California Fires ; Plymouth Plantation

As the number of casualties in the California fires rises… One wonders, how does one give thanks in this season?

It is good to remember the first Thanksgiving (William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation is a thorough account).

Here’s an excerpt from Bradford’s account of the sea passage and first winter:

September 6 [1620]. These troubles being
blown over, and now all being compact together
in one ship, they put to sea again with a
prosperous wind, which continued divers days
together, which was some encouragement unto
them; yet, according to the usual manner, many
were afflicted with seasickness. And I may not
omit here a special work of God’s providence.
There was a proud and very profane young man,
one of the seamen, of a lusty,
able body, which made him the more haughty; he would always be
condemning the poor people in their sickness
and cursing them daily with grievous execrations;
and did not let to tell them that he hoped to help
to cast half of them overboard before they came
to their journey’s end, and to make merry with
what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved,
he would curse and swear most bitterly.
But it pleased God before they came half seas
over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease,
of which he died in a desperate manner, and
so was himself the first that was thrown overboard.
Thus his curses light on his own head, and
it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they
noted it to be the just hand of God upon him.

[1620-1621] But that which was most sad and
lamentable was, that in two or three months’ time
half of their company died, especially in January
and February, being the depth of winter, and
wanting houses and other comforts; being infected
with the scurvy and other diseases which
this long voyage and their inaccommodate condition
had brought upon them. So as there died
sometimes two or three of a day in the foresaid
time, that of 100 and odd persons, scarce fifty remained.

All that to say, the First Thanksgiving did not come on the heels of a happy season. But in 1621, sure enough, Massasoit and almost a hundred other men joined the pilgrims in a three-day festival of feasting and games:

They began now to gather in the small harvest
they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings
against winter, being all well recovered in health
and strength and had all things in good plenty. For
as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others
were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass
and other fish, of which they took good store, of
which every family had their portion. All the summer
there was no want; and now began to come in
store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this
place did abound when they came first (but afterward
decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl
there was great store of wild turkeys, of
which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides
they had about a peck of meal a week to a |
person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that
proportion. Which made many afterward write so ;
largely of their plenty here to their friends in England,
which were not feigned but true reports.

We won’t forget the suffering surrounding the first Thanksgiving, nor those currently in California.

But we will give thanks.


The Hint of an Explanation

‘The man of faith animated by his great experience is able to reach the point at which not only his logic of the mind but even his logic of the heart and of the will, everything—even his own “I” awareness—has to give in to an “absurd” commitment. The man of faith is “insanely” committed to and “madly” in love with God’ (The Lonely Man of Faith, Soloveitchik, pp. 100).


‘Many a time he [Elisha] felt disenchanted and frustrated because his words were scornfully rejected. However, Elisha never despaired or resigned. Despair and resignation were unknown to the man of the covenant who found triumph in defeat, hope in failure, and who could not conceal God’s Word that was, to paraphrase Jeremiah, deeply implanted in his bones and burning in his heart like an all-consuming fire… Is modern man of faith entitled to a more privileged position and a less exacting and sacrificial role?’ (pp. 112).


A few days ago I was reading the last passages of the Gospel of Mark.


I was remembering the days when I started to think I was to ‘go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation’ (Mark 16:15).


It seemed fairly straightforward at the time.


I think it still is, actually.


One of my elders asked me recently, “Is it possible?”


I said, rather uncertainly, “Anything is possible with God.”


But I should not have been uncertain, at least not of the power of God.


Of my own faithfulness, I am not sure.


But of the Power from On High, I am sure.


And how to explain it?


I like what Graham Greene has to say in his short story “The Hint of an Explanation”:


“Oh, well,” he said vaguely, “you know for me it was an odd beginning, that affair, when you come to think of it,” but I never should have known what he meant had not his coat, when he rose to take his bag from the rack, come open and disclosed the collar of a priest.


How do missionaries begin? How do they continue? These lonely men and women of faith…


Be madly in love with God. Fall in love over and over and over.


Don’t despair. Don’t resign.


And don’t forget to rejoice in your sufferings.

Wake up!

– Sister Still

Papers and Pills

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A beloved patient with dementia started tearing up an envelope from his daughter and making tiny balls. He picked up his water glass in order to swallow these “pills”.

I told him: “You don’t need to swallow those.”

He said, “I do this every day.”

He was so sure of himself.

I figured a little paper wouldn’t hurt his health.

Sometimes it is exhausting to live with someone who lives in an alternate reality because that person is so sure, so assertive about that “truth”…

Papers or pills, does it matter?

Yes, but it is not always worth the fight.

– Sister Still

Quit! Don’t Quit! Quit! Don’t Quit!

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Ah, the internal dialogue. Always a good thing when it is interrupted by friends.

I was watching the documentary The Hornet’s Nest (check out clip below) in honor of Armistice Day and was struck by one veteran who was wounded but decided to go back to war mainly because of his buddies.

Sometimes it’s not even the passion for the cause that brings us back, but for the love of the brothers.

Your Stomach–Making Sense of the World


We’re all trying to come up with the winning combination, right?

The right job, the right home life, the path to joy… With a touch of pain to make it seem genuine.

But at the end of the day, once we’ve examined all those questions about callings and gifts and expectations and opportunities and blessings and curses… Sometimes it seems like we’re stuck with the dull suffering.

2 Peter 1:5-11

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For this very reason: Does not mean, ‘because your butt is on a stick’… but rather, BECAUSE “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. ” (2 Peter 1:3)

Therefore, do not be discouraged. Especially if the going is rough.

This two cents coming from Sister Still.

Monotheists Monologue

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“Maybe you should go to seminary,” comments Sister 3. “I say, what a nightmare! You have a Masters. Why go back to school? But that’s me. You might go to seminary.”


“Yeah,” I respond. “I wanted to do that in Africa, remember? Maybe I could try Montreal. Further north would be too cold. There’s a seminary in Aix-en-Provence…”


My niece floats past with a wave. She is wearing her sparkling ball gown.


The timer goes off on the oven.


“Boys!” calls Sister 3. “Five-minute warning for technology time!”


“Do your parents know about all this?” asks my father.


“Yes,” I tell him. “I’m in touch with them regularly.”


“Good,” he nods. “Do they pay the phone bills or do you?”


“I do,” I laugh. “But they are very generous with me. And kind.”


“Good,” he repeats.


“Your time in missions might not be done,” adds my atheist brother. “It didn’t work out with one organization but that’s not to say it wouldn’t work with another, another field or country.”


My mind wanders to The Rav, Joseph Soloveitchik. He differentiated between teaching Jews and dialoging with Christians. He made that distinction. Mark Gottlieb writes about it in the November 2018 edition of First Things.


Why does it matter?


What does it mean to have a productive dialog with other monotheists?


One that isn’t about beating the others down?


Is it narrative?


Soloveitchik wrote about Adam I and Adam II in The Lonely Man of Faith.


Aren’t we all facing that, Jews, Muslims, and Christians?


It’s a struggle between the man of faith and the man of culture.


“What do I have to do to get on your blog?” asks my nephew.


“I don’t know,” I tell him. “Say something deep.”


“I’ll draw a picture,” he replies.

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In the picture, demons are attacking a man (lower left, the smaller stick figure). Isn’t that a bit like our culture’s attack on the man of faith?

– Sister Still with Shooting Star