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Ancient Words: A Time of Certainty, 400 Years Ago

February 19, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.

February 2021 has brought an unprecedented winter for many in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. Temperatures around near zero and snow of around a foot and all lasting over a week. In El Dorado, we are thankful our electrical power did not go out, the natural gas supply was plentiful, stores were open for re-supply of food, and wool clothing kept us especially warm when needed.

I can’t help but think of a wooden ship anchored off Cape Cod 400 years ago in February 1621 with around a hundred passengers and crew. That winter was particularly cold with ice and snow as well for these maritime strangers waiting for spring to inhabit America’s shore. No electricity, no natural gas, no re-supply of food, no ample supply of warm clothing. Each day in February was cold in Plymouth Harbor. Each day required some to go ashore in the small skiff and harvest firewood with an axe… to bring back to the ship’s deck and burn in a small sand pit to give heat for the day and night to the passengers all crowded just below the main deck in the 5 foot ceiling gun deck. The food supply was almost gone from the 60 day voyage from England and it was not even close to today’s cruise ship meal: During the Mayflower’s voyage, the Pilgrims’ main diet would have consisted primarily of a cracker-like biscuit (“hard tack”), salt pork, dried meats including cow tongue, various pickled foods, oatmeal and other cereal grains, and fish. The primary beverage for everyone, including children, was beer. The one fire pit on deck was crucial as it served as the source of heat and the source to cook what food they had and probably by now the source of light as well. By end of March, the 50 survivors would bid farewell to their ship home (since November 1620) and move into their very small, crudely built, one room, dirt floor cabins. Now, they had finally arrived. Fleeing religious persecution by the Crown, these hearty people had endured an onslaught of trouble from the day of embarkation, yet they persevered through all these most difficult trials because they were certain God had a plan and a purpose for their journey and they were certain their faith in God would prove fruitful as they dedicated their first meal in their primitive built home regardless of the cost: If you will boil chickens, young turkeys, peahens, or any house fowl daintily, you shall, after you have trimmed them, drawn them, trussed them, and washed them, fill their bellies as full of parsley as they can hold; then boil them with salt and water only till they be enough: then take a dish and put into it verjuice [the juice of sour crab-apples] and butter, and salt, and when the butter is melted, take the parsley out of the chicken’s bellies, and mince it very small, and put it to the verjuice and butter, and stir it well together; then lay in the chickens, and trim the dish with sippets [fried or toasted slices of bread], and so serve it forth. (Taken from Mayflower History)

America began with dedicated people being certain of what they hoped for and seeing the evidence of the unseen hand of God at work on their behalf: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). No investigations were called for to examine why all of the calamities occurred. No committees were called to research how the difficulties could have been avoided. These folks were resilient, determined, disciplined, and patriotic for the cause—-to the bone! They knew their time was certain and they never let go! These actions of certainty——produced the birth of an American spirit! Where is our spirit of certainty today….America?

Scott and Jane Johnson minister with East Faulkner Church of Christ and BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to [email protected]

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