Holy Friday

Good was a synonym for holy.

Holy week for Christians in America begins on Palm Sunday when Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem is remembered. People shouted Hosanna which means Save Us. The people believed Jesus was the long awaited Messiah because of the miracles he had performed. His latest miracle was just a few days before coming to Jerusalem when he raised Lazarus from the dead and the news created great excitement. The people had waited a long time for the Messiah and they hoped Jesus was him.

The Jewish leaders feared Jesus’s popularity because he taught that Jewish laws were very restrictive and were not what God desired. Jesus broke the laws by healing on the sabbath and he ate with tax collectors and people who were considered undesirable. In anger, he turned over the tables in the outer court of the temple because the money changers cheated people. Jesus referred to them as a den of thieves. He did this on the first day he entered Jerusalem and the high priests were furious.

Throughout the week Jesus taught in the temple and was carefully watched. When he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane he stated that he had taught all week and wondered why they were now coming for him. He was taken before the Sanhedrin which was the Jewish court and found guilty of healing on the sabbath, threatening to destroy the Jewish Temple and claiming to be the Messiah. The Jewish council found Jesus guilty and turned him over to Pontius Pilate who said he found Jesus innocent, but that was not what the high priests wanted. They encouraged the crowd to cry for the crucifixion of Jesus instead of Barabbas who was a convicted murderer.

Jesus was flogged and was so weak he could not carry the cross beam to Golgotha Hill where he was crucified. He died after six hours on the cross. Thousands of people were crucified by the Romans and at one point 500 a day suffered in this way. It is interesting to note that no Roman citizen was ever crucified.

Jesus arose from the tomb and his death paid for the sins of the people. Animal sacrifices were no longer needed to gain God’s forgiveness because Jesus paid for our sins with his blood. Easter is Jesus’s resurrection and I thank God for his son.

More Miracles!

Nature’s miracles always delight me.

It always surprises me how small bulbs survive our cold winters and produce such lovely blossoms. I’m so happy the squirrels don’t dig up the crocus or daffodil bulbs; I can’t say that about my tulips. Those squirrels!

I heard from a couple people who shared their miracles after reading my last blog. One said it was a miracle her cancer was found early. Another said she thought it was a miracle the chemo worked and she is now cancer free. They both said they thank God every day. Years ago a friend told me her father’s tumor disappeared after people in his church prayed for him. He was scheduled for surgery and when he had the last scan he was told it was gone. He remained cancer free and died many years later.

Another story was someone who was in a car accident. She was pinned in the car and no one was around. Her phone just happened to land on her chest and she could reach it with her free hand and called 911. I love hearing the stories and I know there are many who ask why they haven’t received miraculous help or healing in response to their prayers. I too have asked that.

Last night we were given a beautiful rainbow. Rainbows are signs of hope and good things to come. For me it is a sign that God is watching over us. The news is so depressing that it’s difficult to watch, so seeing a rainbow is encouraging.

As spring brings reawakening plants, I’m thankful for these miracles of nature. I’m not so thankful for the sturdy weeds the stare at me proudly for surviving the winter. They are very resilient which I realize is a good quality to have in these challenging times. Look for the daily miracle and you will be uplifted!

Miracles Do Happen!

There is no such thing as an ordinary miracle.

I love reading and listening to people talk about miracles. Over the years I have heard of many. I just finished reading Sarah Bessey’s book Miracles and other Reasonable Things, and it inspired me to tell a miracle story of my own. It’s not as dramatic as Sarah’s healing, but I think people can relate to it and maybe see God’s hand in something that has happened to them.

About seventeen years ago, my husband and I were driving south from Carlisle in northern England to London after visiting friends. While at a rest stop, my wallet was stolen from my unzipped purse. It held one credit card, and both dollars and pounds. I didn’t discover this until we had driven for an hour. We had to return to the rest stop and make a police report and call to cancel my credit card.

For next four hours I prayed that my wallet would be found. When we arrived at the inn, I told my husband we needed to check the car again because I felt my wallet wasn’t lost. We did and found nothing. While carrying our bags into the inn, the proprietor asked if we were the Skinners. When we said yes she told me I had a phone call. “I have a phone call?” I asked in a stupor. It was Francis our friend in Carlisle who had received an email from my daughter. I stunned to say the least. This gets even more curious so stay with me.

I was to call the police station in Shropshire, England because they had my wallet. My daughter just happened to be at our house to feed the cat when a woman with an English accent called and told her she had found the wallet along the road while out walking and that I should call the Shropshire police. Jill immediately emailed Francis. It was amazing Francis read the email because for her checking email was a nighttime activity. She told me she had felt pushed to check it.

I called the police and was shocked to hear my credit card and money were still in the wallet. Nothing had been taken! The police would not give me the woman’s phone number, but Jill had written it down and I tried calling when we returned home. The number didn’t exist.

This would be in the category of ordinary miracle, but for me there is no such thing. Think of all the people involved in getting my wallet returned. It took a supreme being to orchestrate the timing of each person’s actions. I call it divine timing and the work of an angel. Prayer does work, and I would love for you to share your stories.

A Day to Show Love

Sometimes we just need to hear the words.

Memories of clutching my valentine box that I spent hours on still runs through my mind. It was the day that everyone in my class was my friend because I received a card from everyone. The teachers gave us lots of time to read each one, and I hope everyone felt special at least for a little while.

Valentine’s Day brightens the month of February and many people put hearts on their front doors and in my neighborhood some even have red lights on their bushes. We all have a need to celebrate, but we don’t need a special holiday to do that. Anytime we give a compliment brightens someone’s day.

I was listening to someone talk about the gift she was giving herself this Valentine’s Day. She said she was making a list of all the things people said they liked about her, and she was writing them on a big heart. Depression this winter has been an ongoing battle and she needed to give herself a boost. I found it sad that she needed other people’s comments to put on the card because she couldn’t think of anything she liked about herself to write.

That must make God sad that we don’t say I love how special you made me. He gave us so many gifts. The gift of music, intelligence, patience, or the ability to see beauty in someone or something every day are just a few. I sent my family valentines, but I need to take time and send God one. I’ll sign it with love and gratitude.

The Reason for the Season

Has baby Jesus been forgotten?

I love this simple drawing of the manger scene. It represents Christmas. There are are no Christmas trees, giant candy canes, red bows and no Santa Claus. Just baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph.

I’m a fan of Christmas Hallmark movies, but it would be nice if the people went to church on Christmas Eve. Instead they have parades, dances and concerts. Every movie has a Christmas tree lighting, a Santa, and an abundance of Christmas decorations in homes, businesses and even on the streets of the towns. However, I don’t see Nativity scenes in any of the decorations. Movie after movie has a similar theme and they all omit the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Some of the movies have miraculous events because as the characters say, Christmas is the time of miracles. The miracles in the movies can’t compare to the miracle of a shining star guiding wise men to a manger or angels telling shepherds that a child has been born and singing in celebration. When a wonderous event happens in the movie, no character thanks God. After all, he is the creator of miracles and should be given credit.

As I said, I do like watching Hallmark movies, but Jesus is never mentioned and he is Christmas, not Santa. Santa should be moved aside and Jesus be allowed to take center stage. After all, it is his birthday.

America’s History is filled with Goodness!

America was dedicated to God in 1607.

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.

My Favorite Place!

My garden brings me such joy!

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.

The Great Seducer!

Plants, plants, and more plants!

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.

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.