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Thanksgiving–A Time of Hope?

“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”- H.U. Westermayer

Thanksgiving

1) An expression of gratitude. Especially to God.

2) In North America an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621.

My earliest memories of Thanksgiving are all surrounded by family. Big meals. Lots of laughter. Lots of dishes to wash. As a child my younger cousins and I had to do the dishes. I hated it then, but would love to be back and spend a moment with all of them now.

My first Thanksgiving away from home was when I went to college. My freshman year was extremely difficult for me anyway, and being away from my family just made me more lonely. Remember, times were different then. We had to wait in line to be able to use the phone and I had to save my quarters to be able to call home. Even five minutes on the phone was priceless.

I’ll never forget that weekend. At the college I went to-Thanksgiving was more about the prospective students that visited on that weekend. We still had classes on Fridays so that the guests could get a true picture of what the school was about. Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal. We had a big meal that was so good in later years my parents would come down to visit just to eat there. There was always a big soccer game between rival societies. It was called The Turkey Bowl. The stands would be packed and many alumni would come from all around to watch this game. In fact, for many years after we graduated it became a tradition for us to spend Thanksgiving at that school. Wonderful traditions and memories that I am able to treasure. Unfortunately, this year just isn’t going to look like either of those scenarios.

I, you, still have so much to be thankful for. It’s been a rough year. Yes. But our freedoms and joys are still too numerous to count. Let’s start at the first Thanksgiving.

Do you remember your history lessons?

In September of 1620, about 100 people left England on the Mayflower, most of them in search of religious freedom in the New World. After two months the ship landed in what is currently called Massachusetts. In December, a scouting party landed at Plymouth. We now call these people, Pilgrims.

The journey was not smooth sailing and they were plagued with storms. The trouble wasn’t only on the water, but also on board as quarrels and disagreements began before the passengers disembarked. The Pilgrims knew that they needed to do something before each person would be on their own so they wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.

During the first winter the new colonists would live on the Mayflower as they built their new homes on shore.

MORE THAN HALF THE SETTLERS DIED DURING THAT WINTER.

Life in this new world was difficult. The winter was harsh and they didn’t have the means to eat properly.

Thankfully, Squanto, a Native American, befriended the settlers. He and his Pawtuxet tribe taught them how to plant corn and fish and hunt.

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims shared a harvest meal with this tribe. We consider this the First Thanksgiving.

I would love to think of that celebration innocently, but I’m sure it wasn’t the picturesque painting that we see. Perhaps we can learn from the past and apply the lessons to our present and future.

1) Thanksgiving. A time of hope. The Pilgrims left England in search of a new beginning. They experienced sickness, starvation and death, but by listening to the Native Americans they were taught how to survive. God sent help.

There is a letter written by Edward Winslow that says, “God be Praised.”

2) Praise God. We should be practicing this habit daily, but especially at Thanksgiving we should stop and give praise to our Almighty Father. Yes, life isn’t always pleasant. We don’t always receive what we want. There may be times of “starvation.” Our faith should rest in the fact that our God is still on the throne. None of this is a surprise to Him. And He loves you and cares for you more than you can ever know. I keep repeating this, but if the hairs on your head are numbered how can he not be caring for you? I mean, that fact alone means He is taking care of me constantly!

3) Stop making enemies out of people who are different than you. Just like the settlers and the Pawtuxet tribe, don’t be afraid of them. Instead, embrace them and learn what we can from each other. The same holds true for believers. I find that we fight against each other more than learn from each other. In fact, the devil doesn’t have to work very hard to destroy us…we do that quite well on our own.

4) Tomorrow is a new day. There is an old song, “I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.” God promises, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” God gave the people in the wilderness the manna they needed for that day. Cling to those promises today and know that tomorrow is coming.

I don’t know how you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. Chances are many of you altered your plans or maybe canceled them all together. You might feel bitterness or depression or emotions we aren’t used to feeling on a day set apart to give thanks. As we look back at our year there has been death, poverty, disagreements, loss, grief. At first thought you might think…what is there to be thankful for?

My friend, so much.

Can you add to my list?

1. Freedom

2. America

3. A God who loves and provides a way of salvation

4. Friends and family

5. Forgiveness

6. Books and history

7. and so much more.

What are the things you are thankful for?

I can’t wait to hear about your Thanksgiving! Until next time! This is just me–talking to you–from the wings.