A 2020 Thanksgiving Post With A 1621 Twist

first thanksgiving 1621

Thanksgiving this year will be different. The massive Considine clan will not gather for the first time in my adult life.

Thoughts Of Former Thanksgivings

There will not be the moment when I walk into my Uncle Nathan’s house and stunned by the dozens of beloved aunts and uncles and first cousins who are now having dozens and dozens of children whose names I can’t always remember.

There will not be the whole circle singing Come, Ye Thankful People Come and Count Your Blessings before we bow our heads. Nor will there be the smorgasbord—so vast the desserts, including Aunt Joy’s pies, have their own bord in the basement.

There will not be those catching up down country roads with my cousins Hannah and Humility, Rachel and Kathleen.

Nor will there be the competitive-friendly, after-dinner football game with cousins and uncles from age 8 to age 58, when I count apples and rush, and sneaky cousins eavesdrop on play calls and we run and laugh—and some of us limp—until we just can’t see no more.

Then there will not be the hymn sing with Aunt Judy playing the whole hymnal by ear, while I curb my enthusiasm just enough to refrain from calling out consecutive hymns, to give others a chance to request.

No, there won’t be those.

Thanksgiving of 2020—in one way or another—will be different for all of us.

This Thanksgiving, Think Upon The Things That Are

So the annual Thanksgiving post is different. It’s not about giving thanks per se. It’s about “cleaving the faster together,” and being “friends in adversity.” It’s a theme I keep coming back to in 2020: maintain good friendships. Whatever shape they take, do not give up meeting together, as some are doing (Hebrews 10:25). Keep your friends close.

The feasting was over and the tables were cleared. Robert Cushman delivered the same advice to the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims shortly after “The First Thanksgiving” in November, 1621. In a sermon entitled, “The Sin and Dangers Of Self-Love,” Cushman warned the Pilgrims that they must not go it alone. Self-love must not cuase them to forsake the friends. His whole message can be read here.

But it’s the end of the message that prompted this post. In a fraught year when fear and unknowns make it easier to let our friendships go, the last two paragraphs are both timely and timeless (bolding mine),

And as you are a body together…labor to be jointed together and knit by flesh and sinews; away with envy at the good of others, and rejoice in his good, and sorrow for his evil. Let his joy be thy joy, and his sorrow thy sorrow: Let his sickness be thy sickness: his hunger thy hunger: his poverty thy poverty; and if you profess friendship, be friends in adversity; for then a friend is known and tried, and not before.

Lay away all thought of former things and forget them, and think upon the things that are; look not gapingly one upon other, pleading your goodness, your birth, your life you lived, your means you had and might have had; here you are by God’s providence under difficulties; be thankful to God, it is no worse, and take it in good part that which is… when Job was brought to the dung-hill, he sat down upon it, Job 2:8…consider therefore what you are now, and whose you are; say not I could have lived thus, and thus; but say thus and thus I must live: for God and natural necessity require, if your difficulties be great, you had need to cleave the faster together, and comfort and cheer up one another, laboring to make each other’s burden lighter; there is no grief so tedious as a churlish companion and nothing makes sorrows easy more than cheerful associates: bear ye therefore one another’s burden, and be not a burden one to another; avoid all factionssingularity and withdrawing, and cleave fast to the Lord, and one to another continually; so also shall you be an encouragement to many of your christian friends in your native country, to come to you, when they hear of your peace, love and kindness that is amongst you: but above all, it shall go well with your souls, when that God of peace and unity shall come to visit you with death as he hath done many of your associates, you being found of him, not in murmurings, discontent and jars, but in brotherly love, and peace, may be translated from this wandering wilderness unto that joyful and heavenly Canaan. AMEN

Robert Cushman, 1621, “THE SIN AND DANGER OF SELF-LOVE”

To these ears, Cushman’s sermon is as much for Christian pilgrims in November 2020 as it was for those who heard him deliver it in November 1621. Avoid all factions, singularity, and withdrawing. Do not forsake your friend, the proverb says.

And for those of you who are missing Thanksgiving days of yore, well, like Cushman said, Here you are by God’s providence under difficulties; be thankful to God it is no worse, and take it in good part that which is.

There won’t be the Considine multitude, the after-dinner football and cousin walks and hymn sing. But there will be other good things. Within a smaller circle, I will be thankful.

I wish you all a thankful Thanksgiving, friends. Take it in good part that which is.

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Do you leak? What grumbling reveals about us.

An unthankful person is like a container with a hole in it and all the blessings that are in it just leak out. The grateful person has unlimited capacity to truly enjoy God’s blessings, while the ungrateful person can’t enjoy the blessings he does have. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, The Attitude to Gratitude

Do you leak?

Not- Does your thanks spill out and overflow? I mean leak– as in accidentally lose the contents. As in, God’s gifts are lost on you. 

A little grumbling here and there might not seem so bad, but it says a lot- about us and about what we believe about God.

Grumbling is that bad.

God hates grumbling. We’re called to do all things without grumbling.

Pastor Ritch Boerckel offers three reasons why the  grumbling of God’s people is that bad.

Reason #1: Our grumbling proclaims that our God is not good.

We might call it venting, or keeping it real, but take a minute and ask yourself: About what or whom do I grumble?

I’ll start with me. Sadly, the question is easy: I grumble when my time feels “wasted” and,  if others poor choices caused the “waste,” I might complain about them.

There- I said it.

But how, you wonder, can I draw such a straight line from my grumbling against the people and circumstances down here straight up  to God?

Well, when the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert, God heard it. Then he told Moses to tell themYour grumbling is not against us but against the LORD (Exodus 16:8, Numbers 14:26-27). Our Father in heaven heard their grumbling, and hears ours.

When we whine like deprived children, we don’t adorn. We don’t make our loving Lord look good. We slander his loving care to watching eyes and listening ears.

Grumbling, John Piper explains, only adds to the darkness because it obscures the light of God’s gracious, all-controlling providence. 

But there’s more.

Reason #2:  Our grumbling demands that God submit to our wishes.

We don’t put it like that, but at the end of the day, isn’t that what our complaints say? That we wish God would do it our way, would submit to our wishes. When we grumble, we’re rebel children, pots second-guessing the potter.

For has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? (Romans 11:34-35). A complaining spirit, therefore, reveals a problem in our relationship with God.

But there is a difference between grumbling and groaning. Groaning, for the record, can actually be a sign of our faith and hope in God’s promises (see Romans 8:22-24).

Groaning and disappointment, criticism and disagreement need not be the same as grumbling and complaining.

Kevin DeYoung explains,

[T]he Bible is full of examples of godly people who say, “I’m upset. I wish this were different. Lord, would you do something? I don’t like this.” …Grumbling, however, is not a humble cry for help, but saying to God, “I know how to run the universe a bit better than you do.” Instead of saying, “This really hurts, but I’m ready to receive whatever I must receive from God’s hand,” grumbling says, “This stinks, and I’m ready to rebel against God’s heart.” That’s the difference…

We’re talking about rebellion against God. Not that the situation is hard, but that God is hard.

Our situation may be hard. But our God is not hard.

He has promised his children good. 

Reason #3: Our grumbling disbelieves God’s precious promises.

God has promised to provide all our needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) and that he will withhold no good thing from him whose walk is upright (Psalm 84:11) and that all things work for good to those who love him and called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Not to mention that his mercies are there for the picking, new every morning.

But grumbling says we don’t believe those. Or, at least, for the moment, we’re choosing to ignore them. Grumbling says we don’t trust God.

More from DeYoung,

Though you might direct it toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, or someone in authority, you’re saying to God, “You’re not taking care of me…” Grumbling dishonors God.

The problem with complainers is that they don’t really trust that God is big enough to help and good enough to care. That’s what you think when you complain. “This God?! I may say that I believe him, sing songs about him, and read a Bible about him, but I don’t really believe that he’s big enough to do anything about it or good enough to care about me.

Who knew a little complaining about the rain and work and delays and aches and pains could betray so much?

That grumbling could be such a hard habit to break?

Fill the house with gratitude.

Habit is overcome by habit. It’s called replacement. Breaking bad habits means we fill the void with something good.

Just stopping up the leak isn’t enough. In other words, Quit yer grumbling, is not the goal. That’s just the empty house. And Jesus warned that if the house stays empty, the final plight might be worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45). We need to fill the house.

We need to do something hard: replace grumbling with thanks and turn that frown upside-down and, by God’s grace, choose gratitude.

Thankfully, giving thanks breaks the grumbling habit. In fact, it’s what we were created to do (1 Peter 2:9). Declaring God’s praise is why we were made.

So stop up the leaks. Don’t let the blessings drip through. Fill your house with gratitude.

Come, you thankful people, come.

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.

Psalm 140:13

It Really Is Good To Give Thanks

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your lovingkindness in the morning and your faithfulness by night.

Psalm 92:1-2

Good means good. And it is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Good means beneficial and having an advantage for us. As in, Eat your fruits and vegetables- they’re good for you. And exercise is good too. Giving thanks to God benefits us. For starters, it frees us from the prison of self pre-occupation. Giving thanks is good.

But good means more. It also means fitting and appropriate. As in,  It would be good to be on time to the wedding. And not to wear dirty jeans to the dinner party. And, It’d be good to say thanks to the friend who gave you the tickets on the 50-yard line for Packer game . 

It is good to bookend our days with praise. In the morning implies eagerness and promptness and by night, unflagging diligence and devotion. Bookending can be as simple as thanking God for three things before you let yourself roll out of bed each morning and thanking him for three more when you crawl back in at night.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Duplicate Deliciousness

C.H. Spurgeon stretches out the morning to mean the happy seasons of our lives, the bright days of unsullied sweetness.

And the bright morning-like periods of our life-these, too, should be seasons for showing forth God’s lovingkindness… Do not, as some do, who, if they are prospering, make a point of not owning to it. We talk as if, really, we were to be pitied for living, as if we were little better off than toads under a hallow, or snails in a tub of salt. We often whine as if our lives were martyrdoms, and every breath a woe, thus slandering the good Lord.

There are bright days like the morning, and in them we ought to render praise. And see what is to be the subject of our praise–God’s lovingkindness. Was there ever such a word in any language as this word lovingkindness? It is a duplicate deliciousness. There are within it linked sweetnesses long drawn out. It is a kind of word with which to cast spells which should charm away all fears…A Christian ought to be the most cheerful of men. Let the joy of the Lord be our strength.

Do we declare his lovingkindness each morning of the bright days of our lives? Are we the most cheerful of women and men?

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

If There Be Any One Topic…

But we are to give thanks in all circumstances (for this is God’s will for you). We are not only to thank Him on the bright days, but thank him always, even the in the dark nights and grim days. Spurgeon urges us on in this too- to declaring God’s faithfulness by night. 

We have a day’s more experience than we had in the morning; therefore we have more power to sing of God’s faithfulness. Notice that the text says “every night,” the dark, drear, cold nights as well as others. Let the old who are nearing the night of life show forth the Lord’s faithfulness. And let us all publish it abroad. If there be any one topic on which Christians should speak, it is this, and they should speak of it bravely, continuously, thankfully and positively. Satan makes a dead set upon it in the minds of many tempted ones, and therefore all the more should you bring the strength of your testimony that God doth not forsake His people.  

So central is this call to bookend our days with God’s praise, that the Psalmist closes Psalm 92  with an astonishing purpose statement. It describes the righteous, who still bear fruit in old age. Then, the purpose statement: they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him (Psalm 92:14-15). 

Did you catch that that causal link? The reason we’re here is to declare that the Lord is upright.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

Here to Declare

You older saints, who are full of sap and green, you’re still around for at least this one reason: to declare God’s praise. But how exactly does an seasoned believer do that?

Spurgeon one more time,

Why, [he] shows that God has kept his promise. He has promised that he will never leave them nor forsake them. There you see it. He has promised that when they are weak they shall be strong. There you see it. He has promised that if they seek him they shall not lack any good thing. There you see it.

We see it when others declare it. Nothing girds up my soul when it’s weary soul than hearing a seasoned saint testify to the upright, faithfulness of God. More than once these words were exactly the encouragement I needed when my middle-aged life responsibilities bore down on me. When I needed some help to count blessings.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

It Is Good To Give Thanks

Words from you older saints have weight. They bring home the goodness of God  home when we might not feel it. They declare that following God’s ways is wise and that he has been faithful to all his promises and that not one word of them has ever fallen to the ground.

So please declare and keep declaring this to us, you fruit bearing saints in old age. (Whatever old age is.) Please. Because that’s at least one reason you’re here: To declare that God is upright.

Yes, giving thanks to God is beneficial and advantageous and appropriate and right.

It really is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give me one thing  more-a grateful heart…
…I cry and cry again; 
And in no quiet canst Thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain 
Of Thee.
Not thankful when it pleases me, 
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.

George Herbert