After Dorothy and I had our two children, as parents we wanted to make our own family holiday traditions. After a few years, one tradition we began was going with our friends, Ann and Herb, to the White River in Northern Arkansas amidst the beauty of the Ozarks to gather for Thanksgiving. Fishing for rainbow and brown trout in the river’s clear cold spring water. Fishing guides telling stories about the locals and the history of the White River.
Sitting in the jon boat drifting downstream to go nowhere in particular. Seeing the pristine rock bluffs rising from the riverbanks lined with Sycamore trees made me think that my view was the same as the Native Americans who lived there centuries before me. Watching the fishing guides pull the skins off our fish as if the skins were socks. Nothing I had ever seen done with saltwater fish like speckled trout or redfish.
The shore lunches at which we savored the fresh fried cornmeal-coated fish cooked in a large cast-iron skillet. Tasting hot French fries cooked alongside slices of yellow onions in the same skillet. Sitting around the hot crackling wood fire to warm our bodies and to feed our souls with God’s abundant and glorious grace.
As glorious as these memories are to us, even more important was having our friends and their son and daughter to share them with us. Planning and looking forward with anticipation to the holiday together. A family to share jokes. To cook and consume the Thanksgiving meal around a common table. Holding hands with one another during the blessing of the bountiful dishes we ate.
Laughing at the unexpected happenings like when my wheelchair-lift van got high-centered and stuck on a rock. In the snow, I tried to park as close to the front door of the cabin as possible. A very good idea gone bad. That year it was so cold Dorothy and I stayed in the cabin while our friend Herb took the four kids on the river.
The kids returned as cold as frozen popsicles even though they all wore cold-weather gear and jumpsuits. We knew that was a moment they would never forget as shown in the photograph posted with this prayer. Our daughter, Cat, is seen standing behind her brother, John, not out of shyness but to shield her from the frigid and fearsome north wind.
As Americans struggle in the Pandemic to begin again their Thanksgiving traditions with family and friends let us all be thankful for our blessings. Let us be mindful of the lessons we learned from the losses and pain experienced by us and others in moving through the mess of the Coronavirus since March of 2020.
God has spoken to us in Scripture about giving thanks.
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, please help me to be forever thankful for the innumerable gifts You have bestowed upon me and all Your children.
God, I am grateful for the persons you have placed in my path who have become friends for life and who have made good times better and bad times endurable.
God, today on Thanksgiving and every day thereafter, I thank You for Your grace. For Your grace is not something I deserve or earn. Your grace is simply a gift.
God, I give You thanks and praise for Your amazing, wondrous and inestimable grace. In Your grace You have given the greatest treasure to me, the least deserving to receive it. That is the blessing of Your grace. Amen.
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love, go to the Bending Angel website.