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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving display
The illustrative display Brooksyne uses at her Pilgrim presentation.  The plate on the right is filled with "hard tack", a very hard cracker-like biscuit she uses to demonstrate what the people ate on the Mayflower.

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Note: Today's message is written by Brooksyne and edited by Stephen, (the opposite of our normal roles).

"Grumbling Or Grateful?"

"Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:9). "In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death'" (Exodus 16:2,3). "These people are grumblers and faultfinders" (Jude 16a).

Cruiseship SplendorLast week a huge 952 foot long cruise ship named "Carnival Splendor" made big news in the headlines because of an on-board engine fire that stranded 4,500 passengers and crew members. While being stranded at sea for several days passengers were forced to eat cold food and live without air-conditioning because the electricity was cut off. Finally the ship was towed into San Diego where it is undergoing repair.

Brooksyne and Ester Pilgrim presentation c1997Several were interviewed and told of their hardships.  I couldn't help but think of the contrast with those who made the treacherous voyage on the Mayflower nearly 400 years ago. 

For about fourteen years now I've been speaking to various public and Christian schools, church groups, and senior groups about the perilous journey the 41 pilgrims (separatists) made in 1620 along with 61 others they referred to as strangers who sought to settle in the "New" England.

The voyage took 66 days since it was a sail boat entirely reliant on the winds for travel. Most all who boarded the Mayflower (a cargo ship, not a passenger ship) wore the same clothing the entire voyage. Often soaked from the treacherous storms (one so severe that the main beam in the boat was split and nearly caused the boat to sink), they were crowded into a cabin made to sleep 30 instead of the 80 who attempted to sleep there.  The main cabin was only five feet tall where the pilgrims spent their long days at sea.  Fleas and lice covered the passenger's hair and wool clothing. Seasickness was the order of the day for most.

MayflowerTheir food consisted of hardtack, described as "hard as rocks", dried beef, dried pork, salted fish, cheese which quickly molded, dried peas and beans. Rats, roaches, maggots and weevils had infiltrated the hardtack.  The pilgrims sought to soften the hardtack by dipping it in their coffee, but the weevils would be swimming at the top of their cups afterward.  They decided it would be easier to digest their hardtack by eating after dark.  The water quickly contaminated so beer was consumed both by adults and children to prevent dehydration. Sickness was rampant due to lack of hygiene.  Privacy was non-existent.

The pilgrims were mocked and ridiculed by the 30 profane sailors on board.  When they had prayers, read Scripture and sang hymns the sailors belittled their faith. They laughed and called them "glib-glabbety puke stockings" as they would often throw up when the sea was especially unsettled.

There is little doubt that many of them had to wonder if they had made the right decision to be pioneers in the new world seeking to find a place where they could worship God freely.  All of them had left loved ones behind, even young children. In the midst of it all God was with them and heard their prayers. The Scriptures sustained them from day to day.  I imagine they quoted together the Shepherd's Psalm from Psalm 23 often. The hymns surely inspired them and brought joy in place of sorrow and sickness.

Upon landing 66 days later in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, rather than Virginia as was planned, they immediately offered a prayer to God. Gov. William Bradford describes the scene: "Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees, and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof…"

I wonder how much Christian character was developed during the long voyage of the Pilgrims.  They would either choose to grumble or to grow in their faith.  Interestingly, our witness to other believers and non-believers is most effective when they see us remain consistent during the hardships of life.  This was true of the pilgrims on board the Mayflower.

Remember when I told you the sailors taunted and ridiculed them over the 66 day voyage. They thought themselves stronger and better than the passengers on board.  But within a few weeks of landing they were among the many who would become very sick and laid right alongside the pilgrims in their makeshift hospital. The pilgrims prayed over the sailors and tended to their physical needs as some of them lay dying. The sailors' attitudes changed and they admitted in the end, the pilgrims were very strong and brave people.

Today, I ask you, are you living with a healthy outlook, confident of God's love and providential care, even during a season of "difficulty"?  Or are you focusing on the hardship you face? If so, it will lead to grumbling and pouting.  William Law, who lived in the early 1700's, observed "Whenever you find yourself disposed to uneasiness or murmuring at anything that is the effect of God's providence, look upon yourself as denying either the wisdom or goodness of God."

"Thou Shalt Not Whine" plaque

Grumbling (or whining) is our reaction to a perceived unfairness.  "I don't deserve this" or "It's not fair", we may say or certainly think.  But there's a wonderful theological truth expressed early in the Bible by Abraham that we do well to hide deep within our souls. "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

The answer to that question is always "Yes."  In so many ways life has ongoing forks in the road.  We can go down the road of grumbling or we can take the road of gratitude.  The choice is ours!  Our spirits are encouraged when we remember that difficulties and hardships encountered in this life will be nonexistent when we enter our eternal dwelling in heaven. Neither death, sorrow, crying or pain will exist, for the former things have passed away. I'm looking forward to that day, but until then I want to be counted among the true and faithful, and the grateful people of God.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, it is impossible for me to give sincere thanks to You unless I have a grateful heart. Open my eyes to see and verbalize the little blessings that come especially when I'm walking through dark clouds of difficulty.  My daily blessings, by far, outnumber my troubles. Good health, comfortable shelter, a loving family, steady work, caring friendships and many other blessings seem all too common so I often take them for granted. At times I even feel entitled to these blessings. It is when I'm deprived of a particular blessing that I choose to either grumble or suddenly recognize a blessing that I've overlooked. Father, I thank You for Your daily provisions.  Help me not to wait until trouble erupts before I look to You. Instead I want to be grateful for Your goodness toward me for past blessings and to remain confident that You will be just as faithful in providing for my future needs. And remind me to never take personal credit but realize that all good things are from You.  In Your name, Jesus, I thank You today!  Amen.

Brooksyne and Ester Pilgrim presentation 2010
Here's a photo I took of Brooksyne and Ester before they left for a Pilgrim presentation yesterday. (I don't suppose Ester still fits in her Pilgrim dress from her grade school years!)  Interesting note is that while dressing for this presentation in New England she really stood out if we were to go to a store afterwards.  Here in Lancaster County we have such a variety of religious-based dress styles that she would not be as noticed.  People would just assume she was part of a church group!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart"  Video 

"He's All I Need"  Video  
Garry Shepherd with "The Kingsmen" singing at very high tenor.

"He's All You Need"  Video  Steve Camp

Willow Valley This is the retirement community Brooksyne will be speaking at next week.

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these ideas to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
(We will post these resources through Thanksgiving.)

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table (printable webpage) The Thanksgiving celebration includes family coming together along with the turkey and trimmings. Often there's a lot of food with little meaningful conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns" or the questionnaire we've provided in the link below.  

A Thanksgiving prayer: (written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago.) Webpage  For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading: A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

The Pilgrims Come to the New World:   Webpage  

A Day of Rest in Plimouth Colony: This is a summary of a chapter in the lives of the pilgrims that Brooksyne uses to teach about their Sunday worship.  (pdf)

CD label for "Stories of Great Hymns""Hymns of Hope" Brooksyne has compiled eleven hymns that deal with the recurring theme of loss and ongoing trial and titled it "Hymns of Hope" based on Romans 12:12,  "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." Amber Martin plays the hymns on the keyboard and Lauren Gingrich accompanies her on six of the hymns with the viola. Tracks 12-22 play each hymn softly in the background while Brooksyne shares a personal devotional thought, the biographical setting of the hymn text, and an intercessory prayer. We recorded this in the very modest and limited computerized recording studio of Daily Encouragement so that we could make this ministry project available to all who are in need of such encouragement.  Thus we realize the audio quality is not what most are accustomed to. You can go to this site to listen to the songs. You can download one song at a time if you find this to be of special blessing or know someone whose spirit might be lifted by listening to these meditative hymns.

A Thanksgiving family exercise - We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.  (pdf)

"ThanksLiving" Bob Southard, a friend of ours shares a weekly online sermon. Here's a pdf version of his thanksgiving sermon.

Resources used in Brooksyne's research on the Pilgrims:
Saints & Strangers  By Vision Video
Three Young Pilgrims  By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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