Thanksgiving is just around the corner, sneaking in under the radar. Has its uniqueness been co-opted or compromised by our economic rush toward Christmas?
From the beginning, this American holiday was not about food and football, as much as it was about reserving a day to celebrate the spirit of thankfulness. It was, and still is, a national reminder to be grateful, and, yes, a calling to reconnect with grace.
Although defined by many as an emotion, I believe thankfulness is a choice — a life choice. Followers of Jesus choose gratitude because they have experienced an undeserved and unexpected outpouring of grace.
The Bible reveals Paul's often overlooked teaching:
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV).
In short, choose thanksgiving, whether you deserve it or not, it's a God thing.
When grace reaches people, lives changes. That personal, undeserved and unmerited gift changes everything. The overwhelming response is gratitude. So, here's the nugget of truth: If you haven't really accepted God's grace, especially grace wrapped in your pain, then you will have trouble really enjoying this holiday.
God turns pain into the kicker:
- God blesses us with tears for moments of pain, so that we will reach out in grace and touch the hurt.
- God blesses us with anger and rage at the craziness around us, so we will work for justice and mercy and compassion.
- God blesses us in spite of bad choices, so we grow and learn and work miracles when others least expect it.
- God gives us mystery, so we will enjoy the wonder and stand amazed.
When our world is rocked with the unexplainable, God steps in, not with explanations, but with closeness and comfort. He leaves fingerprints on our hearts and healing in our future. In the middle of heartache, He provides, because He wants to. His giving grace makes our thanksgiving a celebration of HIS fingerprints.
Look beyond the marketplace. Don't reduce Thanksgiving Day to turkey, football, and a nap.
She was fully alive and focused; there were mountains to climb and children to save. Dreams, big dreams, overflowed in her vision for the future. It was her life-plan to be part of a team providing clean drinking water to underdeveloped countries around the world. Anabel Reid, 19, was only a sophomore at Abilene Christian University, majoring in environmental science, but she was wise beyond her years. Her future seemed filled with green lights and favorable winds, until Friday afternoon November 4, 2011.
Anabel was one of the 19 members of a mission group headed to Medina Children's Home in Medina, Texas. The service project had been planned and tasks assigned. This project was just the beginning of bigger and grander times.
The news of her death spread like a shockwave across the ACU campus. Hurt and pain and loss were undeniable, but grief was not the only spirit on that campus. On Monday, the students gathered in their daily chapel service and were joined by Anabel's family, her boyfriend Alex Wann, and other close friends. It was solemn, but punctuated with gentle smiles.
During the service, University President Phil Schubert spoke of his initial meeting with the Reid family shortly after they received the news of Anabel's death. He was amazed at the gracious spirit in the room. Shelly Reid, Anabel's mother, had one very intentional request, "I want to meet with the driver. He must be feeling unbearable heartache. I want him to know this wasn't his fault."
Mrs. Reid was unwrapping the gift of grace in the middle of grief. Her faith in the middle of pain became a light shining in the darkness.
And in an interview with the Abilene Reporter News, Alex said, "We will have moments where little things remind us of her, but I think that sadness will be peaceful. In the midst of this great shock, we're finding strong comfort. I think we've had more smiles than we anticipated."
The fingerprints of God bring smiles out of impossible moments. It's a God thing.
Muse a moment or two this week.
Take a walk and thank God for his grace.
Think about the gifts God has given you in spite of, and in the midst of, your pain and grief, your frustrations and failures, and your mess-ups and bad choices. Your impossible times are more than enough reason for the Thanksgiving season.
Thank HIM for growth and change and understanding that has come through watching others show grace and faith in the middle of adversity.
Thank God for the good you have experienced, especially the good you didn't earn or deserve.
Look for the fingerprints of God in the strangest places and share the spirit of thanksgiving with at least one other person.
Do something that encourages others to be grateful. It's infectious.
Write an unexpected "Thank You" note, or send an email. Unwrap the gift of grace and find the power to choose thanksgiving.