Last week, I was talking with one of my international friends from Yemen, who has only been in the states for a short time. We were discussing Thanksgiving, which was a perplexing holiday to her. She asked, "Who do you celebrate with this holiday? A saint?" I explained to her that we aren't celebrating any person in particular, it's just a time to be thankful to God for his goodness. She was quiet for a bit...sort of processing what I said, then she asked, "Thank God for everything?" Yes. "For all that we have?" Yes. "For our health and for our home?" Yes. She smiled then said, "Ahhhhh...thank you to God because all is from Him!"
I love having these conversations with my international friends. It forces me to really think about why we celebrate the holidays. To them, they see the food and the presents and boisterous celebrations, but don't often hear the true meaning behind our expressions of celebration. These conversations force me to stop and look past the feast-filled table and remember that all that I have is from Him. I listened to my friend talk about the strife in her country, what it's like to have to flee for your safety and that of your child--all the while leaving behind your husband. My heart broke as she said flatly, "We had nothing. We come here and are safe. We have everything."
I have never faced religious persecution. Never. I have never packed up my children in the middle of the night for fear of their safety. My children have never had to give up a meal. And my home, though modest, is sturdy, protects us from the elements, and is a mansion compared to many dwellings around the world. Our water is clean and safe for drinking, cooking and bathing.
I have so much to be thankful for. I live in a country that, even in a poor economy, is rich by world standards. We can peacefully walk our streets without the fear of bombs or fear of being forced to leave because of our religious beliefs. Our grocery store shelves are stocked with such an abundance that we can hardly decide which item to choose.
For some reason, God placed me here, and how sad it is that there are times that I live out my days in discontentment because I want more. more. more. A bigger house. The latest technological wonder. More stuff. That is not thankfulness...it's greed.
I am thankful for the reality check and I am thankful that God saw fit to place these amazing friends from many cultures and backgrounds in our lives. They give abundantly, though they have less by American standards. They rejoice in the small things and show appreciation for a simple act of kindness. They hunger for truth and the word of God. But, most of all, they are thankful.
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she, out of her poverty, put in all
that she had to live on."
I love this verse, and every time I read it, I am struck by the visual of thankfulness and true worship. I venture to say that the widow Jesus was speaking of was giving all that she had as an outpouring of thankfulness and gratitude for the blessings God had given. It was all that she had, and in her thankfulness and obedience, she recognized that is was God's to begin with.
I have much to learn about true thankfulness.