Some of my friends have been urging me to write a book. I am not sure why. I wouldn’t want to write a book just to have my name on its cover. One should write a book because one has something important to share. I have read too many books that added little or nothing to my knowledge. Anyway, the last time a friend suggested that I wrote a book I thought to myself, “If I wrote a book, it would be on lessons from my life and ministry. The title that keeps coming to mind for such a book is, “I Survived.”
“I Survived” in a sense seems to be a fitting commentary on much of my life and ministry. I survived near death experiences as a child, including those occasioned by my mother’s whip. I survived the scrutiny of grave and experienced church elders when I entered ministry at age 21. I survived being transplanted from the warmth and sunshine of the tropics to a forbiddingly cold country where sunny days are celebrated as special gifts from God. I survived the cut and trust that comes with being a church administrator for twenty-seven years and also the opposition that comes with such responsibilities. I survived being a parent. Goodness, didn’t I survive that one! Now I can add that I survived my first year at Sligo.
While “I Survived” sounds like a good title for a book, it does not really tell the true story of my life. You see, it’s not really about me and my survival instincts; it’s about God and His keeping me. A more appropriate title for my book would be, “God has Kept Me,” though that might not sell many copies. Caleb, in his wonderful speech recorded in Joshua 14, said, “The Lord has kept me alive.” This was true of Caleb; it is true of me and it is true of all of us. God has kept us! It is all about Him. How pertinent is this thought during this Thanksgiving season. Thanksgiving is not just about turkey dinners, cranberries, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and family gatherings. It is more about the fact that God has blessed our country despite all its challenges and that He has kept us and blessed us throughout another year.
When Thanksgiving Day was established in 1621 by newly arrived immigrants, it was done with a deep sense of the role that God had played in their lives. The Pilgrim Fathers were grateful for small mercies after a long and arduous journey from England and after having survived a harsh New England winter. They were grateful for being at peace with their neighbors, the Indians. They were especially grateful for their first harvest in 1621 and for being able to store some food to meet the coming winter. So grateful were they that their governor, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving toward God.
We tend to take many things for granted today and often give ourselves the credit for our accomplishments and seeming good fortune. However, Thanksgiving Day reminds us that it’s not about us; it’s about God. This is a time to be thankful for the things we often take for granted. Some of those things are relative peace in our country and religious liberty, which is the freedom for everyone to live in harmony with the dictates of conscience. Religious liberty is not merely freedom to worship as we wish to but freedom for everyone else to worship as they wish to or not to worship at all. We can also be grateful for the jobs that we have, and for those without jobs, we can be grateful that God provides for us nonetheless.
One way in which we can show our gratitude to God is to share the blessings He has given us with others. The Pilgrims Fathers, on the first Thanksgiving Day, shared some of their blessings with their Indian neighbors. Whether it is the blessing of encouragement, the blessing of time, the blessing of money, the blessing of the gospel, let’s share it during this very special time of year. Share the bread, as I said in my sermon on Sabbath.