The Undeniable Religious Underpinnings of an American Holiday

No Arguments

I don’t want to get into any arguments this Thanksgiving, believe me. I only look forward to meeting with family, eating turkey, along with every imaginable kind of casserole, then later flopping prostrate onto some flat surface to nap through the mythical effects of tryptophan and marshmallows. But just as with so many other things in this modern life, there are those who want to make a case against Thanksgiving, at least the religious underpinnings it brings to the dinner table.  Like as with Christmas, there will inevitably be those who want to keep God out of Thanksgiving.

There has been so much debate over the level of influence religion (specifically Christianity) had in the founding of our great nation, the United States of America. Many have argued that our forefathers wanted nothing more than a completely secular society void of anything sacred. Others have argued that our Founders, if anything, might have been tolerant of religion, but never had any propensity toward the public expression of Christianity, especially in governmental affairs.

Just Facts

Look, I know that some of you would like to argue with me about the Christian heritage of this country. I know that there are some atheists out there who would like nothing better than to remove every vestige of faith from public view, right Mr. Weinstein? But I’m not going to argue; I’m just going to present the facts.

The following excerpts are taken from early Thanksgiving proclamations made by our Continental Congress.

From the First National Thanksgiving Proclamation made by the Continental Congress, November 1, 1777

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to
set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and
PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings
of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that,
together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession
of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest
Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive
and blot them out of Remembrance…

That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education,
so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing
Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom,
which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

May I ask a stupid question or two? What about the above quote sounds totally secular? What about the above quote gives the idea that the majority of Congressmen were nothing more than deists?

You see, we can argue all day long about the current state of our nation, but at its founding there were men in government who were not afraid to encourage our people to pray, praise, give thanks, and repent for our sins. I read nothing about thanking the Indians for corn.

As a matter of fact, what I read in these early documents was a call to be thankful, even in the midst of hard and difficult times. These early congressmen all agreed that even though we were at war, God was merciful and the gospel needed to be proclaimed throughout the world! Can you imagine that kind of thinking coming from Washington today?

United States Congress, October 20, 1779

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of
December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies,
and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States; to beseech
him that he would be graciously pleased to influence our public councils, and bless them with
wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness, and success; that he would go forth with our hosts
and crown our arms with victory; that he would grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine
grace, and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel; that he would bless and prosper
the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners
of the earth; that he would smile upon the labors of his people and cause the earth to bring forth
her fruits in abundance; that we may with gratitude and gladness enjoy them; that he would take
into his holy protection our illustrious ally, give him victory over his enemies, and render him
signally great, as the father of his people and the protector of the rights of mankind; that he would
graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to
contending nations; that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into
his favor, and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the
basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and
safety. as long as the sun and moon shall endure, until time shall be no more.

Notice the prayer that God would “graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to contending nations?” Therein lies the big difference between a Christian nation at war and a Muslim jihad.

United States Congress, October 31, 1780

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and
calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and
thankful acknowledgments… and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace…

…to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause
the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.

United States Congress, 1781

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the 13th day of December next, to be
religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the people may assemble on
that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our
manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please
Him to pardon our offenses, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and
relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give
success to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counselors,
judgment and fortitude to our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally, and
favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable and lasting peace; to
bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters
cover the seas.

And just one more, 1784

[May the Supreme Ruler of the universe]  bless all mankind, and inspire the
princes and nations of the earth with the love of peace, that the sound of war may be heard of no
more; that he may be pleased to smile upon us, and bless our husbandry, fishery, our commerce,
and especially our schools and seminaries of learning; and to raise up from among our youth, men
eminent for virtue, learning and piety, to his service in church and state; to cause virtue and true
religion to flourish, to give to all nations amity, peace and concord, and to fill the world with his
glory.

Argue all you want, but I consider Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday, one that should be encouraged by our government. At least that’s what it seems our Founding Fathers would have wanted.

 

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“Life Lessons” Now Available

Here’s a quick note to all my followers and subscribers.

If you will look down to the left in the widget column, there you will see the cover of my new little book, Life Lessons from the School Bus. You can click on that picture and find a link to where you can purchase it.

I really have high hopes for this new book. The feedback I’ve already gotten has been nothing but positive. One objective person who read the finished draft told me, “You did good; it hit the mark.”

A sample page - And yes, I did the illustrations :-)

A sample page – And yes, I did the illustrations :-)

Life Lessons from the School Bus is not just for bus drivers; it’s for everybody. But let me tell you, if you have ever ridden on a school bus, driven a school bus, worked with kids, or even had a second job – this bus is definitely for you!

Inside the book you will find 20 different stories (Route Stops). Each true story is followed up with a “Life Lesson” and a few “Route Suggestions” to follow. The picture to the right is an example of one page.

In case you are wondering, I did do several posts on this blog a while ago entitled “Life Lessons from the School Bus.” However, the book includes stories not published on this blog. Even the ones that are included in the book that were originally written here have been modified or expanded.

I promise, you will find this book a fun, quick read that you will want to share with others – after you buy them their own copy, of course.

If you’d like to buy larger quantities for whatever reason, just make a note to the publisher.

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Blatant, Unapologetic Hit Request

I’m on my school bus at this moment (not driving, of course), using my old-fashioned, antique iPhone 4s to write this post. You see, my internet at home has been down for a couple of days and I’m suffering from withdrawal. In other words, I’ve got to write something.

One thing I regularly do from my phone is check my stats. Let me be very honest: low visitor/view numbers can ruin my day. Why is this? Am I not supposed to be writing for the Lord? Just to make a difference? Whether people read my stuff, or not? Let’s get real, ok? Yes to the above, but I like recognition, too. Sorry, but I love the stage, whether it be literal or cyber.

Oh, I know it’s a pride thing I suffer from; I’m not an idiot. As a matter of fact, I love applause, awards, etc. But on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying something. I’d be a pathetic preacher if I hated to speak in front of crowds, wouldn’t I? So, I know there’s an element of pride involved, but I do try to keep things in their proper perspective: “and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

But here I am. I’m writing. I’m on my phone. The kids are about to come out and load up, and I’m asking for numbers. I want to see how many views and likes I can get on this post. Why? Just for the heck of it, that’s all.

And, because I deserve it – I’m doing this from a phone, people!IMG_2595.JPG

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A Song for Bus Drivers: “The School Bus Man Can”

The following story is not one that I included in my new book. But if there is a follow-up edition in the future, maybe I’ll consider adding a CD.

A Song was Needed

Several years ago, as the school year was coming to a close, a video was put together to share with all the drivers in the county. The person putting the video together asked if anyone had any music they would like played in the background.  I said, “I DO!

You see, a few weeks earlier I had sat down with my 8-track digital recorder and put together an ode to bus drivers. I even enlisted the help of my two girls (they sang backup and made all the noise). Even though it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, there were within it were certain elements of truth.

This Is A True Story

One day, just when the morning routes were coming to an end, a desperate call came over the 2-way radio.  At first, it didn’t make sense, or at least it didn’t seem like much about which to be concerned. All of a sudden, like the moment you realize the unbelievable is real, the subject of the distressing radio transmission becomes painfully obvious.

Have you ever been walking through Wal-Mart and seen somebody that made you say to yourself, “What in the world was she thinking?” Well this was one of those moments, only the audio kind. Honest as a heart attack, this is how the conversation went…

Dispatcher:  “What number is this?” (in other words, the dispatcher was asking for the number of the bus)

Bus Attendant:  “Number ONE! Not TWO! I gotta go PEE! PLEASE let me go PEE!!

If I’m lying, I’m dying.

No joke, an attendant on a special needs bus got on the radio and asked permission to get off and go relieve herself. She literally pleaded and begged over the airwaves. But the craziest thing about all of this is that she wasn’t the only adult on that bus; she wasn’t even the dadgum driver! There was no need for her to call in and ask permission to go to the bathroom! She could have gone “number one” any time she wanted!

How embarrassing.

Folks, here is a lesson for you: when you have to go “potty,” keep it to yourself!

So, enjoy the song. Feel free to pass it on. I can’t make anything off of it anyway, you know. Sammy Davis, Jr. might come back an haunt me.

Click here to listen The School Bus Man Can

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Filed under General Observations, music

From the Pit to Praise

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. – Psalm 40:3

A New Song

How many times have you heard someone sing “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” after something really special happened? Can you hear Handel’s Messiah playing in your head this very moment? I remember a particular scene in the movie Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, where Scrooge (played by Bill) realized he’d been given another chance at life. In an instant he stepped out of pure terror into rapturous joy… “I’m ALIVE! I’m ALIVE!”… Hallelujah! Hallelujah! … everything was new.

(Enjoy the clip, but pardon the mild language – after all, the guy hasn’t had a lot of time to change his vocabulary, right?)

Are we singing songs of praise? Do you remember the pit? Are you in one right now? What kind of songs are “pit” songs? What kind of songs does one sing when he is hopeless, in the dark, burdened with despair? Shouldn’t the old songs become new when you’ve been delivered?

It might not be the Hallelujah Chorus coming out of your speakers, but something should be “new” about the song choices of one who has passed from death unto life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14). Am I correct? Maybe it’s just the preacher in me is talking.

What Others See

People-watching is a favorite pastime, one that even I sometimes enjoy (especially when there’s not enough money to buy anything in the mall). But it doesn’t have to be a place where people congregate to find people-watchers; they’re everywhere.

Because there’s always someone watching us, taking note, even trying to be like us, it’s important to remember that when God does a work in our lives, people see that too! As a matter of fact, the bigger the miracle, the bigger the response.

John:  “Hey, Jim, do you remember that guy, Anthony?”

Jim:  “Anthony?  The one who’ll never make anything of his life? The guy who’s beyond help? The one who’s been stuck in that pit so long he’ll never change?”

John:  “Yeah, that guy…well sorta.”

Jim:  “What do you mean?”

John:  “Well, something’s really changed about him. He’s different. He’s not depressed, or angry, or worried anymore. Things are going better for him, and all he can do is praise God for picking him up! He doesn’t even accept the credit! All he does now is talk about the Lord, loving people, and all that stuff. He even changed the music he listens to!”

Jim:  “That’s scary, man. But if God really did that much for Anthony, I wonder what he might do for me if I just trusted Him more?”

Gotta Have “It

Any kind of experience that will make a man run towards a guy with a shotgun, a guy who was trying to kill him… Any kind of experience that would make a man jump out of an elevator and scream, “I’m ALIVE! I’m ALIVE!“… That’s the kind of experience that will get people’s attention.

Friend, do you have any idea how close to hell you were before you accepted Christ? Were your feet in the flames and you didn’t even know it?

You at the computer…the one reading this on an iPad or a smart phone… what’s your deal? Have you been delivered from some dark, dank, depressing, hopeless pit? Are you in one right now? Well, when God delivers you, if He hasn’t already, I hope your reaction will reflect what’s been done.

People are looking for hope; do you have “it”?</

Note: A previous version of this post was being written when my computer decided it was time to update Windows. Before it was erased, that post elaborated a little on the “it” that David said the people saw. What do you think the word – inserted by translators for clarification – was referring to? The being lifted out of the pit and so forth, or visible praise? Both?)

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Tennessee Taliban?

Yesterday, on Facebook, I read a post comparing conservatives in Tennessee to the Taliban. Yes, the Taliban.

Was it meant in jest? Was it simply sarcasm? Was it some form of sophisticated humor far above my intellectual capabilities? In any case, I did not find it humorous, but offensive. Let me quote to you what the author wrote, but just in case I’m missing something, I won’t name names – since the Taliban might get offended, and you know how that could go.

“Family Values is the Sharia Law of East Tennessee… [Rich and White] are the only two qualities required to hold office here in the Taliban region of East Tennessee.”

church ladyIt’s easy to come down hard on unloving, graceless, legalistic Christians (or at least those who claim to be) when they try to push their beliefs. I mean, if all you ever experience is the literal version of Dana Carvey‘s SNL character Church Lady, then that kind of self-righteous, churchy, hate mongering is easy to condemn.

But in reality, the ones my friend (yes, it’s a friend) were comparing to the Taliban are those who strongly believe abortion is wrong, that wine sales should be confined to the liquor store, and that one shouldn’t have to check his religion at the door when either voting or running for office. The Tennessee “church ladies” were even likened to Taliban because of their supposed hypocritical support for a less-than-godly candidate. But is the Taliban characterization fair? I don’t think so.

With the exception of the insane radical who has no clue what it means to follow Christ (yet claims to be a Christian), even the most conservative of conservatives, even the most severely Independent Fundamental Bapticostalite-type is nothing, NOTHING like the Taliban!

Give me a break!

For example, let’s compare reactions. Last week a Baptist church in my town was savagely vandalized. What did we do? We prayed that justice would be done, that the vandal would be caught, AND that our community could find a way to show him the love of Christ. What would the Taliban have done in the same situation? Well, as a clue, just last week a missionary friend informed us of a couple in his town that was burned alive after being accused of burning some pages from the Koran. The 26 year-old couple, parents of 4, were repeatedly thrown onto a fire as they pleaded their innocence. But hey, those Christians were taught a lesson, weren’t they?

Had the Christians in Lookout Valley, Tennessee, been the Taliban, we would have united after our morning prayers, then killed the teenager who destroyed the church. After that, like so often is the case with Muslim mobs, we would have looted, raped, and crucified anyone who looked like an atheist or liberal, then burned our own businesses – just to make a point.

But we didn’t, did we?

photo (32)

The Tennessee Taliban (illustrated by: A. Baker)

And what about that election? What about those dreadfully religious, abortion-regulating votes?

  • You mean those votes cast in a fair election after which no one was shot, beheaded, or blown up by a car bomb?
  • You mean the election to which women were allowed to drive themselves?
  • You mean that election we actually HAD?!

I guess the Tennessee Taliban never got the memo from headquarters. You know, the one that says, “Tyranny good…democracy bad.”

So, what’s my point? It does not further the quest for Christian unity and understanding when we intentionally use blatantly derogatory labels to demonize those with whom we disagree, especially when we agree on far more things than we don’t.

If my interpretation of the reason for using the “Taliban” term was flawed, then I sincerely apologize. I understand, as pointed out by my wife and children, I can blow things way out of context. But, if I was, as I suspect, lumped in with those who kill those with whom they find the least bit of variance, I’m hurt.

Labeling those who were only doing their civic duty, and had they lost would have only complained and whined, as the “Taliban” was an unfortunate use of words. But unlike the Taliban, we will forgive.

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Filed under Abortion, Alcohol, America, Christian Unity, Culture Wars, legalism

A Pit Stop Before Direction

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. – Psalm 40:2

The Pits

Can you imagine being in a deep, dark, hole? Imagine no cell phone, no rope, no ladder, and nothing but slippery, muddy walls. The ground on which you stand, if you could call it ground, is nothing but thick, sticky, pull-the-shoes-off-your-feet miry mud. If you could manage to climb, you’d first have to find a way to pull your feet from the clay.

That’s the kind of circumstance I believe David was describing, but not a literal pit, like an ancient well or cistern; he was talking about his circumstances. David wasn’t really in a well, at least not the kind that held water. He hadn’t really fallen into a muddy pit. The pit David was describing was not all that dissimilar to the pits we fall into every day.

Faith and Waiting

What is it like to fall into the pit of depression? What about the pit of financial ruin? What’s it like to be trapped in the pit of emotional or physical pain? Are the walls in the pit of broken relationships any less slippery? As with the pit David was in, does the pit you’re in, or have been in, make your feet feel stuck, yet unsteady? See, David understands – and so does God.

What did David do while in the pit? As noted in verse one, he cried and he waited. Now, that’s not too hard to do in the average pit, is it? I mean, when you are down in a hole it’s not that difficult to cry and to wait – what else is there to do? But instead of just crying, instead of just waiting, David cried unto the Lord and waited patiently on Him for deliverance. While in the pit David put his faith in God.

Perfect Timing

Then, once the time was right, deliverance came. And when it came, which was in God’s timing, David was lifted out of the pit, set on solid ground, and pointed in the right direction.

Think about it: David didn’t get out of the pit when he wanted or how he wanted to; he had to depend on God. What if David had had a stroke trying to deliver himself? How many people kill themselves (literally and figuratively) trying to get out of their pits? How many people never cry out to God for help, never wait patiently, but curse the circumstance, frantically flailing about in a useless attempt to get free? Maybe you are in a miry pit for a reason, to cause you to trust God.

One thing is for sure, when you are in a pit there aren’t many places you can go fast. Unless you’re going up, right or left, east or west, really makes no difference, does it? When you’re in a pit, all you can think about is the pit. But what happens when you do get out? What then? Where do you go? When God lifted David up out of the miry pit, He set his feet on solid ground and made sure he set off in the right direction. Maybe you are still in a pit because the timing is not right for the direction you need to go. Maybe you are still in the pit because you are so week from trying to deliver yourself – if lifted out you might simply fall right back in. Again, wait patiently on the Lord.

Learn While You Wait

All pits are horrible, aren’t they? But as we wait patiently on the Lord, knowing He has heard our cry, maybe we should take note of where we are, how we got here, and how to warn others of the dangers, the darkness, and the loneliness. There is something to learn until deliverance comes.

God doesn’t want to leave you in a miry pit, but what we learn while there may impact the timing of our deliverance and the direction of our going when free.

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