Single life can be lonely, but it is also peaceful. There is only one family to please, and there are few demands on my time or attention. Thursday was quiet and restful for me, and I spent some time reflecting on this holiday that should be more religious than it is. In centuries past, on days of Thanksgiving people would attend church services, and there was an element of prayer associated with the giving of thanks to God. As I look around our society today, it seems to have devolved into a day of gluttony that kicks off a season of greed. People often speculate what our Founding Fathers would think about the state of politics and government in America today. What I think would astound them the most, is how wealthy America has become. We have so much, and yet our day of Thanksgiving isn’t focused on giving thanks to God. There are brief nods toward the origin of the day, as people often take time to list the things that they are thankful for. Often missing from this is Whom they are thankful to. Giving thanks has no meaning if it is not directed toward the source of the blessing. So, this week I have been thinking about what it means to give thanks to God and how I can make that a bigger part of my life.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him.
It is partly coincidence that I spent the day before Thanksgiving at the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child processing center. It was the most suitable day for me to be absent from work. I spent Wednesday on my feet, and I returned home in the evening exhausted but happy. Every year, I seem to get more joy from this ministry than the year before. As tired as my feet were on Wednesday night, I wanted to go back for more. I felt like I should try to go Friday evening, yet I struggled with committing to it. After all, I had a blog to write, and I did have to work on Friday. Further, I would be at the warehouse until 10:00 p.m., which would keep me up later than usual. Still I felt the tug to go back. So Friday morning, I signed up to work that evening. In my brief visit home between work and going to the processing center, I felt the anxiety of the fact that I hadn’t started my blog. I also knew that I was going to get up early the next morning to run errands before the stores got too busy. But I went anyway. So, as I write this, I am exhausted. My feet and legs are sore and I want a nap. But it was a blessing to fellowship with other believers while we worked on this project that impacts the lives of children around the world by introducing them to Jesus their Savior!
In my life I have become overly accustomed to my routine and the general lack of demands on my time. Granted, I just came out of a busy season where I was trying to make time for several priorities. But those things were for me. I sacrificed what I wanted for other things that I wanted more. God’s call to me this week seemed clear: He wanted me to sacrifice my time and comfort for Him. In the end, it was only a minor sacrifice; it cost me some time and some sleep. It occurred to me that I was putting some giving into my Thanksgiving. After all, is it really giving if we aren’t sacrificing anything?
But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
2 Samuel 24:24
So often we associate Thanksgiving with the pilgrims and a celebration of a fruitful harvest season. And we seem to celebrate our wealth and excess with indulgence rather than generosity. God wants us to give. Our tithes and offerings are supposed to be the first thing we take from our harvest or earnings to give to Him. These ‘first fruits’ are meant to provide for those who minister to us and also for those in need. Our giving is meant to be sacrificial but joyful. It occurs to me that often, my giving may be too easy. I am not making a sacrifice because the cost isn’t noticeable to me.
While processing the shoeboxes, we were stopped occasionally to pray over them. I thought, of course, of the children whose lives could be changed forever by a present contained in a shoebox. The boxes contain items that are common to us: pencils, paper, stuffed animals, and toothbrushes. We are so wealthy that we take these things for granted. I know that Samaritan’s Purse collects these boxes and begins processing just before Thanksgiving so that they can be shipped out for a Christmastime delivery. It isn’t timed for the purpose of Thanksgiving, but what better way to give thanks to God for our blessings than to give our time and money in this way? I am often accused of being a Grinch because I don’t embrace holiday traditions which seem monotonous and meaningless to me. But I know I’m not a Grinch because I think Shoebox Season is ‘the most wonderful time of the year!’ Certainly, this ministry made my Thanksgiving week more what it ought to be.