The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Apples & Oranges ( and cranberry sauce )

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner is cranberry relish!

I love a good cranberry relish; not too sweet, but not too sour!

There are several topics that I wanted to 'treat' here; first of all ( and don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining ), the celebration of 'special days': two, the comparisons that we make between 'fruits', and three, how we ought to be especially thankful for all that God has given us ( leading right back to number one )!

Whoever came up with the idea for setting aside a certain day in November ( to say nothing of a certain day in December, a certain day in April, even a certain day of the week, etc. ) as more special, or more important than another, ought to be flogged ( and thanked )! Thanksgiving Day was a great idea: as a nation, we have been greatly blessed, and setting aside that certain day every year to gather together, whether it be just family, family and friends together, or even strangers, to especially thank and praise God for His great goodness, is a good thing, a great plan. When I say that this man should be, or have been flogged; I say this because of the commercialization that has come from specializing this, as well as certain others you might think of. Thanksgiving Day, as with so many ideas, started well; what a great idea! A good time to remember how God has blessed us, not just as a nation, but as individuals, but why wait till November 26th ( or the last Thursday of November ) to get together as family, friends, and strangers, to eat turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and cranberry relish? As with certain other holidays ( as opposed to holydays? ), we have a tendency, as human beings, to treat these certain days as so much more special than others, that we might start to think that we should do things differently ( and I'm as guilty of this as anybody ) than we do other days of the week, or year ( as the case may be ). Should we be thankful everyday of the year for what God has blessed us with? Should we not celebrate the greatest Gift ever given everyday of the year? How about remembering what this Gift did for us, dying for our sins, and rising again that we might have life, everyday? I don't think that anybody would argue against this, but we still bow to tradition when, because of our busyness, or for whatever reason ( or excuse ) we treat certain days as better than others. I'm not complaining, as I said earlier; I enjoy getting together with family and friends ( even new friends ) for the holidays, eating special meals, and doing special things as much as the next guy, well, maybe not as much as some, but, as many of, I'd like to imagine, I'd rather that we weren't so busy with our hectic lives, so that we could afford to celebrate what God has blessed us with all the time!

The question is; 'can we afford not to?'

I spoke above of comparing 'fruits' ( 'Apples & Oranges' ): I refer to us humans, and in particular, Christians. I speak for myself, I accuse no other; we have a bad habit of comparing ourselves, especially as Christians, to the next guy. I know I have a problem with doing things that I believe I shouldn't because, well, my friend does the same sort of thing all the time and he obviously doesn't think it's wrong, so how bad could it be? One might think of the obverse of James' statement in James 4:17, 'Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin'. ( Romans 7:15-20 ) Scripture has much to say on the subject of 'conscience', and Paul even goes as far as saying, in regards to the conscience, 'Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble'. ( I Corinthians 8:12 ). Along these lines; Paul further writes, in I Corinthians 10:12, 'For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.' ( Now; before anyone feel like I'm pointing the finger at them: I am not saying that those who exercise their liberty ( in Christ ) to the fullest are unwise, or even sinning, just that each of us must live according to his own conscience, not that of someone else. ) Eventually; we might hope that those who 'beg to differ' might have a change of conscience so that they might more fully enjoy the liberty that we have in Christ Jesus. Until that point, if ever, I believe it not unwise to defer, as Paul did, certain of those liberties, in order that we might not wound those with 'weak' consciences ( II Corinthians 4:2 ). As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church earlier, in the beginning of chapter 8, 'We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies'. If we have a conscientious objection to something that our brother or sister does, yet do the same; are we not 'comparing apples and oranges?'

Not to sound hypocritical, but; I love Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving and Christmas, with Easter bringing up a close second, are probably my most favorite holidays ( although they really are 'just' holydays, like all the rest! ) Two main reasons; first, it's a great 'excuse' for family to get together, renew bonds of friendship, pick up the chains of sibling rivalries, etc., and two; the food ( especially cranberry relish )! It's really kind of sad, but too often; we wait for those two, maybe three days of the year to do this kind of thing, to fix these special dishes. As I've said; I'm not complaining ( for one, because I'm no better when it comes down to it! ), because I know the reason that we don't, several actually: the busyness in which we're all involved makes it difficult for us to get together for the purposes of celebrating everyday ( hard to get the same days, or amount of time, off, etc, for those who live far apart from each other; finances are always a factor, and I think that we, because of tradition or for whatever reason, seem to have gotten the idea, as I said above, that certain days are, and should remain, better, or more special than others. Thanksgiving Day ( or Turkey Day, as it's becoming more commercially known ) has become, to some, the day of the 'triple-header' ( as a friend of mine and I were talking about this morning ) where we stuff ourselves 'to the gills' with turkey, stuffing ( apt, huh? ), sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie ( don't forget the cranberry sauce ), and then sit on the couch with our beers, and watch some 'fools' ( with nothing better to do on TD ) run around and beat themselves up for four quarters ( X3 ). I dare say that most of us are thankful for what God's given us, although it may be questionable whether or not everyone actually acknowledges where these blessings come from, but are we truly being thankful to God, by relegating the celebration of this thankfulness to one particular day ( even a season )? I mentioned the over-commercialization of these three major holidays ( although many others have suffered ): many of us look forward to 'Black Friday'; most stores offer their best deals ( for a limited time ) on the day after Thanksgiving Day, and every year the stores are opening their doors earlier, competing to see how many people they can get to come through their doors, spending all kinds of money ( usually plastic ) that they may or may not have, buying all kinds of 'things' that they may or may not 'need' ( want ). For every major holiday; stores have special sales, sales which draw us into their stores; all to one end: the almighty dollar! This is not the way it should be!

God has certainly blessed us and it is more than right, and less than His due that we should set aside a certain day, even a season, to gather and celebrate our thankfulness, but as is common among humans, even Christians; I believe that we tend to forget our thankfulness in the humdrum and busyness of everyday life, and this, again, is not the way it should be! I chastise only myself with these words, because I have the same tendency ( problem ) with thankfulness: I'm not, much of the time. Especially in this season; let us remember to give thanks to God for all His manifold blessings, and then after all the 'hoopla' of the Thanksgiving holiday is over, and we're strutting around like over-stuffed turkeys, even the next day when we 'proclaim, 'I never want to see another turkey leg again', that it is not only when we have friends and family around, or turkey ( and cranberry relish ) on the table, that we should be thankful for His blessings, nor is it just on a certain day each year that we should gather as friends and as the family of God to celebrate that thankfulness, but everyday, in everything that we do and say! The apostle Paul said 'in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you' ( I Thessalonians 5:18 ), and earlier, in Romans 14:6, referring back to an earlier topic of mine, 'He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord;a]">[a] and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks'. The Psalms are full of references to the giving of thanks: in Psalm 18:49; David wrote, 'Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name', after God had delivered him from the hand of Saul. We are told, in Psalm 30:4, 'Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.b]">[b]' Asaph wrote, in Psalm 75:1, 'We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near', and again, for deliverance, in Psalm 79:13, 'So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations'. In Psalm 92:1; we read that 'It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High': Psalm 97:12 reminds us to 'Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.[a].' The psalmist pleads, as so many of us today, 'Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!' ( Psalm 107:8 ), and David wrote, in Psalm 140:13, 'Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence.' Whether or not one believes in fulfilled eschatology, whether one believes God is present with us in His fullness, or whether just through His Holy Spirit; it is a 'concrete' fact that the righteous dwell in His presence, and for this, if for no other reason; we should give thanks: Job, when he had just lost most of his material possessions, and also the children that God had given him, in one fell swoop, said 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD' ( Job 1:21 ). In the next verse; we read that 'Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong': can we do less, but in every situation, good or evil, give thanks to God for all things, even those that we do not recognize as a blessing? Finally; as Paul wrote in one of his most comforting passages, 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.' ( Romans 8:28 ) Now, pass the cranberry relish, please!

in thankfulness, Charles Shank

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