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Friday, November 17, 2017

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 one of the staple foods the people ate on the Mayflower, only theirs was not fresh and most biscuits were filled with maggots and weevils.

"Grumbling Or Grateful?"

Note: Today's message is longer than most since it has a lengthy historical section. Although we encourage readers to read the historical background the place the exposition begins is marked.

Message summary: 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!

Due to the length of today's message a podcast was not prepared.

"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).

Brooksyne and Ester Pilgrim presentation c1997For some 20 years, starting during our years of living in New England, Brooksyne has been making a presentation to various public and Christian schools, church groups, and senior groups. It's about the perilous journey the 41 pilgrims (separatists) made in 1620 along with 61 others they referred to as strangers who came to settle in the "New" England. Today she will share the presentation with the "scholars" (as the Amish call students) in a one room Amish schoolhouse where she expects to have a very attentive class of children from 1st through 8th grades.

Historical background:

The Mayflower voyage took 66 days since it was a sail boat entirely reliant on the winds for travel. Most all who boarded the Mayflower (which was 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.

Their 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, forcing the weevils to float at the top of their cups afterward. They decided it would be easier to digest their hardtack by eating after dark so they wouldn't see the infested critters. 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. Does that sound like what you want on your next cruise?

MayflowerThe 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. They surely quoted together the Shepherd's Psalm from Psalm 23 often. The hymns encouraged and 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, we ask you, are you living with a healthy outlook, confident of God's love and providential care, even during life's inevitable seasons 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."

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".

Often our concept of fairness is based on how we perceive others are doing, especially if we think they're doing better or they are not having a trial like we are. If they are doing better or not dealing with a trial we may say, "that's not fair". But we rarely tend to apply this sense of fairness when we are doing better than others!

Pastor Beau Eckert made an interesting point regarding fairness in last Sunday's message.* He referred to this verse in Romans 5:19, "For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous." We may tend to focus on the perceived fairness of the first part of the verse, "For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners" and reason "that's not fair". But we should focus on the second part,
"even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous." That's certainly not fair either, that's grace!

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

Praying manDaily 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.

"Thou Shalt Not Whine"
Although "Thou Shalt Not Whine" is not included in the Ten Commandments it's certainly a good Bible-based rule to live by!

Brooksyne and Ester Pilgrim presentation 2010
Here's a photo I took of Brooksyne and Ester before they left for a Pilgrim presentation in 2010. (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 Brooksyne 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 her attire would not stand out among those who see our plain folks on a daily basis. People probably just assume she's part of some Plain church group!

Your Heart's Delight Banquet 11/16/17
Last night we attended and participated in "Your Heart's Delight" Christmas Banquet, where we serve as chaplains in Lebanon County. We enjoy these gatherings where we have opportunity to meet spouses and other family members. "Your Heart's Delight" is a wholesale gift and home decor supplier.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"That’s Just What Grace Does"  Video  Brian Free & Assurance

* We have been attending Calvary Church for the last six months and Pastor Beau Eckert is in a series taking the congregation through the Bible Story. Apart from being live streamed the messages are placed up for online viewing as well. Sunday's message dealt with Genesis 4-11 and was titled "The Worst". Here is a link to the entire message or to the part referred to in today's message about fairness.

Special Thanksgiving Resources

We offer these resources to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 27).

We appreciated singing the traditional Thanksgiving hymns. Here are several classics that you may or may not have heard this season.

"In Everything Give Thanks"  Video   Charlotte Ritchie, Jeff & Sheri Easter  This song will bring joy to your heart!

"Now Thank We All Our God"  Video  Best Loved Hymns

"Come Ye Thankful People Come"  Video  Traditional version
Contemporary version but thankfully maintaining same tune and lyrics Video

"Thanksgiving Medley" (We Gather Together, For The Beauty Of The Earth, Come Ye Thankful People Come)  Video  Studio Musicians

"Give Thanks"  Video  Don Moen

"Thank You Lord"  Video  Community Choir at a Lancaster Day of Prayer event in 2008.

"Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul"  Video  Holland Davis

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented 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"
(printable webpage).

"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf) 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.

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.)

Today and all through this week we will share a selection of Thanksgiving music.

"Be Magnified"  Video   Kim Hill

 Video  Marshall Hall and the Homecoming Singers

"I Want To Thank You"
 Video  Karen Peck and New River  This is a song expressing thankfulness to the many people who impact our lives and also reminds us of the blessing of seemingly insignificant expressions of faith.  From the Gaither Homecoming series.

"Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me"  Video  Gordon Mote & Jason Crabb

"I'm Forever Grateful"  Video  Willow Creek

"When I Thank Him For What He Has Done"  Video  The Cathedrals

"Worthy Is The Lamb, Crown Him, Crown Him With Many Crowns"  Video  Travis Cottrell

"Thank You, Lord"  Video  Dennis Jernigan

"Thank You For Loving Me"  Video  Tommy Walker

"10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)"  Video  Matt Redman

"For These Reasons"  Video  Lincoln Brewster

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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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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