When we read the word Thanksgiving, we all have memories and images that enter our minds. Some of us think about food, family and the fellowship of believers. Some of us have great memories of family gatherings while others long for and grieve people they have lost. When I hear that word, I remember my mom's dressing (she cooked the best dressing ever!), cold green beans (she always left them out too long), turkey, ham and all the trimmings. Our family would travel from wherever we were living to North Carolina and eat 2 meals ... one at lunch and one at dinner. It was both fulfilling and filling!
This morning I had the pleasure of talking about thankfulness with the ACA kids, and heard the obligatory pledges, songs about turkey and thankfulness, and the beautiful voices of happy children. My talk was a primer about the real first Thanksgiving here in America which took place in cold New England (Plymouth, Mass.) in 1620. While numerous worldwide celebrations of thanks took place throughout history, it was not until 1863 that President Lincoln proclaimed it as a holiday for all states. You'll have to go to the internet for a more extensive history, but suffice it to say Thanksgiving has been around awhile.
One thing I thought as I was rolling Thanksgiving around in my head is how thankful I should be for God's ever-present grace, Spirit and love. Romans 8:37-39 gives us this assurance and every reason to be thankful. Paul says that nothing ... not angels or demons, not depth or height, not any power, not anything in all creation can separate us from God's love expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. When I spoke to the kids at ACA, I reminded them that one of their pledges was to "hide God's Word in their hearts." I told them that the Pilgrims, as they spent months on a small ship traversing the Atlantic, needed this assurance of God's presence. The trip took from May to November, 1620. About the 11th of November they set foot on Plymouth rock, not their original destination. They had come so that they could live and worship in their little bubble, in their pristine world, free, happy and alone with God. I find it interesting that God had a lesson for them, even as they professed love and faithfulness for God. One of the first lessons they learned is that they couldn't survive without the help, experience and connection with the not-so-pristine (unspoiled) Native Americans. Without local knowledge they might have been lost.
I think this story reminds us that we are never an island unto ourselves. We keep and hold to our faith, for it sustains us in storms. We hide God's Word in our hearts, because it gives us guidance. But we also look for God's teaching and grace in our circumstances. God never quits loving, teaching, sustaining and growing us. So we watch, learn and give thanks for a God who always cares and always leads us to the land He has prepared for us. That is Good News and that is every reason for Thanksgiving. Randy