Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving and Grace Living

Before we start today, let me refer you to my new blog. I started a second separate one devoted to food. What better time to debut a blog on food than Thanksgiving? Look over there to the right a little bit and notice the link to My Life in Food.

I am an expert on Thanksgiving. The holiday has always seemed like my own personal day. My birthday usually falls during Thanksgiving week. When I was little the whole family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins came over and we had a huge dinner with turkey and lots of desserts and I thought it was all for my birthday because I was so special and all. It wasn’t until later that I realized this was the family Thanksgiving dinner.

So I think autumn was imprinted on me at an early age as a special time of year.

Autumn is my favorite season. I love walking in the woods in the fall. I love the way the air smells like oak leaves. I love Saturday mornings when the autumn rain drizzles down and you can snuggle back in bed for warmth. I love picking up acorns and putting them in my pocket. I love when I put on my coat for the first cold weather of the year and find something in the pocket from last year. Two different years it was money. One year it was a five dollar bill and one year a twenty. I haven’t found left over money in a while now. Another reason to love fall is that I can switch over to the clothes that cover more of my body.

I used to keep a special pecan in my coat pocket because Beaven brought it to me from Lyndon Johnson’s ranch when he was the president and Beaven was there for some television thing he was doing. We were dating back then and he could impress me with things like that. I had it for years until I left it in the pocket when I took the coat to the cleaneers.

Thanksgiving is just about the perfect holiday. It’s our only holiday that’s not tied to any government, nationality or religion so everyone can celebrate it: Jews, Hindus, Russians, Iraquis, even the French. If you are a human and you are breathing then there’s always something you can find to be thankful for. Even my friend Debbie who was (literally) run over by a car a couple of weeks ago, still laid up in the hospital with a horribly long road to recovery ahead of her, can be thankful to just be alive. I know her friends are thankful for that.

But I’m coming to see Thanksgiving as a two-part holiday if we do it right. You can’t understand gratitude without getting into Grace.

I taught high school Sunday School years ago. One Sunday I started the class out by handing every kid a five dollar bill. Then I sat down and waited for their responses. Before a single kid said “thank you” they first questioned what I was doing and why I was doing it and tried to argue that I should not give them money. I suspected some thought I couldn't afford to give 12 people five dollars each and was a tad insulted that they thought me so lacking in resources. But the majority told me that they couldn't accept my gift because they had not done anything to earn it.

So we began our study of Grace.

A lot of the kids in the class I had know all their lives. These had an easier time accepting the idea that I loved them and just wanted to show it. One girl had a hard time accepting something in return for nothing. I knew her parents and how she had been raised with a solid work ethic. We took some time to get past the concept that I had the resources and power to give. That I loved them and wanted to do this. They had to accept my gift.

Once we established the first part of Grace we tackled the second part, their response. They now became responsible for what they did with the money. It would be up to them. And I gave up control. I had no input as to whether it ended up in the collection plates at worship an hour later. If it got deposited into the bank in a savings account. If it went to buy a friend a Coke. Or if they totally blew the money on a whim of the moment.

That last exercise put me in touch with God's part of Grace and I came to understand Grace in a new way. You never teach without learning.

What is our active response to the bounty of God's love? On one day out of 365, we mumble a few words of thanks and then eat ourselves silly and declare the Thanksgiving a success. What does the Friday after Thanksgiving look like? And I’m not talking about shopping.

What do our lives look like when we understand Grace?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your Sunday School lesson is quite thought provoking and helpful, not only to your students but also to us blog readers. I am already chewing on it and may use it as an illustration later. Thanks for sharing it, and happy Thanksgiving (and birthday) to you.