Sweet Water, the U-Turn, and about 4 ½

Today, a twist.  In an attempt to help you experience a fuller, deeper thanksgiving, I’m inviting you to do some reading, reflecting, responding, and for kicks, a few videos to help you feel thankful.

Sweet Water.  Take a moment and read Luke 7:36-50.  The story is pretty straightforward, as is the point Jesus was making.  Jesus made the woman feel completely valued, welcome, respected, safe, whole.  God does this for everybody, including you.  Is there anybody in your life that has acted Jesus-like in that regard, someone who has accepted you “warts and all”?  It would probably be inappropriate to weep on their feet, wash them with your hair, and anoint them with oil, but when was the last time you thanked them in some way for being such a loving, friendly support in your life? Take a few minutes to think about that.  Then cap off this moment by enjoying this peach from the vault, Thank You For Being A Friend by Andrew Gold.

U-turn.  Take a moment and read Luke 17:11-19.  The basic point of the story is obvious: one of ten healed lepers had presence of mind enough to take a moment for gratitude.  There are a couple of things worth remembering that allow the story to shine all the more.  First, recall that lepers -  folks who suffered not just from leprosy but many skin diseases/conditions – were forced to live in encampments away from the rest of society for fear of the disease spreading.  Those in the colony undoubtedly felt ostracized (because they were).  The lone “thanksgiver” was extra-ostracized, which probably added to his sense of gratitude.  He was a Samaritan, part of an entire group of people loathed by the Jewish people as a whole back in the day.  The fact that he took time to say thanks was impressive and startling in contrast to the others.  Do you think you would have made a U-Turn that day if you were healed?  How about in your life now – when do you find it easy to give thanks? When is it difficult?  Why not take a moment and look at your week ahead.  When could you carve out space each day to pause and give gratitude – a time that does not come easily or naturally?  If you do this exercise, I’ll bet you a doughnut your week will be better than if you hadn’t.  To help you consider unexpected reasons for gratitude, enjoy Alanis Morissette’s Thank You.  Yes, she is naked.  Why do you suppose she made that artistic choice?  I would like to say that I am grateful for well-placed hair and blurred images!

About 4 ½.  If you grew up going to Sunday School, you will remember this story about the vertically-challenged Zacchaeus found in Luke 19:1-10.  His short stature makes for a memorable story, but what is really striking is his expression of gratitude at being befriended by Jesus.  He stated he was paying restitution for ripping people off through his tax-collecting (cf. Exodus 22:1), which is appropriate, but he was also giving half his wealth to the poor as an offering.  In a broad sense, Zacchaeus chose to give back to people who had given to him.  Who has given to you that you might offer some expression of thanks?  What might “4X” mean in terms of the scale of your tangible thanksgiving?  In light of all that you have in comparison with the majority of our fellow earth dwellers, what “half” would you be willing to gift to the poor this week?  Half your Starbucks spending?  Half your lunch money?  Get the point and do something generous for the poor.  If you don’t already have a place in mind to donate, CrossWalk’s missions are awesome, and very cost-effective.  As you decide how you can be generous toward the poor, enjoy this song which Zacchaeus would have liked as a remembrance of the day that changed his life for good: Thank You, by Dido.

May your Thanksgiving usher you right into the season of joy and giving that is now upon us.