On Thankfulness

2014-08-06 07.38.59And then there was one.

The house next door to us was hauled away a few days ago. The move had been in the works for a long time. The neighbors who used to live there have been gone for five years, and the house has long since been sitting empty. The movers put it up on I-beams some time ago, and we knew it was just a matter of time until they hooked up a big truck and took it away.

But it was still a bit of a surprise to drive up Hickory Street the other day and see a big empty lot where a nice house once stood. So now our house is the last one left on our part of North 17th Street.

Now, that’s not an altogether bad thing. The Texas Tech Health Science Center, just east of us, has announced exciting plans to expand their operations, to open a new School of Public Health and to build a new student center, which will certainly be a good thing for those studying there. We need people trained in public health issues, and goodness knows, we desperately NEED the nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers that will come from there.

The neighbors that used to live next door have moved a few blocks away, but we still see them, and the kids still participate in our activities here. (And the cats that used to live under the house there – well, I’m sure they’ve found new homes as well!) But it’s still sad to see an empty lot where a friend’s house once stood. And it’s sad to think about the good times and fellowship we had with those around us, who are now gone.

Life goes on. We learn, fairly early on, that change is part of life. We cannot hold on to the present, no matter how hard we try. Nothing is this life is permanent. Neighbors move away – sometimes new neighbors move in. Jobs end. Children grow up and leave home. Parents grow old and die. That is the ultimate reality in this world.

C.S. Lewis once pointed out that no good thing in this life can be permanent – that’s part of God’s design. If we mistake the blessings that we have here for eternal joy, then we might forget that we were meant for higher, greater things. Blessings are meant to encourage us, to strength us, and yes, to BLESS us, but no blessing in this world is eternal.

So when a neighbor moves, or a house is gone, or any other blessing that we have been enjoying is taken away, we have two options. We can either become angry, sullen and depressed that it is gone. Or we be can be appreciative that we had that blessing to enjoy for a time, and give thanks to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, trusting that He has even better blessings in store for us.

God give me the grace to choose to be thankful.

Come Before Him with Thanksgiving

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;

Let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before Him with thanksgiving

and extol Him with music and song.” – Psalm 95:1, 2

I hope Thanksgiving today finds you happy and well, and surrounded by family and friends.  This is one of my very favorite holidays, for a variety of reasons and sweet memories.

Some of my earliest memories of this day go back to my grandparents, Archie & Sallie McMillan.  When I was a young child, for some reason, I wouldn’t call her “Grandma.”  I heard other people call her, “Sallie,” which I tried to do, but she didn’t like that.  So, I started calling her “Sa-Sa,” and the name stuck.  So we would go to Sa-Sa & Pa-Pa’s house.

I don’t really remember usually having turkey for that meal – it seems that she usually fixed a big hen, and usually in a pressure cooker to make it fall-off-the-bone tender.  But what I REALLY remember about Thanksgiving at Sa-Sa’s house was her fruit salad.  It had lots of big chunks of apples and bananas and fruit cocktail, along with chopped walnuts and coconut.  Of course, we had lots of other stuff to eat, and plenty of desserts, but I always loved her fruit salad.  What was especially great was, if there was any left over, she would freeze it, and we would eat it at Christmas.

Pa-Pa died in 1969, and Sa-Sa passed in about 1988, but I still remember them both, especially today.  I have taught some of the kids in my after-school program how to make her fruit salad, and I tell them about her as we make it.  And I’m thankful for her, and for such sweet memories.

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Thanksgiving also means football, of course; in our family, that meant the Cowboys.  The greatest one was Thanksgiving, 1974, when George Allen’s “Over the Hill Gang” laid a vicious 3rd quarter hit on Roger Staubach and knocked him out of the game.  The Skins were up 16-3 at the time, when an untested rookie from ACU came into the game as the Cowboys’ backup quarterback, Clint Longley.  He had earned the nickname of “The Mad Bomber” from his teammates, because of his default tendency to throw deep in practice.

What happened next, Cowboys fans still talk about.  And Redskins fans have never gotten over.

This rookie put together what might be the most improbably comeback in team history.  After leading the Boys to two other touchdowns, with just 35 seconds to play, Longley found a streaking Drew Pearson racing down the sidelines, and he scored.  We won 24-23.  It’s still one of the greatest wins in Cowboys history.

Four years later, Kathy and I were celebrating our first Thanksgiving as husband and wife.  I was a senior at Dallas Christian College, and she and I were in a singing group known as “Revelation.”  Thanksgiving weekend, 1978, we were in the recording studio, cutting a record.  (Do I need to explain what “records” were for any of the under 40 crowd?)  Since we couldn’t go anywhere for the day, Mom & Dad came to Dallas, and we had Thanksgiving in our tiny apartment.

Fast forward to 2010.  My mom had passed away just two months earlier, and we were sharing our first holiday without her.  My brother David and his wife Gina hosted the whole wooly bunch of us at their home in Spring.  He fried a turkey, my nephew made some amazing cranberry dressing on the stove, and everybody fixed their favorite recipes.  I made one of my Jack Daniels Black-Bottom Pecan Pies.  We shared the day and the warmth of shared memories as we surrounded our dad and comforted each other and gave thanks for the legacy we shared and the sweetness of her presence still in our midst.

As I write this, Kathy is busy in the kitchen, finalizing meal preparations.  We’re a turkey, cornbread dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and more.  We have invited several neighbors to come eat with us.  Then later, we’re going to the new restaurant where Drew is working, to have a meal there.

I am thankful for family, for friends, for sweet memories and for wonderful times together.  I am thankful for my job, for my neighbors, and for all of the blessings we enjoy.  I am thankful for Jesus.  And I know that the blessings I have received, are not mine exclusively to enjoy, but have been given so that I can in turn be a blessing to others.

I hope your day today is filled with everything wonderful, and that whatever your circumstances, you can give thanks with a glad and sincere heart.  Happy Thanksgiving!

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving,

and His courts with praise;

Give thanks to Him and praise His Name.

For the LORD is good and His love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100:4-5