I did not grow up celebrating Thanksgiving (obviously). All I knew about Thanksgiving I learned from Tom and Jerry Cartoons, and the occasional showing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - which was an odd cartoon to broadcast in the U.K. I never really understood why Peppermint Patty got so angry at being offered buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, and jelly beans. I did wonder if whether Woodstock eating Turkey at the end of the cartoon was actually cannibalism :)
Part of the joy of Thanksgiving for me has been the opportunity to embrace traditions and make them my own. My first ever Thanksgiving was spent just outside New York City. Snow was gently falling, and I was sitting at a large table with more foreigners than U.S. citizens and it felt like a wonderful reflection of the world coming together giving thanks to God for His blessings. I remember my first Thanksgiving after I became a U.S. citizen my self, it felt like my adoption into America was complete and I no longer felt like the outsider at the feast.
I have a personality that can easily stew on the negative, so Thanksgiving is a great reminder for me of the positive.
I am blessed. I have an abundance. I don't worry about what I'm going to eat (expect for chasing exciting new recipes), I have no fear about where I'm going to sleep tonight. I can afford what I need and what I want. Just having an abundance in the areas of food and shelter puts me way above many thousands in this world.
A few years ago I was leading a small group reflecting on Parables and Poetry and the parable that was randomly assigned for Thanksgiving was Luke 12:16-21
Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’
“That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
That passage created some tension for me over Thanksgiving. My expressions of what I was thankful for had me sounding suspiciously like the rich man in the passage. As I reflected more however I found myself drawn to the phrase "The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop". If consider myself as the Rich Man and my life as the 'farm' what crops am I producing?
My life seems to move through various seasons. Attitudes, relationships, abilities, all grow, blossom and die. Positive and Negative crops all grow together. I can be judgemental and petty, I can create music that helps people encounter God. I can hold a terrific grudge and an abundance of unforgiveness. I can create spaces that are welcoming and hospitable. I can be stubborn and rude. Loving and gracious, jealous and suspicious.
My barn is very full!
It surprises me how tightly I want to hold onto my bad crops. Giving up a grudge or a prejudice can be difficult A closed fist seems to offer more protection than an open hand.
It surprises me how tightly I want to hold onto my good crops. If I give away my abundance I become fearful that I may get trapped in poverty, that I might spread myself too thinly.
There is a Staff Member at Chapelwood UMC Kathy Jo, who used to be homeless. She has a white board in her office, and she changes what it says weekly. This week it caught my attention because it says "It's not what we say about our blessing, but how we use them that is the true measure of our Thanksgiving."
The crops in my life are opportunities for God to transform me more into the image of Jesus. They reveal where I am falling short of being the unique best 'me' that God has created.
The crops in my life are an opportunities for God to use me to transform the world.
I'm slowly learning to not put the crops in my life in categories of Good and Bad, but to simply ask God to show me what opportunities He is presenting to me through them.
What is growing in your life right now and how can you encounter God through it?