Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Heart of Thanksgiving

I sat at the Thanksgiving table this year with a heavy heart.
The Lord has blessed us beyond measurement, and my heart is overflow with thanksgiving and gratefulness.  But in my thanksgiving, I was reminded, the mail I received early November, from a local shelter asking for donation to feed the hungry’s on the day itself.  The mail I stashed away with others, with the intention of I would get to it to write a check and mail it out.  The mail that was lay forgotten among the stash.  I was reminded, on the day itself, I have forgotten, not the mail, but the hungry ones.  I am convicted, on the day itself, I have forgotten about the hungry and needy people out there, while I sat down to enjoy the abundant warm meal with my beloved family, these people, some without home, are looking for a shelter to shield them from the cold, are looking for a warm meal to fill their stomach.

I was convicted.

For you see, I know.  I know the fear of being hungry.  No, I do not know hunger itself, but I know the fear of not having something to eat for the next meal, or more accurately, the fear of not having my need met.  The fear of not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
I came from a poor family.  My parents worked very hard to provide for us, a family of six.  My father was often gone out of state or out of country, for the work that paid more than the little wages he could earn in the little village we lived in.  My mother was not only a mother, loving and caring for us, she was also our ever absent father, she was also the cook, a nanny for others' children, a seamstress working from home,  and a woman who did all kind of odd and ends at home to help make ends meet.  But I knew no hunger.  My mother made sure she has hot food for us on the table everyday.  Occasionaly the children missed one or two meals, only due to our own silliness or tantrums.  But hunger, was not a familiar friend.  We were poor, but we were as happy and as without worries as other children.

Yet one day I saw my mother deep in thought.  Worries etched out on her face, that was unusual for me to see.  My mother was a strong woman, whom had never cried in front of the children no matter how dire the circumstances-except when her mother passed away.  To see her being so wrapped up with worries deeply toubled the nine year old me.
What is it, mama?  I asked.
She was still in thoughts, and without realizing it, she said it out, we are running out of rice…..she trailed off when she realized I was listening.  I am sure she said all sort of things to comfort me, and promised everything would be fine, but the shock I experienced was so great, I cannot forget about it 21 years later.  I think I secretly peered in the rice bucket we had, and saw there was only about a cup of rice left, fear and worries rose up like a great moutain, and it put mighty weight on my heart.  I went to school that day not as the usual bubbly cheerful me, but a gloomy nine year old girl.  Not being able to pay school fees on time and having the teachers rolled their eyes at me many times, that I could bear, but no food for dinner, that I feared.  If we did not have enough for dinner, how about tomorrow?  What would happen to us?  Many many questions hanging over my head, I was such a miss misserable until my little friends could not help but noticed, and they asked, what is it?

I remember the shock on their faces when I said we were running out of rice. One friend tried to comfort me by saying there would be enough, but I assured her there wasn’t much left. Amidst all the talking and trying to solve the problem, one of my good friend, who was from a wealthy family, she took this one Riggit (Malaysia currency) out from her pocket, which was her allowance for lunch that day, and placed it in my hand.  Ask your mother to use this to buy some rice, she said.  I was speechless.  I do not remember my other friends have given me their money or not, I was speechless because of her genorosity, her kindness and her compassion to me.  I was also speechless because my daily allowance for lunch was only 20 cent (which is about 6 cent in US currency), and her allowance was 5 times more than mine.  One Rinngit was a lot of money to us back in the 80’s.  She could have buy 5 lunches with that money.  Yet she gave it all up to me without hesitant, I was very grateful to her.  And to this day I am still.  I do not remember what was my mother’s reaction when I passed her the money, while the adults turned their noses at my family, or rolled their eyes or spoke harshly when my mother went to them to borrow money or rice, this little girl had given her all with compassion, and without asking us to pay her back.  The money itself was not enough to buy rice, and I do not remember my mother made me to give it back to her or not.  To me, the problem was solved, some one cared for me, some one had reached out and helped.  Some one had not only loved but acted accordingly.  My memory ends there.

So I know, I know the fear, and I cannot imagine people who not only know the fear of hunger, but also truly know hunger itself.  They know of lost hope, they know of despair, they know of suffering.  How could I forget about them?  How could I not love and care more?
And how about you?  How about us whom we call ourselves Christians?  Do we celebrate Thanksgiving by indulging in the abundant of food and by joining in the shopping madness to get ourselves more stuff we desire?  What do we do with the overflowing blessings the Lord has poured out on us?  We do nothing with them, we sit on them and we ask for more!  Who come to the Thanksgiving table with true thankfulness, with a heart to love and forgive those who have done you wrong either with intention or without realizing it.  Do we remove the bitterness or resentment we have towards someone and thank the Lord by bringing that person into our life?  Do we stop and ponder on His goodness?  Do we pour out the blessings He has so generously pouring into our lives into His people who are in need, whom also have souls that have been carved into His image?

I am ashamed to admit that I did not.  I feel as I have, and we have stained the real Thanksgiving.  I seek for forgiveness in the Lord.
But it does not end here.  There is Christmas coming, are we going to stain the real meaning of Christmas too and grieve Him?  Or are we going to repent and turn our way?

Whom shall we give gift to this Christmas?  To ourselves, or to Him?
So my question and challenge to myself and to you is this, are you going to bring something to the feet of Jesus and offer that to Him, or are you just going to put another gift under the Christmas tree?
Before you make a decision, take a look of this picture I got from Katie's blog (with permission).

Picture copyright of Amazima

Read also this blog post of Katie, "Just In Case You Were Getting Too Comfortable...".
If your heart doesn't break after seeing and reading it, if you can still sit back in your comfort and sleep in peace, you shall look deep within your heart, whether you are what you call yourself, a Christian.

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