Lost Episode for November 24

Abraham_Lincoln_head_on_shoulders_needlepointPresident Abraham Lincoln made a proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to be observed on the last Thursday of November in 1863, issued a few months after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War at Gettysburg. With the outcome of the war still in doubt, Lincoln nevertheless called the nation to give thanks:

“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 unequalled magnitude and severity… 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 siege and the battle-field…

“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…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.”*

President Lincoln’s proclamation established Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday that all succeeding presidents have observed. Yet the dire circumstances under which this faith-filled proclamation was made is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Habakkuk 3:2 and reflect on the prophet’s prayer and compare that to Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation.

Prayer: Most High God, we are truly grateful that in your anger that you have remembered mercy. We pray that you would continue to do so toward America, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Roy P. Basler, Jr., ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols., (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 6:496-97.


Lost Episode for November 23

John F KennedyPresident John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation for a day of National Thanksgiving, to be observed on November 23, 1961, which begins with Scripture:

“’It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.’ [Psalm 92:1]

“More than three centuries ago, the Pilgrims, after a year of hardship and peril, humbly and reverently set aside a special day upon which to give thanks to God for their preservation and for the good harvest from the virgin soil upon which they had labored. Grave and unknown dangers remained. Yet by their faith and by their toil they had survived the rigors of the harsh New England winter. Hence they paused in their labors to give thanks for the blessings that had been bestowed upon them by Divine Providence.

“This year, as the harvest draws near its close and the year approaches its end, awesome perils again remain to be faced. Yet we have, as in the past, ample reason to be thankful for the abundance of our blessings. We are grateful for the blessings of faith and health and strength and for the imperishable spiritual gifts of love and hope. We give thanks, too, for our freedom as a nation;…for our determination to stand firmly for what we believe to be right and to resist mightily what we believe to be base; and for the heritage of liberty bequeathed by our ancestors which we are privileged to preserve for our children and our children’s children.

“It is right that we should be grateful for the plenty amidst which we live; the productivity of our farms, the output of our factories, the skill of our artisans, and the ingenuity of our investors…

“Now, Therefore, I, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America… urge all citizens to make this Thanksgiving not merely a holiday from their labors, but rather a day of contemplation. I ask the head of each family to recount to his children the story of the first New England Thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man’s efforts persevere and come to fruition with the blessing of God.

“Let us observe this day with reverence and with prayer that will rekindle in us the will and show us the way not only to preserve our blessings, but also to extend them to the four corners of the earth. Let us by our example, as well as by our material aid, assist all peoples of all nations who are striving to achieve a better life in freedom…”*

President Kennedy’s Thanksgiving proclamation, recalling the Pilgrims practice of giving thanks to God for His blessings, is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Joshua 4:19-24 and reflect on the practice of setting up spiritual markers to assist fathers in helping their children remember God’s mighty acts and compare that with what President Kennedy advised.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for our Pilgrim forefathers and mothers who were faithful to show their gratitude and for a President who encouraged Americans to think on their example.

*Source Citation: John F. Kennedy: “Proclamation 3438 – Thanksgiving Day, 1961,” October 28, 1961, as found in United States Code: Congressional and Administrative News, 87th Congress – First Session, 1961 (Washington, DC: West Publishing Company, 1961), 1:1239. See also Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8409 (accessed 11-22- 2011). Bracketed item added.


Lost Episode for November 22

John Adams - YoungOn November 22, 1800, President John Adams gave his Fourth Annual Address to Congress, which began the first session in the new Capitol building in Washington, D.C. President Adams declared:

“I congratulate the People of the United States on the assembling of Congress at the permanent seat of their Government…

“It would be unbecoming the representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and imploring His blessing.

“May this territory be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city may that piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government, which adorned the great character whose name it bears be forever held in veneration! Here and throughout our country may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion flourish forever!”*

President John Adams’ blessing over the Capitol building and the Capital city that bears the name of George Washington, the Father of our Country, is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read 1 Kings 8:1-24 and reflect on the dedication of the Temple and compare that with this dedication of the United States Capitol by President Adams.

Prayer: Father, we praise you for this Founding Father and our forbearers who thought it proper to pray a prayer of dedication over our Capitol.

*Source Citation: James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 11 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Literature 1907-1910), 1:250.


Lost Episode for November 21

Abraham_Lincoln_head_on_shoulders_needlepointOn November 21, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln sent a letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston, who had reportedly lost five sons in the Civil War:

“Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

“I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”*

Abraham Lincoln’s heartfelt letter and eloquent prayer for this mother who lost her sons in battle is yet another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read John 15:13 and reflect on Jesus’ words about sacrifice and compare that with the sacrifice made by Mrs. Bixby.

Prayer: Father, during this season of thanksgiving, we are so grateful for the sacrifices made by the members of our military as well as those made by their families. We ask your richest blessings on them, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Roy P. Basler, Jr., ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols., (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 8:116-17.


Lost Episode for November 20

Patrick Henry CroppedOn November 20, 1798, in his Last Will and Testament, Patrick Henry wrote:

“In the name of God, Amen, I, Patrick Henry of Charlotte County at my leisure and in health do make this my last Will and Testament in manner following and do write it throughout with my own hand…

“This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.”*

Near his will, Henry left a sealed envelop containing a copy of his resolutions against the Stamp Act, on which he had written on the reverse:

‘The within resolutions passed the house of burgesses in May, 1765. They formed the first opposition to the stamp act, and the scheme of taxing America by the British parliament… This brought on the war, which finally separated the two countries, and gave independence to ours. Whether this will prove a blessing or a curse, will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable.—Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation. [Prov. 13:34]

“Reader! whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere, practise virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.—P. Henry.”

Patrick Henry’s concluding desire that his family receive Christ as their greatest inheritance and his hope that our country would follow Proverbs 13:34 is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Proverbs 13:34 and reflect on that verse compared with what Patrick Henry wrote on the back of his resolves against the Stamp Act.

Prayer: Father we praise you for this Founder who left behind documents that encouraged his family to faith in Christ and his nation to righteousness, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citations: William Wirt Henry, ed., Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), 2:631. An online version can be found here: http://www.redhill.org/last_will.htm. William Wirt, ed., Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: James Webster, 1817), 58.

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