A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dave's Deep Thoughts: Taters or No Taters, Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

What if you could have it all?
But more importantly,
what do you do when you don't?

I love Thanksgiving.
It is by far,
my favorite holiday.

No pressure to find the right gift.
No hours of putting up (and taking down) decorations
No schedule filled with more things to do than a day will allow.

Thanksgiving for me is two-three days set aside
to be with family,
to enjoy time playing games and watching movies together,
to enjoy a wonderful feast,
and to slow down and ponder just how much I have for which to be thankful.

When I was invited to a pre-Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's home,
I was doubly excited.
It felt like the holiday had been extended another day.

My favorite moment,
has always been the moment when everyone sits down
at the table.

For anyone who takes time to let it all soak in,
it is a holy moment.

Lit candles,
linen tablecloth,
beautiful floral centerpiece,
quiet music in the background,
the look of anticipation on each person's face,
and all the delicious aromas wafting through the air....

There is that moment when everyone
gazes to see all that is on the table.
I am no different.

stuffing/filling/ dressing or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods..........yup
sweet potatoes (with or without raisins)......awesome
cranberry sauce.......not out of a can
creamed corn.......bring it on
that awesome green bean casserole with the onion rings on top........love it
rolls & butter..........yessirreee  homemade!
gravy.......of course
the obligatory jello salad made by some great aunt......hoping it doesn't have nuts in it

Then the call to ask the blessing.

"Where are the mashed potatoes?"

Everyone bows their heads.

"They have to be somewhere....."

The prayer is being offered
and all I can do is think about the location of the spuds.

"Dear Lord....."

"Maybe they are hidden behind the roll basket."

"We thank you for all that you have given us...."

"Maybe the host kept them in the kitchen to keep them warm........"

"Thank you for all your blessings...."

"Maybe,  maybe........"
I had run out of maybes.

An amen is sounded and confirmed by all at the table.

Someone picks up the roll basket to pass.
No mashed potatoes in sight.

The host returns from the kitchen .........with jam.

I had never before eaten Thanksgiving dinner without mashed potatoes.
A myriad of thoughts when through my mind.....
Maybe my friends were anti-taters?
What was I going to mix my corn into?
How was I going to make my volcanic crater of gravy from which all goodness flows?????

What if you could have it all?
But more importantly,
what do you do when you don't?

I must admit,
it took me until the second helping of Aunt Gladys' jello salad
to accept that I was going taterless that day
(with all due respect to the yams.....)

Part of me of me began to feel guilty,
that I would allow the absence of a vegetable to influence
the wonderful gift of table and friends that I had been given that day.

By the time the pecan and pumpkin pies were circulating,
I realized just how ungrateful I could be when sitting at the table of gratitude.
I had been given a feast,
and the thought that dominated me
was of the one thing that I couldn't have.

It is a side of myself that I don't like

If we are honest,
we can all be like that.

Whether it be a menu,
 our lifestyle,
our possessions,
our worship.....

How easily our feathers can be ruffled
if things don't work out exactly the way we think they should.

Have I learned something?
I hope so.
Actually it is a lesson that for me, needs reviewed every day.

What if you could have it all?
But more importantly,
what do you do when you don't?

In I Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says:
In everything give thanks,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.


I believe I can learn to be thankful when I don’t
get everything that I want.

But what about difficult and painful situations?
Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say,
In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
It is easy to be grateful for the good things in life--  a newborn baby,
a raise, a new house, or great news from the doctor.
But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs,
or told by the doctor that you only have six months to live?

How can God expect you to be grateful then?

Start with, this is a command from God, not a request.
This command has nothing to do with feelings.
It’s a choice to do what God says…..
And whenever He gives us a command in the Bible,
it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude impacts every area of our lives
Here are a few lessons I have learned from this difficult commandment…..

Gratitude keeps us aware that the Lord is close by. (Joshua 1:5)
It motivates us to looks for His purpose in our circumstance (Romans 8:28-29)
Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.  (Luke 22:42)
It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord  (John 15:5)
Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy   (I Thess. 5:16)
Gratitude gives us eternal perspective  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
When we are wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us.  (Isaiah 40:29)
Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding  (Phil. 4:6-7)

So what will we choose?

I hope our answer is.......
to give thanks with a grateful heart.

May this season of thanksgiving
become a daily celebration……

Taters or no taters. 

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