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A new year for Thanksgiving

Enjoy your thanksgiving — even if it’s different than before. Aren’t you glad it’s Thanksgiving. I thought it’d never come. You understand. 

There’s just something special about Thanksgiving, just in normal years. I know that for so many this year is different than before. But I’ll tell today’s story, maybe to help you smile through the clouds and see the sun still shining, through it all.

I guess I like Thanksgiving because the mood sticks to you early, kind of like turkey and dressing sticking to your ribs — and it stays with you far beyond that special Thursday every year. We seem to write about Thanksgiving all the way through the holiday season into the next year. This year we might have to extend that out until the fourth of July, just to give you all a little extra help. Hope it does help, because that’s why we write in the first place.

A Thanksgiving never comes around that I don’t think about my grandfather, E.H. Miller, the old-time, tell-it-like-it-is, back-to-the-basics church of Christ preacher. It’s a story I’ve told you many times through the years, if you’ve traveled with us regularly. But I tell it again because it helps me be more thankful. And I’ve always figured that if something helped me it would help you, too.

Preacher Miller preached a great many sermons in his days. But one of the best sermons of his life wasn’t one he preached. It was one he lived. In the mid 60s, Preacher Miller, Grandma, and some friends got in a bad car accident driving home from a revival in Marietta, Georgia. 

Two cars were drag racing that night on the two-lane Atlanta highway, and Preacher Miller – who was driving – met the car in his lane when he topped a hill.

“It happened so fast,” he later would say, “that we didn’t even have time to swerve.”

I still remember the phone ringing late that night at our little house on Juniper Street in LaGrange, about an hour from the accident. The news wasn’t good for anyone, but the four in Granddad’s car were the fortunate ones.

Those riding with the preacher had numerous injuries, but Preacher Miller was hurt the worst. 

The impact was so great that his shoe melted to the gas pedal, and the workers had to pull his foot out of his shoe to get him and his broken hip out of the burning car. The doctor did all he could for the preacher for several days, but one morning he walked into the West Georgia hospital room and delivered the news:

“Preacher Miller,” he said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’ll ever walk again.” 

The preacher didn’t buy it. He said, “Doctor: you, me, and the Lord can do better than that.”

And they did.

In a month he was walking — and preaching — on crutches.

In three months, he was walking with a walker.

In six he walked, period. Just with a limp.

While he was a man of great faith, he also became discouraged often during his rehabilitation. One day when he was really feeling sorry for himself, he started wheeling through the hospital, looking around. He was surprised by what he saw.

He saw a man who was missing a leg.

He saw another who couldn’t get out of bed.

He saw one he knew likely would not see many more sunsets.

So, he went back to his room that day and gave thanks. I guess that was a ‘thanksgiving’ day like no other for the preacher.

He never took walking for granted again. As soon as he was well enough, he walked stairs almost every day for the rest of his life. And that was back when walking really wasn’t the ‘in’ thing.

Walking stairs, of course, isn’t something you can do at home. So, every day he’d go out and find one of the tallest buildings in his hometown; and there he’d walk the stairs. It was a place he attended daily anyway, as part of his preaching visits; and it was a place where he could go and never feel sorry for himself. He had always tried that. You can’t feel sorry for yourself when you’re walking the stairs up at the West Georgia Medical Center, right there two miles from his home – in the very place the doctor said, ‘I don’t think you’ll ever walk again.’

The preacher walked those hospital stairs almost every day; and he studied and preached, too, for more than two more decades, giving thanks every step of the way.

Here’s a prayer that you will enjoy your thanks-giving, too, although it may be different from before.