Come, ye thankful people, come

We have a delightfully colorful book we place on the coffee table each Thanksgiving season called “Thanksgiving, A Time To Remember” by Barbara Rainey. In this collection of Thanksgiving themes, Barbara Rainey reminds us that “feasts of Thanksgiving” did not begin in America with a presidential proclamation, or with the Pilgrims in Plymouth, not even with the Native American’s harvest celebrations. “The true source of feasting as a celebration of gratitude is God Himself,” says Mrs. Rainey.

In the Old Testament, God initiated a number of yearly feasts for His people, the Israelites. These were not optional events, but were written into the Law that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. Among them were the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Ingathering. Psalm 105:1-2, 5 reads, “O Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, Speak of all His wonders. Remember His wonders which He has done, His marvels and the judgments uttered by His mouth.”

The story is told of the early colonists who had suffered greatly in the process of trying to survive in the new world. With increasing hours of daylight and recovered strength, everyone in the colony soon enjoyed a pleasing weekly rhythm of work and worship. Six long days the Pilgrims tilled, hunted, fished, mended, built, cooked and washed.

The only break in routine each week was on Sunday when the group faithfully observed the Sabbath. On this day, ordinary work clothes were exchanged for more colorful attire. Unlike the somber clothes of the Puritans, who in the years to come would settle farther to the north, the Plymouth colonists wore brightly colored dresses, suits and hats. In garments of blue, red, green, violet and yellow, the congregation sang, prayed and listened to a rousing sermon by their elder, William Brewster.

Our family begins in October preparing our hearts for the coming season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It has become a delight to have those times of our own personal “Feast of Thanksgiving.” We keep a journal of those surprise delights of God’s keeping graces — they seem to surprise us at every turn. We are, indeed, daily loaded with benefits that seem to bring a spirit of gratitude in the midst of the day-to-day trials and complexities. My wife and I both keep a running list of the benefits that often catch us by surprise!

Just a few days ago, I accidently locked the car keys in my van as I was about to leave for a normal work day. Within seconds, my wife and I found two other sets of keys that were hiding among our collection of artifacts and wonderment in our museum-style house. To make this example even more interesting, the sets of extra keys were among the amazing collections in two drawers filled with meaningless treasures! The car door was opened and I was back on track for the day’s activities. Simple, yes…but the averted catastrophe was another benefit— life is loaded with them!

Just the other night, I stepped up to the window of a performance hall to purchase a ticket to a concert. The day had been a hectic one, some amount of stress and disappointment, and I felt the concert might be a good diversion to end the day. A friend called from a distance to say his mother-in-law was not able to make the concert and asked if I would like to have the unused ticket – another benefit to add to the Thanksgiving Feast., full of loaded benefits! I not only enjoyed the concert, forgot my troubles for a while, but thoroughly had the additional gift of conversation with an adorable couple who are lights in our community and examples of a giving heart.

This season of the year can be one of heightened delight in waking fresh in the morning with meditating on our benefits, retiring in the evening and drifting to sleep while recounting the surprise blessing throughout the day. We can even rehearse all the ways we have been blessed in the past and hope for the future! It does not take much energy to have your own personal “Feast of Thanksgiving” — just the amazing realization that “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

“Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In Whom His world rejoices; Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath blest us on our way, With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.”

Heavenly Cranberry Sauce

2 pounds cranberries
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 cups granulated sugar
Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons
2 cups orange marmalade

Wash and drain well cranberries. Place in shallow baking dish and cover with chopped walnuts, sugar, juice and grated rind lemons and orange marmalade.
Cover tightly and bake for 45 minutes at 350° F.
Makes 2 quarts.

Cornbread Dressing
 (A tried, tested and much loved recipe)

6 cups cornbread, crumbled
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sage
Coarse ground pepper to taste
1 stick butter
4 cups rich chicken or turkey broth
4 eggs, beaten

Sauté onions and celery in 1 stick butter for approximately 2 minutes. Mix all dry ingredients (except eggs).
At this point, check for proper seasoning and adjust as needed. Add eggs, mix well.
Bake in oiled, heavy iron skillet for 30 to 45 minutes in 375° oven.
Serves 12.