How do you express praise on Thanksgiving Day if you’re the turkey?
It’s easy to give thanks when your table is filled with an abundance of flavors and the seats around your table are occupied with family and friends; but when life unravels and you identify more with the turkey in the center of the table than the happy guest around the table, it’s a different matter.
This year I approached Thanksgiving Day with a chip on my shoulder. Three days before Thanksgiving someone smashed the windshield of my truck and stole something of great value to me. Instead of being thankful I was angry and depressed; resentment overshadowed feelings of praise.
I checked my attitude when I read a Facebook post from one of my neighbors. Amanda was expressing praise in spite of the fact that someone stole an Amazon package from her front porch. Her security camera captured the whole episode. Minutes after the delivery guy dropped off her son’s Christmas present a familiar face showed up and made off with the package—a real live Grinch, caught in the act of stealing Christmas on her Ring Camera.
Instead of holding resentments, pressing charges, or getting even, Amanda fixed a Thanksgiving dinner, boxed it up and went looking for the person who stole her son’s Christmas present. Under the viaduct, a few blocks from Amanda’s house, she served her homeless neighbor a homemade dinner and offered him her forgiveness. She empathized with his desperation and thanked God for the way Jesus had made a difference in her life.
Here’s what I learned from Amanda’s story and the smashed window on my truck. Sometimes life sucks. When circumstances beyond our control try to steal our joy we still have a choice on how we respond. We can become consumed with bitterness and resentment. We can try to deny the grief and pretend to be happy campers, offering cheap words of praise from a sulking heart. Or, we can offer a Thanksgiving Lament. Here’s what I mean:
Third, if someone has offended you, pray for the willingness to forgive. Sometimes, we’re just not ready or able to forgive someone who hurt us or harmed people we love. Praying for a willing heart and asking for God’s help may be the first step to offering real forgiveness and finding freedom for your own soul.
When we practice an authentic lament, by processing these five steps, it creates a pathway in our heart to reaffirm the hope we have in Christ; it frees us to offer genuine words of praise and thanksgiving . . . praise that is honest and real.
If you faked your way through Thanksgiving and feel bummed by the whole holiday scene, it might be helpful to practice a Thanksgiving Lament.
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Larry Stoess is an author, public speaker, and urban church planter. He loves telling stories about how dreaming with God will empower people to make old and broken things new again. Larry and a band of friends founded the Church of the Promise in Louisville's Portland neighborhood; The Table, a pay-what-you-can community café; and Promise Housing Plus, a non-profit construction company. He has written about their experience of dreaming with God in his new book: Think Red.