History In The Hands Of The Ignorant

I saw a news item earlier this week. Supposedly a Hollywood star came out saying she hates the US holiday of Thanksgiving (the Los Angeles Times published a rebuttal article calling into question Fox’s motivation and journalism for drawing their information from popeater.com, though the Times fails to mention that sites like the The Huffington Post also carried the story).

The story, generated by second-hand reports, explains that this star is boycotting Thanksgiving because she doesn’t want to be a part of rewriting history or commemorating “what the white settlers did to the native Indians.”

I’d like to rail a little against this one ignorant woman, except yesterday, before I took off for my family get-together, I saw something eerily similar from someone in my Facebook network.

YIKES! 😮 How gullible are we? Because some actress supposedly says this, we rush out and start parroting the sentiments ascribed to her?

Detail from Brownscombe's First Thanksgiving at Plymouth

Never mind that there are primary historical documents—journals by the pilgrims who actually celebrated that holiday, such as Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford and Mourt’s Relation by Edward Winslow and others—that make it clear Thanksgiving has nothing to do with any of the activity that forced the native Americans off their land.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive their first brutal winter in New England. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.

In what way would a gathering that included on average two Indians for every pilgrim settler be reprehensible? Especially when the settlers were thanking God for His provision—not merely for the food, but for the Indians who taught them how to survive.

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims reaped a bountiful harvest. To thank God for their deliverance and the help they had received from the Indians, Bradford held a three-day Thanksgiving feast inviting the Indians to join them in their celebration.
“Strangers, Saints and Indians” by John A. Murray, Wall Street Journal

For the next fifty years, the pilgrims and the neighboring native people groups lived in harmony. And Thanksgiving feasts took place in response to the blessings they enjoyed. Not every year, but with more and more frequency.

So who actually is “rewriting history”?

Certainly not the people who are reading the original source material. And not those of us who celebrate God’s goodness, as the pilgrims did—recognizing that God’s hand preserves and protects and provides.

Think about it. What were the odds that a native American, fluent in English, would “happen” upon this colony of pilgrims so in need of help?

But I’m getting sidetracked.

This well-documented story certainly can be interpreted from a number of angles (for example, by focusing on the English speaking native Americans, by looking at the political developments within the colony, by exploring the relationships of the various native people groups with each other), but it cannot be painted as the beginning of hostilities, pilgrims with Indians.

At least as long as we’re not rewriting history.

And as long as ordinary people don’t start parroting the ideas of others who have not done any actual scholarship.

The whole thing is made more ludicrous by the idea that the news article quoting unknown friends might not be factual. So someone repeats the idea that Thanksgiving is celebrating murder because an online news source said Anonymous said Star Actress said she’s boycotting Thanksgiving for a reason without any basis in fact.

Are we so ignorant that in this Age of Communication, people will believe something so easy to debunk? The sad part is that believing it turns into repeating it, which soon hardens into rewritten history.

Packing It In Or Tossing It Out

Though it might not seem like it at first, this post is related to Thanksgiving Day, and I might mention while I’m thinking about it, that I won’t be posting an article tomorrow.

Airplane travel has become … an adventure. Never mind the body scans and “pat downs.” Many airlines now charge a passenger for each suitcase he takes with him. How do you fly somewhere without taking a change of clothes or basic toiletries, I wonder.

The new “pay per piece” policy has a lot of people thinking twice about what exactly they must take along on their trip. Perhaps a second sweater isn’t necessary, and buying gifts upon arrival seems like a better idea than bringing them from home.

The new goal is to pack only the necessities. But on occasion something else important must be included—a special dress and shoes for a wedding or gloves and knit hat for a snow trip. In this new flying reality, however, adding something to our “pack it” pile means something else has to be left out.

Imagine if someone told you to chuck it all, save one thing. Only one thing. Or how about this. You could take anything, no extra charge, but you’d have to leave out your prized possession.

Let’s up the ante. An overbooked airline tells you you can take as many pieces of luggage as you want as long as they can have your second ticket back—you know, the one you bought so your wife could go with you on your business trip. But if you opt to keep the ticket so your wife can fly with you, neither one of you can take any luggage, at any price. Not even your laptop or the briefcase with the notes for the business meeting you’re to conduct.

Those are interesting hypotheticals, I think—pondering what one valuable thing we’d take if we could take only one, or considering a trip with a spouse and no belongings.

It’s not quite comparable to what Paul experienced in life, but I think it sheds a little light on what he said in Philippians 3 about ringing up his valuables only to toss them aside in favor of Christ.

Paul had it made. He was in an exclusive position among an exclusive people—God’s people, the nation He chose to be the apple of His eye. Paul made sure he covered all his bases. Parentage, check. Legal status, check, Attitude, check (anyone could see his zeal by tallying up the destroyed lives when he left town). He was one righteous dude.

And he tossed it all in the trash.

Why? For the sake of Christ.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, I can’t help but wonder if we who count our blessings, and name them one by one, would be willing to throw them away if it meant we could gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own.

Would we give up being American, with our Constitutional rights, to be part of the kingdom of God? Would we leave our family to be part of God’s family? Would we give up our chance to earn a living in order to be called a Christian?

In short, would we embrace the sufferings of Christ and be conformed to His death if it meant attaining the power of His resurrection?

In so many ways, we live in a world that lets us eat and keep our cake at the same time. We get to do ministry, openly, publicly. Out of our abundance, we get to give generously. And when Thanksgiving rolls around, we pause to consider all the good things and wonderful people we enjoy. If we go a little deeper, we count all our spiritual benefits and thank God for each one.

But I’m wondering if this year it might be informative to approach Thanksgiving with an opposite mindset: what am I willing to give up for the sake of Christ. Are the things I usually give thanks for on this special day of the year so very dear that I would hesitate to count them as rubbish?

I know, Paul wasn’t exactly stacking up his possessions next to Christ. Or his family members. Or his job. Or his citizenship. Was he? Or might not the things he could have put confidence in, be considered his Thanksgiving list?

If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
-Phl 3:4-7

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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If We’re Thankful, Why Aren’t We Content?

This Thursday, those of us in the US will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Already I’ve seen some Facebook wall posts listing out things people are thankful for, and I suspect there will be any number of blog posts that follow suit.

It seems quite common to hold a genuine feast on Thanksgiving Day, even pause to pray and thank God for the bountiful blessings, then scurry out the next day and shop to the dropping point.

So how thankful can we actually be if we must always buy more? Granted, I realize much of the after-Thanksgiving shopping is connected with Christmas, but the American way of life has become that of the consumer. Once, not so long ago, we made things. Now we consume things.

And what’s more, that’s considered the good life. In regard to the present state of the economy, the powers that be seem to believe the solution to righting the ship is to get America out of saving and back into spending.

While I’m not saying that spending is “bad” or that our spirituality should be measured by how much we save, I do think there’s a point where we should evaluate our attitude to see if we are living the abundant life rather than living the Biblical life.

Not long ago I read the Biblical account of the exodus—God’s people leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. On their journey God provided their food—manna:

The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.
– Ex 16:31

Wafers with honey. Yet a bunch of people who enjoyed this gracious provision as they traveled across the wilderness found fault with it.

The sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
– Num 11:4b-6

For the moment, give them the benefit of the doubt—they were tired of the same diet meal after meal, day after day. But look what they were doing—remembering what they’d enjoyed in Egypt. Never mind that Egypt had just experienced devastating plagues that had wiped out virtually all vegetation. Between the plague of hail and the plague of locust, were there any cucumbers and melons and leeks and onions and garlic for them to go back to?

The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; they were very numerous. There had never been so many locusts, nor would there be so many again. For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt.
– Exodus 10:14- 15

Granted, the hail did not fall in Goshen where the people of Israel lived. Let’s say for the moment that the locusts didn’t go there either, though the text doesn’t specify this. How was it that Israel had the food they remembered so fondly when the rest of Egypt was decimated? Obviously the answer was, God.

What they had in Egypt, then, came from the hand of God, and what they had in the wilderness came from the hand of God. Consequently, when they cried discontentedly against the manna they were “forced” to eat, they essentially were telling God He wasn’t doing a good job of caring for them.

In other words, discontent is actually an accusation against God.

Yet our entire existence seems to be made up of striving and struggling and trying and working. Oh, wait. Wasn’t that what God told Adam life would be like outside the Garden?

So the striving and all isn’t the problem per se. That’s the condition into which we’ve been born. But responding with discontent seems to me to be a choice.

More on this another day.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm  Comments (4)  
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I’m Thankful I’m a Writer

I love writing. I love the opportunity to say things that are important to me. I love the fact that I can do so in creative ways or clear, concise ways or thought-provoking ways.

I love the way words work. I love the way a story comes together, sometimes seemingly in spite of me. I love creating unique character voices and looking for fresh or unique details to describe even the ordinary.

I love the adventure of starting a new project. I love thinking and planning or imagining and creating.

I love grappling with ideas through writing. I love organizing those ideas so that I understand them better. I love analyzing ideas and measuring them up against Scripture.

I love talking to other writers. I love hearing their successes and fears and rejections. I love bouncing ideas back and forth. I love comparing notes and learning what they learned. I love passing along the tidbits I’ve learned.

I love going to writers’ conferences. I love being in a place surrounded by like-minded people. I love listening to editors and agents and other writers further along in their career than I am. I love seeing writing friends and hanging out together. I love meeting new writing friends.

I love writing instruction books. I love to learn what professionals have to say about how to write good fiction. I love to dissect the examples and compare them to books I’ve recently read.

I love to enter writing contests. I love the challenge. I love the chance to get feedback. I love the opportunity to try something different.

I love sharing my writing prayer requests with others. I love knowing that a group of believers is praying for my writing and what becomes of it. I love the knowledge that more people praying equates to more people praising God with each answer.

So with Thanksgiving Day a few short hours away here in the US, I’d have to say, apart from God Himself and my family, friends, food, and all the daily needs, I am most thankful that I am a writer.

This is a job I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to hold. I didn’t even realize what a perfect fit writing is for me until I became a writer.

So I am thanking God for His incredible gifts which He lavishes upon us. And the one closest to my heart is my job as a writer.

Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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Recognition-of-God’s-Provision Day, AKA Thanksgiving

Our Founding Fathers would have done well to name the holiday associated with the harvest Recognition-of-God’s-Provision Day, but I suppose to them it was self-evident that life and the food to sustain it was granted by God, and therefore it was He they should thank.

Revisionist history and a culture that buried God decades ago have gradually remade the holiday, first as a family time, as an opportunity to thank those in your life you love, but ultimately as a time to enjoy food and football.

I wish I did more to reverse that trend even in my own life. Interestingly, last Monday in my local paper, the Whittier Daily News, in the “Talk Back” column, a panel of high school students was asked, “Do you think the spirit of Thanksgiving is alive and well in today’s world?”

The last published comments were by Daniel Wilson of Whittier High School:

George Washington called for the first national day of Thanksgiving to thank God for his mercy and to ask for forgiveness. It is not the mailman or cable TV guy we should thank—though no one does—but God, who gives every good and perfect gift. Political correctness is devouring true Thanksgiving, as American families reunite for turkey—and not for thanks.

Wow, Daniel Wilson!

I’d like to shake that young man’s hand. He’s taken a public stand—very public—but I suspect this isn’t the first time. I suspect that those who really know Daniel may have heard him say other politically incorrect things about God, possibly that it is He who created life. Or that He is sovereign over all. Maybe that He loves Mankind which is why He provides.

Yahweh-jireh. All praise be His, and abundant thanks, for He continues to provide, not just in this life, but for the next.

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