Last winter our city was hit by an ice storm. Hundreds of ice-heavy tree limbs cut into power lines, leaving thousands of homes and businesses without electrical power for days. Our family kept basic energy coming into the house through a generator, but we were still unable to cook meals. As we set out to find a place to eat, we drove for miles past closed businesses. We finally found a breakfast restaurant that had not lost power, but it was packed with hungry customers who were in the same fix as we were.
One of my favorite collections of photos is of a family dinner. Preserved in an album are images of Dad, his sons and their wives, and his grandchildren in a time of thanks-giving and intercession.
Prior to the American Civil War (1861–1865), fugitive slaves found freedom by following the Underground Railroad, a term for the secret routes from the South to the North and the abolitionists who helped them along the way. Slaves would travel at night for many miles, keeping on track by following the light of the “Drinking Gourd.” This was a code name for the collection of stars known as the Big Dipper, which points to the North Star. Some believe the fugitives also used encoded directions in the lyrics of the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” to keep them from getting lost as they traveled.
For years my wife’s piano and my banjo had an uncomfortable and infrequent relationship. Then, after Janet bought me a new guitar for my birthday, she expressed an interest in learning to play my old guitar. She is a very capable musician, and soon we were, together, playing songs of praise on our guitars. I like to think that a new kind of “praise connection” has filled our home.
In C. S. Lewis’ book God in the Dock, he wrote: “Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable.” Lewis cleverly used this contrast between a hotel and a prison to illustrate how we view life based on our expectations. He says, “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”
A while ago I attended a conference on the Middle Ages. In one seminar we actually prepared several foods that would have been common in medieval times. We used pestle and mortar to grind cinnamon and fruit to make jam. We cut orange rinds and broiled them with honey and ginger to produce a sweet snack. We crushed almonds with water and other ingredients to create almond milk. And, finally, we prepared a whole chicken to serve as a main dish with rice. As we sampled these dishes, we enjoyed a tasty culinary experience.
After the terrorist attack and the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, Cynthia Otto took care of the search-and-rescue dogs. Years later she established a Working Dog Center where young pups are put through specialized training to prepare them to help victims of disaster.
Sometimes when we face times of trouble, we may get spiritual amnesia and forget the grace of God. But a good way of reestablishing a thankful heart is to set aside undistracted time and deliberately remember God’s past provisions for us and give thanks.