What Is Thanksgiving?

We find ourselves in the seventeenth chapter of Luke, verses eleven through seventeen. According to the text, Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem. Chronologically, the end is near. This is chapter seventeen; Luke’s version of the Palm Sunday experience is recorded in chapter nineteen. Geographically, the Master is traveling between the border of Samaria and Galilee. As he travels, he encounters various people.

On that list of people are the ten lepers. You may know their story. Leprosy was a highly contagious skin disease caused by a certain bacterium. The disease still exists in our world today. In the world approximately 140,000 cases are reported annually, according to Statista. In the United States approximated 100 cases are reported annually. However, today it is treatable. In the days of Jesus, it was not. In Jesus’s day victims of leprosy were forced to live in isolation, away from family and friends, in leper colonies. This is the story of the ten men in the scripture lesson. They are living with leprosy without any hope of a cure. Then, they hear the news that gave them hope. Jesus was coming! They have heard of his healing power. He is their only chance, so they want to run to Jesus. However, they can’t. They are mandated by law to keep their distance. The best they can do is yell at Jesus as he passes. This is the good news. Jesus not only hears their desperate voices, but he heals them. Jesus instructs them to go to a priest for inspection. That fact is important because priests had the authority to grant them permission to re-enter society. This is the fact you can’t overlook. In the story, all ten men were healed, but only one man returned to Jesus to say, “Thank-you!” That fact is disappointing, but it is not shocking. It is not just true of Jesus’s time. Ingratitude is still part of our world. American motivational speaker and author, William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) once said, Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.Never underestimate the power of gratitude!

There are many ways to express gratitude. I came up with a list of ten ways you can express gratitude. My list is not complete. You can express gratitude in other ways. However, you may have used one of these. You can:

          1. Write a thank-you note

          2. Buy a gift card

          3. Donate to a charity or a church

          4. Write a song or poem

          5. Donate food to a food bank

          6. Make and take a meal to a shut in

          7. Give a hug

          8. Preform some random act of kindness

          9. Send flowers

          10. Pray for the person

How do you express gratitude? It really doesn’t matter how you express gratitude. Doing nothing to express appreciation is not an option. That is what makes the nine lepers so shocking. I like to think, they did something. Perhaps, one of the nine ungrateful lepers wrote Jesus a poem?

Thanksgiving in America this year is Thursday, November 24! That means it is close. So, in this blog, I want to help you discover the true spirit of gratitude. I hope to do that by asking you the question, what is Thanksgiving? I will give you three answers. Each one is correct.

First, Thanksgiving is a holiday. Did you know Thanksgiving in America did not become a national holiday until 1941? However, Americans have been observing a day of thanksgiving for generations. Historians tell us the first recorded thanksgiving took place in Jamestown, Virginia. The winter of 1610 was harsh in Jamestown. Many settlers died. The group that once totaled 409 had been reduced to 60. Tradition tells us the survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. There is no mention of a feast. Maybe that is why it is not the famous Thanksgiving?

The famous Thanksgiving happened in 1621. Do you remember the story? The Pilgrims left Southampton, England in 1620. They wanted religious freedom. There was trouble from the start. As they sailed around the south tip of the British Isles one of the ships, the Speedway, was ruled unseaworthy. The two ships stopped and some of the Pilgrims went home. However, some of the Speedway’s passengers boarded the second ship, the Mayflower. History tells us the trip took longer than the estimated 66 days because the ship was heavier. They had navigation problems Too. They wanted to go to Virginia, but they arrived in New England. It was November and the weather was growing harsh. There was no time to build permanent shelters, so they survived that first winter in North America in crude temporary housing and on the Mayflower. In time, disease came, and the death toll began to rise. Only 51 of the original 102 saw the spring. The dead were buried in unmarked graves so the local natives would not know how small their numbers had grown. When the spring came, they were forced to make a painful choice. The Mayflower was a rented ship and had to return to England. Would they stay in America or return to England? The decided to stay and their luck began to change. Friendly Native Americans helped them plant 30 acres of wheat and build permanent shelters. By the fall of 1621, their homes were built, and their crops were harvested. They decided to observe a day of thanksgiving to thank God for his blessings. Part of that celebration was a feast. The story doesn’t end there.

One hundred and sixty-two years after the Pilgrims, George Washington (1732-1799) declared a Thanksgiving Day in 1783. The reason was simple. The Revolution was over, and America was free.  Eighty years later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863, as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” Each year afterward, for 75 years, the President formally proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. But in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) set it one week earlier. He wanted to help the struggling economy by lengthening the shopping season. There were five Thursdays that year. In 1941, Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday, Thanksgiving! What is Thanksgiving? It is a holiday!

Second, Thanksgiving is an opportunity. Go back to the scripture lesson. The one who came back to thank Jesus seized the opportunity. The other nine missed their opportunity. They may have returned later to thank Jesus, but he was gone. They missed their opportunity. On Thanksgiving Day, you will be surrounded by the most important people in your life. Don’t be a coward; be brave! Tell them how you really feel. Thanksgiving is an opportunity.

Do you remember the story of the rich young ruler? Matthew, Mark and Luke have their own versions of the same story. If you put them together then you get the complete picture. He had it all! He was rich so he could buy what he wanted. He was young so he had his health and a future. He was a ruler, so he had influence. He had everything but he didn’t have the most important thing, salvation. So, he asked the Master, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him if he had kept all the commandments that have to do with relationships. Had he never murdered, committed adultery, stolen, or offered false witness? He honored his parents. He kept those commandments. Then Jesus commands him to do something he could not do, sell his possessions, and give the profits to the poor. It is not a command of poverty. It is a question of priority. Jesus is saying God must be your top priority. The man left feeling bad for two reasons. First, he had to admit God wasn’t his top priority. Second, he felt like he missed his one opportunity at salvation.

I hope you don’t miss your opportunity! On Thanksgiving seize the opportunity to tell the people in your life how you really feel. Tell the oldest people in your life you love them. Tell the youngest people in your life you are proud of them. Tell that difficult person in your life you are sorry. Build a relationship with them one more time. Seize the opportunity that Thanksgiving presents. What is Thanksgiving? It is a holiday and an opportunity.

Third and finally, Thanksgiving is an attitude. The man in the story returned to Jesus in a spirit of gratitude. Verse 16 says he threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He demonstrated his appreciation. His attitude toward Jesus completes the story. Your attitude can make or break any situation. Do you have anyone in your life who can ruin happy gathering with a bad attitude? What is Thanksgiving? It is a holiday, an opportunity and an attitude.

My father-in-law’s name was Vern. We had a good relationship. So, I feel comfortable saying this. He would admit he had a bad attitude. He loved his bad attitude. He was a salty old guy, critical and negative. During the last several years of his life, he lived at Copeland Oaks in Sebring, Ohio with my mother-in-law. It is a wonderful place, but Vern was always so negative. I regularly made those trips to visit them. Every visit was the same. Vern complained about everything; only the topic changed.

One day he started on Copeland Oaks. He complained about the noise in the hallways because everyone was deaf. He complained about the food. Everything was tasteless and the deserts were too small. He complained about the gardening program. The residents were like slave labor. They grew the vegetables, but Copeland Oaks used them for their own purposes. He complained about the building. It was falling apart. One day, the elevator broke, and group of old goats were trapped in the elevator with a woman from the kitchen. He described her as ugly and smelly, wearing a hair net. That was Vern’s normal routine. He could ruin any happy experience with his bad attitude. However, that day was different. I really listened to him and began to wonder about Copeland Oaks. I had parishioners who lived at Copeland Oaks; I have referred people to Copeland Oaks.

I decided to check Vern’s story out by visiting a family friend, who also lived at Copeland Oaks. I had known Earl for years; he worked with my father. When I got to his apartment, he greeted me with a big smile. He gave me a big hug. I asked him, “How is life at Copeland Oaks?” He said, “It is great! I only regret is not moving here sooner.” I said, “Do you find the hallways noisy?” He said, “No! I love to hear people laughing and enjoying themselves.” I asked, “How is the food?” He said, “Look at me; I am getting fat!” I said, “I hear some of the residents have a garden.” He said, “I am a gardener. It is great! We sell the crops and give the money to various missions.” He began to pick up steam and started to tell me all the wonderful things about Copeland Oaks. I looked at my watch. It was growing late, and I had to get back. I said, “Earl, it was great to see you, but I must go. He said, “Let me tell one thing. The other day I was in the elevator with some of the guys. It stopped between floors. We were squeezed into the elevator with one of young ladies, who works in the kitchen. She is quite a looker! Her name is Debbie. She was pressed up against me!” He said, “Russ, I haven’t been that close to a young hot woman in long time. It was great! I think my heart went out of rhyme. The only problem is they fixed the elevator too fast. I could have stood there with Debbie pressed up against me for a lot longer! I like the name Debbie!”

How can it be that two people can have the same experience and experience two different things? The answer is one word, attitude! Are you going to ruin your Thanksgiving with a bad attitude? Are you going to ruin someone else’s Thanksgiving with your bad attitude? This is a better question. Do the people in your life find you exhilarating or exhausting?

What is Thanksgiving? First, Thanksgiving is a holiday. We have been celebrating Thanksgiving for over 400 years! Second, Thanksgiving is an opportunity. Don’t miss your opportunity to express your feelings about the people in your life. Don’t be a coward. Don’t miss your opportunity to say, “I am sorry.” Don’t miss your opportunity to say, “I am proud of you.” Don’t miss your opportunity to say, “I love you!” Third and finally, Thanksgiving is an attitude. Do the people in your life find you exhilarating or exhausting? What makes them happier? Are they happier when you come or are they happier when you go? There is an old Estonian Proverb you may want to remember on Thanksgiving. Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.

What is Thanksgiving?

We find ourselves in the seventeenth chapter of Luke, verses eleven thru seventeen. According to the text, Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem. Chronologically speaking, the end is near. This is chapter seventeen; Luke’s version of the Palm Sunday experience is recorded in chapter nineteen. The Master is traveling between the border of Samaria and Galilee. As he travels, he encounters various people.

In that list of people are the ten lepers. You may know their story. Leprosy was a highly contagious skin disease caused by a certain bacterium. The disease still exists in our world today. In the United States approximated 100 cases are reported annually. However, today it is treatable. In the days of Jesus, it was not. In Jesus’ day victims of leprosy were forced to live in isolation, away from family and friends, in leper colonies. This is the story of the ten men in the scripture lesson. They are living with leprosy without any hope of a cure. Then, they hear the news that gives them hope. Jesus is coming! They have heard of his healing power. They want to run to Jesus. However, they can’t. They are mandated by law to keep their distance. The best they can do is yell at Jesus as he passes. This is the good news. Jesus not only heard their desperate voices, but he heals them. As was required by law, Jesus instructs them to go to a priest for inspection. The priests had the authority to grant them permission to re-enter society. In the story ten men were healed but only one man returned to Jesus to say, “Thank-you!” One of the ten returned; the other nine just resumed their lives. That fact is disappointing, but it is not shocking. Ingratitude is still part of our world. William Arthur Ward once said, Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like unwrapping a present and not giving it.Never underestimate the power of gratitude!

There are many ways to express gratitude. I came up with a list of ten ways you can express gratitude. This list is not complete. You can express gratitude in other ways. However, you may have used one of these. You can:

          1. Write a thank-you note

          2. Buy a gift card

          3. Donate to a charity or a church

          4. Write a song or poem

          5. Donate food to a food bank

          6. Make and take a meal to a shut in

          7. Give a hug

          8. Do a random act of kindness

          9. Send flowers

          10. Pray for the person

How do you express gratitude? It really doesn’t matter how you express gratitude. The only things that matter is that you express gratitude. One of the nine ungrateful lepers could have written Jesus a poem, for example.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday! Our national theme for the next five days is gratitude. So, today I want to help you discover the true spirit of gratitude. I am going to do that by asking you the question, what is Thanksgiving? If you answer the question, what is Thanksgiving, by answering a meal, then you will be wrong. However, that does not mean the meal is not important. According to the National Retail Association, this year you can feed ten people a traditional Thanksgiving meal for $48.91. However, there is more to the day than a meal.  So, let us answer the question, what is Thanksgiving? What is Thanksgiving? It is a holiday.

Thanksgiving is a holiday. Did you know Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until 1941? However, Americans have been observing a day of thanksgiving for generations. Historians tell us the first recorded thanksgiving took place in Jamestown, Virginia. The winter of 1610 was harsh at Jamestown. Many settlers died. The group that once totaled 409 had been reduced to 60. Tradition tells us the survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. There is no mention of a feast. Maybe that is why it is not the famous Thanksgiving?

The Thanksgiving we know happened in 1621. Do you remember the story? The Pilgrims left Southampton, England in 1620. They wanted religious freedom. There was trouble from the start. As they sailed around the south tip of the British Isles one of the ships, the Speedway, was ruled not seaworthy. The two ships stopped and some of the Pilgrims went home. However, some of the Speedway’s passengers boarded the second ship, the Mayflower. History tells us the trip took longer than the estimated 66 days. They had navigation problems Too. They wanted to go to Virginia, but they arrived in New England. It was November and the weather was growing harsh. There was no time to build permanent shelters, so they survived that first winter in North America in crude temporary housing. In time, disease came, and the death toll began to rise. Only 51 of the original 102 saw the spring. The dead were buried in unmarked graves so the local natives would not know how small their numbers had grown. When the spring came, they were forced to make a painful choice. The Mayflower was a rented ship and had to return to England. Would they stay in America or return to England? The decided to stay and their luck began to change. Friendly Native Americans helped them plant 30 acres of wheat and build permanent shelters. By the fall of 1621, their homes were built, and their crops were harvested. They decided to observe a day of thanksgiving to thank God for his blessings. The story doesn’t end there.

One hundred and sixty-two years after the Pilgrims, George Washington declared a Thanksgiving Day in 1783. The reason was simple. The Revolution was over.  Eighty years later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863, as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” Each year afterward, for 75 years, the President formally proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. But in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set it one week earlier. He wanted to help the struggling economy by lengthening the shopping season. In 1941, Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday, Thanksgiving! What is Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a holiday! What is Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a holiday, but it is also an opportunity.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity. Go back to the scripture lesson. The one who came back to thank Jesus seized the opportunity. The other nine missed their opportunity. They may have returned later to thank Jesus, but he was gone. They missed their opportunity. On Thanksgiving Day, you will be surrounded by the most important people in your life. Don’t be a coward; be brave! Tell them how you really feel. Thanksgiving is an opportunity.

Do you remember the story of the rich young ruler? Matthew, Mark, and Luke have their own versions of the same story. If you put them together then you get the complete picture. He had it all! He was rich so he could buy what he wanted. He was young so he had his health and a future. He was a ruler, so he had influence. He had everything but he didn’t have the most important thing, salvation. So, he asked the Master, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him if he had kept all the commandments that have to do with relationships. Had he ever murdered, committed adultery, stolen, or offered false witness? Did he honor his parents? Did he love his neighbors? He kept those commandments. Then, Jesus commands him to do something he could not do. Jesus requested he sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. Why does Jesus’s request such a thing? He wants to discover the man’s priorities.

How you spend your money reveals your priorities. The man left feeling bad for two reasons. First, he had to admit God wasn’t his top priority. Second, he felt like he missed his one opportunity at salvation.

I hope you don’t miss your opportunity! On Thanksgiving seize the opportunity to tell the people in your life how you really feel. Tell the oldest people in your life you love them. Tell the youngest people in your life you are proud of them. Tell that difficult person in your life you are sorry. Build a relationship with them one more time. Seize the opportunity that Thanksgiving presents. Thanksgiving is an opportunity.What is Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a holiday and an opportunity, but it is also an attitude.

Thanksgiving is an attitude. The man in the story returned to Jesus in a spirit of gratitude. Verse 16 says he threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He demonstrated his appreciation. His attitude toward Jesus completes the story. Your attitude can make or broke any situation. Do you have anyone in your life who can ruin any happy gathering with a bad attitude?

Many of you remember my father-in-law, Vern. We had a good relationship. So, I feel comfortable saying this. He would admit, he had a bad attitude. He was a salty old guy, critical and negative. He could ruin any happy family gathering. During the last several years of his life, he lived at Copeland Oaks with my mother-in-law. It is a wonderful place, but Vern was always so negative. I regularly made those trips to visit them. Every visit was the same. Vern complained about everything; only the topic changed.

One day he started on Copeland Oaks. He complained about the noise in the hallways because everyone was deaf. Everyone had to yell. He complained about the food. Everything was tasteless and the deserts were too small. He complained about the gardening program. The residents were like slave labor. The residents grew the vegetables, but Copeland Oaks used the vegetables for their own purposes. He complained about the building. It was falling apart. The elevator broke the other day and group of old goats were trapped. They were trapped with one of the smelly ugly kitchen ladies wearing a hair net. That was Vern’s normal routine. He could ruin any happy experience with his bad attitude. Annually, he tried to ruin Thanksgiving. However, that day was different. I really listened to him and began to wonder about Copeland Oaks. I have parishioner who live at Copeland Oaks; I have referred people to Copeland Oaks.

I decided to check Vern’s story out by visiting a family friend, who also lived at Copeland Oaks. I had known Earl for years; he worked with my father. When I got to his apartment, he greeted me with a big smile. He gave me a hug. I asked him, “How is life at Copeland Oaks?” He said, “It is great! I only regret not moving here sooner.” I said, “Do you find the hallways noisy?” He said, “No! I love to hear people laughing and enjoying themselves.” I asked, “How is the food?” He said, “Look at me; I am getting fat!” I said, “I hear some of the residents have a garden.” He said, “I am a gardener. It is great! We sell the crops and give the money to various missions.” He began to pick up steam and started to tell me all the wonderful things about Copeland Oaks. I looked at my watch. It was growing late, and I had to get back. I said, “Earl, it was great to see you, but I have to go. He said, “Russ, let me tell you one more thing. The other day I was in the elevator with some of the guys. It stopped between floors. We were squeezed into the elevator with one of young ladies, who work in the kitchen. She is quite a looker! Her name is Debbie. She was pressed up against me!” He said, “Russ, I haven’t been that close to a young hot woman in long time. It was great! I think my heart went out of rhyme. The only problem is they fixed the elevator too fast. I could have stood there with Debbie pressed up against me for a lot longer! I like the name Debbie!”

How can it be that two people can have the same experience and experience two different things? The answer is one word, attitude! Are you going to ruin your Thanksgiving with a bad attitude? Are you going to ruin someone else’s Thanksgiving with your bad attitude? This is a better question. Do the people in your life find you exhilarating or exhausting?

What Are You Looking At?

The Thanksgiving we know happened in 1621. Do you remember the story? The Pilgrims left Southampton, England in 1620. They wanted religious freedom. There was trouble from the start. As they sailed around the south tip of the British Isles one of the ships, the Speedway, was ruled not seaworthy. The two ships docked and some of the Pilgrims went home. However, some of the Speedway’s passengers boarded the second ship, the Mayflower. Due to the extra weight, the trip took longer than the estimated 66 days. They had navigation problems too. They wanted to go to Virginia, but they arrived in New England in December. Like today, the weather was harsh. There was no time to build permanent shelters, so they survived that first winter in the new world in crude temporary housing. In time, disease came, and the death toll began to rise. Only 51 of the original 102 saw the spring. The dead were buried in unmarked graves so the local natives would not know how small their numbers had grown. When the spring came, they were forced to make a painful choice. The Mayflower was a rented ship and had to return to England. Would they stay in America or return to England? They decided to stay, and their luck began to change. Friendly Native Americans helped them plant 30 acres of wheat and build permanent shelters. By autumn of 1621 their homes were built, and their crops were harvested. They decided to observe a day of thanksgiving to thank God for his blessings. This time, there was a meal, and they invited their new friends.

Does that story sound familiar? It should because I tell it to you annually. It is easy to imagine. However, this time do not imagine it like a Norman Rockwell painting, where everyone is happy and content. Think about the story historically. Thanksgiving was not born out of contentment. Thanksgiving was born out of hardship. Half of the original Pilgrims had died. That means everyone family lost a loved one. That means everybody knew someone who had died. I read this week that the Pilgrims dug seven times more graves than they built shelters. The Pilgrims were grieving. However, they decided to look at what they had, not what they had lost or wanted. History tells us the Pilgrims did not go to the cemetery and curse God. History tells us they went to church and thanked God for what they had. The Pilgrims were thankful to be alive. So, let me ask you the question again. What are you looking at? With that in mind let us look at our Old Testament lesson.

Many years ago, before man walked on the moon, before a civil war threatened to divide America, or before Columbus discovered a New World, there was a man who spoke for God. His name meant “Embrace,” but we just call him Habakkuk. He lived in the year 605 BC.  He was well rooted in the traditions of Israel, so many have concluded he lived in Jerusalem. His book does not contain any proclamation to Israel. His book, only three chapters long, is a dialogue between himself and God. Habakkuk is complaining to the Almighty because the lives of the Chosen People are hard, and it is only going to get worse. Babylon will soon be their conquerors.

In our reading for today, Habakkuk 3:17-19, the prophet is praying to God. Once again, he is complaining to the Almighty. He is tired of the hardship. Then, in the middle of his prayer the tone changes. Habakkuk has learned the lesson of faith – trust God regardless of the circumstance. He says, even if things get worse, he will rejoice in God his Savior. (verse 18) It is not an easy lesson to learn. Can the same things be said about us? Are we willing to trust God regardless of the situation?

Let us be completely honest 2020 has been a hard year. The pandemic has changed everything. To date, according to world meter, nearly 59 million have gotten the coronavirus and over 1.3 million have died. I am happy to report, I am one of the over 40 million who have survived. COVID-19 has made everything difficult. The last time we gathered as a church inside was March 8. We did not return as a church until last week, November 15. That is 252 days later. On March 8, we welcomed 213 worshippers. Last week, we welcomed 30 indoor worshippers, plus parking lot and virtual worshippers. At first, we hoped to be inside by Easter. Some hoped, we would be inside by Pentecost. The Fourth of July, without a picnic, came and went, and we did not return inside. Labor Day came and went, without a fair, and we did not return inside. We observed the dark holiday, Halloween, but we did not return inside. We passed out more candy than ever. We held a national election election in a new way. Now it is time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we are going to celebrate them in a new way. Some fear the old ways may never return.

I should not complain it has been hard on everyone. The simplest things have become difficult. It is a hard time to celebrate a birthday. Drive by and honking is not the same. It is a hard time to have surgery. There is so much more pre-testing because of the virus. It is a hard time to have a baby. Your family can not even come to the hospital and celebrate new life. It is a hard time to die. Very few are permitted to gather to remember lives that were well live. It is a hard time to get married. I have a patient bride in my family. For years, she dreamed of their big day. Now they are forced to decide if they want to wait longer or go with a smaller crowd. You know it is true. Everything is difficult. We were told recently, all family dinners in Ohio should be canceled. However, life has always been hard.

One of the great names in American history is Helen Keller (1880-1968). She was born both deaf and blind. Yet, with help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan (1866-1936), she became to first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. You may know the story from the movie, The Miracle Worker. Various adaptions have come out through the years. She earned that degree from Radcliffe. She went on to become an author, political activist, and lecturer. Helen Keller once said, “So much has been given to me I have no time to ponder what has been denied.” Think about it for a moment. Born deaf and blind, Keller chose to ignore the hardship and only see her blessings. It is not just the story of Helen Keller. It is our story as well.

Each one of us on Thanksgiving must choose. Are you going to look at what you want or are you going to look at what you have? It is easy to see what we want. We find those things in our disappointments. We are disappointed we cannot travel to be with family and friends. We are disappointed family and friends cannot travel to be with us. We are disappointed the big Thanksgiving crowd has been whittled down to a few. We are disappointed we are stuck at home. It is not so easy to see what we have.

Learn from the Pilgrims. Be thankful for the basics. However, I must say this, everyone I know has a good life still. Are you thankful for the home in which you live? It is getting cold outside. Are you thankful for your car? Everything is a long walk. Are you thankful for your family pet? They love you unconditionally 365 days a year. Are you thankful for the food you eat? No one has starved in the congregation lately. Are you thankful for your good health? I am. Are you thankful for the people who love you and have sacrificed for you? Are you thankful for the people who pray for you? We are a blessed people and God has been faithful to us. It all comes down to a simple choice. Are you going to see what we want or are you going to see what you have? The Pilgrims choose to see what they had. They had survived. Habakkuk, in the end, decided to see what he had. He had God and God is always good. God has been good to us. So, let me ask you one more time. What are you looking at? Are you looking at what you want? Are you looking at what you have?

What is your first Thanksgiving memory? My first memory is when I was about five years old. My family, the five of us, traveled to Cleveland and spent the day with my father’s Aunt Nelma, and her lifelong companion, Ruth. Years later, I wondered about their relationship, but those were more innocent times. It does not really matter. They lived in a small apartment near Shaker Heights. I can still see their apartment in my mind’s eye. The living room was small. The bedroom with twin beds was small, and the kitchen was tiny. When it was time to eat, the seven of us sat around a small table in a smaller alcove. I am confident we ate turkey with all the extras. Once consumed, we were dismissed to the living room, so the dishes could be washed. We sat and talked for a while, then my father announced we were going for a ride to look at Christmas lights. I do not know how it happened because we had such a small car, but the seven of us got in. We drove around the city and looked for decorations. We drove down East Ninth Street. We drove around Public Square and I studied the Soldiers and Sailor Memorial. I remember my dad drove by NELA Park, The National Electric Lamp Association. It was owned by GE, so their lights were bright. I was excited when dad drove by old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the home of the Browns and Indians. I strained to see Chief Wahoo hanging on the outside. Then, we stopped driving and walked around Shaker Square. We looked in the store windows. We walked by a restaurant and my mother told me that is where the rich people eat. When we returned to the apartment, pie was served. Then, my aunt and uncle came for a quick visit. That is where my memory ends. It was a great day!

I think about Thanksgiving annually. It is one of my favorite childhood memories. Through the years, I have many great Thanksgivings. I have hosted a few at my house. But, that Thanksgiving in Cleveland holds a special place in my heart. It was not special because the food was outstanding. It was not special because I did not have responsibility. It was not special because I received a surprise Thanksgiving gift. It was special because I was living in the moment, without any expectations. Can I give you some pastoral advice? Forget your disappointments and frustrations on Thanksgiving. Live in the moment. Never forget it. You have a great life because God loves you. Look at all God has given you. Do you remember the quote from Helen Keller? She once said. “So much has been given to me I have no time to ponder what has been denied.” May that be our story as well.