A Thanksgiving to Live By, Jesus Style

I found myself reading and pondering when Jesus fed the five thousand. Jesus was always concerned with the most basic of needs – rest, food, water, and spiritual life. He didn’t necessarily give the one without the other; He understood if people are cold, wet, tired, hungry, and traumatized, that their physical bodies had needs to be met. He understood that a captive audience sometimes meant that you have to remove the distractions of a hungry belly, a thirst parched mouth, or a weary body.

It was not a new concept to the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), we read about caring for the poor, homeless and hungry throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) as well. The Prophet Isaiah wrote,

“Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” (TLB, Isaiah 58:10-11)

I can’t help but think about all of my friends and acquaintances who are setting aside the comforts and abundance of a U.S Thanksgiving meal to serve in the Philippines. I would like to be there with them; I am raising funds to do so; I am raising funds to aid for the Filipinos. All in God’s time. People are hurting, suffering, hungry, injured. They have lost everything including the lives of so many loved ones. A nation forever changed. Again. Many are living by a thread – a mental thread as well as physical one. I was reminded of my friends in Haiti when I heard a Filipino man who had lost his wife, and all but one child, say, “If not for this one, I would kill myself.” My friends in Haiti repeatedly stated, “What good is food and water when you don’t want to live anymore.” They need the love of Jesus in the actions of food and water; but they need psychological and spiritual care as well. They need a light that shines in the darkness as bright as the day.

Isaiah said it – if we want out lights to shine, if we we want to continue in “good things” we need to continue to be the light of the nations that shines in the darkness. Our lights are being diminished by many country club churches that are filled more with programs and happy customers than with suffering servants. We are so rich in this country, so blessed. We have been watered for righteousness since our foundation, but what used to be the churches responsibility to care for the poor has become the governments. And it is done from a Humanistic point of view, not a biblical one.

What if…what if…being a “well watered” and satisfied with “good things,” is simply as a result of serving others in our need and not our abundance? What if our “continual guidance,” is direction about who and when to serve more than where or what to buy. What if Isaiah is more concerned with our spiritual health than our physical health?

May the suffering around us be a wake up call to serve. May Jesus be our example.

And when you sit down to enjoy the gluttonous amount of food that most like my family and I will enjoy, pause to pray for all those who are suffering today; pray for those who have selflessly put their lives in danger and want, to be the hands and feet of Christ to the least of these.

Lord, send me.

A Thankful Mess

ABC#00841There are a lot of people posting on Facebook, “Day 7” etc. of what they are thankful for. I am not always in the Social Media loop so I am not quite sure where the thankfulness begins…or ends. Due to the current date it is safe to assume it began on November first, perhaps ending on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving – the celebratory day of gluttony, where all red blooded Americans gorge ourselves on way too much food, leading to a tryptophan overdose with the resulting nap on the couch.

I am kind of pondering what we did before social media to show the world our thankfulness? I don’t remember seeing this in years past (though I admitted to not being in the social medial loop), and as I stated, I have no idea where or when it began this year; I only know it is a predominant theme in my news feed.

I guess I could start by being thankful for my 386 (or so) “Friends,” but most who actually know me as a friend, also know I am very much an introvert and really have very few close “friends.” Our relocation’s, family size, and lifestyle, have often prevented us from being on the invited to dinner list (Most were a bit intimidated by the thought of 5,6,7, 8 kids to dinner), so we more often than not had people to our home, especially college students, or singles. Transients. That in itself is a more comfortable zone for my introverted tendencies – I am more in control of my environment on my own turf. Serving others is a way to show love in an extroverted fashion. There is a certain intimacy in breaking bread with people in your home and it helps in the formation of friendships.

It has gotten more difficult to have intimate relationships as I have gotten older and moved more. We are still trying to piece together this new life, relocation, new jobs, and feelings of approaching empty nest. When we were in the hockey rink 7 days a week with other parents, church, youth groups, college students, homeschool groups, etc… etc… meeting people was much easier, centering our lives around children was much easier. Now we are are two old folks starting over as if we are young, without the energy or finances to mingle more in “social” circles.

It is also more difficult to be “thankful” for the things I used to be thankful for. Somehow things are starting to pale in comparison to what I picture eternity to be like. Oh, I am thankful for my family, my friends, food, clothing, warmth, and health, and rarely a day passes that I am not choked up thanking the Lord in prayer when I ponder all of those who are without these things; but I am inherently selfish and my needs are most often first in my mind. Even when that deep need is to be more like Jesus (and that is a deep cry of my heart), it is for selfish motives. (I am certainly not pious or self-righteous in this, but selfish in my need to rest in the love and grace of Jesus).

I want to be like Jesus because I know that true and lasting life and peace dwell only in relationship with Him. I want to be like Jesus because I know to live like Christ means I will love those around me with a perfect love, and hopefully will be loved more in return as a result.  I want to see my husband glowing with daily peace because Christ in me rubs off on him, instead of me rubbing off on him. One is the finest oil and the other at times, sandpaper (and Jesus is not the sandpaper.) Jesus felt all of our emotions, yet without sin; I on the other hand tend to sin as a result of my emotions. Sometimes, I am not thankful for so much emotion. As my husband jokes over my ability to, “love deeply, hate deeply.” “I hate to love you and I love to hate you…”

I want to be like Christ because if I am immersed in Him, living in thankfulness won’t take a national holiday, or a social media prompt.

So what am I thankful for? That Jesus totally and completely loves me – a self-centered, beyond middle-aged, love starved woman who is now only beginning to grasp the greatness of his unconditional love and acceptance. Compared to that,  everything else pales in comparison.

“I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.
And so with unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.” Jer. 31:3