A Blessed Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

I love Norman Rockwell pictures. The classic Rockwell Thanksgiving picture is the one with a large family gathered around a table with an abundance of food. But I prefer this alternate depiction of Thanksgiving Day. It is of a man and a woman peeling potatoes together. The man is obviously home from war, judging by his uniform. As the woman gazes at the man, you can see the gratitude in her eyes. The one she loves is home again, and that is more important to her than anything else.


The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 10

1940s Howard and Adeline's house on Crofton St

Today is the day many people will be loading up their cars and making the trip to spend Thanksgiving Day with friends or relatives who are far away. In our family, they are driving in from three different directions, entailing a 7-hour drive, an 8-hour drive, and a 5-hour drive. Just so that we can be together to thank God for His blessings.

This is possible because of the invention of cars. I’ve never been terribly fond of driving (think crazy drivers, icy roads, traffic jams, etc). But it sure beats walking or riding a horse to your destination! The world has completely changed since the appearance of cars, and I for one am grateful for the gift of cars.


The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 9

2017-09-04 homemade chocolate chip pancakes

It’s something people all over the globe love – chocolate! Can you imagine a child’s birthday cake without it? Or chocolate chip cookies without the chips? Then there’s hot cocoa or coffee with chocolate-flavored creamer to warm you when it’s cold outside. You can even make it part of your breakfast, if you have either Cocoa Wheats cereal, or homemade pancakes with chips dropped into the batter.

While some would say this is a trivial thing to be thankful for, remember this:
There is nothing too small to thank God for. God is the Giver of gifts both great and small. So today I am grateful for a food that sweetens our lives and brings a smile to so many faces.

The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 8

Photo by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Yahoo News, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18974779

This morning, as I am reading the news, there are two stories about prison. The first is about Charles Manson, the man who orchestrated the brutal slaughter of seven Californians back in the 1960s. I think most people would agree that this was a rightful imprisonment, as he would likely have continued to kill (or have his followers kill) if he had not been stopped by imprisonment. Manson died yesterday of natural causes.

The second story was about the three U.S. basketball players that shoplifted from three different stores while they were in China. The young men were arrested, and were facing a possible ten year sentence in a foreign prison. President Trump spoke with President Xi Jinping, who intervened in the case. The basketball players were released from prison and allowed to go home.

I think we can all agree that incarcerating someone for ten years for petty theft is a punishment that does NOT fit the crime. But I was troubled by the nonchalance of the father of one of the young men. Here is a quote from the CNN article:

“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” he said. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses.”
source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/18/politics/lavar-ball-donald-trump/index.html

I read this and thought: What on earth is the matter with you, Mr. Ball?! “A big deal out of nothing?” Your son has just been spared ten years in a foreign prison (which I’m pretty sure would have been far worse than one of our prisons). He would have been too far away for you to even visit, and who knows if you would have been allowed to correspond by letter? Your son was a guest in another country, and he stole from his host. I know, I know, you don’t think it’s any big deal to steal, but the theft showed a total disrespect for a country that welcomed him in to play sports. To make it even worse, when your son was allowed to come home, you weren’t even really grateful to the Chinese president for sparing him the imprisonment. It seems that your disdain for President Trump and the country of China is more important to you than the fact that your son is FREE. You should be down on your knees, thanking God that you still have your son.

Today I am thankful to not be in prison. No, I have not committed a crime. But in many countries, my belief that Jesus Christ is the Savior would be enough to land me in prison for a long time. There are many people imprisoned for no reason other than they hold the “wrong” religious affiliation. In this season of thankfulness, I am very grateful to be living where I am living, in freedom.


The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 7

photo credit: https://www.mostministries.org/clean_water

This picture says it all. I am thankful to have clean drinking water. Yes, there are occasional news stories about a community with contaminated water, but at least they can buy bottled water to avoid getting dysentery, cholera, e coli, or parasites. Every time we drink a glass of water without wondering if it’s clean, it is a gift.

Dead End In Norvelt – by Jack Gantos (2011)

Dead End In Norvelt

What’s an eleven-year-old boy to do if he’s grounded for the entire summer? It’s tough being at home all day, especially with parents who are constantly spatting. Jack’s father hates the town of Norvelt and wants to move elsewhere. His mother is devoted to the senior citizens of the town, and cannot imagine living anywhere else. She grows corn, which she then sells to make money for her casseroles-to-the-elderly meals. When Jack’s father tells him to get out the tractor and mow down Mom’s corn field so that he can make a bomb shelter to hide from the “Commies” if needed, Mom goes ballistic. In her desperation to divert Jack to something other than helping build an underground bunker, she arranges for him to help one of their elderly neighbors, Miss Volker, for the summer.

Miss Volker is the town historian, and she faithfully writes the obituary of anyone in town who dies. But her hands are so crippled with arthritis that she needs a helper at home and a scribe. So Jack becomes her right-hand man. At first he is squeamish about death, but as the summer goes on, he comes to understand it as part of life. In the end, Jack becomes just as fanatical as Miss Volker in making sure that each of Norvelt’s citizens are given a glorious write-up in the newspaper upon their passing.

I love the 1960s flavor that oozes from this novel. The hysteria of the Russian threat. Women taking care of the elderly in the community. Kids being allowed to roam around town unsupervised. The small-town newspaper that everyone reads. The old folks who remember when Eleanor Roosevelt helped to start the town during the Great Depression. (Note: Mrs. Roosevelt did help to build the actual model town of Norvelt.)

The book is categorized as juvenile fiction, but it’s really not suitable for kids to read because of things we don’t want them to try doing. Like Jack driving around Miss Volker’s car with no driver’s license. Or Jack’s friend sneaking him into the local funeral parlor to see a dead person for the first time. Or kids buying rat poison at the hardware store and sprinkling it on top of cookies. Also, the theme of death and dying that permeates the book makes it more suited for teens and adults. Despite the seriousness, there is enough humor in this novel to make it a fine read.


The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 6


2015-01-04 bookshelf b

It’s something we take for granted – the ability to read. We use the gift of literacy to get a high school diploma then hopefully a college degree. We use it to communicate with co-workers every day¬† by e-mail. When we’re in need of a different car, we read safety reviews to help us in our decision. As our kids grow, we read up on how to raise them well. If our laptop starts malfunctioning, chances are we google the problem, and find solutions to get it working again. When the doctor gives us a diagnosis we don’t like, we research the condition online to get the full scope of the situation, and possible cures. And when we’re tired from a long day, some of us curl up with a good book and travel to the land of fiction.

Reading isn’t always a solitary experience. Some of my best memories from elementary school are when the teacher would read a book, a chapter each day (sometimes two if we begged enough). As a young adult, I and several friends read through books aloud in our apartment, taking turns reading. And in Bible study groups, we read from the Bible together.

Whatever your experience is with reading – whether you love it or struggle with it – it still is a gift to be grateful for.