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Why We Celebrate Advent


Did you ever hear the story about the new bride who went to cook a potroast? As she placed the meat into the roasting pan, she cut the end off of one side.  “Why do I do that?” she wondered. “I don’t understand.”  So she called her mother.  “Mom, why do we cut the end off the potroast?”

Her mother thought for a moment.  “I don’t know,” she replied. “I have just always done it that way. My mom did it too. Call grandma and ask her.”

So the new bride called her grandmother.  “Grandma, why do we cut the end off the potroast?” The answer was a moment of silence, broken by a small giggle.  “You’re still doing that?” the grandmother asked.

“Yes, I was making a potroast, and I wondered why we cut the end off of it.  Mom did it, and that’s how she taught me to do it.  Do you know why?”

The grandmother’s giggle had become a chuckle. “My pan was too small, and we couldn’t afford a larger one.  So, I cut the end off the roast to make it fit.”

Sometimes in the midst of years of liturgy, the original intent behind certain traditional practices can be lost.  When that happens, all that remains is an empty practice.  When this happens, valuable history and lessons learned can be lost forever.  By the same token, when we do something without realizing why — our actions have no meaning except to just repetitively copy what has “always been done,” without enjoyment or meaning. In fact, we can attach wrong meanings and symbolisms to events just because we are wrongly taught.

 Over the next few days, I want to try to post the results of some of my research of the history of the Christmas Season…. I have already posted some of these on my facebook site, but will try to enlarge them in this space, as time allows.

Many times, in the midst of the stresses of the Holiday (or holy day) Season, we can allow ourselves to become “squeezed.”  In so doing, we forget to teach our children the why’s of what we do — passing the baton of honoring the past; lessons learned; joys rekindled — After all, the purpose of celebrating; any celebrating; is to call to mind something we are giving thanks for.  For instance, when God instructed His people to remember Feast Days, it was for the purpose of teaching the present generation the lessonslearned by their elders. In saying this, let me include here that our celebrations of Advent, and Christmas, and any holiday, are to provide a learning environment for the next generation….. We hear it all the time, “Christmas is about the kids.”  Even in our remembrances of those who have less than we do this Season, we consider the children of families, and what they need or want this time of year…. Without those shiny eyes of wonder, many of us just stop celebrating — “It’s too much work,” we say.

Advent, which means “Waiting,” was originally designed by church leaders to help followers of Jesus Christ prepare their hearts for the coming of a New Beginning (otherwise known as the New Year).  In the earliest days, it was a time of prayer and fasting, which began on November 11th, on the Feast of St. Andrew.   Advent is traditionally the season when the church begins celebrating the manifestation of the Only Living God come to earth in human form.  Even today, in the most Orthodox of churches, the follower of Christ is asked to assess the state of their living practices and their heart in light of the Return of Christ.  As a New Year approached, believers asked themselves:  What healing and cleansing was needed to enable a more intimate spiritual experience with Christ as they moved into the New Year?  In the Middle Ages, families would enact a play depicting the choice of Adam and Eve in Eden to sin; which ended with the prophecy of a coming Savior who would rescue the world form the inevitable death their choice had ushered into the planet.

Many statements have been made about whether December is the actual month when Jesus was born.  Some historians believe Jesus was born in the spring in Israel — However, the temple flocks were moved to Bethlehem in the fall of the year, and these were the sheep tended by shepherds at night; lambs being raised for sacrifice.  Records indicate that Caesar Augustus mandated the census to be taken in late October.. so those who oppose the holiday are correct…. The problem however, is that many who hold this opinion have ceased to celebrate the coming of Christ at all.  Christmas is about the Incarnation – it doesn’t realy matter WHEN we celebrate.. the point of what we pass on to the next generation is THAT the Incarnation is WORTH CELEBRATING!

For example, this is the only time of the year when I can walk into a grocery store and hear the name of Jesus sung over the airwaves. Even in environments who are “politically correct” the rest of the year, we hear lyrics from traditional carols — “Glory to the newborn King,” “Christ the everlasting Lord,” “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,”  just to name a few lines we all know and recognize. 

As we approach the actual Christmas Day, let me challenge you to consider what your children are learning about Jesus this time of year — everywhere we look, there are opportunities to share the gospel…. How will you be “Jesus with skin on” to those around you during these weeks and days?

 More to come. Blessings!

(c)2011 dcg/atg.  Duplication without permission prohibited.  Thank you for your integrity.

Happy Resurrection!


           Today’s post is a second excerpt from my historical account of the life of Mary Magdalene, entitled “Journey: a novel”.  The book recounts the lives of Mary Magdalene, Simon the Pharisee and many of Jesus’ disciples, and has received some exciting reviews …..  It is the result of over 8 years of research and a trip to Israel. If you would like to read it, it is available on Amazon.com.

This morning’s post is my feeble attempt to begin to explain what the power of the resurrection of Jesus means in my own life. ….

           Three days later, just before sunrise, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, made their way to Joseph’s garden tomb. “Surely they will let us anoint his body,” they told each other. “What should we do if no one is there? Who will break the seal and move the stone?”

            As they neared the path leading to Joseph’s garden, both women were unexpectedly knocked to their feet. The ground was shaking again, this time with more force and power than either of them had ever seen. Below them, the earth roared, thundering.

            Was the world coming to an end?

            Just beyond where they were on the path, a flash of lightning lit up the sky.

            “Did you see that?” Mary asked Magdalene.

            “Yes.” She answered. “Where did it come from?”

            “I wondered that too. It didn’t come from the sky.”

            Both women broke into a run. As they entered the clearing in front of Joseph’s tomb, they stopped in astonishment.

            The great flat stone, some six feet in diameter, had been rolled away from the door. Who had broken the mortar seal?

            Around them, on the ground, looking as though they were dead, were five Roman soldiers. 

            However unusual, these were not the things that drew their attention.

            Sitting on top of the stone, to the right of the open doorway, was a young man. He was clothed in a blazing, white garment. He shone with a piercingly bright light. It emanated from him and enveloped him. It moved as he moved.

            And yet, they observed, he was real.

            The young man looked at them, as though they had been expected. He smiled. “He is not here,” he announced. “He is risen — just like he said.”

            “What did you say?” the older Mary asked him.

            “Come and see.” The young man indicated the open doorway to the tomb. “Go in, and see the place where he was laid.”

            Not exactly sure what they should do next, the two women looked at each other. They would have to pass this glowing figure in order to go through the door.

            The older Mary took the lead. Taking Magdalene’s hand she led them through the doorway. Was it authentic? Magdalene watched the young man, to see what he would do.

            He seemed to be enjoying himself.

            He watched them as they passed. He smiled at them.

            Entering the grave, the two women were greeted by two more young men in glowing white garments. Both were sitting on the bench where Jesus’ body had been placed the day after the feast.

            Was it brighter in here, the older Mary wondered? Where was the Light coming from?

            Who were these men, Magdalene questioned? They carried the same Light and Substance with them she had encountered the night of her deliverance.

            Were these angels, then?

            She couldn’t stand up in this atmosphere, she realized. She fell to her knees. So did the other Mary.

            The angel sitting on the head-plate spoke, looking directly at Magdalene. “He is not here,” he said clearly. “He has risen. Look here. This is the place where he was.”

             The second angel, sitting at the foot-plate, looked at the older Mary and smiled. “Go and tell the learners — and Peter — He is going before you to Galilee,” he said.

            What? The women looked at each other, and walked out of the tomb. Upon their exit, they were greeted by Salome, Elsbeth, Joanna, Abigail and Hadassah. Each woman was carrying a bag of myrrh and spices.

            “Good morning!” Hadassah said.

            “What are you doing here?” Magdalene asked.

            “We came to anoint the body. We’ve decided we will unwrap him if we have to,” Salome spoke.

            “It’s not here.” The older Mary spoke with a new conviction.

            “What’s not here?” Salome asked.

            “The body; it’s not here.” Mary looked at them as she repeated her words.

            “Did you see the angel?” Magdalene asked. “He was sitting right here.”

            “No, we didn’t see an angel.” Joanna looked at her strangely. “But we did see the soldiers running down the road as we were coming. One of them said something about going to make a report.”

            “To Pilate?”

            “I don’t think so. They said something about giving account to Caiaphas.” Abigail answered.

            “I think one of them was in Commander Flavius’ regiment,” Elsbeth offered. “I remembered seeing him before.”

            The older Mary looked at Salome. “The angel said we should tell the disciples the Master is alive, and will be waiting for us in Galilee.”

            Salome’s face broke into a smile. “Are you sure?” she asked.

            Mary glanced back toward the open door. “Pretty sure!” she answered.

            The group of women left together, talking and sharing. It would be wonderful to share the news with John, and James, and Andrew…. They couldn’t wait to see their faces.

            But Mary Magdalene couldn’t find the strength to leave the garden area. Old emotions began to surface.

            If he wasn’t here, where was he?

            She looked back through the tomb door.

            Yes, the two angels were still sitting there. She just wanted to be sure.

Her thoughts began to race. Her eyes filled with tears. The pent up fears of the past few days began to rise in a torrent of emotion.

            She began to weep; the sense of abandonment overwhelming her once again. What would she do – without Him?

             “Why are you weeping?” The angel at the head plate asked, his voice coming through the open doorway.

            “Because they have taken my Master away; I don’t know where he is,” she answered. How would she learn to live her life, she wondered? Who would teach her the things she was still missing? Who could she ask?

            Would anyone else understand her heart?

            Perhaps she just needed to find a place to have a good cry, she thought. Looking down, she turned, and almost ran into someone.

            Oh, she thought. The gardeners are here to tend the grounds. I will have to go somewhere else to be alone.

            “Why are you weeping?” the gardener asked.

            There it was; the same question. Magdalene decided to get some answers. There had to be an answer. She would find strength somewhere inside herself to handle this. She took a deep breath

            “Sir,” she said. “You are the gardener. If you have taken his body somewhere, please tell me where it is….” Her voice broke, and she began to weep harder. Sobs were beginning now. She had to get the words out. “I …. will…come and take… his… body… away.”

            There was a short stretch of silence. She didn’t know what else to say.

            Where could they have laid the body?

            The Gardener spoke, gently; kindly, quietly.

            “Mary!”

            From the deep caverns of her soul, her being resonated with response. This was the Voice that shattered her chains in the storeroom. This was the Voice that called her brother back from beyond the grave. This was the Voice that had shaped her identity since the night of her deliverance.

            This was the Voice of her God.

            She fell to her knees, and took hold of his feet in worship, weeping. “Oh, Master!” she cried with relief. “Jesus!”

            He knelt down and lifted her to her feet. “I haven’t ascended to the Mercy Seat, Mary. Don’t cling to me yet.” He paused. “Go and tell my friends that I am ascending — to my Father; and your Father — to my God; and your God.”

            She stood up. Looking at him she realized he was shining. It was the same light she had seen surrounding the angels; but it was brighter, stronger, somehow. She took a deep breath, and smiled at him.

            “I will, Master,” she replied, her heart suddenly light. She turned to go, and then excitedly took a step to return to him. Thinking better of it, she turned again to go the other direction, returning to her task, remembering his words.  For a moment, she looked back at him. He was watching her and chuckling. Yes, it was Jesus.

            She ran from the tomb. Was this a song she was humming? She didn’t know. She had never been so full of joy. He had kept his promise.

            I will not leave you alone. I will come to you.

            Perhaps she could still catch up with the others.

            A few moments passed.

            The older Mary, Salome, and the others, were still moving towards the city. In actuality, they were not too far ahead of her. Coming off the pathway which led to Joseph’s family home, the group turned onto the main road.              Suddenly, a man stood six feet in front of them.

            “Good morning, friends!” he called in greeting.

            Stunned, the women looked up. No one had seen him walking down the road…. Where had he come from?

            “It – it’s Jesus!

            The older Mary stood in shock for a moment. Then, all at once, she ran to him, and dropped to her knees, grasping his feet. Was he real? Was it really true?

            The other women gathered around him as well; Salome and Joanna, Hadassah and Abigail. Elsbeth just stood weeping. Each one found themselves wanting to confirm what their eyes told them. They too, touched him, hugged him.

            As the discovery of reality became clear, a sense of fear emerged. The desire to be separated from such power; somehow given a “safe distance,” whispered to them.

            “Don’t be afraid!” Jesus looked clearly at Salome and those standing back, beginning to just observe.

             “It’s all right! Come closer!” he said. “Go and tell my friends I will meet them in Galilee.”

            The women had run elatedly to deliver the message.

            At first, it had not been well received.

            At first, the men had not believed them. “Silly women!” a few said. “Magdalene has always been too emotional!”

            But then, Simon Peter and John decided to confirm the story. John had gone into the tomb first. He was convinced, and had told them all so.

            Poor Simon, Mary considered. He had been sure it couldn’t be true: even when his wife told him her experience!

            Then, he had looked into the tomb’s doorway and seen the wrappings neatly folded. The handkerchief Nicodemus had placed over Jesus’ face that night was over to the side, as though he had wiped his face before getting up. In disbelief, Simon Peter had gathered the linen wrappings to his chest.

            He had wept, full of remorse, for hours.

            He still wept easily, and often.

            No one knew when, or where, but the Master found Simon Peter at some point during that first day. She could only envision the conversation which had taken place between them.

            Peter didn’t talk much about what Jesus had said to him, but just the mention of it in conversation always brought him to tears.

            The fisherman had been different since then too, she considered.

            He was gentler, less impulsive; certainly less forceful in his opinions.

            Elsbeth had confided that changes had taken place at home as well……

…. To read the rest of the story, look for “Journey” to be available later this spring, released through Advantage Books.

(c)2010 DG — Awakened to Grow — Duplication without permission prohibited.     

            After that, Jesus had appeared to so many.

Happy Easter!!


Good morning all — since today is Easter Sunday, I wanted tore- post an excerpt from ny book,  “Journey: a Novel,”now available on Amazon.com. The book is an account of the life of Mary Magdalene.  It is the result of 8 years of research and a trip to Israel.  This excerpt is from Chapter sixteen, entitled, “New Wine.”     It is a peek into what the day of the Crucifixion might have been like for people who were there to experience it.   —

               It was sunset before Antonio Longinus returned to his quarters in the Fortress. Justus Flavius had been off-duty for several hours.

               Taking off his sword, and his shoes, Antonius sat down across from him. “It was quite a day today,” he said.

               Justus did not look up. “Yes, quite a day,” he answered quietly.

               “Your man Atticus was a real help today, Flavius. I appreciated him getting that foreigner to carry the Galilean’s cross. Your men did well. I am going to include a commendation in my report to Rome.”

               “Thank you,” Justus answered, still quiet.

               Longinus sat down by him. “What’s wrong, man? Have you not eaten? Did you get bad news?”

               Justus lifted his head. “One of my best friends died today,” he said.

               Longinus nodded. “I understand. I’m sorry. Did he die here in Jerusalem or back home?”

               “Here,” Justus answered, looking down again at the floor.

               “Oh,” Longinus walked across the room and took two wooden goblets. He filled them with wine. Looking through the provisions on his table, he pulled out loaf of bread. He tore the loaf in two, and began preparing two plates of food. “Come and sit with me, at least. You’ll feel better if you eat something.”

               Unfeeling, Justus rose and came to the table. He sat down across from Longinus, who began to speak.

               “In all my years, I’ve never seen an execution quite like the one we saw today. I’ve never seen that many people, or that much blood. And, until today, I thought it was against the law to scourge and crucify a man. I thought the rulers were supposed to choose.”

               Justus looked at him. “It still is against the law.”

               Longinus took a drink of his wine. “You know, that one man; the one in the middle; what was his name?

               “Jesus.” As Justus spoke, his voice broke.

               “Oh,” said Longinus, tearing a piece of bread. “Was he your friend?” 

               The Capernaum commander nodded. “He was a Healer. He healed my servant. He raised my friend’s daughter from the dead. He healed several lepers that I know. He….”

               Longinus interrupted him. “He raised someone from the dead?”

               Justus nodded.

               “I knew there was something about him. You should have heard the things he said from the cross. He gave out forgiveness. He asked a man to take care of his mother. It was like he was looking out for people.” He paused. There was one thing he said I didn’t understand; garbled, you know….Then he said, ‘it is finished,’ like he had completed some sort of job or something.” The centurion paused to take bite of his food.

               “Anyway, usually I have to break a man’s legs so the lungs collapse. That way they die before sunset, and the birds don’t get to them. Some of the men don’t do it that way, but I hate going back the next day and seeing places where the vultures have had their fill.”

               Justus shuddered. Longinus continued, his mouth full of food. “This man was already dead when I went to check him. Just before, he had said, “I’m giving my spirit into your hands.” I thought he was talking to one of his group that stood there all day. But just after he said it, he let out a long yell.”

               “I wanted to be certain he was dead, so I took my spear, and opened up his side. It’s important to be sure the lungs have really stopped working, you know. It’s more merciful, really. I wouldn’t want to be buried alive, would you?”

               He swallowed his mouthful.

               “Anyway, I told my captain ‘this man must be the son of God!’ When the spear hit the lungs, a fountain of blood and water came rushing out of him. It went everywhere.”

               “Is that unusual?” Justus asked

               “It’s never happened before; at least not to me.” He paused. “I left my men there to finish the burial detail.”

               A knock sounded on the door. Justus rose to answer it. “Go ahead and eat, Antonio,” he said. “I’ll get it.”

               When he opened the door, Justus was greeted by young messenger, dressed in the regalia of Pilate’s court. “Commander?” the messenger said.

               “Yes,” Justus answered, not remembering the message would be for Longinus. He took out his hand and took the sealed scroll.

               The young man put his fist to his chest and saluted, then walked away. Closing the door, Justus looked at Antonio. “It’s a message from Pilate, I think,” he said.

               “Go ahead and read it,” came the reply. “Are you going to eat your meat?”

               “No, I’m not really hungry.”

               Longinus moved Justus’ plate in front of himself, and continued eating. Justus opened the message and read.

               “We have both been summoned to come to Pilate’s palace.”

               “Why?”

               “It doesn’t say.”

               “Let’s go then. Let me just clean up a little.”

               When they arrived in Pilate’s court, the two officers were ushered immediately to the throne room. Pilate looked up from the scroll he was reading. He rolled it up and gave it to the scribe who stood by him.

               “Yes, that is what I wanted to say. Make sure you include the extra details I told you.”

               “Yes, sire,” the scribe responded.

               Pontius Pilate looked at the men before him. “So, Longinus, I’m sorry to call for you. I know you’ve had a long day.” He looked at Justus. “Who is this?”

               “My name is Justus Flavius, sire. I serve Rome in Capernaum. My men and I were summoned as support for the Passover detail.”

               “This has been a nasty business,” Pilate commented. “At least it will be over tomorrow.” He looked around the room, and raised his hand to indicate a man in priest’s robes standing just to the left side of the bema, or judgment seat where he sat.

               “Longinus, this is Joseph of Arimathea. He is a wealthy man; well respected in the city. He has asked for the body of Jesus, the Nazarene. He wants to take care of the burial requirements for us. He will need help getting the body down.”

               Longinus and Flavius looked at Joseph. “We will see to it, my lord,” Antonio answered.

               “There’s more,” Pilate said. “I also called you here because we have a small complication. Caiaphas has yet again managed to put a fly in my ointment. He has ‘requested’ that we set a watch on the tomb for three days. It seems this man said he was going to rise from the dead or some such nonsense. I want you to seal the tomb and set a watch. Rotate the men if you have to. I know they are all tired after the week.” He paused, thinking.

               “That’s all,” the Prefect finished. “You can go.”

               As Justus and Antonio turned to go, they heard him speak to his assistant. “I asked you for water and a towel.”

               “I brought them to you, sire,” the assistant responded.

               “I know. I used those. They are soiled now. I need another basin of water,” Pilate commanded.  “I need to scrub my hands again.”

               “Yes, sire. I will do whatever you say. But if you keep washing your hands, you will rub them even rawer than they already are.”

               “Don’t presume to tell me what to do, man!” the Prefect angrily replied. “Who are you to tell me if my hands are clean or unclean? I have to get this blood off of them!”

            Outside the palace, the three were met by another priest. He was waiting in a wagon. “What did he say, Joseph?” Nicodemus asked.

            “He gave me the body,” Joseph answered. “But these gentlemen have been asked to seal the tomb and guard it.”

            “I have myrrh and aloes to anoint his wounds and prepare him for burial, here in the wagon,” Nicodemus told him.

            “It will take a huge amount,” Joseph said, with a sad sigh. “How much did you bring?”

            “About a hundred pounds,” came the reply.

            “That might be enough,” Joseph answered. “We had better hurry. Nightfall is coming.”

(C) 2010 DG- AwakenedtoGrow. Duplication without permission prohibited.


Did you know?

 The busiest time of the year for counseling offices and psychiatric hospitals in the United States begins December 1 and continues through the middle of January each year.

 Why?

In the deepest part of us, we each have hopes and expectations, some life-changing, which are linked to this season of the year. It is the time of year when we are most vulnerable, and when disappointments we have experienced in our lives usually surface. 

The Holiday Season is the time of year when every adult becomes a child-at-heart, and when every child hopes for their wishes to come true.

So How Can I Experience Truly “Happy Holidays?”

 Determine beforehand (now!) how you will respond in given situations.  Listed on this page are a few common “Joy-Robbers” that can sabotage life’s meaning and fulfillment during the Holidays.

Stress                        

 Simply put, stress is Fear telling us that we can’t possibly do enough to gain the approval we feel we need…

Settle it now – it’s impossible to get everything done.  Let yourself off the hook.

Decide what you can reasonably accomplish, and then don’t push yourself to do more. Relax.

Make appointments during the Holiday to enjoy the time with your family. Let yourself have fun.

Conflict                  

Conflict happens because we don’t think about what our actions and attitudes are doing to those we  love.

Choose to refrain from having conflict during the holiday; this is not the time to settle deep issues, or  discuss areas of pain and                  disappointment.  Journal the things that you want to work through with your family – AFTER CHRISTMAS

Illness                     

The Holidays are no fun when you don’t feel good. Don’t push yourself.

Pushing yourself and your body past your limits decreases your ability to fight infection, and lowers your immunities—so slow down your pace. 

Make sure you get enough rest; research indicates we each need 9 hours of sleep each night to be healthy.

We each need 5 hugs a day to maintain emotional health.  Stay close to your friends and family. Studies show that a healthy community increases well-being and healthy living.

Wash your hands at least 3 times a day; – after restroom breaks, before eating, after contact with others.  Try to keep your hands away from your face.  Antibacterial cleansers are a great help. (Purel, GermX etc.)

Set your focus to search out and find the good things in the season. Look for the good in your family too. Try to focus on, and give thanks for those things.

 Financial Demands

 Determine beforehand how much you plan to spend on each person on your list, and don’t violate the amount you set.

 Plan at least one meal out for yourself (and your spouse) during the season.

 If you haven’t done so in the past, consider putting aside monies specifically for Christmas usage beginning in January.  Save throughout the year for the season, so that you are not pressured when it arrives next year.

Remember, the Holidays are about relationship; enjoy your family, and the gift of God’s Grace; don’t strive. Consider:  What homemade gifts could you give – without using a credit card?

 Depression          

Statistically, the busiest season of the year for psychiatric wards and hospitals is the Christmas and Holiday season. Most attribute this to the fact that creating the “perfect” family image tends to compete for our time during these weeks, conflicting with the realities we all experience. If this is true for you, take some time for solitude and spend it in prayer and meditation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you things you can give thanks for, in every circumstance you find yourself depressed over. (You would not be the person you are today without those circumstances.) Then, find someone who is in a worse situation than you are. Determine to bless them during this season. Many people have literally “served their way out of depression” by serving someone else in need. If you need counseling, or a friend to talk to, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Let someone else into your life….

on thanksgiving


The first Thanksgiving celebration held in America occurred in 1619. On December fourth of that year, thirty-eight English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. Part of their original charter stated that they would set aside that day every year and observe it as a day of Thanksgiving. But the next year, 1620, those first settlers in the Americas  forgot to celebrate. Within a few years, it is believed they were absorbed into the Native American tribes around them for survival.

Also in 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. The following year, 1621, Plymouth, Massachusetts, saw the most famous Thanksgiving celebration; the one we commemorate these days.  During their first winter in the “New World,” nearly half of those who came to this country on the Mayflower died. In compassion for these settlers, the peaceful Massasoit Indian tribes in the Plymouth area, not only brought food during the winter, but also offered help and instruction when it came time to plant spring crops. As a result of the native Americans and the settlers working together, a bountiful harvest was enjoyed by those in the Plymouth settlement.  To celebrate, the Pilgrims decided to hold a feast for celebration and thanksgiving. This ‘festival’, which lasted three days, included the participation of nearly one hundred Native Americans. Governor William Bradford invited the natives to show them appreciation, for helping his colony survive through the harsh weather conditions.

The next ‘thanksgiving’ celebration did not occur until 1623. That year, the Pilgrims were once again subjected to a great natural hardship, a drought. In the hope of bringing much needed rain, they gathered together in a prayer service, to “seek the face of the Almighty for rain.”  In answer to their prayers, within twelve hours, mercy drops from formerly non-existent clouds began to fall.  The rain was a gentle and steady one, continuing for several days. When it became apparent that the crops (and the colonists) would survive, Governor Bradford declared that the Plymouth settlement would hold another day of thanksgiving.  He once again invited their friends, the “Indians.” 

As other settlers joined the Plymouth pilgrims, it is noted in historical documents that other thanksgiving celebrations were held, each independently of the other.  

In 1668 the Plymouth General Court declared November 25th to be Thanksgiving Day.  The concept didn’t appear to be a national celebration, until 1777,  when the first national celebration of Thanksgiving occurred as a way to celebrate the American defeat of the British at Saratoga.

Two years later, saw the United States as a fledgling nation, with a president and governing body, known as Congress. It was 1789, and the country’s first president, George Washington, made his very first Presidential proclamation.  He declared Thanksgiving to be a national event, to be celebrated on November 26 each year.  This custom was followed until the next president,  a federalist named Thomas Jefferson, did away with the holiday.  “We do not need a national holiday to recognize God as the Source of all Blessings,” he said.

For the following sixty years, our nation had no official day to recognize blessings and give thanks to God.  It is interesting to note that during that time, our country became deeply enmeshed in the slave trade, and a civil war broke out between the northern and southern states… in the absence of giving thanks…..

Then, in the midst of the Civil War, in 1863, a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale expressed her concern to the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln; requesting the nation needed to set aside a day to “give thanks unto Him from whom all blessings flow.”  On October 3 of that year, President Lincoln set the day as a national holiday to be celebrated each year.

Interestingly enough, the Confederate armies had been victorious in the civil war until that point.  In fact, the final confederate victory in the war was seen in the Battle of Chickamauga Creek in Tennessee. In mid-October of 1863, that began to change. By the end of November of 1863, generals Grant and Sherman had seen a victory at Chattanooga, and were moving towards Atlanta.

Slavery was on its way out. 

Did the shift in the war’s direction have something to do with the Thanksgiving proclamation?  Many in that day believed so.  Lincoln’s decision was seen as an invitation to “allow God into the affairs of men.”    

The day was loosely considered a national day of remembrance, until 1941 — when Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November each year to be a national and legal holiday…. interestingly enough, the same year we began to fight once again for our very survival as a nation.

There are lessons to be learned from history.  There are lessons to be learned everywhere.  What would have happened in our nation had there NOT been a sixty year gap in recognizing and remembering where our national blessings have come from?  Where would we be in regard to spiritual growth and understanding?

It is the same in our day-to-day lives.  In my own life, I am realizing that when I pause, and take the time to find the “good” thing happening in the midst of my “bad” thing — I have less stress, I feel more connected to God, I think more clearly, and I communicate with grace– hopefully even when I’m under pressure.

Any time I begin to talk this way, someone will say, “You don’t know my life.  I don’t have much to be thankful for. Do you know what happened this year?” 

I hear you.  We are all in the midst of re-organizing our lives.  If you find yourself having difficulty giving thanks, here are a few things that I hope will help you to begin the process….

Give thanks……

                That we have anything at all to be thankful for. 

                That we can make a tuna fish sandwich with all the fixings.

                That we know people who will tell us the truth.

                That true love and good health are related.

                That she wants your help to hang the Christmas lights.

                That we saved old cards and pictures, and have time to go through them, remembering.

                That we have adversity.  Without it we won’t/can’t grow.

                That we are able to breathe.

                That we can experience seasons.

                That we are living.

                That we have a car, and can get from point A to point B.

                That we can chase fireflies.

                That we have friends.

                That the online site has free shipping.

                That the mammogram was clear.

                That we can watch old movies.

                That we live in a free country.

                That there are soldiers who fight for our liberty.

                That we have the freedom to worship as we choose to.

                That we have pets who love us.

                That we can believe in Santa Claus and not get into trouble.

                That someone in the supermarket said, “Go ahead of me.”

                That we can buy MacDonalds or Taco Bell on a busy day.

                That we have a job.

                That we can color our hair and hide the gray.

                That there are so many good books to read.

                That God made coffee.

                That God made chocolate.

                That God invented snow and children invented snowballs.

                That the country is still quite safe in spite of the politicians.

                That we even have a little spare change.

                That the cranberry crop wasn’t ruined by the frosts.

                That pumpkin pies are once more in fashion.

                That turkey is cheap enough for the poor man’s table.

                That when we pray, we have a God who not only hears us, but answers us, and wants relationship.

The old phrase “every cloud has a silver lining” came from the concept of finding something to give thanks for.  What “silver” is God wanting to give you today? 

Blessings!

(c)2010 Duplication without permission requires permission.


 Hi Ron — it wouldn’t let me add this to the post for session 8 — so here is the audio for session 9.  Blessings… Deb

Identity Formation — Session 9 Bonus

provisioned


In the 1650’s,  John Bunyan wrote a book.  It was an allegorical novel, said to describe a dream.  He titled it “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  If you haven’t read it, it’s a great read – although the original version is a little harder to get through; old English and all.  When I was about ten or eleven, I had an easy-read version that I read over and over again until the cover wore thin.  I loved the symbolism, even as a child.  If you haven’t heard of him, John Bunyan was a Reformation preacher who lived in England.  During the difficult years of religious upheaval, when for a time it was illegal to even own a page from a Bible,  this part-time tinker (repairman/handyman) gathered many together with his teachings about the love of God.  He was a man who understood the compassionate side of Abba Father. His daughter, Mary, was blind.  I have wondered many times if he wrote his allegory for her.  In the years since it’s initial publication,  “Pilgrim’s Progress” has sold more copies than any other book ever printed, except for the Bible.  So, take my word for it; it’s a good read.

Which brings me to my story. This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an  experience I had when I was child, reading this old classic story.  As I said, the book is an account of a dream. It describes the story of a man named Christian, who is making a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.  Along the way, he meets many who help him, and many more who hinder him.  He gains companions; he experiences pain; he loses loved ones; and he finally makes it to his destination.  All along the way, he learns and grows, becoming the person he was created to become.

In the middle of his journey, Christian has travelled a long way.  Everywhere he goes, he looks for indicators to show him the next step in his journey.  He has a map, but sometimes he can’t decipher it well. Continually, he needs others to help him figure it out.  But he keeps moving.  He comes to a steep hill, and looks upward.  Sadly, overwhelmingly, it appears that the road continues up this small mountain;  so he sighs and moves forward.  He is tired; he is forlorn; he is weary; he is hungry and thirsty; he doesn’t know if he can do it.  As he climbs, the mountain becomes steeper than he anticipated.  Finally, he has to clamber on his hands and knees just to make headway. It takes all the energies he has in his possession.  But now he is committed. He can’t go back. He can’t stop.  He must finish this part of the journey.

Soon, he comes to a clearing.  He is close to the peak of the mountain.  He sees a large house, nestled close to the summit.  He thinks “I could get some refreshment there, if they will take me in.”  So, he moves on towards the house.  But then, as he draws closer, his heart sinks.  The pathway to the house is guarded by two large lions, who, although shackled to rock posts with neck irons, look at him with menacing eyes.  Fear rises in his heart.  He stops in his tracks. 

Now what?

Suddenly, a voice speaks from the front door of the house. The Caretaker shouts to him, “Don’t be afraid!  They are chained to the posts!  Keep to the middle of the path and they won’t be able to reach you!”

With a flash of hope, Christian slowly and carefully moves past the lions, who growl as he passes.  He arrives at the front door untouched. He is safe.  He breathes a sigh of relief. 

“Welcome!” says the Caretaker. “We have been waiting for you.” 

Surprised, Christian discovers a Place of Refreshment.  He is bathed, and receives medical treatment for his injuries.  He is given clean clothing.  He eats at a banquet table.  He laughs and relaxes in an atmosphere of safety.  For several days, he stays.  He finds his heart again.  He gains direction.  He asks questions.  He listens.  He learns.

Then, on the third morning, the King’s daughters; Faith, Hope and Charity, help him get ready to complete his journey.  They clothe him in armor, hand-fit to his person.  He is given a sword and a shield.  He is provisioned, and given a scroll of promises.  For you see, the House on the mountaintop was the King’s House.  It was a place of refuge.

In the next chapter of the book, Christian faces the dragon Appollyon, his nemesis; the image of Satan in his own weaknesses.  Because of his provisioning, he prevails victorious. He emerges from the battle battered, but wiser; stronger somehow.  He would have died in the battle had he not been to the King’s House.

It’s my favorite place in the book.  The House of Refreshing.

This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an experience I had during one of my many readings of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  I was ten years old. I had just finished the King’s House chapter, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of the Presence of God. “When I grow up, Jesus, I want my house to be like that.  I want people to go away from my house stronger than they came in.  I want to help people.”

That hope has remained a center in me for the past forty-three years.  When I met Bill, in our many conversations, building relationship, his heart resonated with that focus as well.  (It’s wonderful when you marry someone who carries some of your same pages in their own instruction manual for living.)  As as result, that same hope has filtered into the way we approach pastoring and leading people.  “Let them leave stronger than they came in.” 

It has become a personal mission statement for my counseling ministry as well.

All that being said, dear reader, I bring you a request for prayer.  My Doll-House Toehead (see blog by the same title), and her mother (see blog titled “Peaches”), move away this weekend.  They are on to the next step of rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of abuse, court systems and custody battles.  I miss them already…

I sent my toehead away with a jar of Play-Doh… one we played with together…. small offerings.  Someday, at journey’s end, we won’t have to go in different directions.

Pray for these two precious souls.  Pray for their armor to remain strong; that they lose nothing — and gain everything.

The world is a learning environment.  Some life-lessons come harder than others. 

We all need safe places of refreshing. 

Someday, I want to build a House of Safety for women in such stages of life….. God knows.  Pray for our ministry as well.

Blessings.

(c)2010 atg/dcg.  No duplication without permission.