It’s the week after Thanksgiving and I’m still recovering from over-eating and decorating the house for Christmas. It is also a time to reflect the reasons we often forget to slow down and focus on thankfulness and gratefulness.
For the past few years, I’ve seen many social media posts during the month of November that focus on two things—no shave November and thankfulness posts. While I didn’t miss seeing (in person or on social media) the faces of guys who banished a razor for a month, I did miss seeing the small reminders that Thanksgiving is a time to focus on the Giver of gifts and not just the blessing of what we have been given.
Was it because we just finished a contentious presidential election? Have we become a culture more divided than united? Is it because we have allowed our lives to become too busy to stop and reflect on what we have rather than what we don’t have?
While I know the Thanksgiving holiday is past us, it is not too late to consider why it is an important lesson in American history and an important spiritual lesson we can implement each day.
Prior to Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday, which mainly occurred in the New England and northern states. George Washington was the first president to declare a day of Thanksgiving, but it would be Abraham Lincoln who would consider the request from a persistent 74-year-old woman, Sarah Joseph Hale. As the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, she petitioned Lincoln for a national Thanksgiving holiday. Her petition was granted, and on October 3, 1863, Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday of November would be set aside as a day of thanksgiving and praise.
Consider our country in 1863 and compare it to today’s headlines. The United States was not united. In fact, we were right in the middle of the Civil War. We were a country divided. Families were against families. Brothers fought against brothers. And yet, in the middle of divisiveness and war, our country set aside a day for thankfulness.
Written by the Secretary of State William H. Seward, the focus was not on what the country had gained or lost, but on the Giver of gifts, who deserves our thankfulness. If you haven’t stopped to read the proclamation made by Lincoln, take a moment today to read it. More importantly, take a post-Thanksgiving moment and offer your thanks to the Lord, not just on one day of the year, but every day. May we live out 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We could all use a little more gratefulness in our lives, especially as we approach the birth of our Savior.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
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 defense, 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, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Proclamation source: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm
If you’re a Christian, you probably haven’t given much thought to Ramadan—one of the five pillars of Islam that began Monday, June 6. Muslims around the world will fast from the time the sun rises until sundown for 30 consecutive days. They will break their fast each evening with a large meal and then begin again the next day. Ramadan is a time of Muslims working to show their devotion to God and earn His favor. But, should Ramadan matter to you?
I believe it should. In the past few days, I’ve heard from several Christian workers who live in Muslim countries. They have reminded me of several reasons why Ramadan should be important to Christ followers. Here’s just a few:
- Spiritual sensitivity is high during this time, and Muslims often think more about eternity and spiritual topics. It is a wonderful time for Christian to engage in spiritual conversations with Muslims. It is also a time of spiritual darkness.
- During this time, Christians can unite and pray fervently for the salvation of millions of Muslims. Prayer is the most powerful weapon believers can practice. God hears the prayers of His people. Please pray for Christian workers in Muslim countries as they have opportunities to share the Gospel.
- Do you know someone who is Muslim? If not, this is a perfect opportunity to ask the Lord to bring someone in your life who practices Islam. Evangelism begins when you engage with others and develop a relationship. Pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel with a new Muslim friend.
How has God already answered these prayers? According to Denison Forum, more Muslims are coming to Christ than ever before, many after seeing visions and dreams of Jesus. More than 6 million Muslims in Africa convert to Christianity every year. More Muslims around the world have become Christians in the last 15 years than in the previous 15 centuries.
One of the things I often do during this season is pray when I wake up each morning. I pray for Muslims to have visions and dreams. Why the morning? Our morning is generally evening for Muslim countries and when you pray in the morning, they are preparing for sleep. In many areas, there is no Christian witness, and God still uses visions and dreams to capture the attention of those who are in bondage to Islam.
Yes, Ramadan should be important to you. Will you pray and intercede during this time?
Like many women, I grew up watching Disney movies. For my Baby Boomer generation, Cinderella was at the top of the list. I still remember waking up one Christmas morning to find a complete collection of Disney albums, which included the story and, more importantly, all of the music. My first trip to a Disney theme park was in 1976. I was an awkward eighth grader who, unlike Peter Pan, wanted to grow up but was caught in the middle of acting mature and squealing with delight on Space Mountain.
Fast forward to a week ago when Disney released its first official trailer of the highly anticipated 2017 release of the live action version of Beauty and the Beast. I may have reverted back to my childhood because I can hardly wait to see this movie—even if it means waiting until next March.
Why all the excitement? Here’s three reasons why I can’t wait for this new adaptation.
- Belle. Need I say more? I can relate to her love of books, and the animated scene of her seeing the castle library is still one of my favorites. She embodies a more modern woman than Cinderella, using her brains and looking beyond a person’s outer appearance as the standard for acceptance. And Emma Watson is portraying Belle. Need I say more?
- Music. The official trailer doesn’t give us many clues about the faces of the characters, but when I heard the music from the animated film, I was thrilled. Those songs embody a “tale as old as time.” In the 80s, composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman helped put Disney back on top with their success of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Disney is smart to keep the music and add to these classics.
- Live action. I have to admit—I love animated movies, and I was quite skeptical about the release of Cinderella and The Jungle Book. I was pleasantly surprised, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this one adapts. It will be interesting to see how Disney portrays Mrs. Potts or Cogsworth. And yes—British accents. It all seems very lovely.
Summer is here, and it’s time to consider fun places you can visit with your family. Whether you live in Oklahoma or you are visiting Oklahoma, here are ten places to put on your vacation list. For details on all of these and many more, visit www.travelok.com. This website contains a plethora of information to make your Oklahoma summer special!
- Robbers Cave: Located in southeast Oklahoma by Wilburton, a visit to Robbers Cave is a great place for hiking and exploring. There’s camping and lodging available, but plan ahead and make reservations. If you have time, there’s plenty of beautiful scenery and landscape in this part of the state, including the Talimena National Scenic Byway.
- Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge and State Park: If you’re making a summer trip to this destination located in the northwest part of the state, make sure you come prepared with plenty of sunscreen, water and casual clothing. The biggest draw is digging for salt crystals—a destination which draws visitors from around the globe.
- Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and Mt. Scott: Travel to the southwest part of the state and hike or drive to the top of Mt. Scott. Visit the buffaloes at the Wildlife Refuge and don’t forget to stop and enjoy a burger at Meer’s.
- RiverSport Rapids in Oklahoma City: The new $45.2 million rafting and kayaking center is open and is right in the center of the capital’s boathouse district. You can purchase a day pass for $39 and enjoy all of the activities offered, excluding the zipline.
- Chickasaw Cultural Center: There are many opportunities to experience Native American culture in our state, but the Chickasaw Cultural Center offers a variety of ways for your family to learn the history of the Chickasaw people and their continuing influence. Located in Sulphur, don’t forget to stop by Bedré Chocolates directly off I-35.
- Will Rogers Museum: If you visit the northeast part of the state, visit this museum which honors Oklahoma’s most beloved humorist. The museum is located in Claremore, but his family home is in Oologah and is a 400-acre living history ranch.
- Little Sahara State Park: Located south of Waynoka in northwest Oklahoma, Little Sahara State Park shows the diversity of Oklahoma’s terrain. Bring your own dune buggy or rent one for $10 a day per driver.
- Alabaster Caverns State Park: Also located in northwest Oklahoma, you can take a tour of the main caverns or spelunk on your own. These caves are home to the world’s largest publicly toured gypsum cave.
- Oklahoma City Zoo: Five hundred animal species inhabit the Oklahoma City Zoo & Botanical Garden. Right in the heart of the capital city, the zoo is a great outing for families. There’s always something new at the zoo!
- Lake Tenkiller: If you enjoy lake living, Oklahoma has some incredible lakes. My personal favorite is Lake Tenkiller because I love the rocks, clear water and the surroundings. With more than 130 miles of shoreline, it is just one of many “great” lakes in the state. I have fond memories of staying at Fin and Feather Lodge with extended family.
These are my top ten. What’s your favorite Oklahoma get-away?
If you’ve been hiding under a rock the past couple of days, you might have missed the viral video that has taken Facebook by storm. Apparently 142 million people haven’t missed the video of “Chewbacca Mom.” I admit—I’ve watched it three times and it makes me laugh. Every. Single. Time.
What can we learn from Candace Payne, a Texas mom who bought a Chewbacca mask because—well—because!? Here are a four things we can take away from this viral sensation.
- We all need a good laugh. In a world that is full of fear and bad news, it never hurts to laugh until your side hurts. Joy is contagious. We all need to spread a little joy every day.
- A children’s toy might be a good purchase. Sometimes it’s good to spend money on something that brings out the kid in you. When was the last time you bought something that took you back to the joys of being a child? Maybe we all need a new toy in our life.
- We need friends who bring us joy. How can you not want to be Candace’s best friend? Do you have someone in your life who makes you laugh? I certainly do—I’m married to that person, and I can’t imagine my life without his humor.
- Social media influences our lives. Like it or not, it’s here to stay in a big way. A friend of mine who is a social media expert told me the average person looks at their Facebook 17 times a day. That’s crazy! And then I start thinking about how many times I clicked on Facebook from my phone. I don’t know if 17 is accurate, but most of us are tied to our phones and social media a lot more than we think. How can we use it in positive ways by building up each other and not tearing each other apart? We should all look for ways to be an encourager on social media.
Thanks Candace for giving us a laugh. Thanks for the social media break from the presidential race. You brought joy to millions of people. We’re waiting for your next video.