Today is Thanksgiving Day 2016.
It is sometimes very difficult to give thanks when things seem to be going all wrong in our lives. We all have felt at times distressed, fearful, lonely, bewildered, misdirected, abandoned, not cared for, lacking faith. But thanksgiving for what we DO have, gratitude for what we HAVE received, and specifically focusing on what gifts lie PRESENTLY all around us helps us to keep an attitude of gratefulness and a spirit of thankfulness.
In 1648 the people of the Netherlands won their independence from Spain after 80 years of rebellion and warfare. After a Dutch victory at Turnhout, Adrianus Valerius composed a hymn in 1587, “We Gather Together.” It quickly caught on as not only a prayer for independence but demonstrated the Dutch population’s refusal to obey Spain’s edict prohibiting the Calvinist Christians from gathering to worship.
The hymn we traditionally sing at Thanksgiving is a rough translation of the original Dutch verse. In the U.S. the hymn was sung in the same spirit as the Dutch in their rebellion against Spain, as Americans in WW I and again in WW II prayed for victory over oppressors.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
The Apostle Paul teaches us what attitude other than gloom is possible.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:4-8)
Yes, this morning I struggled to even get out the words, “I love you,” or “Goodbye,” as our son, Paul, and daughter-in-law, Allison, left after a brief visit. My tongue felt three feet thick. My attempts to speak only produced unintelligible garble.
But my eyes worked—I could see them; my ears worked—I could hear them; my nervous system worked—I could feel Paul’s kiss on my cheek. Standing next to me was the world’s best caregiver, my wife, Ruth. And we then went back into our debt-free house overlooking the beautiful Withlacoochee River. AND—Paul and Allison were heading south to Tampa to visit our two-day-old great-granddaughter, Tiffany Hope Wackes! AND—on Tuesday our granddaughter Rebekah Ruth Beard became engaged to Zac Payne, her high school boyfriend!
So, November 22nd was a pretty special day!
And more than all of those blessings, as the Apostle reminds me, is the reality that “the Lord is near!”
This afternoon Ruth and I will visit the nearby home of two friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. There will be turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes with gravy, Ruth’s sweet potato meringue pudding, coffee, tea, and pumpkin pie!
Meanwhile, I haven’t eaten food by mouth for two years now. I will have my usual prescription liquid food with water via my stomach tube. But the good news is, I don’t have the slightest desire for food, even while watching others eat! Lobster tail with drawn butter? Not interested. Fried shrimp with tartar sauce? New York strip steak? Spaghetti with meatballs? German potato pancakes? All of these I would have killed for prior to ALS. But no longer appetizing. Think how it would be if a hunger for all that still was with me!
What I do hunger and desire for is to show “gentleness” during my bout with ALS, as the Apostle urges me–to be thankful, to rejoice always, and to concentrate on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy.
Whatever “gentleness” I have is the product of God’s grace.
The unswerving and faithful promise of God, per the Apostle? The peace of God will guard my heart and mind beyond all human understanding, in Christ Jesus.
Image above used with permission via license from Shutterstock.com