Although Thanksgiving was first observed here in America following the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock in 1620, George Washington, the first President of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day on October 3, 1789. The decree appointed the day “to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America A PROCLAMATION –“WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour … rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for his kind care and protection of the people of this country”.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln urged all Americans to set aside the last Thursday of November to give thanks and praise to God the Father who dwelleth in heaven.
On October 27, 1961, quoting from the Bible, President Kennedy proclaimed “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord” (Psalm 92:1, KJV). He urged all citizens to make Thanksgiving not merely a holiday from their labors, but rather a day of contemplation, reverence and prayer.
Americans all over the country will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. What was once a celebration of thanksgiving to God for provision, and prayer for forgiveness, for many today, it has become secular, a holiday from their labors.
Thanksgiving is even becoming an anomaly in stores and businesses today in favor of being politically correct. As I was checking out at a store register yesterday, the employee at the cash register said to me “Have a nice holiday”. This would be the “politically correct” thing to say; certainly not “Happy Thanksgiving”, lest I offend someone. But I guess wishing someone a nice holiday sounds better than wishing them a happy day off. As I could have replied the same, I instead wished her a “Happy Thanksgiving”.
I often wake early in the morning. It was around 4 am the other day that I awoke. I could not return to sleep, so I turned on my radio to Dr. Charles Stanley who was sharing a message on “Overflowing with Gratitude”. Thankfulness is a choice, and that which we are thankful for should be an outgrowth of one’s relationship with Christ.
So, tomorrow, as we thank God for good health, family, and turkey and stuffing, those who acknowledge God as the source of every provision and blessing in their life, let’s also be thankful for the many benefits we receive as children of God – for the peace of God in our heart, for our salvation and promise of our eternal home in heaven, for the Word of God, and God’s unconditional love for us.
Song and video “Love Endures” by Hutzel and D’Elia
A case could be made that “love” is one of the most casually used words in the modern language. For example, we love our cars, our possessions, a favorite vacation spot, ad infinitum. Even when we say “I love you”, is that really an expression of true love?
Although today’s society sends mixed messages regarding the meaning of love, there is a universally accepted standard of love, and that is — Love is an unconditional commitment. In a committed relationship, we love despite our failures, weaknesses and imperfections. It is not just an emotion; it is a decision.
Let me use marriage as one example of committed love. In marriage we promise to love unconditionally, in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, and to honor each other all the days of our lives.
“Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today in the presence of God to witness the joining together of …” speaks a universal ritual that when two people love each other, they join in holy matrimony.
Remember that day (for those of you who are married)? You were on “Cloud 9”, although maybe a bit nervous (and for good reason). Your emotions were soaring. You thought that your euphoric high would last forever. But as in all marriages, the journey has twists and turns, highs and lows. Over the course of many years, a lot happens. Love and marriage no longer remain the picture of Cupid with his quiver of arrows who shoots you and you fall madly in love (and stay in love). Rather, it seems now Cupid’s arrows pierce our hearts and we sometimes fall madly out of love.
Unfortunately, too many marriages have fallen out of love. You wonder “how did we get here?” How did things get so messed up? “Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe” (excerpt from the movie Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis).
The Bible says that love is patient and is kind, love never gives up, love does not anger easily nor is it resentful, and love is not jealous or conceited or proud, for it rejoices in the right. Love is eternal. Love is perfect. But how is that possible given our human nature? If I count the number of times that I have exhibited impatience, quick anger, jealousy, pride or resentfulness, you might say that love does not endure.
When I married, I wrote a song called “Love, Love, Love” for my wife. I was madly in love. I was as you might say, pierced by Cupid’s arrow. Our perception was that our love would never fail. I could not even imagine living without my wife should she die before me. So we always said that if we were to die, let God take us both together. That was true love. But I found out that love and marriage are hard, and love can and does encounter obstacles. I have since renamed the song “Love Endures”. It is based on a passage in I Corinthians 13.
I knew nothing of enduring love. My heart was in the moment. Nor did I realize that for a relationship to be a lasting love, each person had to sacrifice and work together for the sake of love and the relationship.
The photos in the song and video “Love Endures” are a chronology beginning with when I first met my wife. We got married, had a child, vacationed, and had many happy times together. The pictures, however, do not portray hardships, hopes and disappointments, and of the loneliness that we felt when we emotionally distanced ourselves from each other. Over the years we would face various obstacles to our love for each other.
Then one day I was blindsided. “I want a divorce”, she said.
How did we get here? What went terribly wrong? When we were dating before we got married, everyone said we were the perfect couple. What drew us so apart?
Two and a half years after our love for each other met harsh reality, divorce now appeared to be imminent. We had both met with our attorney. I had signed my papers, and I was just waiting for my wife to sign hers. I was also now beginning to move on with my life. There were so many things I missed in a relationship that I wanted to have again. I missed falling asleep embracing each other, I missed hearing her soft breathing as she slept, I missed family gatherings, I missed traveling as a couple, I missed going out to dinner with her, and it may sound silly, but dropping the wine cork on the table after a bottle of wine and seeing how many times each of us could stand the cork on end after it bounced. I just missed her.
My wife would also be moving on. It was several weeks before Christmas. She had booked a flight to Ecuador South America, and planned to reside there. She would also not be spending Christmas with the family.
Then at the beginning of December, the phone rang. “Hello?” I said. There was a brief pause.
“Can we talk?”
“Sure, but what about?”
“What do you think about seeing if we can work things out?” she said.
She caught me by surprise. I was hopeful, but at the same time fearful that I might be disappointed again. But I agreed to give it a try.
Today a new page has turned. I realize that not every marriage can be saved, but for me and my wife, there is hope, forgiveness and laughter again as we work at restoring that which we had lost. And perhaps the love lost was always there, only hidden from us because of the pain and hurt often experienced in a relationship.
40 years ago we stood at the altar with hope of only good things ahead.
“In good times and bad times”?
“In sickness and in health”?
“To love and honor all the days of my life”?
“What am I crazy?” And we each responded with a big heartfelt, “I do”.
I don’t know if we understood the gravity of each of the vows we took, and even if we did, would it have mattered at the time? Or might we have not gotten married if we had fast-forwarded for a glimpse of the future? It is most unlikely. Perhaps a look at the future would have prepared us so that we would have been able to handle the ebbs and flows of marriage better – babies, infertility, financial hardships, differences of opinion, aging, sickness, conflict, and personality changes.
Over the years, I have come to realize that “The proof that you love someone is not that you have warm affectionate feelings toward them. The proof is in your actions, your words and your sacrifice, your willingness to give the best of yourself and your willingness to get nothing in return”. ~Katherine Walden
As I have matured in my understanding of love, I have also come to realize that apart from Christ, true love is impossible. True love is supernatural and is reinforced when we sacrifice a part of ourselves to be selfless. Enduring love, therefore, is only possible by the grace of God who is perfect, for I am imperfect. In God’s love, faith, hope and patience never fail.