In George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, he suggested we obey and be grateful to the "great Lord and Ruler of Nations." He also asked God "to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best."
In today's world we may wonder if the founding father's prayer has been answered.
A recent New York Times article recalled the greed leading to the trampling death of a Walmart worker on last year's Black Friday. Though stores aim for safety this year, the bargains designed to get them and the customers in the financial "black" create aggressive shoppers who don't mind shedding very "red" blood.
Just one day's news last week included a refocus on the 9/11 attack and the fresh wounds of the Fort Hood massacre. As reporters, politicians, and citizens debate whether to bring terrorist prisoners into the country, whether to try them in criminal or military courts, families bury the dead while learning Maj. Nidal Hasan is in "significant pain."
That day's information also urged calm regarding three confirmed cases of dengue fever in Key West, the first in more than 40 years. Another report exposed the hypocrisy of the Republican National Committee providing its employees with insurance for elective abortions while opposing the Democrats' inclusion of similar things in their health care overhaul. And to complete the day, we read part of the St. Petersburg Times' exposure of the so-called "Church" of Scientology's fraudulent and dangerous activities.
It's enough to make us question "how" we can possibly follow Paul's advice in Philippians 4:8 to think about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable" (NIV). Some give up trying, like the four professing atheists featured by Russ Cardwell in The Tampa Tribune (9/19/09). Each lost or never had faith in God's existence. All say they feel "isolated."
So, what about Washington's belief that "God alone knows best"? We might admit that in view of just one day's human news, looking to God makes sense.
Gov. William Bradford organized the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621. Half the Mayflower pilgrims died the previous winter. Most of the crops failed, but the corn flourished. The living celebrated the corn, inviting the natives to join. The natives generously added to the food. Celebration and giving thanks to God or the Great Spirit united and lifted them all out of isolation.
In the movie "The Color Purple," the fallen preacher's daughter, Shug Avery, walks in a field of purple flowers and says: "I think God just wants to be admired." Thanksgiving is God's invitation to acknowledge life. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 19th century poet, observed: "The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank." Washington knew to thank God. He understood that what God gives or allows is for our good, to turn us to Him. Even the turning requires His help.
Asking is another part of Thanksgiving. George Herbert, 17th century poet, prayed this: "Thou who hast given so much to me, give one thing more, a grateful heart!"
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.