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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Thanksgiving Challenge

It's only a week away, that little holiday which most people have forgotten.  A tiny little something situated between Halloween and Christmas.  I'll give you a hint- it's mostly celebrated with football, turkey, and maniac shopping.  Yup, it's Thanksgiving.  How sad that so few people realize what Thanksgiving really is.  I wonder if the reason that the true heart of Thanksgiving is dying is because we have become so self-centered.  Oh yes, we love to look at all the wonderful things around us and "count our blessings", but is that where it stops?  I wonder if we would start viewing our blessings outside of ourselves if we would gain more fulfillment from the one day that comes around every November? 

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that Thanksgiving usually means "thanks giving", but what if we also made it mean "giving a reason for thanks"?  If you're confused by now, don't worry; I will try to explain.

We always focus on the Pilgrims who celebrated their miraculous harvest in 1621 by "thanks giving" to God, but it started with God who prompted the Indians to "give the reason for thanks".  Because of their crucial help to some lonely, sick, hungry Pilgrims, the Native Americans gave a reason for the Pilgrims to be thankful.  We focus on "thanks giving" to God for all of our blessings, but maybe we should focus more on God who "gave us the reason for thanks", and follow His example.

Sarah Hale worked for thirty-six years to have the country recognize a day to give thanks; finally, Abraham Lincoln in 1863 nationalized Thanksgiving Day as entreating God “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”  Once more, the reason for the season was about more than ourselves, it was about asking God to bless others.

What if we make this Thanksgiving more than just saying a quick thanks to God for our full stomachs and cozy homes?  What if we passed on our blessings so others had reasons to give thanks?  Yes, we should always live in an attitude of gratefulness; but for some people it is hard to focus on the blessings when they have to worry about feeding their children or making the next car payment.  Maybe we can be God's Hands to them, just like the Indians did to our ancient grandparents so many years ago on the first Thanksgiving.

I made a list of things I am grateful for- such as
Salvation
Family
Home
Food
Education
Music
Health
Freedom

Then I tried to figure out ways that I can take each of my blessings and make them a way to give others a reason to give thanks. 

Salvation:  Maybe I can share this blessing by telling someone about Jesus.  People will easily snob a person going door to door over the holidays, but a waitress can't pass up the Bible given with a hefty tip.  Sometimes I think this can be our best example.  Servers rely mostly on what you leave as a thank-you for their service.  Sometimes Christians use this as a way to save on their budget, by cheating a worker out of his or her full share.  Take the current recommended tipping average and do more.  That will make someone step back and say, "Wow, there is something different about them!"  When my family traveled a lot on the road hauling sheds, we would eat out a lot.  Mom and Dad would tip heavily and then include a Christian Cd or a Christan book.  We had many waiters and waitresses thank us for that! 

Family:  Find a lonely older person who no longer has family with which to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Adopt them into your heart and home and pass on the special blessing that comes with being part of a family.

Home:  Do you realize how hard it is for single moms to make their house payments, plus support their children and pay all other bills?  Give a little more to the Lord this time out of your paycheck and send it anonymously to a lady you know that is trying her best with the little she has.

Food:  Raising a family is tough in today's economy.  Give a gift card to a family so they can get away and enjoy time together.  Mom will love getting out of the kitchen, and kids can't resist hamburgers and fries.

Music:  I'm thankful for the beauty of music and the privilege of teaching a girls' choir.  One way to pass on this blessing is by getting a group of friends and family together and caroling for the elderly or neighbors.  I guarantee it will put smiles on a lot of people's faces.

Health:  Not everyone has this blessing that I have; so I want to do something for those that don't.  Encouragement baskets are excellent for those that are stuck in hospitals or confined to their house all day long.  Fill a basket with soup, a good movie, Cd's, word game books, cough drops, and lotion.  Your imagination can be limitless when it comes to making up gift baskets!

Freedom:  Who knows how long we will be able to worship God freely in this country, but that is not what matters.  What matters is that we have freedom here at this moment.  Not everyone does.  Christian Aid Ministries has awesome programs to help Christians in persecuted countries.  I included some information about one of their programs that you can donate any amount to..."

Christian Martyrs Fund

The Christian Martyrs Fund (CMF) sponsors approximately 629 pastors and Christian workers (and/or their families) who were crippled or disabled by their persecution experiences. This program provides funds for recipients to buy food, clothing, and other necessities.
Over the years, pastors and other Christian workers in China, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East have faced tremendous persecution and strain. Some were martyred and others beaten to the point of physical and mental disabilities. Still others suffer poor health from the strain of secret Bible printing and other "underground" work. Today these Christians find it extremely difficult to make a living.
A letter from Grigorij and Sinaida Kostenko, Christian-Martyrs-Fund recipients in the Soviet Union:
Dear Friends,
From our hearts, we greet you in the name of Jesus Christ!
I was pleasantly surprised that you thought of me and this gift of love has been given to me. I am not worthy of such attention, but our communion through the blood of Jesus Christ which is more than physical has made you remember such a brother. Praise God, who has given us such love for each other. How can we repay? The Lord requires of us an honest service and a clean heart. May the Lord bless your efforts and reward you!
In 2001 my wife died. For three years, I lived by myself. Then the Lord gave me a wife, Sinaida Tarasova (now she is Kostenko). She was in prison twice for the sake of Christ, because she worked with printing Christian literature.
Please take from us these words of thanks for your care and attention to our needs. "The Lord bless thee and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." Numbers 6: 24-26.

~Grigorij and Sinaida Kostenko
Do you want to help encourage needy, disabled Christian workers and their families?

Isn't it wonderful all the ways we can pass on the blessings and show people what Thanksgiving really is?! 
There is an older song called "The Chain of Love" by Clay Walker; go listen to it on YouTube.  It sums up the attitude of giving pretty well.

I challenge you to write your own list and come up with ways to spread the blessings.  The sky is the limit when it comes to creative ways to be God's Hands.  Do this Thanksgiving Challenge, and I'm willing to bet that this holiday will be more special than ever!