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Monday, November 19, 2007

A Thanksgiving Message from Chuck Norris

Courtesy of WND

I was saddened this past week to read how our media will defend and honor 22,000 turkeys who "make the ultimate sacrifice" and yet hardly mention and even glibly glance over the true sacrifices of recent service men and women – "at least 3,866 members of the U.S. military [who] had died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003."

While the liberal press belittles our troops' selflessness, and their families try to cope with separation and loss again during the holidays, I felt the need to take a break from my endorsement series of Mike Huckabee to address an important question.

From the casualties of war to the droughts of Georgia and the fires of California, people across our country are asking, "How can we, particularly those who face adversity and suffer loss, be thankful this Thanksgiving?" That's not an easy question to answer, but I'd like to try. I believe there is help – and it came nearly 400 years ago to the shores of Plymouth Rock.

A 400-year-old example of thankfulness in crisis

The Pilgrims who landed in 1620, at what would become Massachusetts, discovered not only a new world but the power to give thanks even in the midst of calamity. Though they were strangers in a new land, the pilgrims were by no means foreigners to the territory of pain and difficulty. Did you know that half of their number died the first year they were here?

Ron Lee Davis recollects in his work, "Rejoicing in Our Suffering,"

The Pilgrims would not fully understand in their lifetime the reason for the suffering that beset them. The first official Thanksgiving Day occurred as a unique holy day in 1621 – in the fall of that year with lingering memories of the difficult, terrible winter they had just been through a few months before, in which scores and scores of babies and children and young people and adults had starved to death, and many of the Pilgrims had gotten to a point where they were even ready to go back to England. They had climbed into a ship and were in that harbor heading back to England, ready to give up. It was only as they saw another ship coming the other way, and on that ship there was a Frenchman named Delaware, and he came with some medical supplies and some food, that they had enough hope to go back and to try to live in the midst of those adverse sufferings. And yet they came to that first Thanksgiving with the spirit of giving and of sharing.

A pilgrim's progress in the Geneva Bible

The Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic and faced their first winter with the comfort of their Geneva Bible, a translation first published in 1560. In that Bible, they read the words that posed a great challenge, "In all things give thanks; for this is God's will in Christ Jesus toward you."

It's those words "all things" that must have been a huge obstacle for them, as it is for many of us. Yet in those words is also the remedy for their (as well as our) inability to be thankful. It doesn't say be thankful "for all things" but "in all things." And it doesn't say, "feel thankful," but "be thankful" or "give thanks." There is always something for which we can give thanks – though sometimes difficult to find.

Thanksgiving is a duty before it's a feeling or a festivity. It is commemorated once a year, but thanks-living was never intended to be bound up in a single day. As a friend told me, "Gratitude is a seasoning for all seasons. Thanks-living is a college from which we never graduate." Proof is that I'm still "in progress" to pass Mother Teresa's test, "The best way to show my gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy."

Giving thanks is still a choice, especially in times of adversity and suffering. Though it is definitely not easy, it is always possible to list our assets alongside our losses. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a prisoner and martyr under Hitler, wrote in his cell, "It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."

The fact is, in difficult times, we must call up our reserves. We must choose to be thankful even if we don't always feel it. We must make a choice like Helen Keller, who said, "So much has been given to me, I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied." If she can say that, can't we?

A calling from yesteryear

Thanksgiving is still born in adversity. It is still a holiday for the courageous – those who face their fears and fight to remain thankful. So perhaps, for many of us, Thanksgiving will mean even more this year than in the past.

More than ever, I would encourage and challenge all of us to once again hear and respond to the call of William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony, who said in 1623:

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

And before you eat your Thanksgiving meal, don't forget to thank God for our troops too. While they serve freedom for us, the least we can do is serve them a little honor and remembrance.

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