I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35)
I love this verse more than I can tell you. It’s becoming all the more meaningful to me as Thanksgiving draws near. As more and more stores attempt to minimize the holiday and reduce it to little more than a pre-Christmas football game with some turkey, stuffing, and naps on the side, I am attempting to create traditions that will become standard fare through the years and part of our warmest memories. Part of the tradition I want to create is serving others in tangible ways—like literally sharing and breaking our bread with them.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
I’ve been telling my kids about the first Thanksgiving and how it consisted of people from different families and backgrounds coming together to give thanks. I imagine stories were shared, many foods were eaten, and maybe songs were sung. I do love it when a meal includes a good song mixed in. Somehow in our current culture, Thanksgiving has morphed into a day spent gathered around the table primarily with our families of origin, or perhaps in-laws and maybe the occasional friend tossed in for good measure. From the sweet potatoes to the sweet tea, we sit, laugh, eat, and chat about life. It is wonderful. The thing is, I really think it could be so much more wonderful if we took the time to “look at the fields.” Call me crazy, but I think we have the opportunity to show our kids something so much more Christ-centered if we did what those who came before us did—break bread with people we don’t know. So why don’t we do this? I personally think it’s because we have created a culture that tends to be: A) self serving or B) scared.
We tend to be people of pattern, doing things the way we always have and not seeing any good reason to try new things. While we don’t think of this as self-serving, if it’s coming at the expense of evangelism and reaching out to those around us, we should “open our eyes” and shift gears. There’s another issue we often struggle with today, and it is that we are scared! We are scared when we don’t want to get to know other people because they seem different from us. Whether they look different, act different, or—dare I say it—believe different, we go into a fetal position and stick close to those we are comfortable with. And yet, isn’t that the exact opposite of what we are supposed to do? If we are the laborers for the oh so plentiful harvest, then it’s time to get out and allow God the opportunity to work through our families and truly open our eyes. So, what does this look like, practically speaking?
- GO! Go right down the street. Open your door, take a walk, and see what all your neighbors are doing. If they don’t have plans, include them in yours. If they do have plans, then make plans to have them over another time and pour into their lives.
- GIVE! Give time and give food. While leftovers are well and good, why not bake an extra pie and take it to the local fire department, police station, or even college campus. Walk right in, set that sucker down, and wish them all a Happy Thanksgiving. You have no idea what conversation could unfold—but be prepared and get ready for some fun. You could just bring in the harvest.
- GET! Get prayer requests from people you speak to. It may feel awkward, but I guarantee you most people will tell you what you can pray for if you ask. And then do it. Right there. Right then. Pray.
Thanksgiving is so much more than cranberry relish and fried turkey, but we must create the time to soak in and then give out our thanks for all God has done. So, whether you choose to serve at a soup kitchen or open your home to people you don’t know, you can showcase your gratitude for all God’s blessings to everyone you see. It goes without saying, your entire family can and should be part of this process. How better to teach your children to be mission-minded than by modeling for them and with them? One day, your table will likely include their friends around it because they will know they are welcome to invite, and others are welcome to accept. Is there anything better than learning about someone’s life while also nourishing their bellies—and their souls? (Only if, while learning and nourishing, we are sharing about Jesus.) What a blessing it is to be a blessing and to help bring in the harvest!
For reflection, consider reading the Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln with your family. It aptly sums up how all Americans, and certainly believers in Jesus, should remember and celebrate this particular holiday.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. ~Abraham Lincoln
With a heart full of thanks,
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and recently welcomed the arrival of their first little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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