So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
An eight minute read.
Gratitude is a big word today, perhaps over-used.
But every November the question remains in America: What should you, I, and we all be grateful for?
Most people are grateful for personal relationships: family, friends, and those living and gone who placed us in a position to survive, succeed, and prosper. To give and receive happiness and even love.
Today, I am particularly grateful to those, too many to name, who advanced Praxis Circle this year. We’re gaining momentum as a business family and finding our non-profit market niche. 2022 has been a big year for many reasons.
For instance, just last week we rolled out our second interview with Contributor Mary Eberstadt, the seventh this year, and completed our first Course, entitled “The Christian Economic Model.” Contributor Anne Bradley taught the course in two sessions to several hundred. Mary’s interview and Anne’s course received excellent reviews.
While Thanksgiving is technically an American secular holiday, as everyone knows, it has profoundly religious roots. Anne’s first session began with the quote from Genesis at top that’s no less than the foundation of Western Civilization (Genesis 1: 27-28), but also a primary inspiration for the legendary Massachusetts pilgrims.
Last Thanksgiving we featured Contributor Hugh Whelchel’s post about the First and Second Pilgrim Thanksgivings and what it means to us today. Here we will briefly describe how Thanksgiving became a federal holiday during the American Civil War.
But Genesis 1:27-28 isn’t exactly about Thanksgiving, it’s about what gets us there: God, creation, family, being fruitful and growing.
So, here’s what’s popped up in my life just in the last week concerning family, gratitude, and Thanksgiving. It all points in a similar direction.
A Heavy-Weight Champion
One of my favorite clips in Mary Eberstadt’s interview that premiered last week was her statement about her grandfather, Steve Hamas. As it turned out, he was a “heavy-weight boxing champion”! No, seriously!! Not only that, he was a professional football player and one of the greatest athletes in Penn State University’s history.
Over the weekend our primary videographer, Patrick Gregory, worked overtime to produce the clip into a mini-documentary (2:36), and it’s featured at top. It is fascinating, and I hope you enjoy it. You will see that Mary is eternally grateful to her grandfather, who lives and inspires her to this day.
A Real Mom and Dad
Earlier this month I attended former NFL star Tim Hightower’s presentation of his new book, A Dream Worth Fighting For (2022), about his rise into the NFL and his no less than miraculous recovery from a freak but serious and normally career-ending injury. Mason New, our PC Education Director, led the discussion. Tim attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia when Mason was an English teacher there.
I finished the book last week and loved it. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in football and true inspirational stories about overcoming amazing odds. If you want to see Tim in his prime before his injury, check this link. It’s impossible to believe that such a gifted athlete could have received only one college football scholarship offer and would be a 5th round NFL pick.
I attended Episcopal High School’s archival, Woodberry Forest School, and my two boys attended Woodberry, too, and were football players. Tim’s two years were sandwiched between my two sons’ years playing football.
As he mentions in his book, Tim went 1-1 against Woodberry. But my point of this side-story is that it is nearly impossible for me to believe that any team could beat Episcopal with Tim Hightower playing tailback. How could anyone contain that shifty steam roller once he got rolling?
Even the Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t do it in the NFC Championship game (the 2008 season) that Tim’s Cardinals won. Next, he fulfilled his boyhood dream by appearing in Super Bowl XLIII (February 1, 2009).
In any case, A Dream centers around how Tim set the goal to be an NFL player as a boy and how those in his life helped him get there. For this Tim has immense gratitude, and he wants to dedicate much of the rest of his life to giving back.
Without question, those primary in his life well into college were his mother and father. He recognizes how fortunate he was to have parents who managed through very tough times and who stayed together through it all. He knows this is not necessarily the norm today under the same circumstances. Not that mothers alone cannot do a fantastic job as a parent, or that divorced or step-mothers or -fathers cannot do they same. They can and quite often do. But Tim recognizes how their determination and dedication to him gave a leg up every step of the way, even when family relations were strained.
As usually the case for any boy or young man, Tim’s mother gave him the most time and attention. She did the most to help him with life’s details and was interested that Tim receive the best education available. She was particularly instrumental in getting him to Episcopal High School.
In Tim’s presentation I attended earlier this month, however, Tim chose to read an excerpt from his book that focused on his father. (We have written much about fatherhood because we believe fathers today are more vital than ever, but are too often undervalued and marginalized by ideological social justice.)
Though Tim’s relation with his dad was strained at times, his father always showed up for him. His dad was there when he needed it most, and he gave Tim the guardrails every young man needs to establish successful relationships.
Here’s a quote I picked from Tim’s book that explains a primary source for his determination to be his best self:
What drives an individual to dig deep within himself? To overcome obstacles? To ignore the limitations placed on him by others and society? For me, it started at home. Struggle was common growing up. The older I got the more I knew that life was hard for us . . . My dad did not believe in being realistic. “What is realistic? Who told you to be realistic?” He hated it when I came home and told him what a teacher or coach told me was possible. “Who told you that?” He would ask angrily. “I didn’t tell you that. Never be defined by the limitations of man. With God, all things are possible, son.” I did not understand it at the time, but I needed this passion. I needed this mindset. As I got older, I adopted this mindset. (pages 44 – 45)
I won’t tell you the rest of the story, but I encourage you to buy the book. I took away many insights about how to be a better person; it also gave me a better understanding of the many challenges someone in Tim’s shoes is facing growing up. Mr. Hightower offers great advice near the end of his book that I hope many will take to heart:
More than ever today this world needs hope. As young people and as adults we need role models and examples. We need a support system. I have met mentors in church, father figures, and even life long best friends. For me and my family, church is a vital part of being connected to community. (page 189)
An Almighty Father
In addition to being a football fan, I’m a bit of a military history buff, particularly when it comes to the U.S. Civil War (which you know if you’ve read my posts). In the last year I’ve read biographies of Generals Grant, Sherman, Lee (3), and Jackson, as well as accounts of soldiers and historical fiction of the same.
Last week I was doing some research on the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863, 50,000 total casualties) and the Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863), when I came across this link from the National Park Service. It explains how today’s Thanksgiving holiday originated from Abraham Lincoln’s nine calls for public Thanksgiving over the course of the war.
(If you do watch the Battle’s video linked above, I need to add that historians today recognize that Gettysburg was not regarded as the decisive battle of the war by Americans living then. Only 20-20 hindsight gets us there now. The war was nowhere near over, and the Army of Northern Virginia was nowhere near done or defeated.)
On October 3, 1863 after Gettysburg, Lincoln issued a proclamation first declaring the last Thursday of November as a day of national Thanksgiving. In a similar proclamation immediately after the battle also calling for Thanksgiving, Lincoln declared:
“It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people . . . It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father, and the power of His hand, equally in the triumphs and these sorrows.” He asked for the people’s prayer to invoke “the influence of His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger which has so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents . . . and finally to lead the whole nation . . . back to the enjoyment of union and fraternal peace.”
It all went back to the Creator or “Almighty Father” – not just Almighty, but all-knowing, all-good, all-loving. Slow to anger, merciful, and forgiving. The essence of truth, goodness, and beauty. Not that God is a man; few Christian theologians believe that. But our Christian Creator God is certainly almighty and works in “His” own ways beyond our comprehension.
During 2022’s Thanksgiving, we need to remember the hope that Tim Hightower calls for and Lincoln’s words inspire. The Gettysburg Address is not only a beautiful eulogy for soldiers, but also a call for hope through action.
Just after the end of the Civil War, the war to end all wars in America, the man who stood most resolutely in President Lincoln’s way of restoring the Union had this to say:
The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are often discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.
This statement is reminiscent of President Obama’s constant words approximately 150 years later about the arc of history bending toward justice. In the video at top near the end Mary speaks of her partial “Slavic” decent; the word slavery having a well-known and obvious derivation there.
Yes, we children of God share a common humanity with downs and ups as imago Dei. We are flawed, yet move ahead, but with and only with God’s grace.
At approximately the same time after the Civil War, the same Christian gentleman who stood so fearlessly and resolutely against Lincoln, against what he regarded as subjugation, also had this to say:
So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the south. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war and suffered all I have suffered to have this object obtained. (R.E. Lee, April 28, 1869)
Yes, we in America have much to be grateful for. We move toward justice in a Judeo-Christian society, and without God’s objective moral standard humanity is lost.
God blesses us every moment in this miraculous life. With malice toward none, we need only open our eyes and hearts to see it.