Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Pilgrim-style Gratitude (Not What You May Think)

21 Nov

Thanksgiving Day was approaching, and the family received a Thanksgiving card with a painting of a Pilgrim Pilgrims_Going2Churchfamily on their way to church.

Grandma showed the card to her small grandchildren, observing, “The Pilgrim children liked to go to church with their mothers and fathers.”

“Oh, yeah?” her young grandson replied. “So, why is their dad carrying that rifle?” (1)

The story of the American Pilgrims is a lesson in survival and gratitude. After the hardships and horrors they endured, including terrible grief and suffering, the Pilgrims who survived turned to God and gave thanks with a three-day celebration! It was the sacrifice of joy that David talked about in Psalm 27:5-6 ~ kept safe and then sacrificing with “shouts of joy.”

Rev. Scott W. Alexander wrote a bit about that first Thanksgiving celebration, but he also took time to detail some of the tough things our Pilgrim forebears had to deal with in 1621 in their search for religious freedom. (2) There was a horrible winter ~ every family touched by disease and death. Imagine the grief. As they sat at their celebration table with their Indian neighbors, most of them were probably weak and thin from the ravages of that winter.

Alexander points out, “It is spiritually important that we not romanticize that first American thanksgiving as some carefree festival of reckless joy … It’s a miracle of the heart that those pilgrims could even think of giving thanks to God, or celebrating life’s bounty …

“It seems to me that what makes the real Thanksgiving story so remarkable,” Alexander wrote, “is not the joy which the Pilgrims and Indians shared, but rather that their painful backdrop of grief was not allowed to block out their celebration … Somehow they were able to choose gratitude over bitterness, generosity over greed, thanksgiving over self-pity.”

Have you known modern-day pilgrims like that ~ brave souls who refuse to let life’s tough circumstances thwart their sense of purpose or rob them of joy?

I have. I’ve observed:

  • A pastor with lymphoma who chose to trust God and express gratitude for life
  • A woman waiting for new lungs, choosing to express praise to God during the wait
  • A couple experiencing job loss, and choosing to seek God in the midst of that pain
  • A mother with a rebellious daughter, choosing to see her through God’s eyes

Alexander pointed to the familiar story of Victor Frankl, a Jew who survived Auschwitz, as an example of the kind of choices that lift us beyond tough circumstances.

Frankl wrote,

“Everything can be taken from [us] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were [in Auschwitz] always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom ….  It is this spiritual freedom which cannot be taken away, that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”

As Christians, gratitude at Thanksgiving is to be in this context, but even more. Life may pummel us with many blows, but we who know eternal life in Jesus have a different perspective. In Christ, there is joy, beauty, hope, and satisfaction that the world cannot understand, because in Him, God redeems all things ~ we are truly “made alive” in Him (Ephesians 2:1-10) and have so much to celebrate with joy (Psalm 126:3).

Leadership specialist Michael Hyatt carries a rock with him, in his pocket, to remind him to be grateful for whatever is happening in his life. Whenever his hand touches the “gratitude rock,” he thanks God for his immediate circumstances ~ whether good or bad. It’s a wonderful idea.  Or perhaps we can put a special object that represents gratitude where we will see it every day, for the same purpose. We need to be more deliberate in our words and responses.

So no matter what you are facing today, Friend, you can still choose gratitude. You are a blessed survivor in Christ!

(1) “Pilgrim Church,” from Cybersalt Digest, Issue #3493, 11/24/10

(2) Sermon by Rev. Scott W. Alexander, “The Pilgrims in Our Lives,” http://www.bigskyuu.org/sermons/pilgrimsinourlives.pdf

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The Rush to Christmas

25 Nov

I heard this funny joke about Thanksgiving in the United Kingdom:

Thanksgiving in BritainA few years ago, an American journalist and a British journalist discussed Thanksgiving on a British radio program. The American asked if Thanksgiving was even celebrated in the UK.

“Oh yes,” the British Journalist said, “but we celebrate it on September 6th.”

“What? Why then?” the American asked.

The Brit replied, “Because that’s when you chaps left!”

I guess there are many ways to be thankful. I (Dawn) love thanksgiving, and I get a bit miffed when it’s passed over. Does the joyful refrain of Jingle Bells at Wal-Mart bother anyone else the week before Thanksgiving ~ or is it just me?  I mean, what’s the hurry, people?

A few years ago, because of commercialism and the rush to Christmas, I decided to come up with my own all-in-one holiday ~ “Thanks – Giving.” We are in the thanks and giving season, aren’t we? So, I like to think of the two holidays together.

Let me explain.

God gave me so much in Christ, so I take all of November to thank Him. In fact, a good exercise is to thank the Lord for something different from His hand and heart each day of the month ~ all the way to November 30 (Psalm 116:12; Psalm 103).

Then, on December 1st, I thank Him for my salvation in Jesus. He is the most extravagant, grace-filled Gift (2 Cor. 9:15). (Why wait until Christmas to celebrate Christ’s coming? We’re not sure of the exact day, anyway.)

As I  then turn my thoughts to loved ones with all the crazy Christmas shopping, I thank the Lord for (and pray for) all my friends and family. By the time December 25th comes, my heart is just overflowing with love and gratitude for God, for family, for friends ~  even complete strangers in Wal-Mart!

Try this model. I think you’ll like it. And I pray that you will enjoy this Thanks – Giving season! Let Pam and I hear about your special ways to celebrate.

And I can’t resist this:

Ode to Thanksgiving*

May your stuffing be tasty and your turkey plump.

May your taters and gravy have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious, your pies take the prize,

And all the good dinner stay off of your thighs.

(*Adapted from anonymous poem)

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