Author's Note: My name is Matt. I am not a member of the Timothy Initiative program, but I have been a friend of TI for several years and have recently been assisting with their social media messages. This is my Thanksgiving story, a time spent with TI.
In the picture below, here's me with my plate. I loaded it full.
This was the first Thanksgiving I hadn’t spent with family. Thanks to my recent move back to Tampa, vacation days from work and money were both gone. I was therefore relieved when Pastor George Wood invited me to the Thanksgiving meal at his house. This was the eighth consecutive year he and his wife Julie have held this meal. I was welcome by the Timothy Initiative guys as I sat at the table, and before us was a full spread of the standards: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries. I was struck by how comfortable it all felt. It didn’t seem strange or out of place, nor did it remind me of what I didn’t have, as holidays tend to do. Rather, it was full of love, reminding me of what I do have.
Spending time with the TI guys is always refreshing, and the rest of the world could learn a lot from them. Their conversations are injected with honesty, and they are willing to open up. They point to God’s grace in their lives. They do not hesitate to express thanks. In fact, Mike Malpede, TI’s recovery director and a lifeblood of this ministry, created a thankfulness box with his daughter (pictured at the top). A scarecrow sat on top of it, along with the words: “What are you thankful for?” Before the meal, one after the other the guys wrote on cards the blessings in their lives. They dropped them into the box. A few of those cards are spread across this page.
Once the food was on the table, Pastor George removed his apron and oven mitts to share a word and say grace. He mentioned how in the Bible important things regularly happened around the breaking of bread. He pointed to a passage he had read that morning, Luke 5:27-32. In it, Jesus calls Levi, a sinful tax collector, and Levi throws a large banquet for Jesus. Jesus dines with them, and the Pharisees ask why he was eating with sinners.
It is good to meditate upon this and consider whether we are following Jesus's example. Are there people we could be spending time with that the rest of society won't, like the sinners the Pharisees shunned? Still, though, I've recently learned it is just as important to take time to be the sinner sitting with Jesus. Jesus is gracious enough to break bread with us, not only in biblical passages like this one, but in his spirit. This is tremendously deserving of our thanks.
For once in life I’m trying to just be a child sitting at the table with his father. This Thanksgiving I just showed up and let Pastor George and Julie feed me. I didn’t bake a pie, didn’t prepare a toast, didn’t do anything in order to earn anyone’s trust or friendship.
This meal was special. We were are all coming from various backgrounds and circumstances to sit at a table alongside Jesus. No one was pining for power, attention, or majesty, we were just resting in the grace of God.