Thanksgiving

happy-thanksgiving-3767426_1280.jpg

Today I share with you this story (http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/thanksgiving/short-stories/religious-thanksgiving.html):

Thanksgiving by Bruce Wright

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? I hear one boy say, “It means a big dinner.” I think we all agree with him. Who does not welcome and enjoy a good dinner! I hear Mary say, “Thanksgiving means a day off from school.” I guess you are right too. School is not such a charming place that girls and boys are unwilling to have an occasional holiday.

Now I am going to ask some of the older people what the day means to them. There is a young woman, a stenographer. She says, “Thanksgiving means a day away from the office. I’m at the office every day except Sunday, and I do appreciate, now and then, a day that’s really my own.”

Yonder is a traveling salesman. “What does Thanksgiving mean to you?” He says, “It means a day at home. Last year I spent one hundred and sixty-nine nights away from home. I have three children. I should like to see them every day. There are times when many days pass and I do not see them. Thanksgiving week I plan to be at home.”

There are others I could ask. Each has his or her answer. But Thanksgiving has a special meaning for us. It is the harvest time. I have here an apple. Isn’t this a beautiful apple? What color! Who mixed the paints, who handled the brush to give such color to this apple? God. He, in his infinite love and wisdom, has provided, through the unfailing laws of nature, for the growth, sweetness, coloring and beautifying of all the products of the fields. This apple is but one of many kinds of fruits.

Praise, then, is the great meaning of Thanksgiving. God, our heavenly Father, sends us every good gift. From his bountiful hand come our daily and nightly mercies. We should praise him every day. But the day for the united chorus of praise is Thanksgiving.

Psalm 150: 6: “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”

Hymn 892 (Lutheran Service Book):

Come, ye thankful people, come; raise the song of harvest home.
All be safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God, our maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come; raise the song of harvest home.

Terry and I pray for each of you a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

Super Blessed!

Usually at this time of year our thoughts are focused on people or things for whom or which we are thankful. Today I’m sharing with you what a foster child in Oklahoma listed when asked what she wanted in a family. Here are her answers:

Things I want in my family:

  • A clean safe house with running water and lights.
  • Mom and Dad who don’t fight or hit on me.
  • I want no drugs.
  • Don’t kill my pets.
  • Nice clean clothes and a coat.
  • No lice or bugs in the house.
  • A bed with covers.
  • Don’t sell my toys.
  • Treat me fair.
  • Don’t get drunk.
  • My own comb and soap and toothbrush.
  • I want love.

This little girl’s list touches my heart with the reminder that not everyone in our country and world experiences the blessings of God in the same measure with which my family, and most likely yours as well, have been blessed.

The mental picture of this little girl also moves me to reach out in love, care, and concern to folks who can only dream of having the necessities of life, not to mention the luxuries many of us often take for granted.

As you prepare to observe Thanksgiving Day, remember what I strive to recall every day: We have been abundantly blessed by our gracious God … for a reason … to be a blessing! That’s why when someone asks me how I’m doing, my reply is almost always: “Super blessed!”

Thanksgiving Day in 1863

thanksgiving-plymouth

In his presidential proclamation for Thanksgiving Day in 1863, President Lincoln had this to say:

The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. 

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict, while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Terry and I extend to you our love and best wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving observance in your life and in your family. I pray you will take at least a few minutes to honor the purpose for which this special national holiday special was initiated – giving thanks to the God who loves, guides, forgives, and blesses!

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving DinnerGifts for which I am thankful to God every day include life, love, faith, family, freedom, forgiveness, health, home, happiness, safety and security. A few other gifts are listed below. All these gifts are signs and symbols of the grace of God, for which I’m particularly thankful!

November 15 I was privileged to preach for a special anniversary celebration at Messiah Lutheran Church in Longmont, Colo. Former Rocky Mountain District President Roger Krause initiated the invitation. He and his wife Bernice are wonderful servants of the Lord!

While in Colorado I saw nephews J.W. and Doug. Doug and Diana are grandparents of the triplets born Christmas Day 2013. Christopher Logan went to heaven the day after he was born. Many of you have prayed nearly two years for Emma Grace and Anna Christine. Photos below.

Both are doing as well as can be expected. Emma has been declared legally blind, is still on oxygen much of the time but is not as dependent on the ventilator as in the past. She has a good appetite and smiles a lot. Anna is doing well, needs to gain some weight but otherwise is in relatively good health. Anna walks and runs independently. Emma walks and runs with the aid of her four wheeled walker, usually with a lengthy oxygen supply tube as her tether.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for these two miracles! They have come a long way since being born at one pound four ounces each! Praise the Lord for his marvelous grace!

November 8 Terry and I were in Nashville, Tenn. to honor the nine pastors who serve or belong to Our Savior Lutheran Church. Former Mid-South District President David Callies and his wife Nancy were special honorees! These pastors and their godly, patient, supportive spouses are a blessing! We also were blessed to see my niece Rachel and her beautiful family while in the area!

After nearly five years at Concordia University Texas, December 31 will be my last day as Presidential Ambassador for Mission Advancement. The very next day, January 1, 2016, I will begin a new adventure as Inheritance Legacy Consultant with the Lutheran Foundation of Texas.

Prior to election as president of the Texas District and then as LCMS president, I served LFOT as Executive Director. I’ve often said that when no longer involved in church leadership and ecclesiastical supervision I would love to get back in the planned giving saddle. While this move will fulfill that ancient aspiration, Concordia Texas will always have a special spot in my heart.

My new LFOT role will be to assist individuals and families in exercising their privilege as Christian stewards in a manner that makes it possible to create a financial legacy for family members and charities of their choice. Those choices may include local congregations and many other not-for-profit organizations like Concordia. I’m looking forward to this new opportunity for service and thank God for his gift of Christian vocation! A blessed Thanksgiving to you all!

Excellence in Leadership!

Tom CedelLast Friday night Terry and I joined over 500 of our nearest and dearest friends at the annual Concordia University Texas Excellence in Leadership Gala. Okay, not all in attendance were nearest and dearest friends. However, it was obvious that we all had much in common:

  • Attendees cared enough about Concordia University to spend a lot more than pocket change for a very nice dinner and more than a very nice contribution to benefit Concordia students.
  • All respected Dr. Tom Cedel, this year’s honoree, enough to offer three standing ovations and extended applause when he was introduced and at the end of his brief Christ-centered remarks.
  • We all joined in thanking Tom’s wife, Penny, who has worked faithfully at his side voluntarily representing Concordia locally and nationally as a cheerful ambassador of good will.

During Dr. Cedel’s 12 years as president of Concordia, the University has, among other things:

  • Moved from its 23-acre site in north central Austin to a 389-acre site near Lake Travis.
  • Doubled in enrollment. Ten times more students now graduate from Concordia each year.
  • Added several new undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  • Developed the Accelerated Degree program for part-time and adult returning students.
  • Formed partnerships with local school districts for teacher education programs.
  • Developed a nursing program that is one of the fastest growing in central Texas.
  • Achieved numerous academic and athletic milestones.
  • Grown in success in achieving its mission of Developing Christian Leaders.

Thanks to God for his healing hand through months of successful chemo and radiation treatment for Tom’s recent illness, discovered shortly after he announced his retirement last summer. Being chosen as honoree at the Excellence in Leadership Gala is an appropriate testimony to the gifts God has given Dr. Tom Cedel and the excellence with which he has used them to God’s glory!

Tom, Terry and I wish you and Penny the best, in the words of a toast learned from my father many years ago. I originally learned it in Spanish, but it’s spoken here in English: “May God bless you with his gifts of good health, much love, sufficient money and enough time to enjoy them all!”

150 Years of Blessings!

Zion WalburgThat was the theme of this past Sunday’s observation of the 50th ordination anniversaries of three retired or semi-retired men who are also active members of Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas. That’s the rural congregation of which Terry and I are active members. We’re blessed to have Rev. John Davenport as senior pastor, his wonderful wife Lynn at his side.

The three men and their wives are:

  • Bob and Jean Greene
  • Wilbern and Betty Michalk
  • Glenn and Sandra O’Shoney

These three men, accompanied and supported by their dear spouses, have served the Lord and his church faithfully in numerous capacities:

  • Bob Greene: parish pastor; President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South; Chairman, LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance
  • Wilbern Michalk: parish pastor; mission developer; numerous circuit and district roles and responsibilities
  • Glenn O’Shoney: parish pastor; mission developer; President, Texas District LCMS; Chairman, LCMS Council of Presidents; Executive Director, LCMS World Mission

All three are graduates of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Ill., now in Fort Wayne, Ind. Bob and Wilbern graduated in 1963, Glenn in 1962. As one can tell, their 50th anniversary celebration, clearly appreciated by all, was a bit tardy. Better late than never!

Festivities of the day included a sermon focused on:

  • Thanksgiving to God for his blessings in the lives of these six men and women;
  • Biblical qualifications for the office of overseer/pastor and the difficulty/impossibility faced by every pastor in endeavoring to fulfill them completely;
  • The calling of God for all men and women who have been reconciled to God through Christ to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world.

The services were followed by a congregational lunch, including a touch of humor in a round of “The Not-So-Newly-Wed Game.” The game allowed these couples to share with the crowd some basic information about their lives, backgrounds, marriage, children and ministry. It was a fun way to help the congregation learn about these wonderfully dedicated and committed couples!

The idea was initially suggested by my dear friend, Dr. Will Sohns. The Board of Elders did most of the planning. I just preached and presided at the NSNWG. Not surprisingly, my dear wife Terry expressed words of appreciation to Jean, Betty and Sandra, and presented each of them a long stemmed rose to match their husbands’ boutonnieres.

You may want to consider something similar for your pastor, including retired men who may not have actually served your congregation officially but are dedicated and committed members. The honorees will be appreciative, your congregation will be blessed and God will be praised!

Thank God for Good Friends

Thanksgiving 1On Thanksgiving Day it’s good to thank God for many blessings, including good friends. Here’s a story titled Two Horses, author unknown:

******************************************
Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it. From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse. But if you stop your car, or are walking by, you will notice something quite amazing!

Looking into the eyes of one horse will disclose that he is blind.  His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him. This alone is amazing.

If you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell. Looking around for the source of the sound, you will see that it comes from the smaller horse in the field. Attached to that horse’s halter is a small bell. It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.

As you stand and watch these two friends, you’ll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk to where the other horse is, trusting that he will not be led astray.

When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, it stops occasionally and looks back, making sure that the blind friend isn’t too far behind to hear the bell.

Like the owner of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we aren’t perfect or because we have problems or challenges. He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we’re in need.

Sometimes we’re the blind horse, being guided by the little ringing bell of those whom God places in our lives. Other times we’re the guide horse, helping others to find their way.

Good friends are like that. You may not always see them, but you know they’re always there.

******************************************************************************

This Thanksgiving Day I thank God for his love and forgiveness in Christ, for every member of my family and for the many good friends with whom I have been blessed! Perhaps you’ll take a few moments to do the same.