Meditation for This Thanksgiving

The following is written by my friend Doug Barnes, pastor of United Reformed Church in Hills, MN to his congregation in their “Pastor’s Page.” I’m posting it with his permission.

Deer Season, God’s Provision, & Thankfulness

Different people have different ways to mark the passing of a year. For me, two prominent highlights have always been deer season and Thanksgiving. Deer season brings bright snow and cold winds, warm gloves and steaming coffee. With Thanksgiving: empty fields and a vast, hard sky that invites you to find chores inside, where all is warm and cozy.

Two events that signal the approaching death of a calendar, with the impending birth of a new year.

There seemed to be fewer deer in the fields this year. Yet we still were blessed to have a big doe hanging in the garage when the season ended.

It’s always interesting to watch the kids react to the butchering of a deer. On the one hand, there’s the “gross-out” factor. (“Eeeuw – how dis-GUST-ing!”) But once they get over that, they start sneaking a peek here and there … studying the way the muscles overlap the bones … carefully poking and prodding, staring and studying. The brave ones might pick up a leg to study how the bones, muscles and tendons cooperate to allow a joint to work.

Watching my children explore got me wondering whether our modern age – with its microwaveable, super-store, shrink-wrapped conveniences – has taken away something precious.

Have we lost a sense of the wonder and thankfulness that ought to be inherent with our daily bread?

There once was a time – especially among rural families – when much of the day’s toil was directly involved with putting food on the table and heat in the house. Morning chores involved milking cows and collecting eggs – supplies that would fuel the family for the rest of the day. Feeding livestock, tending the garden, chopping wood – it all had a direct relationship to the dinner table. When Mom put supper on the table, everyone knew where that chicken came from, who had fed it, and what was required to move it from henhouse to table.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the conveniences and technological advances God has given us. But everything has a price.

I believe that the cost of our Wal-Mart-centered society has been the creation of a disconnect between the work of our hands and the food on our tables. The various parts of our lives have become compartmentalized, such that career has little to do with family, work has little to do with play, and the world has little to do with home. It’s harder to find satisfaction in a job that seems to have so little to do with the family you love or the needs of your body.

But look at that deer hanging from a rafter: there’s the paycheck for yesterday’s work. Now it’s time for the next day’s work – a chore that begins with sharpening the kitchen knives. Everyone pitches in – this one cutting, that one trimming, the next one grinding. Within a few hours, the deer is reduced to remnants, the freezer is full, and supper is ready to be cooked. Even the dogs are happily gnawing on the fruits of the day’s labor.

There’s a satisfaction in that kind of work that’s hard to categorize. It’s a satisfaction that recognizes: the work which exhausted me also put food on my family’s table.

Of course, that’s true of whatever work you do – whether driving a truck or nursing, teaching or serving food. But with most work, it’s not as visible. There’s a disconnect.

The lesson here is not that we should feel guilty for bringing home a paycheck rather than roasts and packages of ground meat. Removing that disconnect between work and meeting our needs just isn’t feasible.

Instead, we need to make the a conscious connection between work and food – between our labor and the meeting of our needs. As we end a hard day with a hot meal, we need to remember that this food is the product of our labor. And that’s no less true of those whose work is in the home – caring for children, teaching, and the like – as for those whose work is in an office or a shop.

Seeing that connection helps us to appreciate the significance of our work.

What’s more, we need to recognize that even though the work is ours, the provision is from God.

Looking up at a freshly-hunted deer, God’s provision is obvious. Unless the Lord had guided you to the right place at the right time, and unless He had allowed your aim to be true … there would be no venison for supper.

But the same holds true the rest of the year, doesn’t it? It was God who gave you certain talents and skills, along with the opportunities to use them. Whether by bullets or sales commissions or time cards, the work is ours – but the ability and the opportunities to perform the work is from God!

So as your Thanksgiving feast draws near and deer season disappears in the rearview mirror, think on the ways in which God has provided for you. For every bite, we are indebted to God. What an excellent Father He is – and what a glorious reason to give Him our thanks!

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