From Susan Hillis:
I have come to believe that tenor of a feast is definitely a much higher priority than its taste. By tenor, I mean the loving, joyful, and peaceful atmosphere of the gathering and by taste I mean the succulent flavors of the dishes being prepared. Either without the other leaves the partakers with a sense of disappointment. I pray for each of you dear readers that this Thanksgiving you may enjoy both tenor and taste!
Taste without Tenor
I remember how nervous and afraid I felt. It was my boyfriend Brian's first time visiting my family all those many years ago, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for Thanksgiving. The tastes of the meal were absolutely superb -- creamy, steamy mashed potatoes, warm juicy turkey carved to perfection, the traditional cranberry-almond jello salad, the scrumptious made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese. But the tenor was so tense it could be cut with a knife. You see, my mom and dad had struggled for years in their marriage, and this particular day they were in the middle of a huge fight. My siblings and I were so tense we had no idea what to say. My mama was so tense that she got up and spent the entire meal in the kitchen which adjoined our dining room, washing the mountain of pots and throwing the clean ones onto the cabinet. Crash. Thunk. Those were the sounds. No conversation. None of us knew what to say. I do know what I thought, "Oh my goodness, Brian Hillis is never gonna want to date me again after this! I am sure he will think that if he sticks with me, we will end up with a family like THIS!" The tastes were perfect, but the tenor of the atmosphere was destructive and hurtful. Anger prevailed, not love. It is what the verse in Proverbs 17:1 talks about when it says,
Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting--and conflict.
(By the way, for the early years of our marriage I did throw pots pretty often when I was fuming, but never on Thanksgiving!)
Tenor without Taste
Another memorable Thanksgiving was our first one spent on the mission field, in Colombia. I answered the knock on the door to see our friend Lucho standing there holding a huge dead turkey by the neck he had just wrung, feathers still all fluffed out, saying, "Aqui te traigo el pavo para el dia de accion de gracias!" (here I am bringing you your turkey for the Day of Giving Thanks).
You see, I had sadly told our friends that I was going to feel lonely on Thanksgiving, my first away from home. As they tried to figure out how to give me a Thanksgiving experience in Colombia, they determined we would have a feast together at our home that day and that they would provide the traditional ingredients for the customary dishes. Since turkey could not be purchased in the grocery store, they decided to buy a live one and kill it, then bring me the gift! The plucking of the turkey and its preparation took hours, and in the end it left a rather wild gamey aftertaste that felt like a disappointment. But the peace and joy and laughter around our table shared by a number of fellow believers who had come to be our family in Christ there, remain a treasured fond memory in my heart.
Tenor with Taste
So now what we are after is BOTH-- tenor and taste! Just as we spend time preparing for the taste part (picking the menu, going to the grocery store, and preparing each of the dishes), there are some preparations we can make for the tenor part. With younger kids, they love having some type of Thanksgiving activity to make their memory. Maybe taping white butcher block paper on the table as the table cloth and letting them decorate it with finger paint or watercolors while the food is on the stove. Or maybe its letting each of them trace their hands on a piece of white poster board, then cut it out and paint the fingers as the turkey-feathers and their thumbs as the turkey head and using this as placards to mark their place on the table. Or for older kids maybe its playing a family game of kickball or basketball outside after the meal. And as the teens and young adults come along, it may be board games or sports. But definitely it is play and fun that makes the tenor part for kids. After the meal we have a tradition of passing out two popcorn kernels (in memory of the corn grown by the early settlers) to each person, and then each of us plops his or her kernel in the "Thankfulness Cup" that is passed around, saying two things they are thanking God for, from the previous year.
Along with the play and thankfulness parts, for all ages, comes the real heart of the tenor - it is the building up part. And that is REALLY what is on my heart for you and yours this Thanksgiving. I want to set my mind and heart to ask the Lord to open my eyes to the wonders of His nature inside of each of those who will be at my home this holiday, and to speak to them about THAT...about who they are in Him! This past week the importance of building each other up has just jumped off the pages of the Scriptures as I have watched the light of day replace the darkness of night. What we really want to do for every person who shares Thanksgiving with us is to LOVE them well. And it is becoming so much more clear that loving people well means we speak out to them words that build them up. Here are some of the highlights from the Scriptures about that:
- "LOVE builds up!" I Cor 8:1 So...do you want to love well on Thanksgiving??? Then build up those who you spend it with!!! Even if they are not doing the same with you!
- "Pursue LOVE....SPEAK to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation....SPEAK to build up the church....strive to EXCEL in building up the church.....let ALL things be done for building up." I Cor 14. Note that chasing after love means we speak with exceptional quality -- we EXCEL -- and with universal quantity - ALL things can be done with building up....even the games and crafts and playing parts.
- "So then let us pursue peace and what makes for mutual upbuilding." (Rom 14:19)
And so I end, dear one, with an exciting reminder! We can eat a Thanksgiving Feast every day, the kind of feast where the Lord builds you up and says to you the same kinds of things you say to your kids...the "I am so proud of you" kind of things. No kidding - by just remembering who we are and whose we are. We are our Heavenly Father's dearly beloved children and He prepares a daily feast ("give us this day our daily bread!") at the King's table, according to our need, every day, as long as we live - read the last verse of Jeremiah to prove it:
"Every day of [your life], dine regularly at the King's table, And for [your] allowance, a regular allowance is given [you] by the King, according to [your] daily needs, until the day of [your] death, as long as [you] live." NOW, IT DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT! YOUR THANKSGIVING FEAST, FRIEND!