Try Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is now my favorite holiday. I enjoy Thanksgiving because I pig out on a lot of delicious food. That is why I was able to run an extra few miles during the Thanksgiving weekend. That way I can eat all I want and not feel guilty or gain weight. I also like the time Thanksgiving gives me with my family. Additionally, I enjoy watching three or four football games five days in a row. Furthermore, Thanksgiving lets me catch my breath before the end-of-the-year activities swing into motion. So now do you see now why I like Thanksgiving so much?

This Thanksgiving weekend I spent time reminiscing about some previous holiday experiences.

One Thanksgiving my mother’s house caught on fire. This is not to be confused with the fire of December 2005 that gutted her house. This fire was sometime around 1988 or 1989. The grandkids came running in the house yelling, “The house is on fire! The house is on fire!” Actually, the house was not on fire. The smoke billowing out the eave was due to the chimney overheating. Thank goodness the smoke alerted us, and the fire department arrived in time to “cool off the fire” without any damage to the house.

Another memorable Thanksgiving occurred when my sister-in-law, Martha Jo accidentally cut her hand with the carving knife. Mom had recently purchased a new set of carving knives. As we Whitley kids can do, we made a big deal out of the knives. Mom told us to be careful. We were not, and Martha Jo took a large piece of flesh out of her finger. My brother, Chuck, and I spent the evening in the emergency room with his wife. The rest of the family enjoyed the good food and fellowship without us. By the time we arrived back at mom’s house everyone was leaving.

Perhaps the most memorable Thanksgiving was the first one Vonda and I celebrated as parents. The year was 1989. Taylor was three months old, and I was in my first pastorate at South 28th Avenue Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, MS.

Instead of traveling home for the weekend we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on our own. (Make mental note—this was not a good idea for any young father, especially when your wife has just given birth to a newborn and is homesick for her family.)

The night before, I placed a turkey in the smoker. That was a good plan, I thought, until the next morning at 10 AM I discovered my fire was extinguished in the middle of the night. The turkey looked exactly the same as it did when I placed it on the grill the night before at 10 PM. Additionally, Vonda experimented with three new recipes on three basic staples—stuffing, sweet potato casserole and congealed salad. I was not going to say anything, but the dishes were horrible. Moreover, I had already manned up and was eating what she prepared. After her first bite of each dish she said, “This is disgusting!” I agreed and quickly dumped my food in the trash. To put it bluntly, that was a BAD, BAD Thanksgiving.

Thankfully, the next day her mom and dad were on their way to Hattiesburg to rescue the day. Vonda still blames me for that one. Her mom worked magic in our kitchen, while I stayed out of the way. By Friday afternoon we were enjoying our Thanksgiving meal. I still don’t think that turkey was fully cooked.

Three more thoughts about Thanksgiving popped into my head this morning. One thought centered on Scripture. When I think of Thanksgiving, I often think of these words from 1 Thessalonians:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

For the Christian, Thanksgiving is more than a holiday; it is a way of life.

Another reflection pertained to a Chinese Proverb, which says,

When you are drinking the water, don’t forget who dug the well.

Thanksgiving should remind us of those who made our life possible.

My third and final contemplation focused on a missionary story from China.

Henry Frost served for many years as a missionary to China. In his journal he wrote of a very difficult time in his life. He says, “I had received sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed BUT the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, BUT the darkness only deepened. Then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the mission home these words: ’TRY THANKSGIVING.’ I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return.

That story is a good word for us as this Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close: try thanksgiving!


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