Saturday, November 26, 2011

Who Sat With You This Thanksgiving Day?

Who were you able to share your Thanksgiving meal with this season? 
 Did Christ sit at the head of your table?  
Was a place set for Him had His knock tapped upon your door? 
 Why would I ask this?

  Let me share a memory.

  I was around 8 when my Sunday School teacher specifically asked us how we would help those that had no place to eat on Thanksgiving Day.  If someone needed food would we feed them?  If a stranger knocked at your door would we help?  It's been over 30+ years and I can still hear Mrs Whitehead asking this.

 Well, as fate would have in the coming weeks I would be put to the test.  A young boy from the local Boys Club knocked on our front door late one afternoon. It was just getting dark and neither of my parents had made it home from work. 

 This boy, about 13, was selling candies, candles and coffee cups from an old ragged milk crate.  He also showed me a brochure with additional items and explained the money was for underprivileged kids.  I recall looking at a couple of the items rather quickly before he spoke up again.  

"Is your Mom home"?  "Can I come in to get warm?"   I have never forgotten his words or mine that followed.   I had to tell a lie and the words flowed as though they were rehearsed.   Well, in reality the lie was rehearsed.  It was the "safe white lie" we were allowed to say if our parents were not home.  "My mom can't come to the door right now" as I slightly pulled the screen-door back towards me.  For just a moment I was scared.  He looked hurt.  I felt horrible.  He was shaking from the cold.  I said goodbye and pulled the door close.  

 To this very moment I can remember how I felt sick to my stomach for lying but more so, for not letting him inside to get warm.  Would it really have hurt to just let him step inside? This feeling of dread began building in my chest.  It would not go away.  In my childish mind I just knew at that moment I had "Denied thy Father."  He had knocked but I did not let him in.  Yet, I had obeyed my parents.  This mix of emotions was overwhelming to me.  

The door was closed and locked.  I turned to walk away but something pulled me back to sneak a last peek at this poor weary soul.  Just as he was out of my sight I heard the rumbling sound of my step-moms Volkswagen.  Within a few seconds my mind wondered.  Do I tell her I opened the door?  Do I tell her I used the lie we had practiced?  Was I going to get in trouble?  

I chose not to say anything.  Dinner began with casual conversation then I heard Daddy ask if anyone had come over during the day?  I lied, again!  Ughhh!  There was that feeling of dread all over.  This aching was really gnawing at me and it was uncomfortable.  Dinner was over and we were doing the dishes when I finally just spurted out I needed to talk.  My eyes were filled with tears.  My heart was feeling very heavy.  I recall being so confused but knowing I had to tell the truth and make some sense of all this.  

My stepmom and I sat down on my bed and I unloaded the events of the afternoon.  While telling her how my heart hurt for that boy I began to feel my heart hurting for myself.  I wasn't going to heaven.  I had denied Jesus right there at my front door.  I had lied to my parents and covered it up with another lie. Confusing myself the more I talked.   

It was during that moment on my bed that I first learned about Gods love for me personally.  His never-ending love.  The fact that I had opened the door after dark and told "the lie" was quickly forgiven when the facts were discussed.  She explained how I honored them by repeating what they had said and by not allowing him indoors.  That by honoring them I was honoring God.  That He DID knock at my door and I turned Him away but with good cause. (repeat that last line out-loud) it seems I only heard the first part..
He DID knock and I turned Him away.  

Those words hurt so deeply.  They cut like a knife.  All the while mom continued to explain how a person changes when they ask Jesus into their heart. What you must do to ask Him to come inside.  How you chose to live by His commandments.   That those  feelings of dread would not be there unless I was ashamed of my actions.  It was then that I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart and to live.  To change me from the inside out.  To teach me to live for Him.  To learn at 8 years old how to obey The Ten Commandments.  It seemed like a simple task and well, I was certain  I could obey all the Commandments. 

So why would this stick with me for so many years?  Was that God teaching me a life lesson at this young age?   Was this my first moment experiencing the feeling of real conviction?  Yes!!  Yes, it was God teaching me!  Sometimes a child can learn much easier than an adult. Children hear the simple truth without complicating it.  I know that that feeling of dread was really a longing to serve Him.  To admit my sins, to ask forgiveness and to invite Him into my heart to live as my Heavenly Father forever.    

With the memory of that moment forever etched in my heart I believe that's why at times I know that I have been given the gift of service. To help others.  To live each day doing unto others as I would have them do to me. To open that door, To warm them. To give them a drink when what they are really longing for is a taste of living water. This too is why I believe God put me in the middle of our homeless community in Nashville, TN a few years back.  Oh now, don't get me wrong...He put me there to TEACH ME but to also share His love.  A place I would have never, ever thought I would end up. A place I learned to love where most everyone has nothing.  A place where some are so low and so down that eternity seems only a magical dream. A place where unlikely friendships brought me to my knees again at the age of 46. A place where I was THANKFUL for life, love, forgiveness and joy.  A true sense of peace, hope and joy! 

Each time I put my coat on at the onset of winter.  My mind thinks back to that young boy.  
How THANKFUL I am that he came to our door on a cold winters day. 
How THANKFUL I am to have felt the power of conviction.
How THANKFUL I am that others have welcomed me in.
How THANKFUL I am to have a warm home.

So yes, Christ is sitting at my table.  He is my welcomed guest at every meal, not just Thanksgiving. 

In His Love,

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