Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving--God's Grace, the 1%,the Blessings of America, and the History

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year , there is much to be thankful for, among the most important of these is God's grace and His love. Without it, I know I would be nothing. The Bible talks about thankfulness throughout its page from the Israelites in the Old Testament to the Psalms of David to the days of the early church following Christ's resurrection. One of the more well known Scriptures about thanksgiving comes from Psalm 100, written by David:
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
In additions to those blessings from God that are more spiritual in nature, there are the material blessings and the freedoms that we have in America to be thankful for. While there are some who are protesting against the 1% of America, in America a good many of us are really amongst the 1% of the world when it comes to income:
As author Matt Ridley put it, "Today, of Americans officially designated as 'poor,' 99 percent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these." Nor does much of the world. Food for thought.

We have been so blessed in America with our physical blessings. While there is high unemployment and homelessness in America, we are generally all well nourished,  have sufficient shelter, and have clothing.(As a side note, if you are looking to help the true 1%, I recommend supporting Christian Relief Fund. 92% of their donations go directly toward helping the truly in need in the world). Those physical provisions are in addition to the luxuries of our technology created by innovators throughout the world and throughout history. Beyond those things though, we live in  a free society. We may not be able to tangibly touch freedom or liberty, but  their blessings are manifested in every aspect of our lives. David Boaz of the Cato Institute shares a nice list of things that we have to be thankful for as Americans:
Rule of law. Perhaps the greatest achievement in history is the subordination of power to law. That is, in modern America we have created structures that limit and control the arbitrary power of government. No longer can one man — a king, a priest, a communist party boss — take another person’s life or property at the ruler’s whim. Citizens can go about their business, generally confident that they won’t be dragged off the streets to disappear forever, and confident that their hard-earned property won’t be confiscated without warning. We may take the rule of law for granted, but immigrants from China, Haiti, Syria, and other parts of the world know how rare it is. 
Equality for women. Throughout much of history women were the property of their fathers or their husbands. They were often barred from owning property, testifying in court, signing contracts, or participating in government. Equality for women took longer than equality for men, but today in America and other civilized parts of the world women have the same legal rights as men. 
Self-government. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that “governments are instituted” to secure the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and that those governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Early governments were often formed in the conquest of one people by another, and the right of the rulers to rule was attributed to God’s will and passed along from father to son. In a few places — Athens, Rome, medieval Germany — there were fitful attempts to create a democratic government. Now, after America’s example, we take it for granted in civilized countries that governments stand or fall on popular consent. 
Freedom of speech. In a world of Michael Moore, Ann Coulter, and cable pornography, it’s hard to imagine just how new and how rare free speech is. Lots of people died for the right to say what they believed. In China and Africa and the Arab world, they still do. Fortunately, we’ve realized that while free speech may irritate each of us at some point, we’re all better off for it.
You can read his whole post here.

Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving here in America? There is indeed the stories of the pilgrims celebrating with the native Americans early in our Colonial history. There are the proclamations of Thanksgiving from Presidents Washington throughout our history,  but Thanksgiving wasn't an official holiday until President Lincoln officially declared such a day in 1863 in the midst of one of the darker times of our history. What proved to be the impetus for this declaration? A letter from a women named Sarah Hale encouraging him to declare a national holiday. As the Independent Women's Forum shares:
Lincoln was thankful - thankful that the Union had held together after the Civil War. During his time in office, he had received many letters from the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale, encouraging him to adopt a national holiday to thank God. 
But Lincoln was not the first president to receive such letters from Hale. She'd written to four other presidents before him: Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. 
According to Davidson historian Anne Blue Wills, Sarah Hale's vision for the national holiday included more than a remembrance of American roots: 
*Americans would travel to their homeland, to be with their families. Hale lived in a time when Americans were increasingly living in places not their birthplace. She wanted Americans to experience the rural countryside and to see God's bountiful blessings as well as taste them. 
*Americans would feast - and not just a little. The near gluttony of today's holiday was a part of Hale's vision. The first dinners shared by the pilgrims were not likely to be very bountiful. The pilgrims actually had a rough time getting enough food! But Hale wanted Americans to feast on big birds - turkeys or chickens. 
*Americans would experience the joys of being at home. As editor of a ladies' magazine, Hale put great emphasis on the decorating and homemaking that were necessary to make Thanksgiving a cozy holiday. She believed in the home as the woman's sphere, where women could display their excellent cooking and decorating skills.
Read the whole post here.

From the spiritual blessings given by God to the blessings of friends and family to the blessings of being an American, there is so much to be thankful for. As President Coolidge, a descendent of those Pilgrims who celebrated the first "Thanksgiving"in America, once said in one of his presidential proclamations of thanksgiving as a challenge and a reminder:
An abundant prosperity has overspread the land. We shall do well to accept all these favors and bounties with a becoming humility, and dedicate them to the service of the righteous cause of the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. As the nation has prospered let all the people show that they are worthy to prosper by rededicating America to the service of God and man.

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