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Monday, November 25, 2013

Graceful Thanksgiving

For my audio blog this week, I would like to pay tribute to a fellow Minnesotan. Frankly, I did not know that one of my most favorite photographs had its origins in my native state. 

In pondering what message I could share for this Thanksgiving, my mind went almost immediately to this simple, but powerful, photograph. My parents had it in our home while I was growing up. I’m not sure why I have not purchased a copy.

The picture is titled simply Grace. Eric Engstrom took the photograph in 1918 in his home studio in Bovey, Minnesota. The photo, known around the world, shows an elderly man. His head is bowed in a mealtime prayer of thanksgiving.

The picture occurred when a bearded peddler appeared at Engstrom’s door. Engstrom was captivated by the man’s saintly, kind face. Engstrom set a basic table with a family book, some spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife. The kindly peddler then posed as for prayer. Have you seen it?

Engstrom was preparing a portfolio to take to a convention. He offered his perspective behind this memorable photo, saying, "I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war they still had much to be thankful for."

It conveys to me, as I’m sure to others, two powerful thoughts on thanksgiving. First, there is only gruel and bread. It challenges me to ask, Am I thankful for the simplest of provisions? And secondly, Am I thankful to God, knowing He is the supplier of all good things?

It reminds me of a print we DO have in our home. With a similar theme.( 

This one is by the French artist Jean-Francois Millet from the 1800s. It is entitled the Angelus

A man and a woman, obviously farmers, stand in a field. The man holds his cap reverently with head bowed. The woman in her apron and cap clasps her hands as if in prayer. At their feet is a basket of potatoes. And nearby, a wheelbarrow full of empty sacks. It is left to the mind’s eye to determine what it is they are praying about. But one thing is obvious: they are connecting with their God over His provisions for them.

Mealtime prayers are common for our family. While they often extend beyond gratefulness for the food on the table, I want to never forget the blessings God has provided. Including that meal.

As you gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings this Thanksgiving, I urge you to first THANK Him for His blessings.  Thank Him for your home, your work, your loved ones, and whatever else is placed on your heart. As the apostle Paul instructed the Thessalonians, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NAS)

This is my final audio blog for Moody Radio. Thank you for letting me be a voice in your life. It has been a blessing.

Future blogs can be found at my website,  For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

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