Shout for joy, O heavens;rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:13-16 (NIV)
The radio station I listen to has been playing excerpts of Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving issued in 1863. While there is some evidence that Lincoln did not write the proclamation, instead it was penned by William H. Seward, Secretary of State, there is no doubt that after a Union victory at Gettysburg which came at an agonizingly high price, Lincoln believed that the Nation should set aside time for giving thanks to God. There is much debate over whether Lincoln was a religious man or a Christian. He was very private about his beliefs and some things he said have been distorted or taken out of context. It is clear that Lincoln did believe in a Supreme Being to Whom he prayed for he wrote in the summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army won the Battle of Bull Run and were headed for Washington, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.” After Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book and author of the poem, “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” urged Lincoln to set aside a National Day of Thanksgiving. While the war would continue for another two years, on November 26, the last Thursday in November, Lincoln along with the people of at least the Northern states took time to thank God for the blessings He had given them. Our nation is currently in many of the same difficulties that Lincoln’s country faced. War, economic uncertainty, disease and discord fill our land. Tomorrow, just as they did almost 150 years ago, despite the difficulties we face, let us all count the reasons we have to be thankful.
Here’s the beginning of my blessing list:
A faithful husband for twenty eight years
Two sons on the way to fulfilling careers
A daughter of my heart who makes me smile
Two possible daughters in law
Four parents still healthy and able to live on their own
Siblings, nieces and nephews living close by
A house, two cars and a garage full of motorcycles
A horse, two dogs
A loving, caring church
Time and money to indulge in crafts
Living in Florida
A big yard
Food on the table
Surrounded by Books
Washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator
A laptop computer
Clothes to wear
Medical care and health insurance
Most of all, a God Who holds the universe in place yet has my name written on the palm of His Hand. Unlike Lincoln, I hope that there is no doubt among any who follow me in the future that I believe in a Sovereign God and in the saving grace of His Son, Jesus Christ.
My list could go on and on, how about yours?
As I said on November 1, it all comes down to this: God is great and God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His Hands we all are fed. Thank you Lord for daily bread.
By the President of the United States of America.
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
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State