President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

Lincoln Thanksgiving Day

God’s divine appointments are always amazing to me. In my normal daily chronological reading through the Old Testament this morning, I ended up reading 1 Chronicles 16, a chapter just about giving thanks, which contains David’s thanksgiving song to the Lord. It was a divine appointment at least for me, and a great reminder that today we give thanks TO our creator and Lord. Not necessarily for what we have physically, but for what God has done in our lives, and yes for the blessings he has abundantly supplied.

Thanksgiving should not be an “American” thing, and when this day was first made into a holiday, Lincoln said as much as well. This is the day for the world to give thanks to God, and in his own words, I give you:

President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She explained, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”

Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale’s request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

he document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

… and so it is today. We celebrate with food and family today, and give thanks to our creator and savior that he is truly Lord over all.

  1. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.
  2. Abraham Lincoln Online: Writings and Speeches

Heavenly Wisdom vs Earthly Wisdom :: James 3:13-18

A few weeks ago I was given the privilege of preparing a short message on James 3:13-18 for our series on the book of James, which is the small section at the end of James 3 on wisdom as it pertains to the taming of the tongue. The entire message is available on PDF at Heavenly Wisdom vs Earthly Wisdom :: James 3:13-18 or you can go to my writing section and find it there as well.

After reading this little section on James over and over and over again, and studying it as best I could, I have really come to love the words of wisdom found in James 3:13-18.  At the end of James 3, in a chapter almost entirely dedicated to taming the tongue, we come across this small section, which almost appears to be thrown in by James as an afterthought on wisdom. While it may seem out of place at first, James knew it was not intelligence, or great knowledge, which could tame the tongue, but wisdom, a heavenly wisdom found in “humility, grace and peace” (BKC, 828). There is just no other way to control the tongue than with a heavenly wisdom from above.

James 3:13-18 is a story of wisdom presented as two completely different sides of the same coin, one that we still see played out in our world today. On one side of the wisdom coin, we have a heavenly wisdom from above, which is full of mercy and peace. On the other side, we have an earthly wisdom, which is characterized by jealousy, envy, pride, and selfish ambition. James says seeking after a heavenly wisdom results in an abundance of God’s peace in our lives, while seeking after earthly wisdom, leads to disorder, and “every vile practice” we could possibly conceive.

Our own culture thrives on this earthly wisdom to fulfill the “American Dream” by “looking out for number one,” or “climbing that corporate latter,” and in using our abilities and knowledge to gain an advantage over someone else.  Obtaining more earthly wisdom, whether it comes from our latest smart phone, music, movies, or from the most esteemed pastor we know, doesn’t help to control the tongue. Earthly wisdom might temporarily satisfy our desire to outdo our brother, but rarely will this show God’s love. We probably all know people who have accumulated vast sums of knowledge, which can impress us with fancy arguments, competition, or rivalry. But I can still find this in myself as well, buried deep in my heart where many sins can reside without ever seeing the light of day.

So what is the difference between heavenly wisdom and earthly wisdom? James gives us a great way to test ourselves for Heavenly wisdom, and it sounds unlike what we normally hear in many other parts of Scripture, it comes from our behavior. At some point, knowledge can turn into heavenly wisdom through proper application of living out our lives manifested in our actions. What this means is heavenly wisdom will be seen by our conduct through humility, and meekness, not by gaining vast sums of knowledge, or in our ability to outdo one another. We can ask ourselves, are we gaining in the wisdom of God? Apart from a true desire to walk in a manner pleasing to God, no one really has true wisdom, and without true wisdom, we have little hope of taming our tongue.

I sometimes have a tendency to argue my point with just about anyone who will listen. This only solidifies my understanding of how difficult it is for a tamed tongue to coincide with an earthly wisdom, which James even calls demonic. If heavenly wisdom is applying knowledge properly, according to God’s will, how do we really know we have achieved wisdom from above at all? We know we have the wise answer, the response of wisdom, because it won’t be argumentative, contentious, or self-seeking. It will be gentle and peacemaking, and clearly seen by others through our actions in Godly behavior.

The Sunset is Just an Amazing Display of God in Creation

We have had a stormy few days leading up to Christmas this year, with some really weird warmer weather. I took this photo above yesterday with my cell phone as I was walking across the pasture to my house. I had forgotten something at my house that I needed to fix my mom’s computer, and literally as I was walking, I decided to take a few shots of sun through the clouds with my phone. I’m always amazed at the beauty that is before us all the time, but because we see it every day, day in and day out, we forget it’s there, or fail to recognize it’s beauty.

Of course this is no accident, and we are told over and over again that this display, the very display we can now capture on a phone, shows the existence of God to us all, and therefore, we are without excuse to say we have never known God to be real, to have shown his beauty to all of us. Today this photo also serves as my Project 365 [Day 23] image (see the rest of :2012 here).

This is what David says in Psalm 19.1-6 where he said

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork… in them, he has set a tent for the sun… its rising is from the end of the heavens… and there is nothing hidden from its heat

and again, what Paul says in Romans 1.20

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

I have seen photos taken by Hubble that truly astound and boggle the mind, but sometimes we only have to go as far as to look around us, because God has displayed himself everywhere in His creation, from the Orion Nebula to our own backyard.

Critique of Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis

This week I finished up a review and critique of a book I have been wanting to read for quite some time, Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis. I find it very difficult to actually provide an adequate “critique” of someone, like Lewis, who was obviously so much farther advanced in his own understanding of scripture, but this was the task at hand.

Part of reviewing books like this is now, fifty years since Lewis wrote Reflections on the Psalms, it almost has to be looked at in a synoptic fashion, taking all of Lewis’ works into account.  Lewis at the time hadn’t written a serious “religious work” in almost ten years.  He had received a scathing review of Miracles, published in 1947, and some say this was the reason he hadn’t written another “religious work”.

Nevertheless Reflections was, overall, a great book, and one that every Christian should try to read at some point.  If there was one aspect of Reflections that made me take notice, it was Lewis’ somewhat Anglican-esque view of scripture where he refers to some of the Psalms as “evil”, and slightly questions it’s proper place in the cannon.  I have always known Lewis’ theology to be slightly less than a “Reformed Theology“, but in Reflections it was made more apparent than in his other books I have read so far.

Below you will find part of the academic critique I gave on the book.  You can read the essay in full located at Book Critique of Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis.

Critique and Review of “Reflections on the Psalms”

Lewis’ Reflections has been widely criticized and praised, by both scholars and lay people, since it was first published in 1958.  With fifty years hence, an emotional review of Reflections’ strengths and weaknesses can be somewhat more objective than it could be in the late 50’s.  Lewis certainly provides a unique perspective on the Psalms, one that can still be seen as a unique study fifty years later.  His writing style, much like his other works, is easy to read, yet deep in thought.  Reflections transitions well from one subject to another, but the author has a tendency to move back and forth between sections of negativity to those sections, which contain a more positive evaluation.

Early on, Lewis tries to remove his own history of apologetics and religious knowledge from the rigors of scholarly criticism by stating the book is written for lay people, basically by a layperson, but this is hard to take at face value.  For an author of apologetic works likes Mere Christianity, and a professor at the prestigious University of Oxford in England, this request may have at the time, fallen on deaf ears.  If the reader is to take Reflections as a serious literary work on the Psalter, a conclusion hard to argue against, one must also evaluate the arguments and suppositions of Reflections as such.

Lewis’ use of modern day “common” language, or perhaps crude in some cases, which is used throughout the book, like “priggish”, goes towards his approach to appeal to the more modern lay reader, but his scriptural references and ideas have a much deeper meaning.  Lewis claims in the introduction to only be “comparing notes” and not to “instruct”, but Reflections helps the reader to understand ancient poetry and literature, and takes an more Anglican approach to the Psalms that is almost foreign to a modern day evangelical Protestant.  In this respect, Reflections largely instructs from beginning to end.   Lewis does not gloss over the most difficult issues presented, though he does leave the reader wondering what he has left out “as his own interests” led him to do.[1]

Where Lewis leaves himself open to criticism is in his view, and somewhat veiled ideas, of scripture.  As previously quoted, early on Lewis states that “all Holy Scripture is in some sense – though not all parts of it in the same sense – the word of God” leaving open to the reader which parts of the “Holy Scriptures” Lewis finds to be the true “word of God” and which parts he does not.[2] Only a few pages later Lewis explains.

At the outset I felt sure, and I feel sure still, that we must not either try to explain [the Psalms] away or to yield for one moment to the idea that, because it comes in the Bible, all this vindictive hatred must somehow be good and pious… and we should be wicked if we in any way condoned or approved it, or (worse still) used it to justify similar passions in ourselves.

So should the reader understand the Psalms “as the word of God in a different sense than Romans”, and if so, in what sense are they different?[3] This phrase, “in some sense”, is not isolated to Reflections.  In one of Lewis’ letters, written to Clyde Kilby on May 7, 1959, just after Reflections was published, Lewis again stated “if every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must in some sense by inspired.”[4] This interpretation of the Psalms may not adequately take into account the enormous context of the Psalms being a large collection of poems, written by many different authors, dating back to at least King David.  While the task of trying to summarize such context into a small book would be difficult on any account, Lewis’ view of the evil portrayed from within the scripture could need further examination, especially in light of current Hebraic poetry research, which has come about since Reflections.

Overall, Reflections shows itself to be a worthy and valuable text when taken in it’s own context of mid-twentieth century Anglican scholasticism.  Although Lewis may not have wanted to see Reflections viewed as a scholarly work, it is hard to put aside a masterful author such as Lewis, and he more than accomplishes his goals from beginning to end.  Reflections in the 21st century may be best viewed as one part of a whole in the complete works of C. S. Lewis, but it still instructs and teaches a better understanding of the Psalms.  In a short but thoughtful work, Lewis “helps to remind us [that] we worship the one true and eternal God.”[5]

[1]Lewis, 6.
[2] Ibid, 19.
[3] John W. Robbins, “Did C. S. Lewis Go to Heaven?,” The Trinity Review (Trininty Foundation), no. 226 (November, December 2003), 2.
[4] W. H. Lewis, ed., Letters of C. H. Lewis, Revised Edition, ed. W. H. Lewis (New York, NY: C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., 1988), 480.
[5] Lewis, 44.

Martha's Trouble Live at Eighth and Rail in Opelika :: Photos

Martha's Trouble at Eighth and Rail

Martha's Trouble at Eighth and Rail

Martha's Trouble at Eighth and Rail

Martha's Trouble at Eighth and Rail

Martha's Trouble at Eighth and Rail

Last Friday I had a chance to shoot for a band at Eighth and Rail in Opelika called Martha’s Trouble.  What a great night of music it was last week.  Over the last several months I have had a chance to shoot for several different bands.  Each one is different but I have really enjoyed getting to know the different band members at each venue, and Rob and Jen are no different, it was great to get to hand with the band a little this weekend.  Be sure to check out their website and the new CD’s coming out for Christmas.  Below are a few of my pics from the shoot.  You can also see the Martha’s Trouble Gallery to see the full shoot of the live performance.

Where Were You on September 11, 2001 :: 7 Years Later

Traveling to PA from Texas

It is amazing how fast time goes by.  It is hard to believe that today is the 7th anniversary of September 11, 2001.  It was of course one of those days when we will all remember where we were, what we were doing, and looking back today at what happened on the news, as always happens on each September 11, I was just thinking back to what my wife and I were doing that day, and what was going on in our lives, and what has changed.

A few days before 9-11 we were in Texas, on our way to a convention in Pennsylvania.  We often traveled with David and Georgia (Deborah’s parents) or met them in different campgrounds across the country going to or from a convention.  They would drive their motorhome out to the show where ever it was and help us setup, work the show, and break down afterward.  Here, we met them at a campground in Texas.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 Deborah and I woke up in a Walmart parking lot in Pennsylvania in our RV where we had spent the night.  We were on our way to Philadelphia and stayed, as we normally did, in a Walmart parking lot just a little outside Philadelphia.  As vendors, this was a convention we did each year but in years to follow would become less and less important because of the date (which sometimes fell exactly on 9-11) until the owners of the show finally moved it far away from 9-11.

Anthrax Attack on America

Anthrax Attack on America

I took these two photos of the news while watching the coverage from the back of our RV.  What is interesting to me is, if you look just to the right of the TV, we had already hung an American flag in the window of our RV (and these were huge greyhound bus windows), much like many American’s did at their houses.  We were living in the bus at the time, this was our home and we drove around the country for at least another year or more with that flag handing in the back window (one on each side).

I remember setting up for the show while running out to the motorhome every second I could to try and watch the news.  The show was a terrible one for the vendors as no one wanted to do anything in the way of shopping.  The restaurants in Philadelphia were closed when we would try to eat after the show each night, and we couldn’t wait to get out of there and on to the next city.

To the Grand Cayman Islands and Cayman Brac

It wasn’t but about two weeks later when we took our first plane flight out of the United States into the Cayman Islands.  This was a planned trip, planned months before 9-11 every happened.  We were going with Deborah’s parents, David and Georgia to a rented house on the small island of Cayman Brac.  I can remember every single one of us being very nervous about flying when we had never really be nervous before.  We had talked about canceling our trip, but decided we were going to do what we had planned on doing regardless.

I have very few photos of our trip down to the Cayman Islands.  I was not shooting with any larger format camera at the time and only had a very small (and free) 2mp digital camera from HP, given to me as a type of extra for buying a printer.  These were a few of the shots from that trip.  We sat many hours of that “vacation” inside watching the news coverage of the events at ground zero, it was one of the strangest trips I have taken, but we did enjoy each other’s company.

Deborah in Cayman Brac

Deborah, David, and Georgia in Cayman Brac

Now it is 7 years later and things are much different.  Time has a way of keeping thing moving.  I look at the photo above and remember by mother-in-law who is no longer with us.  In this photo she looks so alive and well, and Deborah and I both miss her.  The four of us in the photo above (counting me who is taking the photo) did so many things together back at that time.  We no longer have the business we had then, and part of it was the effect 9-11 had on the circuit of shows we were vending at for many years.

We now no longer have the bus pictured above that we lived in for more than 5 years.  We have different jobs, live in a different part of the country, have new and different friends, and of course are 7 years older.  One thing I love about blogging is the archives.  You can go back and see what you were doing and how things have changed in your life.  We started blogging in March of 2001, but have very few original posts from that time period, but it is interesting to see how we have grown and changed.

What were you doing on September the 11th, 2001?

National Polka Festival in Ennis Texas 2007

Blind Tiger

We are finally getting back in the swing of things here at the house (pun intended) after being gone over the Memorial Day Holiday. The weather here is so dry compared to what it was this year in Ennis, TX. Everyday we were there it rained and was basically soupy everywhere you walked. Thursday morning we left for Texas after dropping the dogs off at the Doggy Hotel. They seem to love it there. When we walked in both dogs just walked through the door to the kennel in the back without even saying goodbye. It was kind of funny.

We spent the night in Shreveport, LA at one of our favorite hotels. Dining that night was at a little local place called the Blind Tiger. The restaurant has this name because apparently when it was founded, during prohibition, the term “blind tiger” was used for establishments that had alcohol available in a back room, etc.

Friday evening we went to the K.J.T. where the King and Queen contest was being held and the first dancing of the weekend was to be found. We were not overly impressed with the band as they seemed to be highly unorganized and took very long breaks between each song they played. The evening held a pleasant surprise for us though as we visited with my extended family we found out that my cousin Lindsey was going to be competing in this year’s contest. It was a last minute decision on her part and finding a costume was apparently quite an ordeal. She was able to rent one though and she looked fabulous!!

Lindsey and Me

In the photo above I am wearing a top that I made to go with Scott’s new costume vest. Unfortunately we did not get a photo of the two of us wearing them at the same time. When it came time for the contest we all stood around one corner of the dance floor and whooped and hollered for her and her partner. They were such a perfect match and two of the best dancers out there. We were so excited when they won!

2007 King and Queen Polka Contest

Lindsey Competing

They Won!

2006 King and Queen

Saturday morning we made it to the parade route just as it was beginning. It was already drizzling when we arrived and the rain continued to get heavier until the parade ended. The street dance was called off and we really felt sorry for the vendors this year since all of their venue is outside.

Slightly Damp

We met my Dad again this year at the Sokol and made the rounds of the three halls throughout the day dancing and eating and dancing some more. We also ran into Joe again this year and I danced a couple of polkas and waltzes with him. He is a very good dancer, but the main thing he likes to do is spin in circles. So, when I feel like spinning I dance one with Joe and try to keep from getting dizzy. At least this year I remembered to bring more sensible shoes. Scott wore his new costume vest and I wore my costume from last years festival. Next year I will be wearing a new costume that I have already started working on.

One of my Czech dancing partners, Joe.

What the world looks like when you are dancing with Joe!

Dancing makes you hot!

Sunday we attended the Polka Mass at the Knights of Columbus. The songs throughout the service were done to Czech music and prior to the service the Choir, in costume, were singing Czech hymns. When service concluded we headed on over to the Sokol to hear Vrazel’s Polka Band and so I could enjoy one last set of dances with my dad for the year. I was sad to see this one end, but there is always (hopefully) next year.

We left the festival and went out to Mom’s place in the country. The property they have is quite secluded and completely surrounded by trees. Clearing the property has been something they have enjoyed doing and the area for the house is pretty much ready for construction to begin. There is a beautiful oak tree on their property that is just screaming for a tree house and I have been meaning to take a picture of it, so it is down below. This tree will be just off the back of the house when it is built so I wanted a photo pre-house.

Mother’s Day Now

Anyway, I gave mom her Mother’s Day present, a bit late, and she seemed to be pleasantly surprised. Then we gathered up our belongings and headed for their lake house to spend the night. We had a wonderful fire in the fire pit and Scott caught a very nice bass.

Happy Mother's Day

Scott's Fish

The next day we had a family get together/cookout. Everyone brought something and we had a nice visit with my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. On the last full day we had with Mom she and I took off early, ate breakfast at a diner and hit the thrift shops as soon as they opened. I came away with 11 pairs of shorts, several tops, and two pair of jeans. The guys loaded the trailer with the last of our storage stuff while we shopped.

My Grandmother, Nana

What the guys are best at…

Newest Additions to the Christal Houshold

The trip this year was much different than last years and I really can’t wait for next year! The reservations are made and the countdown has begun. Whoo-Hooo!!