Thanksgiving? 

Dear Beloved Reader,

Out of the spirit of the holidays I wanted to write a little something about being thankful. Next week many of us are going to be sitting around with loved ones, saying what each one of us are thankful for and overeating to our heart’s content. I’ve even seen many of my friend participate in the 24 days of thankfulness in years past, posting it all over Facebook. However the most recent events of our election and all the negative feed taking up my Facebook wall, I’ve noticed that there is far less thankful posts and way more posts about frustrations, fear and anger. I found myself taking a break from social media, because to be honest I was starting to feel myself wanting to react to the comments out of my own feelings of being argumentative. I know that whichever way the election results went, people were going to have something to say, but the hatred that has surface from these recent events have brought me to my knees in prayer. It breaks my heart that now more than ever we are living in a divided nation, it is no wonder many people have express hopelessness and worry.

So this is how my week has been away from social media, but caught up in the news and conversation. A few days ago I sat with a few of my family members debating our political stance; my father and I are very passionate people and our conversation was getting very heated. It’s no wonder there’s a running joke that in any social gathering people should stay away from religion and political talk. I, on the other hand, ran full force into this debate because I don’t mind committing social suicide or like my husband so lovingly calls me an overly opinionated brat! Haha. At the end of the night while my father, mother and I do not see eye to eye and I come from a more liberal perspective; I started to wonder if this is how thanksgiving was going to be like. I wondered if I was going to be outnumbered by my more conservative aunts and uncles and I was going to be seen as a heathen. But, when I said my goodbyes to my father I hugged him and said, hey dad thanks for the open dialogue and trying to understand my point, I respect your view. My father in return said the same thing and told me he loved me and we’ll see each other next week for dinner. On the car drive home I felt this surge of thankfulness, I was so grateful for open conversation and dialogue. I was thankful that I have a father that I can try to be open minded with, even though he may never come to my side to view things. In the same week I was speaking with a pastor friend of mine and we talked about how we help each other more if we are willing to just have open dialogue with one another. It’s not to say that we are in the conversation trying to win our point of view, rather we are just in the smallest sense trying to listen to one another, which brings value. I believe that when we refuse to listen to each other we are doing more damage than good. This is what I’ve been seeing in the world around me. There has been less open dialogue and more shouting matches because we refuse to get to know each other as people with experience and conviction. I am reminded of Jesus in the scripture when he would come face to face with his accusers, mostly the Pharisees who prided themselves in knowing the truth. Jesus would argue their case but always went to the heart of their argument.

We see this in Luke 11:37-54, Jesus is invited by a Pharisee to come over for dinner. They wanted to do this to get a closer look at Jesus and see if there were anything they can do to make him break the Hebrew Law. Jesus walks into the home and before dinner does not wash up, which in that culture is against the law. Before the Pharisee could open his mouth to accuse Jesus of breaking a law, Jesus says,  “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. 42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. 43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”  Can you imagine being right there in the middle of this blow up, and I could just see Jesus with calm and peace address the real matter. He tells these teachers of the Law, that they are missing the whole point, they lack in love, they lack in understanding and while they rather point fingers at who is breaking a law, they themselves cannot say with full confidence that they aren’t breaking the law either. He tells them that God is concerned with the inner parts of person, not just the outside.

I believe that in the same manner, we lack in understanding one another. Because Jesus is God himself he doesn’t have to ask questions to know what was in their heart, he already knew and that is why he was able to answer in such a reprimanding tone. But we, on the other hand have to ask the questions to try to understand one another. We have to come into each conversation looking at each other as people and not just “sides” of the argument trying to be won over by ” having better facts”. When I left my parents home with the heart of being thankful and the chance to extend the words of peace to my father it let me see him as a person who , while he may have differing opinions, is at the end of the day a Man who I value and love and who Jesus died for because He love him too.

This year has been one of the most difficult for myself and also one of the most rewarding ones. I have so much to be thankful for; my family, my husband, my health, a job, my church, my community. But even in the midst of all the things I could be wholeheartedly thankful for; I am most thankful for a God who brings restoration to the hearts of people. I believe that if we can look at the God who makes all things whole, who is near to those who are broken hearted, then we can stand firm in the prospect that peace is right around the corner to those who try to love one another with the Love of God that only HE can give. The Love of God comes with understanding, openness, peace, grace, joy, trust and every gift of the Spirit. It’s in the true act of the Spirit that we can build relationship, dialogue, and one day peace.

Next week as you sit with family and friends, I pray that there is much more peace and much more thanksgiving. While the world around us is filled with uncertainty, we can be certain that the Love of God overcomes evil and brings us hope.

-Amy

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