giving Reflections on Thanks

Before everyone arrives with hot casseroles and forced conversations, it’s quiet. It’s dark and soundless, except for the occasional jingle of the dog’s collar. The coal stove glows orange inside, reminding me of ET’s heart. The kids are asleep upstairs, tucked in, not far from the cold chill clinging to their windows. A faint light from street lamps illuminates poinsettias, on a nearby table. The house is simple and tidy, ready for the ingredients.
I wake up at 4:30 a.m.  I determine to make cinnamon rolls. I cook and God speaks, I move around the kitchen, I sweep the floor, I knead the dough and he is there. Emmanuel, and it’s not even Christmas. When I’m alone preparing meals, I work things out, I think, process,  invent my views, desires, and purposes, I think about things-like feeding people-I hope it’s enough.
I put my heart into the cinnamon rolls. A little flour, an egg, 6 pads of butter, anticipation, peace, joy. I let them rest for 10 minutes after the trauma of fraternization. I roll out the dough, I add the flavor- a sensible blend of sweet and fat – I divide, I protect, then it rises. I imagine joy and appreciation erupting upon contact. As the heat intensifies in the oven and the rolls reach their potential, the aroma of home and family fill the air.  is it enough? for me, for them?
I move around the kitchen, my feet light, and my heart slightly heavy, on the edge of being sad. It’s a holiday, a family holiday and I won’t be with my mother, father, or sisters, and I feel a young ache in my chest. During these times, there is a greater awareness that my family and I are broken up and parceled out, It’s easier to weigh the loss on these days, when it’s customary to be whole. It doesn’t feel sufficient.
But God speaks while I’m considering tears. And I hear this:

Who are my mother and brothers, my mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” I rush to look it up.

And I am comforted by these words. I’m comforted because family is not defined nor limited by those who are or are not sitting at my table. Isn’t that what Jesus was saying? He was defining his family. He was doing what he did best, tipping widely held beliefs upside down, pouring out social norms, and stirring the pot. His family is not a combination of babies born into the same house.  It’s not those with whom life begins, but those with whom life rests. Not the root but the fruit which defines the connection. It’s those who do what I do, which is what the father does, these are my family. Jesus takes us back to the beginning –

“let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” genesis 1:26

who was the Son of God? who truly bore his likeness? it was not MAN, but the Son of Man,  not the first Adam, but the last. In the Beginning, he was making seeds after their own kind, he was creating fruit bearing trees with seed in them, after their own likeness on the earth. But it’s not the seed which reveals the likeness, it’s the fruit. As Jesus reminds us, “you will know that by their fruit.” It has always, after all, been the fruit which provides us with information. its the seed which has the ingredients, but the fruit which has the message.
My family, says the Son of God, are those who hear and do my father’s word unto obedience. This obedience unites Jesus with his disciples, with his followers, his bride and his brothers.  We are like him when we bear the fruit that he bears.

Jesus said if the Pharisees truly were Abraham’s offspring then they should DO what Abraham did. Jesus says,

 “why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear my Word. You are of your father the devil. Whoever keeps my word shall never see death.” John 8

“And not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven.” Mathew 7:23.

God’s perspective of family is unique and true while our perspective is flawed and generic. We assume that family are those with whom you share a mother and father, those with whom you marry into, those whom you give birth to. But in God’s estimation, family is linked by fruit, not roots, reproduction of the spirit, not the flesh. Which is why he says, one must be born again, born of the spirit, born after the will of God.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday. It can serve as a sore reminder for those with painful histories of brokenness, silence and regret, however, it is significantly divorced from its original meaning. i don’t suppose the first thanksgiving had was family oriented, but those doing life together.  The English pilgrims , at the time, were in a new land, many separated from their families, by sea or death. It is said that the previous spring half of the English company had perished from disease. Many of the natives who were celebrating were men, who were hunters. The celebrations included thanking God for His goodness, and their plenty.

“And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” –

“The First Thanksgiving, 1621,” EyeWitness to History, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2010).

Thanksgiving has become, the day before black Friday, it’s eating, watching football, decorating, and kicking off “Christmas” mostly with family. Thanksgiving has become a commercial holiday, and what it has become is not equate with giving thanks.
True Thanksgiving happens no matter where you are or who you are with, it happens when we acknowledge that what we have is enough, and living it out the next day, not stepping on each other to have more. I think being thankful is acknowledging that it is enough. Whether you’re celebrating with 100 people or 1 person or no other person, what I have is enough, its plenty, not because its what I want but because it’s what I have.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough”.

Thanksgiving happens in the privacy of our own soul, heart, mind and attitude, with or without people around.  If you’re not with family around the holidays, its OK, maybe you are. If you’re alone, God has promised to never forsake you, and our heavenly father is always accessible through his son, Jesus Christ. “Give thanks unto the Lord, for his loving kindness is everlasting” even if nothing else is, even if everything else runs out, his loving-kindness never will-it is sufficient. This year I was grateful to have a house full of people with whom I shared faith and fruit. I could pray long and hard and unrestrained, I could sing hymns and turn up the worship music, and talk about Jesus. And it is enough.  It’s different than being with people who know you best, but maybe God doesn’t want us to always be with those who know us best, maybe God wants us to be with those who bring out the best in us. Which I suppose is why he wants us to spend time with Him…now that is something to be thankful for, the King of the universe, the creator, wants to spend time with us – you and me, wherever we are, even in the kitchen, in the early morning hours on the edge of tears. and I guess the bottom line is the top line. When I read over what I have, what I have written and lived, then I see- it is enough.

“For all who are being led by the spirit of God these are the sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry out Abba Father! The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, heirs and fellow heirs with Christ. For the anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. And not only this but also we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption, as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we have been saved. Romans 8:14

2 comments

  1. Amazing and sad because I’m part of the “sad “equation that your referencing and your words remind me of that ! Sometimes I feel so far removed from everything and everyone and forget that I am missed ,that I’m thought about and leaving did leave an empty place in certain hearts ….just as it did in mine !

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