Blessed Thanksgiving

A Blessed Thanksgiving

Today, Americans of every race, creed, religion and belief gather to give thanks. It is a day for family and friends, for feasting and for favor.

In 1863, when our country was literally torn apart by civil war, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of thanks. Even in the midst of great conflict and animus, Lincoln prayed that every American be able to give thanks.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

May we all enjoy a Thanksgiving of abundance, of reverence, of mercy and the tender care of those who are most in need.


Speak Praise, Not Poison

Are you wearied of bad news? Of the social media hashtags that beg us to pray for yet another city mired in violence? The seemingly endless culture wars and political battles? I know I am.

There are times when we need to shut out the world and immerse ourselves in prayer. Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, knows this. Lest you think Voskamp is a hermit or a cloistered nun and therefore has the time and ability to shut out the world and pray far more easily than you or I, think again. She’s a wife. A mom with six kids. Married to a farmer and a homeschooler. But she knows about prayer. Here are some of her thoughts:

God doesn’t need us to praise him but he needs us to praise.

What else keeps us from bitterness? …

Words praising Christ or wrangling to be praised ourselves.

This seeping of bitterness or straight spires of blessings …

I’m not sure how my life stands. How my inner and outer walls stand, how I make a home. Unless we make it a habit to give thanks we habitually give our family grief.

Unless we consistently speak praise, we consistently speak poison.

Unless we are intentional about giving God glory throughout the day, our days unintentionally give way to grumbling …

It’s in praising a Savior in all things that we are saved from discouragement in all things …

Father God, make me speak praise today, not poison; make me intentionally give you glory throughout the day, that my day doesn’t unintentionally crumble in grumbling. In thanking you in all things, I am saved from discouragement in all things, and this today is my earnest prayer: Make me do doxology, not destruction.

You can find more of Voskamp’s work at her blog, A Holy Experience.


Hymns Of Praise O Let Us Sing: The Psalms

Traditionally, the Jews have referred to the psalms as “Hymns of Praise.” There are 150 psalms, most of which are attributed to King David. They are important in both Jewish and Christian writings, prayer and liturgies; artists have, for centuries, found them to be a source of inspiration.

The psalms are a form of religious literature. Some are hymns, some are prayers of thanksgiving, others adoration for God, and some “didactic” or a means of spelling out the Law, those rules that governed Jewish life. St Basil the Great describes the Psalms:

All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable, for it was written by the Spirit to the end that as it were in a general hospital for souls, we human beings might each select the medicine for his own disease . . . The prophets provide one kind of instruction, the historians another, the law yet another. But the book of Psalms contains that which is profitable in all of them. It prophesies of the future; it recalls history; it legislates for life; it suggests rules of action; in a word, it is a common storehouse of good doctrines, providing exactly what is expedient for everyone. . . . Therein is a complete theology; the prediction of the advent of Christ in the flesh, the threatening of judgment, the hope of resurrection, the fear of chastisement, the promises of glory, revelations of mysteries: all, as in some great public storehouse, are treasured up in the Book of Psalms.

As Catholics, the Psalms are part of every liturgy. They are a form of prayer that connects us to the covenant established by God with the Jewish people. Jesus prayed them, as did Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. Sarah Christmyer, an author and speaker, gives this advice:

Praying Scripture daily is a wonderful way to grow close to God. Before you begin, it is important that you decide on a regular time and place. And be sure to pray before you read.  If you can choose a favorite Psalm to pray each day before you start, you’ll find it engraved upon your heart after a while, ready to spring to mind whenever you need it.

Psalm 23 is likely the best known psalm in the world. Even those who don’t know a thing about the Bible have likely heard the words, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” Catholic singer-songwriter Audrey Assad took inspiration from this psalm for her piece, I Shall Not Want. Enjoy this piece, and then dig into the psalms a bit; may you will find comfort and peace.