Monday, November 24, 2014

The Feast of Giving Thanks

As we head into this week of thanksgiving, we often think about being thankful for the things we have. The emphasis is on the material, and then we are surprised that people go out the next day and act so materialistic. Ha! Well, I propose something different. The original intent of thanksgiving. It was not at all about being grateful for stuff. It was a day to say thanks to God for what he had done in their lives. The original thanksgiving was not celebrated in the Americas as a result of surviving the winter. It was a feast in the Old Testament, a time to reflect on the goodness of God, and have fellowship with God. This biblical feast included a time of dining with God in the tabernacle (or temple) grounds. The animal was presented to God as an offering of thanksgiving, then they would have a feast with God is his honor. They literally sat down to eat at God’s table, as God’s guest, and the entire meal was eaten in the presence of God, on his terms, and everything about the meal was holy, and all the attention was on God. Notice I did not say it was formal, or rigid, or stuffy, like a bad religious experience. I said it was holy, meaning set apart from other meals, and God was understood to be present, that they were at his table, enjoying fellowship with him.  It could be done at any time of year, and some did it more than once a year. It included lots of wine and joyful celebration. The people stayed and ate until everything was gone. Sometimes it took several days. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? 

As you head into this thanksgiving, its good to be thankful for our blessings, all of our stuff, but the focus really is not what we have, but who has us. Who do we belong too? Who has given us life? Who invites us into his care? Who is worthy of all our attention? Its called thanksgiving not because of the stuff or the stuffing. Its thanksgiving because it is all about God and the great things he has done. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Remember & Observe

As we rush toward the holidays, I am reminded that the essence of holiday is holy days. Time and seasons that we set apart from the rest of the calendar to observe and remember. These two elements are key to making these days holy. I often hear people lament the loss of Christmas to commercialism, but I don’t share that concern because I know that my faith and my choices are not controlled by outside forces. My personal experience of these holy days are set and controlled by me. Years ago, Dawn and I made the conscience decision to remember and to observe. A  decision that met lots of resistance from our extended family.  So what do I mean by remember and observe?

By remember I mean to remember what God had done for us through Christ, to remember our heritage of faith handed down to us over the generations of faithful Christ followers in our family, and to remember the price paid by Christians in every generation so that the message of Christ could be transmitted to us. There is a lot to remember. We do this through specific traditions, and stories that we share with one another, and over the years we have handed-off the opportunity to our children to tell those stories back to us. No amount of commercialism has stopped us from doing that. 

By observance I mean that we have put into practice times of reading the Scripture, prayer, and song into our observance of these holy days. We have made sure that no matter how many people come, and no matter what agenda anyone else brings, at our home we observe these practices, and we do not go to anyone else’s home until we have observed our time with God.   

This past week my children thanked me again for our decision not to let what everyone else did determine our holiday celebrations. Turns out they didn't miss the commercialism either. Maybe being like everyone else isn't what it is cracked up to be?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Small Things Done with Great Love

Little things done with great love will change the world. It is a concept borrowed from the life of Mother Teresa; the idea that the little things we do are what make a real impact rather than the big things we do on occasion. It is the idea that the real heroes of our lives are not just those who in moments of bravery act selflessly, but those who act selflessly day-by-day.

In the mundane get-by-world there are a thousand little decisions we make every day about our responses to others. Responses that communicate love and value or communicate disappointment, disillusionment, and dissatisfaction. It is that moment when grace and mercy call us to reflect on the way we disappointment with our own short-comings and to recognize that any grace and mercy we extend is just something we loan because we will inevitably need it back.

Jesus’ example reminds us that he first loved us. That was why he came to give his life as a ransom, a task which first meant living a mortal life in which he died to himself every day on his way to the cross and to perfection. His everyday little deeds made him perfect, that we might be forgiven. See how little deeds done with great love did indeed change the world?