The Little Engine That Could

I remember when I was a little girl one of my most favorite books was “The Little Engine that Could”.  Now for all of you X, Y, Z and subsequent generationers (…is thatuntitled even a word?), you may never even have heard about this book!  Basically I believe that every Disney, Pixar, Family Channel movie etc. is founded on the same basic principle and message of this classic children’s book.  “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!” the Little Engine repeats over and over and over.  It is the story of the littlest choo choo train accomplishing a task that other more powerful locomotives refused to try.  It is the consumate underdog story of someone (or in this case something) who can accomplish BIG things if he will only believe in himself.

“A little railroad engine was employed about a station yard for such work as it was built for, pulling a few cars on and off the switches. One morning it was waiting for the next call when a long train of freight-cars asked a large engine in the roundhouse to take it over the hill “I can’t; that is too much a pull for me,” said the great engine built for hard work. Then the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. In desperation, the train asked the little switch engine to draw it up the grade and down on the other side. “I think I can,” puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As it went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster and faster, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, “I–think–I–can, I–think–I–can.” It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

Now I’m a big fan of “underdogs”.  I love stories where the least likely of all the characters becomes the greatest of heroes.  There is something so satisfying to have the “little guy” win against all odds even when pitted against the most powerful opponent.

Sometimes I think in the book publishing world, I’m this “teeny tiny little fish” swimming in the current with all these huge blockbuster “big fish” and every once in a while it is so satisfying to swim past them, even if it’s just for a few hours.  For a couple of days last week, Shoot the Wounded was actually on two best selling lists on Amazon.ca  I felt sort of like the movie character “Jack” on the Titanic being “the king of the world”…well,.. for a few hours at least…then the boat sank…

Good thing I know how to swim!

My “Wounded Trilogy” has received praise from around the world and just recently the third book, “Love the Wounded” won not only the prestigious “Seal of Approval” but also the Silver Medal for Faith-based fiction from Literary Classics for excellence in children’s and young adult literature.  Although the accolades are wonderful the most heart-warming for me are the comments from my readers and most recently an excited call from a dear friend in Edmonton who said she “couldn’t put the books down” and now she wants to give a copy to each member of her youth group.  Wow!

I remember when I wrote “Shoot the Wounded” that I would be thankful if one person read it and I would praise God for that.  Well, He has gone far and above what I could ever have hoped for; taking my little stories to heights I could never ever imagined.  You could say that He pushed that little engine up the hill and I’m just hanging on enjoying the ride!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

 

Groans that Comfort

Over the last few months God has allowed several people to be brought across my path who are facing serious personal struggles.  Two of my friends are grieving the loss of loved ones in recent weeks.  A few of my friends are watching with grim courage one (or both) of their parents slowly slip from this world…two from dementia, and one from cancer.  To be honest, I do not know how to comfort these people.  I stumble over my words, I am ill-equipped to give more than a listening ear, or a heartfelt hug.  I am not a counsellor.  I promise to pray for them, but even then, I do not know how to pray.

But God does.  We have two divine intercessors: Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1), and the Holy Spirit interceding with groanings, and pleading on our behalf.  ( Rom. 8: 26).   “We do not know what we ought to pray for,” but the Holy Spirit always knows, and God the Father will always answer His prayer.

I am a “fix it” person.  When I hear another’s trouble, I want to make it right.  Unfortunately there are things in this world that are not always “fixable”.  There are no words, no actions on my part that will make the hurt go away.  I listen but then I must let go…let go and let God.

In Henry Blackaby’s devotional  he uses the 23rd Psalm to teach that the Lord, our Shepherd, is our comforter.

“As a child of God you are never alone! Your Shepherd is with you at all times. You never have to call Him in to your situation. You never have to wonder where He is. You never have to fear that if things become too difficult, He will abandon you. He goes before you; He walks beside you; He comes behind you. He protects you securely. Just as He sees every sparrow and knows every hair that is on your head, so His gaze is constantly upon you (Luke 12:6–7). Even when you cannot see Him, He always keeps His eyes upon you. He comforts you with His strong presence in times of sorrow and grief. He leads you through the valley of the shadow of death. He does not necessarily lead you around the valley as you might wish. There are times when your Shepherd knows that the only way to get you where He wants to take you is to lead you down the path that passes through the dark valley. Yet, at those times He walks closely with you, reassuring you throughout the journey that He still loves you and is with you. It is during those times that you experience His love and compassion in a deeper dimension than you ever have before.

You never need to fear evil. As intimidating as evil can be, there is nothing you will ever face that intimidates your Shepherd. He has seen it all and soundly defeated every form of wickedness. Evil never catches Him by surprise. Your Shepherd is always prepared and knows exactly when and where you will experience difficulty. Place your absolute trust in your Good Shepherd that He will protect you and demonstrate His love for you through the darkest valley.”

May the God of all Comfort be with you always.

Read more about the 23rd Psalm here: http://lynndove.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/even-though-i-walk-through-the-valley/

Femme Fatales

Queen Vashti, for all intents and purposes, was the most beautiful woman in all of Persia.  She was married to the powerful King Xerxes who denied her nothing.  She had all the clothes, jewellery, and riches that any woman could ever want or desire.  In the third year of her husband’s reign, Xerxes decided to throw a party, and not just any ordinary party either; “For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.” (Esther 1:4)  Then he decided to end the party with a great banquet in the palace garden.  The banquet lasted seven days!  All the nobles and princes from the surrounding kingdom were invited and “wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality.  By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.” (vs. 7-8)

In the meantime, Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace.  I’m thinking it was a slightly more subdued gathering but no less interesting.  If you’ll allow a little speculation on my part, it was like a great “Girls Week Out” and although it’s not stated in scripture they probably spent a lot of time talking makeup and clothes because it does state later that any woman considered “wife material” for the King “had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” (2:12)  So I’m guessing they spent most of their time giving themselves pedicures and facials, eh?

On the seventh day, the last day of one of the greatest parties that he had ever thrown in his life, “when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine” (vs 10), he commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him “wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at”.  (1.11)  (That’s sort of a given after all the time and energy these ladies put into making themselves beautiful!)

But Scripture says she refused to come and well, do you blame her?

The King and all his party-animal friends had been drinking and carousing for six months and then been on a real “bender” for seven days straight.  When scripture says that the King was in “high spirits”, that was probably a huge under-statement!  It is safe to say that he and his buddies were well spifflicated.  Now I’m just guessing, but I don’t think I’m wrong, Queen Vashti had a feeling that showing up amongst those men dressed only in her golden crown may not be the most prudent thing to do under those circumstances.  So Queen Vashti wisely refused to come to the party…

…But it cost her.  Scripture says that “the king became furious and burned with anger” (vs. 12) because the King and all those other noble husbands thought that she would instigate some kind of feministic uprising amongst the other wives if they heard about her disobedience and perceived disrespect of Xerxes.

The King decided he had to put a stop to this feministic bra burning and forthwith issued a royal proclamation that “every man should be ruler over his own household” (1:22) and to set an example he banished the rebellious Queen Vashti from his sight and set out to find himself a new Queen.  It took him several years but in the seventh year of the King’s reign a young Jewish girl named Esther “won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins.  So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” (2: 17-18)

Now it is interesting, that God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther but it is obvious that God had a plan and a purpose to these events from the very start.  Scripture tells us that Esther was raised by her uncle Mortecai because Esther had neither father or mother.  They were exiles, strangers in a strange land and yet God strategically places them both there in that foreign land so that in His timing, Esther may be used to thwart the plot by the evil Haman that would have led to the irradication of the Jewish people.

Now we can only speculate what happened to the poor ex-Queen.  She may have been banished from the king’s sight, but not necessarily banished from the palace.  According to the Midrash, “Vashti was the great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, the granddaughter of King Amel-Marduk and the daughter of King Belshazzar. During Vashti’s father’s rule, mobs of Medes and Persians attacked. They murdered Belshazzar that night. Vashti, unknowing of her father’s death, ran to her father’s quarters. There she was kidnapped by King Darius of Persia. But Darius took pity on her and gave her to his son, Ahasuerus (King Xerxes), to marry.

According to the Midrashic account, Vashti was a savvy politician, and the ladies’ banquet that she held in parallel to Xerxes’ banquet represented an astute political maneuver.  Since the noble women of the kingdom would be present at her banquet, she would have control of a valuable group of hostages in case a coup occurred during the king’s feast.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vashti

Scholars argue why Vashti refused to present herself to the King.  Was it political manuevering?  Was it because she did not want to be paraded in front of a bunch of drunken fools?  Scripture does not say, but we do know what the consequence was, she lost her crown and Queen Esther was eventually put in a unique and strategic place of influence with the King.  At the instigation of the king’s chief minister Haman, a decree was issued for the annihilation of all the Jews living in the empire (3:1-15).  This scheme was thwarted by Esther and her cousin Mordecai.  Haman was hanged and a new decree was issued by Xerxes allowing the Jews the right to kill their enemies (8:3-14, 9:5-10, 13-14).

And how, pray tell, does Esther accomplish all this?  Well, take note that immediately upon making Esther his Queen, the King proclaimed a holiday, and what does he do?…He throws another party and “distributed gifts with royal liberality”. (2:18)  This was a King who really liked parties AND royal proclamations and the good Queen Esther likely took special note of that.

So when Esther heard about the plot against her people she took a little time to mull over how she could gain favour with the king, and enlisted her uncle and all the Jews living in Susa to fast and pray for her, knowing that if she proceeded incorrectly she would end up banished like ex-Queen Vashti and then not be in a position to help her people or she would be killed and the entire Jewish nation wiped out along with her.  She told her uncle to “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me.  Do not eat of drink for three days, night or day.  I and my maids will fast as you do….”  (Esther 4:16)

Then she says something that shows that what ever happened next would be entirely the will of God, “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish.”  Basically she was saying she was willing to be used by God even if it meant losing her life.

Esther was able to approach the king with confidence knowing that whatever happened to her God was in control.  Once she had the king’s initial attention, dressed beautifully in her royal robes, she was already cooking up the most logical way to further gain the King’s favour.  Knowing that he had a penchant for parties and banquets …you guessed it!…she threw him a party!  She invited the king and the dastardly Haman to not one, but two great banquets, and the rest, so they say, is history.

I am speculating but I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that God likely smiled at Esther and then said to Himself,  “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Are you ready to be used by God today?

Lessons in Life

Show me the Bullies!I have three very unique, very different children.  I am constantly amazed by them!  Certainly there have been times  that I (and they) have questioned my sanity…or lack thereof…in trying to parent these children but for the most part I wouldn’t trade a minute of it!

My daughter Laurelle is now a grown, married woman, and mother to my two adorable grandbabies.   She is a phenomenal young woman with a passion for teaching.  I had no idea when we signed her up in kindergarten French immersion way back when, that one day she would be a French immersion teacher!  How did that happen?  God had a plan and a purpose for her for today but the journey started nearly thirty years ago.  Who knew?  God did.

I remember that little girl learning to ride a bike.  She fell off that thing more than she stayed on.  At one point, after crashing once again to the pavement, she picked herself up and in tears kicked the seat with all her might announcing to her father that she would never learn to ride a bike!  It’s hard for a parent to watch their children struggle, but it’s also a time to instill a value, “Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!”  he said, and taking her by the hand, straightened her helmet, and plunked her back on the bike.  “You can do it!” and with a push, he sent her on her way again.  Yes, she wobbled and yes, she even fell off a few more times but eventually her perseverance paid off and she mastered bike riding.  It was hard but she didn’t quit.

In grade seven, Laurelle became the victim of bullying.  It was the worst time of our lives.  She had become the primary target of some malicious girls at her school who took great pleasure in undermining everything about her.  They called her degrading names; called her stupid, and maligned her every chance they could.  They tripped her, pushed her into her locker and laughed at her.  Her marks plummeted; she started to look sickly and pale.  She started to dress in sombre colours and she rarely smiled.  She had few friends and at one point she wanted to die.  Her father and I tried to question her about school but she was tight-lipped and was a good enough actress at home to make us believe that everything was okay.  We had no idea how serious the bullying situation had become until her piano teacher, who was also a close personal friend, called me and said that Laurelle had confided to her in the middle of her piano lesson that she was thinking thoughts of suicide.  In horror and in panic, I ransacked her room looking for anything that she might use to hurt herself, instead I found her diary.

As a parent, you make split second decisions some times.  In this case to save her life was much more important than respecting her privacy.  I didn’t hesitate.  Page after page of heart wrenching pain was written in her handwriting.  I wept with grief over what my child was going through at school, things she had never shared with us.  When I confronted her later about it, she was horrified I had read her most private thoughts.  I had betrayed her trust.  I didn’t apologize for that.  I wished I had done it sooner.

For a day or two, Laurelle was more angry with me than she was at the bullies at school.  I was okay with that.  Now that I knew what was really going on in her life I could come alongside her and help, even though she rejected that at first.  We immediately contacted the school, set up meetings with the school counsellor, her teachers, and the principal and we elicited prayer support from our church family.  Over the next several weeks, everywhere Laurelle turned she heard, “Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!”    God placed people in her life that supported her, encouraged her, and loved her.  Bullying had caused her to lose hope, she felt alone and afraid.  Now she was surrounded by people who wanted to help her.  She wasn’t alone and it gave her hope.

Laurelle’s school counsellor, a precious young woman, told Laurelle to journal her thoughts and her pain to God and to trust Him to help her.  Although I had said much the same thing previously to her, she wasn’t ready to listen to me yet because she was still mad I had invaded her privacy, so I praised God when He used another person to speak to her.  It was truly a “God thing” because in this particular public school, teachers and counsellors did not give spiritual advice to their students, they were discouraged from doing so in fact, but I believe God gave this woman boldness to speak to Laurelle about embracing her faith in God that impacted Laurelle at a critical time in her life.  She also gave Laurelle some very practical ways to “stand up” to the bullies at school.

  • Hold your head up.  Act confident.  Do not retaliate or get angry.  (Bullies are intimidated by those who do not fear them.)
  • Respond evenly and firmly to them or say nothing and walk away.
  • Develop other friendships and stick up for each other.
  • If bullying continues, tell someone, preferably a trusted adult.  Tell your parents, a trusted teacher, counsellor, or principal.

Within several weeks, after rededicating her life back to God and then utilizing the strategies her counsellor had given her to combat the bullies, Laurelle’s confidence came back.  She developed new friendships and her once tiny circle of friends grew.  Eventually her group of friends was much larger than the “bully group” and as such the “safety in numbers” factor cut in.  The bullies lost interest in tormenting her, and on occasion if they tried to intimidate her, she was no longer afraid of telling on them.  She got her “no quit” attitude back and it propelled her through the rest of the year and has remained with her ever since.

A while back I was on Facebook and noticed that one of Laurelle’s Facebook “friends” was one of the girls who had bullied her that fateful year in middle school.  I must admit I was quite surprised to see that Laurelle was actually corresponding back and forth with her quite regularly.  I marveled how God had helped her come to a place in her life where she could forgive and forget so completely.  When I commented about it to her, she just smiled.

Laurelle has had opportunity through the years to share her testimony regarding that bullying experience.  God has given her great sensitivity and compassion towards those young people who are victims of bullying.  She shares how angry she was at me for reading in her diary, but how glad she is that I did.  She shares how God brought people in to her life to help her, to encourage her and to love her at a time when she thought she was all alone.  And lastly she tells them’ “Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!”

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

To Trick or to Treat, that is the Question!

superhero minionFor Christians Halloween is a big dilemma.  Christians are strongly divided in opinion on whether or not to observe this holiday.  Some feel it is perfectly harmless and do not have any problem with dressing up and going door to door trick or treating.  Others choose to boycott it entirely, or ignore it, or they choose to celebrate it through more positive alternatives such as Fall Festivals, Trunk Treats in church parking lots and the like; while others choose to use Halloween as a great opportunity to evangelize.

I have discovered that Christians have a very strong opinion on the topic no matter what side of the fence they stand on and unfortunately a few try to yell across the fence at their neighbour judging them for whether or not they choose to celebrate or abstain from Halloween.  I have no intention of doing that.  The fact is that Halloween is one of those Romans 14 “disputable matters” where the Bible lacks clear and specific direction on how we, as Christians, should observe this holiday.

There are excellent scripture references that argues the “for or against” viewpoint:

“Don’t participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, rebuke and expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.”  Ephesians 5:7-12 (NLT) 

Score a point for the “against” side…but the “for” side volleys back with:

“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”  1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (NIV)

In an article I read recently on the topic of Halloween the writer said: “As Christians, why are we here in this world?  Are we here to live in a safe and protected environment, guarded against the evils in the world, or are we called to reach out into a world filled with dangers and be the light of Christ?  Halloween brings people of the world to our door step.  Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets.  I can think of various creative ways to seize this opportunity for developing new relationships and sharing my faith.”

Still in answer to that, others are quite right to question whether or not we can live “in” this world, but not be “of” this world.

And so the volleying continues year after year between well-meaning Christians who argue their point with gusto and no one really wins…

…and Satan laughs at us.

In an informal poll with my Facebook and Twitter friends, I asked them what they thought about Halloween in general.  Here are some of their comments:

Tina wrote:
“We decorate the house with pumpkins and scarecrows.  We have a family party.  We trick-or-treat.  The day is what you make it.  It doesn’t have to be evil.  It has become a fun family time for us.”

Sharon wrote:
“It has changed greatly over the years.  I don’t like to see kids in vampire or other evil costumes.  I think it is a sad thing that schools have Halloween parties and want to wipe out Christmas.”

Karen wrote:  “I am not a fan of Halloween.  It’s fine for kids but adults have taken it over.”

Amy wrote:
“Halloween and all its darkness – DISLIKE!  Letting the kids celebrate one of God’s greatest seasons with festivals, pumpkins, and candy corn – LIKE!”

Barbara wrote:
“I used to think it was cool a long, long time ago until the truth set me free : )…Now we do not celebrate All Hallows Eve.  We celebrate the beautiful changes of the season and the blessing of the harvest with pumpkin pie and all the goodies and smells that come with this wonderful crisp autumn season.  It is the perfect time to teach the difference between light and darkness.”

Alison wrote:  “Do you like opening a can of worms?”

I believe that the most appropriate response to Halloween is to study the matter for yourself and then follow the convictions of your own heart, and then let others do the same without being judgemental either way.

Let’s turn the tables on Satan this year.  He wants us to be divided on this issue.  I say let’s laugh at him instead and harmoniously “agree to disagree” over the topic of Halloween.  Let’s stop the volleying and declare a unified truce if you will.  Instead, let’s put on a costume that will cause Satan to flee from us on Halloween and every day of the year.  Let’s put on The Armour of God.   It will remind us to not fight amongst ourselves but remember who our real enemy is.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:10-18 

Do For One

DO-ONE-THING2Our Pastor challenged us a couple of weeks ago to think differently about missions.  No sooner has Canadian Thanksgiving passed that I am already seeing Christmas decorations up in the stores, and a few of our neighbours are already putting up their Christmas lights.  As has been the case since my children were very little, I am getting ready to fill Samaritan Purse shoeboxes and the call is already out there to help families in need by donating warm jackets and filling up Christmas hampers.  This past Sunday, our church was the drop off centre for food donations for our quarterly community food drive.  A community-wide event that sees tons and tons of food donated to fill the shelves of our local food bank.  I have been privileged to be a volunteer at many of these food drives and I am always overwhelmed by the generosity of neighbour helping neighbour.  Still, I am always left with a feeling that we could do more!

For several years our family “adopted” a World Vision child.  It was an opportunity for our children to see for themselves what “love in action” is all about, but we were often overwhelmed by how many children were so needy and we could only help one.  In fact, if I am being honest, the need is always so great for so many that instead of driving me to action, I am paralyzed instead.  How can I possibly help so many all by myself?

So I do nothing.

The same holds true for sharing my faith.  I live in a community of about 20,000 people.  It’s a “small” town, but still plenty big enough that I probably only interact with less than 1% of those people.  Statistics say that one in four of those people in my community believe in God, (not necessarily Jesus).  They profess a faith, but it could be any “variety” of faith.  I drive down the Big Hill and look over my small town and think, “How can we possibly reach all these people with the Good News of Jesus Christ?”  The task is so daunting I feel overwhelmed so I do nothing.

Each year I receive dozens of calls from community and social groups who are seeking funds to help them meet the needs of people who are struggling year round: Crisis Pregnancy Care Centres, Canadian Cancer Society, Missing Children Society, Easter Seals, Global Response Disaster Relief, Red Cross…the list is endless.  I want to support them all, but I get immobilized with indecision so I do nothing.

That’s why I was so impacted by our Pastor’s message a few weeks back.  He said, “Do for ONE what you would like to do for many!”  Andy Stanley has spoken specifically on this topic and I’d encourage you to watch a message that Stanley gave on this entitled, “One, Not Everyone.”  The idea is to focus your attention on ONE person at a time.  It’s interesting how that aligns so well with what Jesus did so often in His ministry.  He helped one person at a time…the woman at the well, Nicodemus, Jairus’ daughter, blind Bartimaeus.  Oh sure, He also fed five thousand (and more), but Jesus can do that sort of thing…I can’t…but I can learn from His example to talk to and help ONE person and do for ONE, what I would like to do for many.

How about you?  Will you do for ONE what you would like to do for many?  Choose ONE person this week and buy them a cup of coffee, or babysit for a new Mom, or visit someone in the hospital, or write an encouraging note to a friend…

Choose ONE charity this Christmas and support it financially or through volunteering your time.

Choose ONE person and tell them how much God loves them!

Do for ONE this week!

Thanksgiving

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada.

“The date and location of the first Thanksgiving celebration is a topic of modest contention.  The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean.  Frobisher’s Thanksgiving was not for harvest but homecoming.  He had safely returned from a search for the Northwest Passage, avoiding the later fate of Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin.  In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey.  French settlers who came to New France with explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s also took to celebrating their successful harvests. They even shared their food with the indigenous people of the area as well as setting up what became known as the “Order of Good Cheer.”  As many more settlers arrived in Canada, more celebrations of good harvest became common. New immigrants into the country, such as the Irish, Scottish, Germans would also add their own harvest traditions to the harvest celebrations.  Most of the American aspects of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey) were incorporated when United Empire Loyalists began to flee from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada.

The traditional origin point for Thanksgiving in the United States is the celebration that occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621.  The Plymouth celebration occurred early in the history of what would become one of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States.  This Thanksgiving, modeled after celebrations that were commonplace in contemporary Europe, is generally regarded as America’s first….

Thanksgiving in Canada did not have a fixed date until the late 19th Century, when it was typically held on November 6th.  After the end of World War I, Thanksgiving Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies were usually held during the same week.  To avoid the two holidays from clashing with one another, in 1957 the Canadian Parliament proclaimed Thanksgiving to be observed on it’s present date.

Thanksgiving in the United States had typically been observed on different dates throughout history.  It would not be until December 26th, 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving fixed to it’s current date.  Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and on the second Monday of October in Canada.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

Enough of the history lesson….

Second only to Christmas, I go a bit overboard with house decorating for Thanksgiving.  I scatter (fake) fall leaves liberally around the house, and fall colours of red, gold and orange are seen everywhere.  In our home, Thanksgiving is a time of celebration, tradition, and remembering God’s goodness to us over the past year.  I usually cook up a big turkey with stuffing, gravy, caramel potatoes, sweet and sour red cabbage, some mixed veggies, fresh dinner rolls and of course pumpkin pie for dessert.  Over the years my son-in-law has added to the menu by making yams (with marshmallows).  Yummmm!

With a grateful heart, I can come to the thanksgiving banquet and rejoice in His goodness to me and my family…

…But I was reminded the other day that being thankful is a choice.

It is easy to praise and thank God when for the most part everything is going so well in our lives.  It is far more difficult, but I would say far more honouring to God, when we can praise Him and give thanks to Him when life is frought with challenges and struggle.

Through all the trials and tribulations of this past year GOD IS SO GOOD.  We can praise Him wholeheartedly.  We have chosen to be “thankful in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5: 18).

I am reminded in Philippians 2: 14-16 to  “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”  I hope we will look back on this past year and be able to say that we were able to “shine” in the face of adversity.

No matter what your circumstance may be at this time, choose to be thankful.

“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19- 20)

Happy Thanksgiving!