Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

By Congressman Randy Forbes
November 27, 2013

There are some seasons when we feel immensely grateful, like when receiving a phone call from the doctor with news: “cancer free,” or hearing the announcement of new life. These blessings are obvious and big, and we feel overwhelmed with thanksgiving in these seasons. Then, there are some years where we are grateful for simple things, like having all the children home for the holidays or making a trip to visit an old friend. These are not glamorous things. Yet, they provide great joy in their simplicity.  And then there are other years where it takes a little more effort to find that for which we are grateful, especially in the face of job loss, the deterioration of a relationship, or the failing health of a parent.

On one of my drives from Chesapeake to Washington, D.C. for the DC work week, I found myself thinking of these seasons. Each of us has probably found ourselves in these times at one point or another. We encounter people every day – at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, at the carpool line at school – who are in varying seasons in their own lives. We, as a nation, find ourselves moving through seasons, too.

Right now, we are in a year where many Americans may feel that it takes a little more effort to express gratitude. There is a sense of frustration at the state of our politically divided government. People are too exhausted to turn on the news. Many are looking at smaller budgets for the holiday season.

In seasons where it is difficult to find gratitude, I find it helpful to look to the guiding words of others for inspiration. In 1789, George Washington issued a proclamation for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. He called for this day to acknowledge “with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

The nation he addressed through this proclamation, by all accounts, lived in a season of exhaustion. We like to think of our nation at that time as being celebratory ­– we had won independence from England and the Constitution had finally been signed. But the nation still felt the shadow of a war. Families were still learning to exist in a new environment, many without much money. Some were trying to establish businesses to provide for their households. Daily life was hard.

Yet, in the midst of that shadow, George Washington offered these charges, calling out very specific things for which our nation could be grateful:
- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence… in the course and conclusion of the late war --  for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness;- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;- the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;- and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath pleased to confer upon us.Today, I find George Washington’s proclamation encouraging. We have collectively lived through seasons of hardship, of shadows, of plenty, and of celebration. Through it all, we have remained united and free from tyranny.  We continue to see the peaceful transition of power. We still have the opportunity to rely on the powerful forces of freedom, courage, and sacrifice that determine the character and the course of our nation.

This week as a nation, we celebrate Thanksgiving. But more than a holiday, thanksgiving is a word of action. It is something we choose to do. No one forces us to find gratitude. It must come from within. America is remarkable for overcoming our challenges to make this nation stronger and better for future generations. We have been given abundant blessings, direct results of the sacrifices of those that have come before us. Our challenge is to continue to acknowledge that for which we are grateful, no matter the season we face.
 Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, click here.
Thanksgiving, 1863.
America was suffering through its single greatest division in its 80-plus year history.  Hundreds of thousands were dead; hundreds of thousands of Americans, both North and South, would die. 

President Abraham Lincoln, fresh from delivering his Gettysburg Address, reminded the nation that it would not be through force of arms that the Union would survive... but only through the healing of Almighty God.  Lincoln's 1863 proclamation reads as follows:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

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 unequaled 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 consiousness 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 one 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, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
It's easy to forget that in times such as these, when politics seems to replace religion, that our Founding Fathers gave us an inheritance that placed the success of our great nation in the hands -- not of the people necessarily -- but of God, both to guide us to prosperity, and to heal the wounds of a nation.
Lincoln understood and remembered this legacy from lights such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Even though force of arms would prevail, Lincoln knew that "unless the LORD builds the house, the laborer buildeth in vain."  (Psalm 127) 
Today's house may feel divided at times.  Only in the hands of God will such divisions ever heal.
by Rev. Louis P. Sheldon
The very first Americans
393 years ago a small band of religious pilgrims set sail from England to the New World to establish a better life. Upon arriving at Plymouth they founded a new settlement and agreed on how it would be governed. Their covenant began, “In the name of God, Amen.” Today, we know this agreement as the Mayflower Compact, and these pioneers as the Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims would have considered themselves among the earliest English settlers in the colonies — but in fact, they were some of the very first Americans.
These Pilgrims left their homes and came to this continent with nothing. They wanted to build a new life, to find freedom, and to participate in the great experiment of self-government.
Since 1620 this tremendous act of faith has been repeated by millions who have made their way to America to become part of this incredible experiment.
Today, we are blessed to live in this great country -- the freest and most prosperous nation on earth. We have so much to be thankful for!
This Thanksgiving, we hope you have an opportunity to enjoy the many pleasures of life in America with family and friends.
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!
Your Friends,
Newt and Callista


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