One of the first recorded Thanksgiving Day observances in North America was held in Newfoundland in 1578 by Sir Martin Frobisher of the Frobisher Expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Another early thanksgiving observance was led by Captain John Woodlief on Dec. 4, 1619, who instructed that the day of his ship's arrival "be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to almighty God."
The best-known Thanksgiving Day was celebrated in Plymouth Colony in 1621 by the Pilgrims and Native Americans, in a feast that lasted three days. When President George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 26, 1789, it was already an established custom.
It has been an annual tradition since 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." It is now the custom of the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November.
Thanksgiving Day is one of the oldest and most truly American of our national holidays. It is unique because it has probably changed less in its intention and manner of celebration than any other holiday. Thanksgiving is still very much what the Pilgrims made it, a time of giving thanks to God.
But, really, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. We have many reasons to have an "attitude of gratitude." Thankful for what others have done for us. Thankful for the blessings of life. Thankful to God for life itself. And we could go on and on naming things we can be thankful for. This is why Psalm 136:1 says, "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good."
It is said that God has two dwellings, one in Heaven, and the other in a thankful heart. I don't know of a word that warms and encourages a heart more than the word "thanks."
"Thanks" is a word we probably don't hear or say often enough. Husbands and wives don't say it enough to each other. Parents don't hear it enough from their kids. Kids don't hear it enough from parents. We probably don't extend our thanks enough to those we work with.
Someone said "Compare what you want with what you have, and you'll be unhappy. Compare what you deserve with what you have, and you'll be happy."
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything [literally, in every situation] give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Notice, Paul does not say, "for everything," but "in everything." In every situation. Don't hear me say we ought to be thankful for the bad things of life, but we ought to be thankful in them.
One of the purposes of troubles and trials is to bring us to God. The Bible says in II Corinthians 4:5, "All things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God."
Everything that happens to us also happens for us. Please read Romans 8:28 and meditate upon it. This verse tells us that God is working in our lives in all our circumstances. That's why we can have a spirit of thankfulness toward God at all times, in the midst of all circumstances.
This Thanksgiving Day, as we sit down to turkey and dressing, rolls, gravy, pumpkin or pecan pie, let's take time to put our hands together and express our thanks to God. Matter of fact, let's do this everyday.
As George Herbert prayed, "Our Father, thou hast given us so much. Do please give us one more thing, a grateful heart." Happy Thanksgiving and God's blessings to you and yours.
Ken Thornton is pastor at First Baptist Church of Pine Bluff.