Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Very American Holiday

By L.A. Kohl
November 15, 2005
(maybe Jodie will have space to publish this one of these years...)
As the years go by, I appreciate Thanksgiving time more and more. For me, it has become the “relaxed” holiday, to reflect and count my blessings.

I believe part of my growing appreciation for Thanksgiving has come through my increased awareness of the truly miraculous founding of our great country. For your Thanksgiving celebration – here are a just a few examples.

France and Spain were exploring and settling parts of the new world long before England finally began colonizing it. Why didn’t they become the ones to form our country’s government, rather than the English? As un-politically correct as it may sound, I firmly believe it was divine influence; God wanted America to be founded on Christian principles.

Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603) desired that a Bible be placed in every church in England, which gave all people access to the scriptures. Our country, with its foundations based on such biblical ideals as equality, justice, freedom and individual responsibility may have looked much different if it had been formed by France or Spain, where people did not have ready access to the Bible.

Even when England did begin trying to colonize the new world, there were many set-backs experienced by those first, adventure-seeking businessmen. Not until a small band of people seeking religious freedom decided to give it a try, did we see a new country taking root.

When the Pilgrims providentially found themselves outside the territory of the London Company and the Virginia colony, they recognized their immediate need for a governing document. Thus, in November of 1620 in the harbor of Cape Cod, before the settlers even went ashore, the Mayflower Compact was drawn up and signed.

History had never seen such a document. A document created and voluntarily endorsed by the people, and for the people. It was a huge milestone in the formation of a new country that would be the first of its kind – a country that would establish the right of the people to rule.

God worked in “mysterious” ways; despite all of the Pilgrim’s initial hardships and struggles (50% of them did not survive the first year, but in comparison, 90% of Jamestown’s population perished.)
The place they found to settle was ideal: fertile soil, four spring-fed creeks, and a large section of ground already cleared and ready for planting. Later, an English speaking Indian named Samoset informed them that a vicious tribe, the Patuxets, had inhabited that area. The Patuxets murdered every white man who had ever landed there – but just a few years prior the entire tribe had died of a mysterious plague. Neighboring tribes were so fearful of the misfortune that they continued to avoid the area.

Because of Samoset and another English speaking native named Tisquantum (“Squanto” for short,) the Pilgrims were able to make a peace treaty with Massasoit, chief of the large Wampanoag tribe.
In March of 1623 Massasoit was gravely ill and given up for dead by his people. God intervened through Pilgrim Edward Winslow’s attentive care and medicine. As a result, a grateful Massasoit informed the Pilgrims about eight neighboring tribes that were plotting to kill all the English; and he gave them valuable advice on how to deal with the threat.

Later that same year, a severe drought threatened to ruin all their crops, meaning certain starvation in the coming winter. William Bradford asked everyone to participate in a day of fasting and prayer to ask the Lord for rain.
Edward Winslow described what happened: “But, O 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 moderate showers of rain, continuing some fourteen days…such was the bounty and goodness of our God!”

Now, over 300 years later, Americans can still celebrate Thanksgiving because of the intense faith of this small band of English men and women. As you begin your Thanksgiving holiday, ponder on what William Bradford wrote those many years ago: “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.”

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