One hundred and five settlers arrived at Cape Henry, Virginia in 1607. They brought with them a seven foot, heavy wooden cross from England on a very small boat. Pastor Robert Hunt declared that the gospel would go forth throughout this land and to the whole world. The settlers moved to what became Jamestown and established the first permanent English colony. They gathered three times a day at the center of town to pray and dedicated America to God. They prayed that for generations to come America would be a country where God’s work was fulfilled. America’s history is filled with many who worked to make this a country where God’s presence was felt and his love for his children was seen. One of these people was Anna Gardner. She was born into a Quaker family in Nantucket, Massachusetts in 1816. Anna was raised in the Quaker belief that all men and women are equal. She became a teacher, writer, and abolitionist.
In 1841, Anna held an antislavery meeting where Frederick Douglas spoke. When she was a child, her father had helped save a runaway slave and his family from slave catchers and she never forgot. Anna worked tirelessly against slavery and for women’s rights. After the Civil War ended, she taught in Freemen’s schools in North Carolina and South Carolina.
In the late 1870’s, Anna turned her attention to women’s rights and spoke out on this injustice. Many of her former students were now teaching in the Freemen’s schools and she felt the need to address another inequality issue. Anna died at the age of 85 and was remembered as a servant of God who fought for equal treatment for all his children.
The Quakers were instrumental in establishing and running the underground railroad. According to National Geographic, 100,00 slaves found freedom via the underground railroad between 1810 and 1850. The Quakers were considered the first to actively help slaves escape, but many others joined them in order to accomplish this large number.
There are many people throughout America’s history who remembered that America was dedicated to God by the first settlers. We have come a long way in accomplishing this, but have farther to go. I think it’s important to remember all the good that has been achieved and the people who carried the load. Maybe remembering the acts of faithful people in the past will inspire us today.
Not long ago I was in a group where we were asked to separate according to our favorite places. It was an ice breaker activity which I admit I am not a fan of. The categories were beach, mountains, and exciting city. I didn’t choose any of them. Fortunately someone else didn’t either. Hers was her home and mine is my garden.
I love my flowers and the critters it attracts. Hummingbirds are at the top of the list. This year I have a baby bunny living in the bed, and I know he or she has eaten my pansies; I don’t care. It is so cute! I feel the presence of God when I’m in my garden. Its beauty is something only God could create. I have filled the beds with a variety of flowers so that I have color from spring through fall . I sit in a chair with a cup of coffee and smile. Memories frequently fill my head because my garden has hosted many festivities. Graduation parties, weddings, birthdays, and holidays have all been celebrated there. It is a place of joy because of its beauty and the memories it holds.
I have been fortunate to have been able to travel to many beautiful places, but for me a favorite place needs to be a place I can go to frequently. It is a place where I relax and count my blessings. A place filled with memories and a place that makes me smile just by being there. I’d love to hear where your favorite places are. Please share.
Some people go crazy over shoes or purses. Not me; my obsession is with plants. One of my sons told me if I didn’t stop creating flower beds, we wouldn’t have any grass left. Funny how kids turn into adults. I recently said the same thing to him!
I do have a lot of flowers and that means a lot of perennials, but I I can’t go through the summer without annuals. There are baskets and pots and various locations where color is needed. I need color to brighten the beds all summer and that means annuals.
Plant popularity changes from decade to decade. Roses however are always valued in a garden. Gardening didn’t become a hobby until the Victorian Age. During this era,(mid to late 1800s) the Victorian fern, orchids and celery were in demand and the wealthy had time to grow them. They enjoyed the fresh air and appreciated the results of their labor. The 1920s and 30s saw potted plants for the first time which eliminated growing flowers from seeds. I appreciate not having to grow from seeds, so I can see why more people took to gardening.
The 40s and 50s saw people using their back yards for entertaining and flowers were studied and planted. Flower societies were launched such as the American Daffodil society and the American Lily Society. Houseplants became popular in the 60s and 70s and are currently popular. We all know how trends reappear.
I could write a lot more about gardening, but I won’t. My garden is my sanctuary. I thank God every day for his creations and that I am able to enjoy them in my own yard. My tulips were particularly pretty this year, so I’m sharing a picture. They survived the snow that bent them over, but once it melted, they stood. They are a lot like people I think.
This year Passover began on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter.
Passover and Easter almost always overlap. but it is unusual to have all days in alignment. It does make sense that the two religious times coincide since Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover when he was arrested.
Jesus was Jewish and it was customary to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the temple during Passover. When people heard that Jesus was entering the city, they greeted him by saying Hosanna (in Hebrew means save us). When he entered the temple to pray, he was furious to see all the merchants and money changers. He angrily turned over the tables where they worked. Jesus declared that the temple was a house of prayer and they were defiling it. Only Jewish and Tyrian shekels were accepted at the temple so all foreign coins had to be changed, and all offerings had to be purchased at the temple. The temple was a place of business for many people and not a house of worship.
People of the Jewish faith continue to honor and remember Moses leading the Hebrew people from slavery during Passover. The Pharaoh wasn’t easily convinced and it took plagues of locusts, flies, frogs, boils, hails and water turning to blood. The last was the worst when the first born child of the Egyptians died. The Angel of Death passed over the Hebrew households because they put lamb’s blood over their doors. Jesus sat with his disciples for the Seder meal in Jerusalem before he was arrested in memory of what the Hebrew people had endured.
This Thursday is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday and Christians will attend church in memory of Jesus’s last supper. Good Friday will be remembered in prayer and some will walk the stations of the cross. Joyous hymns will fill churches as Jesus’ resurrection is celebrated. Jesus was Jewish. Christianity began after he died and was resurrected.
Having two holy weeks coincide means God is hearing from a lot of people this week. I’m one among the many who are praying, and I am thankful I live in a country where I can pray and attend church.
Pinsanki is the Polish word for Easter eggs. It comes from the verb pisac which means to write. Beautiful carvings on wood or melted wax drawn on an egg to withstand dye was used to decorate the eggs. I had students from the Ukraine who knew women who used the wax and dye method, and they said it was a tradition in some families but not theirs. I would have loved to have seen these eggs.
I don’t know where I got my two wooden eggs, but I display them every year. I read that wooden eggs have been used at the White House Easter Egg Roll since 1981 when President Reagan and his wife offered eggs that had the signatures of famous people. They became a valued treasure. Egg rolling represents the stone being rolled away from Christ’s tomb.
Decorated eggs have been associated with spring for thousands of years and in burials. Farmers would bury them in the field to ensure fertility of their crops. Eggs also represented rebirth and Ostrich size eggs made from silver and gold have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians. Real ostrich eggs that had been decorated were also found in tombs that were painted, and engraved. These are believed to represent the soul would be resurrected.
Early Christians dyed eggs red to represent the blood of Christ being shed on the cross. In Greece, the red eggs are used to play an egg cracking game. The tips of the eggs are tapped together and the person with the unbroken egg then tries to crack the other end of his opponent’s egg. While cracking, one person says, Christ has risen. The other responds, Indeed he has risen. The person with the unbroken egg believes he will be rewarded with good luck.
Many of us will color Easter eggs soon and will fill baskets with chocolate eggs and bunnies. Cadbury made the first chocolate egg in 1875 and they are still being made. I am a fan of Hershey’s little chocolate eggs. They fit nicely inside a plastic egg. One of these years I want to try the wax and dye method. If I do, I’ll let you know.
January is a long, dark month and finding joy keeps the heaviness at bay.
I always wish for snow in January because it brings me joy. I’m not talking about a lot of snow, just a couple inches. When snow is on the ground, the early darkness isn’t so bad and when the moon is shining, the night has a magical quality.
This little angel of joy caught my eye with the rainbows on the wall. I have crystals hanging in the window, and in the late afternoon rainbows cover the walls. It’s impossible to enter the room and not be filled with joy. Of course if I have rainbows, that means the sun is shining. Any day the sun shines is a joyful day.
One of my granddaughters called me yesterday to tell me she had used her birthday money to buy a new doll. Talk about joy! Her joy was contagious and as I listened, I smiled and shared her happiness. Later she sent me a picture of herself with her doll. More joy!
I was able to go to another granddaughter’s basketball game this week and the happiness I felt for being able to go can only be described as joyful. I’m so aware that time goes by so quickly that I want to be a part of her activities as long as I can. Graduation comes quickly. It was a joyful evening.
I wish all of you many moments of joy this month. I know if I bake chocolate chip cookies today for my husband, I will bring him joy. My mother used to say, It’s the little things in life that makes us the happiest. I think she was right.
Mary was a young girl by today’s standards. This was her first child and to have been far from home when she went into labor would have been frightening.
I always thought how sad it was that there was no room in the inn until I had a baby. Now I see the wisdom in being sent to a stable. The inns were crowded which meant they were noisy and probably dirty. Who’d want to have a baby under those conditions? Not me.
Clean straw or hay and fresh air would have been better. Maybe Mary could see the star and concentrate on its beauty as she went through labor. I like to think the innkeeper’s wife was there with water and clean cloths to deliver the baby. I think God would have provided support for her.
I wonder what she thought when shepherds arrived telling her about angels announcing her son’s birth. Had she been surprised or had she just smiled realizing God was spreading the word that his son was born. The long awaited child that Isiah had prophesized was here at last. God was a proud father!
This was a joyous night that Christians all over the world remember. I can’t imagine the responsibility of raising God’s son. Mary clearly loved and trusted God or she would not have been chosen. She is a blessing to all of us who celebrate Jesus’s birth. Thank you, God!
A familiar story idea is about following paths. I always liked how Gretel tried to mark the path to her and Hansel’s home with bread crumbs. As they continued their way through the woods they found a house made of gingerbread and covered with candy. As they discovered, looks can be deceiving.
Teachers and parents also like to use paths in discussing which path children should follow when it comes to career, behavior or group of friends to follow. In short, the subject of paths has a lot of material for people to write and talk about.
In my mind, the path is leading to a barn that holds an old sleigh that has been lovingly painted and repaired. A sweet old man, who looks like Santa, lets me pet his horse that pulls the sleigh. I offer to help with chores if he will show me how to drive the sleigh. Mucking out the barn is worth the lesson. My fantasy ends with driving the beautiful red sleigh through the woods.
Christmastime is a magical season of lights and dreams. For me, the snow adds to the feeling that anything is possible. I would love to hear where your paths would lead. Happy imagining!
Advent is a time of preparing for Jesus’s birthday. People are encouraged to use this time to pray and to become more Christ like in our thinking and our behavior. A candle is lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas and they each have a different meaning.
The first Sunday’s candle is known as the Prophecy Candle. The prophet Isiah told the people a young woman would bear a son and call his name Immanuel. (Isiah 7:14) It is also known as the Candle of Hope. That is a word that we need right now. Hope that 2021 will allow us to return to what we use to call normal.
When my kids were little, the five of us put our names in a bowl and then drew a name each Sunday in Advent. We were to do acts of kindness for that person throughout the week. We weren’t to let them know what we were doing, but do it quietly as to not bring attention to ourselves. You can imagine this brought joy and frustration when the act wasn’t even noticed. For example, my daughter hung up her brother’s coat every day for a week and he didn’t even notice it was in the closet and not on the railing or the floor where he left it.
I have an easier suggestion and my daughter is doing it with her girls this year. Whoever opens the door of the advent calendar gets the treat and also the responsibility to do an act of kindness. The act of kindness is not limited to someone in the household. After doing the act, the person writes it on a piece of paper and puts it in a jar. On Christmas Eve, the 24 acts of kindness will be read. This is a gift to Jesus in that he said what we do for others, we do for him.
We are beginning December with snow, and I love it. It’s enough to make everything beautiful and not enough to cause a sore back from shoveling. It feels like Christmas and makes me happy and hopeful for better days to come soon. I have hope and faith. Which is good because next Sunday’s candle is the Candle of Faith.
One my favorite books is a Berenstain Bear book called The Spooky Old Tree. The bears have an adventure through the tree and encounter the Great Sleeping Bear. I asked myself what adventure I’d create if I went inside a tree. I’d choose having a conversation with the tree. Hearing about what the tree had experienced would be quite an adventure!
I’d have to select the tree’s location before I asked my questions. There are endless ones to choose from. Trees saw battles, weddings, funerals and religious figures. Remember Zacchaeus from the Bible who climbed a tree to see Jesus?
We all appreciate the beauty of trees and what they provide. Food and shade are easily thought of, but they also provide inspiration for writers. I’m sure all of you can think of a poem that honored a tree. I know several of you are thinking of Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree.
A walk through the woods for many is a spiritual experience. It surrounds us with silent beauty and offers stories waiting to be written. Trees are one of God’s most precious gifts, and I am grateful. Just a note of interest. California is the home to Methuselah a bristlecone pine tree that is believed to be 5,000 years old. Now, that tree would have stories to tell!