Living a life of Thanksgiving

I must confess I have not read a lot of the older devotional material from centuries past.  I have worked my way through Thomas a Kempis and certainly a good deal of John Wesley, but beyond them I have only picked up snippets here and there of the older saints.  I recently discovered however a gem in a devotional I have used on and off over the years entitled, “Prayers For Ministers and Other Servants.”  This devotional provides several readings from a wide variety of authors along with a pattern for worship.  The piece that struck me is from a book entitled “The Captivating Presence” by Albert Edward Day.  I want to share it with you this week in hopes that it touches you as it did me.

“I came to a new understanding why Jesus passed up the religious establishment of his day, the economically secure, the socially prestigious, and sought out the poor, the outcast, the sinner, the broken, the sick, the lonely. He felt, as we so often do not feel, their sorrow. He was acquainted, as we too seldom are, with their grief. On Calvary he died of a broken heart. But that heart was broken long before Good Friday, by the desolation of the Common people. “In all their afflictions he was afflicted.” Most of the time we are not. We seem to have quite a different conception of life. We avoid as much as possible the unpleasant. We shun the suffering of others. We shrink from any burdens except those which life itself inescapably thrusts upon us. We seek arduously the wealth and power that will enable us to secure ourselves against the possibility of being involved with another’s affliction. Lazarus sometimes makes his way to our door step. We toss him a coin and go on our way. We give to our charities. But we do not give ourselves. We build our charitable institutions, but we do not build ourselves into other’s lives.”

As I read these words I found them describing all too well my failure to care as Jesus cared, my failure to see as Jesus saw.  I found myself struck by how easy it is for me, in the “busyness of life” to pass by and ignore the burdens of others.

As we anticipate our Thanksgiving celebrations this week.  As we share together in our feasting and the warmth of our homes.  Let us not forget those for whom such times only serve as reminders of what they do not have.  Let us give thanks not only with our prayers, but with our lives as well.

Peace,
Bill

Thanksgiving Blessings

I remember as a teenager listening to Arlo Guthrie talking about the comparisons we make with others when we are feeling bad.  For instance, when we say to someone who is having a bad day or a difficult time, “Well, don’t feel so bad, at least you aren’t like so and so who….(you pick the appropriate difficult circumstance).”  While I’m not suggesting this is a very helpful way to comfort a person feeling low.  Arlo took the concept a little further.  He wondered aloud, “But what about the last guy?  Nobody’s got it worse than that guy.  Nobody in the whole world.”  It was kind of a provocative thought for me to take in, (especially at 16!).  Who has it the worst?  Who is the last guy, the last person?

Well at 60, I still don’t know if I could identify Arlo’s “last person.”  I’m not sure who that person might be today.  But the sad reality is that there is no shortage of candidates.  There are millions of children who are hungry, there are millions affected by deadly diseases, and even more tragic, millions more affected by diseases that are treatable, but who find themselves in places or situations where the medicines to help them are simply not available. There are homeless, lonely people all around us.  There are lots of “last” people in need.

At our house this week we with gather with 20 or so family members from a variety of places in the world, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  A wonderful and appropriate thing to do.  We will feast and laugh and have, what I trust will be, a rich time together.  And again, that’s a good thing!  Jesus feasted and celebrated at times, and it is my sincere hope that you will have some opportunity to be together with some special people in your life, sharing some level of feast and thanks giving for the gifts and the blessings of your life.

But as we give thanks, may we do so remembering the needs around us. May we do so with an eye towards those who find themselves, for a variety of reasons, and from a variety of perspectives, in that category of “lasts.”  May we take the opportunity in the days ahead, to find ways, as individuals, as congregations, as people who follow Jesus, to make a difference in the lives of the folks in need around us.  May we choose to engage the needs of those in all our spheres of influence with practical resources and with the love of Jesus Christ.  May we do it all so that our giving thanks tomorrow will not simply be an exercise in celebrating our blessings, but rather a fresh reminder that we are always blessed so that we might be a blessing to others.

Thanksgiving blessings to you all,
Bill