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November, 2011

Thanksgiving: Hardship, Perseverance and Hope

Guest Editorial by Adam J. Wehrley

The season of feasting has started. We just got back from our first Thanksgiving celebration of the year. It’s a little early, I know, but I have to build up my strength for the big event.

While eating my second full plate I noticed that my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Ana Sophia, was not following our national tradition by stuffing herself into a coma. After worrying about her shockingly unconventional (almost unpatriotic) behavior of not overeating, I noticed she was licking the frosting off her second dessert, so I am no longer worried.

Every year during the week before Thanksgiving, I review the history of the pilgrims and our other early colonies. I reread the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, sometimes the Mayflower Compact and other documents which have defined us as a nation.

I do this to remember why, as a nation, we give thanks – what it is which unites us.

Next to being dissenters and nonconformists, one of our oldest traditions is feasting as a celebration and recognition of God’s provision. People still argue over whether Jamestown or Plymouth started Thanksgiving.  Feasting as a means of showing gratitude was natural for both the adventurer and the pious.

As an individual I give thanks for my wife, for my kids, for family and heritage, for the hope I have in Christ, for redemption and forgiveness.

I also give thanks for small things, like days when I decide it’s time to come home because the sun is setting over the ocean, or when I take a walk with my kids. I’m thankful for fresh berries and friends who bring peach crisp, for when my clothes smell like sawdust and when I spend more time in four-wheel drive than on pavement.

I’m thankful for coffee, I am thankful to be back in the Northwest where we have good coffee. I am fine with plain black coffee. Sometimes I add milk and call that breakfast. I don’t need a triple-shot mocha breve every morning, but I’ll take one. As I’ve traveled I’ve learned that coffee gets worse the further you are from the Northwest coast. By Colorado there’s just no chance of good coffee.

Three hundred ninety years ago, the Plymouth colonists celebrated a successful harvest and surviving their first year in the New World. Nearly 50 percent of the colony’s population had perished during their first several months in the New World. Their unspeakable loss and hardship could easily have driven them to give up, to succumb to despair. Yet, some hope, some passion gave them the strength to persevere. It gave them courage to endure their unbearable loss of friends and family.

Since our earliest days we have been a nation that has lived and died by the courage of our convictions. We are united by the belief that we have certain unalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, free speech, freedom of religion and the press.

We share the conviction, that we each have a God-given right to live by our own convictions. In a way, we are united by the shared belief in our right to disagree with each other.

One of America’s foundation stones has been the realization that we can survive as a free nation even when we as individuals have convictions which contradict and conflict with each other.

Plymouth and some of the other colonies were established as homes for certain groups of religious nonconformists. Other colonies grew up among them, which allowed unprecedented levels of freedom regarding worship, conviction and speech.

I believe I would die for many of the same things for which the pilgrims risked their lives. I will most certainly fight for the freedoms which sprang up in the colonies as a whole.

Somewhere between the pilgrim’s piety and the revolutionary’s musket is where I find our birthright as Americans. We have the right to hold and express our own deep beliefs and the duty to protect other’s rights to express theirs.

Today, travelers complain about sitting on an airplane for an hour before taking off. The pilgrims were stuck living on the Mayflower for two months after making port, partially because they were too sick to get to shore and build new homes. Forty of them died while they waited. At one point only seven were well enough to take care of the others.

As a nation we have lost much of that fortitude, but we have not lost it completely. I would name names, but the most courageous men I know, do not flaunt their courage.

As a nation and as individuals, our convictions have often driven us to take risks. Afterwards, when we recognize how narrowly we’ve escaped catastrophe, we thank God and celebrate His mercy. We thank God that we live in a nation where we are allowed to disagree, allowed to risk, allowed to succeed or fail on our own terms.

Most (not all, but most) of our wars have been fought with the conviction that certain injustices exist in the world which must be stopped; that there are unalienable rights which must be defended and that, as Edmund Burke wrote: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

The Pilgrims’ perseverance through tragedy ought to inspire us. Like so many in our nation’s history, they dared great things on earth, because they had an eye on heaven. The hope which brought them perseverance, was not based on their ability to gain comfort and riches on earth. It was a faith that when the final accounting is made. God will be shown to be just, He will reward those who live by faith.

I do not pretend to know the deeper purpose in each of life’s hardships, though there are many eloquent fools who do. But I do believe, that even if the light at the end of the tunnel is just another train, the straight and narrow tracks will still lead us home.

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:3-6)

Adam Wehrley is a fourth generation member of the family which has owned and operated this newspaper for almost 90 years. After spending two and a half years teaching at a protestant seminary in Bolivia, Adam, his wife Molly (Sears) and their four children are now living on the Oregon coast. He is the owner/operator of Redemption Hardwood.

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