Seven Things to Do With Your Family This Thanksgiving
Many of my happiest memories as a young man, and now as the head of my own household, come from Thanksgiving. Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been a day where our dearest loved ones gather around the table and feast, followed by a time of poetry reading, Scripture recitations, song, more feasting, and family story-telling. But more than anything, Thanksgiving has come to be a time when we focus as a family on gratitude. It is a time to humble ourselves in the face of God’s great mercy and to chronicle the providences and blessings of God in our life. One of the blessings for which we are most grateful is you — the many friends of Vision Forum. So this year, the Phillips family wants to begin our Thanksgiving Celebration by sharing seven simple recommendations for your own day of thanksgiving.
1. Stop and Thank God from the Bottom of Your Heart and the Depths of Your Soul
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. —Psalm 95:1-6
If you were to spend every waking moment of every day for the rest of your life noting God’s goodness, you would never begin to chronicle all the things for which you should thank the Lord. His blessings are innumerable. But on this day, take time to chronicle much. Get very specific. Thank the Lord for all things: Thank him for your provision, and the protection He has given to you all year. Thank Him for the pains and sorrows that are driving you closer to Him. Thank Him for the problems you have, and thank Him for all the horrors from which you have been spared. Thank Him for your parents, your children, and your loved ones. Thank Him for the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun. Thank Him for those friends who love you and whom you love. Thank Him for the opportunities He has given to you. Thank Him for the mentors in your life. Thank Him for the sweet seasons and the beautiful memories He has given to you. Thank Him for His Church and His Word. But, most of all, thank Him for Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, you can be forgiven of sins, reconciled to the Father, and have the promise of eternal life.
2. Share the Greatest Stories of the Pilgrim Fathers and God's Providence
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.—Deuteronomy 32:7
Thanksgiving Day is a time for quizzes and story-telling. A great place to begin is by dedicating time to recount the rich historical evidence of the providence of God in the life of this nation through the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims. From their humble beginnings as a cadre of faithful friends and devoted Christians meeting in Scrooby, England, to their visionary leadership and perseverance in the New World at Plymouth Plantation, these faithful Separatists left one of the greatest legacies in the history of the New Testament Church. Yet most American Christians know little to nothing of the true story of these indefatigable men and women of God. This Thanksgiving, remedy the problem by telling their story. If you don’t have any of the many books on the Pilgrims available from Vision Forum, do a little online research. Visit the website of Pilgrim Hall Museum, for example. Share the stories of the friendship of William Bradford and William Brewster; of the persecution of the Scrooby Congregation; of the hardship and perseverance of the families on board the Mayflower; of the first Sabbath at Pulpit Rock;of the importance of the Church covenant; and of the long first winter in America. Tell how God used a young Indian boy named Squanto to save the colonists, and share the story of the peace treaty between the Pilgrims and Chief Massasoit which lasted fifty years. Make sure to read the farewell letter of pastor John Robinson to his congregation. Have your children join in the story-telling. Make sure to emphasize the faithfulness and providence of the Lord.
3. Read the Fourth Chapter from Of Plymouth Plantation Aloud to Your Family
Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some ways toward it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.—William Bradford
If you only read from one book outside the Bible this Thanksgiving, make it Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford. And if you only have time for one chapter, make sure it is the fourth. It is in this chapter that we learn about the true reasons why these home-schooling pilgrims debated over whether or not they should risk their lives to go to America, the ultimate reasons for their departure (including concern over bad peer influences with their children), and their tremendous confidence in God. Most importantly, it is here that you read of Bradford’s multi-generational vision of victory. Note: From the approximately fifty survivors of the first winter, more than 30 million descendants have come.
4. Take a Pilgrimage to the Homes of the Pilgrims — From Your Living Room
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.—Proverbs 22:28
We are losing our landmarks to liberty in our nation. As I documented in my article,“Plymouth Crock”, we are even desecrating the landmarks to our Pilgrim fathers. This is one reason why I believe it is so important that we physically bring our children to the great Ebenezers of our freedom while they yet remain. Finally, after more than a decade leading families to Plymouth, home of the Pilgrim fathers, I was able to take 100 Americans this year on a journey to Scrooby, England, and the little manor house where the Pilgrim congregation was birthed. What a journey! Please let me share it with you by watching the video which I have posted on my blog. Then learn about the little eight-hundred-year-old manor house that changed the world in my article, “A Pilgrimage to Scrooby”.
5. Read George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation at the Dinner Table
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.—George Washington
The practice of setting aside days of prayer, days of fasting and humiliation before the Lord, and days of thanksgiving for the mercies of Jesus Christ was practiced by our Pilgrim and Puritan fathers, promoted by our legislatures and Congress, and honored by our presidents. On this national day of Thanksgiving, let’s remember that we do not honor a “turkey day,” but the God of Heaven who George Washington described in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789, as “the great Lord and Ruler of Nations.” I recommend that you print off the proclamation and read it before your dinner meal.
6. Tell the Story of the Providence of God in the Life of Your Family
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. —Psalm 78:2-4
The Lord has not only blessed this nation with a rich providential history, but you too have a story that needs to be told. Your children need to hear it and understand the mercies of God in the life of your family. So, this Thanksgiving, chronicle all that God has done in the history of your family. How many generations has your family been in America? How did they get here? When, if ever, did your fathers embrace the Gospel?
7. Purpose to Fight Hard and Hold Fast
History is not made by majorities, but by dedicated minorities of like-minded friends who have joined together in common cause. This was the Pilgrim legacy, and it must be ours as well. To change the world, courageous men and women must “fight hard and hold fast” to the things they know to be true. Most people will not fight hard and hold fast (which is why most people are spectators instead of world-changers). If you are grateful, purpose to be engaged. Purpose to be part of an important work for the Lord. Purpose to stand with those who are fighting hard and holding fast. Purpose to be a twenty-first-century pilgrim for Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: Happy Thanksgiving!
On behalf of Beall, Joshua, Justice, Liberty, Jubilee, Faith Evangeline, Honor, Providence, and Virginia, and all the families of Vision Forum, we wish you a truly happy, truly grateful, truly blessed Thanksgiving Day!
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He cause His face to shine upon you.