Passover and Holy Week Align

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.

Decorating Eggs is an Ancient Custom

Wooden Easter Eggs are a Polish tradition.

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.

Where Do You Find Joy?

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.

What a Night!

Mary was chosen.

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 Snowy Path to…?

Where does this path lead?

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 Time

The first of four candles was lit on Sunday.

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.

Trees are a Gift that never stops Giving!

Trees are Inspiring!

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!

Lavender Deters Evil Spirits!

Lavender doesn’t just smell great!

Lavender is a favorite is my garden and it has many uses. Some people use it in baking and make a lavender sugar. When I read about cooking with lavender, I learned that it is dangerous for cats and dogs to eat. My cats don’t seem interested in it, and I just enjoy the look and smell of it.

Lavender is grown throughout Spain and Portugal and is used in celebrating holidays by spreading it on the floors of churches and homes. It is believed to cleanse the area of evil spirits and negativity. Congress might consider spreading a little lavender in order to promote harmony.

Lavender is burned in bonfires on St. John’s Day in Europe which is also called Midsummer’s Day. It is celebrated on June 24 which is John the Baptist’s birthday. Today lavender is burned in homes to cleanse the air and like with the bonfire, it carries prayers to heaven. Smudging sticks can be made with lavender to purify homes. It is said to help bring peaceful sleep when burned in the bedroom.

According to lavender folklore, a woman in childbirth should hold it in order to gain courage and strength. Growing lavender in one’s garden will bring good luck, ward off evil, and attract fairies. Since I have lavender, I invite good fortune and fairies to my garden. I also encourage it to ward off mosquitoes like it is supposed to do! Marigolds are also said to keep mosquitoes away along with allium, lemon grass and lantana. I have three of these plants, and I have mosquitoes.

Lost and Found!

The last egg was found!

We had our Easter egg hunt on Mother’s Day this year because of Covid. I hid 60 eggs and 59 were found. This happens every year and as summer progresses the missing eggs are found. Little chick was in the lilies. She had been filled with two pieces of chocolate. The egg had been opened and the chocolate eaten but the wrappers remained. Some lucky animal had a nice treat.

I love reading the stories of things lost and then found years later. I have a lost and found story that happened several years ago in England after we had visited friends.

My husband and I left northern England and were driving south on our way to spend the night close to Heathrow Airport. We stopped after a couple hours to eat, and to have my wallet lifted from my purse that I didn’t have zipped. This I discovered after another hour on the road. We returned to the rest stop and of course nothing had been turned in, but we did file a police report. I also called home to cancel my charge card. I spent the next three hours going between praying and berating myself for being so careless.

When we arrived at our hotel, I was told I had a phone call. It was from a police department two hours west of where we were. My wallet had been turned in. A woman said she found it on the side of the road. When I asked what was in it I was astonished. My American money was there, my English pounds, and my credit card. NOTHING had been taken. We didn’t have time to retrieve my wallet and they would not send it to us so our English friends handled that for me. Bless them!

The timing of the phone call was amazing and the number I had for the woman who had found my wallet did not exist. I like to think my prayers were answered. I have no way of explaining the timing of the phone call to coincide with our arrival at the hotel. I like to think an angel found my wallet as a result of my endless praying. All I can say is pray works!

Tear Down Statues of Jesus and Mary?

People need to examine history carefully.

A black activist made news saying statues of white Jesus and Mary must come down because they represent white supremacy. It reminded me of the houses of worship being destroyed in Russia and priests being arrested when the Communists took over. Then there was Hitler who hung the Nazi flag in all the churches and arrested all pastors and priests who opposed him. I ask, is this the transformation of America? Do Christians have an evil history that requires our church to be destroyed?

No one can deny that members of the Christian faith used the Bible to support slavery. God has been used as an excuse to do terrible things throughout history. But why not examine the reason slavery ended in America? Christian abolitionists along with members of the Jewish faith ran the underground railroad and freed an estimated 100,000 slaves. They spoke out against slavery, wrote against slavery and campaigned against it. These people were beaten, arrested, and killed for their beliefs and using their first amendment right called freedom of speech.

Christians opposed the expansion of slave states and worked tirelessly to educate people on the evils of slavery. I believe without their relentless push to end slavery the practice of slavery would have continued. Maybe the Civil War would not have even been fought without these faithful people.

Instead of condemning white Christians and telling us we represent white supremacy, why not celebrate the Christians who fought for Civil Rights in America? I choose to look at the shining examples of my faith who worked to end slavery and also walked with Reverend King to change racists laws. As Doctor King said in his I Have a Dream Speech, he wanted his children to live in a nation where people were judged by the content of their character. When examining history, I hope people will not omit the contributions of Christians in the fight for equality.