Sister to Sister: Thanksgiving…But Not Giving Thanks.

images-1Today is Thanksgiving Day. It is of interest to read the initial proclamation by Abraham Lincoln instituting the holiday in 1863:

 

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

While I have never been in agreement that the military engagements of the Civil War were unavoidable, as Lincoln stated, I heartily agree that the blessings enjoyed then and now in our great country are gracious gifts of the Most High God. The President of the United States in 1863 called Jehovah the “Most High God,” “Almighty God,” “beneficent Father” and “Almighty Hand” –all in one short paragraph as he freely acknowledged our dependence on Him and our need to find forgiveness from Him for our transgressions. How very different and aloof–even antagonistic–to Him is our government today! How we need national and personal humility when we consider the blessings in which we bask as Americans. Today, we are more about  “gay pride”  than God’s providence (even being sure that we celebrate homosexuality in the  various holiday parades); more about Black Friday than the Beneficent Father and more about accruing than acknowledging. It’s really unbelievable that  thinking people could try and extract God from a day called “Thanksgiving” in the first place! Absurd.

 When I was small, my mother taught me to say the magic words: please and thank-you. I still believe in magic and I still believe these two words are the keys that unlock an alabaster box of blessings if we can formulate them with our lips as an accurate expression of our hearts’ sentiments. Please is, of course, the word that we use to say that we are pleading. A child might use the word in frustration when she realizes she is not going to be granted her wish. She might repeat it over and over with increasing volume to create the effect of desperation in hopes of getting the desired commodity. As children of God, though, we should realize that every time God looks upon us with favor, we are unworthy even of that notice. We must be like the woman who came to Christ in Matthew 15, whose daughter was demon possessed. She, recognizing her totally undone condition, pleaded, “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” Realizing that her life was out of control as she literally fought the demons alone, she said, “Lord, help me.” Then we read her amazing statement about being but a dog under the master’s table and we marvel at her admission that, as a Gentile, she was undeserving of any gift from Jesus. But, in spite of the obstacles between her and the favor she requested, she kept pleading.

Pleading is all I can do before the throne. I am not, in any respect, worthy of even the audience. It’s mercy in the extreme that purchased my communication with the Lord. I am but a dog under the table. Pleas are the tones with which I approach Him, because to suggest that he should approve or prefer my voice based on any merit I could muster is ludicrous. Please–the begging kind of please–is the way I ask of Him. In spite of the obstacles (sin) between me and His favor, I keep pleading.

And when I get the please right, the thank-you comes naturally. I mean, if I really understand the lowly depths from which he lifted me, I cannot but be utterly grateful. It is my understanding of my circumstance without Him, that makes me appreciate my standing with Him. I must realize that of waste, desert and wilderness, God has made a garden, gladness, and melody. And I respond with thanksgiving.

For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody (Isa.51:3).

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