The Giver has a memorable moment!

The Giver by Lois Lowery grew on me.

When I first read The Giver, I did not like the book. I deemed it weird. After teaching the book, I developed an appreciation of it. At the ceremony for twelves, students are assigned their adult jobs. One student, Asher, was thanked for his childhood. I think all our children should hear this. The joy of watching young children find delight in so many things never ends. Finding a sparkly rock, catching a lightning bug and licking icing from a beater are all memory moments from a childhood. Since this is graduation season, I know many have memories of their young person’s youth and perhaps will thank the graduate for the happiness they brought.

The controlled community in The Giver does not allow color. People don’t see color and they don’t have music. They also don’t birth their own children. I said it was a weird society, but it’s truly awful. The government took away the people’s freedom to an unimaginable degree. Fortunately, the main character, Jonas, escaped with a little one and found a community where they saw color and heard music.

Today there is a lot of discussion and fear about what the government is doing. There is fear of losing our basic freedoms. We just remembered those who died fighting for our freedom and I pray that we won’t lose ours to government officials who think they know better than the people who elected them. I continue to pray for America and encourage others to do so too.

Soldiers of the Garden

Bearded Iris are lined up for review by the head Gardener!

As you all know. I love my garden and enjoy reading the history of the flowers. I learned that iris represents valor, courage and wisdom. There are over 200 varieties of iris and its name comes from the Greek meaning rainbow. The Greek Goddess Iris was the messenger between heaven and earth and the rainbow represents the connection.

Since these iris have beards and stand along my home, I thought of them as soldiers. In creating a flower kingdom a lily would be the queen. The lily symbolizes innocence, hope and motherhood. An interesting use of lily bulbs was to mix ground bulbs with honey to treat snake bites and infection. It was also used to treat baldness and wrinkles during the Middle Ages. Interesting, but I don’t think I’ll try it.

The peony is the king of the flower kingdom. It is seen in pottery and clothing in the ancient Chinese dynasties. Peonies are not dainty flowers and can easily dominate in a garden, much like a king would! Peonies can reach a ten inch diameter and come in almost ever color but blue. I have a peony bush that was my mom’s and it is still producing beautiful flowers.

You are probably wondering about roses. Since they represent love, they are my garden’s peace makers. They provide beauty and quiet confidence that all is well. The only negative thing about roses is their thorns. If I don’t wear my thick gloves, they draw blood. They do require spraying and pruning and of course fertilizer, and it is all worth it. Roses are required members of the flower kingdom.

My flower kingdom has both perennials and annuals. Daisies bloom at the 4th of July and Black Eyed Susans bloom in August and are a sign school is about to start. June is the month of roses and lilies show their smiling faces in July. Geraniums, begonias, and marigolds provide color all summer and the deer will not eat marigolds or geraniums. Deer haven’t eaten my begonias yet, but I don’t want to be too confident.

It’s time to get my annuals planted and watch for the perennials to awaken. It is planting season and I hope you all enjoy at least a little of God’s magnificent creations!

Why Good Friday?

I used to think Good Friday was misnamed until I understood.

Growing up Good Friday was a day off school. We went to church the night before on Maundy Thursday and colored eggs on Good Friday. We aren’t Catholic, but we didn’t eat meat on Good Friday and I still don’t. Mom bought hot cross buns to eat on Good Friday and we weren’t allowed to color eggs until after the holy hours (12:00 to 3:00) ended. Those three hours were to be spent doing something quiet and prayer was supposed to be at least a part of it. This isn’t very holy, but I remember being happy that I didn’t have to do any chores during that time. I probably thanked God for that!

I remember asking why it was called Good Friday when Jesus suffered so much that day. Being told he died for all our sins made me feel worse. He didn’t do anything wrong, but he received the punishment? I just couldn’t understand. As an adult, I get it, but it still makes me weep.

My own children were taken to church on Maundy Thursday, and we too decorated eggs on Good Friday. We also listened to the music from Godspell that day. I still do. (I gave up the hot cross buns because no one liked them. They wanted doughnuts!)

The song Day by Day is a prayer I should sing every day. The lyrics are short and meaningful: day by day, these things I pray: to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly , to follow thee more nearly day by day. What more can be said other than to give thanks to God for his son Jesus who died and was resurrected on Easter Sunday. He appeared to his Disciples and they saw his wounds, so there was no doubt he arose from the dead. A simple song sung every day can bring such peace to me. I am thankful. Wishing you all a blessed Easter!

Snow won’t keep me from Blooming!

People’s words can feel like icy cold snow.

My daffodils get snowed on every year so I consider them tough enough to withstand it, but young people today are experiencing icy cold words for the first time.

A teenager was working in one of our local small grocery stores wearing a Star of David. A man entered the store and noticed her. He walked up to here and asked if she was Jewish. When she answered, “Yes”, he turned and left the store.

A high school student in Canada was suspended for saying there are only two genders. This is a Catholic high school. According to the Toronto Sun article, Josh stated there are only two genders and that gender doesn’t trump biology. He was told he couldn’t return to class until he recanted his comment. When he did return to school he was arrested for trespassing. The article went on to say there were two transgender students who disapprove of Josh’s religious beliefs and therefore he wasn’t to attend the classes he shared with them if he did return. This is a Catholic School and students object to religious beliefs?

An Arizona school board member opposed a contract with a Christian University because she did not agree with their Christian beliefs. She said their beliefs were in opposition to the beliefs of the LBGT community which she and two other board members were members. The school board did not renew the contract with the Christian University in fear of student teachers teaching Christian values.

Apparently having religious beliefs is not allowed any more. Socialist countries desire obedience to the government, not God. Churches around the globe in 32 countries have been torched over a two year period. Churches have now been closed in the Ukraine and priests and pastors have been arrested.

The world has changed and that includes America. Our churches and synagogues are open but too many are trying to quiet the voices of those who believe. Believers are going to have to stand firm like my daffodils and defend the right of religious beliefs.

Fat Tuesday Celebration and Food!

Parades, customs and food are all enjoyed before the fasting begins.

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the first day of lent. Lent is 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter and a time for prayer and repentance. Lent is not mentioned in the Bible and not all Christian denominations commemorate it. It began in the Catholic churches but in the 1960s and 70s some Protestant churches added this day to their church calendars.

The idea of fasting was and is a part of Lent. In Medieval Europe, people were told they had to eliminate eggs, fats, meat and dairy by the local priests. This was based on the 40 days Jesus fasted before he began his ministry. Today people will eliminate food from their diet or add a healthy practice such as exercise. Many pastors encourage spending more time in prayer and reading the Bible.

In the minds of many, Tuesday is their last chance to have fun and perhaps devour a pan of chocolate brownies. (Not that I can relate to that!) Pancakes and crepes were the first food to become a traditional Shrove Tuesday treat because people had to use the ingredients before Lent began. The German traditional food is Fastnachts which are doughnuts and Paczkis are a Polish jelly filled doughnut. The King Cake is a traditional Mardi Gras treat. It is made in early January to be eaten on Epiphany (January 6) in celebration of the three kings arriving in Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. It is made up until Lent. A small plastic baby is placed inside the cake and whoever gets it in their piece of cake will have prosperity. The cakes all are covered with sprinkles. The purple represents power, yellow-justice and green faith.

I was in Germany as a teacher chaperone several years ago and was shown pictures of people in costumes. I asked if this was Halloween. I was told not many people celebrated Halloween and this was their Mardi Gras. Costumes, parades and lots of food. It sure looked like Halloween!

There is so much unrest in the world but religious traditions unite us. Churches will be filled on Ash Wednesday and people will receive ashes on their foreheads. Ashes were used as a sign of repentance in the Old Testament. People wore sack cloth and covered themselves with ashes and asked for God’s forgiveness. People will try to grow closer to God during Lent and will give up unhealthy habits. I usually struggle the first two weeks with my Lenten choices, but then it becomes easier. Good luck to all of you who plan on doing something special during lent. I think God must look forward to this time when so many find time for Him.

Candlemas Celebrates Light

Candlemas is celebrated around the world on February 2.

I learned of Candlemas a few years ago, but didn’t really understand what it represented until I did a little research. It occurs 40 days after Christmas according to Jewish law found in Leviticus. Luke 2:22 tells us that Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord and for Mary to be purified. Following the law, Jesus was circumcised when he was eight days old and 33 days later presented to God in the temple. It is also known as the Feast of Presentation or the Purification of the Virgin Mary. People bring candles to church to be blessed by the priests and in some countries the candles are then placed in the windows of people’s homes. Jesus is the light of the world and the light is believed to protect the home.

Two people received God’s blessing the day Jesus was brought to the temple. Simeon was a devout man of God and had had been told he would see the Messiah before he died. When he saw the baby he knew Jesus was the promised Messiah and held him in his arms. He praised God and he also told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul. The prophet Anna lived in the temple and she too realized this was the Messiah. She gave thanks to God and told the people who the child was.

Like most celebrations food is involved. In France crepes are eaten and in Mexico tamales are enjoyed. Christians in Puerto Rico light bonfires at the end of Candlemas Day. I don’t know if it is celebrated anywhere in America, but it was first celebrated in Jerusalem in 4th century AD and has continued since.

Our world needs the light of hope and love. For Christians Jesus is the light and he gives us hope and strength during these difficult times. I like the idea of placing candles in the window on February 2. Mine are electric but I think that will work. The days are beginning to get shorter and in some countries they consider this day to signify the end of winter. Those of us in Ohio know we have weeks to go before we see spring. It doesn’t matter if the groundhog sees his shadow or not on Candlemas Day.

The spring bulbs have pushed through the soil so I know they are eager for the sun’s warmth. I’m going to accept that February 2 is the first step to spring. I wish you a sunny Candlemas Day and perhaps you’ll light a candle remembering the significance of this day.

Confederate Soldiers Remembered

Camp Chase is a Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

I’ve lived in Columbus, Ohio, most of my life and had never been to Camp Chase until this past December. I was part of a group who laid wreaths on the soldiers’ graves. There are over 2000 men buried there. Not every grave received a wreath but many did. At each grave the man’s name was said aloud and then we were asked to say something just for the person. I said a prayer. It was a very meaningful experience.

Camp Chase was a park that became a recruiting station and training grounds. It then became a prisoner of war camp that was over crowded and filled with disease. At one time it held 8,00 prisoners. After the war some soldiers bodies were taken home but most were left. The federal government bought the land in 1886 and built a wall around the two acres to protect the graves. In 1893, a former union soldier, William Knauss, saw the condition of the graves and went to work cleaning the cemetery and held a memorial service in 1895. In 1908, the wooden headboards were replaced with marble headstones.

You’ll notice the headstones come to a point. I read this was because the Confederate soldiers didn’t want a Yankee to sit on their grave. It could also be it was a way to distinguish the Confederate graves from the Yankees.

The word Americans is written on the top of the arch in the top photo. That is significant in that these men were not treated as the enemy or as traitors. They were honored as Americans. It is also significant that a Union soldier spearheaded the project to maintain a Confederate cemetery. I remember going to a little country cemetery as a little girl and was shown the graves of two family members who had died in the Civil War. One had fought for the North and the other the South. They were buried together in the family plot. They were family and those who fought against each other were all Americans.

The Party of the Lamb

The lamb unites people around the world.

This is the time of the year when people around the world unite to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christians celebrate in all countries even where it is forbidden. They worship in hiding like the early Christians did. I’m thankful our churches are open and welcoming people once again.

Jesus has been called the lamb of God and if he had a political party it would be represented by a lamb. What a wonderful party to belong to. Participants gather in prayer and thank God for their blessings and ask for help in handling the problems of today. Pastors talk of God’s love and encourage people to trust in Him and to seek Jesus in prayer.

Movie after movie features Santa and claims that Christmas is a time for wishes to come true. Santa makes both the young and old happy with his jolly smile, gifts and ho ho ho. I love the idea of Santa, but he doesn’t answer prayers and perform miracles. Jesus does that. God also isn’t always jolly like Santa. He’s a divine parent who punishes his children who don’t follow his rules. Read the Old Testament and you’ll see a lot of smiting!

I think Christmas is the best time of the year because it brings out the best in people. Kind smiles are seen and wishes for a Merry Christmas are heard. We share customs and traditions that unite us. Sharing the season with people from different cultures brings the world together. I think that must please God to see his children who look and think differently come together to worship his son. That is Christmas to me. Jesus is the best gift anyone could ever receive and Santa didn’t bring him.

Wishing you all a joyous Christmas filled with love. God loves us so much he sent his son. Thanks be to God!

Thankful at Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is filled with food, memories and much joy.

Thanksgiving Day is almost here. It is one of the best days of the year. Preparing for this big day involves much more than cooking. Cleaning the house thoroughly and then ironing tablecloths and napkins are the first chores. If you are rolling your eyes at ironing napkins, I understand. It’s a once a year thing for me.

Our food choices have been discussed by all and some dishes have been eliminated but most have stayed. Green bean casserole was eliminated years ago. At least two people have to like the dish in order to make the menu. Mincemeat pie made the cut this year. I imagine some of you are groaning but with a lot of fresh apples added to the mixture I think it’s good.

Wednesday will mean my kitchen will be in chaos as three granddaughters will assist in making noodles and pies. I expect a fine coating of flour to coat the counters and floor. Think of it snowing inside and you’ll have the picture. I’ll make the pie crusts because I’m not ready to relinquish that job, but the girls can make the fillings. I’m excited to have them working with me and the mess will be worth it.

The best part of Thanksgiving is having my family here. I’m lucky to have many family members live close by. I give thanks for my blessings every day, but Thanksgiving is a day when I bask in them. Thanks be to God and may you feel his blessings especially on Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween!

I continue to learn more Halloween history every year.

For many of us, Halloween is a fun holiday filled with costumes and candy, but it began as a harvest and new year festival called Samhain. The Celtic people also used this day to talk with their ancestors and to ask for guidance in the new year. They made bonfires and wore masks to ward off evil spirits that might have crossed over on this night. The Irish immigrants brought Halloween to America and discovered pumpkins made a much better lantern for their jack o lanterns than turnips. Unfortunately, some turned a harvest festival into something evil by performing satanic rituals and welcoming demons. That is truly scary!

Tonight children will carry bags and receive packaged candy. Prior to the 1950s, homemade treats and coins were given to the trick or treaters. Caramel apples, popcorn balls and cookies were popular treats. Candy corn was one of the first manufactured candies and was called chicken feed. The Goelitz Confectionery Company sold the boxes with a rooster on it in1880 and people are still enjoying these sugary pieces of corn.

Dressing in costumes and performing tricks or giving the treat of song was called mumming or guising prior to Christianity in the Celtic countries. Children had to earn their treat. After Christianity replaced paganism, children went souling and agreed to pray for deceased loved ones in exchange for a small biscuit or piece of bread.

People around the world celebrate Halloween. Ireland is the country where it originated and in addition to costumes and trick or treating, they eat barmbrack cake. This is a bread filled with fruit and surprises inside. These little surprises carry a meaning for the person. For example, finding a ring means a wedding in the coming year. In Scotland, sausage is eaten on Halloween and is known as their traditional Samhain food. I think candy is America’s traditional Halloween food!

I love seeing the costumes children choose and every year I still see witches, vampires, and ghosts. I just read they are still in the top five costumes. It’ll be a fun night if the rain holds off. Happy Halloween everyone!