The Unexpected Thanksgiving Feast
“Lord,” prayed Linda, “show me some way to demonstrate your love to these women this Thanksgiving season.”
Linda works in an office near a women’s prison. Several prisoners come to clean her office building each week, so Linda got acquainted with them.
“I had a burden from the Lord to do something special for those women,” said Linda. “He answered my prayer in a conversation with my daughter. We knew without a doubt that we were supposed to plan a surprise Thanksgiving dinner for them, complete with all the trimmings. I wanted it to be special with my best tablecloth, china, and silver.”
Special rules apply to prisoners who work outside the prison walls, so it was difficult to get permission. Normally, they aren’t allowed to use “real” silverware. But Linda jumped through all the hoops and permission was finally granted.
“My biggest concern,” said Linda, “was not the details, but that the Lord would reveal to me how to let them know that this was ‘of the Lord’ and not of myself. I can cook for anybody, but I wanted them to know that the reason I did this was because of Jesus Christ and what He did for me.”
When the big day arrived, the women walked into that office and saw the beautiful table loaded with food. They assumed it was a Thanksgiving meal for the employees.
“No,” said Linda. “It’s for you.”
They were speechless for a moment, but then they couldn’t get the words out fast enough.
“This can’t be for real!” exclaimed one of the ladies.
“Look at that real turkey, not that pressed meat we’re used to!”
Another said, “Homemade yeast rolls and three kinds of pie to choose from!”
As one woman broke into tears, she said, “Those smells bring back so many memories. What I miss most is the feeling of family during the holidays.”
The ladies sat down at the table, amid tears and excited conversation. “I can’t believe someone cared enough to do this for us,” said one woman.
Just as Linda was about to lead them in prayer, one of the ladies spoke up and said, “Let’s all hold hands and pray.” She opened with prayer and others followed. Some prayed for forgiveness, some prayed for their families, and others thanked the Lord for the bountiful meal, an unexpected Thanksgiving feast.
Linda said, “My prayers were answered. All the glory went to the Lord for His provision. With no prompting from me, those precious ladies gave God the credit. God revealed Himself to them that day in ways I could not have done on my own.”
Linda lived the words Jesus spoke in Luke 14:
“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)
Jesus Christ makes a place for all of us at his table.
The Last Days
by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25
Most of us don’t love to wait. We want to get on with things. Tie things up neatly so we can move on to the next thing. We often forget that in some cases, the opportunity to wait is an expression of God’s mercy.
You see, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. It came quickly this year. I was so busy preparing for Thanksgiving, I almost forgot about Advent. Thankfully, our reliable pastor will be decked out in purple this Sunday, scripture readings and hymns ready to go.
Advent isn’t really an event so much as a season set aside to wait for an event. We can choose how we want to practice Advent. We can see it as a burden, an afterthought, or a hindrance. Or we can see its greater application to all of life. We can recognize it for what it is: a reminder to stop, clear away some of the normal “stuff” of life, and remember that throughout our life here we are waiting for something big, something that needs our attention and preparation: The second coming of Christ.
Many times I’ve heard fellow Christians express the desire for the day to just get here already. Can’t we just end the wars and suffering… the waiting… and get on with Christ’s return? Many pick apart the Scriptures, looking for details, for signs, that Christ is coming soon. Groups form and debates rage about the finer details of the end times.
While I am sure God appreciates our interest in and desire for his arrival, I am not so sure we really know what we’re asking for when we say we wish he would hurry up and appear.
Think about it. Are we really ready? Is the world really ready? If you had to stand before Christ tomorrow, would you be ready? I don’t mean “ready” as having correctly predicted the dramatic events that would unfold during the end times. I mean would your life reflect service to him? Love of him? Submission to him?
Mine wouldn’t. At least not to the extent that it should. I’d like a few days, or um decades, to straighten things out. And to the best of my humble abilities, help a few more of those living in the dark find the light.
Suddenly, waiting doesn’t seem too bad. God’s plan to give me and the rest of the world a little more time doused with a lot of his grace doesn’t seem so frustrating.
After reading the above dramatic passage from Luke at an Advent Sunday service past, our pastor did not delve into prophecy or speculation about the last days. He backtracked a little, and instead opted to focus on the here and now. He challenged us to avoid the “drowsiness” that comes with our everyday cares and concerns. He challenged us to become disciplined people, Christians whose lives are truly transformed by Christ instead of by the seductive “spirit of the age.” He held up examples of fellow Christians who came before us and conquered their own contemporary challenges.
He reminded us that we will each have our own “last day” even if our lives here do not witness the Last Day.
That’s what Advent is really about… grace today for whatever may come tomorrow. It’s about God’s incredible patience and love for children who have much to learn and need plenty of precious time to allow for stumbling along the way. As for the final days, set aside the speculation and leave that to God’s perfect timing. He’ll know when we’re ready.
Sheltered in the Midst of the Storm
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)
We were standing in the children’s section of the bookstore when the sirens went off.
I paused, looking around for answers from the other unsuspecting customers.
None of us seemed to know what was going on.
There was no sign of a storm when I entered the store with my little one several minutes earlier. But the beautiful, cloudless summer day didn’t tell the full story about what was to come.
A startling voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing that a tornado warning had been issued, and we were to take shelter immediately.
Taking my little one out of the stroller, I held him in my arms as we sat leaning against the towering shelves of books, waiting for the storm to pass.
But before it did, all of the customers were told to leave the building.
A bit stunned by the swift evacuation, we all found ourselves outside with an even greater awareness of the rapidly changing weather. Some simply stood there, staring at the approaching storm, while others scattered in all directions to escape it.
We made it home safely in the midst of the sirens and increasingly darkening sky, and all I could do was thank God for His presence and protection.
So much happened so quickly — from the loud, unexpected sounds of the alarms, to the realization we were in the path of the impending storm, to the sudden loss of perceived shelter.
In that moment, my dependence upon God, my need for His presence and the value of hiding His Word in my heart were ever so clear.
In that moment, I prayed, asking God to continue to keep us safe and thanking Him for doing that already.
In that moment, I chose not to rehearse that shaky voice who spoke to us over the loudspeaker and, instead, listen closely to the One who promised never to leave or forsake us.
Oftentimes, when life is coming at us quickly, we can become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
When we only use our natural senses to experience what’s taking place while we’re in the midst of troubling situations, we miss the opportunity to rely solely on God and trust all He has promised us.
We’re reminded in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
So, friend, be aware of — but not distracted by — the storms you’re experiencing.
They don’t change God’s presence, power, protection or provision.
He is indeed with you, showing you which way to go and offering you shelter in the midst of the storm.