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Why Thanksgiving is my Favorite Holiday

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Thanksgiving

Just saying the word conjures up special images and memories for each of us.

Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin pie and Pilgrims. Football and family. Tryptophan and nap time.

In our home it goes without saying that Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday. My wife Debbie is an amazing cook, and usually Wednesday evening will find me getting anxious to smell the wonderful things she will prepare for our family. As always, we will have turkey and all the trimmings along with just about anything else one would expect to see at a Thanksgiving feast. Come to think of it, I believe I’ve already asked her 3 or 4 times if she has everything in the house for the big day.

Of course, she teases me that the only reason I like Thanksgiving so much is because I love all the great food on our table. I’ll admit to the food being a very special part of the day, but there’s much more to it than that for me.

Thanksgiving is a Heart Thing

As a young boy growing up in rural Ohio, Thanksgiving was a time for family. My family would spend days in preparation, making sure of every detail, right down to drying the bread for my mom’s stuffing. Once the big day arrived, our home would be packed with relatives who had made the journey from as far away as 50 miles (no small sacrifice in the early 60’s).

All my aunts and uncles, cousins, and even people who I had never heard of before would gather in our home. No one even thought of watching TV, even though if the weather cooperated we could bring in two and a half channels. No, Thanksgiving was for catching up on each others lives around our huge dinner table.

Instead, all of us kids would be sent to play outside until it was time for dinner, which gave me the opportunity to show off to my city cousins a life they didn’t know existed.

For instance, we used to stand corn stalks up to make what is called a corn shock. These were made in the shape of a teepee and were wonderful hiding places from my girl cousins (and annoying sisters).

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From there I would take them on an adventure that rivaled any zoo they had ever seen. At our home we had cows, pigs, and chickens, none of which my city cousins had ever seen up close and personal. Boy, my cousins sure seemed to scare easily when they would hear a made-up story of how dangerous those animals were.

Back then, the men in my family always went hunting in the morning, returning just in time to eat dinner. How well I remember when I was deemed old enough to tag along with them. I had no gun, but it didn’t matter a bit because I got to be with my dad and uncles.

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When at long last my mom would announce that dinner was ready, we would all head towards the kitchen. Since there were so many of us, the grownups would fix our plates and we would then sit at the “little table”.

I really disliked those little card tables because the only people sitting there were us kids, and all of us knew that the “big table” was the place to be. I remember every year asking if this was the year I finally got to sit at the big table. I got used to being told “NO”, but still I had to ask.

I can still see what had to have been the biggest turkey in the store resting on a huge platter. Spilling all around it was the stuffing that we had prepared all that dried bread for. A gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes, along with an even larger bowl of chicken and dumplings sat on one end of the table. Bowls of green beans, cranberries, gravy, and other yummy things I can no longer remember filled the rest of the table.

I can remember eating so much food that my relatives would tease me that I was going to blow up. I didn’t care because being a skinny kid I could eat as much of anything I wanted and never gain a pound (oh for those days!).

After we had finished eating our dinner it was time for dessert, and I’m here to tell you that I could eat some dessert, especially my aunt Laura’s chocolate pie. I can remember there being apple pies, peach pies, blackberry cobbler, raisin pie (my dad’s favorite), and of course aunt Laura’s chocolate pie.

Those wonderful memories are tucked safely away in my mind. Those carefree days of family and friends are never far from me, and at this time of the year I think of them often. Though the years have created separation and distance in my childhood family, those are some of the best years of my life.

I regret not having had the opportunity to enjoy more of those years, but as fate would have it my dad passed away when I was 12 years of age, and for all intents and purposes life was never the same after that. Therefore, those memories are indeed precious to me.

Today, of course, things are much different. Thanksgiving is largely thought of as a day off from work and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. What a shame, because in the rush to buy someone something a lot of memories are not being made around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

It goes without saying that I am one of those that has a really hard time with seeing Christmas trees showing up in October, and as we get later and later into November the inevitable deluge of advertisements for Black Friday start showing up, as if we needed one thousand reminders a day.

Around my house I’ll be the one asking a hundred times “wait…what about Thanksgiving? Why doesn’t anyone think of Thanksgiving like they used to? Why is it so hard for us to celebrate the idea of thankfulness”?

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So, while I am grateful for the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians celebrating the very 1st Thanksgiving way back in 1621, I can’t say that it was that event that sparked my love for Thanksgiving.

Neither was the Congressional resolution that resulted in President George Washington proclaiming Thursday, the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” instrumental in instilling my love for Thanksgiving.

Even President Abraham Lincoln, who declared in 1863 that the last Thursday in November would become a federal holiday and a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” isn’t responsible for my fondness of all things Thanksgiving.

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While all those events are important in our nation’s history, the real reason that I love Thanksgiving is because in my mind I get to be that kid again. I get to be surrounded by the people who mean the world to me, and I get to add more memories to an already overflowing basket of thankfulness and gratitude gifted me by our Lord.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

Sometimes ministry is all about the little things

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This morning my wife and I came upon a family in the parking lot of a McDonald’s that were in a bad situation. We noticed them right away as we pulled into the drive thru, and it was apparent that they were distraught over something. Their minivan that was pulling a small U-Haul trailer had broken down, leaving at least 7 people, 4 of which were very small children, stranded far from home.

When we drove around the restaurant after picking up our order, we pulled up next to them and saw that the hood of their minivan was open. The look on the faces of the adults said it all, and if you’ve ever been in such a predicament, you can appreciate their situation.

I got out of the car and asked one of the men if they had help on the way, and he responded by saying “no sir, we have no one to help us, and we don’t have any money”. He mentioned something about a fuel leak, and by the strong smell of gasoline it was obvious he was right.

In the few seconds I had spoken with him I was able to assess their situation a little better, and it was clear that these little children were frightened. They were also hungry, as one little boy was quick to tell me. These kids were obviously from ‘less than affluent means’ because none of them had shoes, and only the little girl had a shirt on.

I told the man I couldn’t fix his car, but if he would allow me to, I would love to buy them breakfast. You would have thought I offered to give them something of great value, he was that appreciative. When I mentioned breakfast all the kids spoke up and told me they were hungry, which tore at my heart so much that I wanted to hug each one of those children.

I handed the man enough money to buy them all breakfast, and almost in unison those little kids started thanking me, as did the adults. I told my wife later that I hoped that the next person who was supposed to help them would also be right on time, because I just knew the Lord would touch someone’s heart to assist them.

As I was saying goodbye to them, I told them God would bless them with the help they needed. Pulling away, I looked in my mirror and saw all 4 kids being led into McDonald’s for breakfast, and I couldn’t help but think about the old McDonald’s commercial that says “I’m, lovin’ it”. Can it get any better than that?

Real Ministry really is all about the little things!

Be blessed,

Ron

Am I my brother’s keeper?

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Many of you will no doubt recognize that question, taken from the Genesis account of Cain and Abel.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Cain was angry with his brother Abel because his brother’s offering was acceptable to God, while his own was rejected. In a jealous rage, this is what happened:

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:8-9

We know that Cain asked this question as a means of deflecting attention away from his guilt for having murdered his own brother. He basically told God “how should I know where he is, it’s not my job to watch him, is it?”

Ever since then, it’s a question that individuals have been asking themselves whenever needs arise, whether man-made or natural. It is a question that probes at the heart, and our answers reveal a lot about how we feel about our fellow man.

In a perfect world, there would be enough of everything to go around. There would be a job for every able-bodied person. The issues of hunger, sickness, and poverty that now plague the world’s society’s would vanish.

It doesn’t take a sociologist(or a theologian)to look around and determine that we are not living in a perfect world. That world existed for a very short time in a place called Eden, a place where the only two humans on the planet existed.

In our modern world however, things are quite a bit different. In this less than perfect world, there are a lot of people that are in dire need of help. The notion of a perfect world to them is the stuff of fairy tales.

It may be the hungry child down the street, or the immigrant family trying to cross the threshold into what they perceive as paradise, or a thousand other desperate situations.

Regardless, the numbers of people who have reached the point of helplessness in their quest for survival is nothing short of staggering. So much so that one could make the case for not even trying to find a viable solution to this seemingly impossible situation.

But how do you tell the desperate, the hungry, and the hopeless that their plight is too big to bother with? How do we look them in the eye and say they are not worth the effort?

Sadly, there are an ever increasing number of people who believe just that, that the problems are too large and complex, and besides, it’s not us but “them”. But is that how loving, civilized society’s are to function?

Poverty in the U.S. alone affects over 40 million people. An additional 95 million are living at ‘near poverty’ levels. How can this be ignored? And what of the rest of the world, all of which is far worse off than the United States? [1]

My contention is that we as a society, particularly a society founded upon Christian principles, do indeed have an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves.

Otherwise, ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘only the strong survive’ become the new laws of the jungle and it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves.

Is that what any of us really want?

All of us, irregardless of political, religious, or sociological backgrounds are inextricably linked together by a common bond: the need to have enough food to eat, clothing to wear, and a roof over our heads.

When you really think about it, the question of “Am I my brother’s keeper” is actually more relevant today than it was in the days of Cain and Abel.

In the world that Cain and Abel lived in, there were only four humans upon the earth. Four, as in Adam,Eve,Cain, and Abel. Four souls.

In our world, we have a far greater challenge before us.  At last count, there were over seven billion people living on earth. While some will contend that the numbers are too great for anyone to have any kind of positive impact upon, I say that God is equal to the challenge.

He just needs a few willing vessel’s to step up and say that “yes, I am my brother’s keeper”.

Something to ponder, I trust.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] For a detailed look into the poverty crisis in America, please go to povertyusa.org.      Here you will find an enormous amount of data, broken down into many different categories that will help you better understand how severe the problem is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers are more important now than ever before

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there! This is your day to kick back, relax, fire up the grill, admire that new tie, power tool, or fishing rod you received, and bask in the love and adoration of your family.

All of this after you’ve taken your family to church, of course!

Fathers Day came about because of a lady named Sonora Smart Dodd, who after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon, asked her pastor to prepare a sermon honoring fathers as well. What’s interesting about this was that Dodd’s own father, a Civil War veteran, was himself a single parent, raising six children on his own.

Father’s Day was first celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington, and an awful lot has changed since then, wouldn’t you agree? Our nation hardly resembles the one that Dodd lived in a little over a hundred years ago. For certain, the makeup of our families bears little resemblance to those of that long gone era.

For example, according to the website National Kids Count, approximately 35 percent of children under 18 lived in a single-parent home as of 2016. In addition, as many as 25-percent of children in the U.S. live in households with a mother alone. That is over 18 million children who do not live with a father figure.

Obviously, when fathers are absent from the home it creates many negative effects on their children. According to “What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?“, children from fatherless homes account for:

  • Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides
  • Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths
  • Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
  • High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
  • Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger

With an acknowledged divorce rate hovering at 50%, it doesn’t appear that these negative statistics will be improving any time soon. Too bad marriage counselors and divorce attorney’s don’t share these statistics with their clients!

While those in the Christian community have been sounding the alarms for decades about the attack on our families, there can be no doubt that the enemy has indeed dealt the family a near fatal blow.

We understand that the family unit was orchestrated by God when He created Adam and his wife Eve, placing them in a beautiful garden. This was the very first family in the history of man, and it represented God’s crowning achievement.

The Genesis account tells us that God himself walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, thus establishing a special bond with them. As we know, things were sailing along fabulously until Satan entered the picture and destroyed this relationship man had with God.

Ever since then, the evil one has been determined to wreck havoc on our homes with one purpose in mind: to destroy God’s plan for marriage and family. I won’t bore you with more data, it is enough to simply look around you to confirm that Satan’s plan is in full swing.

1st Peter 5:8 reminds us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

The enemy is on the prowl, and his target is your family.  I believe however that our homes and families are worth fighting for! Dad’s must begin to pray for their wives and children. Wives must begin to pray for their husbands and children.

On this Father’s Day my prayer is that all of us who are fathers will take up the battle and fight for our families. James 4:7 tells us “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

By calling upon the Lord to help us in this fight, we are bringing Him into the battle, and the last time I checked, He is still undefeated!!

Happy Father’s Day!

Ron

 

 

Love doesn’t quit

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This past week my Pastor and I were privileged to visit a ministry to the homeless called “Jesus Loves You Ministry” which is located in Port Charlotte, Fl. For the better part of an hour we were given a tour of the facilities and learned about all of the services this great ministry provides.

I asked a lot of questions and our tour guide Ashley was very gracious and patient in answering them all. I have to say that this young lady has a heart for this ministry that is as big as all outdoors.

As we began our tour, I was struck by a sense that this place was different somehow. After a few minutes I think I started to figure it out because what I felt in that place was love. Nothing more, nothing less, just the unconditional love of Christ.

Listening to Ashley talk about the mission of Jesus Loves You Ministry left me humbled by her genuine love for the people she calls her family. No judgement, no “holier than thou” attitude, nothing but love.

And RESPECT.

Because this ministry is so well organized, I thought I would share just a few examples of the types of ministry that take place there:

  • Identification: Identity documents such as birth certificates, ID cards or Social Security cards are often lost and expensive to replace. They assist with the process of obtaining these documents and the ministry absorbs the costs involved to do this.
  • Benefits: They assist with the application for SSI, SSDI and Veteran’s pensions.
  • Medical Attention: Often a low priority, they encourage regular physicals, prescription and follow up visits as recommended by a health care provider.
  • Employment: they assist with job search and applications and provide transportation to interviews.
  • Wellness Services: Transportation is provided weekly for showers (200 a week), two locations of which provide haircuts, clothing and lunch (served Monday thru Friday). They encourage regular contact with relatives by providing access to a telephone. They provide clean clothes and hygiene packets as well.

This ministry also has it’s own thrift store, and proceeds go right back into the ministry. Here is a picture of their building, which was as clean as a whistle I might add!

Jesus loves you ministry

This visit really touched me, and served as a reminder that the homeless are really no different than you and I. In fact, while there I mentioned to my Pastor “but for the grace of God, go I”.

I’ll go back to Jesus Loves You Ministries, and hopefully will get the opportunity to chat with a few of the folks who are served there. Meanwhile, I am reminded of what the Bible teaches us about loving others who are in need.

 

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 1 John 3:17-19

Let us not love with words only, but in doing. Love never quits!

If you would be so kind, please lift up Jesus Loves You Ministry in prayer. Their web site is currently being redesigned, but if you go to their current site you can still learn a great deal about them. I’m sure they would be very grateful.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

If my choices are between happy or sad…

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I choose Happy!

Of course, we don’t always get to choose, do we?

Life, in its continuous ebb and flow of emotions, will sometimes throw difficult challenges our way, leaving us to deal with them as they come. When this happens, and it happens to all of us, “Happy” seems a long way off doesn’t it?

For example, I’ve been dealing with a seemingly endless array of car troubles lately, troubles that are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Just today, I had to call a tow truck to take the car back to the garage (it was just there last Friday!).

Of course this unnerved me a bit, as I have already sunk considerable money into this vehicle and the prospect of spending who knows how much more seemed to set my head to spinning.

The more I thought of it however, the more I realized it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I mean it could have died earlier today while my daughter was driving it on the interstate. If that would have happened the outcome could have been disastrous.

So while I am not pleased at having to have more unplanned work done on this car, I am extremely thankful that my daughter is safe and no harm was done.

All of us have these kinds of issues to deal with, what some would call “1st world problems”. In the big picture, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Unless something drastic happens, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow, the birds will sing their beautiful songs, and I have family that loves me, including a wife who is a constant source of encouragement to me.

The Apostle James had something to say about the trials and difficult situation we might find ourselves in from time to time. See if you agree with me that his perspective is a little different than most.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  James 1:2-3  ESV

Did you catch that? When life throws you a curve ball, he said we should rejoice! That seems strange to our carnal minds, doesn’t it? Can any of us truthfully say that when we’re up against a struggle that our first inclination is to rejoice?

It’s when we read the second part of the scriptures that it begins to make sense. James says that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. The King James renders this as “worketh patience“.

That’s what these challenges do to us; they cause us to learn to be steadfast, or patient in the midst of the trial. When we fully grasp this truth, we begin to better understand that God can use even our trials as part of the refining process all of us are going through.

And that my friends, puts a smile on my face, and dare I say it….

 

Happy bird french fry

Be blessed!

Ron

Thanksgiving Memories

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Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday of the year. When I think back to my early childhood, Thanksgiving Day was always the holiday I looked forward to the most. Aside from getting out of school for a few days, the expectation of seeing Aunts and Uncles, and cousins my own age to play with was something I looked forward to with great anticipation.

Well, that and knowing there was going to be a mountain of great food to eat! Even today, my wife believes the food is the real reason I love Thanksgiving. Me, I’m not saying one way or another.

Those happy times are forever etched in my mind, and as another Thanksgiving approaches, I enjoy remembering the laughter and non-stop chatter around our crowded kitchen table. I remember how that all of us kids who had to sit at the “kids table longed for the day when we could set at the grown-up’s table and join in.

For days and days my parents would be preparing special things that were only served on Thanksgiving Day, and I know that they always brought home the largest turkey the store had. We could also count on any visiting relatives to bring along even more goodies, and could my Aunts ever cook! I think I could write an entire blog just about my mom’s turkey and dressing, and my Aunt Marlene’s chocolate pie made me wish I had eaten nothing else but that!

The men in my family always went hunting on Thanksgiving morning, and being a young boy I wasn’t allowed to tag along because I would either slow them down, get hurt, or some other made up reason to keep me home. I was forced to stay behind and endure the heavenly smells coming from the kitchen, which, I can finally admit, wasn’t so bad after all.

At long last the dinner hour had come, and everyone gathered in the kitchen. I honestly don’t remember if anyone said Grace before the meal, as none of my family was particularly religious. If they did, I’m sure it fell on deaf ears with me as I stared at a turkey leg, or a large ham, knowing that very soon I would be enjoying a heaping plate of delicious food.

After dinner, the family would all find a place to sit in the living room, where we would spend hours reliving the important things that had happened in our lives over the past year.

Back then, we might have been able to get a football game on one of the three TV channels our old black and white TV pulled in, but no one ever thought of turning it on. Why spoil such wonderful family time by inviting a football game into our home? Our family was the main attraction after all!

Late at night, when everyone was tired and had to leave to return to their own homes, we knew that for at least one more year our family was, well, still a family. It’s funny how that even after all these years, I can still remember the feeling of security I had just in knowing that we were family.

Today, my own small family celebrates Thanksgiving in much the same way as I did as a child. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many people around the table, and the amount of food is a lot less than what is needed for a huge family. My wife cooks a pretty awesome turkey, and her baked beans are legendary around our house, so we have plenty and then some.

The most important things are there however. A deep, abiding love for one another, a home built upon the sure foundation of Christ, and the knowledge that no matter what comes our way in this life, we are family.

As my family gathers around the table this Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for. God blessed us to make it to retirement, He brought me through a very serious health issue, and my family is healthy and prospering. To say we are blessed just doesn’t seem adequate.

My prayer is that all of you will have a memorable Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by those you love and care about. I hope everyone slows down a bit and takes the time to create some memories and new traditions that can be passed down to the next generation. Talk to one another. Enjoy one another. Make time for one another.

The Bible describes this life as but a vapor. It’s gone before you know it, so live each day to the fullest.

Most of all, be thankful. Be thankful for one another, and thankful that you can enjoy this time together as a family.

Be thankful to God for His many blessings.

Ron

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.   Psalms 75:1

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!   Psalms 107:8

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