Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being Thankful

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. -H.U. Westermayer

The most detailed description of the "First Thanksgiving" comes from Edward Winslow from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1621:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

More than 200 years after that first thanksgiving celebration, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941.

Most people living today cannot really imagine what life was like for the Pilgrims. With their own hands, they made tools and built a nation. Their food crops weren't grown for bragging rights or as a hobby; their crops determined if they would starve or live through the winter. They were truly thankful when the rains came, when the hot days made the corn stalks climb. They thanked God for a bountiful crop of acorns and other nuts, which fed the game that fed them. They gave thanks that their children had lived to be a year old, that their hands were able to hold the axe and the plow. The pilgrims were thankful for their Native American neighbors who helped them, sharing seeds and knowledge of the land, without which the Pilgrims could not have survived.

Thanksgiving doesn't have much importance anymore in our culture. It is a day to eat too much and fall asleep later watching football. It serves as a launching point for the Christmas season, with Black Friday the next day and the coffee table piled with ads for 5:00 AM shopping.
Some decorate their homes and businesses for Christmas after Halloween, just skipping Thanksgiving completely, except for the buffet.

As you prepare for Thanksgiving today, please stop long enough to thank our Father for a comfortable home, the ability to read and reason, good food in abundance without getting your hands dirty, safe water, electricity, and for living in a country where we can go to our church and worship without any fear of persecution.
The list is long.

God has blessed our nation, for in its beginning, they didn't forget Him.

To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.–Psalms 30.12

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Today's blog is in memory of Roy Robertson and all veterans who did what they could.

I Knew You’d Come: A Veterans Day Recollection~Author Unknown

He was very old now, but could still hold himself stiffly at attention before the monument. His war, the one to end all wars, now just a fading part of history. Very few could remember, first-hand, the savageness of the ordeal that had sent millions of young men to their deaths. Cannon fodder, they’d called them, sent before the guns to be mown down — blown apart by chunks of metal which had decimated their frail bodies. The cream of a generation; almost wiped out. He was haunted by the faces of the boys he’d had to order into battle, the ones who’d never come back. Yet one nameless ghost was able to bring a measure of comfort to his tormented mind. At the sound of the gun signaling the eleventh hour he was mentally transported back to the fields of Flanders.
The battle had raged for over two hours, with neither side gaining any advantage. Wave after wave of soldiers had been dispatched from the muddy trenches and sent over the top. So many had died already that day that he decided he could not afford to lose any more men before reinforcements arrived. Perhaps they’d give the remnants a few more days of life. There came a slight lull in the battle due to the sheer exhaustion of the men on both sides.

During this interval, a young soldier came up to him requesting that he be allowed to go over the top. He looked at the boy who couldn’t have been more than nineteen. Was this extreme bravery in the face of the enemy or was the soldier so scared he just needed to get it over with?

“Why would you want to throw your life away, soldier? It’s almost certain death to go out there.”

“My best friend went out over an hour ago, captain, and he hasn’t come back. I know my friend must be hurt and calling for me. I must go to him, sir, I must.” There were tears in the boy’s eyes . It was as if this were the most important thing in the world to him.

“Soldier, I’m sorry, but your friend is probably dead. What purpose would it serve to let you sacrifice your life too?”

“At least I’d know I’d tried, sir, he’d do the same thing in my shoes. I know he would.”

He was about to order the boy back to the ranks, but the impact of his words softened his heart. He remembered the awful pain he’d felt himself when his brother had died. He’d never had the chance to say goodbye.

“All right soldier, you can go.” Despite the horror all around them, he saw a radiant smile on the boy’s face, as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

“God bless you, sir,” said the soldier.

It was a long time before the guns fell silent for the last time and each side was allowed to gather their dead and wounded. The captain remembered the young soldier. He looked through the many piles of bodies. Young men. So many as to give an unreal quality to the scene before him.

When he came to the makeshift hospital, he looked carefully through the casualties. He soon found himself before the prone body of the soldier, alive, but severely wounded. He knelt down beside the young man and gently laid a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m so sorry, son. I knew I was wrong to let you go.”

“Oh no, sir. I’m glad you did and I’m glad you’re here now so I can thank you. You see sir, I found my friend. He was badly wounded, but I was able to comfort him at the end. As I held him dying in my arms, he looked me in the eyes and said: “I knew you’d come.”

The young soldier faded between consciousness and oblivion for some time before he too finally slipped away.

The captain stayed by his side until the end, tears streaming quietly down his cheeks.


As the bugle sounded “Taps”, the old captain envisioned once again the young soldier’s face. Looking up, he could almost hear the stone monument calling out to him: “I knew you’d come.”

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John15:13

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Hickory Nuts

It's a good year for hickory nuts.

Hickory trees are a hardwood that has been used for fences, furniture, and switches.
Someone cooking 'way back yonder' discovered food had a different taste when it was cooked over hickory sticks or coals. Once used as food by native Americans and settlers, the nuts are most highly valued by squirrels now. When I went squirrel-hunting with my daddy as a child, we would look for hickory trees, knowing that would be where we would find the most squirrels. Daddy liked to go real early, when most animals and little girls were still sleeping, so my trips with him were few and sporadic.

Our house has a huge scalybark hickory tree just off the deck in the back. This majestic tree provides shade for the house and yard. It is home to countless birds and insects. This time of year, when the mature nuts are falling, the hickory tree and the ground under it teems with squirrels gathering for winter. If my daddy was still living and wanted to go squirrel hunting, he could do so sitting on the deck.

My home office, where I spend way too much time while I'm home, has two windows that look out on the deck. When I look up from the computer, most of the time I see squirrels busy at work, chasing the hickory nuts that have fallen there. I wish I could train them to take the hulls, too. When the mature nuts fall from the tree, the hull breaks into quarters exposing the nut. These quarter hulls, their edges sharp enough to injure feet, get wedged in the cracks of the deck boards. They cannot be swept up or blow away by the leaf blower. Screwdriver in hand, I crawl along the deck and remove them one by one.

You would think I would get used to it, but every year, the noise of falling hickory nuts crashing on the deck makes me jump. On October and November nights, I lay in bed and listen to them thump, thump, thumping on the deck as the autumnal winds assist the hickory tree in reproducing itself. Every spring, we have to cut down numerous hickory sprouts that come up in places where we don't need another tree. If humans would leave them alone, hickory trees could take over in no time.

The tree was here before my house was built. It may be there long after the house has fallen in unless there is natural or human interference. Despite my ongoing battle with the hulls, barring lightning or a tornado, the tree is safe as long as I live here.
*The photo of the squirrel was not made on the hickory tree. They are not cooperative about posing, and I have to get the photos where I can. wr