Thanksgiving Demands Change
By Linda C Dipman

    The storm raged against the bow of the ship reminding the pilgrims the cost of freedom.  Freedom to believe in
God the way they wanted to worship Him.  Freedom to govern themselves without the constrains of a culture built on
classes because of a person's wealth and position.  Freedom to work in jobs of their own choosing and not ones that
were passed down from generation to generation because they were in the poorer lower class.

    The rain pelted the masts of the ship and the lightning flashed creating a dim reflections on the hard worn out
faces of men, women and children.  These were the early settlers, who dared to look to God for the strength to
pursue a new and different life in a far off land.  Families that turned their backs on their cultures so they could have
a brighter future in a brand new world.

    A anchor hooked onto a massive chain lowered quickly into the water abruptly hitting the shallow ground with a
splash.  The weary travelers smiled as morning dawned and the storm lifted.  They glanced out at the land and
dreamed of the future they would have.  America, the land of opportunities.  A land where they would build better
lives free from the oppression of the wealthy upper class.

    The first year was hard because what they knew about farming was different from what the land produced, but
they didn't give up!  They prayed and asked God for help and He sent the Indians to teach them how to farm the
land.  They taught them about the climate and how to grow the right kind of crops for the land.  They learned as each
year passed and with each year as they survived they celebrated with a meal of Thanksgiving.  

    Thanksgiving to God that they were alive.  Thanksgiving that they had risked everything and survived another
year.  Freedom was what they gained.  Freedom to worship God in any way they desired.  Freedom to be their own
class of people.  America was a land where thanksgiving demanded change.

    The bravery of the first settlers created a country that changed the face of the world.  In the years to come the
United States of America gave birth to a government founded by the people and for the people.  All because people
had the courage to separate themselves from the belief systems and governments they had once been apart.  All
because they chose to fight against their mother land for the sake of freedom.

    Matthew 10: 21-23, "Men will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their
children; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death.  Everyone will hate you because of me.  
But whoever holds out to the end will be saved.  When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one.  I
assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."

    During the time of Jesus the same kind of fight occurred when men chose to believe differently from their religious
up-bringing.  A war was fought over religion that made each person either stand up, change or fall on their knees and
be oppressed by the rich and powerful in Jerusalem.

    The Pharisees and the Sadducees had become so powerful, they were no longer leading the people on the right
way to worship God.  Instead they were cursing the people and manipulating them into giving them all of their money.  
They used God to control people to do their will.

    The only way the people survived the oppression from the teachers of the Law was to give their lives to Jesus.  
Jesus gave them the freedom to worship God from their hearts.  They no longer needed the Pharisees to teach them
because now God would teach them on the inside by means of the Holy Spirit.

    Because they chose the freedom given to them by Jesus they were forced to run to other countries by members of
their own families.  They were like the first pilgrims reaching out and fleeing to other lands so they could have the
freedom to worship God according to their own convictions.

    New land, new way of worshiping God has always been at the forefront of all those who chose to follow God
separate from the belief system they were raised to be apart.  Anyone who has ever lived has had to make a choice
to either conform or to fight for change.

    The power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in my heart has given me the freedom to be my own person.  Freedom to be
who God made me to be.  Freedom to live the life God chose for me to live with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving
demanded a change in me because God made me gay.

    Matthew 10: 34-39, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world.  No, I did not come to bring peace,
but a sword.  I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their
mothers-in-law; a man's worst enemies will be the members of his own family.
    Whoever loves his father or mother more than me is not fit to be my disciple; whoever loves his son or daughter
more than me is not fit to be my disciple.  Whoever does not take up his cross and follow in my steps is not fit to be
my disciple.  Whoever tries to gain his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it."

    As I was preparing for our Thanksgiving meal I commented to my daughter about how it just didn't seem as special
as it used to be. It was no longer about the fun of trying out new recipes and anticipating the family gathering.  In truth
my life was completely different from when I was my daughters age.  My parents were dead and my brothers and
sister and I didn't get along, because I was gay.  Even my own children had problems with their siblings.

    Everything about my own life showed how accurate these scriptures were for me.  In order to follow God today you
must believe separate from what the religious right believes is true.  Too many use the Bible for oppression.  They
take the words and use them to throw out their children and ignore family members.   

    Too many churches and religious Pharisees of our time use judgment as a means to condemn, everyone who
doesn't believe like them, to hell.  It is only with the Holy Spirit that a person can learn on the inside separate from the
church God's true will for their lives.

    John 12: 47, "If anyone hears my message and does not obey it, I will not judge him.  I came, not to judge the
world, but to save it."

    Today we live in a totally different world than our ancestors.  We are free to believe the way we choose.  We are
free to work at whatever job we want.  We are free to believe in God and worship Him the way we desire.  But when it
comes to Thanksgiving we must remember that these freedoms come with a price.  A price that pits family members
against each other and starts religious wars.  It is a price that doesn't have to occur if we will only put aside our
differences and listen to God within our hearts.

    Jesus came to bring a brand new teaching to the world of grace.  Grace gives us the power to make mistakes.  
Grace gives us the power to love who we want to love.  Grace opens our world to the truth that we are in a world
game of good against bad.  A game that teaches us the difference of right and wrong through our families and
countries that we are apart.  An individual game of life meant to change us into different people on the inside.

    Because I am gay I look at the world completely differently than the religious right.  I see where the humiliation I
suffered made me a better person.  I don't judge.  I love unconditionally.  I embrace change in anticipation of learning
something new.

    Anyone who acknowledges the game of life will understand that suffering, death, war, famine, natural disasters
and illnesses have a way of humbling us and changing us on the inside.  When we have God principles living in our
hearts we embrace the bad along with the good.  For God gives us the power to endure all things because Jesus
saves us from the corrupting forces of evil in the world.

    I am so thankful that I am gay, even though I am persecuted. I am so thankful for my family even though they don't
have anything to do with me because they are part of the religious right. I am so thankful that my ancestors traveled
to the new world allowing me to worship God apart from those who use God to control people.  I am proud to be an
American.  Thanksgiving Demands Change.  And I have changed and I thank God for the work He has done in my life.