“Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”
There is something very special in the air. It’s an air of gratitude, an air filled with the fragrance of hope and Thanksgiving. This year’s bounty has been harvested. The crisp cool air and falling leaves signals a new season, a time to count our blessings, a time to share, a time to thank God from whom all these blessings were bestowed.
Thanksgiving celebrations are the best way I know for humanity to shame the devil. It’s a day set aside to show the world we truly love our creator by loving one another. We become a true reflection of God’s Intentions for our lives, in those moments when our hearts are conscious of and thankful for our countless blessings.
A time for personal reflection
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite Holidays. It offers a time for reflection, perhaps like no other time of the year. A time to account for our successes and our failures. Success, however one defines it, is an obvious blessing. Failures are also blessings if we learn and focus on why we failed. I have always learned more from my many failures than my few successes. It is only through sincere reflection that we truly achieve the understanding that there are blessings in all things.
In my public life I always chose Thanksgiving as a time to share my blessings, my successes, my failures and my hopes for the future with my friends and political supporters. To that end, and with the unfailing help of a tireless staff, I spent days crafting a detailed letter outlining the preceding year’s blessings and inviting everyone to share their hopes and aspirations with me. Several thousand of these letters were mailed each year. A surprising number of friends always responded by sharing their own reflections as they prepared for the hustle and bustle of the coming Christmas season.
Thanksgiving is, indeed, the ideal time to count our blessings and realize that in all things a blessing awaits.
A time for building family traditions
All families have their family Thanksgiving traditions, which usually include parades, food – lots of food and football – lots of football. My family did all of these things, but my boys and I might also go hunting, or rake leaves or pick up pecans before gorging ourselves on the turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and a smorgasbord of casseroles, their mom and “Nana” had lovingly prepared. Thanksgiving was a time for family, a time to count our blessings and a time to understand the holiday was a glorious blessing in itself.
As we grow older we tend to remember these special times with great longing and nostalgic melancholy.
I fondly recall grabbing my little boys by the nose and holding on till they said the magic words “Gobble, Gobble.” Then, after devouring the scrumptious meal, we would all “Wobble, Wobble” back to the fireplace and watch the second half of the big game.
Now my boys are joyfully creating their own special traditions. My older son Beau, “the family’s free spirited Good Samaritan, may choose to come home, but is just as likely to be found in a deer stand or helping needy neighbors or rescuing a lonely animal from a shelter. All done, to my great pride, with a heart of pure gold.
No parents are perfect. Most of us give parenting our best; knowing if we bungle this. little else will matter. We all make mistakes, just as we all create special traditions and memories. As parents, Debbie and I must have done something right. We take enormous pride in the giving, gratitude-filled hearts of our two boys.
A vision of the first Thanksgiving
We all have our own vision of what the first Thanksgiving must have looked like. In my mind’s eye, it’s a group of psalm singing, dour Calvinists, with buckles on their shoes and hats, happily sharing an abundant feast with Native Americans, in the fall of 1621.
Not even half of the 100 or so Mayflower pilgrims and crew who’d arrived at Plymouth Rock the previous December survived their first harsh, grim year in the new world (“new,” of course,only to our undocumented Puritan ancestors, not to the local native citizens). Still, they recognized their extraordinary blessings and wished to share a communal meal with the first real Americans, who had aided them in their survival by teaching them how to grow corn, hunt wildlife and gather seafood. It was harvest time, and, in spite of their many hardships, they were compelled to show gratitude to each other and to their Heavenly Father, by sharing with neighbors who didn’t look or act like they did.
The Native Americans reciprocated by sharing a bountiful harvest of wild game, fish, berries and fruit. A three-day food fest ensued, giving birth to the very SPIRIT of what we today call Thanksgiving!
A Puritan prayer of Thanksgiving
Several years ago I came across a Puritan prayer from that era which encapsulates that Spirit better than anything I’ve ever read. It expresses humility and the sovereignty of God in our lives in a very simple, special way. It is worthy of our reflection, as we each prepare our own celebrations of gratitude:
“ O My GOD
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
My heart admires, adores, loves thee,
For my little vessel is full as it can be,
And I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
Ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
Ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
Crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
For adoring it, sanctifying it,
Though it is fixed in barren soil;
For the body thou hast given me,
For preserving its strength and vigor,
For providing senses to enjoy delights,
For the ease and freedom of my limbs,
For hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding ;
For thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
For a full table and overflowing cup,
For appetite, taste, sweetness,
For social joys of relatives and friends,
For ability to serve others,
For a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
For a mind to care for my fellow men,
For opportunities of spreading happiness around,
For loved ones in the joy of heaven,
For my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express,
For what thou art to thy creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.”
More on holidays by Steve Patterson: https://www.nemiss.news/the-unlikeliest-christmas/Como MS, New Albany MS, Thanksgiving, Union County MS