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

Sacrifices that Allow Us Freedom, Family, and Eternal Life

Fillmer Memorial Day Dinner

Today is of course Memorial Day and I guess I’m adding to the glutton of Memorial Day blog posts that celebrate the day, but it’s a day worth celebrating. My family celebrated with a meal, pictured in this post along with the photos of my dad and Uncle about the time they were commissioned, and my grandfather who also served in the Army.

Today, our culture seems to have this tendency to sweep death and sacrifice away to the point where we don’t even understand anymore how difficult it was to obtain the freedom we have, and at what price many people paid to give us that freedom. My family has a long list of those who served in the military, going all the way back to the Civil War (with the South). Both my dad and my Uncle (604th Air Force Band), and both my grandfather’s were in the Army, one flew bombers in WWII, and the other (Don Fillmer) was in the European Theater. According to Don Fillmer’s Discharge Papers from the Army in 1944 he was in the 101st Airways Communications Squadron, and was given the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal upon his discharge in 1944.

While I was not in the military, I recognize their sacrifice, and others, who served those of us who now enjoying the freedom and prosperity they fought to give us. I can’t help but think about the ultimate sacrifice made for us by Christ, who willingly put himself in harm’s way, so that we may be able to enjoy an eternal life with God. There is no greater “Memorial Day” celebration than to have been given life through someone else’s death. Our military did that for us for the past 200 years, and Christ did that for us for the past 2,000 years.

We should recognize both for what they are, not hesitating to honor a person, or people, who have given their life, so that we may live. Pictured below from left to right top down is the Fillmer family (Larry, Dale, Deborah, and myself), Deborah, then Allen Fillmer, Donald Fillmer (my granddad), Larry Fillmer, and Les Fillmer (my uncle).

Letter Explains Mitt Romney for Commencement Speaker at Liberty University

Mitt Romney at Liberty University

Every since Liberty University announced that Mitt Romney was going to be the Commencement Speaker (see also the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the CBS News, and even the POLITICO) for this year’s graduation class [some] people have been in an uproar (so says the Daily Kos anyway, the people I know had no problem with it at all). Most of the uproar comes in the form of the fact that Romney is a Mormon, and doesn’t align with Liberty’s theological vision, which is correct, he is, and he doesn’t.

Yesterday, the Office of the Chancellor, or Jerry Falwell, Jr. addressed concerns with the statements below. I guess at some level an explanation was needed, but the one presented below is a great example why this is no different than any other speaker Liberty has had in the past. I for one am glad that they have such a wide variety of speakers at Liberty. I’m sure there are those who can shred the theological explanation below, but it’s good enough for me, and it goes beyond just the criticism of having a Mormon speak at graduation, the letter explains why Liberty’s mission statement, to train Champions for Christ, includes welcoming Mitt Romney, regardless of his faith or politics.

Dear Students,

My office has received hundreds of messages from students and 2012 graduates who are thrilled and honored that the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States will be our Commencement speaker. Some graduates have also inquired about Liberty’s policies regarding the doctrinal beliefs of graduation speakers. These same questions seem to surface every spring and I am writing you in response to those inquiries.

First of all, it is important to remember that Liberty actually has two Commencement speakers each year. Long ago, most universities ceased their practice of including a Baccalaureate service during their Commencement weekend, but we have insisted on keeping this service as a demonstration of our Christian commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

This year our Baccalaureate speaker is Luis Palau. Dr. Palau is an evangelist who has preached the Gospel to a billion people. Palau is often considered second only to Billy Graham in his influence for the Gospel, and, as is our tradition, he will be clearly delivering the Gospel at Baccalaureate.

For twenty-five years Liberty has traditionally had leaders from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment speak during the Commencement ceremony on Saturday. Most of these leaders have not traditionally shared Liberty’s doctrinal convictions. In the last few years, our Commencement speakers have included an evangelical filmmaker (Randall Wallace), a Mormon commentator (Glenn Beck), a Jewish economist (Ben Stein), an evangelical actor and athlete (Chuck Norris), an evangelical – now Catholic – politician (Newt Gingrich), a Catholic commentator (Sean Hannity), a Southern Baptist senator (John McCain), and an Episcopalian chief of staff to President Bush (Karl Rove). In all, at least 20 of Liberty’s 38 Commencement speakers have fit in this category.

My father’s vision for Liberty University was both a theological and a cultural vision. Theologically, it was to found the world’s preeminent Christian university where every faculty member professed faith in Jesus Christ, agreed with our doctrinal statement, and sought to fulfill the Great Commission and live the Great Commandment. Culturally, it was to found a university that held in high regard our nation’s founding principles of limited government, the free enterprise system, and individual liberty. Liberty’s tradition has been to focus on the first part of this vision during the Friday night ceremony and the second part on Saturday morning.

Liberty’s commitment to an annual Baccalaureate service has ensured that we have never held a Commencement that did not include a strong gospel message from an evangelical leader.

I am sure that members of the Liberty University community will treat Gov. Romney with the respect he deserves, regardless of whether they agree with his religious or political beliefs.

When my father traveled the nation speaking at many secular universities, he was often met with boos and hisses by those who held different theological beliefs than he. I am so proud that Liberty students have gained a reputation for treating those whose beliefs are different than their own in a Christ-like manner. You have shown respect to speakers as divergent from Liberty’s worldview as Ted Kennedy, Bob Beckel, and Tim Kaine.

Gov. Romney is a man who has excelled in business, governed a state, and even managed the Olympic games. He has been faithfully married to his wife, Ann, for 43 years, and they have 5 sons and 16 grandchildren. Gov. Romney is a leader of global significance, who might eventually be the leader of the free world, and we are honored that he accepted our invitation.

An invitation to speak at Commencement is not an ad-hoc endorsement of a presidential candidate or even of that particular speaker’s religious or political views. The ultimate purpose of having a prominent Commencement speaker is not to promote the speaker or his views but rather to inspire and challenge the graduates and showcase Liberty and its mission.

My prayer is that having the presumptive Republican nominee as our speaker will cause many who have never heard of Liberty to take notice of what Liberty is doing to train a generation of Champions for Christ. Perhaps, many of them will consider a Christian education over the secular alternative.

Sincerely,

Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President

That explanation won’t cut it for some, but for many, no explanation would suffice at all.

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The Start of a New Multisite Church in Auburn Launches

This past Sunday was an incredible day in the life of Cornerstone Church here in Auburn. This was the first Sunday we started worship in two different locations; one church, in two locations. After 9 months of planning, months of praying for all aspects involved in having two sites, we finally had our first regular worship service over at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn. To me, it went about as well as anyone could have hoped and prayed for, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Over the next few weeks, everyone involved will refine the setup and tear down process before we officially open to the public on February 26th. It was such a great day. Everyone involved, in both locations, had a part in making this past Sunday great, but God made it all happen. Without God’s presence and involvement this would all be pointless. Can’t wait to see what’s ahead for our new site. If you are in Auburn, and are looking for a new place to call your church home, come check out Lee-Scott on Sunday 1t 10:30am.

14 Tons of Food at the Cornerstone Church Food Drop 2012

The photo above of our food drop today probably isn’t going to be anyone’s favorite, but it is mine, and it’s also my photo for Project 365 [Day 40] (you can see others at the Cornerstone Flickr Food Drop set). Today was all about motion, going, doing, and I love the look and feel of this shot above with my nephew taking a box in a people train line from the lady next to him. Today was another great day of the church being the church. Cornerstone people collected over 14 tons of food, and then, as planned, today took it out into the community, it was a great day.

I had mixed emotions about this day for months leading up to today, but thank goodness I’m not in charge, God is, and we had probably 3-4 times the number of people show up at church today to help load the boxes and take them out into the areas designated to us by the Food Bank of East Alabama. I’m sure we will make some adjustments for next year, and I know we have learned a lot as a church body today. Hopefully the people in the Auburn-Opelika community were blessed today, and more importantly I hope they saw the love of Christ in those who went out today.

Massive Fog Bank Settles over Our Auburn Trees :: P365 [Day 8]

Every year as the seasons change this tree puts on a different face. I’m guessing I have taken 100’s of photos of this one particular tree, and every shot looks different. Today we had a fog-bank cloud descend over the property making visibility a few hundred feet or so giving me this shot. The weather this year just seems freaky, like having 75*F and fog on December 6th, but in a few days it’s supposed to be below freezing. Oh well, that’s the weather in the south.

I know I post random photos on here from time to time but each individual photo I pull out of a shoot is part of a bigger set, and next year, I am actually going to do something I have wanted to do for the better part of 15+ years, and that’s Project 365 as it is so called now. Project 365 is something I will post about more later, but basically that is a project that refers to taking and posting one photo a day for 365 days. I know, sounds simple. Ever tried it? Maybe 2012 will be the year. Today this is the P365 [Day 8] photo.

Heading to Entebbe International Airport for the Long Ride

This is the last trip post before we get on the plane in a few hours. I will continue to post some photos from the trip over the next several weeks and months as I go through the thousands of images I’ve taken over this trip. I can’t reflect over this trip any more, especially since we really have no distance in time for all our experiences over the last 7-10 days. For now I will leave everyone with the photo above that sums up our awesome driver, who took care of us the entire time. Everyone who has been over knows what this photo means. We love Eddy.

In this post are some shots of us in the crazy fast Eddy van along with one of Olive we all just loved. She was a super nice lady who went with us just about everywhere. It’s hard to sum up this trip. I think I probably will find it hard to sum up the trip for months to come, but overall it was a learning experience, a humbling experience, and hopefully one where we lived out the love of Jesus.

The View from Estes Park Colorado in September

Our view from the cabin in Estes Park looks out over Longs Peak, which just got a dusting of snow over the last night or two. The temps are above freezing at around 8,000 feet where we are, barely, but it’s cold enough. I don’t get a chance to do self-portraits very often but I did this one below this morning as Deborah and I spent some nice quiet time, me reading and Deb knitting. These two shots pretty much show what we like to do when we are not scheduled to be somewhere doing something. It’s great because our location can change but we can pretty much take a few things with us and enjoy spending the day together on the beach, or in the mountains, or at home in the living room for that matter.

This self portrait was pretty neat to me since I was able to combine the two things I’m passionate about in one moment, studying God’s word and photography (meta data here). Self portraits are really much more difficult than one might think, it just isn’t as easy as pushing the button and your done, to me it’s about telling a story as always. I love looking at different ways to do self portraits since it tells so much about the photographer and the person. One of my favorite is this one my grandfather did, which I posted a few years ago.

Only one day left of our mountain view and it’s back to the heat and humidity. Something I’m actually looking forward to since it’s a whole lot easier to breathe in Alabama than it is in Colorado. Tomorrow we have the baby Luke photo shoot and I’m wishing I had all the cute little baby hats, baskets, and cups that Heather Carson in Auburn uses but we do have several Deborah knitting originals to use.

A Bumpy Ride but Arrived a Mile High in Denver

So we are in the Mile High city for a few days for the birth of our second grandson, Luke, but while we are here we get to take a side trip over to Colorado Springs and visit with a ministry group there. On a side note, there are an amazing number of ginormous ministry groups here in Colorado Springs, like Focus on the Family, Compassion International, Promise Keepers was at one point, and so on… amazing. We are going to get to talk about the kids in our sponsor program from Cornerstone like the girl you saw in my previous post. I’m always excited to get to talk to people when it deals with ministry and photography at the same time. It’s one thing to get to work in an area you are passionate about but it’s really fantastic when you get to combine two passions together, even if it’s just to talk about future possibilities.

So, quick photo of the day above, which is actually from yesterday. We ended up landing in Denver in horrible weather (which is rare out here). It’s also freezing out here, well, it’s not 100*F out here, but all the resort towns are expecting snow this weekend. Until next time…

Walking Water from the Seepage Well in Buloba Uganda

Water is life. In Uganda, just as it is all over the world, water is something so precious that amazing attempts are made to not waste (or spill a drop, see also pics in this post). I was quite amazed at the attempts made to not discard water, any water, even if it was full of mud and rust. It was almost something akin to Bear Grylls looking for water in Man vs Wild, but without water, we can’t live, and in Uganda there are some of the most resourceful people in finding water that even Bear would be proud.

From my non-scientific observations I identified basically three sources where people could get water in Bulboa. They get water from what I would call a seepage well or natural runoff, collection from a rain barrel or cistern type system, or a deep water bore well like Living Water International (LWI) drills. The easiest and most convenient method is to use water collected in a rain barrel since you don’t have to go anywhere to get the water. This is great, when and if it rains, but think about putting a medal barrel (that can and does rust) on the end of your house and letting it sit in the heat, uncovered, and you get the idea. Obviously the deep water bore well is the best and safest method for collecting water, and from what I could tell, Buloba has two such wells. One on the other side of the main road opposite the Buloba Police station and one about 500 yards or so past Buloba church (the well Cornerstone helped drill). If anyone wants a clean source of water they have to go to one of these two wells and haul it back to wherever they want.

Prior to the particular well being drilled by the church everyone in the immediate area of Buloba Church had to walk down to a runoff water source, which is still being used. This runoff water would be something like if you took a small (I emphasize small) flowing stream at it’s lowest point, and made a small dam with a pipe coming out for the water to flow through. This water source by my estimate is a little less than a mile away from the church, so when you needed to get some water, you walked the two mile round trip with a 40 pound plastic water can. This is, in a nut shell, what we did one the first day we arrived at Buloba Church.

Everyone from our church has heard this story many times before but there is just something about it that gets lost when you put it into words. We walked down to the runoff well with our cans and met several people and kids along the way that were doing the same thing. For some, this water source is still closer than going up to the deep water well by the church so they walk down here. Unlike what I was expecting, this water wasn’t visibly dirty, and on this day, didn’t have any particular smell or oder, but we were told that it is for the most part an unsafe water source (think about drinking water out of the Cahaba or Chattahoochee River if you live down here… some days that might be ok, but I probably wouldn’t take that chance myself).

So this was our walk down to the seepage well about a mile away. Sounds easy now, but several of the guys had the skin on their hands torn from the weight of water jug by the time we got back to the church making their yellow bottle handles mixed with a little American blood while the kids ran past us with their appropriate size water can. I’m glad we took the time to see and experience what people do just to get “clean” water when what we do is turn on the facet. The road to the seepage well goes by the new deep bore well, so these shots below stop there first and then end up at the runoff water. I will do a separate post with photos about the deep water well at some point down the road so to speak.

I was continually amazed by these kids. Doing incredibly hard work with a great smile on their face, always glad to see a Mzungu walk down their road.