Because I love you and am buckets of thankful for you and because you deserve a present, I’ve prepared two—count them—two presents for you, the people who read.
Here they are:
#1 A Thanksgiving Playlist!
As you cook and laugh and lounge tomorrow, you’re going to want a soundtrack. Lo and behold, here’s a great one made especially for you!
I’ve noticed a few Thanksgiving playlists floating around, but this one has two advantages:
1. It’s Jesus-y.
2. It’s eclectic. Yes, that is a Bob Marley song you see.
Click here and discover the goodness on Grooveshark.
I spent the day yesterday listening to it and singing in my spoon while I cooked my very first turkey (By the way, it is very apparent when you cook a turkey that it was once alive. I thanked the turkey for her sacrifice and Eve named her “Died for Honor,” Honor for short). Anyway, I loved the playlist and I’m sure it contributed to the moistness of Honor’s dark meat.
Here’s Honor in her pre and post oven states:
#2 A Thanksgiving Reading (or three)
So, I might be alone in this, but I really like having something to read at the Thanksgiving table before we all chow down. Consider it an invitation to thankfulness.
Here are three readings you might try:
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
2 Corinthians 4:6-15
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 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.
And lastly, and non-canonically, here’s Anne Voskamp on thanksgiving:
I am bell and He is sure wind, and He moves and I am rung and I know it for what it is: this is the other side where Daniel, man of prayer, lived…Daniel is a man of power prayer, not because he bends the stiff knees and makes petitions of the High Throne three times daily. Rather his prayers move kings and lion jaws because Daniel “prayed three times a day just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Three times a day Daniel prayed thanksgiving for the everyday common, for the God-love spilling forth from the God-heart at the center of all. The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips. Because gratitude ushers into the other side of prayer, into the heart of the God-love, and all power to change the world, me, resides here in His love. Prayer, to be prayer, to have any power to change anything, must first speak thanks: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” … How did I ever think there was another way to enter into His courts but with Thanksgiving?
Happy Thanksgiving! May you be transformed in the act of looking upon your God and giving thanks for all He is and all He’s done and all He’s promised to do.
Last Sunday my husband Justin preached a sermon on loving well by being FOR our husbands, wives, kids, friends, family… At the end, he passed out small white cards with the words “I am for you” printed in sunshine script. He said, “Use them liberally.”
And people have.
Here’s what my friend Mark posted on Facebook:
He wrote: ”It’s just a small, nondescript, 2”X3” card with few words but this is what I’m actually saying when I give one to Mary Kay.”
And this is what my friend John, an architect, posted for his wife:
I found my first card on Wednesday during women’s Bible class as I opened my journal to jot down a thought. Lying across a blank, yet-to-be filled page was the card. Beneath “I am for you” Justin had written, “Today and always.”
Ten minutes later my friend Amy walked by my seat and put a card beside my purse.
This week has been a hard one for me. The holidays are coming and I always feel weird and stressed and complicated during this season. I’ve started my new dairy free and gluten free eating plan (grrrrr), and I wrote a post that was hard to write, one that made me feel vulnerable and reminded me of all the reasons I hate blogging (I have a laundry list). On Wednesday I really wanted to stop blogging. Forever.
But then I got a note from my husband. And a note from my friend Amy.
And the encouragement didn’t stop there. In the last week or so, I’ve received an unusual outpouring of Facebook messages from encouraging friends, wall posts from folks I haven’t talked to in years, texts, super-supportive blog comments, and emails from readers I’ve never met.
My daughter Eve said, after I read a recent post out loud, “That was a good one, mom.”
It’s like the universe is conspiring to encourage me.
I told Justin yesterday, “I would have quit writing a long time ago if you hadn’t been so FOR me.” And then I thought of all the other people who’ve been FOR me in the past year or so—my small group, my Wednesday morning Bible class, the high school kids who read my stuff through Tumblr, and the older folks who read it via Facebook. You have all been so affirming.
And that’s the only reason I’m still writing.
I’ve been loved well.
There are moments in our lives when we have gone as far as our feet will take us, when we look ahead and see only the foggy impossible and drop to our knees, faces in our hands. Done.
That has been my experience.
But it has also been my experience that friends come to my side and lift my fallen face and shine a light, perhaps a single shaft, into the pitch black tomorrow. They take my hand and lift me to my feet. They fill my backpack with KIND bars and hand me a cold canteen. And they tell me to walk.
And I look into their eyes, them so sure and full of excitement, and I think maybe I can take another step. And I do. And they applaud. And I keep stepping, the rhythm of palm pressed into palm marking and making my march.
We need love. Love says, “I am FOR you.” Love says, “I believe in you.” Love says, “I’ll walk with you.”
I’ve been loved well and it makes me want to love well back.
So I’m trying to be generous with praise and encouragement:
I don’t always remember to do this. My life gets crazy and I get lazy. But I want to do it. I want to do it because I know exactly how much it matters.
I had a bad day today, but my husband sat beside me in my car and told me I was strong and that being sad wasn’t weak. If he didn’t say it with words he said it with his face—I honestly can’t remember which.
He sent me a text later that said #womanofvalor.
And my day changed. Black clouds vanished. Tears tucked neatly back inside their tiny ducts. Down, I found myself lifted, encouraged—given courage.
We need to encourage more people. Whenever we can. No excuses.
Stop saying to yourself, “I’m sure she already knows” or “He’ll just get a big head.” Nope and nope. Say it.
Praise God for His gifts. Let God be glorified in the work He’s doing in and through His people by our noticing that work, pointing it out, and saying to our brothers and sisters, masterpieces of grace and glory, “I see God in you.”
Yesterday I read a post on Dave Ramsey’s website titled, “20 Things The Rich Do Every Day." It’s a link from writer Tom Corley. You should read it. Now. So we can talk about it…
Really. I’ll wait.
So, what did you think?
Me? Oh, I was furious.
I yelled at my computer screen as I read. Here’s a glimpse into my thought process:
Is this real? Surely, this isn’t real.
Have you ever actually talked to a poor person?
Poor people eat more junk food because junk food is cheaper. A McDouble costs a dollar. A decent sized apple costs $1.40. that’s almost half again as much. You’d know that if you’d ever had to take a calculator with you to the grocery store.
Do you know why poor people can’t focus on a single goal? Because they can’t pay people to take care of all the things distracting from that goal. Poor people cook and clean and do laundry and negotiate health insurance and mow their lawn and change their oil for themselves.
When exactly is a poor kid supposed to “volunteer”? Before or after their after school job and cooking for their siblings while their mom works a night shift?
Sure, there are people who are poor because they are lazy or unfocused or whatever this list accuses poor people of being, but do you really think that most people who are poor are these things?? That if they would just ‘network for 5 hours a month’ or ‘not speak their mind’ their systemic poverty would surely be left behind as they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, having, at the end of their hard work, only themselves to thank for their progress (not chance or good fortune or circumstance or any other outside force)??
But, those are not my biggest complaints. No, the thing I kept wondering as I read this list was this: Am I supposed to want to be rich?
'Cause, when I'm real with myself, I think I do.
But when I’m real with God and I let Him be real with me, I start to feel like that’s busted.
We live in a culture where wealth is the highest marker of value. The American dream is based on ownership. And even in the church, we allow a person’s wealth or poverty to shape the way we view their character and potential. We believe, whether or not we realize it or own up to it, that wealth demonstrates worth.
The problem with this is that it’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught.
In Mark 10 we find Jesus asking the rich young ruler to sell all he has. When he refuses “because he had great wealth” Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
In Luke’s version of the sermon on the mount, Jesus says,
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.”
If we look at His example, we’ll notice Jesus wasn’t rich. Nor did He spend one day of His life attempting to generate or save wealth. His apostles weren’t rich either.
Similarly, not once in his ministry did he offer the poor money. Food? Yes, but only a simple, single meal in the middle of nowhere. He did encourage the rich to give to the poor, but it’s possible that encouragement was more for the benefit of the rich than for the comfort of the poor. Jesus’ ministry had nothing to do with wealth or financial security.
Later in the New Testament Paul writes,
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But my point is that wealth is no more a marker of a person’s value than poverty. In fact, in the New Testament it’s most often regarded as a red flag.
Many Christians I know are suspicious of the poor, waiting for them to prove their intentions and character before being welcomed completely into the body. At the same time, the rich are embraced without qualm.
That is so messed up.
If we Christians want to give somebody the benefit of the doubt, we’d better be offering it to the poor first. Because do you know what Jesus said about the poor?
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)
James says, “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
I can’t help thinking of Matthew 25 and Jesus’ words in the final judgement when He says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” And I am struck by the way Jesus so deeply and fully attached Himself to the poorest and neediest men and women. He says, in essence, “They are Me and I am them.”
What does that tell us about wealth and poverty? Perhaps that wealth isn’t something to chase.
Unless, of course, we’d prefer a harder path to heaven. In which case, I’d suggest you look at the list again and get busy.