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Jared Williams

Thanksgiving Mindset - God's Providence

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I just recently posted a section of my book where I tell a part of the thanksgiving story from the viewpoint of God's providence. I think in lieu of the coronavirus fears and troubles, it may, hopefully, serve as a great reminder for us all of all we have to be thankful for! (even if it's far from the thanksgiving time of year). I wanted to post the extended story here in hopes of spreading some hope. 

 

 

 

There is a lost New England tradition to begin the thanksgiving meal - the first plate - with five kernels of corn. An empty plate, except for five kernels of corn.

 

Back, before electricity was even discovered, ships managed, by sheer luck and willpower, to cross the vast Atlantic ocean. The natives were many in this new world, but they had no immunity to the ‘white man’ diseases - diseases such as the black plague and chicken pox. These diseases ravaged the Native populations all up and down the coasts. The death rates in most of these tribes would reach 60 - 80%. However, there was one place on the coast where the disease was so terrible, so devastating, that there wasn’t a single survivor! The only technical survivor we know of only survived because he had been enslaved and sold to the British and thus wasn't present when the plague hit. Now, this tribe was well known in the area for its aggression and brutality. It was such a powerful tribe, that when it was completely annihilated by disease, the neighboring tribes were so terrified, they labeled the land accursed and stayed as far away from it as they could.” 

 

Now, around the same time, across the sea, there was a small group of Christians who feared their beloved Church of England was becoming too worldly. They were a simple people who wanted to live their lives in peace while worshipping God in their own way, but since the Church of England would not allow them such liberty, the small congregation moved to Holland. There, they could live with religious freedom, but Holland turned out to be even worse than England. In Holland, they found the culture to be sacrilegious. They left Holland, quoting fear for their children’s future. But where could they go? They had heard of a place across the sea, a place called America, and a small British town called… Jamestown. 

 

A new start in a new land sounded like just the thing for this lost congregation, so the Puritans hired a riggity old cargo ship called the Mayflower to transport them across the wide open sea. Their destination, Jamestown, but on the way, they encountered a massive storm that blew them off track. They had no way of knowing where they would land, but that change in direction led them to the one place on the entire eastern coast of North America that was not currently occupied by ‘hostile Indians’. That’s right, they landed at the exact location where that aggressive tribe had been destroyed. The Pilgrim’s surveyed the land, deciding that the land was good, chose not to continue south to Jamestown. Instead, they settled where they landed, at a place called Plymouth Rock. 

 

Now, knowing nothing of the land, the Pilgrims were facing starvation. By the end of the first winter, half of their group had died. Then that spring, Squanto returned to his homeland after gaining his freedom in England. This lone survivor of the decimated war-like tribe took pity on the Pilgrims, and began teaching them how to plant and cultivate corn and other crops to sustain themselves. Thus came the first Thanksgiving. 

 

However, that next winter was also quite terrible. Food became scarce, for the Pilgrims were forced to sell most of their first harvest as payment for their trip across the Atlantic. Despite having no provisions, tradition states that no one died that second winter. Tradition says that at the worst part of that winter, the Pilgrims had but for rations only five kernels of corn. That next harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving with the Natives. The Indians brought the meat, and the Pilgrims produced the other meal items. However, the first course of that Thanksgiving dinner was a plate of five kernels of corn, as a reminder of the time when they had little.

 

I like to call this story, ‘The Story of Providence.’ Providence, meaning ‘by God’s will’ - which means, ‘what God plans, he will bring about.’ Thus, by God’s will, the Pilgrims landed where they did, by providence Squanto came to them at their greatest time of need, and by providence they were blessed with a great bounty.” 

 

Hezekiah Butterworth wrote a poem entitled “Five Kernels of Corn" in honor of this tradition. 

 

'T was the year of the famine in Plymouth of old, 
The ice and the snow from the thatched roofs had rolled; 
Through the warm purple skies steered the geese o'er the seas, 
And the woodpeckers tapped in the clocks of the trees; 
And the boughs on the slopes to the south winds lay bare, 
And dreaming of summer, the buds swelled in the air. 
The pale Pilgrims welcomed each reddening morn; 
There were left but for rations Five Kernels of Corn. 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
But to Bradford a feast were Five Kernels of Corn! 

" Five Kernels of Corn! Five Kernels of Corn! 
Ye people, be glad for Five Kernels of Corn! " 
So Bradford cried out on bleak Burial Hill, 
And the thin women stood in their doors, white and still. 
" Lo, the harbor of Plymouth rolls bright in the Spring, 
The maples grow red, and the wood robins sing, 
The west wind is blowing, and fading the snow, 
And the pleasant pines sing, and the arbutuses blow. 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
To each one be given Five Kernels of Corn! " 

O Bradford of Austerfield haste on thy way. 
The west winds are blowing o'er Province-town Bay, 
The white avens bloom, but the pine domes are chill, 
And new graves have furrowed Precisioners' Hill! 
" Give thanks, all ye people, the warm skies have come, 
The hilltops are sunny, and green grows the holm, 
And the trumpets of winds, and the white March is gone. 
And ye still have left you Five Kernels of Corn. 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
Ye have for Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn! 

" The raven's gift eat and be humble and pray, 
A new light is breaking, and Truth leads your way; 
One taper a thousand shall kindle: rejoice 
That to you has been given the wilderness voice! " 
O Bradford of Austerfield, daring the wave, 
And safe through the sounding blasts leading the brave, 
Of deeds such as thine was the free nation born, 
And the festal world sings the " Five Kernels of Corn. " 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
Five Kernels of Corn! 
The nation gives thanks for Five Kernels of Corn! 
To the Thanksgiving Feast bring Five Kernels of Corn!

 

 

 

 

 

Oh what we have to be thankful for! 

 

 

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