Gratitude in a Forgetful Nation

Gratitude in a Forgetful Nation

Americans celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving each November with a huge feast and a gathering of friends and family but are we truly thankful?  The marketing campaigns started pushing our need to buy holiday gifts asap back in September. That is all about greed not gratitude. We have forgotten our humble and crude beginnings. We forget how blessed we already are and what matters most.

Last year marked the 400th anniversary of the original Pilgrims landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Stepping aboard the fully refurbished replica of the Mayflower this summer was a shocking reminder of how cramped and horrible it really had been. The merchant ship was built to carry cargo not people, but 102 passengers and 30 crew members climbed aboard with great hope for a new home in a new world.

The Mayflower ll in Plymouth harbor

It took 66 days to cross the ocean. They ate the same thing every day while onboard and some of it became hard and moldy. The living conditions became intolerably smelly and they ran out of clean water. Each family could only bring one chest for clothes, weapons, and tools to cook, build and garden with. Now imagine that the crew you are trusting to get you there safely doesn’t like you, nor you them. Arriving in September didn’t give enough time to build adequate shelter and 45 people died that first harsh winter. I would not have signed on for this.

These men (including only four women) were resolved to make it work. Some had left family behind to send for once they were established. There was no turning back. The first Pilgrims had risked their lives for the freedom to worship God independently of the Church of England and government control. They had very little and absolutely nothing was given to them but they were grateful.

From dictionary.com : Gratitude means thanks and appreciation. … Gratitude, which rhymes with “attitude,” comes from the Latin word gratus, which means “thankful, pleasing.” When you feel gratitude, you’re pleased by what someone did for you and also pleased by the results. Unlike indebtedness, you’re not anxious about having to pay it back.

That first thanksgiving was actually a three day harvest celebration that was not repeated. Documents describe a feast of deer, assorted wildfowl, a bounty of fish and flint, a native variety of corn harvested by Native Americans, which was eaten as corn bread and porridge. They also ate native fruits, vegetables and lobster. Lobster was very plentiful but they didn’t like it! And there wasn’t any pie because they didn’t have any ovens to bake in.

Recreation of Pilgrim village dated several years later

Many more ships would come in the years to follow because of these first brave souls. It is good to remember the past. We should not erase or change it. Gratitude should spring up in our hearts when we remember the sacrifices of others. Our greatest example is Christ who sacrificed His own life to give us peace with God, a hope and a future. He paid a debt that He didn’t owe and we can never repay. Christians in America need to realize that we enjoy the freedom to worship which is something that many others in this world are denied.

In a society that has forgotten where we came from and only cares about personal agendas you can make this Thanksgiving special. It’s cute to dress up the children with paper hats as “Indians” and “Pilgrims” while eating popcorn but also tell them the real story. It was a hard life!  Talk about some of the losses of the past year but also the fun times you shared. Throughout the holiday season resolve to stay focused on the many blessings you already enjoy. Choose to remember and be grateful.

Of Hearth and Home

Of Hearth and Home

warm-and-cozy-firePictures of fireplaces with a crackling flame evoke strong sentiments of warmth and a cozy place to sit. We are drawn in for the warmth and to toast marshmallows or some people just enjoy poking at the wood to raise the blaze. The wavy configurations of flame and glowing embers can be mesmerizing. The fireplace is often a part of Christmas nostalgia because it’s said to be one of Santa’s entryways! And if you don’t have one, you can buy an electric unit or watch the Yule Log blazing on cable.

A hearth is the floor of the fireplace. Years ago, it was the cooking space, the main source of heat for the home and it provided light. Naturally, everyone in the household would gather there.  “Home” is where you live, rest, belong….  Family is there and the word home conveys a strong sense of belonging.

pilgrimhouseWe visited Plimoth Plantation this summer and asked the men and women in costume many questions about daily living. The huge fireplace was the kitchen of the day and most of the homes were one room with curtains for privacy in the sleeping area. The pilgrims traveled across the ocean for the right to practice religious freedom and the chance to own their own land. The trip to get to this new place was horrible. Can you imagine sailing to a strange place in a crowded ship for months with animals,cargo and people you don’t really know? They grew their own food, made their own clothes, took care of the animals and formed the first community in America.  They were very far from family and everything familiar but they were grateful to God for their new hearth and home.

There is an old hymn written first in Germany as a devotional poem in 1782 called “We Plow the Fields and Gather”. It was translated to English in 1861 and became a favorite thanksgiving song. A shortened version of the song was used in “Godspell”

          All Good Gifts

1 We plough the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God’s almighty hand:
he sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,the breezes, and the sunshine,                                            pilgrimgarden
and soft, refreshing rain.

3 We thank thee then, O Father,
for all things bright and good,
the seed-time and the harvest,
our life, our health, our food.
Accept the gifts we offer,                      and what thou most desirest,
our humble, thankful hearts.

Refrain:
All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above;
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,
for all his love.

Thanksgiving is the number one traveling holiday in the U.S.  College kids come home, we travel to see Grandma or other relatives and friends…. to a place of belonging.  Even if our holiday travels end up like the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”- it is tradition and a time to gather together to share our homes, food and make memories.

Let the hearth and home symbolize all the food, clothes, and luxuries we enjoy. We are all well aware that the holidays are not happy for some folk. In the Steve Martin movie, on the last leg of a horrible journey, he was imagining his decorated house, happy family and hot dinner when he finally figured out that his traveling companion really had nowhere to go.  We can open up our homes this holiday season by setting an extra plate, checking on elderly neighbors or sharing with others in some way.  group-of-friends-and-family-thanksgivingIf you are the traveler-guest, don’t mumble and complain. Join in the activities and be helpful and grateful for the invitation and a place to go.

Thanksgiving is a National holiday, an original American tradition of sharing hearth and home. We gather together to eat (way too much) and enjoy each others’ company (as much as possible). Let’s truly thank God for all the blessings of this past year.

                                     Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

Dear God,   Thank you for all the friends and family gathered today. Thank you for safe travel. Thank you for more than enough food and clothing and a warm place to live. Bless those who are away in the military, our first responders and hospital workers who are serving others away from home. And most of all, help us to be humble and truly grateful for this meal and the freedom we share.       Amen

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