To You and Yours
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has come around once again, and we at TAI hope, dear readers, that it will be a happy day for you and yours. The occasion is an excellent time to read a vintage essay by our own Adam Garfinkle: “Tolerance, Forgiveness, and Gratitude.” A taste:

As others have pointed out, forgiveness is not just the appeasement of anger. It cannot be achieved by paying blood money for wrongs done. True forgiveness is possible only among those whose humility enables tolerance. We can forgive others, thus breaking the primitive spiral of harm and revenge, because we recognize our own moral frailty, our own capacity for falling short. To forgive others is to tolerate their imperfections, something we can do in expectation that others will forgive us when we fall short. It makes the offering and acceptance of sincere apologies possible. It makes peace as opposed to mere truces possible. It helps, of course, to have an image of God as a merciful and forgiving power, an exemplar for those created in His spiritual image, for the concept of forgiveness to take firm root in a culture […]

And of course all of this bears on how we understand gratitude, or thanksgiving. We count blessings often not of our own making when it comes to material things. When it comes to human interactions, we must be participants to merit the even more sublime blessings of toleration and forgiveness in our societies. To express gratitude for these “higher angels” of our nature, I suggest, is something to think about on this Thanksgiving Day.

And while you read Garfinkle’s essay, or otherwise go about the business of the day, here are some songs appropriate to the celebration.

First up, “Tis By Thy Strength the Mountains Stand,” a classic song of the “shape note” genre so popular in America in the 18th and 19th centuries (h/t B.D. McClay)

Here are the lyrics:

Tis by thy strength the mountains stand,
God of eternal power;
The sea grows calm at thy command,
And tempests cease to roar.

Thy morning light and ev’ning shade
Successive comforts bring;
Thy plenteous fruits make harvest glad,
Thy flowers adorn the spring.

Seasons and times, and moons and hours,
Heav’n, earth, and air, are thine;
When clouds distil in fruitful showers,
The Author is divine.

Those wand’ring cisterns in the sky,
Borne by the winds around
With wat’ry treasures well supply
The furrows of the ground.

The thirsty ridges drink their fill,
And ranks of corn appear;
Thy ways abound with blessings still,
Thy goodness crowns the year.

Next, here’s the black gospel version of a hymn popularized by Ira Sankey, the singer who worked with the great 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody.

  1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

    • Refrain:
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      *Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
      [*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]
  2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.
  3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings—*money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
  4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

*Alternate text.

And finally, the classic Thanksgiving hymn, “We Gather Together.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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