Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thanksgiving and Providence

I must remain true to my quixotic impossible dream of turning our hearts toward a Thanksgiving season.... Dig, if you will, the picture: an oasis of warm hearted gratitude nestled between the macabe bacchanalia that is Halloween and the calliope of commercialism that has become Christmas. Is it not somewhat astonishing that our nation is one that has had the audacity to enshrine gratitude by establishing an annual observation of Thanksgiving...not thanksgiving to the ever-protective paternal state (they get that 365 days a year in North Korea), but just a general Thanksgiving for blessings enjoyed.

Last year, as part of my monthlong celebration, I read through Plymouth Plantation, the account of William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth colony. It's a rich story of faith, adventure, trial, error, and perseverance. However, for this month's Thanksgiving preparation, I'm reading theology: John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence.
Flavel, an English puritan of the 15th century, was a prolific writer, and is quite readable in the edition edited by Banner of Truth trust. In this little volume, Flavel undertakes to explain the doctrine of Providence and express the comfort that comes from it. "It is a great support and solace of the saints in all distresses that befall them here," writes Flavel, "that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures and their most pernicious designs to blessed and happy issues. And, indeed, it were not worth while to live in a world devoid of God and Providence."
I find that God's superintending of all events is not a doctrine of fatalism, but a doctrine that brings great hope and joy...and this is the attitude that Flavel takes as well. He gives us many reasons to rejoice in Providence, and I'll be reflecting on those reasons as I prepare for Thanksgiving.
One place where Flavel begins is God's providence in our "formation and protection in the womb." On this subject, he reflects not only on body but also our human endowment with a "reasonable soul". Here we have a fit topic for reflection as we enter into a season of thanksgiving: what bodily health and vitality do we enjoy. What are the scope of our physical activities. What physical attributes has God blessed us with: strength, endurance, dexterity, keen senses? How have we enjoyed the blessing of having a spirit in us that is unique to humanity? Even in our what ways do they increase our dependence upon God's grace? What has God worked through our physical and spiritual attributes? All of these things lead us to give thanks to God.
Now go forth and do something physical today -- run a few laps, work in the yard, stretch your muscles...and give thanks to God for this Providence.
Soli Deo Gloria