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Tag Archive | "Thanksgiving"

Paying it forward


By Robert Morrison

Phil and Mary Sue are generous hosts. Thanksgiving is their special time with family, but they regularly invite “orphans”—people like my wife and me who have no other place to go. This year, we looked forward to joining Phil and Mary Sue’s family and friends at their home. They were expecting 17 guests. No Indians on the guest list this year, but Phil says he will let the occasional Australian stand in for them.

On Monday of Thanksgiving week, however, Phil got word that his 98-year old mother had had a stroke. Mary Sue was already in Florida, helping out with Phil’s mom, when he was summoned to her bedside.

It was soon clear they would not be returning for the holiday. Bravely, Phil’s daughter, Katie, husband Rob, her brother, Ben, and his girlfriend, Mel, pledged to carry on in the parents’ absence.

By Wednesday morning, it was clear that our Thanksgiving feast was in jeopardy. My wife, Kathie, and another local guest, Dorothy, stepped in to make Thanksgiving a moveable feast. We’ll have Thanksgiving dinner at our house, Kathie announced, and invite our hosts’ family and friends to join us. The biggest challenge was to find, in the little town of Annapolis and on the day before Thanksgiving, a 25-pound fresh turkey. No time for defrosting a frozen one.

We gathered together on the great day. We included Phil and Mary Sue by cell phone in the Grace we said before our meal. We had never met several of the guests before. Ben’s friend, Mel, is from England. This was her first American Thanksgiving.

We toasted Mel and thanked her. Had it not been for England’s King James Version, we wouldn’t have all those Thees, Thous, and Thys. And if that King James had not harried the Pilgrims out of his land, they wouldn’t have landed on Plymouth Rock, and we Americans wouldn’t have this celebration!

When Phil’s mother passed away peacefully, and he and Mary Sue returned, they thanked us for taking in their guests. Kathie then told them the story of the time in 1989 when her own mother passed away. Edith May had died on December 19th. Resolving to fly across the country to do a proper memorial service in Takoma, Washington, our family had to fly home on Christmas Eve.

Our United Airlines pilot teased our young children, telling them we were in a race with a little sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. We arrived back at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning.

As we drove home, Kathie said there was no time to prepare for Christmas dinner. No stores would be open on Christmas Day. We’d have to eat at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where she was in charge of the food service. That would have been fine, since the Navy goes all out to make Christmas special for those confined to the hospital and those on duty. But it wouldn’t have been the same as being at home.

When we arrived at our house, what to our wondering eyes should appear! We found our refrigerator stocked with turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings of a prepared Christmas dinner. The dining room table was set and everything made ready for the holiday meal.

When she returned the next day to the hospital and thanked her staff—officers, enlisted, and civilians—for all that they had done, Kathie asked them what we could do to repay their extraordinary kindness. They had made this Christmas one we would never forget, Kathie told them.

“You don’t have to repay us for anything,” said Elaine, my wife’s deputy. “Do something like this for someone else.” Now, we call it paying it forward. And so, this Thanksgiving, we did.

Losing a beloved parent is always hard, and especially so during the holidays. But bearing one another’s burdens is what we do. And it is at times like this that we come closest to the true meaning of Christmas: We are commanded to love one another as He has loved us.

Robert Morrison is Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

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Expect extra patrols for Thanksgiving


N-Extra-patrols-this-Thanksgiving

State Police conducts largest Operation C.A.R.E. enforcement effort

 

As motorists across Michigan prepare for a Thanksgiving holiday filled with travel, food and family, the Michigan State Police (MSP) is conducting Michigan’s largest Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) traffic enforcement initiative November 26-30, 2014.

“Our goal is to prevent traffic crashes and fatalities so every family can celebrate a safe holiday season,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. “With extra troopers on patrol, make sure your Thanksgiving to-do list includes wearing a seat belt, designating a sober driver and avoiding distractions like talking on your phone while driving.”

Thanksgiving is the second deadliest holiday in Michigan for traffic crashes. In 2013, there were 12 traffic fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday; a 30 percent increase from nine fatalities in 2012.

Beginning Wednesday, troopers across the state will conduct high-visibility enforcement focusing on impaired driving, seat belt use, careless driving and speeding. The extra patrols are paid for with federal traffic safety funds coordinated by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

The effort is supported by the Give thanks. Drive safely. public awareness campaign that includes a public service announcement available at www.youtube.com/OHSP.  Each campaign element features illustrations of traditional Thanksgiving items to create a connection between driving safely and enjoying the holiday.

In addition, the Michigan Department of Transportation will display safe driving reminders on its freeway message boards and at rest areas throughout the busy travel weekend, and Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is supporting the effort by placing campaign materials in her branch offices.

Operation C.A.R.E. is a nationwide initiative aimed at reducing traffic crashes and fatalities on highways across the country. It began in 1977 as a collaborative effort between the MSP and the Indiana State Police. Today Operation C.A.R.E. is one of the nation’s longest running traffic safety initiatives and includes state and highway patrol agencies from all 50 states, as well as some American territories and Canadian provinces.

 

 

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Thank God Anyhow


Pilgrim-BiblePastor Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street | Cedar Springs

 

 

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls–

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NKJV)

What do you really know about the first Thanksgiving in America? There is much more to the story than what most people realize. In 1620 there were 102 Pilgrims; 56 of them died due to starvation, disease and the cold winter. In 1621, 46 Pilgrims and 91 Indians met to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and for the preservation of their lives. Those people had every reason to be depressed and discouraged, but they were thankful anyhow.

The keywords found in Habakkuk 3:17-19 are “though” and “yet.” Habakkuk is saying, “I sure don’t understand all that is happening, but I am going to thank God anyhow!” Let’s look at these verses and see that regardless of how things may look on the surface, we have a reason to “thank God anyhow.”

We can thank God that His sovereignty never changes. Habakkuk 3:17-18a reminds us that circumstances change, but God never does! We may not be able to rejoice in our situation, but we can always rejoice in our Sovereign. Habakkuk is painting a bleak portrait of the future, but he looks away to a God who is always the same.

He is the One we can depend on in desperate times, we can trust in troublesome times, we can believe during unbelievable times, and we can lean on Him at all times! We may not always know what He is doing, but we can always trust Him to do what is right.

Habakkuk 3:18b tells us that we can thank God for our salvation. Things might be bad in this life, but things do not affect my salvation. Salvation does not depend on things going well, salvation. Salvation does not depend on things going well, salvation rests solely on the grace and power of God! Life is uncertain at best. One phone call or doctor’s visits can changes everything; salvation is eternal in nature.

Thank God that His strength never collapses. Our strength does not lie within us, the Lord is our strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). When we are unable to stand, He enables us. When we can’t go on, He helps us. When we are in the deep valley, He leads us to higher ground.

“Deer’s feet” and “high hills” speaks of the mountain tops where the deer is free from the dangers found below. Habakkuk is telling us that God enables him to rise above his circumstances and the God gives him the strength to stand above the battle and enjoy freedom in the Lord!

When life happens and we are left reeling with the impact of bad news and tragic events, lets choose to thank God anyhow. As Larry Petree wrote years ago:

Thank God for the valley I walked through today, 

Thank God all my burdens were lifted away, 

Thank God for the mountain I’ve had strength to climb, 

And when the sun just won’t shine, “Thank God.”

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Count your blessings


by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

In the churches of my youth we sang an old hymn entitled, “Count Blessings” at every Thanksgiving service. I can still recite the first stanza from memory: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed; when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost; count your many blessings, name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

A Sunday School teacher once challenged my Primary Bible Class to do exactly as the song implored: “Count your blessings.” She handed out sheets of wide ruled notebook paper accompanied by fat, yellow, #2 Ticonderoga pencils. A dozen eight-year-olds went to work listing all of our heaven-sent assets.

Have you counted your blessings lately, naming them “one by one?” I know all the big things would be on the list: family, nation, shelter, food, children or grandchildren. But to list all of our blessings, even the little things, would take a considerable amount of time, longer than a brief Sunday School lesson would allow. Still, it’s worth the time to make such a list. Maybe you could start with A and work through the alphabet to Z, concentrating on the little, often assumed, godsends.

I’ll get you started: Air conditioning. Band aids. Coffee. Distilleries (particularly those in Canada). Electricity. Football. Garrison Keillor. Hamburgers. Ireland. Jackson Hole. Krispy Kreme. Live Oak trees. Music. Newspapers. Online banking. Picnics. Quinoa. Refrigeration. Smoked Almonds. Tennis. Urinals (the ones that flush automatically). Vacations. Willie Nelson. X-Rays. Yogurt. Zyrtec.

And that’s just the first list that rolled from my mind, a stream of consciousness! This list could be reproduced a thousand times over with little thought, just observation, because blessings constantly rain down upon me. God’s ever-present grace surrounds me, if only because I am fortunate enough to live at a time and in a place like this.

It’s not that complicated. Take the time to look around your life and count your blessings—one by little one—if you dare. Give thanks to God for what you have, what you have experienced, for the grace you have received, and for the people you have known.

Try to remember that Thanksgiving is more than a holiday, more than a day off, more than a circled date on a calendar. It is a way of life. Remembering this might change your perspective about things. It might change your attitude. It just might change your life.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

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Red Cross safety tips to prevent home holiday fires


The American Red Cross urges residents to take extra precautions with cooking and decorating around the holidays.

“Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, and as people are cooking and entertaining this holiday season, we’re urging that they take safety measures to ensure that their homes and loved ones are safe from the threat of fire,” said Chip Kragt, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of West Michigan.

Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and Thanksgiving are the top three days for cooking fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Nationally, the Red Cross responds to a disaster on average every eight minutes, and the vast majority of them are home fires. The Red Cross has some simple steps everyone can follow to prevent home fires around the holidays:

Holiday Entertaining 

Test your smoke alarms.

Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.

Enforce a “kid-free zone” in cooking areas. Keep children at least three feet away from the stove.

Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove, oven or any appliance that generates heat.

Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.

Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen.

Holiday Decorating 

Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

Keep children, pets and decorations away from lit candles.

Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.

Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect. Some strings of lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.

Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

Keep decorations away from windows and doors.

People should also download the free American Red Cross First Aid app, which provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps.

People can test their knowledge on how to prevent home fires by taking the Fire Safety Quiz, and can learn more about fire prevention by visiting redcross.org.

 

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Wild Turkeys


 

 

The family was seated and enjoying a turkey dinner. Extended family brought additional side dishes and desserts. Traditional family gatherings are special events. My Cub Scout leader cut turkey shaped pieces of flat wood for our pack to paint and decorate for our mothers. That flat wood turkey given to my mother still survives even though she does not. The turkey decoration is now in my possession along with a coloring of a turkey with fantail made from the outline of my 3rd grade hand.

The holiday season annually began at Thanksgiving by going to my cousin’s for dinner and watching The Wizard of Oz on a TV that got a full three channels. We gave thanks for family members no longer with us that lived happy, sad, joyous, and humorous lives. Those lives continue in our memories. I hope the tradition continues in my absence. Maybe someone will tell the story of a 21-turkey parade at Ody Brook.

It was Thanksgiving Day two years ago. We were eating when a turkey walked through the yard. My brother said it must know it is safe because we already have turkey on the table. Then another appeared followed by more. Like the Count from Sesame Street, we each counted until 18 ventured from the woods, across the drive, behind the landscape mound, reappeared at the other end and disappeared into the tall weeds and shrub thicket. Three more brought up the rear to finish the parade.

Our conversation shifted to wild turkeys. I told of a neighbor farmer that complained turkeys were eating his newly planted crops in the spring. The investigating DNR biologist told him it was not turkeys but deer. The farmer did not believe him because he often saw turkeys in the field feeding. The DNR biologist said deer feed at night and returned to his truck get a rifle. He shot a turkey, cut it open, examined the crop and stomach and showed the farmer it was insects and not young crop plants.

We all make assumptions that are logical and rational but are not supported by scientific evidence. We tend to believe what parents, grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts, and friends tell us. I was trained as a scientist to require supporting evidence before making a conclusion. Like all, I make assumptions that scientists call hypotheses. These are just a first step in science reasoning and we need to study nature niches to gather evidence to learn if our assumptions (hypotheses) are correct.

How much turkey information is myth, fairytale, fact, or correct? Facts as we know them are often incorrect and get corrected was we gather more evidence. Wild turkeys were a staple food of Native Americans and numbers were not excessive due to harvest. Native American populations plummeted with the advent of small pox and other diseases introduced by European settlers. Turkey populations exploded with fewer Indians and collapsed again when market hunting eliminated them from most nature niches.

None survived in Michigan but fortunately some survived in the deep swamps of the southeast US. Environmental conservationists introduced laws to manage hunting practices. Turkeys were reintroduced to Michigan and today a healthy turkey population fluctuates between 100,000 and 200,000. Enjoy watching or hunting turkeys that filled the void vacated when turkeys were extirpated without thought for our children’s generations.

With younger generations that are following mine, we ate Thanksgiving dinner watching wild turkeys. I have satisfaction having been a part of the DNR release of Wild Turkeys back into the Rogue River State Game Area surrounding the Howard Christensen Nature Center about 1988. They thrive in the forest with scattered farm fields. Turkeys feed on grain left after fall harvest, acorns and other forest food. Some natural predators kill adult turkeys but humans remain their primarily predator. Skunks, raccoons, and foxes prey heavily on eggs. The presence of coyotes helps keep these predators in check.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net or Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

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Heard from heaven


Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. • Sparta, MI 49345 

 

 

2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV)

It is Sunday, November 24, at approximately 9 p.m., and I am taking a moment to reflect on one of the most amazing “Community Thanksgiving Services” I have ever attended. Tonight, I had the privilege, as did hundreds of others, to hear three powerful testimonies from three different men in our community. These men shared their stories with honesty, vulnerability and great a deal of humility. It took a lot of courage for them to share. Ultimately, their stories were filled with love, forgiveness, and redemption in Jesus Christ. They revealed how amazing God was to hear their cries and heal their lives. Their changed lives and testimonies have inspired me to write this article and remind men everywhere that Jesus Christ loves them! In fact, I am convinced that we are in a season of healing for the lives of people, but men in particular.

The souls of men have been beaten and left for dead, by the culture and cares of this life. Men are searching for meaning and purpose now more than ever. They realize that the pursuit of success and the accumulation of possessions do not satisfy. Men are being driven to fill this void with so many things, yet none of them bring the peace that Jesus offers. The overriding theme in these testimonies was that they were men who had come to the end of themselves. They were tired and weary from the demands of life, and the expectations placed on them as men. They humbled themselves and turned to God. They found a loving God who cared and was willing to save and heal them. God showed them He was listening to their hearts. So, He lovingly reached down from heaven and healed them and brought them peace.

If you are a man reading this article, how are you doing?  Do you know God is listening? Do you know He wants to heal your heart and free you from your burdens? You, like these three men, can find comfort and assurance in knowing God will, “hear you from heaven” and heal you. The Apostle Peter offered us this great advice when he wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV). If this is you, humble yourself! Cast your burdens on the Lord and he will remove them from you, because he cares for you!

Thank you to the three men who humbled themselves to God. Your lives are an inspiring example to us all!

Happy thanksgiving!

 

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Small business Saturday and Sunday


Everywhere you turn, you hear and see ads and commercials promoting Black Friday specials at the big chain and department stores. But what about the small mom and pop shops—the small businesses—whose survival depends on you shopping there?
Charlie Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the state’s leading small-business association, is encouraging holiday shoppers to invest in their communities by shopping at small businesses the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.
“Black Friday is when a lot of people get up early and line up outside the giant department stores, but if you’re looking for something unique and want to support your community, then you need to shop at small businesses, too,” said Owens.
According to a 2011 report by Ernst & Young, more than 90 percent of all businesses in Michigan are registered as flow-through companies, usually sole proprietorships, partnerships and other small operations.  They account for more than half of all jobs in the state.
“Small businesses drive our economy, and if we’re going to create jobs in this state, we need a healthy small-business community,” said Owens.
“Small and independent business owners are among the most generous supporters of civic groups, local charities, youth sports, school activities and virtually every other form of community activity,” Owens said. “Shopping locally is a way for people to help their friends and neighbors and create jobs and opportunities in our communities.”
Check out the ads and specials in this week’s paper to find small businesses in our area. And check out our website at home page for some Internet-only coupons!

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Have turkey will travel


Are you going to be one of the 1.33 million residents traveling 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday this week? That’s how many people AAA Michigan estimates will be on the road Wednesday, November 23 to Sunday, November 27. That’s nine percent more people traveling in Michigan this year than last year. Nationally, the number is up four percent, to 42.5 million.
“This is the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year,” noted AAA Michigan President Steve Wagner.  “Despite the uncertain economy, our projected increase shows more travelers are choosing visiting family and friends over frugality this holiday.”
Vehicle travel remains the most popular form of Thanksgiving transportation.    Ninety percent of Michigan travelers will go by vehicle, down from last year’s ninety-four percent.  Nationally, 90 percent of holiday travelers will also go by vehicle, a four percent increase.
Gasoline prices have fallen 15-20 cents over the last week, depending on where you live. In Cedar Springs, they were $3.26 at press time, and still about 50 cents higher than a year ago.
“Gasoline prices have continued their slow decline in the last week across a solid majority of the United States, with the national average sagging to its lowest level since this past February,” according to GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. “Many motorists may be giving thanks for the lower gasoline prices until they realize that average prices will still easily exceed prior Thanksgiving Day records,” he added.

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Feast on the information and services we offer online


By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, families everywhere will be traveling to reunite with one another. Generations will gather around dinner tables across the nation.  Certainly, some people are already coming up with conversation topics to season the festivities.
If some of the folks in your family like to talk about Social Security, make sure you’re ready with a visit to www.socialsecurity.gov.  After table time, sit down for some online time with anyone in your family who needs information. In fact, right on your tablet or laptop, you can even help a loved one apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes, or Medicare in as little as 10.
There are a number of other things you can help your loved ones do online. Use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to see whether they qualify for benefits or use the Retirement Estimator for an instant and personalized estimate of their retirement benefits. You can learn about these and many other online services available by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
If you’re in a conversation about Social Security, use your smart phone or mobile device to visit our mobile-friendly frequently asked questions at www.socialsecurity.gov/faq.
If you end up talking about Social Security between turkey and pumpkin pie, rest assured that the authority on the subject is as close as your laptop, tablet, or smart phone.  Feast on the food at the table, and then take advantage of the feast of information and services available online at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

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