The day before yesterday was Thanksgiving.  On Wednesday I mopped floors and cooked.  Then I cooked again, yesterday morning, until time to pick up my sister and bring her to my house.  She qualifies for paratransit, but she is afraid to come by herself, so I drive to her residence and ride back with her.  Our exceptional brother was here to help.

We sat her in my office chair and wheeled her up to the table.  Her turkey was chopped into the finest of morsels, and everything else on her plate was soft and easily swallowed.  I pulled my chair up close and hand-fed her. Our brother took over from time to time so I could eat a bit.

No, our Thanksgiving in no way resembled the stereotype picture of that large, happy family gathered around an enormous table piled high with delectable goodies.

Please understand.  I do not tell you this to solicit pity, for as tired as I was, I felt such thankfulness, because my ninety-year-old brother is in great health, and my sister who suffers from Alzheimer’s still knows me and is able to eat dinner in my home, and we were together—three elderly siblings.

Thinking about our situation I thought also of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1621.  After a bitter winter, disease, and starvation, their numbers were decimated by 50%, but in spite of heartache and loss, the fifty-one remaining Pilgrims, Chief Massasoit, and ninety of the Wampanoag Tribe met together to give thanks for a successful harvest.  That first Thanksgiving was not a feast or a holiday. It was a simple gathering to say “thank you” to God. 

Thanksgiving has been an on and off thing since 1789 and was only declared a federal holiday (the fourth Thursday in November) by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.  In 1939, while the U.S. was still suffering from the great depression, and the Second World War had erupted in Europe, President Roosevelt changed the holiday to the third Thursday in November for the benefit of American merchants, who thought that an extra shopping week before Christmas would boost sales and help the struggling economy.  The new date confused and angered many people, and some states refused to comply contending that appeasing business was not sufficient reason for a change.

In 1941, Congress passed a law returning Thanksgiving to its original time.

For many people, the meaning of Thanksgiving is lost.  Although it has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday.  For many it means feasting, four day holiday week-ends, football, floats, family reunions, or a forerunner to Christmas festivities.

Word is that there is a movement afoot to eliminate the name and purpose of Thanksgiving and relegate it to a generic holiday.  The ultimate purpose is to expunge from our culture any vestige of faith or acknowledgement of God.

That may very well happen one day, but there is still a large segment of our society who recognizes that everything we have is a gift from God, and Thanksgiving is a yearly reminder of that, a perfect day for an attitude check and a change of outlook.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued this proclamation.  “Over four centuries ago our forefathers, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving.  On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.”

It seems like a marvelous example to follow!

In I Thessalonians 5:18, God tells us that we are to give thanks in everything.  “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

We are to be thankful for what we have instead of worrying about what we do not have.  We are to be thankful not only for the things we like, but for the circumstances we don’t like.  When I determine to thank God for everything He allows in my life, I do not fall prey to bitterness.  I can’t be bitter and thankful at the same time.

The scripture does not say, “Be thankful FOR everything,” it says “Be thankful IN everything.

We do not thank Him for evil, but that He sustains us through it.  We do not thank Him for harm He did not cause, but we thank Him for strength to endure it.  We thank Him for the promise in Romans 8:28 that…

“…all things work together for good to those who love God, for those who are the called according to His purpose.”

When I take stock of my life, I realize just how much I have to be thankful for, and I know to whom I must offer my thanks.






Attempting to refresh my memory concerning the first American Thanksgiving in 1621, I kept running into the gobbler—the bird we call “turkey.”  I learned more about this bare-headed, strange looking bird with wattle and iridescent plumage than I really needed to know.  Nonetheless, it is entertaining.

How in the world did this native North American bird come to be called “Turkey?”  Long before America existed, as a country, the Ottoman Empire, now the country of Turkey, imported guinea fowl from eastern Africa.  The guinea fowl came to be called the “Turkey-cock or Turkey-hen.” When settlers in the New World, began to send similar-looking birds back to Europe, they were mistakenly called turkeys.  The name stuck.

“Turkey” is not only used to identify the bird, which has become the centerpiece of the American Thanksgiving feast but is used in a variety of other ways.

Sometimes “turkey” is used to describe (unkindly) a loser, an uncoordinated, inept, clumsy person, someone who is generally uncool.

lets-talk-1Those of you who have ever bowled will know that getting three strikes in a row is called a “turkey.” It is thought this began as a Thanksgiving tradition in the 1800’s.  The first person to bowl three strikes in a row during the week of Thanksgiving received a live turkey to take home for dinner.

The turkey, a true native of America, was Benjamin Franklin’s pick for our national bird.

“Talk Turkey” simply means to speak plainly and get to the point.  So, let’s “talk turkey” about giving thanks.

In September of 1620, the tiny Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England with 102 passengers and 30 crewmen.  The ship was approximately 100-110 feet long from stem to stern and 25 feet wide.  The passengers, 102 of them, lived in an area 50 X 25 feet with a 5-foot ceiling.  When I walked on board that life-size replica anchored in Plymouth harbor, it was impossible to imagine how 130 people could survive a 66-day storm-tossed voyage under such conditions.

Many of the settlers were religious separatist seeking a new home, where they could freely practice their faith.  They were willing to suffer anything for that freedom.

During the first bitter winter in the new world, most passengers stayed on board the Mayflower.  They suffered from exposure, scurvy, and contagious diseases.  Only half lived to see their first New England spring eventually learning from the Wampanoag Indian tribe how to survive in this strange new land.

In November 1621, Governor Bradford organized a Harvest feast to celebrate and give thanks to God for survival of the colony.  Nowhere is it recorded that this celebration was called Thanksgiving, nor do we know whether or not they ate turkey, but it did lay the foundation for our beloved American holiday.

In many American households, Thanksgiving has lost much of its original religious significance.  It has become merely a day of feasting, football, and family.

In 1941, President, Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill officially making the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day.


BUT—you can’t legislate Thankfulness.  You cannot force people to be thankful.  I think there must be a God-awareness in the heart in order to be truly thankful, and that awareness must be instilled from an early age.   Otherwise, the blessings of life and our American freedoms are taken for granted and are often squandered.

An old song tells us to:

“Count your blessings.  Name them one by one.

…Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

I woke up this morning counting my blessings.  When I crawled out of bed, I was thankful that I could stand straight without pain.  When I prepared breakfast, I thanked God I don’t have to worry about where next week’s groceries are coming from.  I looked around and found myself thankful for my sweet little home and the pretty bougainvillea blooming outside the window.  When I get in my little red car and head toward the church, I am thankful, there will be smiling faces there to greet me, and people will actually show up and listen to my Bible study.

There’s so much more for which to be thankful:  My salvation, my hope in Christ, eternal life, my family and friends, and YOU.  I am a retired minister, but I still have a congregation.  Thank you for reading each week.  I am honored.

Psalm 100:4, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him and bless His name.”

Again, in Psalm 119:164, the psalmist says, “Seven times a day I praise you…”

            In Psalm 34:1, he also says, “…His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”