, “I am always thankful for my family, my friends, and my God. Basically the ones that never give up on me no matter how much I screw things up.”

In the mix of stories I was surprised; many spoke of being thankful for people who revealed the heart of God, without any of the religious words. I found times when people “show” us God when they lease expect to; and, times when people “show” us God and don’t even know it.

I was blessed by the responses and honored that so many shared their heart, but I was especially moved by Karen’s response:

I’m thankful that God showed me a path through my pettiness. I was assigned “birthday duty” for the one person in the office that I’ve never gotten along with. The task was simple; collect the money from our co-workers, get the gift/card, and wrap it all up. I didn’t want to do it. I fought against it, complained about it, and put it off as long as I could.

I wanted to get a really mean “Over the hill” card, but I didn’t. I wanted to pawn the job off on someone else, but I didn’t. I wanted to spend as little time as possible on her, but I didn’t. God wouldn’t let me.

God even prompted me to get her a Starbucks card after I had used up all the collected funds.

When we presented her with the gift cards in a tiny little purse that I was jealously saving for a really special person, she beamed.

After 15 years of butting heads with her, I found God changing it all in the blink of an eye, and I was left amazed and thankful.

God is, and we are thankful.

INSPIRATION

It happened in 2008 in Dallas. Tracy Orr was at the public auction to watch strangers bid on her home. She had purchased the house in 2004 for $80,000 but lost her job shortly afterwards, fell behind in the payments, and finally lost the house.

For Tracy it was a day of tears. To her, everyone in the room was a stranger, till she met Marilyn Mock. Marilyn happened to be sitting by Tracy and become a willing listener to Tracy’s story.

Before the day was over Marilyn had submitted the winning bid on Tracey’s house ($30,000) and sold it back to Tracy.

“She didn’t even see a picture of the house,” said Tracy. “She said I could stay in the house and make payments to her instead of a bank.

That day Marilyn gave Tracy more that a place to live; she gave her a vision of grace and a reason for thanksgiving.

MOTIVATION

Forget the things and the stuff, consider and reconsider the people who have blessed you with unexpected grace moments. Celebrate the people who have shown you a new future and provided you with a living snapshot of thankfulness.

Begin a new tradition.

Prepare a 3×5 card for every person sharing your Thanksgiving meal. On each card write: “On this Thanksgiving Day 2011, I am thankful for ___________(name of a person), because I remember when…”
(what did that person do that inspires your thankfulness?)

Sometime before the meal, give one card to each person who will be sitting at your table (including children…assign someone to help the younger ones). Ask, each person to take this “Thanksgiving project” seriously, write a response, but do not sign it. When each one has finished, he or she is to place the card face down in a bowl you have placed on a chair by the dining table.

When everyone has finished, take up the bowl.

After the meal has begun, bring out the bowl and say, “Ok, I’m going to read the cards aloud one at a time, and you are going to try to guess who wrote each card.”

Read the cards and share the stories.

Later, address envelopes for those who can still be reached by mail. On the empty side of the card, tell the story of how the card came to be written and who wrote it. Close by writing…“We are thankful that you have given us a glimpse of God.”

Thanksgiving unwrapped!

Take a moment and listen to the Thanksgiving Journal Entries and leave a comment.

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