FENTON, MI – The month of November always brings with it a change in atmosphere in many ways. I remember well when we lived in Florida how the temperatures would drop with the onset of those Northern fronts sweeping down from Canada, and on occasion some of that frigid air would actually make it to the Peninsular State. We could actually experience temperatures in the sixties! Amazing. It was always a welcome change for dryer air to invade our regions, and push some of that humidity back out to sea. The hunters especially love the change because it will bring “Bambi” out into the open when even the best of scent attractors fail.
I have discovered here in Michigan that November also brings a change in atmosphere in the midst of the people who inhabit this area. I’m not sure what truly precipitates the change, but I have noticed that we seem to move into a slower, more lethargic mode coming out of the summer months. Things are more relaxed, and not as fast paced. Apple orchards and cider mills beckon us to come and stroll through the rows of fruit and consume inordinate amounts of donuts. Turning and falling leaves demand our attention to take in the changes, and soak up the colors. It could be some internal instinct being triggered that is preparing us for the big freeze and the soon to be present Christmas season, with it’s maddening rush to celebrate. Once that season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving, this short season of rest will be long gone.
Whatever the reason for the slowing down, I greatly enjoy it, and highly value the season for the opportunity to quietly review the blessings of my life and the goodness that God has sent my way. The cool calmness of November affords me time for perspective and provokes me to a spirit of thankfulness. It helps me to be thankful for the opportunity to share the Gospel with a world that is lost without Him. It helps me to be thankful for a country in which the freedom of worship and the right to freely express that worship is unimpeded by the laws of man. It helps me be thankful for my immediate family and the extended one called Michigan Baptists with which I am blessed to be part. It helps me to live a life of thanksgiving.
As you know, this month we will officially celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday as a nation. It is interesting to note that it wasn’t until we were at war, the Civil War to be exact, that Congress officially recognized our Thanksgiving holiday. It had started in the small Plymouth Colony in 1621 when the English Pilgrims feasted with members of the Wampanoag Indians who brought gifts of food as a gesture of goodwill. The custom grew in various colonies as a means of celebrating the harvest.
In 1777, over 100 years later, the Continental Congress proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving after the American Revolution victory at the Battle of Saratoga. But it was twelve years later that George Washington proclaimed another national day of thanksgiving in honor of the ratification of the Constitution, and requested that the congress finally make it an annual event. They declined and it would be another 100 years and the end of a bloody civil war before President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving. The year was 1865. It might surprise you to learn that it took still another 40 years, the early 1900’s, before the tradition really caught on. For you see, Lincoln’s official Thanksgiving was sanctioned in order to bolster the Union's morale. Many Southerners saw the new holiday as an attempt to impose Northern customs on their conquered land. It is apparent that deep wounds do not heal quickly, but none the less Thanksgiving is now nationally recognized.
The fact is, we do not need a national holiday to tell us to be thankful. Thanksgiving should be the natural outflow of the heart of a people who know “from whom all blessings flow.” I am glad that our forefathers understood the importance of a nation acknowledging God as it’s source and supply. God does not need our thanks, but we need to be thankful.
Just as the climatological atmosphere of the Fall permeates and affects our surroundings and attitudes, I pray that the atmosphere of our lives be one of Thanksgiving and that it has a marked affect on everything about us. It is also my prayer that we maintain this atmosphere all year long.
May this November be a wonderful month of transition for you, and may it be filled with Thanksgiving.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.