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What is your thought upon hearing the word “Thanksgiving?” This past Saturday, on an ESPN commercial, between the litany of college football games, the word was thrown out to a number of college football players. The required one-word answers would be sad if they weren’t actually so expected by our increasingly history-demented, socialistic American colleges. The most popular answers from our “scholar athletes,” were predictable: turkey and dressing, taking a nap, cranberry sauce from a can, family time and watching football games.

Not one word about freedom, persecution, compact, sacrifice, republic or “City on a Hill.” Of course not. Who would want to remember such archaic ideas?

Don’t misunderstand. I love all aspects of the Thanksgiving holiday, even all the descriptions mentioned by our college athletes. I certainly don’t want to be a killjoy this year. But can’t we recall something deeper this Thanksgiving?

Besides symbolizing a time when many of us gather together, what does the word truly mean? America’s revered holiday was founded by a group of struggling Pilgrims, during the Fall of 1621.

Three months at sea aboard The Mayflower and a brutal winter left the Pilgrims overworked, malnourished, out of supplies and dying. Nearly half of the Pilgrims who had survived the sea journey, succumbed to illness and death. Assembled homes of crudely built mud daub as their only shelter, in one of the worst winters ever in New England; lacking knowledge about their new environment’s agriculture, their plantings were unsuccessful. At one point only five men were well enough to care for the sick and dying.

Despite their tribulations, the Pilgrims thanked God every day and cried out for deliverance. They continued to believe that God has sent them to this land to build a new nation, a “New Jerusalem,” as it were. They had made a “Mayflower Compact,” before setting foot on America and committing themselves to loving God and their fellow man with all their heart.

One morning, during an ordinary Sunday worship service, the Lord sent tangible evidence that He had heard their prayers. During the service an unexpected guest came, an Algonquin Indian chief, who assessed their hopeless situation and returned with a helper and translator, Squanto. The Indians became their friends and Squanto, a Patuxet Indian, spoke perfect English and taught the Pilgrims how to hunt game, trap beavers and plant Indian corn. They survived.

Indians, yes Indians, were God’s answer to the early settler’s prayers! Amazing. I wonder what we have to be thankful for this year that might have come in some unexpected ways? Why not take time this Thanksgiving to read this simple blog and ask your family an unexpected question about unexpected ways God has answered your prayers this year?

Thankful for unexpected answers,


Steve Holt M.A., D.D.

My newest book, Worshipper Warrior, can be found at