Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pause The Publicity - Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Well folks, it’s that time of year again! Bustling with busy buyers, Wal-Mart swarms with those hunting out the ingredients to their famous Thanksgiving dinner. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gather at Grandma’s for the first of the holiday reunions. Festively bedecked with harvest colors, everything from the trees outside to our dining room tables sings of Fall. In the midst of all the holiday hubbub, does America remember the real reason for Turkey Day? While secular education all but prevails, the true meaning of Thanksgiving is often lost amid the fads of advertisers and those who would re-write history.

We know the Pilgrims had something to do with this holiday, right? Let’s remind ourselves where the story actually begins.
Because of their faith, the Pilgrims were compelled to flee to Holland to avoid the persecution in England. Having lived in Holland for twelve years, life remained a struggle, and their values were often infringed upon. Their faith in God once more prompted them to move – not only to search for a better, freer life, but to fulfill the Great Commission. “They cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.”* Prepared for a new set of challenges, the Pilgrims moved by faith yet again, this time to a land unknown and uncivilized.
Challenges came soon enough. They landed at Plymouth on December 15, 1620 after months of seasickness aboard the Mayflower. Just in time for the New World’s harsh winter, the Pilgrims scurried to build what frail shelters they could. Provisions were low. Bodies weakened. Severe conditions took their toll. “In two or three month’s time half of their company died, partly owing to the severity of the winter…partly to scurvy and other diseases.” A testament to their faith in God, the Pilgrims never succumbed to the weight of those hardships, and the few who remained unscathed by illness selflessly cared for their infirm friends. “…and all this they did willingly and cheerfully, without the least grudging, showing their love to the friends and brethren…”
Though half their number died that winter, prospects began to brighten with the arrival of spring. In 1621, the Pilgrims met a friend who would prove essential to their survival. Squanto taught them how to hunt, how to fish, and how to plant, among many other vital skills. Providentially, an abundant harvest followed a successful summer, and plentiful provisions promised security for the upcoming winter. Overflowing with gratitude, the Pilgrims hosted a celebration of thanksgiving. Invited to join the festivities, their Indian friends arrived ready to celebrate with more food and fun games. While the Pilgrims were thankful to their Indian friends for their all they had done, more than anything, they were thankful to their Heavenly Father. Without His guidance, protection, and Spirit, they never would have sailed to America, lasted the winter, or made friends with Squanto and the Indians. Many more hard times would follow for the Pilgrims, but in everything, they continued to give thanks to God. “And thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity.”
Many Americans have lost sight of the true spirit of “Turkey Day,” degrading it to nothing more than the celebration of a massive meal. Regrettably, the true story of the Pilgrims has been maimed. Much of the curriculum in our public school system states that the Pilgrims gave the feast in thanks to the Indians. Some even spread the outrageous lie that the Pilgrims were cruel to Squanto and his friends. However, it’s obvious from the words of the Pilgrims themselves that their devotion and gratitude was given to God alone. As you get wrapped up in the excitement of this festive holiday, don’t forget the true reason we pause once a year to give thanks.

* All quotes taken from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Is A Good Citizen?

What is a good citizen? A common response to that question would be, “A good citizen is one who obeys the law and doesn’t cause trouble.” That may be part of what a good citizen is, but I believe it’s more than that. After all, we’re looking for the meaning of a good citizen, not a moderate one.
The dictionary describes good as being “worthy of respect or commendation,” “beneficial, honest, noble,” and “useful,” just to name a few definitions.
America wasn’t founded by moderate people on moderate principles. The road to freedom was a long, hard-fought struggle. It required faith, courage, and sacrifice to build America. Don’t you think it will take faith, courage, and sacrifice to preserve it?
Benjamin Franklin said in 1787, “[We have created] a republic, if you can keep it.” “Keeping” it will call for more than sitting apathetically on our own heap of blessings. “Keeping” it is part of being a good citizen.
Being willing to sacrifice your personal comforts and desires in freedom’s cause; that’s a good citizen.
Defending freedom today and correcting today’s problems so posterity won’t have to; that’s a good citizen.
Understanding how America was formed and why; that’s a good citizen.

Knowing and exercising your rights so the deaths that bought them won’t be in vain; that’s a good citizen.
Recognizing the sacrifice our military makes and giving them the respect they deserve; that’s a good citizen.
The list could go on and on, but the most vital thing to remember is that being a good citizen means loving your country, and love is a verb.