"I write about the power of trying because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it."
"The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world."
Several years ago, I wrote this poem as a tribute to the Pilgrim settlers who came over to this country in search of religious freedom and helped to establish the nation we now call our own. William Bradford became one of the leaders in the Plymouth Colony and is often recognized for his instrumental influence on the spiritual and political growth of the Pilgrim colony in its early years. His book "Of Plymouth Plantation" gives the best known record of the early settlement and their struggle to survive and establish themselves in the new world. This poem is dedicated to him and his faithful service to God and to the Pilgrim colonists.
While humorous and slightly inaccurate historically, I thought this video worth sharing. The kids telling the Thanksgiving story was just too cute! On a serious note though, let us remember the hardships endured by the Pilgrims in order to establish a colony of religious liberty and Christian government. Our nation's history would have been much different otherwise.
In the midst of all of the Thanksgiving preparations and festivities, many people are unaware of the true reason the Pilgrims fled their native land and came to what they called "the new world." Afraid of the increasing oppression by the English king on their way of life and their beliefs, they were determined to locate to a place where they could worship God freely and raise their children to honor Him. While Holland was a temporary haven for them, certain influences of the country and its people caused the Pilgrims concern and so they risked everything and came to the American colonies, (their original destination was Virginia) hoping to establish a place of spiritual refuge for themselves and future generations. Of course, they never dreamt at the time that they would sow the seeds of a future nation on the shores of Massachusetts. But as history shows, that is exactly what happened. Soon after arriving in the "new world," they drafted up a document that spelled out the guidelines for their new colony. Most people are not even familiar with this document but it is one of the best examples of early American faith and liberty known to mankind. Here now for your perusing is The Mayflower Compact:
"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the faith, etc.
Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern part of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In which we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-forth, 1620."
Of special note for me personally, one of my ancestors actually came to the New world and settled in Plymouth a mere sixteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims and was able to partake in the freedoms already established in the new colony. We owe much to this hearty band of brave souls who feared God enough to undertake such an task for the greater good of themselves and subsequent generations.
* The term "dread sovereign" referred to in the document was an old term for expressing awe and reverence for the king as God's earthly magistrate and ruler.
When most of us count our blessings, we think in generalities: family, faith, friends, etc. For many years this was what I thought of as giving thanks. But then I read Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, and my life was changed. I realized that there were so many other little ways in which God demonstrates His love. There are miracles happening every day - what I call "Grace moments" - those few seconds of awe when the world stops whirling and God becomes just a little closer. Thanks-giving became a way of life to me when I began looking for such minutes of wonder. Every day started to hold some element of purpose, some aspect of joy, some touch of love from God. Because the blessings are everywhere. We just have to open our eyes. We have to stop fighting and stop rushing and just listen. Watch. Wait. And wonder.
As we pause this season to express our gratitude to God for all the ways in which He gives throughout the year, I am going further than usual. I am listing the little things. No generalities. Because He isn't a God of generalities. He is God of details. Of intricate specifics that make up the beautiful whole of Him and the world He has made. So here goes my list:
I am thankful for…
…the time this last Spring when my friend Asa called me up, having no idea that I'd had the worst week possible, just to tell me how much he appreciated me - and to pray with me for peace and grace.
…for how 26 college baseball athletes made me laugh this summer and accepted me as one of them.
…for the Grace moment when a friend and I sang the National Anthem unplanned with an Army veteran on top of a mountain in Alaska - and an eagle soared past us.
…for the shared cup of tea with a dear friend after not seeing each other in two years.
…for the moment when I was told that three new friends of mine had joined God's family.
…for the long-awaited meeting with a once suicidal veteran that I had worked with over the phone for six years and never met in person. Three Grace-filled days of watching God bless and work.
…for the moment when someone sent to me the link to tenor Daniel Craig's rendition of "It is Well." God stepped down and spoke life.
…for the unexpected gift of friendship that a college athlete named Michael extended to me. One conversation on a set of bleachers in Alaska changed my life.
…for the peacefulness of hiking in the majestic mountains of Hatcher Pass and feeling God renew my soul.
…for two childhood friends re-entering my life this year.
…for a long-time friend finding love after many years of waiting and seeing her marry one of my good friends!
…for the moment when a friend let me into the dark chapters of his past - and God's grace restored the broken places. Transparency is beautiful.
…for the assurance of knowing that God's light is forever out-shining my darkness!
…for the humbling feeling of undeserved favor with God and others.
…for prayer becoming a powerful force in my life.
…for the opportunity to reach out to another person and offer hope - simply because I was open to God.
…for the little resident squirrel at my house who (quite selfishly) begs for a peanut hand-out on the windowsill and yet brings so much pleasure.
…for the orange sunset that reminded me of the Master Artist and the One who calls me His own.
The list could go on and on…
So tell me: will you join me in going further?? I would love to hear what some of your thousand little gifts are…
Enter in the season of thanks-giving. So we think. The harvest themed decorations come piling out. We pause and are grateful. But what about the rest of the time? Why only one day to count our many blessings? I think of all of the people who will gather across the nation and celebrate the upcoming day with food and festivities. But is anyone actually living in a constant state of joy-inducing gratitude? Is this a daily practice for us?
Sometime ago, I made the choice to begin searching, keeping my eyes open to the many ways in which He shows His love. I found myself amazed that the simple act of looking for His demonstrations of grace could result in so much happiness. That I could discover Him hidden in the small things…the things which point to a redemptive hope and a God too good to fail me.
The giving of thanks became a lifestyle. The counting of blessings became a daily habit. A need actually. Because I see now that when I forget and cease to praise, when I turn away and stop looking, self gets in the way. I lose sight of Him. I begin to feel the darkness close in. Confusion and chaos rule the heart. The lifeline is keeping the gaze heaven-ward. The soul was made for One and One only. We were created with the capacity to know and understand Him. And why should I…how can I…forget such a blessed truth?!
He deserves my thanks. I need to offer up my praise. Because He is glorified and I am released from self when I do so. Making gratitude my attitude aligns me with Him. Makes me see this as His world and me as simply as small humble partaker of it. Every gift that I have in this life is only on loan to me from above. Every breath that I take, every moment in my life-story, is an opportunity to return the love. To lay down my own will and accept the beauty of His.
So why not enter in the season of thanks-giving every day? Why simply stop when the turkey has come out of the oven and the meal has been eaten and the football games are over? Why stop there? Why not continue? Why not keep searching? Why not keep pursuing the journey of grace and in so doing, discover the thousand little ways that He speaks His hope to my heart?!
From the bottom of my heart: thank you to all veterans who have served this country and sacrificed to preserve our way of life and our national peace. We owe more to you than we'll ever understand. You carry with you the marks of service and war - something that only a special few will every know or grasp. As a citizen and a proud American, I want to tell you that your actions do not go unnoticed. Today may you receive even a small portion of the gratitude which you are so rightfully due.
In honor of the United States Marine Corps' 240th birthday, I want to post the following poem I wrote several years ago. As the granddaughter of a US Marine and also someone who has been honored to call several Marines my friends, I dedicate this to all those who have put on the uniform and earned this prestigious title. It is the story of a little boy who aspires to join the Marines one day in honor of his Marine dad who was killed in the line of duty. May God bless the Corps and all those are part of its long and storied history!
Can you really say, oh soul, that all is well today? That all is well no matter what happens? Because of Him. There is peace because He takes the stress, He takes the pain, and shoulders it on Himself. He calls you to rest. To stop fighting…and to breathe. To live fully. So slow down the rushing. Look up and believe. Trust and know that He is. Today and every day…it is well.
*This CD should be available within the next month or so. I will let you know when it releases.