He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)
Over the years Thanksgiving has meant many wonderful things to me. Just a few are the traditional gathering together of the whole family, health great food, sale and praising God for all He has done for my family. There is also a favorite hymn I love to sing. It is one of my all time favorites and is called”We gather together.” It is an old traditional Thanksgiving hymn, ambulance which expresses many great truths about God, the greatest of which declares He never forgets His own. There is a story of another who loved this hymn, perhaps even more than me. It is a story I would like to share with you; one you might want to read to your family before you sit down to eat.
A story appeared sometime ago in the “Congressional Record.” It suggests that “Whosoever dwells under the defense of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” A nineteen-year-old G.I. who had been awarded a medal for bringing in a large group of Japanese prisoners, single-handed, during World War 2 tells his own story:
“I want someone to know that I don’t deserve that medal. It happened this way. I was captured by the Japanese, with five of my pals. We were marched through the jungle with bayonets at our backs. I had to see my comrades one by one killed and mutilated. I said the 23rd Psalm. I said the Lord’s Prayer. Die I must, but I determined not to let my captors see my fear. Trembling from head to foot, marching in mud up to my ankles, with a bayonet sticking in my back, I began to whistle the way I used to when I was a small boy, and had to go through a dark street. So I whistled, ‘We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known; the wicked oppressing cease them from distressing, sing praises to His name, He forgets not His own.’
Suddenly I became aware that someone had joined me in my whistling – it was my Japanese captor! He, too, was whistling the hymn. Soon I felt his gun fall back into place. He walked beside me then, and suddenly I jumped when, in perfect English, he said to me, ‘I never cease to wonder at the magnificence of Christian hymns.’ And a few minutes talk revealed that the Japanese soldier had learned English in a mission school to which I had contributed in my Sunday school days. The Japanese boy spoke of war and how the Japanese Christians hated it. We both agreed on the power of Christianity, and what would happen if people really dared to live it; and then we began to talk of our families and our homes. Finally, at the suggestion of the Japanese, we knelt in the mud and prayed for suffering humanity around the world, and for ‘His peace that passeth understanding’ among all men on earth
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When we arose, he asked me if I could take him back as a prisoner to the American headquarters. He said that it was the only way that he could live up to his Christianity, and thus help Japan to become a Christian nation; and on the way back he found in various fox-holes other Japanese Christians, and they too joined me. I shall never forget the hope and joy that came into their eyes as my friend unfolded to them, one by one, how we found each other, and why and where they were being taken. All the way back we talked of the Christian religion. When we neared camp, by mutual agreement they put on poker-faces and somber looks, and I, gun in hand, marched them into camp. So you see I don’t deserve a medal for the most wonderful experience in my life.” (St. Stephen’s Church Bulletin)
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may God guide and protect you the way He did with this young G.I. years ago. Also, you might usher up a prayer for me on November 27th when I go in for total hip replacement surgery. After years of running and various athletics my right hip simply wore out. I have been in constant pain since this last July, so this operation cannot come soon enough. The only possible complication with this surgery is the history I have with an irregular heart beat. Pray that all goes well and that my recovery will be speedy; I need to get back to administrating Heritage Christian School as soon as possible. I leave with you some other thoughts about Thanksgiving, may one or all of them affect your thinking about God and others during this time.
Remember God’s bounty in the year.
String the pearls of His favor.
Hide the dark parts, except so far
As they are breaking out in light!
Give this one day to thanks,
To joy, to gratitude!
Henry Ward Beecher
Give thanks to the LORD,
For he is good; his love
1 Chronicles 16:34
As we express our gratitude,
We must never forget that the highest
Appreciation is not to utter words,We gather together
But to live by them.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Thanksgiving Day comes,
By statute, once a year;
To the honest man it comes
As frequently as the heart
Of gratitude will allow.
Edward Sandford Martin