No, I am not saying that my life is absolutely perfect. Certainly there are things that can be better and of course things could be much worse. Nonetheless I am reminded of the scriptural charge to give thanks in all things in that giving thanks is the will of God for His people. The fact is that being thankful is not a mere utterance of words for actions done by another rather thanksgiving is an attitude of gratefulness that brings all things into perspective. So during this Thanksgiving season I choose to give thanks in all things concerning me.
As I look back over my life I can find no reason not to be thankful. I was raised in the church so an early introduction to things godly is a thing I can be thankful for. As a young boy I was a Boy Scout and participate in Junior Achievement. There were other things I was involved in that helped groom me into the person I am today. I was instilled with discipline and a determination to be successful so for that I am thankful. I am thankful that my childhood did not lead me to imprisonment or to an early grave. And still I have another reason to be thankful.
And then I grew into a young man and the United States Marine Corps was awaiting my arrival. So I found myself on Parris Island being groomed into a Marine. It was a challenging and excellent time for growth. My thanksgiving is further extended because I was able to accomplish something some said I would not be able to. My thanksgiving is furthered because I was not injured during the rather strenuous work of a Marine recruit. Yes, the work was hard and not for the faint of heart. Still my thanksgiving is not lessened as I look back to a time that only sought to grow me within as well as without. And still I have another reason to be thankful.
No one will say that tour in the Marine Corps is easy. Well, I will say that my tour was a challenge and yet I am thankful for having the experience. Among the experiences I was allowed to travel the western Pacific on the U.S.S. Belleau Wood. I had opportunity to visit a number of countries. Among them were the Philippines. When I first took leave of the ship and took leave beyond Subic Bay I could not help but be thankful. You see I witnessed people living in cardboard houses who thought that a quarter was a lot of money. And I lived on ship with a mattress, two sheets, a blanket and pillow with three meals a day. Certainly tears rolled down my cheeks as I quickly realized that I had much to be thankful for. I had much then and still I have another reason to be thankful.
You see I got out of the Marine Corps unscathed by war. That is reason enough to be thankful. Moreover the Corps served only to bolster the character that was begun in me years earlier. My military experienced also served to grow a patriotism in me that is the mark of those who love these United States. The resolve that was strengthened in me was also a resolve to live a Christian life. This was no easy task in the Marine Corps yet the understanding of obedience was set well within me which has allowed me to be the man God has called me to be. I am thankful for the opportunity to have served my country – a country which allows me to worship the God of all without fear of government reprisal. Yes, it is certain that I have much to be thankful for and still I have another reason to be thankful.
And while on the matter of thanksgiving I could easily spend pages discussing the first Thanksgiving day and what led up to it. This Christian nation found reason to give thanks to God for protection and provision during a difficult time. I fully understand the sentiments of those early pilgrims as I can also write pages of reason I am thankful. I can write volumes on why I am thankful for my four wonderful children and how they are well and growing. These great people are not jailed and are doing well by all accounts. Still I won’t speak much about my thankfulness for them. Nor will I detail my thankfulness to God for my health. No, I have no sicknesses to speak of nor anything detrimental. I am thankful for a sound mind and a determination to continue to serve God. Yet I am not certain that I can encapsulate all my reason to be thankful as to my person yet I can find another reason to give thanks.
Still the thing that absolutely must give thanks for is the fact that God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosever believes in Him should not parish but have everlasting life. I am most thankful that Jesus was obedient to His Father to the extent that His submission required His life on the cross. I am further thankful that I don’t have to live a life of sin rather I can live a life of holiness which brings about all the more reason to be thankful. This causes more thankfulness in that I can look forward to eternal life with the God of all.
With that I would encourage all to join me in thanksgiving to His Majesty. Join me in bowing down and worshipping with a thankful heart not just during this specific season but rather now and all year long. You see thanksgiving is not a day of the year rather it is a condition of the heart. Join me in thanking the God of our salvation. Join me in growing our hearts of thanksgiving.
I should say at the forefront that this post forces me into certain transparency that I normally do not present. Yet I find it necessary to encourage many that find themselves fighting discouragement and dismay during this upcoming holiday season and other times throughout the year. There are many heavy hearts out there and many that are not certain if they should stay in the fight. I argue that those who are heavy hearted need not only stay in the fight but also fight a bit harder.
Sometimes I reflect to November of 1981. I was a young Marine and not long graduated from Admin School. I was assigned to 3rd Recon in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. My plans for Thanksgiving were to go to church but my supervisors thought otherwise. Being of low rank and the newest member of the unit I was assigned the “duty” for the weekend. It was the first time that I was to celebrate with an M16 strapped across my shoulders while I donned my freshly pressed camouflage uniform. It was all I could do to keep back the tears welling up. I had to stand post and nothing was to change that. So, I kept post. It was just me and an occasional Marine passing by. The hurt and pain seemed insurmountable but I was not allowed to give up. I was not allowed to give in. I had a job to do so I remained and did what was required of me.
The interesting thing is that there came a time when that duty was over. I was no longer to stand that post. Yes, I have had other duties since but never again did I have duty on Thanksgiving Day. The occasion of loneliness also subsided for a time. The sorrow did not last. With this I can say boldly that those of you that may be feeling loneliness and despair that this too will pass. Do not let the occasion of temporary setbacks set the stage for the rest of your life. Jesus has promised that He will be with us that serve Him and that promise has continued from the time He spoke it until now. So, be of good courage! God has not forgotten you and will reward you for your faithfulness.
Regrettably that was not the last time I would be overtaken with loneliness, hurt and pain. You see, I married the wife of my youth and had every intention of being married to her until the end of my life. Unfortunately the woman I adored did not feel the same way. Many things transpired that I still do not understand. Even worse my thirteen year marriage was deemed over after a twenty minute hearing by a judge in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The divorce was unwanted and undeserved yet I was caught in the middle of troubles, hurt and pain that I did not seek. In fact I fought with everything I had to dispel the overtures of our enemy. Alas, my fight was not enough. Even so, God has been good to me in that I have grown in ways that I cannot articulate in this missive.
My point is that I know that many are going through trouble not of their making. Many of you look around your homes and see no one there. The phone does not ring and no one knocks on the door unless you are needed for something. I also know what is like not to watch certain movies because they cause tears to stream down because of the desire to have someone but there is no one. There is no one to talk with and to play with. There is no point in buying a lot of food; it will only go to waste. Going to the movie theatre is just another reminder that you are alone and it is the same reason that restaurants are avoided; it is just too painful to be surrounded by people who are loved by someone and you sit alone.
Be of good cheer my brother. Be of good cheer my sister. God has not forgotten you and he sees you crying in the midnight hour. He knows that you have need of someone in your life and has someone out there just for you. However that person is still being prepared for you and you are being prepared for that person. Meanwhile, keep doing a good work. Hold on to the faith that has brought you to this point. Trust God with your whole heart and lean not to your own understanding.
When the fullness of time has come God will bless you in such a way that you will know that it was no one but God. People will call you blessed because you will be blessed. No, don’t you dare bring harm to yourself. Trust God and hold on to His promise to never leave you nor forsake you. You are not forgotten and you are very much loved. Just stay the course and be of good courage.
It is official, the day set aside to give thanksgiving is over. Turkey has been eaten and potatoes mashed. Pies and cakes have been devoured causing many to sit back in easy chairs unable to move in that gluttony has taken over thanksgiving allowing only for deep breathing and occasional sighs of relief as the mounds of food finally settle within the bodies of many.
Now, there is no suggestion here that there should be no enjoyment of things God has provided for us. But the real attitude of Thanksgiving has little to do with the plenteous foods now being stored in refrigerators and freezers. In fact I would venture to say that attitudes of thanksgiving actually fall short of the meals that we eat.
Let me explain. When I woke this morning it was more than evident that I did not wake under my own power. In fact I am sadly reminded of a gentleman who lived across the street from me. You see he went to the hospital for a kidney transplant. While I understand the surgery was initially a success things began to go wrong. Things went so bad medically that this gentleman crossed into eternity this past Tuesday. You see, I have much to be thankful for.
Not only did I rise this morning but I rose with a sound mind. Some have not that luxury. Even more I rose with no sicknesses and able to move without the aid of a walking stick. Some have not this blessing. Even more my children are well and growing in prosperity (and I mean not merely monetarily). Many do not share my testimony.
My point to this brief missive is simple. Thanksgiving is not merely a temporary utterance of words said to God just before we dive into well prepared meals rather it is the recognition of God and Who He is. But thanksgiving still goes well beyond that. The fact is that God loved man so much that He sent His only Son to die for us. Immanuel loved us so much that He gave His life so that we could live. And as I pen these words I can think of a multiplicity of reasons for which to be thankful which have nothing to do with cranberry sauce nor the fatted pig. Yet if I were to enumerate upon the goodness of God in my life I suppose that I could fill volumes. So, I will not start in on my testimonies at this point rather I will simply say please do not give up on offering thanksgiving to God merely because the end of a formal holiday has arrived rather have a perpetual attitude of thanksgiving for which God will be pleased and receive as a sweet smelling savour.
I have just a few words but more is to come later. I just ask that those that do stop calling it “Turkey Day” because that very idea pulls away from the celebration. We have much for which to be thankful so let’s celebrate Thanksgiving Day with attitudes of gratitude giving homage to the Most High God.