Thanksgiving Day started before 6am at church for me. I was not excited when I first left the bed at 5:15am. As I drove to the church in the dark, I remembered past years of sharing a free meal with whoever came through the doors; widows and widowers, retirees, families with no other family close enough to be with, families who shared the day with both their biological and faith families, those who could not afford a traditional Thanksgiving meal, and those who were looking for a place of joy to share the day rather than a place of stress. I remembered the laughter that accompanied the hard work of cooking, serving, and cleaning. I remembered the joy, love and appreciation of the hundreds of guests who came to eat.
The darkness around me could not compete with the warmth of the light growing in my heart. How blessed I was to have a place like this to go. Here was an activity that exuded a sense of significance rather than selfishness, community rather than solitude, and a spirit of generosity and caring that filled the future with hope. “Thank you heavenly Father for such a gift” my heart whispered heavenward.
I trembled thinking how the day would have been had I stayed in bed, stayed at home, fed only my stomach, and made sure my pleasure was the number one agenda for the day. It would have been an empty empty day.
I was not disappointed when I arrived at church. David Graves and Lester Stone were already there with the ovens cooking turkeys, bacon frying, and a warm greeting waiting. More of my family was gathering out of state to celebrate the day. I was a bit wistful when I left a few hours later to join them. I would not get to share in all the smiles, fellowship, prayer, and bustle the next several hours would bring.
There were blessings waiting to be given and received with family. As I crawled into the car to head to them and away from the church, I was glad I was part of one of the many warm churches in town. I was glad I listened and responded to the Holy Spirit prompting me to get up instead of sleep in. I was grateful that I saw the meal prepared at church not as a burden, not as something I should do, but for the blessing it was.
A paraphrase of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38 get at the heart of what He was teaching. The Message says, “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
If you gave your life away last week and were blessed, go back and get it. Then give it away again this month at Christmas. If your focus was more me centered and you want a bigger blessing in December than you experienced in November, then go back and get that attitude. Give it to God for burial. Go back and get another opportunity to give at Christmas in whatever way or ways God leads you to.
You cannot do everything, but you can do everything God leads you to. He knows you, your abilities, and needs. He knows just how to fill the empty places in your life through others and others emptiness through you.