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There was the year those teenage girls—my older sisters and our sort of adopted sister Sharon--hid all the Thanksgiving leftovers on the roof while the adults took a tryptophan timeout. We told that story over and over until it became legend around our Thanksgiving table.
I wrote Carol yesterday to ask her how that whole thing started, and she said Sharon probably instigated it, knowing her. I don’t think Sharon had to do much arm-twisting, knowing Carol. Of course, Sue was ever the silent accomplice!
Sharon had come to live with us when her mom found herself suddenly single, with four children, and no way to care for them financially. All it took was a phone call and mom and dad were all in. Sharon moved in and became like a sister, and has been now for decades.
As I look across the landscape of my early life, I see a long line of sojourners who found a place in our home and at our table. Although we didn’t have a lot --dad usually worked two or three jobs to feed his family of seven--there was always room for one more. I don’t know how mom did it, but honestly, she was as good at multiplying those loaves and fishes as Jesus himself.
This Thursday on my 64th Thanksgiving, an eclectic assortment of 26 (and growing) folks will gather around our table out in the garden to share our gratitude for this year’s blessings (San Diego—what can I say?). I am having so much fun getting ready, and am deeply thankful for the heritage I’ve been given.
This morning as I reminisced, I started thinking: What if every family made room at their table this Thanksgiving for just one more person? I don’t have to tell you that there are lonely, hurting, displaced people all around us—from traumatized refugees who barely get by, to our neighbors or co-workers who left families back in the Midwest, or our teenager’s friend whose parents will be drunk, or the homeless woman with her two kids and a sign on the corner. What if every family who loves Jesus made room for one just of these? It’s never too late for you to get in on being blessed in the giving.
Now back to the roof. Our tradition is to eat Thanksgiving early afternoon, cover the leftovers on the table until evening and then snack on them again. So that year, as the adults napped, those girls hauled dad’s ladder to the side of the house, and one of them handed up the leftovers to the others—every platter, until the table was bare. It was dark by then, so they decided to just stay up there, which wasn’t very smart since the ladder was a sure giveaway and it didn’t take long for mom and dad to figure it out. Dad wanted to sneak up on them with a hose, but mom vetoed the idea, not wanting a repast of soaked turkey and runny mashed potatoes.
To be honest, I don’t know if I remember that story itself, or just the telling of it, but it always reminds me of the love and laughter a girl named Sharon brought to our house, simply because my parents were in the habit of making room at the table for one more.
So crowd your plates a little closer and add someone to your crowd this Thanksgiving--you will be glad you did. Happy Thanksgiving!
I keep getting asked for my turkey recipe, so I am posting it here. FYI, you have to plan ahead and make sure it is thawed out by the Sunday before Thanksgiving...but if you have the time, it is absolutely the best turkey ever and I've made it for a decade! Just click here.
Joe and I stayed at the beach on election night until well after dark, candles lit, drinking hot coffee and listening to the roar of the waves. As I watched that golden orb sink down at the end of the vast sea, I couldn’t help but take comfort in the Psalmist’s words: From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! (Psalm 113:3).
Over the past few days I have pressed hard into what I shared in my last blog; that in the face of unprecedented division and rancor, as slurs and bitterness and judgment, and even despair fills the air, I am to do one thing—love Jesus more. And loving Jesus more means loving the people who he created in his image more, no matter what their political persuasion or who they voted for.
It is my love for Jesus and for every individual in our divided country that makes me write this blog. While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and the platforms they represented were as far apart on most issues as the east is from the west, there was one difference that has uniquely troubled me. It is this: For historical and socio-political reasons, Donald Trump has been the candidate that the country, and indeed the world, associates with evangelicals. Right or wrong, like it or not, that means that because I am an evangelical in the truest sense of the word, what Trump says and does reflects on me, but far more importantly, on Jesus, my Lord. To that end, I humbly submit the following:
Dear President-elect Trump:
Some pundits are saying you have won because evangelicals voted for you, and I don’t know if that is true or not. But what I do know is that no matter how important your platform might be, from my perspective as an evangelical, you have said and done many things over the past several months that violate truths we hold dear. I won’t repeat your faults and failings here, for we have heard them from the media ad nauseam.
But I also do not want to remain silent about them any longer. While I don’t presume to speak on behalf of every person who might identify as an evangelical, the truth is that almost every definition of the word, including that of the NAE (national association of evangelicals) affirms that Scripture is our highest authority. This means that when any candidate says or does something that violates deeply-held truths from God’s Word, that candidate is not representing evangelicals in that moment.
While Hillary Clinton is certainly not without her own faults and failures, because you, Mr. Trump, are not only my future president, but are inadvertently associated with my beliefs, I need to share these things with you. Perhaps more importantly, I need to share them with my fellow evangelicals. We bear the weight of responsibility here as well, given that in so many important ways, our lives are no different morally from those outside of our faith. Frankly, I know that you will never see this post, so I write more than anything to remind myself, and others who believe as I do, of some important principles from our holy Scriptures.
We believe that every human being has been created in the image of God, and that we are called to bless and not curse others because of this. (James 3:3-10)
We believe that our highest calling is to love God, and in conjunction with that to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:25-37)
We believe that to love our neighbors means to be the kind of people who go out of our way to show kindness to those Jesus called “the least of these,” the downtrodden and oppressed, including immigrants and refugees. (Malachi 3:5, Matthew 25:31-46)
We believe God highly esteems and respects women, and that they should always be treated honorably (Genesis 1:27, Isaiah 43:6-7, 1 Timothy 5:1-2).
We believe we will give an account for the things we say, and that language or conversations that include coarse joking or sexual innuendo should have no place in our vocabulary. (Ephesians 5:4)
We believe every hint of sexual immorality is incompatible with the tenets of holiness by which we are called to live. (Ephesians 5:3)
We believe every word we speak should be used to build others up and give grace in the moment. (Ephesians 4:29)
I do understand that living out these truths does not preclude strengthening our borders or refining our vetting process or making tough choices to balance the national budget. These are difficult tasks that lie ahead of you. But President-elect Trump, we are a divided country, in desperate need of healing, something you have said you hope to bring about. This, to me, is why how you do what you do, the words you use, and the attitudes you display will be as important as anything you might accomplish. This is why we, as evangelicals, must return to the centrality of God's Word and live as Jesus did, with an unshakable commitment to love above all else.
As January approaches, I want you to know that I am praying for you and our nation, and that I will support you in every way that I can. You have my word. As an evangelical, I can do nothing less.
A troubled American evangelical Jesus follower
So…what will you be doing on election day, my fellow-Americans? Joe and I have made our plans--we’re going to head for the beach in the afternoon and stay out there with no TV, radio or internet, for as long as we can. Wednesday morning is soon enough to be inundated with what the pundits have to say about the events that took place in the good old U.S. of A. on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
If you’re like me, you just want this whole thing to be over. I have found myself daydreaming about the end when the polls are closed, every ballot cast, a winner is declared and things can get back to normal, if there ever was such a thing. But in truth, it will not be over for any of us when we wake up on Wednesday morning, for the unprecedented rancor of this election has left a wound, an open sore oozing with infection so deep it is hard to imagine how healing could ever take place.
I have experienced just about every emotion over the past few months—from incredulity to disbelief, to confusion to anger to disgust and grief and everything in-between. But a few weeks ago, I let go of it all, and simply asked Jesus what I could do, how I could honor him right now, here in this place, right in the middle of this mess.
And in the quiet waiting, I heard a gentle voice saying, “love me more.”
simple. profound. love. Jesus. more.
The amazing thing is that once my focus shifted; the rudeness, the acrimony, the resentment, malice, slander and hostility of the election lost its power, as it served instead to illuminate the beauty of Jesus Christ, like a gleam of light shining through a shrouded tapestry. His meekness took on vibrant hues against the hubris that was being flaunted on the right and the left. His compassion gleamed against the condescending slurs and caustic accusations that filled the airwaves. His kindness glistened against the sarcastic insults, his gentleness ever more precious beside the pompous predictions. In the end, the Spirit has used this election to brand my heart with this blazing truth: There is and never has been anyone like Jesus.
I feel so inadequate to put into words what this means and how it has changed things for me. I’ve put off this blog for days, feeling I’d never be able to articulate my heart here. So please bear with me as I plead with you, if you are a follower of Christ: Join me in making this your aim, that no matter what happens tomorrow or in the days and weeks and months to follow, together we will set our hearts to simply love Jesus more. This is our privilege. This is our joy. When it gets right down to it, why should we settle for anything less?
A FEW LINKS TO ENCOURAGE YOU ON THIS MOMENTOUS OCCASION:
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Tricia McCary Rhodes
Author of 7 books and a professor for Fuller Theological Seminary, Tricia specializes in helping others experience God’s presence through practicing soul-care.