This Turkey is Hereby Pardoned (And So Am I)

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We crowd around the fence-line and watch as the turkeys waddle around fairly oblivious to the crowd that has gathered.

The mayor waits until we’ve all arrived and then he reads the official proclamation that goes something like this:

“I, the mayor of Newport News, do hereby pardon these turkeys.  May they live to enjoy many more Thanksgivings.”

Then we all clap and go back to making turkey hats and other Thanksgiving fun.

The turkeys carry on the same as ever, as if they were not just spared being the main course on someone’s table.

We’ve done this a few times now, watched as a local mayor “officially pardons” the turkeys at one of our favorite children’s museums.

Of course, these particular turkeys are never truly in much danger of becoming dinner.  They are decidedly off the menu.

But this year…this year I consider their pardon….beyond the fun yet essentially meaningless ceremony we love to witness.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, but I’ve struggled this year in a new way. In fact, I’m tempted to brush right past on my way to the bigger and better things of Christmas.

This year has been beautifully blessed and I am truly and sincerely grateful because God is good and faithful.

Still, there has been sorrow this year and mourning, loss, loved ones with cancer, unanswered prayers and prayers answered with “no.”

There has been a struggle.  Even the blessings only came after long seasons of persevering and battling and then, by the time you settle into the promised land, you feel more weary than victorious.

So, what I feel in me is a deep sense of longing, an intense desire to see God’s glory, to see the blessing, to see promises fulfilled, to see heaven and healing and resurrection.

I want to toss myself down at the feet of Jesus in exhaustion and implore Him to “Come.  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Perhaps this is why for the first time in my entire adult life I sheepishly played Christmas music while I cooked dinner and cleaned before Thanksgiving.

Shocking.  I know.

Scandalous.  Yes.

I’m a champion of Thanksgiving and of protecting the sacred celebration of gratitude before any and all Christmas cheer.

But this year the longing is intense and Advent draws me in.

I have even lugged in some of the Christmas decorations from the garage and stacked them in my kitchen.  There they sit, Rubbermaid containers of joy with Christmas all ready to spill out of them.

I wanted to start slipping Christmas into the house this morning.  A little decoration here.  A lighted Christmas village there.

I’m desperate for the joy of knowing that Christ came.  That God fulfilled HIs Word.  That even in seasons of long and silent waiting, God was at work and what He did was beautifully more than anyone could have imagined. 

This is the reassurance I need.

But instead of decorating the house, I went for a drive and as I did,  I listened to these verses being read:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV).

This is the Thanksgiving reminder I needed.

We have been so very blessed this year and I give thanks.

But even in the middle of sorrow and sadness, of disappointment, discouragement, and fatigue, I still give thanks. 

Habakkuk reminds me: “yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”

In poverty, in despair, in hunger, in failure, Habakkuk took “joy in the God of my salvation.”

That’s why I consider the turkeys this year because, while the pardon I witness is fun and symbolic rather than real, they remind me of the truest reason to give thanks.

I have been pardoned.

Really and truly pardoned.

Not just symbolically, but deeply forgiven and washed clean.  Healed and made whole.  Declared not guilty before God even though I don’t deserve it.

The Psalmist said:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1) 

And that is me.  I am the blessed one.

You and I are the blessed ones.

This is why we give thanks.

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
(Great is Thy Faithfulness).

The Winners Are. . . and Devotions from My Garden: The Storms May Come

Well, it’s the big giveaway announcement to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the blog!!!

I used a random number generator (random.org) to select two winners.  The winner of the amazing necklace and bracelet set from Rita Taylor is: Lynn Holt!!!!

The winner of the gardening gift basket is:  Theresa Nunn!!!!

Congratulations!!!  I’ll privately message each of you with more details about getting these prizes to you.  Thanks so much to all who commented, shared, and posted as part of the contest!

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Devotions From My Garden:The Storms May Come

My daffodils were a pitiful sight to see.

Duped by unseasonably warm weather, including a smattering of 70 degree days in December and January, they had poked their little green stems out of the earth early.

Too early.

By the second week of January, their yellow buds were eagerly waiting to open.  Now it’s mid-February and these early spring flowers have been in bloom for almost a month.

All this time, my daughters have been waiting, hoping, and even calling in requests to God for snow.  Our nightly family prayer time has become more like petitioning a weather man than a Holy God.

“Dear God, please let it snow and please let it be a really good snow and please let us have no school tomorrow because there’s so much snow.”

My seven-year-old explains the intricacies of the snow dance to me as taught to her by her teacher.  Apparently it involves dancing in the shower and singing at the top of your lungs for snow.

I told these snow bunnies of mine that winter weather at this point would be devastating to my lovely daffodils.  How could they survive February frosts much less the blizzard my daughters wanted?

I said, “We can have snow or we can have a pretty spring garden.  Not really both.”

They thought snow was the better option.

Meanwhile, I mourned my daffodils when a few mornings of thick frost left them wilted and droopy.  Then it snowed, a small, one-inch dusting, and I thought my flowers were doomed for sure.

This afternoon, I plodded past them on the way to the mailbox and felt the warmth of another spring-like day . . .  in February . . . and noticed that my daffodils were standing a little stronger and straighter.  They hadn’t died after all.  They hadn’t wilted away or rotted back into the ground.  They were lovely, bright, and cheerful, just as they should be.

I didn’t know how hardy they were, how strong and and able to withstand difficulty.

Sometimes we don’t know this about people, either.  We try to shield them from trials, hard times, or tough situations.

I do this with my children.  I know it.  I try to step out of the way and let them develop character and learn lessons without my intervention.  Yet, it’s hard when rescuing seems so easy.

We do this as Christians, too.  We pray away difficulty for others and ask for safety, health, blessing and goodness.  It’s not that the asking is wrong.  Jesus tells us we can ask. But, perhaps our prayers on their behalf would be more effective if we asked God to strengthen and encourage them, to walk with them through the difficult times, and to reveal Himself to them along the way.

Perhaps that’s why Paul tended to pray for the spiritual life of his fellow believers and not for their material well-being or comfort.  He didn’t end his letters with prayers for financial abundance, a new house or a better job.

Instead, he prayed, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

He didn’t pray away hardship.  He prayed people through it.

In a similar way, we so often try to make the Christian walk sound easier than it is.  We want it to be appealing and simple.

So we sweep Jesus’ assertion that “in this world you will have trouble” under the rug and hope people just pay attention to lovely thoughts like “Jesus loves you” and “Ask and you will receive.”

It’s our Gospel filter.  We tell the stories about compassionate-Jesus, meek-and-mild-Jesus, “Blessed is everyone” Jesus, the great teacher Jesus and the famous healer-Jesus.

Jesus, however, tended to tell people the cost of discipleship.  He always knew the root issue, the stronghold, the one thing someone wouldn’t be willing to give up—and He asked for it.

Like the rich young ruler.  Jesus could have said, “Just believe in me.  You’re a great guy.  This step of faith is just going to seal the deal.”

Instead, Jesus saw the materialism in this seeker’s heart and “looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'” (Mark 10:21).

It says that Jesus “loved him” and out of that love, He asked for the hardest sacrifice, the one idol that would keep Christ from having lordship in his life.

In the same way, Paul and Barnabus assured early Christians that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

It’s our way with people, usually, to try to shield them from frosts and from snow storms.  We think, “Surely this weather will kill their buds and destroy their blooms and their stems will rot into the ground.  They’ll never survive.”

Jesus, though, told people in advance that tough times were coming and that the Christian life was no guarantee of perpetual blessing, prosperity, or comfort.

Yet, He assured people that the sacrifice was worth it.  Yes, it might be tough, sometimes requiring the painful laying down of idols in our lives.  But Jesus would be with them, He would strengthen them, He would take them through it all and there was eternity to gain and God’s glory as a result.

It’s not that it can’t snow on the daffodils.  It’s that Christ will strengthen them for every storm.  This is true for our kids, learning tough lessons.  This is true for fellow believers, facing hard times.  This is true for non-Christians, learning the cost of discipleship.  God can care for them, even when the storms may come.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King