Monthly Archives: November 2016

Harvest of the Forest

Some of us were sitting by a fire the other evening knitting Christmas bells and picking out pecans and we started talking about the first Thanksgiving. We remembered what a hard year that had been for the pilgrims. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their desire to worship Him freely, they had left behind all that was familiar to them and here they were in a new place with crude houses, no carriages, no friends down the street, and almost no food.

Then we remembered the Indians.

The colonists were riddled with disease and illness as they faced the elements of their new place. Half of them died the first six months, many before they ever disembarked from the Mayflower. Sometimes there were only six or seven able to be up and take care of the sick. But the ones who survived until the fall of 1621, having been helped by a few Indians, harvested a crop, learned how to peel mussels off rocks at the shore and how to recognize good things to eat in the forest.

So, recognizing how blessed by God these few were, William Bradford, their governor, called them together and announced they would have a three day celebration to show their gratitude. They would thank God for the blessings of life and freedom and food. The feast was attended by the scrappy thirty to fifty colonists (reports vary) and ninety Wampanoag Indians. The Indians, while camping at the feast, went out hunting and provided five deer for the occasion (a noble contribution, I’d say!).

After our fireside conversation, I began thinking about the foods the pilgrims might have discovered in the deep dark woods.

I’m thinking about the harvest of the woods we could find in Georgia. There were grapes if you could get to them. Sometimes the vines twisted high, very high, in the trees and someone had to shimmy up and shake the grapes down for pickers below. There were beautiful greenish scuppernongs turning beige if they were ripe. There were the larger muscadines, dark purple and so sweet it’s a wonder any of them arrived at the house in our bucket. In South Georgia I learned those were called bullises and that South Georgia cooks also made grape hull pies as my mother did. Then there were fox grapes. Now those were some sour grapes, tiny and sour! They grew in clusters on vines that wrapped around sweetgum, dogwood, whatever. Mamma didn’t turn down much, but she said we could have the fox grapes. We played a game to see who could eat the most before puckering up.

Speaking of puckering, I wonder if the colonists found persimmons in their new place. Maybe persimmons are more abundant in the south. Anyway, how beautiful they are, the color of apricots mixed with a little orange maybe? And so delicious when they’re mushy ripe or made into pudding. But don’t bite into one when it’s firm and glistening. It will turn your mouth wrong side out! I’ve never heard that the pilgrims had possum at their feast so maybe there were no persimmons either, because those two seem to thrive together. (A possum in a persimmon tree with a hound dog and two boys on the ground and the moon at full is a story about to happen.)

Hickory nuts were abundant some years but they were almost impossible to extract from the very hard shells. I guess you’d have to be as hungry as the pilgrims before you’d resort to hickory nuts. But squirrels like them. And I imagine the pilgrims could really dig in to a good squirrel stew–on days when visitors hadn’t contributed venison so graciously.

Now we sometimes call Thanksgiving “Turkey Day.” The pilgrims could have had turkey at their feast. There were plenty of wild turkeys like the gaggle of turkeys Charles observed recently ambling along a slow country road. He stopped his truck and delayed his trip to relieve a bloated cow long enough to watch the seven or eight turkeys. But the pilgrims didn’t know yet about “Turkey Day.” So they might have had pheasant or ducks or even swan. William Bradford did send four men on a fowling expedition so they must have had fowl of some kind.

The Indians, particularly Squanto who could speak English because he’d been kidnapped to England and returned, helped the pilgrims know what they could grow, how to fish, and how to hunt. What might have been in their garden that first year? According to Edward Winslow whose journal gives us a record of that first Thanksgiving, the peas didn’t do well, dried in the bloom, but turnips grew and onions and corn and pumpkins, even spinach. They would have had little or no flour or sugar left so they couldn’t make pies. One speculator thinks they cut a pumpkin in half and roasted it.

They had, no doubt, a bountiful feast. Whatever they had was far better than they enjoyed every day. They were grateful and they celebrated for three days. The children’s revised textbooks, chronicling the event, say the pilgrims were thankful but do not add to Whom they were thankful. But Edward Winslow was an eye witness and he said that the one true living God was the One they worshipped.

We sit in our comfortable houses enjoying the warmth and glow of gas logs and the scents of pumpkin pies, cornbread dressing and a turkey roasting. I think about the colonists and the Indians who had no idea we would still be commemorating that day 400 years later. They didn’t know that more than a hundred years later a president named Abraham Lincoln would pronounce a day of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. They set the stage for us. They showed us that grateful people are survivors. Grateful people are joyful people. The more hardships there are, the more room for gratitude.

Have a wonderful feast even if it’s not straight from the forest and field.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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Christmas Boxes

I know. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I do love that time of year! But it is time to get our Christmas boxes ready so they can be delivered in Africa, Romania, or wherever, in time for Christmas.

I sat mesmerized and teary eyed as a beautiful young Asian woman told a large congregation why she is so grateful for one particular Christmas box delivered to her at the orphanage where she lived fifteen years ago. Initially, she was thrilled to have her own toothbrush. She’d never had her own toothbrush before, had always had to share one with about a dozen other girls. But, ultimately, the gift she treasures most is getting to know her Savior because of that box.

Last Sunday was Operation Christmas Child at our church. Little children led by parents and teachers flocked down the center aisle lugging bright boxes to the altar. More and more children of all ages streamed down the aisle and then the rest of us were invited to bring our boxes. It was a special moment for me as I set my box with the rest knowing these gifts would be flown to children who desperately need to know somebody cares.

The boxes are stuffed with such things as pencils, notebooks, coloring books, crayons, socks, tee shirts, soap, and, yes, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Each box has at least one age appropriate toy, too. In one of mine I tucked a red bell I’d knitted. In a box packed by my mission group is a woolly lamb who, when pressed, plays “Jesus Loves Me.” When the boxes are inspected for shipping from Atlanta they will each hold at least a portion of scripture.

It is such a thrill to be involved in this way with reaching children around the world for Jesus! In the past I’ve so enjoyed involving grandchildren in helping to shop for the Christmas boxes. It can be quite a challenge explaining to our very blessed children why we need to provide these boxes for children of other lands. But, as they begin to understand, then they want to pack the whole store into a box!

I’m thankful to Franklin Graham for his leadership in Operation Christmas Child, for conceiving the idea, for carrying it out year after year. I’m thankful to my friend Helen King who, years ago, came home from a missions conference so excited about getting us all involved in packing boxes for this cause. I’m thankful to numerous folks in our church and community, like Judy Strickland, who, year after year, organize us to give from our abundance. I’m thankful for the thousands upon thousands of volunteers who make this venture so successful–like Gary and Rhonda who, year by year, volunteer to inspect boxes in Atlanta. And I’m so thankful for the missionaries who coordinate the presentation of those boxes to the very children who need them.

As I packed my box with combs and socks, a ball, a notebook, etc. I prayed for the child who would receive it. And I trust that, through the power of God, that child will be blessed just like the young woman who told us how her box was used to help her begin a new life.

When we view a video of children in other places receiving their boxes with such eagerness and delight, I wonder why I didn’t pack more boxes.

Have you packed yours yet? For instructions, just Google Operation Christmas Child.

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Dare to Stand Alone

 

A story from the Bible’s Old Testament book of Daniel to encourage us on the eve of one of the most unusual, and perhaps most frightening, elections in our history:

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had overcome Jerusalem and acquired many Jews to add to his kingdom. He requested his steward to select some very handsome, intelligent young men “without blemish” from amongst the Jews to serve him in his palace. They would work magic and interpret dreams, among other duties.

Four young men are named as ones selected: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were given Babylonian names respectively: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Daniel talked the king’s steward into allowing him and his three friends to keep their Jewish diet instead of eating what the steward wanted them to. Instead of rich meats and desserts which were against their law, Daniel asked they be given vegetables and water to drink, no wine. He persuaded the steward to try this for ten days and see how they looked. The steward was very impressed with how healthy they were at the end of ten days. So he agreed they could eat only vegetables and water.

God gave these four knowledge and skill as they trained. Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the three years’ training period they were brought before the king and he talked to them. He found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in his realm.

One night the king dreamed a very strange dream. He knew it must mean something. But what? To make it more difficult, he couldn’t even remember the dream. He sent for all his wise men, astrologers and sorcerers. But none of them could satisfy the king about his dream. The king became so frustrated and angry he was ready to kill all the wise men in the land. This would include Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Daniel, who stayed in close contact with his God, heard about the king’s problem. Daniel always, always prayed three times a day so God was his counsel on everything that happened. So now he offered to talk to the king and perhaps interpret his dream.

God revealed the king’s dream to Daniel and Daniel blessed the God in heaven. He said something like, “I thank thee, God, and praise thee for giving me wisdom and might. You are the God of my fathers. You remove kings and set up kings, You give wisdom to the wise and knowledge to them that know understanding.”

When Daniel was taken before the king the king asked him if he could indeed interpret his dream. Daniel answered that his God could reveal secrets and make known to King Nebuchadnezzar what would happen in later days. Daniel described to the king his dream quite accurately and gave him the interpretation, though it was a foreboding one for the king, meaning the king would lose his throne and everything. “And,” Daniel said, “God will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”

King Nebuchadnezzar, though the interpretation sounded bleak for him, fell on his face and worshipped Daniel.

But the king’s heart was not changed.

The king felt so powerful and so good, he decided, along with his princes and governors and captains, to build a huge image of himself to which all people should bow whenever required.

So the workmen were set to do this huge job of building a statue 90 feet high. When it was finished the princes and governors and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together for the dedication of the image. It was a stunning work shining with gold.

Everyone was to worship the golden image when they heard instruments playing–the cornet, the flute, harps, sackbuts, psaltery, dulcimer. And the decree included a threat for those who did not bow down. Enemies of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who had observed they hadn’t bowed yet a time to the golden image, made sure the wording of the decree said that if anyone did not bow to the image, they would be thrown into a burning, fiery furnace.

When the music sounded everyone fell prostrate. That is, all except the young Jews Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They stood firm. (Daniel was in another place praying, I think.)

When the king heard the young Jews had not bowed to his image, he was furious, so furious he looked as if he might have a stroke. He had the men brought to him and he gave them one more chance to worship when they heard the music. But this is what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego dared to say to the king: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury and commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he had the men bound in their very clothes and thrown into the furnace. The men who threw them in were scorched to death.

Nebuchadnezzar sat down to watch the last of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego burn to a crisp. But what he saw made him gasp for breath. There were four men walking around in the flames! And their clothes were not burned at all!

The king called his counselors. “Didn’t we throw three men into the fire?” “Yes, O king.” “Then why do I see a fourth one? And he looks like the Son of God!”

Then he called out Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And their clothes were not scorched. Their hair didn’t even smell like fire. And he made a new decree, That every people and nation know there is no other God that can deliver..

Kings come and kings go. But God reigns forever! On November 9, 2016 He will still be on His throne!

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