Well it’s early November already – trees are yellowing, evening temps are dropping, the country is deep in the throes of a divided election, our eyes are on the COVID counts, school schedules and work stresses hang in the balance, and safe family plans for two holidays loom ahead of us. In the midst of all of this, we know it’s the season to focus on our blessings. Our hearts try turning towards thankfulness, we shift to steer our souls into gratitude, but this year….well? This year, the shift feels forced and fragmented, and harder than ever before.
What I think parents need to remember: this turn toward thankfulness is also more important than ever before.
How do we guide our children and families into true thankfulness and gratitude, in these tricky and tumultuous times? If our own souls struggle for peace and clarity, how then will we lead our children to find these same things we are lacking? Are there more meaningful activities than making the yearly rote list of things we’re thankful for? I’m glad you asked.
The answer is not new. We do what we always do: we go to the scriptures, we go to our knees. This month, CCK is sending out a series of family devotionals that focus on themes of thankfulness, gratitude, and peace over anxiety. These brief studies can be used at meal times, for evening family worships, and even as personal or marriage enrichment.
You’ll notice pretty quickly that we don’t have all the answers. And we’re not gonna solve all the problem either – who could in this climate? But if you hop on board with us this month, we know you’ll be along for a much needed ride of revival. Whenever we open the word and study the scriptures, things happen! Our homes, our hearts, and our families are renewed and revitalized in marked and measurable ways.
So let’s get going church families – it’s early November already, and thankful-time is ticking….
“The Chiquita Banana”
Family Worship Thanksgiving Guide 1
Text: Read Philippians 1:1-11 (Wow, that’s a lot of ones!)
The bananas are what I remember most. There was a funny old lady named Nan who worked at the grocery store checkout counter when I was a very little girl. She knew my face and remembered my name, and every time she saw me standing in line, holding Mom’s hand, she would say, “Well hello there little miss Melissa!” I would search for Nan’s face among all the other checkout clerks, and on days when I found her, I’d always pull Mom in the direction of her line. Yes, even if it was the longest one! I felt so special when she smiled, said hello to me, and remembered my name. But my favorite thing happened whenever we bought bananas.
If Nan spotted a bunch of bananas nestled amongst our other groceries, creeping down the belt towards her, she would reach for them first thing. Holding the bananas up in front of her, close to her eyes, she searched each single banana for the one that had the blue “Chiquita” sticker: a woman wearing a banana bunch upon her head. When she found it, she peeled it off carefully, winked at me, and reached for my hand. I stretched my little arm out as far as I could toward Nan, and with a giggle she would press that sticker onto the top of my hand and ask in mock surprise, “Melissa! Are YOU a Chiquita banana?!”
“No!” I giggled, “how can a girl be a banana?”
“But look here,” she teased, pointing at the sticker, “this says you ARE definitely a Chiquita banana!”
I laughed and laughed. It was the same every time – same words, spoken in the same tone of voice – but I absolutely loved it.
We moved away from the neighborhood where that grocery store was located, and after that I never saw Nan again. But even as a teenager, when we bought a bunch of bananas, Mom would still playfully poke the sticker onto my arm and ask in Nan’s identical tone: “Melissa! Are YOU a Chiquita banana?!” Sometimes I laughed, sometimes I rolled my eyes. But this joke is more than 30 years old in our family now.
Last weekend my Mom flew from Arizona to visit us on her birthday. We had picnics and went to dinner, we threw a tea party and made all kinds of fun memories together. It was the sort of weekend you don’t really want to end. The morning Mom was leaving again for the airport, I made her breakfast at home – scrambled eggs, toast, potatoes, and one banana each.
I got the one with the sticker on it.
And of course, I knew what to do. With a little grin on my face, I peeled the sticker off and stuck it to the top of her hand, exclaiming in mock surprise, “Mom! Are you a Chiquita banana?!” We laughed and laughed.
Some stories stay with us. Some people and the impact they had on our lives continues to follow us long after the people move out of touch. Whenever something reminds us or makes us think of these people, we smile. We feel so thankful.
In the opening lines of the book of Philippians, Paul writes to his friends, “I thank my God every time I remember you, because of your partnership in the gospel from this day until now.” Do you have people you want to thank Jesus for, every time you remember them? These aren’t just people that made Paul smile. These are “partners in the gospel” – people who have supported him, suffered with him, and strengthened his faith.
Do you have people who have been “partners in the gospel” – people who have helped you know Jesus, or helped you teach Jesus to others? Can you think of people who have helped you grow or strengthened your faith? When we remember the people we are thankful for, it makes us smile, brings us joy, and helps anchor us in the good blessings God has given us. It reminds us that God is still actively doing very good things in our world today.
To the people Paul is most thankful for, he says “I am confident of this: that He who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion.” That means when God starts growing something good in a person, He is going to finish it! It’s okay if there are things in you that feel unfinished. We all have those. God’s not done yet. He’s going to keep growing you, and He’s going to keep bringing good helpers into your life.
- Which friends, relatives, and people does our family feel thankful for every single time we remember them? How could we let them know this week?
- What are some of the “good works” God has begun growing in each one of us individually? In our family as a whole?
- What are some ways we see God growing “good works” in our church, in our school, and in our world – even in the midst of a hard year?
Prayer: Thank Jesus for the people you mentioned above, thank Him for the work He is doing inside and outside our homes, and ask Him to carry His work in our hearts onto completion.
- How did our kids respond to this exercise? What did we notice, learn, and where did we lead them? How can we refer to this conversation again in the coming days to keep it alive?
- Who have been our “partners in the gospel”? How have these people blessed us? Can we tell them?
- What have we seen God recently growing in us as individuals, and in our marriage? Is it complete, or incomplete?