Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. Genesis 2:8-9
As we approach the holidays, and especially Thanksgiving, one topic is on everyone’s lips – what will be served on our festive tables. And while there are still many impoverished people in the world, through science, technology, and better understanding of growing crops and maintaining our herds, we have overall become much more richly blessed with food. Not only is there more food to reach the ends of the earth there’s more variety.
Where I live if I want to make any dish I can find the ingredients, no matter the season or even it’s ethnic origins. We have Middle Eastern markets, Mexican shops, Asian groceries, German meat markets, Ethiopian restaurants, Italian delis and more. You want to try it? Just search for it on the Yelp app and you’ll find it nearby.
I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Deuteronomy 11:15
God promised us a very long time ago that He would provide for us. And one short drive around just about any city in the world will show that promised fulfilled. I need to remember this abundance is God’s gift to us. He not only feeds us but gives us the opportunity to share our cultures and our traditions through food.
On our Thanksgiving table this year we will once again have my husband’s favorite fresh cranberry sauce along side my mom’s favorite canned jelly cranberry sauce (with the indentations from the can!). We will enjoy a large turkey, stuffing, homemade rolls, pies and more. A feast for sure. A bountiful harvest lovingly given by God.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Genesis 1:5
For about six months one year I barely slept. I had terrible sinus issues and when I laid down they were exacerbated. What little sleep I got was sitting up and in short bursts. Eventually, the lack of sleep caught up to me. I was so irritable and quick to cry. After a successful surgery I, thankfully, found myself back in blissful dreamland. That time showed me how important God’s structure for us truly is.
When you think about our lives, we have many structures God created for us. Besides night and day, we have our years mapped out. For many, our days are also broken up in going to work or school and coming home, hopefully with a bit of rest in between. We count our days in school until we graduate then we take a brief rest and head off to college or jobs. Our gardens are planted for Spring and Summer harvests and take a rest while we plan and prepare for Winter. Each year we mark the end of 365 days and make a plan for something new in the next. Our birthdays mark a time to evaluate what we’ve accomplished and dream big for the future. Today, marks Sunday, the first day of the new week. It also is a day of rest and time to honor God.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:Ecclesiastes 3:1
We’ve heard the saying, “the only thing guaranteed in life is death and taxes.” But that’s not really true. We know when we lay down our head at night the morning will come. We know the cold of winter will give way to the beauty of spring. We know that each day we will get older, not younger. God’s plan, His structure for us, is like so many of His gifts to us – a comfort. And it’s a reflection of who He is — the Lord of this marvelous creation that can be counted on to be with us forever and ever.
Is there someone in your life you are praying for – praying they will know God and surrender to Jesus? I have a few friends and family members on my prayer list that I lift up continuously to the Lord. He is our great Harvester but as He says in Luke 10:2,
We don’t know who is on God’s list of the “elect” so it’s our job as His field workers to get on our knees and pray for those around us. For when we pray, we are then opening ourselves up to direction from the Almighty. It’s one thing to pray for ourselves – our sins, our hurts, and our needs – but those of us who have offered up ourselves to God are already saved. Our eternal place in heaven’s field of flowers is set. So, when we plead with God for those we love, it brings about something new.
When you Google the words “Harvest Celebration” you get to the Wikipedia page, “Harvest Festival.” It says, “Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, games, music and romance are common features around the world.” Just think how much grander the harvest festival is in the spiritual world! God celebrates each time a new seed is planted, nurtured and brought into His ample basket. And, as His field workers we are called to play small parts in each of those steps.
I chose this topic today to send up praise of thanksgiving to our God who loves us bountifully. He answers our prayers fully that reflect His will. Here’s how I know this. This answered prayer starts with a reflection on my family. My mother is the daughter of a Baptist minister. She has a tenuous relationship with God, at best. Unfortunately, there weren’t field workers willing to nurture her through questions and feelings of mistrust. She saw Christians show up to church each week and act devout then leave the church doors and sin. My father is an atheist. He had no upbringing in the church and no friends who shared their faith. What little exposure they’ve had to God was through my mother’s sister who had many mental and family issues. In spite of this, I always believed in God. I had a friend that I occasionally attended church with but the majority of the people around me never spoke of their faith – if they had any. I married into a devout Presbyterian family. Boy, were they worried about me! Funny enough, my own parents were concerned when I told them I was going to church. Fast forward to the last few years. My parents and I never talk about my beliefs. I don’t hide them. But we just have not had another conversation centered around faith since I announced I was attending church. I asked a pastor once when I should just give up on some people – like my parents. He said, “Oh, you never give up! Just like God never gives up on you!” And so, as I have surrendered my life over to Christ, I’ve started praying more for others.
After watching the amazing movie, War Room, I set up a prayer area. On my wall I have cards filled with prayers for other people. One of those is for my parents:
“Lord, you are the only one who can break the bonds holding my parents down. With all your heavenly might break the tall and strong walls they have built around their hearts and minds. Lord, grab a hold of them and pull them from the fire!”
I’ve been praying this prayer now for about a month. The other day I added to the prayer, “Show me what part, even the smallest part, I need to do to help you accomplish this.” That very afternoon I stopped by their house to check in on them. My dad started talking about a book series he’s reading called, “The Saxon Series.” It’s an historical drama set in England. He shared that he had never understood what the “Holy Ghost” was or how the trinity worked until he read these books. Apparently, there’s a character in the book who refers to Jesus as “the nailed God” and priest who refers to the trinity as, “Father, Son and the other guy.” What ensued was a conversation about the role of the divine in each part of the trinity. I shared how when Jesus was crucified, he let the disciples know that another would come in his place to be with us always – the Holy Spirit. We talked about how much of the New Testament is written to churches who were either going astray or who needed support due to persecution. We also talked about the roles in the Old Testament of pagan gods versus The Almighty God. It. Was. Amazing.
Here’s the thing, I had written off my father as someone who would never come to know Jesus because he is an atheist. I thought my mom would possibly come around because of her faith background. But it was my father with whom I was having this conversation!
When I left the house I was stunned. I praised God for answered prayers. And, I thanked God for this: I was prepared. If this conversation had come up five or ten years ago, I would not have been able to speak so confidently and easily about these topics. God was preparing me for that day, that moment. I know the salvation of my parents is not my responsibility. I was just the field hand, who had been on my knees praying and pleading for God to help them. And if I needed to play some small role, I was ready to do the work. I will keep praying for them until either the day of their passing or the day of their surrender.
We can never know the hour God will gift us with answered prayers. Just like I really have no idea when my green tomatoes will finally turn red and be ready for harvest. Until then I get my knees dirty working in His name.