Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Pilgrim Thansgiving

Several years ago I was asked to give a reading for Thanksgiving. I couldn't find one I liked from my slim files, so I did a little research and wrote something that I hope will bless you this Thanksgiving:

Among my heroes are those Christian fundamentalists of 350 years ago. The Pilgrims would not go along with the state Church of England and were therefore singled out for persecution. These hardy Christians were willing to undergo extreme hardship in order to worship God in the way they believed He wished.

In the New World they were precariously perched on the edge of a hostile wilderness with a deep, black ocean at their backs. It was ludicrous to think that they would survive. They were few and they were sick, but their faith in God was constant and with Him they overcame all their obstacles and set up on that beachhead a guiding light for all who would follow. This, then, describes those Pilgrims and the first Thanksgivings celebrated in this country.

It was during the beautiful October Indian Summer of 1621 that the first day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation. The friendly Indian chief, Massasoit, who had helped the Pilgrims, showed up with 90 unexpected guests - almost double the size of the settlement of Pilgrims. Fortunately the Indians brought with them deer and turkeys and showed the Pilgrims how to make popcorn. The happy occasion lasted three days.

As Bradford watched the joyous celebration, his thoughts traveled back over the previous year. He remembered the fears and questions the group of Separatists had as they left England on the Mayflower and after three long months at sea finally found themselves 100 miles farther north than they were supposed to be, at a place the sailors called Cape Cod. After more weeks of exploration and planning these settlers began building the first house on December 25. It was then that the 'General Sickness' started. Long months at sea, the cold damp weather, and poor diets combined to slowly decimate their ranks. Six died in December, eight passed away in January, and February claimed 17 lives. In the spring of 1621 when the worst was over, just under half their number, or 47 had gone on to their eternal home.

Bradford, who lost his own wife, reflected on the strength of character of these people who refused to complain, grow bitter, or blame God for His goodness.

Governor Bradford knew it was not over. Hardships would yet abound, and abound they did. A month later, in November, 35 more settlers joined these original Pilgrims. They brought nothing with them: no tools, no bedding, and most importantly, no food. It was a long, cold winter. During the starving time that winter they were all reduced to the meager rations of five kernels of corn per person per day. Unbelievably not one died of starvation.

Two years after the first Thanksgiving, on Thursday, November 29, 1623 Bradford proclaimed:
"Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and has spared us from pestilence and disease and has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings."

A traveling merchant, Emanuel Altham, who attended the occasion, described the Thanksgiving in a letter to his brother:
"After our arrival in New England, we found that plantation in good health, and neither man, woman, or child sick. In this plantation are about 20 houses, four or five of which are very pleasant, and the rest (as time will serve) shall be made better. The fishing that is in this country, indeed is beyond belief. In one hour we got 100 cod.
"And now to somewhat of the good cheer. We had about 12 tasty venisons, and other such good cheer in such quantities that I wish you some of our share. For here we have the biggest grapes that ever you saw, and a variety of plums and nuts, six goats, about 50 hogs and pigs, also many, many hens. A better country was never seen nor heard of, for here are a multitude of God's blessing."

What Altham neglected to mention was the meals that were served on a previous winter - strong Christians gratefully thanking God for five kernels of corn per day.

Remind us to be grateful, Lord, lest we forget, lest we forget.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Wedding Blessing for Joe and Danielle

It has been a while since the last posting of Peanuts. I really don't want to make a practice of extended breaks from the postings. Kathy and I were exhausted both physically and emotionally from the two weddings these past couple months. With everything else on my plate, something had to slip. However I am back in the saddle and raring to go. I have some ideas for future postings which I hope you will enjoy. This post has to do with the last wedding

A couple months ago Joe asked me to give a blessing for Danielle and him, like I had done for our daughters, Allie and Michelle. Of course I was happy to comply; I like to bless my children and their mates! Because the length of the wedding, he thought it would be best if I saved the blessing for the reception. Somehow the lines of communication broke down and I did not give the blessing. Not wanting a good blessing to go to waste, here it is:

A Blessing for Joe and Danielle:

Since you, Joe are my only son, and Danielle is now my only daughter-in-law; you both are special to me. I wish and pray for God’s best blessings in your lives and on your marriage. May the two of you find real happiness in each other and true joy in pleasing and serving the Lord God of your fathers.

Joe, keep your heart tender and humble before God, and may He lift you up and make you great in your home and community. Keep yourself always in love with your wife, and may the home she provides be a strong refuge during the storms that will surely come. Keep a strong faith in God Almighty and may He always give you the ability to provide for your family. Ask the God of Grace to give you wisdom and the ability to lead your family to walk before Him all your days. God has promised to give liberally.

Danielle, always respect your husband and be the helper God would have you to be. May Joe always be your ‘Prince Charming.’ May you find in him safety and comfort. May the Lord God make you fruitful and bless you with many healthy and good children. And may God bless you two as you seek to bring your children to a saving knowledge in Jesus Messiah.