The aroma of golden-brown turkey wafting through the rooms of the house. The shrills of children startling anything still asleep. The caws of the crows piercing the fog that lies like gossamer on the outstretched arms of the trees. The occasional thunder of a gun in a young boy’s hands, fingers crossed, hoping for that first deer. Little girls playing hopscotch on the sidewalk while their brothers are pounding the pavement with basketballs. Football—inside on TV and outside in the yard. And, of course, jolly old Santa Claus—bigger than life—the grand finale of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
But what if the stuff of which good Thanksgivings are made are just not there this year?
I just received word that a friend of almost 45 years died. Try to imagine what his family’s Thanksgiving will be like.
What about you? What about me? If we were to draw pictures of our lives right now, what would we draw? Would you draw a temple—stately, overwhelming, majestic? Or would you be more inclined to draw a picture resembling some of the war-torn cities and villages of the Middle-East?
In the little-read book of Ezra are some great words of encouragement to those of us who just don’t see ourselves as temples. Ezra is the story of the exiles who left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.
Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel… This was even before they had started to lay the foundation of the Lord’s Temple. –Ezra 3:2, 6
There was no way to start the temple. “Temple material” just wasn’t there—not even for a foundation. But there was plenty of “altar material” because you can build an altar out of pretty much anything: rocks, sticks, dirt, broken bricks, even old rusty buckets. Jeshua was not going to let rubble stop him from being the man he was supposed to be. He could not build a temple, but he could build an altar. And that he did!
Thanks-giving begins with thanks-living.
Our lives may be messy right now; being a temple is only a blur in our minds. But we have a choice. We can eat sour grapes, or we can pick up a rake and start gathering all the shambles, all the brokenness, all the disappointments, all the anger, all the needles and all the bottles and all the pills, and pile them up and make an altar—because you can build an altar out of anything. That’s thanks-living; being grateful that God doesn’t waste a thing. Pile it up. Put yourself on it. Wait expectantly (Psalm 5:3).
And, oh, my! Pull out your pencil and start practicing drawing a temple. That is who you are! And would you please remind me of what I have just reminded you.