Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner, here are some facts about this holiday. You homeschooling moms probably already know this, but the first National Day of Thanksgiving goes back to September 25, 1789, right after Congress completed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They agreed that they wanted all the citizens of the United States to have the opportunity to thank Almighty God for the many blessings He had poured down upon them. Did you get the fact that men of Congress decided this?
President George Washington agreed with their request and issued a federal proclamation which basically said, “It is our duty to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor.” Take note that this came from our Founding Fathers, the founders of our nation.
In the years following, there were other Thanksgiving days set aside until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a yearly day of Thanksgiving. Talk about adverse circumstances: this was in the midst of the darkest days of the Civil War. But President Lincoln didn’t want the people to enjoy the blessings and bounties from God while forgetting where they came from. He said, “They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
In school growing up, we learned that the very first Thanksgiving was a feast the Pilgrims and Indians had together back in 1621. I’m not sure how the obsession for turkey came about for this holiday, because I read somewhere that the first feast with the Indians and Pilgrims probably didn’t even have turkey but had fish and venison. They didn’t eat cranberries either. Did you know that cranberries were used for coloring, dying fabric and treating arrow wounds back in those days? And we certainly know they didn’t have green bean casseroles.
If you buy a Thanksgiving turkey this year, remember how different it is in other parts of the world. Our missionary daughter and her family on the island of Pohnpei, Micronesia, pay $75 or more for a frozen turkey, and that’s only if a ship comes in with any. Unless we send them the money, they eat fish or chicken for holidays.
They once went an entire month without eggs or fresh vegetables because no ships came in when the typhoon that hit Guam and Japan was out in the Pacific. Then ships were delayed even more by a hurricane moving towards Hawaii. That meant no flour, vegetables, eggs and such for a very long time. We take much for granted living here in these United States.
And how obsessed we get with traditions! Traditions are good, and they can build wonderful memories if not abused. Now I want to share some statistics with you. Did you know that about 690 million pounds of turkey are eaten on Thanksgiving in our country? That’s about 46 million turkeys, besides the millions of pounds of green bean casserole consumed. One article I read stated that the average person consumes about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. That was a shocker to me—perhaps I should have looked up emergency room statistics on holidays!
But think about this: as well as thanking God around our Thanksgiving table for His bountiful provision, we should consider preparing it wisely, simply, and eating in moderation. Maybe you’ve heard this saying, “It’s not the minutes at the table that do us in; it’s the seconds.” God’s Word does tell us that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we need to treat them as such. Since this message was not intended for a health seminar, I simply share that as free information and an introduction to the fact that we should celebrate Thanksgiving in our hearts every day of the year. Let me explain.
Psalm 107:22 says, “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” Our Lord is so good and merciful. We should be continually praising Him for His love. To think that God would reach down and save us—“while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” I hope you do know Him personally today.
Even though we’re saved and know Him, we will face troubles, trials, discouragement and maybe even depression. But the greatest weapon to fight any of these is to praise the Lord. Just thank Him and praise Him! Even if you don’t feel like it, do it! Even if you don’t think there’s anything to be thankful for, just thank Him for who He is.
When faced with trouble, I often start humming the song, “Praise the Savior, ye who know Him, Oh how much we surely owe Him…” By the time I get to the last stanza, which is a tongue twister in itself: “Then we shall be where we would be, then we shall be what we should be, things that are not now nor could be, soon shall be our own,” I am of a totally different frame of mind. My thoughts are off myself and onto God’s goodness.
“Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of Thanksgiving.” What does the word sacrifice bring to mind? Something that costs you something, something that takes time, something you’ll give. Thinking back to the Israelites and their sacrifices, remember they were to give the best of their flock.
There are many ways to praise the Lord and show our thankfulness. One is to spend time with Him in prayer. People don’t want to sacrifice their time praying and spending time with the Lord. Shame on us. He’s the One who created us and died for us to redeem us from our sin. From the first moment we awaken each day, let’s greet the Lord and thank Him for our night’s rest. Quote Scripture such as, “This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
The last thing at night, thank Him for your day. Ladies, it’s our choice. We should talk to Him or we’ll start our day with worry and regrets and end our day with worry and regrets. Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” I love Psalm 63:5,6 and often quote it when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, “My soul shall be satisfied… and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips; when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”
We don’t need to wait till we go to church to give God a sacrifice. Beside our money and talents, we can use our lips by witnessing and sharing the Gospel. Verse 2 of this Psalm says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” We will also show our praise and thankfulness when we obey Him. There are many Scriptures on this issue and God promises blessing for those who obey His Word.
Here are 4 things praise will do for us:
- Praise will strengthen our faith.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Then we can agree with Psalm 57:7: “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise.”
- Praise will calm our fears.
“God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” We live in fearful times, but we’re told to “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving… let your requests be made known unto God.” Then He gives the promise of peace in our hearts.
- Praise will change our focus.
It will get our eyes off ourselves. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him…”
- Praise will defeat our foes.
When Jehoshaphat was about to take his army out to battle, he inquired of the Lord and was told to send the singers out ahead of the enemy. They were greatly outnumbered, yet they obeyed the Lord and sang praise to God. II Chronicles 20 says the singers went out singing, “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endureth forever.” And the Lord gave a miraculous victory. The enemy actually killed each other in mass confusion!
Yes, in light of who God is and because of His great love and goodness, we need to celebrate Thanksgiving every day in our hearts and “sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving and declare His works with rejoicing.”
Written by Marilyn Stevens. This article was published in the Fall 2017 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine. Marilyn lives in Maine with her husband.