FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The True Story of the Pilgrims, Part 2

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | October 31, 2007
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Americans began celebrating Thanksgiving over three centuries ago. Today on the broadcast, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, popular authors and speakers for FamilyLife, talk about the blessings and challenges of the Pilgrims' very first Thanksgiving.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Americans began celebrating Thanksgiving over three centuries ago. Today on the broadcast, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, popular authors and speakers for FamilyLife, talk about the blessings and challenges of the Pilgrims' very first Thanksgiving.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Americans began celebrating Thanksgiving over three centuries ago.

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The True Story of the Pilgrims, Part 2

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
October 31, 2007
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Interviewer: When did the pilgrims come to America?

Man on the Street: The pilgrims …

Man on the Street #2: … a long time ago …

Man on the Street: … uh, the pilgrims …

Woman on the Street: … well, I'm blank.

Woman on the Street #2: 16 …

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for a Wednesday, October 31st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and we'll provide a little history lesson for all the listeners who need it – stay with us.

Woman on the Street #3: Umm, well, "In 1642 Columbus sailed the ocean blue," but that's all I know (giggles).

Woman on the Street #4: I don't know – 1700s – I have no idea.

Man on the Street #2: I don't remember.

Woman on the Street:  I have no idea, 16-something.

Man on the Street:  Who knows?

Bob:  All right, if you're as bad as those folks are then you need to stay with us for the next few minutes, as we have a little history lesson on the air and get you ready for Thanksgiving.

 Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.

Dennis: 1792?

Bob: That's pathetic.  That is absolutely pathetic.  You know, you read these articles in the newspaper about high school seniors taking history tests and how they get everything wrong and how they mix things up – these are grown men and women.  These are college-educated grownups.  They don't have any better picture of this.  They think – what was it?  They think Columbus sailed in 1642?

Dennis: 1792, I think it was.

Bob: I don't have any idea.  Absolutely pathetic – each one of these people that we spoke to needs a copy of Barbara Rainey's new book, don't you agree?

Dennis: I agree.

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: Let's look them up and make sure they get a copy.

Bob: We're going to make them pay full price.

Barbara: Absolutely.

Dennis: And I'm still working on – because this book contains several original watercolor pictures that Barbara painted – I'm still working on your …

Bob: … yeah, he said, "Thomas Kinkade, watch out."  He's the painter of light, and you said she's the …

Dennis: … Barbara Rainey is the painter of fruit – and I'm still working on this.

Bob: The painter of fruit, because there's some fruit in there.  The painter of fruit –- no, it doesn't have a ring to it, does it?

Dennis: I don't think so.

Barbara: No, I don't think so.

Dennis: I don't think Thomas Kinkade needs to worry about that yet.

Barbara: No, he certainly does not.

Bob: Well, we're focused this week on the subject of Thanksgiving, because it's – well, it's coming up on the calendar, it's three weeks from tomorrow, and because it's a holiday that at the Rainey house that has been exalted to a new, lofty position, right?

Dennis: Well, I just wanted to share this with our listeners.  There was a recent survey done by Massachusetts Life Insurance Company, and it revealed that the average person would rather spend Thanksgiving with his family than be given $1,000 in cash.  I think that's affirming what I said on Monday's broadcast when I said I believe Thanksgiving is the family holiday of the year, and what Barbara has done with her book is to give families a practical, biblical way of being thankful for God's goodness in the past year, of looking at the faith of the pilgrims, and celebrating how our nation was originally formed.

Bob: The book you're talking about is called "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember," and it tells the story of the pilgrims from the day they got on the Mayflower and goes through the first two Thanksgivings, right?

Barbara: Correct.

Bob: So it's a little over a two-year period of history that you're covering in the story that you outline in the book. 

Barbara: That's correct.

Bob: It's beautifully illustrated, not only with your illustrations but also with illustrations that have been added by the editor, and there's the audio CD in the back that's got some instrumental Thanksgiving hymns, and you thought that on Thanksgiving Day it would be nice to put that CD in the CD player and just press "repeat" and let it go all day long in the house, right?

Barbara: I think it would be a great idea and just have it as background music and let the music inspire your heart to praise and worship and thankfulness.

Bob: And somewhere during the day we need to make sure that our kids don't grow up to sound like these folks at the beginning of the program today.  We want to make sure they know the story; they've got the facts down straight; they know the dates; they know the characters; they know the events – do you ever give tests after Thanksgiving? 

Barbara: That's a good idea.  I should maybe do that this year.

Dennis: I want to go back for just a second to the CD that Barbara has included in this book.  This really comes about because she started looking at all the CDs she has in her collection around Christmas, and we have tons of Christmas CDs, but she's been saying to me for a number of years – "Why aren't there a bunch of songs around gratefulness of heart and thanksgiving to use around the Thanksgiving holiday?"  And she said, "If I ever produce a book for Thanksgiving, I hope to include some songs that are uniquely Thanksgiving," and so there are seven songs that are included on this CD that are primarily done on piano, and I think if you just – as you said, Bob – just push the "repeat" button, you'll find yourself humming, and it will move your heart into that appropriate spirit of gratefulness.

Bob: In fact, we have a policy at our home that you can't play Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  You can't put on your first Christmas CD until after the Thanksgiving weekend is over.  So here's a CD that can help kind of take you through the season.  You can play it all weekend long.

Barbara: Mm-hm, it will prolong it.

Dennis: Yesterday we listened as Barbara read the story of the pilgrims' trip across the ocean, and there's another story that I want her to read, since that's how we do it at our house.  We just – before we eat the meal, we just sit all the kids around the table, and I'm going to tell you, sometimes it's not a pretty sight.  We've had kids who – their heads have been laying right on the plate, you know, as Mom's reading the story.

 But there is a story that I want her to read because all of this story is about how God calls and how God provides and how the Lord rewarded the pilgrims' faith.  And the story of how God provided an Indian by the name of Squanto, I think, is worth our listeners being able to hear it right now.

Bob: All right.  Have you got the story there where you can read it to us, Barbara?

Barbara: I do.  Are you ready?

Bob: Uh-huh.

Barbara: Well, before I start reading the actual text of the book, let me tell you a couple of things that sort of lead into this story of Squanto.  First of all, they had to endure the winter, and as they went through the winter, many of them died, and so as they came out of that experience they were weakened, they were not prepared for planting in the spring, it was really a difficult experience, and so when the Indians showed up they were really surprised, and yet they were astounded to see how God had provided.  So let me begin to read about this.  First it's going to talk about another Indian that came before Squanto came, and his name is Samoset, but he was the first one that they met, and then he, in turn, introduced them to Squanto.

 The story begins like this – "Hope began to grow again as temperatures rose slightly in early March.  A few families began preparations for planting their crops, but the most memorable event in March, perhaps of the whole winter, was the arrival on March 16th of a single, nearly naked, Indian brave.  Unlike other Indians who ran away when confronted, this man strode boldly to the door of the meeting house and, to the surprise of all, cried out, 'Welcome,' in English. 

 Stunned by his boldness and use of English yet still wary of his intentions, the pilgrims hesitantly invited him in and offered him a plate of food and some brandy.  The Indian ate drank enthusiastically.  After his meal, the Indian informed his host that he knew English food and customs through contacts with English fishermen. settlers learned that his name was Samoset.  He was a chief of the Algonquins, and his home tribe was farther up the coast to the North in what is now Maine.

 He said that the Indians who had inhabited this area were called Pawtuxets.  They were a large Indian tribe who had murdered every white man who had ever landed in their territory, but four years before the pilgrims arrived, the tribe suffered a mysterious plague, and everyone had died.  Neighboring tribes were so surprised by the tribe's misfortune and total demise that they avoided the area – fearing they, too, would be killed by the plague.  As a result, no one lived on the land, and no one owned it.  It was another example of God's remarkable provision for the pilgrims. 

 Samoset went on to explain about the other Indian tribes in the surrounding area.  The nearest Indians lived about 50 miles south of Plymouth.  They were the Wampanoags, which means "people of the dawn."  They were a friendly tribe headed by their chief, or sachem, Massasoit.  With Samoset's help, the pilgrims planned to make contact with the braves from the Wampanoags to trade for animal skins. 

 With the days lengthening and the temperatures warming, the pilgrims turned their attention to planting the crops desperately needed if they were to survive a second winter in America, but they were interrupted by the reappearance of their new friend, Samoset, who arrived at the settlement with five Indians.  Though the pilgrims didn't know it at the time, one of these Indians would play perhaps the largest role in the survival of New England.  His name was Tisquantum, or Squanto, for short. 

 Squanto also spoke English because years earlier he had been captured by a treacherous sea captain and taken to Europe as a slave.  Since Squanto had been away when the plague wiped out his tribe, he was the lone surviving Pawtuxet from the Plymouth area.  He had been back in his native land only six months.  Bradford wrote of him that he was a special instrument sent of God for their good, beyond their expectation.  Squanto stayed on in Plymouth and adopted these families as his own, never leaving them until he died, Bradford wrote."

Bob: Once again, the music that we heard as Barbara was reading from the book, comes from the CD that accompanies the book.

Barbara And it's so encouraging to read these stories of how God delivered His people and provided for His people and went ahead of His people, and it inspires us to believe Him and to know that God will do that for us if we will walk by faith.

Dennis: One of the principles of Scripture is that when we remember what God has done, we will remember to truth him for what we're facing today.  And there has been more than one Thanksgiving when Barbara has sat at the one end of the table, and she is reading this story to our children.  And she may think it's for the kids, but the real beneficiary of the story and the model of faith of the pilgrims has been the dad at the other end of the table – me. 

 And I'm sitting there listening, and I am freshly reminded of how much I need to, first and foremost, thank God for the pilgrims' faith and their courage but then, secondly, for me, personally, to call to mind how God has been good to me and how he has been faithful to our family over the past 12 months.

 And, Bob, we've done this every year for the past 15 or so years, and we have a collection of cards that we've kept that record God's goodness at that time, and you can't read this story about the pilgrims without wanting to, first of all, celebrate and give thanks for what they did, but then secondly say, "Now, what do I have to give thanks for?"  And it's real easy for us, as human beings, I think, to have a pity party and to think that we're facing difficult circumstances and difficult things, and yet there is something refreshing about calling to mind God's faithfulness and then just simply saying, "Lord God, thank you for your goodness on behalf of our families when you provided 'this' and how you did 'that,'" and then sharing that around the table as we do, five complete times around the circle.  Each person actually writes down five things they're thankful for and want to give thanks to God for over the past year.

Bob: It's interesting – we actually have an eyewitness account of that first Thanksgiving.  It's kind of the prototype of what you're talking about.  One of the participants in that first Thanksgiving sat down at the end of the Thanksgiving celebration and wrote a letter to a friend of his, I presume back in England, who was somehow keeping tabs on the development of this new colony, and he recounts for us the story of that first Thanksgiving.  In fact, you refer to the letter in your book and quote pieces from it, but I thought it would be interesting for our listeners to hear what that letter said about that first Thanksgiving celebration.

Edward Winslow: "Loving and old friend,

 Although I received no letter from you by this ship, for as much as I know you'll expect the performance of my promise, which I now fulfill, to write unto you truly and faithfully. 

 We set, the last spring, some 20 acres of Indian corn and sowed some six acres of barley and peas and according to the manner of the Indians.  Our corn did prove well and, God be praised, we had a good increase.  We found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us, very loving and ready to please.  We often go to them, and they come to us and, on the whole, we are in great league with them. 

 Recently, our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on a fowling so that we might afterwards special rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  Many of the Indians came among us, even King Massasoit with some 90 men whom, for three days, we entertained and feasted.  They killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our company for the feast. 

 Although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet, by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you were partakers of our plenty.  These things I thought good to let you understand that you might, on our behalf, give our thanks who have dealt so favorably with us.

 Your loving friend,

 Edward Winslow

Plymouth, in New England, this 11th of December, 1621."

Bob: That is a letter from Edward Winslow written to a friend describing that first Thanksgiving and some of the things – I guess he didn't have five on his list, but he had a lot to be thankful for, didn't he?

Dennis: He did and, again, as you listen to his words, you're reminded of the pilgrims' faith, God's faithfulness, and then what our response needs to be, and I don't think, as Americans, we can overdo this thing of reflecting backwards on how God has been faithful to our nation.

Bob: Barbara, when the pilgrims landed, one of the first things they did was to open the scriptures, wasn't it?

Barbara: Mm-hm, it was, and that's one of the things about the story that just continues to amaze me every time I read it, is that it wasn't just the first thing they did upon landing – that they quoted Psalms and gave thanks – it was what they did daily.  They did it in all circumstances, good and bad.  They quoted Psalms, and they gave thanks to God for everything, and they really lived the verse in 1 Thessalonians that says, "Give thanks in all things."

Bob: You include on the CD that's with the book, the 100th Psalm, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," which, interestingly, the melody dates back to that time.  It's quite likely that as they stood and did their own Psalm singing on the shores of New England, they sang the same tune that many of us sing in church on a regular basis and that you've included with the CD and before the program is over, we're going to play the "Old 100th" – the 100th Psalm, from that CD, so our listeners can join with the pilgrims. 

 It's always fascinating to me, as I sing some of these old hymns, to think for hundreds of years believers have joined their voices in this same tune, these same words, and have praised God in this same way, and we'll have a chance to do that before the program is over.

 You know, one of the benefits that we have, as we've said, of hearing this story over and over again is, as we see how God provided for the pilgrims during this time, Barbara, we gain a fresh insight into the fact that the same God provides in the same way for us, day in and day out, and that He can be trusted for His providential care, and even though people died during that first winter, even though the colony came through hardship, God never took His hand off that settlement, did He?

Barbara: That's really right, and as I concluded the book, I was thinking about that, and how this can apply to us today as Americans, and this is what I wrote:

 "Nearly 400 years later, we, who are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice, pause at the end of the harvest season to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving.  There are many lessons we can learn from this story – that they all come back to faith; the pilgrims sailed to America because of their faith; they wrote the Mayflower Compact based on God's Word and signed it by faith; they persevered in the harsh climate because of their faith; they befriended the Native Americans because of their faith. 

 Their uncompromising belief in God and His Word became the cornerstone of the colony and, in turn, of the new nation.  William Bradford once wrote these words that should stir our hearts to greater levels of thankfulness for all we possess and enjoy – he said:  'We have noted these things so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your fathers have obtained with so much hardship.'  May we, as Americans, remember every year what a rich legacy we have been given so we might express gratitude to God and not lose what our fathers have obtained with so much hardship."

Dennis: When we celebrate Thanksgiving, the family arrives, and Barbara has usually set the table the night before, and, I'll tell you, there are so many great object lessons, so many great lessons from history, that we need to be learning from the formation of our nation, Bob, that we need to be passing on, generationally, to our children, to our grandchildren, to drive home the faith of our founding fathers.

Bob: You know, as you talk about grandparents, I'm thinking this would be a great gift for a grandmother, grandfather, to pass along to your children.

 In fact, I was thinking about our neighbors and people we have in our neighborhood who don't know Christ. 

 Well, Thanksgiving is one of those times of year when we can reach out and offer a resource, offer a book – say, "I heard about this book on the radio, I bought some copies, and I wanted to give you one just as a little neighbor gift," and in that Thanksgiving book, your neighbor is going to hear clearly the message of God's providential care.  It's as evangelistic as you can get, and yet it's not going to feel like you're giving them a Bible tract, because it's about a holiday that everyone is about to celebrate.

Dennis: And it's a magnificent gift book – coffee table book – that you can give them at the Thanksgiving holiday that might open up a discussion between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Bob: We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if our listeners are interested in getting a copy, they can go to our website at, click the red button they see in the middle of the home page that says "Go," and that will take them right to the area of the site where they can order a copy of the book online.  In fact, what our team has decided to do is make a copy of the audiobook available along with the hardback book.  So when you call to get a copy of the hardback book, we'll send along at no additional cost the audiobook of "Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember," and then you can either pass the hardback book to a friend, or the audiobook, or use one with one neighbor and the other with another, or do it however you want to.  But both the book and the audiobook will come together when you go to our website and order at  Click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen to get right to the area of the site where you can find more information about the book and the audiobook.

 Or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we can make arrangements to have whatever you need sent out to you.

 Let me say a quick word of thanks to those folks who also, from time to time, contact us to make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  It's because of your donations that this program is on this station today and each day.  In fact, it's because of your donations that we're on the network of stations that we're on all across the country and around the world and on the Internet.  So we appreciate your financial partnership with us, and your contributions to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 When you make a donation this week to FamilyLife Today, we'd like to send you as a thank you gift a book designed to help parents pray more specifically for God to develop certain character qualities in your children's lives.  The book is called "While They Were Sleeping," and each week the book takes a different character quality and then guides you on how you can pray for your children in this particular area. 

 If you'd like to receive a copy of the book when you make your donation online on our website at, as you fill out the donation form, you'll come to a keycode box.  Just type the word "sleep" in the keycode box, and that way we'll know to send you the book, "While They Were Sleeping," or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like a copy of the book, "While They Were Sleeping," or the book for parents on praying for children, and we'll know what you're asking for.  We'll be happy to send it to you.  Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of this ministry.  We appreciate your partnership with us.

 Well, tomorrow we want to talk not so much about the story of Thanksgiving but about what we can do, as parents, during this holiday season to help cultivate a heart of Thanksgiving in our children.  Barbara Rainey will be back with us tomorrow.  I hope you'll be back as well.

 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.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today and from the audio CD that comes with the book, "Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember" here is the Doxology.

[music "The Doxology"]

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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