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AN APPALACHIAN THANKSGIVING
By Steve Myers
From "Exegesis"

Like millions of Americans, we spent Thanksgiving at Grandma's house. Everyone looks forward to visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Grandparents are supposed to provide that haven of unconditional love, wonderful food, and warm, loving smiles that seem so sadly absent from daily life. Someone once wrote that it was natural for grandparents and grandchildren to form a bond: after all, they had a common enemy. Yet no such feelings even came close to surfacing on our long, beautiful drive from Washington to the border of Georgia and South Carolina. It is always wonderful to visit Washington, particularly for the first time, yet for those who live here it is always refreshing to leave. It isn't just a question of leaving a city. As one departs the sordid, corrupt cesspool, one places it all quite deliberately in a section of the mind that may not be revisited until after the festivities, and heads out into the country.

One of the great blessings of Washington is that it takes only a few minutes to leave it all behind. Before long, we are on the open road, sailing past fields and hills into the beauty of the recently leafless Appalachians, south past the towering mountains and soon in the company of others heading to visit their Grandma and Grandpa. A quick stop for gasoline soon reveals very different accents from those heard in Washington. And there are men fishing, hunting and searching for that last minute Thanksgiving turkey up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. "We used to have a couple of turkeys," one family told us, "but we enjoyed them for Thanksgiving." Well, not to worry; we have plenty more in Washington. Soon, we are winding through the pine-covered hills of Western North Carolina and the views become spectacular. There are wonderful friends here to be visited on the return journey, who one hopes will always appreciate the ever-changing views of magnificent mountains clothed in pine and hickory and many other species. Everything here seems to cherish a famous local resident: renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham. There is The Billy Graham Freeway, his training center and numerous Christian ministries surrounding his home. We leave the hills of North Carolina and head south into cotton fields and warmer weather. "We can't believe how cold it is here," said one couple from Florida to much general amusement. The Spring-like temperatures felt fine to us. South Carolina's state plant is the Palmetto, a small palm-like bush, and there are also palm trees and soft, fluffy evergreens. And we could almost smell the food cooking.

Grandma and Grandpa were excited to see the family, of course, and it wasn't long before we were all enjoying Apple Cider and home-baked goodies as the turkey roasted and the women gathered to help with the stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and much else in Grandma's familiar, comfortable kitchen. They chattered and reveled amidst the wonderful fusion of gorgeous smells emanating from the kitchen. Soon, we basked in the warmth of family life as we sat down for the feast. First, there is an opportunity to offer the great thanksgiving prayer of the year. Our custom is to ask everyone to share something for which they are thankful. Life is far from easy for many people, but we sense God's love in the prayers. There are so many good people in America, folks who love and cherish their country and revere the Lord. They would be horrified to know how politicians and the media are eroding those values. We promised to put those thoughts away for the weekend but they kept pricking our conscience. The Thanksgiving table looked just like Norman Rockwell's famous picture, groaning with turkey and stuffing, corn, lima beans with smoked sausage, mashed and sweet potatoes and all kinds of special treats that Grandma has made her own. And then came the cherry, pecan and pumpkin pies. "Just a small piece please." Of course the food is marvelous, but what really shone through was the love, warmth and safety. Somehow, it doesn't matter what's happening in the outside world. As long as you feel loved by someone, there will always be a place to feel safe and warm, a place where you belong. We all need to feel that sometimes.

Before we left, Grandma and Grandpa were to share more of their love and strength. After packaging extra food for everyone to take home, it was off to bed for a good night's rest. Before sunrise, those who had the longest journeys were up and about, and soon Grandma and Grandpa emerged, he fully dressed and smiling, and she graciously capable in an elegant crimson housecoat. They scurried around the kitchen and seconds later, raisin toast, fresh waffles and apple butter appeared on the kitchen table. They moved so fast that whatever we ate was instantly replaced by two of them on the table. These good folks were living the example that Jesus taught his disciples assembled in Jericho: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve." (Matthew 20:26-28) Later, having washed their feet, He added: " I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." (John 13:15) Grandma and Grandpa have so much to teach us.

How could these children wake up so hungry after all we had eaten the previous day? As all were satisfied, Grandpa pulled up a kitchen stool and shared the day's scripture verses from his devotional, and then went around the table asking his children and grandchildren for their prayer requests. We all shared them, and we all prayed. Grandma and Grandpa made notes and promised to continue upholding everyone in prayer. This is the strength of the Christian family. These good folks are the foundation on which America is built. As we try to suppress the thoughts of the evil forces in Washington, Hollywood and New York, we try to focus on the prayers and imbue all that Grandma and Grandpa have taught us.

Not everyone has such a fine family. Not everyone has a place to go called Grandma's house, but is there any reason why our home, no matter how affluent or how modest, couldn't be like Grandma's house? Why can't all of us, young, old and in between, turn our homes into places of refuge and warmth, love and prayer? Can it be done? Of course! "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:10). How does one learn to cook? Personally, it was a case of trial and error, but if you never try, you will never learn. How does one learn the habit of praying for others? It is a matter of personal discipline and of keeping a prayer list. There is nothing more encouraging than a six-month old prayer list, which enables us to see with perspective all the things we were worrying about and which is a testimony to answered prayer.

Driving back from Grandma's house is sad yet refreshing. The sadness of parting is soon replaced by the renewed strength, warmth and love that have been instilled. These strong Christian folks are the army the Lord has provided to fight America's battles. There are things each of us can do. Television, more superfluous than ever, can be switched off; most channels offer zero entertainment or information value and less nourishment than chewing gum. The power of the dark forces of evil which have dumbed down America is instantly neutralized when one switches off the television and removes one's children from public education. Each time we avoid and remove ourselves from the institutions which have failed us, we liberate another of Satan's strongholds for the Kingdom of God. Thus shall we restore the beauty of America. In any case, our time is surely better spent learning how to recreate the prayerful warmth, love and strength we found at Grandma's house. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for showing us the way forward. May the Lord bless, keep and strengthen you.


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