Thanksgiving 2022

Thursday, November 24, 2022

(We interrupt the previously scheduled episode recapping my 1972 Coming-of-Age Jaunt through Europe, to interject this Thanksgiving message.)

I am thankful, three weeks before my 73rd birthday, that most of my deadlines these days are self-imposed and freely adjusted. Had I been able to maintain my original plan, this week would have had readers with me in Jerusalem, where I celebrated my 1972 Thanksgiving meal with a jar of peanut butter and the loaf of bread I hoped to stretch for a few more days. Instead, the recap falls short by six weeks and eleven nations. I was still in England, and still thinking I would spend most of my sojourn in France. I anticipated upgrading my high school French and working on my novel. I certainly had no inkling of getting as far as Israel. I had, however, just committed to visiting a new friend in Switzerland.

I give thanks for my God-bestowed but only-recently-acknowledged ADHD. Even as—at this stage in life—unfinished projects challenge me in space and time, the fascinating twists and turns of my distractibility refuse to let me become bored. I am rich in both hobbies and relationships. All by itself, my whimsey in spiders has brought me friendly correspondents on six of the seven continents. My early teaching career allowed me to teach groups of junior high students, and in some cases, my later career brought me their children and grandchildren. Members of each group now show-up richly on my FB friends list. As God supplied me with diverse teaching venues, I once had a class of Cacua-speaking adults from the remote jungles of Colombia. They needed the basics of government and economics to help them pass their (Spanish-language) primary-school equivalency exams. We taught the class tri-lingually. Later, in China, I had three weeks with high school and college students who hoped to improve their English. Over the years, God gave me experiences with both public and Christian school students in California. In the middle, for a decade, I taught a tightly-knit cadre of students in Colombia. Some of those children I had the privilege of shepherding from fifth grade through twelfth, and I’m able to correspond with them now as adults. For all this I am thankful.

I am thankful for the families God has given me, both the family of my birth, and the family I began 50 years ago (next July) by marrying Vicki. In July, I camped with the cousins among whom I grew up. We who could remember our wonderful grandparents and great-grandmother could now see each other’s grandchildren. This week, Vicki and I have three of our five children, with their spouses, and seven of our fourteen grandchildren. My step-counter tells me that in the five days since the grandkids arrived, my daily walking stats double over the average from the previous six weeks. Few gratifications in life can match watching grandchildren grow and their parents negotiating the challenges. The oldest two boys have their voices changing. The younger ones still want to cuddle with Papa and have stories read. I also thank God for the amazing technology that allows me to teleport to Brazil to help homeschool my grandsons there, and then zoom over to England to keep current on the antics of my British grands.

My life puts flesh to the end-time description given by God to Daniel, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Dan. 12:4, ESV). Living now, two-and-a-half millennia after God instructed Daniel to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end,” I am grateful to have a storehouse of ‘to-and-fro’ memories from visits to twenty-some countries. I also carry more information through my pocket phone than Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson could access had they owned every book then in print. I am thankful for capabilities unavailable to any previous generation. I am also grateful for the Scriptures that provide a solid place to stand as floodwaters shift the sand from all around us.

As a child born just at the end of two World Wars, I have lived through a Cold War and times of increasingly dangerous proxy wars. I am thankful that both I and my children have been spared the call to arms. Amidst ‘wars and rumors of war,’ I am thankful that, in my call to overseas service, I could carry literacy rather than kill-or-be-killed armaments. I could spread the Word of Life rather than the Kiss of Death. I am thankful to be living in a pocket of peace, the likes of which so many in our world are unable to enjoy. I am not facing a winter without heating, nor the threat of incoming missiles. I have done nothing to deserve these blessings that I enjoy, just as many of the people without them have done nothing to deserve their absence. Even in Colombia, which was struggling with a civil war within our earshot, I could say, as did David, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8). For this I am thankful.

(A conversation, just now, with my Brazilian son-in-law reminds me how thankful I am to be familiar with the tastes of both the peaches, apricots, and plums that won’t grow in the tropics, and the tree-ripened mangoes, papayas, and bananas that only show up in North American grocery stores with a pittance of their sweetness and flavor. I have tasted avocadoes, sweet and creamy as only the tropics can produce them, but have temperate-zone persimmons in the back yard as I write this.)

I am thankful that though riches and fame were never high on my list of ambitions, God’s plan for my life has delivered for me a modest level of each. I enjoy a nice house, a satisfactory pension, and a yard big enough to entertain my horticultural curiosities. Although—as late as 2016—I entertained no ambition to run for elective office, in 2018, I finished ahead of the Libertarian in my race for Congress, and in 2020, an amazing 42,015 voters marked their presidential ballots for me. I am thankful for each one of you. That total exceeds even the popular votes for George Washington (39,624 in 1788-89, and 28,300 in 1792) and for John Adams (35,726 in 1796). I am thankful that both Washington and Adams performed so well in the strenuous times with which they were faced—as have generations of patriots since—and that my family and I can enjoy the benefits thereof. I pray that those benefits will continue.

Even as God blessed me in ways I never sought, He has also gratified the desires I did entertain. I wanted to leave the world a better place for my having been here. Now, I can look at five grown children who are each contributing to the betterment of mankind. I can look at three generations of students whose lives I have touched. I can see riders lined up to utilize a bus system for which God put me in the right place at the right time to help get started. I can look back at teenagers I encouraged in the 1980s—coming from the pre-literate, indigenous peoples of Colombia—students who went on to graduate from prestigious universities, and who now supervise educational systems they have built from the ground up, on land to which their people now hold legal title. I hear of hundreds now worshipping Jesus among people-groups that had none fourty or fifty years ago. Oh, the marvels I have witnessed! Thank you, LORD!

On this Thanksgiving Day, 2022, I pray that each of my readers will enjoy a time of family and good food. I pray for God’s peace among those, worldwide, who currently feel the weight of man’s free will, expressed as it so often is, as man’s inhumanity to man. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.


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