Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Succotash

800px-Succotash.jpg

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada and for some reason my mind drifted back to a meal we were served many years ago at a family reunion in Massachusetts.

Succotash was served at the first Thanksgiving meal at Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was prepared by people of the Narragansett tribe, from native North American vegetables that had been domesticated by the native peoples. The word is from the Narragansett language. This is the kind of food that helped the Mayflower passengers to survive until they could grow grains and other things that they were used to.

The illustration shows corn and lima beans, the two essential ingredients. Other beans can be added, plus tomatoes, green peppers and sweet red peppers, maybe some squash. These are all of North American origin. There are many recipes available on the internet, but I’m not sure a recipe is needed. Just cook until you think it is done.

Succotash is a very nutritious food with negligible amounts of sodium and fat, but tastes rather blah to a North American palate accustomed to more seasoning and spice. You can try adding some imported flavours, such as a little salt and some chopped onions. Maybe even some hot peppers, which originated farther south in North America.

Bon appetit.

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The old days were not better

Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this. – the words of Solomon from Ecclesiastes 7:10

When I was young many waterways were horribly polluted. I once stood on a footbridge in Toronto and watched the Don River flowing blood red beneath my feet.

When I was young we hardly ever saw First Nations people. They could not leave their reserves without permission from the Indian Agent.

When I was young there were deadly epidemics of diphtheria, tuberculosis and polio.

When I was young, babies were being born with missing limbs because of a drug their mothers had taken.

When I was young, the children of unwed mothers were committed to mental hospitals for life (during the Duplessis era in Québec).

Today the Don River, and most other rivers, runs clear and clean. Today there are no Indian Agents. Today those diseases I mentioned have been virtually eradicated. Today drug testing is more stringent, though not yet perfect.  Today no one can be kept in a mental hospital against his will, unless he has committed a crime. In many ways we are living in better times today.

As Christians, we bemoan the fact that so many people whose parents and grandparents were faithful church attenders have given up on church. We wonder what is wrong with them. Do we ever stop to ask if their parents and grandparents read the Bible and prayed? Yes, most homes had a Bible in grandpa’s day, but usually it sat on a shelf and gathered dust. Do we ask if there was any real evidence of a living faith in their parents and grandparents?

What is the remedy for a faded, worn-out, dysfunctional Christianity? Isn’t it to open our entire being to the Word of God and the Spirit of God? To love God with all our heart, soul and mind? To live in that love, to walk it and talk it? Not in a boastful or argumentative way, but in thankfulness and praise.

Wouldn’t that be a contagious faith? There is nothing hindering us from living such a faith today, except our doubt and timidity.

What on earth is a “Canadian Black Friday” sale?

I hope my readers will forgive me as I go off on another rant. I promise to soon get back to more normal posts. (Normal for this blog, at least.)

Today is the second Monday in October – Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Thanksgiving is not quite as big a deal in Canada as it is south of the border, but it is still a holiday and a day when families get together to face a mountain of delicious food to which they cannot possibly do justice.

I have done enough travelling in the USA to know that US Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November and the following day is the day that Christmas sales start.  I suppose it is called Black Friday because it is the day that people rush into stores, elbowing and trampling anyone that gets between them and the sale item they want. It is also the day with the highest dollar volume of sales in the year.

A few years ago, some stores in Canada decided to try to emulate the success of Black Friday in the US, holding Black Friday sales on the fourth Friday of November. But that day has absolutely no significance in Canada.

This year, I see that some stores are advertising “Canadian Black Friday” sales for the Friday after Canadian Thanksgiving. But that is the fourth day after the actual holiday, not part of a long weekend, and really much too early for most of us to be doing Christmas shopping.

The stores where I have seen “Canadian Black Friday” signs are part of US owned chains. I suspect the inspiration comes from the far distant US head office where the marketing geniuses are thinking “This works in the USA, why can’t we make it work in Canada?”

To which I offer two questions to my US readers. Do you have Boxing Day sales in the USA? Do you even know what Boxing Day is?

I rest my case.

 

Don’t be anxious for anything

We were going through self-examination before communion when a frail elderly brother stood and said “I want to say that I have peace with God, but it seems like I should do something to be able to claim that I have peace. I have prayed God to show me if there is anything I need to make right, but nothing comes to me. I don’t know where I’m at.”

One of the ministers called this brother aside and explained to him that if he had honestly prayed God to show him if there was anything in his way, and nothing came to him, that meant that he did have peace. There was nothing he needed to do. Whereupon the dear old brother was able to say “I believe by faith that I have peace with God.”

Jesus taught: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). This is something we consider in self-examination — is there something that hinders me from coming to the communion altar with a clear conscience?

This is well and good, and Scriptural, but it can become a pattern. We expect that we need to find something to confess so that we can claim peace with God. And when we make that confession we feel a release of tension and believe we can now claim that our peace with God is unclouded by any transgression on our part.

Most of the time it is probably genuine, but perhaps there are more serious needs that we don’t want to deal with, yet we feel we have done what was expected of us and claim that all is well. Or, we may be like this old brother and feel we need to confess something, but their is nothing to confess.

What we are missing in both cases is that the peace of God cannot be purchased by our efforts, however sincere and earnest we may be. God does want us to keep our lives pure and uncluttered by things that would be a hindrance to ourselves or others. But all our efforts to maintain a pure and upright life do not earn peace with God. It is a gift. “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29).

As I grow older the passage in Philippians 4:6-7 becomes more meaningful to me. (I have changed a few words to follow the French translation of these verses.)

Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all intelligence, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The peace which God gives goes far beyond anything that we can attain to by our intellect. We may feel a certain relief by confessing a wrong, or making restitution for something we have done. We need to do those things, but that relief is not necessarily the peace of God. If we are simply doing things according to our own understanding and feeling satisfied in doing them, there is no keeping power in that. Only the peace of God can bring rest to our hearts and minds and guard them from intrusions of needless anxiety.

But God can save us yet

The winter and spring of 1834 had passed away. The latter was uncommonly cold and backward; so much so that we had a very heavy fall of snow upon the 14th and 15th of May

A late, cold spring in Canada is generally succeeded by a burning, hot summer; and the summer of ’34 was the hottest I ever remember.  No rain fell upon the earth for many weeks, till nature drooped and withered beneath one bright blaze of sunlight; and the ague and fever in the woods, and the cholera in the large towns and cities, spread death and sickness through the country.

Moodie had made during the winter a large clearing of twenty acres around the house. The progress of the workmen had been watched by me with the keenest interest. Every tree that reached the ground opened a wider gap in the dark wood, giving us a broader ray of light and a clearer glimpse of the blue sky. But when the dark cedar swamp fronting the house fell beneath the strokes of the axe, and we got a first view of the lake my joy was complete: a new and beautiful object was now constantly before me, which gave me the greatest pleasure.

The confusion of an uncleared fallow spread around us on every side. Huge trunks of trees and piles of brush gave a littered and uncomfortable appearance to the locality, and as the weather had been very dry for some weeks, I heard my husband talking with his choppers as to the expediency of firing the fallow. They still urged him to wait a little longer, until he could get a good breeze to carry the fire well through the brush.

Business called him suddenly to Toronto, but he left a strict charge with old Thomas and his sons, who were engaged in the job, by no means to attempt to burn it off till he returned, as he wished to be upon the premises himself in case of any danger. He had previously burnt all the heaps immediately about the doors. While he was absent, old Thomas and his second son fell sick with the ague, and went home to their own township, leaving John, a surly, obstinate young man, in charge of the shanty, where they slept, and kept their tools and provisions.

The day was sultry, and towards noon a strong wind sprang up that roared in the pine tops like the dashing of distant billows, but without in the least degree abating the heat. The children were lying listlessly on the floor for coolness, and the girl and I were finishing sun-bonnets, when Mary suddenly exclaimed, “Bless us, mistress, what a smoke!” I ran immediately to the door, but was not able to distinguish ten yards before me. The swamp immediately below us was on fire, and the heavy wind was driving a dense black cloud of smoke directly towards us.

“What can this mean?” I cried. “Who can have set fire to the fallow?”

John Thomas stood pale and trembling before me. “John, what is the meaning of this fire?”

“Oh, ma’am, I hope you will forgive me; it was I set fire to it, and I would give all I have in the world if I had not done it.”

“What is the danger?”

“Oh, I’m terribly feared that we shall all be burnt up,” said the fellow, beginning to whimper.

“We must get out of it as fast as we can, and leave the house to its fate.”

“We can’t get out,” said the man, in a low, hollow tone, which seemed the concentration of fear; “I would have got out if I could; but just step to the back door, ma’am, and see.”

I had not felt the least alarm up to this minute. Judge then my horror, when, on going to the back door, I saw that the fellow, to make sure of his work, had fired the field in fifty different places. Behind, before, on every side, we were surrounded by a wall of fire, burning ferociously within a hundred yards of us, and cutting off all possibility of retreat.

I closed the door and went back to the parlour. Fear was knocking loudly at my heart – I felt stupefied. The girl sat upon the floor by the children, who had both fallen asleep. She was silently weeping; while the fool who had caused the mischief was crying aloud.

A strange calm succeeded my first alarm; tears and lamentations were useless; a horrible death was impending over us, and yet I could not believe that we were to die.

My eye fell upon the sleeping angels, locked peacefully in each other’s arms, and my tears flowed for the first time. Mary, the servant-girl, looked piteously up in my face. The good, faithful creature had not uttered one word of complaint, but now she faltered forth, “The dear precious lambs! Oh such a death!”

I threw myself down upon the floor beside them, and pressed them alternately to my heart, while inwardly I thanked God that they were asleep, unconscious of danger.

The heat soon became suffocating. We were parched with thirst, and there was not a drop of water in the house. I turned once more to the door, hoping that a passage might have been burnt through to the water. I saw nothing but a dense cloud of fire and smoke – could hear nothing but the crackling and roaring of the flames, which were gaining so fast on us that I felt their scorching breath in my face.

“Ah,” thought I – and it was a most bitter thought – “what will my beloved husband say when he returns and finds that poor Susy and his dear girls have perished in this miserable manner? But God can save us yet.”

The thought had scarcely found a voice in my heart before the wind rose to a hurricane, scattering the flames on all sides into a tempest of burning billows. I buried my head in my apron, for I thought that our time was come, and that all was lost, when a most terrific crash of thunder burst over our heads, and, like the breaking of a water-spout, down came the rushing torrent of rain which had been pent up for so many weeks. In a few minutes the chip-yard was all afloat, and the fire effectually checked. The storm which, unnoticed by us, had been gathering all day, and which was the only one of any note we had that summer, continued to rage all night, and before morning had quite subdued the cruel enemy whose approach we had viewed with such dread.

The imminent danger in which we had been placed struck me more forcibly after it was past than at the time, and both the girl and myself sank to our knees and offered up our hearts in humble thanksgiving to that God who had saved us by an act of His Providence from an awful and sudden death. When all hope from human assistance was lost, His hand was mercifully stretched forth, making His strength more perfectly manifested in our weakness.

“He is their stay when earthly hope is lost,
“The light and anchor of the tempest-toss’d.”


Excerpted from Life in the Backwoods, by Susanna Moodie

Harvest Home

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Here in Saskatchewan the trees are bare, the flowers have died, geese are migrating and most of the combines are parked. Garden produce has been gathered in and the long, plump, white grain bags lying in many fields are silent evidence of a bountiful harvest. Monday will be Thanksgiving.

The custom of giving thanks for harvest is first observed in the fourth chapter of Genesis where Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God. We are not told why God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s, but it must have had more to do with Cain than with his sacrifice.

The three main festivals prescribed by the Law were all centred around harvest. Passover took place at the very beginning of the harvest of fall-seeded grain and the first sheaf of barley was to be offered at this time. The men then returned home to harvest their crops and seven weeks later returned for the festival of first fruits (also called the festival of weeks, or of wheat harvest and known in the New Testament as Pentecost). Fall was the time for the feast of tabernacles, or ingathering, when all the crops had been gathered in: spring seeded grains, wine and oil.

I think most peoples around the world had some kind of traditional harvest festival. In England it was called Harvest Home and began when the last of the reaped grain was brought in from the fields. It began as a pagan festival, but this is one festival that was fittingly co-opted by the church. Sheafs of grain and garden produce were brought into the church; hymns of praise and thanksgiving were sung and prayers offered to thank God for His goodness.

We call it Thanksgiving today and it comes upon a fixed day in the autumn, whether harvest is complete or not. Many of us are now quite disconnected from the production of the food that we eat, anyway. Why then do we celebrate Thanksgiving?

First off, it is good that we do not forget the rhythms of life around us, that we are entirely dependent upon God to supply our needs. Yes, we work for what we get, but it is within God’s power to withhold the fruits of our labours, or to bestow them upon us in abundance.

When He withholds, this is an opportunity to search our lives and reorder our priorities in order to bring them into harmony with God’s priorities. When He pours an abundance of material blessings upon us, we must remember that this is not merely the result of our labours but a blessing from God. And He does not want us to use it all to pamper ourselves, but to share it with others in need so that they too can give thanks for the blessings we have received.

There is another aspect of thankfulness that should be cultivated by Christians. God has called us to salvation and poured out His Spirit on us. What fruit has the Spirit produced in our lives this year? Are we overflowing with love, joy and peace? The growth of the young trees around our yard site is a visible evidence of the abundant rainfall we have experienced over the past few years. Has there been spiritual growth in our lives?

What about the spiritual harvest? Do we assume that people around us are not interested in the gospel, or do we see fields that are ripe for harvest? Jesus told His disciples to lift up their eyes; they weren’t seeing what He was seeing. Are we? Above all, do our lives, our words, our attitudes communicate thankfulness for the goodness of God, for the spiritual blessings as well as the material?

Things I am thankful for

I know that it is still three weeks until Thanksgiving Day, but there are many things to be thankful for every day and I want to tell you about the things that I am thankful for right now.

My wife arrived home Thursday from a nine day stay in Edmonton where she was helping an elderly cousin who recently moved there from Saskatoon. I was glad she could go and help, and even more thankful when she came home. I was working while she was gone, plus taking care of the household chores. Some of the ways that she does things that seemed odd to me before make a lot more sense after having to do them myself.

Our youngest grandson had surgery to correct a lazy eye that same day. I am thankful that went well.

Pookie, our little white cat who had an encounter with a dog is back to his normal energetic self. He doesn’t look too good yet, but the wounds are healing with no more sign of infection.

A young couple whom we have not seen for ten years dropped in on us Saturday evening. They live in Québec and are out for a short visit with their oldest son who is working on a farm here. I said young, but that is from my perspective, Kevin must be 45 and there is some gray in his beard. We have known both of them, and their parents for years and it was a special treat to have them in our home, even if only for an hour.

There was a welcome at church this evening for a young couple, Renaldo and Brenda, (mid-thirties this time) who are moving back here after spending the past eleven years in Alberta.

Renaldo spent time in voluntary service in Montréal when in his youth, during the time that we were missionaries there. We had been living in Ontario before going to Montréal. Three young brethren from the Swanson congregation came to visit him. One of the three was Ken Klassen who first laid eyes on his future wife during that trip. He is now our son in law and the father of our grandchildren.

Brenda doesn’t remember the first time we met, as she was not yet four years old then. In January of 1981 her parents and their little children made a stop in our home in Ontario. At that time I had always counted on my wife to cut my hair, but she had undergone surgery a couple weeks earlier and wasn’t able to do it. Somehow it was mentioned that I was getting a little shaggy and Brenda’s father offered to cut my hair. We got out the clippers and the job was quickly done. Brenda doesn’t remember that, but her mother was there last night and she does. Then Brenda put me on the spot and asked if I remember the time she had been in our apartment in Montréal when she was 16. I had to admit that I had forgotten about that.

I am thankful for all the little things like this that bind us together as our paths cross and recross over the years.

Thanksgiving meditations

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada.  Members of our congregation  will be gathering at church this evening for a big Thanksgiving meal, joined by relatives of some members who have come from a distance, and some of our neighbours.  There will be lots of visiting and a time for singing and testimonies after the meal.

What do we have to be thankful for?  Last Saturday my wife and I drove to a town 300 km south of here to take part in the celebration of the 60th wedding anniversary of one of my cousins and his wife.  Their children got together in thankfulness to plan an informal gathering to honour them, and many friends, neighbours and relatives came to offer their congratulations.  Homes such as this are the building blocks of a stable community.  What does the instability of so many homes today mean for the future of our society?

On the way home, we stopped at a Tim Horton’s in Moose Jaw where Chris’s sister Rose and her husband Butch joined us for an hour long visit.  These two ladies are the only members of a family of six who are still married to their original spouses.  I suppose Butch and I could take a little bit of credit for that, but not much.

Chris was 17 when we got married.  Rose was 15 when she and Butch were married.  An unbiased onlooker at that time  probably would not have thought of Butch and I as promising material for a long-lasting relationship.  Nevertheless, here we are, forty some years later, still happily married and enjoying watching our grandchildren grow up.  Much of the credit for this must go to our wives, but how did they catch something that their other four siblings still do not seem to understand?

Perhaps it was a determination to have a better home than their parents provided for them.  Yet it is one thing to see clearly the mistakes made by our parents and want to avoid them and quite another to avoid reacting the same way our parents did when in the heat of the conflicting emotions that come in real life.  This requires a deep-seated conviction in the heart.  There has to be a commitment and a vision that an intact home is more important than my feelings of the moment.

The prevailing wisdom of our time is to follow wherever our feelings will lead us.  True happiness, we are told, is only to be found in satisfying all the desires of our heart.  Of course, it usually does not work out very well, but there is always the hope that the next time things will be better.  Meanwhile, young people are growing up who have never known a stable home.  The very idea of marriage seems an unnecessary risk, since they have never seen a stable and happily married couple.

As Christians we can stand back and criticize the wickedness of our world.  It is right and good to expose the flaws in the prevailing beliefs in our society.  However, what does that do to help those who are caught in the midst of the morass of modern thinking about morality and do not even know there might be a way out?

If we are going to rescue anyone from this morass, we need to start where they are without criticizing them for not doing what they did not know it was possible to do.  We need to teach the family values given by the Word of God, not as a list of rules and regulations, but as the way that will lead to true and durable happiness.  Our own homes need to be examples of mutual forbearance and forgiveness.  If we appear to be claiming to have model homes where there is never a hint of disagreement or strife, others will shake their heads at our hypocrisy and turn away, seeing no hope of a better way for themselves in our example.  However, if we can testify of the grace of God in leading us to humble ourselves and seek reconciliation with our partners when things have gone awry, a light of hope might begin to dawn in their hearts.  Our society will continue to unravel unless the young people growing up today get a glimpse of the better way shown by God’s Word.

Thanksgiving

The book of Leviticus describes three major festivals for which every adult male was to be present in Jerusalem.  The first was the Passover, observed the fourteenth day of the first month, roughly equivalent to April in the Julian calendar.  This was a celebration of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.  Grain was seeded in fall and this also marked the time of the beginning of grain harvest.  The second day of the Passover festival, they were to offer the first sheaf of barley from the harvest.

Seven weeks later, or fifty days, came Pentecost, in celebration of the completion of the grain harvest.  It is not specifically mentioned in Leviticus, but the timing coincides with the day when Moses came down from Mount Horeb with the tablets of stone upon which God had written the Ten commandments.

The feast of tabernacles came on the fifteenth day of the seventh month.  By this time the grapes and olives had been gathered in and the wine and oil were in storage.  This was also a celebration of how God had cared for them during the forty years in the wilderness.

All three of these festivals combined giving of thanks for the fruits of the earth with giving of thanks  for God’s providential care.

The English Harvest Home festival began when the last cart of harvested grain was brought in from the field.  It became the custom in the Church of England to bring sheaves of grain and garden produce to church the Sunday after the end of harvest and to have prayers of thanksgiving for the harvest.  France and most other European countries had similar customs.

The first recorded thanksgiving service in Canada was in 1578 when explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew held a service on the shore of what is now Newfoundland to give thanks for having survived the Atlantic crossing.  There was a Church of England minister on the ship and communion was observed as part of this service.

In 1606 Samuel de Champlain and the settlers at Port Royal in what is now Nova Scotia organized l’Ordre du Bon Temps (Order of Good Cheer) to give thanks for their first harvest.  They continued with periodic celebrations through the winter months to keep their spirits up.  These celebrations included prayers of thanksgiving offered by ministers of the French Reformed Church who were with Champlain and the settlers.

I have come across at least four earlier claimants for the first Thanksgiving in what is now the USA, but the one held at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 has taken on a mythic status.  Since the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving became their one big annual celebration.  Thanksgiving still seems to be a more important holiday than Christmas in the USA.

Here in Canada, we have been influenced by the English and French traditions plus the US tradition.  Thanksgiving is observed the second Monday in October.  Our congregation will gather Monday evening for a traditional Thanksgiving feast.  Neighbours and friends are invited to join us.

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