Thanksgiving: Caring, Daring, and Sharing

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I have been busy preparing for the occasion.    I am an eager goer because I know my going provides my wife with the ingredients she needs to be the skillful “doer” in the kitchen.  She prepares the list and I go for turkey, ham, yams, apples, or whatever she needs to make one of her delicious meals.

I also think about goers and doers in the context of our Forefathers and their many sacrifices.  Daniel Webster commended the sacrifices of these faith-filled and hardy Pilgrims when he said: Our fathers were brought here by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary.

Webster’s words are the “secret sauce” that Kirk Cameron wished for when he began a project that focused on the Forefathers Monument. The sacrifices of these hardy souls is memorialized in this monument that stands an imposing 86 feet high and weighs 180 tons.

Lady Faith is at the center of the monument, and she is seen with her right hand lifted towards heaven as her left hand holds the Bible of the Pilgrims, the Geneva Bible.  

Standing 36 feet tall, Lady faith reminds us of the perseverance of our Forefathers.  Their faith was the source of their strength as they struggled to realize the liberties and freedoms they envisioned; it sustained them and guided through times of heartaches and trials.

Daniel Webster also reminded people of the need to, develop the resources of our land, call forth our powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.

When Webster spoke of his day and his generation, I think he was comparing it to what the Forefathers had done.  Webster knew that if he and his generation were going to doing something worthy to be remembered, their lives had to be more than a selfish existence.

Isn’t this the message of Thanksgiving:  Sacrifice, remembering and giving thanks?  The Pilgrims were not content to just live; they wanted religious freedom for both themselves and future generations. They cared for others and dared for others, so they could also share with others.

…For this I give thanks.

Thanksgiving: A slice of Americana

macySince it began in 1924, Macy’s gift to New York City has become a time-honored tradition.  Macy’s miracle of 34th street is a festive celebration that runs for 2 ½ miles.  Some 3.5 million people will line the parade route to watch this amazing display of giant balloons and unique floats, and another 50 million will watch it at home.

For many people, this is the image they have of Thanksgiving, and it is what they think of as the start of the holiday season.  My thoughts are a bit different.

While I do think of the Pilgrims, the inaugural feast with the Indians and the giving of thanks.  This year, I find myself thinking of January 6, 1923, the year before Macy’s began their parade.

A record of the event was recorded in the pages of Eureka’s newspaper, The Democratic Messenger on January 11, 1923:  Harold Seymour, age 17 and Berta Hughes, age 18 were married by Probate Judge S.L. Chase in Reece, Kansas.

Harold and Berta would move a little east and a little north to Sallyards, a town that is now barren foundations, railroad tracks, cattle, and the Kansas wind blowing across the Flint Hills and through the Bluestem grass.

The white house where Harold and Berta lived is my slice of Americana.  My first memories of Thanksgiving are framed inside this house.  I can still smell Grandma’s cherry pie and chicken and noodles.  I can still see that big smile that lined the wrinkled face of Grandpa Seymour.

Even though I’ve forgotten the name of the songs, the vivid memory of Grandma sitting at the piano is fresh in my mind.  As she played, the family sang, and the clearest voice was Dad’s—a voice that was silenced by an untimely death 50 years ago.

Even though my grandparents, parents, and all but one uncle and one aunt are gone, I still have my slice of Americana.  Every time I pour myself a cup of coffee and eat a slice of cherry pie or dig into a heaping helping of chicken and noodles, I remember what I can’t forget, and I give thanks.

What are some of your memories and your slice of Americana?

The Year of the Naked Christmas

xmasI’m growing weary of the societal onslaught designed to strip Christmas of its dignity and clothe it in the seams of secularization.   One of the latest examples is the action of the “Executive Leadership Team” at the Salem VA Medical Center.  These mindless minions have banned Christmas trees, Christmas celebrations, and Christian speech, including the traditional Season’s Greeting of “Merry Christmas.”

Should the traditional Season’s Greeting be restricted to the “Ho, Ho, Ho,” of Santa Claus or should two letters be added to “Ho” and the greeting be: “Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” as we celebrate the gift of God’s Son?

Is Christmas to be the inflated plastic toys that line the shelves of stores like Home Depot who want your money, but deny the message of Christmas?  Is it to be a way for stores to profit while they reject The Prophet who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6)?

I realize that Thanksgiving is this week and Christmas is still a month away, but I’ve come to loathe the commercialization of Christmas.  When we forget the rich Christian history of this holy day, it becomes a remnant of empty boxes and crumpled wrapping paper.

The hope-filled Spirit of Christmas has transformed lives throughout the history of mankind.  One such incident is the World War I story involving Charles Brewer, a 19-year-old British lieutenant.

On Christmas Eve of 1914, Brewer and other soldiers of the Bedfordshire Regiment of the 2nd Battalion were shivering in a trench when they faintly heard the sound of singing coming from the trenches of the German soldiers.  After a moment, Brewer recognized the song was the familiar Christmas carol, “Silent Night.”  When the Germans were finished singing “Stille Nacht,” Brewer and other soldiers began to cheer, and they sang the English version of the song.

According to history.com, “When dawn broke on Christmas morning, something even more remarkable happened. In sporadic pockets along the 500-mile Western Front, unarmed German and Allied soldiers tentatively emerged from the trenches and cautiously crossed no-man’s-land—the killing fields between the trenches littered with frozen corpses, eviscerated trees and deep craters—to wish each other a Merry Christmas. Political leaders had ignored the call of Pope Benedict XV to cease fighting around Christmas, but soldiers in the trenches decided to stage their own unofficial, spontaneous armistices anyway.”

I think it’s time for the government to end this sterilization program and let our Veterans have their Christmas trees and its time merchants  begin  focusing less on the jingle bells of their cash registers and more on the message of Silent Night.

Loving God Because . . .

becauseIt was the insufficient, one word answer that I used as a kid to explain why I had done something:  “Because.”  It never made a bad situation any better, and in exasperation, Mom would say, “Because!  Because?  Because why!?

It may be “because” is in the 116th Psalm that its one of my favorites.  This Psalm begins with a four word statement:  “I love the Lord.”  Then “because” is the fifth word, and it states the condition or reason that the Lord is worthy of love.

I love the Lord because:”

  • He has heard my appeal for mercy (1)
  • He has turned His ear to me (2)
  • He is gracious and righteous and compassionate (5)
  • He guards the inexperienced and saves the helpless (6)
  • He is present in times of sorrows and trials (8)

When you get to verse 15 of the Psalm, you find one of the most tender verses in the Bible: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  What I’m about to say is poor English; however, it emphasizes the truth of this verse:  “He be the cause of our hope in the time of death.”  Its because you’re so precious in the eyes of God, that He gave His Son to die for you, to provide salvation for you, and to make a place for you in heaven.

After reflecting on the goodness of God, and why he loves the Lord, the writer says. “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  May God be the cause that motivates you to say, “I love the Lord,” and to give thanks for His goodness.

For the Forty-Third Time: Thank You!

IMG_0712The phone rang twice, and then I heard Johnny Lawson’s voice say a raspy, “Hello.” I said, “I just called to see if you’re still among the living.”  He replied, “Hi Stan, I still recognize your voice after all of these years.”

Johnny was my immediate supervisor when I reported for duty at Peterson Field, in Colorado Springs.  I had one measly stripe sewn to my shirt sleeve and a big mouth that kept getting me into trouble.  Fortunately, Johnny’s uniform was lined with stripes, and he had my back.

Each year when October makes its appearance on the calendar. I think quite a bit about Johnny.  I’ve called this fine man my friend for the past 43 years.

Johnny did more than save my hide, he was also instrumental in saving my soul. Through the wonderful kindness of him and his family, I came to know Jesus as my Savior.

When I think of Johnny, I think of the way Solomon spoke of friends:

  • Some friends may ruin you, but a real friend will be more loyal than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)
  • A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times (Proverbs 17:17)
  • In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).

I have to agree with Charles Spurgeon, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life.  Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial, had they not found a friend.”

In October of 1972, Johnny Lawson walked into the emergency where I was being treated for a severe head injury. Over the next month, he and his family went far beyond the call of duty to help nurse me back to health.

Had this friend not found me, I might have failed beneath the bitterness of my trial.  Johnny Lawson is my definition of what a friend is to be.

Thanks Johnny!

Are You A Giver or a Getter?

Helping Hands against blue sky

The life of some people can be defined by their focus on giving or getting:

  • Givers ask: What can I do to help you?
  • Getters ask: What can you do to help me?

When I think of giving and getting, I think of the words of two wise men:

  • President Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Solomon: “A giving person will receive much in return, and someone who gives water will also receive the water he needs (Proverbs 11:25).”

Think about the people you know.  Are there some among that crowd that sap you of strength due to the demands they make?  Are there others who are a delight to be around because they refresh and re-energize you?

This was the topic of discussion when Paul wrote his second letter to the church at Corinth:

In the midst of all that has happened, though it has been difficult, we are comforted and encouraged. When we saw the relief and joy on Titus’s face, we celebrated even more because his spirit had been totally refreshed by you. Now if I have bragged in the past about you to Titus, I have nothing to be ashamed of. Just as we’ve spoken the whole truth to you, I’m glad to know that our boasts to Titus about you have proven true as well.  His love for you overflows even more as he recalls your obedience and how you respectfully and somewhat nervously, with fear and trembling, took him in.  I have great joy now because I have great confidence in you.                     ~2 Corinthians 7:13-16

Titus isn’t the only person who has been refreshed by a friend.  Paul said that Philemon was a source of joy to him: “Because you are out there encouraging and reviving the hearts of fellow saints with such love, this brings great joy and comfort to me (Philemon 7).”

Think of today as your day to be the giver who makes a difference in the life of another.  Give someone an encouraging word; share an act of kindness; and, revive someone who is struggling through life.

Is That With an “E” or an “I?”

vowels-of-leadershipThe question of the title is a focus on the difference between complement and compliment.  Even though the difference between the spellings of the two words is nothing more than a single vowel, there is a significant difference in their meaning:

  • A complement completes, enhances, or perfects.
  • A compliment is the expression of praise, admiration, or in some cases it is used in regard to a free gift.

Both words offer an appropriate expression of your relationship with Jesus:

  • Because salvation is a free gift to you from God, Jesus is a compliment: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).”
  • Salvation is also the complement through which He completes, enhances, and perfects you: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority (Colossians 2:9-10).”

As you start your week, I encourage you do so with a spirit of thanksgiving for the manner in which God has complimented you and continues to complement you.

Take a Gratitude Break Before You Break

GratitudeSince today is Thanksgiving Day here in the USA, I’ll not be writing a typical post to this blog.  I do, however, want to encourage you to remember to express your gratitude to God, family, and friends, and to give thanks.

If you have time to read over this extended holiday weekend, I’m providing a couple of links that emphasize the benefits of gratitude:

Use the admonition of Paul to guide your thoughts today:  “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (I Thessalonians 5:18).”

Gratitude: Is It the Main Course or a Side Dish?

imagesOn Thursday of this week we will observe a day of Thanksgiving; however, the spiritual discipline of giving thanks was practiced long before the Pilgrims found their way into the pages of history.

As you mull the meaning of thankfulness,  give more than just a wink of contemplation to the contrast below:

  • Psalm 50:23: He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.
  • Romans 1:21: Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
  • One focuses on solemn reflection leading to respect, while the other speaks of rejection and neglect

When you consider the knee-buckling-goodness of God, your response should be more than a blasé yawn—it should be shout-it-from-the-mountain-top-gratitude.

Henri Nouwen has said, “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”

Gratitude and thanksgiving are like identical twins–they are so similar it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.  Gratitude is the manifestation of kindness perceived, and thanksgiving is the expression of kindness received.

Paul encourages us to abound in thanksgiving:  “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7).”80506764d4f9bef09a9cd171e8a6bf24

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses his gratitude and unabashed appreciation:  “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3–5).”

What stirs a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving in your heart?  Have you called the person or written them a letter to express your appreciation?  Why not do it now?

The Broken Circle

circleThis past Tuesday night the contestants on The Voice sang “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” The aspiring musicians sang a different rendition of the song when it came to the word “Lord.” Instead of singing “Lord,” they substituted the word “Oh.”

In an effort to harmonize with the pitch of the producers, The Voice hopefuls were off key with the original message of the song. Changing from “Lord” to “Oh” might be a small change if all a person is concerned with is spelling; however, it has major implications when we consider the often skewed circle of a once grateful nation.

The producers of the show eliminated the “Lord” at the time our nation once expressed gratitude for His grace. Their lack of grazioso stated a motif that was more buzzard than blessing.

Kudos to coach Blake Shelton who said: “I was sitting in my chair singing that song how I grew up on it, with ‘in the sky, Lord, in the sky.’ I sang it as loud as I could. And that might be why I didn’t realize until after the fact that ‘Lord’ was either taken out, or it was just performed some other way.”

The title of this show, The Voice, reminds me of a story in I Kings 19. God spoke to Elijah and said: “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Social media indicated that many of the people who watched the show asked the same question: “What are you doing!”

Doing what they did is a far cry from what President George Washington did when he proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 as a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Oh Lord, may I always remember Your blessings, grace, and mercy. For these I give thanks.