Epilogue: Wrapping Up

with Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more | November 14, 2008

The devoutly Christian Pilgrims sacrificed all for a chance at religious freedom. In our final dramatic reading of this series, you’ll gain a new appreciation for this brave group of believers who gave up the life they knew to begin life on a new continent, where they could worship in freedom.

The devoutly Christian Pilgrims sacrificed all for a chance at religious freedom. In our final dramatic reading of this series, you’ll gain a new appreciation for this brave group of believers who gave up the life they knew to begin life on a new continent, where they could worship in freedom.

Epilogue: Wrapping Up

With Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more
November 14, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: The Thanksgiving holiday ought to provoke us to be people who are thankful as we think about the courage and the faith of those who first settled in this country.  Here's Barbara Rainey.

Barbara: It's a tradition that has been passed down for many, many years, and that is that they started their meal that second Thanksgiving with five kernels of corn on their plate to represent the meager rations that they had lived on through that winter.  And so at our house on Thanksgiving Day, everyone, when they sit down to the table, everyone has five kernels of corn on their plate as well, as a reminder of what the pilgrims endured during those harsh winters and those early years at Plymouth.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 14th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Many in our country this year have faced hard circumstances.  Thanksgiving reminds us that we are in a country that was birthed in the midst of hard circumstances.

[musical transition]

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  We've been listening this week to the Thanksgiving story, and I think many of us figure we have arrived at the end, that there is nothing left to hear because we've already heard about the crossing on the Mayflower, and we've heard about the settlement, the first Thanksgiving, the first hard winter that the pilgrims went through, for most of us.

Dennis: We tend to think that their suffering was over.

Barbara: Exactly.

Bob: That's the end of the story, right?  There's nothing left to hear.

Dennis: Their challenges were finished.  Their challenges had only begun, as we are about to hear on this segment.  The pilgrims faced test after test of their faith to see if they were really believing God for Him to provide.  And, you know, I think sometimes, Bob, in the Christian community, those of us who are followers of Christ think that we're going to arrive.  We think we're going to be able to rest and no longer have to trust.  Well, what you're about to hear in this segment is a great story of how faith that was grown under enormous hardship was put to test again, and it almost seemed like it wasn't fair that this group of people would have to go through another winter where they had to cut their rations in half.

Bob: What we've been listening to this week is the new audio book that has been produced from the book that your wife Barbara wrote, which is called "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember," and Barbara has been with us this week – welcome back.

Barbara: Thank you.

Bob: And I'm wondering if you knew the rest of the story when you started writing the story.  Did you know that after the first Thanksgiving there was still a lot of hardship for the pilgrims to endure?

Barbara: Well, when I started writing the book, I did, because by then I had been reading parts of the story to my family for probably 10 years or so.  But when I first started digging into it to find pieces of the story to read, I didn't know that part.  All I knew was they had a Thanksgiving that first year and, in my mind, they lived happily ever after.  But it wasn't that way, and so it was interesting to find out how these struggles continued in the years that followed that first Thanksgiving.

Bob: And here is my big question – did the pilgrim men dress the way that Laura's picture in the book – you know, it's the traditional brown clothes with the black hat and the black scarf and the white shirt.  Did they dress up like that for Thanksgiving?

Barbara: No, they didn't dress up like that for Thanksgiving.  I think they probably wore what they had, which was not much.

Bob: Well, we're going to continue listening to the story as we have been all this week – the story of the pilgrims from the book, "Thanksgiving, A Time To Remember," and this is following that first Thanksgiving meal.

[musical transition]

Narrator: In November a ship from England, the Fortune, arrived unexpectedly and delivered 35 new colonists, which nearly doubled their numbers.  Though they were delighted to see these fresh faces, some of which belonged to family members, the existing residents were sobered to realize that the new recruits had come without extra food, clothing, or other provisions.

Soon after the newcomers were assigned to families in the colony, the leaders met to plan for their survival.  Governor Bradford and William Brewster reached the difficult decision.  Everyone would go on half rations through the winter.

The abundant harvest of corn they had so recently stored for that second winter of 1621-1622 was now not nearly enough.  They began that winter cautiously with everyone getting their half ration of corn hopeful that the men could find enough game and fish to see them through.  Supplies dwindled quickly.  Legend has it that at one point the food stores were so low that everyone was forced to a daily ration of only five kernels of corn.  It's amazing to think that anyone could survive on so little food, yet no one died of starvation.

Once again at the height of their need, God provided deliverance.  Another ship sailed into their harbor, and though it did not have food, the captain did have trading goods that he offered in exchange for beaver pelts.  With the trading goods, the pilgrims bartered with the Indians for more corn.  The extra corn enabled them to survive the second winter, although they were all considerably thinner.

When the spring of 1622 finally arrived, the colony was much weakened by hunger and sickness, and the famine was not over.  The weary pilgrims went to the field to plant their common crops, but their enthusiasm was greatly reduced.  However, they continued on with the life that God had given them.  They had many dealings with their Indian friends, continued exploring the land, and obtained what sustenance they could by fishing, hunting, and bartering with the Indians.

Edward Winslow described their sad condition that spring saying that the bay and creeks were full of fish but their seines and netting were torn and rotten.  He wrote that were it not for shellfish of different kinds that could be taken by hand, they would have perished.

Another colony was begun to the north, and other ships arrived in Cape Cod Bay several times that year, usually bringing colonists without supplies of any kind.  Neither Bradford's journal nor the writings of other pilgrims record a Thanksgiving celebration in that second harvest season.  Bradford did write …

William Bradford: The welcome time of harvest approached, but it arose but to a little, so it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also. 

Narrator: Again, God saw them through the winter of 1622-23 by means of another ship, which brought trading goods they could use to barter for corn with the Indians. 

Planting time was soon upon them in April of 1623, their needs were desperate.  The pilgrims realized they had to plant double the previous year's crop to sustain them in the winter to come.  This year it was decided they would seed a common cornfield for the whole colony, and then each family would be given a parcel of land to plant for its own use.

Everyone was enthusiastic, for they were eager to grow as much as possible to avoid another starving time.  William Bradford observed …

William Bradford:  This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.  The women now went willingly to the field and took their little ones with them to help set corn.

Narrator: Soon after the plantings, however, the weather turned dry.  As the weeks of drought went by, the pilgrims watched their precious summer crops wither and slowly die.  The Indians said they'd never seen a dry spell like it.  After 12 weeks the pilgrims realized they would face certain starvation in the coming winter if it did not rain soon.  The colonists were losing hope.

They wondered if God, who had always gone before them, was against them.  They began to pray.  William Bradford asked everyone to participate in a day of fasting and prayer to ask the Lord for rain.  All the pilgrims felt a deep sense of humility before God, and they sincerely sought His mercy.  Edward Winslow described what happened.

Edward Winslow: That only the mercy of our God, who was as ready to hear as we were to ask, for though in the morning when we assembled together, the heavens were as clear and the drought as like to continue as it ever was, yet before our departure from the day of prayer and fasting, the weather was overcast, the clouds gathered on all sides.  On the next morning, distilled such soft, sweet, and immoderate showers of rain continuing some 14 days.  Such was the bounty and goodness of our God.

Narrator: Bradford wrote …

William Bradford: It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see and made the Indians astonished to behold.

Narrator: If the pilgrims were amazed at God's answer to their prayers and His great deliverance, imagine how wide-eyed with wonder the Indians were.  They had no knowledge of the God of the pilgrims, a personal, benevolent God who cared about His people.  God was displaying His wonders.  Winslow concluded his description of this miraculous event with his thoughts on the Indians' response.

Edward Winslow: All of them admired the goodness of our God towards us, that brought so great a change in so short a time, showing the difference between their conjuration and our invocation on the name of God for rain – theirs being mixed with such storms and tempests as sometimes instead of doing them good, it layeth the corn flat on the ground to their prejudice, but ours in so gentle and seasonable a manner as they never observed the like.  Praise the Lord, great things He hath done.

Narrator: The crops were saved.  Another answer to prayer came about two weeks later.  The ship, Anne, which was carrying many family members and friends to join the colony, had been reported lost at sea.  But now it arrived safely at Plymouth Harbor.  The newcomers, however, were shocked and dismayed at the condition of their friends and relatives.  Bradford wrote that it was no wonder the newcomers were surprised.  The pilgrims were thin and gaunt wearing ragged clothes, some little better than half naked.  The only food they could offer in welcome was a lobster or piece of fish with no bread and nothing else but a cup of spring water.

Bradford concluded by saying …

William Bradford: But God gave them health and strength in good measure and showed them, by experience, the truth of the Word in Deuteronomy 8:3, that man lives not by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.

Narrator: That harvest season was an abundant one.  There was even a surplus to trade with the Indians for what they needed that winter.  They had much to celebrate.  Another day of Thanksgiving was planned this year, probably in August or September.  The Indians were again invited with their chief, Massasoit.  It was a season of gratitude.  They were grateful for the rain and the harvest; they were grateful for the safe arrival of their family members and friends; they were grateful for the marriage of their wise Governor Bradford to Alice Southworth, who had also arrived on the Anne.

Lastly, and most importantly they celebrated with grateful hearts God's goodness to them.  Edward Winslow wrote that …

Edward Winslow: Having these many signs of God's favor and acceptance, we thought it would be a great ingratitude if secretly we should content ourselves with private Thanksgiving for that which, by private prayer, could not be obtained, and therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end.  Wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise with all thankfulness to our God who dealt so graciously with us.

Narrator: As they expressed their gratitude and thanksgiving to God, they remembered the famine they had so recently experienced.  No one would soon forget the meager rations they had lived on for nearly two years.

[musical transition]

Bob: Well, we have just heard the conclusion of the audio book of "Thanksgiving:  A Time to Remember."  I guess it's the conclusion of the story but not the conclusion of the book because those meager rations that he talked about are symbolized or have been symbolized at your Thanksgiving table for years through the five kernels of corn that you place on everybody's plate, right?

Barbara: That's right.  It's a tradition that has been passed down for many, many years, and I looked really hard to see if it could be documented anywhere and talked to some historians at the Plymouth Colony, but they can't find any record that the colonists actually did this, but they said the tradition and the story about it has been around for a long, long time, and that is that they started their meal that second Thanksgiving with five kernels of corn on their plate to represent the meager rations that they had lived on through that winter.

 And so at our house on Thanksgiving Day, everyone, when they sit down to the table, everyone has five kernels of corn on their plate as well as a reminder of what the pilgrims endured during those harsh winters and those early years at Plymouth.

Dennis: Right.  The thing it's meant to symbolize for us is an opportunity, as we pass the basket around, each person drops a kernel of corn in the basket and begins to go through the top five things they are most thankful for over the past 12 months, and we take the basket around the table five times so each person gets a chance to drop five kernels of corn and, in turn, share five things they are thankful to God for.

I would have to say those cards that possess our children's encounters with God throughout the years, and you need to know sometimes they are like the pilgrims – the things they were most thankful for were things where they had endured much hardship.  I was just looking at one the other day where Samuel gave thanks when he was a young teenage boy for his muscular dystrophy, which had taken away his ability to run as a boy.  And you don't think of giving thanks for those kinds of things, but the pilgrims gave thanks for the meager rations and the hardship that they suffered and that they were alive and that they got a chance to acknowledge the goodness of God.

Bob: You know, one thing I guess I'd never thought about until I spent some time reading your book was that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, the founding fathers of our country, never celebrated Thanksgiving did they?

Barbara: No, it was a tradition that sort of fizzled out, I guess, would be a way to say it.  There were many who did celebrate Thanksgiving privately.  It was also done state-by-state in some locations in the country, but it was not a national holiday until many years later.  We tend to think that it always has been, but it wasn't.

Bob: Kind of like Christmas – it's always been around, and obviously it's not celebrated outside of the United States.  Our friends in Canada have their own Thanksgiving Day.  What were the circumstances under which it became a national holiday, do you remember?

Barbara: Thanksgiving became a national holiday in our country by presidential proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln, and it was during the Civil War in 1863, and he wanted to call the nation together in a day of prayer and thanksgiving and fasting, that God might heal our land.  And so he declared that it would happen that year on the last Thursday in November.

But, interestingly, it didn't sort of take root as an annual holiday after that.  It was kind of a one-time thing, and it didn't again become a tradition that was followed year after year until Franklin Roosevelt established it as the third Thursday in November.

Bob: And isn't it interesting that in times of hardship, leaders said, "We need a time of thanksgiving."  It's not in times of prosperity that we were called to thanksgiving but in times of hardship.

Barbara: And it is interesting, because that was the example that the pilgrims set for us.  It was in their time of hardship that they were so dependent on God, and they were so aware of every little provision that He made for them, that they were grateful for all of those because they were so focused on Him providing for them, and it is true that that was how the day became established as a national holiday.

Dennis: Psalm 103 and 106 are Psalms of thanksgiving commanding us to be mindful of God's benefits, His many provisions, so that we will not forget Him and so that we will not forget to trust Him.  There is almost a spiritual law, like gravity, that says when you forget to thank God for what He's done, you will begin to forget God.  And when you forget Him, you'll fail to trust Him today.

And so Thanksgiving ought to be one of those spiritual anchors on an annual basis that call us back to be mindful of God's many acts of goodness, His provisions, His protection, even His sustenance in the midst of difficult days and dark days, valleys, because a lot of life is lived in the midst of suffering.  I mean, we'd like to think that it's all a happy feasting around a table like we picture the pilgrims, but as we've heard all this week, the pilgrims sat at that table grateful to God to be alive in the midst of tremendous challenges.

Bob: Where is it, I think it's 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, where we have those short verses at the end of the chapter.  It says, "Rejoice always," and, of course, you don't tell people who are happy to rejoice always.  You're telling people who probably aren't rejoicing that they need to rejoice.  "Pray without ceasing," and then, "In everything give thanks."  The command of God and then Philippians, chapter 4, where it says the same thing – "In all things give thanks.  Through prayer and supplication make your requests known to God." 

We are called upon to give thanks in all things, and it indicates that that's not our natural disposition.  That's why the Scriptures have to nudge us in that direction, right?

Dennis: And I want to challenge the moms and dads and the grandparents who are listening to our broadcast – seize this day of thanksgiving for your family.  Don't just let Thanksgiving happen.  If you do, you're going to end up watching TV, reading the newspaper, talking about a bunch of trivial matters.  Instead, seize this day as an opportunity to truly celebrate where our nation came from but also celebrate God's goodness to your family.

The thing I'm so proud about what Barbara has done here in her book, "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember," is that it contains not only the story but also great hymns but then some practical projects of ways families can use that Thanksgiving meal to enjoy the food, yes, but perhaps listen now to this book on CD and talk about afterwards what must it felt like to be on that ship, to celebrate that first Thanksgiving, that second Thanksgiving, and then talk about celebrating your own Thanksgiving.  I think that's the kind of spiritual leadership our families need to be taking in a culture today that wants to pull God out of Thanksgiving so that it's just another secular holiday.

Bob: I don't know that I've paid attention – do you know if Thanksgiving is an early Thanksgiving or a late Thanksgiving this year?  Have you checked the calendar?

Barbara: I don't.

Bob: Okay, our team is saying it's on the 27th, so, that's kind of late. What is the earliest date Thanksgiving can be, do you know?

Barbara: Well, if Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of the month, then the earliest it could be would be – do the math real quick, which I'm not real good – it would have to be the 22nd, yeah.

Bob: The earliest it could be is the 22nd.

Barbara: I thought it couldn't be after that.

Bob: It can't be the 21st, yeah, the 22nd would be the earliest it could be.  Anyway, this year it's on the 27th, and that means that you just have about a week where you can get in contact with us to get a copy of Barbara's book, "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember."  We are also sending along with it the audiobook that we've been listening to this week, and an audio CD that features instrumental Thanksgiving music.  I think there's one track that has a vocal on it as well.  And we're sending along instructions for how to have a spiritually significant Thanksgiving dinner -- kind of a recipe card that walks you through how to engage your family around the subject of Thanksgiving.

There's a Thanksgiving prayer card that's included with it.  You can get all of the information about what we're making available this year by going to our website, which is FamilyLife.com, and if you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about the book and the audio CD and the prayer card and the instructions for your Thanksgiving dinner. 

Again, the website is FamilyLife.com.  You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information, and someone on our team can make arrangements to have the ones you need sent out to you.  There is also anything on our website about Barbara Rainey's brand-new book, which is called "When Christmas Came."  It's a look at Christmas through the lens of John 3:16, and it's a beautiful book.  You can see what it looks like by going to our website, FamilyLife.com, and I know many of our listeners are going to want to get a copy of this book for the Christmas season as well.  Again, the website, FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.

As we wrap up this week, again, I want to say how thankful we are for those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We could not be here each day providing what we hope is practical biblical help for your marriage and for your family to help keep you centered on God's Word as a family; help keep you focused spiritually.  We couldn't do that without your support, and we do appreciate the donations that you make to help keep us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.

This week, when you make a donation of any amount to help support our ministry, there is a thank you gift we'd like to send you -- a prayer guide for parents called "While They Were Sleeping."  It helps you pray for specific character qualities to be developed in your children's lives, and we'll send it out to you this week as our way of saying thank you for a donation of any amount.

If you make your donation online at FamilyLife.com, type the word "sleep" in the keycode box on the donation form so that we know to send you a copy of this book, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone, and just ask for a copy of the prayer guide for parents.  Again, we're happy to send it out to you, and we appreciate your financial support of this ministry.

Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back next week as we consider the plight of orphans worldwide and ask ourselves the question "What can we do to help?"  We'll tackle that next week.  I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  Have a great weekend, and we'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas -- help for today; hope for tomorrow.  


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