Thanksgiving Dinner is a magical meal. Something glorious happens when cooks take ingredients that would otherwise not be good and turn them into something delicious.
Take carrots, for instance. No one says, “For Thanksgiving, I want carrots.” But when Grandma grates those carrots, then adds flour, sugar, eggs, and a layer of cream cheese frosting, those root vegetables are magically transformed into carrot cake.
No one begs for broccoli, at least not at my house. But on Thanksgiving Day, broccoli becomes broccoli casserole. Plain old sweet potatoes turn into sweet potato soufflé. Good cooks are able to transform the ordinary into something spectacular.
Five hundred years ago, those cooks might have been called alchemists, for in medieval times, attempts to find a way to turn ordinary matter into gold were called alchemy. We now understand alchemy to be a forerunner of the modern study of chemistry, but what if people really do have the ability to turn what they touch to gold? Would having that kind of magical power be something that interests you?
What if I told you it involves Thanksgiving? Would you be willing to wander down that path with me and see if what I’m suggesting is true?
Our journey starts in the book of Joshua. Moses has led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and the Promised Land is in sight. As we pick up the story, Moses has died, and Joshua is the new leader. Joshua has sent spies into the land, and they’ve returned to report that the land is theirs for the taking. It’s a new place; it’s an exciting place; it’s what they’ve dreamed about since their days in Egypt as slaves.
Now, all they have to do to receive what God promised is cross a river. This time, God gives them another miracle, one very similar to the one in which He parted the Red Sea as they were fleeing Egypt. When their feet touch the water, God stops the flow of the Jordan River, and they cross it on dry land.
Just as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, God calls a timeout. There’s something important they need to do.
Can you see how this might be a metaphor for your own life? There’s something God has promised you, or maybe it’s something you know God wants you to do—become a parent, sell that screenplay you’ve written, maybe even go back to college—and you can feel you’re on the brink of it. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.
Here’s how it’s written in Joshua 4: When all the people had crossed the Jordan the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them to take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen, one from each of the tribes of Israel, and he told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the ark of the Lord, your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder. Twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask, what do these stones mean?”
God intended those stones to be used as a memorial, a way for His people to remember what He had done in their lives. Maybe one day a father would take his child fishing on the banks of the Jordan River, and the kid would see the pile of stones and say, “Hey, Dad, what’s that for?”
“Well, son, I’m glad you asked,” the father might say. “Let me tell you about the kind of God we have. Let me tell you the stories of where we came from. You see, we were once in Egypt, and we were slaves. Our taskmasters were cruel. It was a terrible time. It was painful, and it hurt. But God delivered us from all that.”
I can see the father pausing to remember, then going on with the story. “And let me tell you, son, when He delivered us from Egypt, we found ourselves in the wilderness, and there were days when we thought we would starve. But we woke one morning, and the ground was covered with food. God took care of us like that.”
The father might continue, “And let me tell you about the time we got a glimpse of where we are now and we thought there was no way possible we could live there. There were giants living in the land at the time. Some of us were scared and decided the giants meant it wasn’t for us. As a result, we didn’t get to go in when we could have. Now that we’re here, I need to tell you about the amazing things God has done. Let me tell you what these stones mean.”
Now, I wonder how you would respond if you were asked about the stones in your life. Have you even constructed your memorial? What will you say to your child or even your grandchild when they ask, “Tell me about your life. Tell me about the things that have happened to you”?
I hope you could say, “Let me tell you about the kind of God we have. There was this one time in my life when I didn’t know if I would make it. It was such a painful time, and it hurt so bad. I didn’t want to go on. But I have a God who took that pain and did some amazing things with it.”
Or you might say, “Son, there was a time when your mom and I didn’t know how we’d make it another day. Things were so difficult and so tough, just one trial after another. But God is faithful. Let me tell you what these stones mean.”
If you were asked those questions, what would you say? How would you respond? What would your memorial look like? Take some time this week to share with a friend or family member how God has been faithful in your life. Your story might just be the encouragement they need to keep fighting the battle they’re facing!
Click here to read more about how a single act of gratitude changed the course of history for an entire nation, and how it can change your life, too.