give thanks on thanksgiving

Today is our once-a-year Thanksgiving church service where all the churches from Southern Florida join together for a family reunion to worship God. It reminds me of a time growing up when all my extended families in the NY-NJ area would do the same, except God wasn’t much a part of it. I am grateful for those times, and as long as I can remember, playing football early on Thanksgiving morning was always a part of that tradition also. 

Looking back, some of my favorite memories, starting from a pre-teen, in Fairlawn New Jersey. The boys in that neighborhood would play tackle football with helmets and no pads. My best friend Chris Daley had some Washington Redskins helmets we would share. How none of us got seriously hurt, I’ll never know. When we moved to Lake Hopatcong, the tradition continued, only this tackle football didn’t include helmets. On one super cold holiday, my neighbor John Bickar hit me low and when I landed on the frozen field with my shoulder, my collar bone snapped. That was the most pain I’d ever been in and my mother thought I was paralyzed because I couldn’t move. I couldn’t play any sports for about 6 months after that. On another occasion my friend Eric and I were invited to play against a bitter crosstown rival. It was muddy and violent. That’s the kind of day, when you’re done, you just throw all those clothes away because you were so dirty and wet. During that game, I hit a guy in the legs while he was jumping to catch a pass. He flipped and landed on his head hard and got up mad. There were almost a lot of fights that day, but it all ended peacefully. As I got older, the tackle football turned into flag football. 

As I’ve shared previously, my stepfather took very little interest in me or my sister. He provided for us, and really not much else I can say, but he may have financially saved my mother and us, so in spite of the frequent criticisms, I realize God was there, molding me then also. It was one of my life’s goals to NOT be like my stepfather and be young enough to actually share these memories together with my children and have them experience these same traditions. My first son was born in 1991, when I was 29, and YES, I have played in Thanksgiving Turkey bowls with him and even his younger brother, who is now 21. Nothing has brought me more joy than to carry on these traditions and share them with my children, though as they get older, they have their own lives and they’re building their own traditions, so it’s getting harder. Not to mention that I am now 57 and my body feels all of that. Last year I hurt my arm so bad throwing the ball, I haven’t thrown one since. I will be trying again this week. My sons will be with me, and we will enjoy another Thanksgiving morning playing a meaningless flag football game, that hopefully will live in their memories forever, and maybe when I’m long gone.

As for the service, if your faith is weak, seeing thousands of people from every race, age, culture, and economic background worshipping together just makes one feel confidence that only God could put something like this together. On a whim, my newest friend Jesse and I went to the middle of the Everglades at midnight this week to watch something called a Unicorn Meteor shower. There were supposed to be as many 400 shooting stars, all within 40 minutes. Looking up from the pitch dark Everglades, seeing millions of stars, galaxies, and constellations calls for a creator. I read yesterday that if our gravity was even slightly less or more powerful, we would all cease to exist. Anyway, the last one of these was in 1995, so I said YES!  Well, I think I understand why it was called a Unicorn Meteor shower because we saw as many meteors as unicorns…  We saw more alligators than meteors… We experienced about 1,000 more mosquitos than meteors… Yet, I’ll always remember we did it and it built my faith. James Campbell from the Miami church was our speaker today. He shared we are living “in the last days” and read from Heb 1:1-2 that God spoke to our ancestors, but now he speaks to us through his son… 2 Kings 7:3-9 speaks of those that discovered a rescue to their distress, and they shared the good news with others to rescue them, but not at first… they said “what we are doing is not right” and they changed to God’s delight. We need to remember we are a people of God, we are a Holy people, we look forward to Jesus’ return, and we “speed” his return and coming. Don’t ignore the Spirit. Don’t resist the Spirit. Don’t grieve the Spirit. Let’s not become too electronic or automatic in 2020. Let’s not forget about God.

Let’s be thankful for all our blessings, not only this Thanksgiving week, but forevermore…  Happy Thanksgiving and may your football, feasts, family, and fellowship be filled with Godly memories.