Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Don't be afraid! God is pleased with you, and you will have a son."

Today is the beginning of Advent: The Coming Of the Christ. This season leads up to the universal celebration of Jesus' Birth at Christmas.

Mary was a very young unmarried woman, perhaps even a teenager, when she learned that she was pregnant. In her culture this might be thought of as almost "ruining her life". But: immediately when she discovers she is going to have a baby, she is told that she is blessed and that this particular baby is God's Own Son. She is also told she will get support from her cousin Elizabeth, who is also expecting a miracle baby.

Because she is told that this pregnacy is a good event, she is able to let her natural feelings of joy bubble up with confidence.

When any woman, at any time, or any place, announces that she is pregnant, the first words she should hear, no matter what the situation, are excited congratulations of great joy. Because the baby who is born redeems the circumstances of his conception. Because the life this baby lives will redeem the circumstances into which he is born.

I usually prefer to read and quote from the King James Version of the Bible, but today I am going to post from the "Contemporary English Version" for this particular passage, because this version makes plain exactly what the situation was.

Luke 1:26-38 (Contemporary English Version)

An Angel Tells about the Birth of Jesus

26 One month later God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee
27 with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David.
28 The angel greeted Mary and said, "You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was confused by the angel's words and wondered what they meant.

30 Then the angel told Mary, "Don't be afraid! God is pleased with you,
31 and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was.
33 He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end."

34 Mary asked the angel, "How can this happen? I am not married!"

35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God's power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God.

36 Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son.
37 Nothing is impossible for God!"

38 Mary said, "I am the Lord's servant! Let it happen as you have said." And the angel left her.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Immigrants Holiday: Thanksgiving and The Original Melting Pot

The main historical storyline we celebrate is that of the pilgrims who came to Plymouth in search of religious liberty. Different factions of Christians were fighting each other in Europe at that time, and many people of new conservative beliefs sought refuge to live their faith in the ways their personal reading of the bible told them they should.

Many of these groups emigrated to the east coast of the United States, and formed one of several nuclei that would eventually lead to the founding of the first nation ever built from the ground up on Christian principles of liberty, equality, and faith.

We honor and remember those people, and why they came here - looking at the history as we have received it, rather than the new revisionist versions. To that, we can also expand our knowledge to learn about other thanksgiving feasts that were held during these early days.

Thanksgiving is called a secular holiday, but that does not mean God is not involved. The very word "Thanksgiving" means "Praying to God in Thanks". The very word "holiday" means " Holy Day". The reason it is called "secular" is because it was not a holiday mandated by a church or celebrating a specifically religious event. But it was and is no less a Holy Day of giving thanks to God.

The practice of offering a feasting day of Thanksgiving to God upon the arrival at a new land was a common practice of the Christians who explored and colonized America. These thanksgiving prayers and feasts were held by Catholics and Protestants alike, and where relationships had been established, all included the local native Indians as well as the travelers.

One of the earliest was held in what is now El Paso Texas. Don Juan de Onate led an expedition of soldiers and settlers along El Camino Real in a three month journey north through Mexico, crossing the Rio Grande and setting camp at El Paso. de Onate named the land "New Mexico" and claimed it in the name of Jesus Christ, and King Philip II of Spain. The feast of Thanksgiving was held on April 30 1598. It began with a Catholic Mass, and included ducks, geese and fish.

Other early feasts of thanksgiving to God for safe arrival include:

Captain John Woodlief's arrival in Virginia on December 4, 1619. This feast was planned before the group of settlers had left England, and was stated in their charter thusly: "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perputually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

Pedro Menendez de Aviles celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving on arrival with 400 people to Florida, in September 1565. The Timucua Indians brought those native American foods we call "the three sisters": corn, beans, squash, as well as game and shellfish and joined the thanksgiving celebration. The Spanish cooked a big pot of stew with pork and beans cooked with onions.

And there are many others. All brought what they had, and tried new foods, together. The act of surviving an ocean voyage was a lot to be grateful for, and still is. The arrival upon a new continent, with the prospect of a hopeful, happy, prosperous future stretching out before you is a lot to be thankful for.

That this sense of thankfulness was celebrated by combining food offerings from all of the cultures gathered together laid the groundwork for the melting pot society that America became. America still is the great melting pot, despite the best efforts of elitists to try to impose various class systems and "cultural" schemes on the ordinary people. We The People invariably rise above that.

Because not just the pilgrims, but all of the immigrants to the New World were seeking relief from the settled ways of their old country that doomed them and their children to persistent persecution, poverty and servitude. This has continued to be true throughout our history.

In America, now as then, there is no peerage, no royalty, no caste system, no serfdom.
In America, now as then, it does not matter where you came from or who your parents were or where you got your education.
In America, now as then,you can choose where you live and how you make your living.
In America, now as then, you can convert from one religion to another without permission from the government.

That's a lot to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

to merciful Him Whose only now is forever

i am a little church(no great cathedral)

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

ee cummings

Cummings was inspired to write this poem about the local church in the Madison, New Hampshire town where he lived. They say he was inspired by the sight of the overflowing crowds at church in a service of thanksgiving on VE Day 1945. The poem was first published in 1958.

The photo is one of the churches in my town, where the Church of Christ worships. I took it one morning recently, when the sunrise painted the sky from east to west.

Regular "going to church" envelopes us into a community of love and shared life that transcends the everyday world and brings us into focus on "the only now" that is forever.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Who said Owls? Hatching a New Collection

I've been on a bit of an owl kick lately. I didn't intend to collect them and will not admit that I do (so, family, please do not be buying me owls, because I have all I am going to have (and besides I only like certain ones)). But I have almost accidentally acquired a few really cute ones.

This pitcher is not marked, but I am guessing it is English, and probably dates from the turn of the last century or thereabouts. Maybe a little earlier. They look at you no matter the angle at which you view them. It was for sale in our shop for long enough that I couldn't stand it any more, and well, I mean, it's blue and white... flow blue, even!

This owl is Belleek, made in Ireland, with a green mark. He is a vase, and matches perfectly in our bedroom. For whatever reason, this little owl vase is not nearly so pricey as most Belleek.

Who could resist this little Beswick guy? Neither could I! Of course, he may end up being a sort of "cross collectible" because gosh now I keep thinking about one of Mrs Tiggywinkle.

This one is marked "c1988 H.D.C. Miller", and is numbered on the bottom. I don't know anything about this little sculpture of a brownie (I think he is a brownie, might be an elf or gnome - or even a leprechan with his red whiskers. where is my Field Guide To the Little People?) wearing an acorn cap for a hat, and his friend the owl sitting next to him. Isn't it sweet? If you are familiar with this artist, please share what you know!

Funny isn't it? How you pick up things you like from here and there, and one day realize you have a grouping of them. :-)

PS I nearly forgot: if you go here on eNature (link to the main site is on my sidebar), you can listen to the calls of many different kinds of owls, and learn more about the real birds.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Autumn Colors: Wooden Book Bindings

I had intended to write a post about autumn-themed book bindings. Time is short, the leaves are falling, but these pretty wood-bound books have a special place in any collection or library. They can also inspire us today, as we look to our own neighborhood for the things we want in our lives.

Most popular during WWII and the post-war period of the 1940s into the 1950s, this kind of binding gave heft to small editions of poetry and recipes. The wood was usually thin plywood, sanded smooth and given a coat of varnish or orange shellac (I love orange shellac) in the home workshop. As you can tell from the pictured examples, the hinges ranged from carefully worked copper to leather cord to metal rings. Covers would be decorated in a variety of methods, including wood burning, paint, stencil, and silk-screen.

The pages were often printed on a mimeograph or duplicating machine. In other cases, the printing was genuine letterpress - again frequently from a home print shop: either a hobby press, a home business, or perhaps a local printer whose main work would have been printing everything the town needed, including business cards and forms, stationery, books by local authors, and personalized Christmas cards.

"Geese Flying South" is a volume of poems by a local author from May, Texas. "Here's How" is a souvenier book of bartender's recipes from Asheville NC, and "Welcome Stranger" is a recipe book that was given out to newcomers who had just moved to Pompano Beach Florida.

The open book is a bound notebook that Mama made for my birthday. She and I had learned to sew these books together during one of my visits to her home. After she made the book, she pasted pressed flowers onto each page. The flowers were wild flowers she had gathered on a walk we took together when she was here visiting. Leafing through the book takes me through a full year of memories with her.

Whether it was a self-published book of poems, a small printer who printed and bound in his printshop on weekends, or the church cookbook that local craftsmen put together, this is just one more way in which people used to - and still can - rely on themselves and their neighbors to produce the things they needed, or wanted.

Imagine the possibilities if we stop wanting uniformity and recover our delight in our own handiwork and that of our neighbors!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rejoice! An Upcoming Wedding

We had some wonderful news this past week: Nick has proposed to Lani, and she said yes! So I have a new daughter on the way (they are planning for next autumn), and we are so happy.

Daughters-in-law are some of the best things about having sons. When the boys were little, I prayed only that my future daughters in law would like me. It never mattered whether I would like them, because I couldn't imagine *not* liking someone my boy loved. This is the heart of love isn't it? That we love the ones our loved ones love.

We've been blessed so much by these beautiful girls.  I should call them all "daughters in love" because we love them so, and they are part of our family forever after, no matter what.

Lani, welcome to the family! You and Nick are perfect for each other. We love you!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

God Bless Our Heros

We love you, all of you. May God forever bless your service and the sacrifices you and your families make for the cause of Liberty.

Pictured: our son and daughter in law: Marine DI Sgt Ethan Duncan Arguello and his lovely wife, Valerie, shortly after graduating a fine new class of Marines, Platoon 2038 , at Parris Island in June 2009. Midland Texas

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Empty Bowls" Event For Food Pantry

Good Samaritans Ministries, the local food pantry where we volunteer, partnered with Howard Payne University students to sponsor an "Empty Bowls" fundraising event last week. Local artists and potters made and donated bowls and local restaurants donated soup to fill them. People who attended the event got to keep their bowl, each one-of-a-kind.

I had first heard about Empty Bowls a few years ago and was excited one would be held here. I did not get to attend, but I sent a donation with a friend and she picked out a lovely pottery bowl for me.

For this event in Brownwood, 90% stayed local and a 10% tithe was given to Heifer International (even Christian Organizations practice tithing in grateful thanks for their blessings). I haven't heard the final totals yet, but know it was in the range of several thousand dollars raised!

Empty Bowls events raise money to fight hunger and increase food security. You can learn more here. They have a list of events so you can see if there is one coming up near you.

You could even help put together an event for your town. As unemployment climbs, local needs for food are also going to rise. The lovely thing about Empty Bowls is that it isn't a beaurocratic thing: you can host an event and have all the proceeds stay local, for your Salvation Army, Community Food Pantry or Angel Food Ministries or other local way of helping make sure everyone has enough to eat.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Faith and Algebra

It is hard to believe in something we’ve never heard of, in someone we’ve never known. Can a 5 year old believe in algebra? Can we love, really love for life, a person we’ve never met?

Why do you believe in algebra, anyway?

Why do you believe that love exists?

Do you believe a butterfly can travel thousands of miles to a place it has never been?

If we creatures can’t even believe in other creatures without having heard, being taught, why would we not put at least as much effort into our education about God ?

"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

"For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Romans 10:10, 11, 14, 17 (King James Version)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Green Tomatoes, Winter Ripening and Chow Chow

Our neighbor - the one who grows amazing amounts of tomatoes in his yard and sells them wholesale - came in to where I work today . He asked about my garden and I told my tale of woe, that I didn't make tomatoes either at home or in my borrowed garden plot.

The vines looked good but most didn't fruit and those that did had poor quality. I told him I am going to try once more next year, and do things differently. He shared some tips with me, including the variety he likes best (Carnival), and to be sure and water every single day. He cages his, which I have not been doing but will do next year. And he told me not to put plastic under them as it will get too hot.

I bought a couple of flats of green tomatoes from him. Some of these green tomatoes I am going to store for ripening. My friend wraps each one in newspaper, and puts them in a single layer in a soda flat and stores them under a bed. She said she just took them out as needed, and each one ripened, and they all kept until they used the last of them in February.

Our neighbor said he has the best luck storing the ones that have gotten closer to beginning to ripen, that have turned a bit yellow-green, while the dark green ones don't keep as well.

One flat of the small, hard green tomatoes, I am going to use to make Chow-Chow. I do have my own onions and bell peppers for it, and I would have had to buy the cabbage anyway. I think the tomatoes will qualify as "local" since they were grown within 50 yards of the house! Heh! With luck I will be able to do that on Wednesday evening. Yum, I can't wait!

Dec 28th: Edited to add a link to the follow up post. Click here to check out how the green tomatoes are doing after two months of storage.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

Dear Father, we remember today our loved ones who have gone before from life. Through Jesus Christ, we have hope to see them again in Heaven.

Mama Myrt
Big Grandmother
Little Grandmother
Gina Sue

And all those we have known or not known whose lives and faith and work have touched us, whether as kin or friend. For those whose prayers long ago helped our lives today. For those whose prayers and sacrifices today give hope to our futures. For those whom we are blessed to offer prayers for.

We cannot love them enough, but God can, and does, and will forever.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

In any readers would like to add your departed loved ones, please feel free to do so in the comments. No last names are needed, Jesus knows about whom you are speaking.


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