Thanksgiving via Zoom

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Our family tradition includes a devotional gathering before the Thanksgiving Feast. This year that gathering will happen via Zoom. One blessing of this digital connection is that the oldest grandchild, Kasey, will be able to join us—wherever she happens to be. Kasey is a mental health officer in the US Army. She is on assignment with her unit, somewhere, assisting local medical resources overwhelmed by the current health crisis.

Last year, Alison, Kasey’s sister, shared a reading honoring the emphasis placed on giving thanks within Native American communities. Then I shared the following story that you will soon be able to read in my new book, God Is Just Love. This story also honors the spirituality of First Nations people. You will find it in chapter 12:

Where Kathy and I lived in the Catskill Mountains, there were 75 black walnut trees and about 1,000 spruce trees planted by my mom and dad. I decided to harvest some of the trees. The trees were my dad’s gift to the future, to all of you grandchildren, and I wanted to make sure that all of you benefited from that gift. When I began cutting down the trees, I didn’t know a lot about using chainsaws. Sometimes I was in a hurry and got careless. I crushed a new chainsaw when a black walnut tree fell on it. Not so good. But there was this one tree, a very tall cherry tree growing right by the river. I knew the lumber from that tree would be very valuable. Two friends were with me. We decided to harvest this tree the right way, the Native American way. So, we had a ceremony before cutting the cherry tree down. We made an offering of thanksgiving to the tree by sprinkling cornmeal all around the tree and promising to use the wood wisely. Then we shared a lot of opinions about how to cut down this tree. Finally, my friend Micah came up with a plan—and it worked perfectly. You can see some of the wood from that tree as the tabletop in our dining room. There still are hundreds of board-feet of lumber from that tree in my woodworking shop, in Micah’s woodworking shop and in Uncle Matt’s shop. I will always be grateful to that cherry tree for sharing its life with us.

Indigenous cultures all over the world, from the beginnings of human life on this planet, always knew that the creation was sacred, that every aspect of creation, the animals, plants, trees, water, soil, seeds—everything—is a gift of the Creator. When we live in harmony with the creation, the gifts of God will take care of us, and we will take care of them. In native cultures, thanksgiving was a way of life.

This year, our Thanksgiving devotions are going to include an old song with some new verses I have been working on. The old song is:

Walking With Jesus

You can learn the tune on you-tube and you are welcome to borrow our family’s new words for your Thanksgiving celebration.

Walking with Jesus
Walking every day, walking all the way.
Walking with Jesus, walking with Jesus with you.

Walking in the sunlight, walking in the shadow.
Walking every day, walking all the way.
Walking in the sunlight, walking in the shadow.
Walking with Jesus with you.

Today is Thanksgiving,
A good day to care, a good day for prayer.
Today is Thanksgiving,
I’m praying to Jesus for you.

Today is Thanksgiving,
What do you say, you’re thankful for today.
Today is Thanksgiving,
I’m thankful for family today.

Today is Thanksgiving,
My turn to say what I’m grateful for today.
Today is Thanksgiving,
“I’m grateful for ? today.”

When we all walk with Jesus,
We are never far away, as we feel His love this way.
We take love in and we give that love away
Walking together every day.

Walking with Jesus
Walking every day, walking all the way.
Walking with Jesus, walking with Jesus with you.

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