This is American Thanksgiving week. Time for ten of my favorite Thanksgiving quotes.
- “We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.”
- “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
- “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau
- “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward
- “Now thanks we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wonderous things has done, in whom his world rejoices, who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” Traditional Hymn
- ““Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not a coincidence.” —Erma Bombeck
- “What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?” –Erma Bombeck
- “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
- “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
I watched my four-year-old great grandson disobey his mother, then run across the room to hug her neck. I never got to do that with my mother when I was four. I’ve been watching him play soccer on Saturday mornings, and now basketball. In both sports his Daddy is his coach. I never had that privilege when I was four. When I was two, until when I was five, my mother was in a Sanitarium in west Texas with tuberculosis and my father was an Army Chaplain in Germany, during World War 2. I spent those years with my grandparents in Bellmead, Texas. My grandmother seldom left the house and my grandfather worked long hours six days per week. He owned a grocery store, a gas station, and served as the first Postmaster of Bellmead. He also owned a few rental properties. But Sunday belonged to me. We attended his church, Central Christian Church in Waco, then spent the rest of the day watching the passenger trains go through at the Katy Depot and the Cotton Belt Depot (they were one block apart). During the summer months we’d go to Katy Park to watch the Waco Pirates of the Big State League play baseball. Those were not bad years. They were just difficult years. Child Psychologist would probably have a label for kids like me, but I survived. So, I say to my granddaughter and grand-son-in-law, and actually to all young parents, “Allow your children to express their love for you.” It’s not a privilege every child enjoys. Remember, “children are a gift of the Lord. (Psalm 127:3, NASB).
For thirty-eight years I’ve used the same bank without any issues. Last week, when I opened my monthly statement, I noticed a suspicious check. Further investigation revealed that I had written the check fifteen months ago, but it had never cleared the bank. Now, someone who had the check changed everything on it except my signature, made the check payable to themselves, and adjusted the amount to $3000. I filed a police report, went to the bank, and discovered my best response was to cancel my thirty-eight year account and start over with a new account, meaning changing every automatic bill pay information as well as automatic deposit information. Other than making it an all-around bad day, it made me wonder what type of person does this with another’s check. Jesus speaks of the difference between those who steal and He, Himself – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Praying that the thief is caught, pays the penalty, repents, and joins the Jesus-side.
Some things you really need are hard to find, especially in a small town, but “he who seeks finds” (Matthew 7:8). A big, fast truck passed me in the other lane. As it went by its back wheel threw a rock into my front windshield. Immediately, I saw a crack moving across the window. As the crack continued its slow move, I remembered a lesson from my truck driving grandfather. Ladies clear nail polish, applied to the crack, will stop the spread. Two problems: Joanne didn’t have any clear nail polish with her and I was twenty miles from the next town – Falfurrias, Texas. Finally, a truck stop was in sight, and I exited the highway and went in to make a purchase. No! Love’s Truck Stop does not sell nail polish. When the clerk asked why I needed nail polish, and I told him, he spit a stream and issued a few non-repeatable words. Try Walmart a few blocks into town, he advised through laughter. I should have known. Every south Texas town of 4000 has a Walmart. But again. No nail polish. “Try Dollar Tree” said the apologetic salesclerk, with a smile. Of course. I just wasn’t thinking. Several more blocks into town and, sure enough! They had it. I bought it, as the clerk gave me a “that’s going to look good on you nails” look. Applied to the windshield crack, the movement stopped just in time. Now I have to deal with my zero deductible insurance.
I retired from my faculty position sixteen years ago. Recently, I began teaching again. I made acquaintance with a few first semester students and felt compelled to offer some unsolicited advice, based on my nine years on a college faculty and twenty-two years on a Seminary faculty: You are not going back to college. You are now enrolled in Graduate School. More will be expected, and even demanded of you. When something is due on a specific day and time, you will be graded down if you miss the deadline, no excuses nor apologies accepted. When you say you will do something, you will be expected to do it. Your schedule will be full, so you will need to manage your time. Just because you are involved in a ministry situation, is no excuse for missing a class or an assignment. You will have professors who sincerely believe you belong to them – your time, your commitment, your assignments. Some classes will seem more important and exciting than others, but they are all important, or they would not be in the curriculum. You will like some professors more than others, but you will need to listen and learn from even the ones you don’t like. You are entering some of the best years of your life. Take it seriously. Again, this is not college. In Graduate School, you will need to “put on your big-person pants” so to speak, and take more seriously than ever before, the words of the Lord, “You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, you are My servant, I have chosen you . . .” (Isaiah 41:9).
This is Pastor (or Pastors or Ministers) Appreciation Month. If you ask most Pastors how you can assist them, at least one of their answers would be to pray for them. Most of the resulting prayer would be of the very general nature – “Lord, bless my pastor.” May I suggest three very specific prayers that you could pray for your pastor this month (and beyond). First, pray for him (or her) to get a good night’s sleep on Saturday. I doubt if I am the only one who has trouble sleeping on Saturday night, before a strategic Sunday sermon, but I may just be the only one willing to admit it. But Sunday activities are taxing enough on the body and mind, that a pastor ought not have to endure it on little sleep. Second, pray that his (or her) home environment would be pleasant on Sunday morning. Again, not many pastors will admit this to their congregations, but one family member having an early Sunday morning upset, can send the pastor off to church in a negative mood. Third, pray a “hedge” of protection (Job 1:10) around your pastor during Sunday church activities. One church member’s “small problem,” shared with the pastor in the church hallway, can be enough to throw a pastor off his (or her), Sunday routine, and thus hinder needed concentration. Now, if your pastor says he (or she) has none of these prayer needs, congratulate him (or her), and pray for honesty to prevail.
It seems like every day is a special day to celebrate something or someone. Last week I noticed a lot of happy wishes on social media for National Daughter Day and then for National Son Day. I was unaware of either day prior to last week. One of my favorite social media posts was shared by several friends in several different ways on National Son Day. Paraphrased, it said, “my parents forgot that today was National Son Day and also forgot who determines which Nursing Home they get to live in later in life.” I’m not sure where these national observances were created but I suspect Hallmark Cards had something to do with them. Then, as I wrote this issue of “Morning Manna” I noticed that the day was National Coffee Day to be followed by International Coffee Day. Hands down, I vote for Tim Hortons Coffee, preferably consumed in a coffee shop in Vancouver, Canada while eating a Canadian Maple Donut. It just seems like where you are has a lot to do with how well you enjoy the day. However, my all time favorite day is, “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). So, have a good day . . . Whatever you are celebrating today.
My wife and I decided to take a different route back home last week from my monthly teaching session with the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center. We went from the beautiful Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and drove “up river,” meaning we drove along the Rio Grande River to the northwest rather than due north, through the palm tree lined highway. All was well until we reached Falcon Lake and turned due north toward San Antonio. Pure wilderness! Mile after mile of nothing but flat road, cactus, and mesquite trees, with an occasional road runner crossing the road. For more than one hour, we drove – not a gas station, not a grocery store, not a town, not a house – nothing. I wondered if this is what it was like when the children of Israel crossed the dessert, and became so distressed that they asked, “can God prepare a table in the wilderness” (Psalm 78:19). The answer was of course, He could, and furthermore, He did. Sometimes along life’s journey, the pathway turns into a wilderness road. Life becomes dull, boring, unpleasant, and we begin to wonder what happened to God. Just as that south Texas wilderness road eventually turned into an attractive area with stores, schools, churches, and people, so God visits us in the wildernesses of our lives, and provides “a table.” So next time your road gets long and boring, look for a table. It may just be from God.
I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately. Five of my favorite quotes on family have surfaced:
- “A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.” — Poet, Ogden Nash,
- “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” — German Philosopher. Friedrich Nietzsche.
- “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” — Comedian, George Burns
- “Families are like fudge—mostly sweet with a few nuts.” — Comedian, Les Dawson.
- “Family: like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” – Unknown
Speaking of family, I was looking through some old family pictures recently and found a family Christmas picture from the early 1960s. In the picture were my grandparents, my parents, my aunt and uncle and their two kids (my cousins), my younger brother, and me. Several facts came to me as I studied the picture:
- As of last month’s two deaths, everyone in the picture is deceased except me.
- My family is all in heaven thinking I didn’t make it.
- I’m glad to be the “last man standing.”
- How blessed I was to have such a family.
While it was written about the “family of God” it certainly fits our “family “ when Paul says, “individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5).
Last week brought back memories. My four-year-old great grandson began playing on a soccer team. When I was four years old, soccer was a game played in another country or at least in a far northern state. He also began Pre-K. Again, from my days in Miss Baker’s Little Kindergarten in Paris, Texas, I have only one memory and it is bad. For Halloween, all the students wore masks to school. My mother no doubt found one on sale somewhere, and I wore a pig mask. Something else we’d never heard of back then was bullying, but I experienced it as all the other kids in the class laughed at my pig mask and called me names associated with a pig. Somewhere around that age, my older cousin shot me with his new BB gun. It probably didn’t hurt near as much as I made it out to hurt, but I wanted to get him in trouble, and it worked. He got his gun taken away from him, at least for a while. Even in my last visit with him, before his death last week, he reminded me of how much I cried as I ran to tell his Daddy. I remember Barney, the mule who pulled the Ice Cream Wagon and how I would run to the end of the block and ride the wagon to my house. Barney never seemed to mind the extra passenger. Speaking of riding, I remember riding on the fire truck in the Vacation Bible School parade, and being told to, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) but I’m not sure I knew where Ecclesiastes was located. Whether they bring back positive or negative feelings, memory is one of God’s greatest gifts.