It’s Thanksgiving, and you’re about to face a refrigerator full of leftovers. There are basically two opinions about leftovers, no matter the season – you love them or you hate them.
We like leftovers around here, and my husband especially adores Thanksgiving leftovers. He’ll joyfully eat turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie for days on end. Twice a day, if possible. I think he learned this during the first few months we were married. As the oldest of six kids, I spent my teenage years learning to cook for eight people. As a bride, I continued to cook for eight people, even though there were only two of us – enormous casseroles, massive chunks of meat, salads to feed a hutch full of rabbits. One day it dawned on me that I could make smaller quantities. What a revelation!
I’m amused by magazine and internet articles that give tips on how to serve turkey leftovers and fool your family into thinking they’re getting something new. Really? You’re going to cut up the turkey, add some noodles, douse the whole thing with leftover gravy, and they’re going to think you slaved over Turkey Surprise? They know what you’re up to. If the food was delicious to start with, it will be welcomed as a repeat performance in its original form.
While we’re finishing off our leftover turkey and cranberries and pumpkin pie, in their pure form, or in disguise, I’d like to suggest we all enjoy some leftovers of another kind. Thankfulness leftovers. Instead of putting up the Christmas tree the minute you lay down your Thanksgiving fork, consider using the remaining days of November to reflect on your blessings and enjoy a peaceful interlude.
What exactly are these blessings? We automatically give thanks for family, friends, home, and health. But any and all of those can be in flux. You may be trembling because your financial situation is dicey, and you’re feeling anything but safe and secure. You may be grieving over a relationship that is lost or damaged, through no fault of your own. You might be struggling with health, or maybe with plain old fear about the state of the world. I try not to get hysterical, but I think the world has gotten a lot more frightening lately. Family, friends, home, health and security can go on the chopping block at any moment.
Christians around the world recently observed International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Millions of Christians are suffering simply because they follow Christ. In fact, more Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than in the nineteen previous centuries combined. The 21st century is looking to be more of the same.
In spite of the incredible pain and loss persecuted Christians experience, it’s astounding to me that the number one prayer request from them is not that the persecution will stop. They want most of all to remain faithful to their Lord in their suffering, and to be a witness of God’s love to their persecutors. These dear souls have lost everything we take for granted and consider essential, but it’s nothing compared to what can never be taken from them – God Himself.
The writer of Psalm 73 knew this as well. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Who is this God who is much more than leftovers, and is indeed the main meal, our portion forever? The Bible records his many names, which are actually descriptions of his character. Here are a few: El Shaddai (almighty, all-sufficient One), El Roi (the God who sees), Yahweh Shalom (the Lord is peace), Yahweh Tsuri (the Lord my rock), Yahweh Roah (the Lord my shepherd), Machseh (refuge), Abba (dear father).
As a woman my age, I regret the times I’ve subjected myself to unnecessary angst and anguish because I didn’t understand this as I should. But I think most of us have a constant struggle with putting our trust in the Giver rather than the gifts. We need to be convinced that if nothing else remains, He will still be with us.
The all-sufficient God sees you and knows your situation. He is peace, a rock, a refuge, a shepherd and your dear father. And He has promised to never leave you. Ponder that with every bite of your turkey sandwich, the leftover cranberries and the last crumbs of pie. Savor your thankfulness for this incredible God, and let it carry you into the coming season. It will flavor your Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who is Immanuel, God With Us.