Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Why We Give Thanks

Despite the challenges we as a nation face politically, economically, and culturally, we are still blessed to live in the United States of America. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day when Americans gather with family and friends to enjoy a bountiful feast in celebration of the many blessings God has bestowed upon us individually and as a nation.

The Apostle Paul faced many challenges, yet he knew the importance of giving thanks to God. He reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to

The Pilgrims too faced many hardships in the year leading up to their first Thanksgiving celebration. Some public school textbooks tell children that the Pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians, but in his historical work, Of Plymouth Plantation, penned by Governor William Bradford, the leader of the Pilgrims described what really happened:

The Pilgrims' journey began in Holland. They had left England, where they had no religious freedom, to settle in Holland, where they were free to worship God as they pleased. But there, the culture was so corrupt they made plans to go to the New World to build a community based on biblical principles for their children.

Governor Bradford wrote, "Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some ways toward it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work."

The journey to America on the Mayflower was unbelievably miserable. Bradford described how 102 Pilgrims were crammed into a space the size of a volleyball court for 66 days at sea with little light and no fresh air since all the hatches had to be battened down due to stormy weather. Can you imagine the stench? Their diet consisted of dried pork, dried peas, and dried fish.

They arrived in New England late in the fall of 1620 just in time to prepare for winter. During that first winter, 47 of the 102 Pilgrims died. Only three families remained unbroken by death. Yet, they were thankful even though their daily rations at times consisted of only one kernel of corn.

That spring, the Indians befriended then, showing them how to plant maize and fertilize it with fish. When a drought threatened to destroy the crops, they fell on their knees and prayed until God sent rain.

The First Thanksgiving Courtesy
The proclamation of the first Thanksgiving came as a result of their first bountiful harvest. The Pilgrims were overflowing with gratitude to God because the harvest of 1621 provided more than enough corn to see them through their second winter.

Indian Chief Massasoit brought 90 Indians with him to the feast, arriving a day early. The Pilgrims despaired that they would not have enough to feed that many without dangerously diminishing their winter supply of food.

As it turned out, the Indians had come early to hunt and contribute to the feast. They provided five dressed deer and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys--enough food to extend the celebration to three days.

The Pilgrims were able to rejoice and remain hopeful even in the midst of death and privation because they knew their lives served a greater, eternal purpose. When we know and follow Jesus Christ, our lives too have that same eternal purpose. That alone gives us a reason to rejoice and be thankful, no matter what our outward circumstances may be.


Psalm 69:30 encourages us to "magnify the Lord with thanksgiving." A magnifying glass makes objects seem bigger to us. Thanksgiving makes God bigger to us--it makes us see Him better, see His ability to supply all our needs. When we thank Him for what He has done for us in the past, our faith is built up to know He will meet our needs today.

Before you enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, pause to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for His blessings to you this year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

It's Not Fair!

I'm not going to comment on the election, except to say that a phrase I've heard a lot from both parties this election year is "It's not fair!"


As children, we are continually told by our parents and teachers to play fair and to share equally. While that admonition helps us develop good character and people skills and shows us that they did not favor one child over another, that teaching also sets us up to believe that life should always be fair.

Courtesy Google,com

But the truth is, life is not always fair. Sometimes life is just plain unfair.

Ecclesiastes 8:14 points out that "in this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good" (NLT).

And Jesus told His disciples that the rain so necessary to abundant crops falls on the just and the unjust.

This doesn't seem fair, does it? The Psalmist too struggled with this dilemma in Psalm 73. "Why do the wicked prosper?" he asked (v. 16).


Then he thought about their end and realized they were on a slippery path to destruction (v. 18).

That was when he realized how bitter he had become over life's unfairness (v. 21). His trust in God was restored because he remembered that God was leading him to a glorious destiny (v. 24).

I too have often struggled with the unfairness of life. Unfairness plays havoc with my sense of justice.

The trouble with this kind of thinking is that unfairness then becomes a double whammy. Not only do I experience unfairness when it occurs, but I am allowing it to continue to affect my life by not accepting that life is not always fair.

Instead of constantly rehearsing in my mind what I can do to make things fair, I need to let it go.

Basically, it boils down to an issue of forgiveness. When I realized that we are all flawed human beings and need to be forgiven, and that we all make mistakes which hurt others, whether intentionally or not, I can forgive and let the hurts go. Only in this way can I keep past injustices from ruining my present life.

Are you struggling with unfair treatment? The answer is to forgive and let it go. Only God can bring final justice. Leave it to Him.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Vietnam Veteran's Memories

Tomorrow is Veterans' Day, a very special day for me to remember how God protected my husband while he was in Vietnam.
Captain Robert J, Conti, U. S. Army
I have the distinction of celebrating one more wedding anniversary than my husband. How can that be? On June 9, 1969, the day before our second wedding anniversary, my husband took off from the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, and headed for Vietnam. At midnight, he crossed the International Dateline and totally missed our anniversary that year. So I have celebrated one more anniversary than he has! 

As an infantry officer, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne. In that assignment, Bob was involved in something called “fireflies”--night operations with helicopters.

One large helicopter was equipped with a big searchlight made of large aircraft landing lights. A couple of other helicopters carried rockets and bombs. The observation helicopter would fly high above using infrared to navigate while the others flew near the ground.

At night they'd fly in the dark with no lights until they were over their target. Then, the command helicopter, which Bob flew in, would switch on the lights, making it an easy target for the enemy, while the other two would fly in from the left and the right, crisscrossing under the command helicopter, firing rockets and dropping bombs. It was hazardous. Some of his friends cracked up doing the same thing and died.  

Bob in Vietnam in 1969
Bob says, "Every night I’d have to wait for a helicopter to come to the fire base to pick me up. The waiting was the worst part. I began to understand fear. I’m not talking about just being scared. I mean a fear that gnaws at you and tugs at your nerves.

"The fireflies took place about one or two a.m. I would wonder if I’d see the sun come up in the morning. Once, we got caught in a monsoon rainstorm and couldn't see in any direction. I really learned about fear that time.

"During those months, I began to draw closer to the Lord. That well-known hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” often came into my heart and mind. I kept thinking that no matter what happened, with Jesus, it is well with my soul. I can handle it. I did. And I made it through.

"One time, as my unit was being relieved by another unit at a fire base, I got into the command chopper with my pilot, and we lifted off. Immediately, the command chopper of the next battalion landed. Other choppers were coming in behind him.

"Suddenly, Viet Cong soldiers sprang up out of the grass right next to the landing area and fired away, killing their S3 officer and severely wounding the others. The VC had infiltrated during the change over and were already in place when I jogged to my chopper. The man sitting in the same position in the incoming helicopter that I sat in on my chopper had his arm and leg shot off. I thank God that He protected me on that occasion. I didn’t even get a scratch."

The 82nd Airborne went home after six months, and Bob had six more to go, so he was assigned as an intelligence officer, S2, on an advisory team to a Vietnamese unit in Tay Ninh Province. Bob had to ride in helicopters frequently. He made it a practice not to fly unless his job required it.

Two weeks before Bob came home, his best friend, Major Barton, the S3 officer on the advisory team, invited him to fly along with him to visit the province chief that Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day, but Bob said, "No. I want to go to church and then write letters to my wife." That day, Major Barton's helicopter crashed, and all on board were killed.

At the end of the longest year of our lives, Bob returned home on Memorial Day, 1970. Although a few years ago, the VA declared him to be 100 percent disabled due to the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, I am especially thankful every Veteran's Day that my husband came home from Vietnam.

I'd love to hear about a veteran you'd like to honor.