28 Nov Annual Thanksgiving Reflections 2013
I am going to do this year’s reflections a bit differently than I have in past years. I sincerely hope that anyone reading my reflections, especially those who have read past years worth, know that I am extremely thankful for all I have in my life. I have an unbelievable wife whom I love dearly. I have three children who mean the entire world to me. I have countless blessings in my life including health and prosperity. Each day I work in a career I find deeply fulfilling and rewarding. I am beyond thankful for a plethora of friends – the kind of friends one will have for a lifetime (is there any other kind?). It is not that any of these things ought to be glossed over. My wife, my children, my friends, and my vocational calling are the essence of my life – meaning, the essence of what God has given me to find meaning and dignity and purpose in my life. They are that in which I am most blessed and most fulfilled. I know how many people in the world do not enjoy the prosperity I do, let alone the richness of family and friends, and I am humbled by that. So of course, as is always the case, I give thanks for my friends, my family, my career, and the blessings in my life I take for granted day by day.
But this year, I also thank God for the miracle of life. I thank God for the opportunity to be engaged in life on a daily basis. I thank God that he takes the years locusts have eaten away and restores them. I thank God that we can have an abundant life, even when so often we fight against it. I picked up some groceries for my wife this morning at 6:00 in the morning. I arrived a little early and waited until the store opened with a few other people sitting in their cars or standing outside the door of the store. Two individuals raced to the liquor section upon the doors opening at 6:00. One seemed homeless – disheveled – down and out. The other did not. He was in a very nice, new white truck. He reeked of booze. They both bought their bottle of booze and got out of the store. They seemed like they had marched through the desert sands for days to get to this sip of water. It was just heart=wrenching to watch. I do not have an ounce of judgment in my body for them. I have hope. I believe that God can bring them out of death and into life. That is what God does. He delivers people from a path of incomprehensible misery to a life of unfathomable blessing. And I am so, so thankful that in my life, with a lot of things over the years that I suppose ought to be called challenging, God has given me the abundant life I describe in my top paragraph.
It does not matter what one’s particular enslavement may be – I believe we have a God who can bring people from mourning into dancing, from ashes into beauty, from death into life. This is the God worthy of our Thanksgiving. This is the miracle of life. These two guys at the grocery store are not pitiful, pathetic examples. They are the norm. And they may not ever get to taste the miracle of God’s redemptive work, but for those who do – for those who get on the side of joy and peace instead of misery and angst – we have no right to be anything other than thankful. I am not suggesting that people do not have a responsibility to make better decisions in their lives; of course they do. What I am suggesting is that those who do make that decision make it at the prodding of a God who cares, and a God who empowers them to see it through. The issues in people’s lives that keep them from finding peace and joy will be all over the map – only a limited number of people could relate to the desperate need for a bottle of vodka at 6:00 in the morning. For many it is an utter loneliness, a deep-seeded anger, a self-pity, a propensity to violence, a self-loathing resulting in tragic sexual behavior – there is sadly too long a list of the items that keep us in the miry clay. But for those who have a lifestyle of joy and peace, we have no other option but to have a lifestyle of Thanksgiving.
And this year, I do not merely mean a Thanksgiving for Joleen, Mitchell, Graham, and Sadie. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for Tom, Brian, Aaron, Eric, Luis, Mike, John, Andrew, Bob, Rich, Paul, Brian, and my brothers. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for my small group, my church, Roger, and my spiritual mentors. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for my team, my clients, my business, and my career. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for USC, the desert, Palmilla, Le Bernardin, the sunset, and the morning. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for C.S. Lewis, Larry Kudlow, Bill Buckley, Greg Bahnsen, Tim Keller, Andrew Sandlin, NT Wright, Marvin Olasky, Brian Wesbury, Father Sirico, James Hunter, Mark Steyn, Charles Krauthammer, Gresham Machen, Abraham Kuyper, FA Hayek, and John Calvin. Believe me – I mean all of that, and more. But what I really mean above all of that is that this year I have a heart of Thanksgiving for the source of all those things – the source who gives us not just friends and family, but hope and purpose. That one is God; may we all find Him now.
Happy Thanksgiving …
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens… 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.”
– Abraham Lincoln