Friday, December 30, 2011

Incandescent Light Bulbs, and What Went Before

Why do incandescent light bulbs matter so much?  There are many reasons our government should never ever have ventured to ban these miraculous Edisonian inventions, not least of which is that they embody, in the history of their invention, in the way they changed our world, all that is best about the modern, industrial, fossil-fueled, coal-powered, broad-shouldered, optimistic, brightly-lit, global Age of Western Civilization.

Rita, who lived in my house during WWII, in the 1940's, told me it was the first house her family had ever lived in that had electricity. They had always lived on a farm, and the rural electrification project still had a long way to go before completion. She said her mother hurried to get it connected. When her father came home from work the first day, he took a match to light the kerosene lamp that sat in the center of the table in the kitchen. But her mother said "Wait. Look." and reached up, and pulled the chain that turned on the bare bulb that hung from the ceiling. An incandescent bulb, that lit the entire kitchen. Compared to the old kerosene lamp, it looked like the sun.

If you ever wondered what people did at night before electricity, what it was like to eat supper by lamplight, to study by an oil lamp, these photos were taken by the Works Project Administration (WPA) in about 1939, in Oklahoma, in a setting and house very similar to what our little "Cottage at Pecan Corner" was like at the time.

This is what the world was like before the incandescent light bulb. And what it will be like again without oil, coal, incandescent bulbs, and working power plants.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fear Not! For Unto You is Born in Bethlehem A Savior, Which is Christ the Lord

Luke 2:10-20 (KJV)

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Endorsements For Rick Perry

One of my favorite bloggers, Pat Austin of "And So it Goes in Shreveport" (or "SIGIS" for short), has endorsed my presidential candidate: Rick Perry. She also has a round up post, "Rick Perry For President: A SIGIS Endorsement" of other blogs that have endorsed the staunchly pro-life, pro-jobs, conservative (both social and fiscal) Texan's candidacy. Go see her whole post to access links to the others.

I've posted before about Perry (even long before he was considering entering this race). A primary reason that I feel so strongly about him at this stage in our national life is that he provides consistent governance - not the foolish hobgoblin type, but the kind of consistency that happens when ones' convictions run so deep they are simply a part of life. The kind of consistency that drives heroes to choose the right instincts to follow. The kind of consistency that understands the difference between "innocent" and "not guilty". The kind of consistency that leads him to promote each state's right to determination even in those issues where he might have personal feelings. The kind of consistency that leads him to accept the will of the people.

Within that consistency is his comprehension that liberty means we should have the right to make our own decisions about things like a jar of Plum Jelly or a loaf of bread. It also means Perry agrees that we ought to have a right to make our own jobs if we want, instead of sitting back and waiting for the unemployment dole.

Among the legislation Rick Perry signed this past session was a small bill that hasn't gotten much attention, but it is the kind of thing that is a good example of how Texas, and Rick Perry, promote individual liberty and individual initiative: The Texas Cottage Food Law.

This bill, sponsored by a Democrat and championed by both parties in both the House and the Senate, allows people to sell baked goods and jellies directly from their home. This means I can have a home bakery business with no need for a commercial kitchen, no inspections or licenses required.

The Cottage Food Law means I can start a bread business just like Mrs Baird did in the 1900s, just like so many of our historic companies got their start.  Or I could make wedding cakes, or sell my famous pear preserves or peach marmalade or fresh tortillas.

And the government won't come arrest me for selling my baked goods. (of course we choose not to live where a homeowner's association can have power over us, but those who do have voluntarily surrendered their liberty - that's a post for another day).

This is the kind of common sense lawmaking and proper bi-partisan effort that we have come to expect from Rick Perry to free us all from government overreach, and Americans can expect him to bring this same kind of wisdom to Washington.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

No Taxes Required: Ramp Building and Fundraising the Old Fashioned, Genuine Grassroots Way

I wrote most of this post a couple of months ago, and fiddled around and never posted it. But Dr. Mabuse has a post up on Kraalspace that needs to be seen, about helping our neighbors ourselves, instead of relying on the government. It's a chilling reminder of how learned helplessness can become the order of the day, one tiny relinquishment at a time. Of how well-meaning committees inevitably engineer inescapable tyranny in reality. Of the good intentions that pave the road to hell.

In Dr Mabuse's post "Government Goliath, Local Davids", a man who went to hospital, had a leg amputated, and couldn't come home because his house didn't have a ramp, and the government agency tasked with paying for building ramps kept turning him down. So like Charlie on the MTA, he had to live at the hospital while waiting for Uncle Sugar to build his ramp. Until some good citizens got word of his plight, and in one weekend, built a ramp for his house.

A similar, but different thing happened two years ago in my little town.
A family man (with a child still in high school) lost his leg to complications of diabetes. Here's where his story differs from the one Doc shares: as soon as the surgery was scheduled, the Baptist Church sent out a flyer that the men of our town would meet at his house the next Saturday morning to build him a ramp.

And you know who built that ramp? The OLD MEN. Our young men are busy - they serve as our Volunteer firemen, coach little league, sit on the school board, and a host of other things. But our 70 and 80 year olds don't let any grass grow under their feet either. By the end of the day, the ramp was completed, and a good time was had by all. Just because it needed to be done.

It's just sad that the man Dr Mabuse writes about didn't have neighbors or a church to jump in and help him sooner, but ultimately it was people in his local community who took care of meeting his need. And that is how it should be.

From the post I started earlier, here are some more examples of how people take care of each other, and meet local needs, without government involvement or permission.

We went to a lot of fun local events this fall. Some were fairs where we were able to support local crafters, some were organizations doing fundraising, and  a couple were pure benefits for local individuals.

The town birthday celebration in October was a hoot. It started with a pancake breakfast to pay for new pew cushions in the Methodist church (they raised enough to "cover" the cost and then some).

The tractor show hinted at a distinct preference for "poppin' johnnies" all in their original John Deere green. I guess Farmall must not have been big around here.

We bought several pounds of stone-ground corn meal from this vendor with his old timey mill. The power source was simple and ingenous: a series of car batteries along the front side of the wagon.

We bought things from vendors who had booths set up: crafts, food, pretties.
We visited with neighbors, stuck money in the Volunteer Fire Department's "boot" (again), introduced our bunch and met new people.

The next weekend, we went to our church's Fall Festival & Car Show.   We ate barbeque, bought an amazing wall cross from a local man who makes things out of discarded tools, and picked out our favorite vintage jitneys.

Here, a home-made Carnival benefits a Christian K-12 school (and a winning 6-man football team).

This "Rattlesnake Roundup" game is perfect for Texas.

First the girl would toss the rubber snakes into the bag, then use the special snake-catching tool to grab them & take them out of the sack! It would be a more difficult game (and more realistic) if you had to use the "snake tongs" to throw them in, too.

Speaking of snakes, we saw this non-poisonous one playing dead and looking all dehydrated on Main Street outside the Lions Club BBQ Dinner & Auction. He stayed very still until he thought we weren't looking any more, then he took a deep breath and slithered away.

The dinner was great - it raised money toward the scholarships this group gives to local students each year, toward eye exams & new glasses and for Christmas food boxes for people whose hard work doesn't stretch far enough.
The auction raised a similar amount to directly help a local family that's in need right now.

We wrapped up a week or two later with a fish fry to benefit a hardworking young family in our midst. The father has cancer, and he's unable to work right now. This will help tide them over. They are good people and their neighbors love them - even the ones who don't know them.

Who benefited from all these things? Everyone. Everyone's kids or grandkids are eligible for those scholarships. Our VFD is here and prepared when we need them. Everyone will gather in the church on Christmas Eve. Everyone knows we could count on this community if we needed them: nobody who's done their part when they were able would be forgotten.

All in all, lives will be better for this community's generous heart.

And it was all done in fun and love. With no mandates, and no taxes, and no demands, and no protests. And no fraud, and no graft, and no entitlements.

Because that's how life works in a stable, healthy, Christian, traditional, American community.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mincemeat Cake: Can You Believe You'll Want Seconds?

Even the last gasp of mincemeat – mince pies – are going out of fashion. What a shame we have lost touch with this old standby that dates back to the Roman Empire at the time of Christ, once packed in gallon-size wooden firkins by companies that specialized solely in making mincemeat.  True mincemeat originally contained beef as well as fruits, nuts and spices (Borden's Nonesuch Brand still does). It was a high protein preserved food.

The tradition of mince pies at Christmas goes way back, and they were once made in the shape of a manger. Given that the recipe continued to be used from Biblical times until now, it's a good food to put on your list for "foods of the Bible" - even if it wasn't mentioned in the bible, the Apostle Paul certainly could have eaten mincemeat while he was in Rome.  And incredibly, mincemeat even played a part in America's battle for freedom of religion, being banned (along with Christmas) by Oliver Cromwell in England and some Puritans in the Colonies as "too Catholic".  Just like the traditional American foods of Thanksgiving  really mean something important to America's way of life and freedom to worship, so, too, does eating mincemeat  at Christmas time. 

I miss mince meat pies at Christmas time. My dad's father, "Pawpaw", used to make them. He had been a cook for the Santa Fe Railroad track crews, and his pies were top notch.  The trouble is, every mincemeat pie I've tasted in my adulthood was like fruitcake: one piece is all I can enjoy. The flavor is overpowering.

But now I've found a solution. This Mincemeat Mayonnaise Cake is perfect. It uses one cup of mincemeat, so the flavor blends gently throughout the cake. With a thin cream cheese, frosting, it delights the tastebuds - and our taste for nostalgia!

It's an easy cake to make, but it takes a long time: it must bake for two hours! So start it when you have the evening at home. It is moist and dense, so it also keeps very well. You can make it days in advance and refrigerate it, icing on the day you plan to serve it.

Mincemeat Mayonnaise Cake

3 cups flour
1½ cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1½ cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
2 T orange marmalade or 1 T grated orange rind
1 T rum flavoring
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mincemeat, reconstituted according to package directions (or half a jar if you are using Borden's Nonesuch brand in the jar)
1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together. Blend buttermilk and mayonnaise and gradually add flour mixture, stirring well. Mix in marmalade, vanilla and rum flavoring, then add mincemeat and walnuts.

Grease a 9” tube pan and line with greased parchment or waxed paper. If using a 2-part pan, set it on a sheet pan to catch oil that may will seep out through the bottom seam as the mixture heats up and drip onto the oven.  Bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours.  Turn out onto a plate and allow to cool.

A rather thin cream cheese frosting is good on this, or you could spread slices with cream cheese for a lovely breakfast treat.   

Here's my recipe for the frosting:
½ bag of powdered sugar
3 ounces (1/2 a carton) of cream cheese
½ cup whipping cream or milk
½ tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

The one pictured is the one I made last night for our Christmas. I'll carry it up to Irving and ice it when we get there.  It will be fun to tell the grandkids they are eating cake with beef in it! LOL!
Wishing a Merry and Blessed Christmas to you and yours.  Thank you for reading my blog, and for spending your precious time here at Pecan Corner. May 2012 be a very good year for us all! :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

British PM David Cameron : "We are a Christian country. If We Don't Stand For Something, We Can't Stand Against Anything.

Courtesy of Richard Fernandez' Belmont Club article "David Casts His Stone",  here are portions of the transcript of David Cameron's speech on the King James Bible, in which he takes to task all the Sunday Christians in the United Kingdom, including the Archmage Archbishop of Canterbury, for their denial of Christ through denying His Church, which is the body of believers throughout the world and all of history.

Read, and rejoice:

"But I am proud to stand here and celebrate the achievements of the King James Bible.
Not as some great Christian on a mission to convert the world.
But because, as Prime Minister, it is right to recognise the impact of a translation that is, I believe, one of this country's greatest achievements.
The Bible is a book that has not just shaped our country, but shaped the world.
And with 3 Bibles sold or given away every second...
...a book that is not just important in understanding our past, but which will continue to have a profound impact in shaping our collective future.
[I ]am a committed - but I have to say vaguely practising - Church of England Christian, who will stand up for the values and principles of my faith...
...but who is full of doubts and, like many, constantly grappling with the difficult questions when it comes to some of the big theological issues.
But what I do believe is this.
The King James Bible is as relevant today as at any point in its 400 year history.
And none of us should be frightened of recognising this."

Praise God. But wait, Mr. Cameron is not finished yet:

"...just as our language and culture is steeped in the Bible, so too is our politics.
From human rights and equality to our constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy...
...from the role of the church in the first forms of welfare provision, to the many modern day faith-led social action projects...
...the Bible has been a spur to action for people of faith throughout history, and it remains so today.
Third, we are a Christian country.
And we should not be afraid to say so.
...[ I ]am also incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make our country stronger.But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.
Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.
The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option.
You can't fight something with nothing.
Because if we don't stand for something, we can't stand against anything."

This is the kind of truth we must demand from our leaders in the USA, as well.  At Christmas time, he points to Christianity as the fundamental cause of the birth of human liberty, equality and freedom in the world:

"The Bible runs through our political history in a way that is often not properly recognised....
Jesus said: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
And yet at the same time, the Judeo-Christian roots of the Bible also provide the foundations for protest and for the evolution of our freedom and democracy.
The Torah placed the first limits on Royal Power.
And the knowledge that God created man in his own image was, if you like, a game changer for the cause of human dignity and equality.
In the ancient world this equity was inconceivable.
...[A]nd when every human being is of equal and infinite importance, created in the very image of God...
...we get the irrepressible foundation for equality and human rights...
...a foundation that has seen the Bible at the forefront of the emergence of democracy, the abolition of slavery...
...and the emancipation of [women]....
[T]he Putney debates in the Church of St Mary the Virgin in 1647 saw the first call for One Man, One vote...
...and the demand that authority be invested in the House of Commons rather than the King.
[T]he Bible provides a defining influence on the formation of the first welfare state.In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says that whatever people have done "unto one of the least of these my brethren"...
... they have done unto him.
Just as in the past it was the influence of the church that enabled hospitals to be built, charities created, the hungry fed, the sick nursed and the poor given shelter... today faith based groups are at the heart of modern social action."

And finally:

"The Bible has helped to shape the values which define our country.
Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, "we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible."
Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love...
...pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities...
...these are the values we treasure.
Yes, they are Christian values.
And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that.

First, those who say being a Christian country is doing down other faiths...
...simply don't understand that it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity.
Many people tell me it is much easier to be Jewish or Muslim here in Britain than it is in a secular country like France.
[B]ecause the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths too.
...[S]hying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality...
...has actually helped to cause some of the social problems that lie at the heart of the lawlessness we saw with the riots.
The absence of any real accountability, or moral code...
...allowed some bankers and politicians to behave with scant regard for the rest of society.
And when it comes to fighting violent extremism, the almost fearful passive tolerance of religious extremism that has allowed segregated communities to behave in ways that run completely counter to our values...
... has not contained that extremism but allowed it to grow and prosper...

"Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong.
"Live and let live" has too often become "do what you please".
Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles.
To be confident in saying something is wrong... not a sign of weakness, it's a strength.
But we can't fight something with nothing.
As I've said if we don't stand for something, we can't stand against anything."
Be sure and read the entire speech at It is wonderful.

Mr Cameron and Rick Perry will certainly find plenty to talk about during their respective State visits, after Governor Perry moves into the White House.

And I bet the two of them will find it easy to restore the special friendship between our two countries who share our history, our culture, and our religion.

Monday, December 12, 2011

On Prayer: Two New Helps

I subscribe to daily emailed devotionals from David Wilkerson Today, and also link to the ministry from my sidebar. Pastor Wilkerson died following a car accident earlier this year, but his messages continue to inspire through ongoing ministry in his footsteps.  The one for today tells us about the "spirit of prayer". Here's a portion:

 "God is showing me that even the desire and inclination to pray must come from the Holy Spirit. Now my dilemma is this: God has promised to pour out a Spirit of supplication on His church, and I want to be a part of the genuine move of God. So, how can I make sure I receive this outpouring?

The answer is in Zechariah 10:1: “Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone” (Zechariah 10:1).

We must ask the Lord for this Spirit of supplication! The flashing clouds in this verse speak of "lightning, thunderstorms." God has promised to give us showers! He is telling us in Zechariah, "Ask and I will give you this burden from heaven. But you must seek it from Me!" It is time we started asking the Lord, "O God, pour your Holy Spirit on me that I may learn to pray! Open up the fountain. Let me be a part of Your final harvest!"

Once His Spirit of supplication showers down upon you, you will find yourself praying for holiness, godliness, purity. You will intercede for your lost loved ones and weep over this dying world. But you have to ask the Holy Spirit to do it in you—and then trust Him!"
Also, Pastor Duane Sheriff of Duane Sheriff Ministries is preaching an excellent new series on prayer, with instruction that may be helpful to learn more about kinds of prayer and methods. To find it, go to the home page (also linked from my sidebar) and scroll down to links to Audio, MP4 Video, and Text Notes versions. Here are the audio links:

Lord Teach Us To Pray II - 1, "Different Kinds of Prayer"
Lord Teach Us To Pray II - 2, "Prayer of Faith"
Lord Teach Us to Pray II - 3, "Prayer of Dedication"

It will eventually be a 6-part series.

For those who struggle with talking to our Father, this kind of practical material can help us find our own voice for crying Holy to our Lord.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When They Call Fox America's News HQ....

They aren't kidding:

The big flat-screen television in this busy Mexican restaurant in Central Texas is prominently visible from every table, has closed captioning turned on in English, and is always turned on to Fox News (well, except when there's a Cowboys game on!). It's the same in hundreds of other places all across this great state. Come have a bowl of menudo  - or a burger with "Freedom Fries" - some Saturday, or any other day, and you'll find the place full of pro-life, Christian, conservatives of all kinds of backgrounds, many of whom think our governor is going to be the kind of president we need to haul our country back from the abyss that ancient Rome fell into.

And that Mexican flag on the wall, on the other side of the American flag? Doesn't mean what liberals have co-opted it to mean. It means people are proud of who they are and love their country: the United States of America. Where-ever our parents or grandparents came from, all Americans are alike in this respect: the US flag comes FIRST. Is it only Texans who understand this? It has never been a question here.

Medal of Honor Heroes Speak Up About Their Candidate: Rick Perry

There's a full 7 minute version, including these heroes' stories, at Rick Perry for President.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Update: Walter Reed Military Hospital's Religion Policy

Whoever is leading Walter Reed's PR team in handling communication for this issue deserves praise. Placing regular up-front full-text updates about it on the WRNMMC home page is a wise and unusual move. Here's the latest such announcement:

We are in the process of rewriting our policy and would like to offer the following statement:

Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded. We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.

Please know that at admission, all patients are asked for their religious preference and a chaplain associated with their preference visits them regularly to provide spiritual services. In addition, their families may also bring religious material and we will not refuse any religious group entrance.

WRNMMC provides multiple venues at WRMNMC for religious expression and worship. There is daily Catholic Mass as well as Protestant, Hindu, and Muslim services. Eucharist is also available at the bedside. There are weekly Torah studies, multiple weekly Christian bible studies, as well as weekly Qur'an study. Furthermore, chaplains coordinate spiritual needs for those whose faith groups are not represented by staff chaplains (such as Latter-Day Saints, Buddhist, and Christian Scientist).

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center remains committed to supporting the religious preferences of all our patients and we will continue to ensure their spiritual needs are met

So far, so good. Much better than how this disaster started out.  

BTW, trivia I meant to include in yesterday's post: it is no accident that the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is located in a town named Bethesda, Maryland. Bethesda is a Biblical word translating as "House of Mercy", and was the name of a healing pool located in Jerusalem where Jesus performed one of His miracles, healing a man who had been crippled for 38 years. The pool, and the event, was described in the book of John 5:2-16.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

UPDATE to US Military Bans Bibles and Christianity. Again.

Following the public revelation on the floor of the House of Representatives that Chief of Staff Callahan of Bethesda, Maryland's National Military Medical Center had issued a memo that banned Bibles along with homemade cookies: "No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.",  the PR folks went to work quickly to announce they would make the policy "crystal clear".  Uh huh.

Today, the following partial statement is appearing on the home page of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center website:

    Thank you for your interest in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
    We apologize for any confusion that resulted from our policy. In no way was the instruction meant to prohibit family members from providing religious items to their love ones. The intent of the instruction was to respect the religious and cultural practices of all of our patients. We are drafting a new instruction that will clearly articulate our respect for religious and cultural practices of all of our patients and families.

    Again, we regret any confusion that this might have caused and we thank you for your support of our Warriors and their families.

    On behalf of the Command...

 The statement is unlinked,  and unattributed, and I am unable to find a copy of the full statement on the website.It just trails off with "On behalf of the Command...". So no one has yet to take any personal responsibility for either the policy or the apology.

I find this statement is disingenuous, considering the explicit detail, definitrion, and citation of rationale for every other item in the policy memo, including stating why homemade apple pies can't be brought in. What I suspect happened is that after the memo had been written and vetted through most of the normal process, someone angry over some single event somewhere stuck this in as an afterthought and didn't want to mess with sending it back through the chain of approvals so proceeded as though it had been part of the document all along.

Just for the sake of the record, here's an abbreviated version of the memo. Go here for the full PDF.

Ref: (a) NAVMED Policy Memo 10-015

1. Purpose. To provide guidelines with respect to the presence and participation of families and other partners in care. This document replaces the hospital's previous visitation policies for...[active duty patients].

4. Policy. ...[F]amilies are considered partners within the health care team ...

6. ...[V]isits include the following partners in care:
a. Family
b. Leadership of Title 36 congressionally chartered Organizations
c. Members of the: [government]
e. Celebrities and sports personnel vetted through the Staff Judge Advocate
f. Members of the press vetted through the Public Affairs office
g. Other partners in care who represent....the [VFW], American Legion, Fleet Reserve Association, Marine Corps League, Army League, and other similar organizations...
h. Leadership of the Military Coalition and National Military Veterans Alliance.
i. Out of town visitors...
j. Partners in care representing verifiable 501(c)(3) benevolent organizations wishing to interact...or provide goods or services... [These] will not be allowed unfettered access to the inpatient environment for the purposes of information gathering, solicitation, or donation delivery. (1) All donations...[require] approved processes, vetting methods, accountability...

7. Exceptions. [Patients may refuse visitors at any time.

8. Partners in Care Guidelines
a. All non-family visits must be scheduled five days in advance.
b. Group size will not exceed five.
c. All partners in care, under the age of 8, must be accompanied by an adult.
d. Photographs may not be taken...without express permission and signed Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act documentation... signed by the patient or PNOK [Primary Next Of Kin] if patient is incapacitated....
e. Due to dietary restrictions and infectious disease protocols, the distribution of home produced baked goods to the patients, families, or staff members is prohibited.
f. No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.

9. Release of Patient Information. All patient information will be released in accordance with reference (a).

C.W. Callahan
Chief of Staff

Distribution: WRNMMC Intranet

The original policy actually does make "crystal clear" that families are numbered among "partners in care", that patients can refuse visits at any time, that all non-famliy visitors have to be approved in advance - and their gifts have to be approved in advance too. So why the need to call out the Bible specifically, without mentioning the Book of Mormon, or the koran, or the Bhagavad-Gita? Why call out the Bible and related items without specifying WHY or offering alternatives, as every other matter itemized in the policy does? As I said above, I think this was a last minute addition to the policy by someone with an agenda.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Persecution in America: US Bureaucrats Ban Christianity. Again. And Get Away With It. Again.

Christianity is not a "faith tradition", it is a religion: the largest, most widespread religion in the world, and globally, it is growing. It is growing through conversion by freedom of choice because Christ offers hope and freedom to everyone: true liberty that fuels joy, peace, democracy, science, abundance, compassion.

Christianity is the only religion of truth and life. There is no other. To believe Jesus is the Son of God, who was born, was crucified, died, who rose to real, physical life again: to believe this requires following His final directive, the only commandment He gave after His resurrection: to "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature."

Preaching the Gospel is the central action of our faith, no matter what our denomination,and was commanded by Jesus. The word "proselytizing" is an inappropriate negative, and is not descriptive of or a synonym for,

Jesus does not attempt to force anyone to believe in Him and neither do Christians. But to follow Jesus means that we speak the Truth, that we ask our Father God to bless those who do not believe, that we tell them the Good News, so they have the opportunity to make their choice.

Recently, the Navy, following the US Army's lead in banning Bibles and forbidding Christian practice and faith by our soldiers, and following up the VA's ban on praying to God and Jesus at the Houston National Cemetery of this summer, decided to push the envelope further and ban Bibles and anything related to Christianity from being read to, used or given to wounded veterans in Walter Reed hospital. Here's a PDF of the original memo from C.W. Callahan, Chief of Staff. The ban is hidden at the very end, right after a ban on homemade cookies: "No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."

It is persecution to compel a Christian to forego mentioning our faith in ANY task we do, whether we are at work or play, on the street or in a public building, an employee or a volunteer or a client.

Unelected bureaucrats are violating the LAW and the Constitution of the United States of America if they  try to forbid, limit, or control Christian expressions or statements of faith, worship, or study are forbidden. The courts have consistently upheld our right to not only believe but to teach our beliefs.

And those of us who do what we are told, and obey such directives, are denying our Lord Jesus Christ, as surely as Peter did, out of fear.

I am guilty. I have had opportunities - in the recent as well as distant past - to stand up quietly for Christianity's place in the workplace, and I didn't. I've had chances to witness that I didn't take because I was afraid of being embarrassed or of being chastised.

I am a "by the book" kind of person, and I follow rules. Like other civilized people all over the world, I tend to do what I am told by people in authority. Fundamental Christian tenets ask us to love others in truth, to be gentle and compassionate in how we talk about our faith, how we share the Gospel.  But I have used that respect for others and my need to be liked and to "be nice" as an excuse for conforming to the world instead of conforming to God.

There was a time when we could get by on just being nice, because we could trust our elected representatives, our bosses and the people who work in government to uphold our rights as Christians to believe and express our faith. But no more. More and more, we see that many of those in positions of authority are abusing their positions and giving orders that mistreat Christians, acting at the behest of the intolerant shrill to give priority to novelty cults and abusive cultures, and are trying to force Christians into the closet.

I keep a Bible at work. I always have. It isn't there for preaching, but for me to read - especially for comfort when I am anxious. There's always something in the workplace to be anxious about, no matter what our job, and reading, remembering, the Word of the Lord can help so much.

I don't know how I might react if I were ordered to remove the Bible from my desk at work.  I am afraid I might meekly comply: taking my Bible home and living with greater anxiety, justifying my inaction by the perceived need to keep my job and pay my bills, and forgetting that God has promised to take care of me and all my needs, and that He always has.

I pray and hope that faith could overcome fear.

Please Father God, give me strength to put You first: to obey all laws but those that deny You. Please give me courage to be faithful in these little things. Grant that my daily life can help proclaim the Gospel of Your Son Jesus, the Christ, that others may meet Him and that Your Will be done on earth just as it is in Heaven.

UPDATE Tuesday, Dec 6th: Please see the updated post  for latest information on this matter. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Code of Ethics for Government Service

Code of Ethics for Government Service

House Document 103, 86th Congress, 1st Session - Passed by the Congress of the United States on July 11, 1958.


I. Put loyalty to the highest moral principles above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department.

II. Uphold the Constitution, laws, and legal regulations of the United States and of all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion.

III. Give a full day's labor for a full day's pay; giving to the performance of his duties his earnest effort and best thought.

IV. Seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished.

V. Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not; and never accept, for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties.

VI. Make no private promises of any kind binding upon the duties of office, since the Government employee has no private word which can be binding on public duty.

VII. Engage in no business with the Government, either directly or indirectly, which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his governmental duties.

VIII. Never use any information coming to him confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means for making private profit.

IX. Expose corruption wherever discovered.

X. Uphold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust.


Public Law 96-303
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 34, Volume 1]
[Revised as of January 1, 2008]




Appendix to Part 73--Code of Ethics for Government Service

Any person in Government service should:

~ Put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department.

~ Uphold the Constitution, laws, and regulations of the United States and of all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion.

~ Give a full day's labor for a full day's pay; giving earnest effort and best thought to the performance of duties.

~ Seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished.

~ Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not; and never accept, for himself or herself or for family members, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of governmental duties.

~ Make no private promises of any kind binding upon the duties of office, since a Government employee has no private word which can be binding on public duty.

~ Engage in no business with the Government, either directly or indirectly, which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of governmental duties.

~ Never use any information gained confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means of making private profit.

~ Expose corruption wherever discovered.

~ Uphold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust.

(This Code of Ethics was unanimously passed by the United States
Congress on June 27, 1980, and signed into law as Public Law 96-303 by
the President on July 3, 1980.)


There followed years of squabbling over the requirement to actually display this code of ethics in public buildings. Those who didn't want to meet these expectations finally won out when the display requirement was summarily repealed in 1996.

But as far as I can tell, the code itself remains a part of the Law of the Land. Perhaps it is time that both houses of Congress pass it unanimously again, and renew the display requirement.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Mr. Cain

Dear Mr. Cain,

In the Methodist Church basement last night, a bipartisan group of older Texas ladies decided that we do not care who any candidate for President sleeps with. Or actual President for that matter. We are not interested. What we are interested in is the actual issues that affect the whole country. We expect the President to do his job without regard to his outside activities. And one of those jobs is cutting Federal spending.

Now, we probably aren't all fans of yours. We were too polite (and separated by political chasms) to discuss, there in the basement, which candidates we might support.  BUT whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, we do agree on those two points.

We would suggest that you, and other candidates, refrain from allowing the ridiculous "news media" to determine who We the People get to vote for. The only polls that will tell you whether the voters want you or anyone else to represent us, are the voting booths on election day.

I do not normally blog about things we discuss in church gatherings, so we won't mention any names or places, but I would be surprised if this opinion isn't also shared by many other "bipartisan groups" around the country.


"Concerned Voter"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We Occupied Our Own Home For Thanksgiving Dinner

What a nice day. It was a day to be thankful for. God has blessed us so abundantly. I hope we always remember to appreciate the blessings each moment carries for us.

It was just the two of us, but we cooked the full meal. I gathered some shrubbery and weeds for "flowers" for the table. We talked on the phone to all the various family strewn far and wide. Paul watched the Dolphins pull defeat out of the hat again. I took a nap! We cleaned up the kitchen together and the dishwasher is running. We just wrapped up with pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

I have a set of Lenox china. It's a plain pattern with no decoration but a simple platinum rim. So I pick up odd pieces here and there for variety. Since Lenox uses its distinctive "American Beleek" china as the base for all wares, it's easy - and beautiful - to mix & match.

I found (aka bought) this neat set of Bicentennial plates marked "Courtesy of the Delaware Fund", and used them today. There are four of them: one pictures Independence Hall, another Delaware's Old State House, another the Frigate United States "The Old Wagon".

And then there's this one. This plate pictures the New York Stock Exchange, on Wall Street.  Heh.

The irony was delicious, but not as delicious as Paul's turkey!

We are thankful today. Thankful to occupy our own home. Thankful to live in America. Thankful to have family and friends. Thankful that Jesus Christ came and died, and rose again, to give us the only real hope there is: the hope of eternal life with our Father God.

I hope that the sincere remnant who are taking part in the "Occupy" marketing campaign will someday know the kind of appreciation and gratefulness that comes of earning one's way past the debts & unemployment & low wages that young people in all eras struggle with.

It's a beautiful world, and life is worth the effort and work that a good life requires.

May God bless you and yours with grateful hearts this season.

Here's the Bible passage Paul used for today:

"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
... Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name
I Chronicles 29:11-13 (NIV)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Message From the 99th Percentile to "the 99 per cent": Occupy Bagram

Heh. Found this on Facebook. Reportedly was taken on Bagram AFB, Afghanistan:

 Thankful for men like these, this week and every week, in the land of the free!

* The "99th percentile" refers to the top 1 percent - one person out of a hundred - and is commonly used by high IQ societies to describe their membership.  About 1% of Americans are currently serving in the military. On the other hand, "We are the 99 per cent" is the catchy-but-inaccurate slogan of a leftist political coalition's marketing campaign that uses 1960s "sit-in" tactics and stipendary protesters to "Occupy" various high profile locations.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not Only the Icelanders: Translating Praise Music from 1500 Years Ago, and the Future of Printed Books

It's often told that in the most literate society in the world, Iceland, readers can still understand books written in Icelandic 800 years ago. It is impressive and admirable that their ancient texts, the Sagas and Eddas, remain accessible to allow the average person opportunity to read and decipher for themselves.

But perhaps literate speakers of English have the same ability, mostly yet untried.

Accidentally, today, in surfing around the web, I came across a reference to the oldest identified Anglo-Saxon poet, Caedmon.  Caedmon worked in a Monastery, tending to the animals. He could not read, and sang so badly that when everyone got together for the 8th century's version of karioke, he left the room. One night, he had a dream, in which an angel asked him to sing - and he sang a new song. Upon waking, he remembered the verses and spent the rest of his life turning scripture into Praise music.

I went looking for more info, including a different translation and came upon one that also gave the original text.

Well. You know how it is. Once a stream of thought gets going, there we go.

I noticed that the opening word "Nu" sounds like "Now", then that "hefaen___" sounds exactly like "Heaven" and one thing led to another. What I found is that by trying different pronunciations of the original words, I was able to decypher much of the Old English version.

Here's a poetic Modern English translation:

          Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,
          the might of the Creator, and his thought,
          the work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders
          the Eternal Lord established in the beginning.
          He first created for the sons of men
          Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,
          then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,
          the Eternal Lord, afterwards made,
          the earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

Here's an original language version from the year 737 Anno Domini:

              1 Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard
              2 metudæs maecti end his modgidanc
              3 uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuaes
              4 eci dryctin or astelidæ
              5 he aerist scop aelda barnum
              6 heben til hrofe haleg scepen.
              7 tha middungeard moncynnæs uard
              8 eci dryctin æfter tiadæ
              9 firum foldu frea allmectig

Here's my rough, literal version:

1 Now shall hear Heaven-rich's [Heaven owner's] ward
2 Mete-er's (measurer's) might and his making-think
3 Work of the elderfather so his wonder goes
4 ever directing the onset
5 He first shaped the elder sons
6 Heaven to roofbeam holy shaper
7 then middle-earth mankind's ward
8 ever directing after today (until today)
9 the firm fields Free-Lord Almighty

Here's another good modern translation that I found.

My pronunciation may not be anything like the original, but because the language remains the same, despite spelling and dialectical changes over time, the words still mean pretty much what they did 1,500 years ago. There "original language version" is also transcribed into our modern alphabet - if one were to try to read the text as written, we'd need to also discuss the character "thorn" and a few other such, just as we have to know that the long S of colonial times is not an "F" but rather a modified character used according to certain grammar rules of the day. This follows a discovery some time ago, that I could sort-of read Greek by simply transliterating the letters in biblical texts and looking for roots to English words.

I'm not going to be winning any awards or going into business translating ancient texts, but the thing is: this is one of the wonders of the internet. To uncover new possibilities in ourselves by being exposed to history we never even knew existed, to science we never even questioned, to the stories of ordinary people who helped set the course for the future.

Like the monks copying the Bible and their countries' literature to get books into every monastery in the world, like Gutenberg's printing press churning out copies of the Bible and world literature for every book buyer in Europe, the net puts everything written before into the hands of ordinary people.

And we don't have to depend on "authorized experts" to translate for us or explain it to us.

I'm reading a book that came out a few years ago, on the history of printing, called "Paradigms Lost: The Life and Death of the Printed Word" (Tip: go through your favorite blogger's Amazon search link to buy it). It's a fascinating delve into many of the ways the printing press, and even typography, changed our societies and our world. It is in some ways an unfinished book, for, as the author himself, a retired editor who bills himself  "an independent historian" and cites reams of sources,  says "..[we] are just in the first years of an era that exists so far mostly in magazine articles, techology manufacturers' boastful extrapolations, books like this one, and confused observations..."  The book was copyrighted 2005, at the beginning of the "print apocalypse" as the failure of traditional publishing to meet customer needs was beginning to become clear. 

Despite the introduction of the Kindle in 2007 (not so much new technology as a more wide-spread distribution method),  the number of books printed in the US in 2010 grew 5% with traditional publishers. But the really exciting part is that the "non-traditional" sector, including "print on demand" and self-published books almost tripled from 1,033,065 titles in 2009 to 2,776,260 in 2010.

This does not represent new demand - the demand was always there - this represents new access, thanks to the internet, which has given any author a nearly cost-free access to markets outside their local area.

The internet lets us all share what we know, and learn more on whatever topic we wish. We can direct our own course of study, without cost. We can become self-educated people.We can think for ourselves. And we can tell others.

And like those who first benefited from the printing press, we want our own copies. Just in case the link goes dark. Or the net goes down. But mainly because free people everywhere like to have their own.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meteor Shower Tonight & the Wee Hours of Morning! November 17 & 18 2011

If you look toward the eastern horizon this evening, from about 9:30 Central Time "straight on 'til morning", you may be able to see falling stars in the Leonid Meteor Shower. This annual event is the beautiful debris of a disintegrated comet. It's called the "Leonid" because it appears (as we see it) in and around the constellation Leo the Lion (but these shooting stars aren't anywhere near those of the constellation).

Astronomers tell us the firedrakes can be seen in all parts of the sky, so you should be able to see it from anywhere in the United States - provided the half moon doesn't glow so brightly as to hide them from view. In fact, the best chance to see them may be by facing away from the moon - and from Leo - and look to the dark part of the sky.

But if you don't get to see it, mark your calendar and save the date for next year: they are predicting a "knock your socks off" display for 2012!

Thanks to Star Date Magazine, published by University of Texas, the McDonald Observatory, for the image used here - and for consistently marvelous information about our beautiful skies.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
   praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
   praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
   praise him, all you shining stars.

Psalm 148 (New International Version)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

First Turkey Days! Thanksgiving Feasts in America 1540 - 1640 (or "The Real History of Thanksgiving")

A couple of years ago, I called Thanksgiving "The Immigrants Holiday" because nearly every shipload of Europeans who came to our shores continued their long-standing tradition of taking a time to rejoice and praise God for a safe journey.  They all did, whether Catholic or Church of England explorers trying to colonize the New World for their King, or Separatist Protestant refugees seeking freedom to worship Christ according to their own consciences. These weren't "harvest festivals", nor were they unusual or "uniquely American". They were simply the custom of Christian peoples everywhere.

 The picture-book Thanksgiving was a part of this culture, just like going to church on Sundays and saying grace before meals. In October 1621, the Mayflower Pilgrims and Pawtuxet Indians celebrated such an event, much like all these others. It captured popular imagination 250 years later in the 1850s when Sarah Hale, editor of Godey’s Ladys Book &  primary lobbyist for a national Thanksgiving Day, used it as a symbol of those early times.*  Oddly enough, there’s less documentation for this event than most of the other Thanksgivings on this list! Sarah Hale simply picked it out as a great “narrative” to sell her idea, just as marketers do today.

But by the time the Pilgrims arrived, nearly a century of regular Thanksgivings in North, South & Central America had gone before. Shiploads of passengers led by explorers from Spain, France, England, The Netherlands, Italy, and Portugal, planned their thanksgiving feasts as a matter of course and held them as soon as possible after they finally reached safety again.

Here's a list of a few of them. Texas gets to claim two of the very earliest!

May 23, 1541, near Canyon, Texas. A Thanksgiving feast was celebrated by explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and the "Tejas" Native Americans. The reason? Of all his finds, the discovery of good sources of wild foods, grapes and pecans, was cause for a day of rejoicing.

June 30, 1564 “Fort Caroline”, near Jacksonville, Florida: one of the earliest groups of French Huguenots to seek religious liberty in America, led by Jean Ribault, held a day of Thanksgiving. This settlement was destroyed soon thereafter by Spanish soldiers (led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles)  in the ongoing battle between Spain and France for supremacy in the New World as well as the old.

September 8, 1565  St Augustine, Florida: the 400 settlers from Spain travelling with Pedro Menendez de Aviles celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving when their ship landed safely. The Timucua Indians joined them, bringing local foods to the table.

August or September 1578 Frobisher Bay area of Baffin Island, Nunavut Territory, Canada: Martin Frobisher's expedition celebrated the first Thanksgiving recorded in Canada. Today, Canada celebrates  Thanksgiving much like the USA does, except it is held in October.

April 30, 1598 San Elizario, Texas (near El Paso): the 500 members of the de Onate expedition held a feast of Thanksgiving, with the native Manso Indian tribe as guests, to celebrate their safe arrival 10 days earlier at the Rio Grande after months of trekking up from Mexico. This was the first group to travel the newly blazed El Camino Real.

1604 Port Royal, Acadia, Canada: French settlers with explorer Samuel de Champlain held their first Thanksgiving feast in 1604 and thereafter. This is the group that founded 'The Order of Good Cheer', sharing their food with their Native American neighbors.

August 9, 1607 Fort St. George, Kennebec River, Maine: the newly arrived colonists of this short-lived New England settlement held its first Thanksgiving soon after making landfall, led by English Captain George Popham and joined by the Abnaki Indians.

1610 Jamestown, Virginia: Settlers of the famous English colony held a Thanksgiving to celebrate the arrival of ships bringing them new supplies of food after a harsh winter during which many starved to death.

December 4, 1619 The Berkeley Hundred, near Jamestown, Virigina: this group of settlers had planned before leaving England to hold a feast of Thanksgiving immediately on arrival, and annually thereafter. Many were killed in the massacre of 1622 and the site abandoned.

October, 1621, Plymouth, Massachusetts: this was the feast that came to symbolize the history of our Christian heritage, held by the Mayflower Pilgrims and Native Americans in the vicinity. It was probably not their first such celebration held by the Mayflower group, but is the only one for which any documentation survives.

1623, Plymouth, Massachusetts: The governor of the Plymouth colony called for a special day of Thanksgiving for the end of a drought that plagued the colony.

July 8, 1630, Massachusetts: Puritan settlers observed the first Thanksgiving of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England. This colony began having Thanksgiving days every year from 1660 onward.

September 18, 1639 Connecticut: the governor proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving, and by 1649, the colony celebrated a Thanksgiving day each year.

And thereafter it snowballed. By the time our 13 colonies had joined themselves together as a loose fraternity of independent & sovereign nation-states, each proclaimed a Thanksgiving at various times, as needed or as events warranted. This continued for another hundred years, until President Lincoln made it a permanent feature on the calendar for the whole nation.

The true history of Thanksgiving is a testament to our Christian heritage, upholding freedom to worship God in accordance with our own consciences.

A part of that freedom includes the freedom to "not worship", giving a bit of space to unbelievers, but the bulk of this freedom is the privilege to be religious: the freedom to worship God without being arrested, liberty not to be punished by the government if we believe some things are sinful.

The freedom to shout "Jesus" from the rooftops in every neighborhood, to "Preach the Gospel to all nations", using an uncensored bible in our own language, that we can read & interpret for ourselves.

How relevant is this today?

This very week,  former President George W. Bush was honored to be entrusted with a handwritten Bible, made and secretly used in a Chinese labor camp by Chinese Christians who were imprisoned for attending "an illegal religious gathering".

China claims to be the largest publisher of Bibles in the world - for export. Yet the repressive communist government does not allow any freedom of religion - people are required to worship only where, when and how the Chinese government tells them they can. They can only have the version of the Bible that the government allows.

Afghanistan was visited by the apostles during Biblical times - Christianity is as old in Afghanistan as anywhere in the world. Yet the Bible is illegal there, and to be a Christian is to risk prison, or worse.

And in the United States of America itself,  intolerant unbelievers have begun denying Christians freedom to practice our faith. Christians have been arrested and tried for the crime of preaching the Gospel to Moslems in Michigan. For "preaching too loudly" in North Carolina. For reading the Bible to people on the sidewalk in California.

This Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to our Father God for sending His Son Jesus Christ to save the world, for giving us the earthly blessings that are the fruit of Christianity: liberty, justice, equality, a good and moral society; and let us ask Him for laborers for the harvest, that America may continue to know our Father's favor. Godly leadership is needed more now than ever.

*Aug 22, 2017: edited to correct broken link & add new ones about Sarah Hale. Thank you to reader Ellen for alerting me and sharing a great link about yet another highly successful and influential working woman in the early 1800s.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Around the World

Early American colonists, from many nations - in fact from all of Christendom, brought the frequent celebration of “Thanksgivings,” days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as a safe journey, a military victory or the end of a drought, with them to the New World. And this custom continued for centuries: more than 200 years after Coronado celebrated Thanksgiving in North Texas in 1541, the U.S. Continental Congress proclaimed a national Thanksgiving in 1789 upon the enactment of the Constitution – and was criticized by some members for “following European customs” that weren’t serious enough! 

These Thanksgiving feasts were considered “secular” holidays despite being occasions for prayer & religious services because they originated from community or worldly life and were not required by the church, like mandatory Holy days are. 

Here is a list of some other countries that celebrate their own unique Thanksgiving Day as a fixed holiday each year (info is from Wikipedia and from Consulate or official tourism websites for the various nations):
Leiden, South Holland, celebrates a Thanksgiving feast called "3 October"  (or Drie Oktober ) every year, eating lots of hutspot to commemorate their rescue from The Siege of Leiden in 1574, when the Spanish failed in their attempt to capture the city of Leiden during the riotous, warring years of the reformation. Soon after the siege, this Calvinist city was temporary home to Dutch Mennonites, French Walloons/Huguenots, and the Pilgrims of the Mayflower. Having read about hutspot, I'm thinking we ought to add it to our own Thanksgiving dinner dishes!

Canadian Thanksgiving Day is the 2nd Monday in October, celebrated much like that in the United States, with turkey, pumpkin, and trimmings. The picture above is of Samuel de Champlain's "Order of Good Cheer" celebrating in 1606 in Acadia. Canada’s Thanksgiving also shares a similar history with ours: feasts by early explorers & colonists held jointly with Native American tribes for safe arrival at a destination, relief from drought, a good harvest, and other grateful events.  Canada has held official Thanksgivings every year since 1879. Before that, going back to 1578, these feasts were observed at various times of year in different provinces. In 1957, Canada's legislature formalized the day as a harvest celebration in this proclamation: "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October."

The Federal Day of Thanks, Penance, and Prayer (Jeune federal, Der Eidgenossische Dank-, Buss-, und Bettag) is an outgrowth of days established by religious and secular authorities since 1650. The modern observance, since 1832, on the third Sunday in September is a quiet day to review the good things received. “

In 1870, the legislature recognized "Liberia's dependence on the great Arbiter of events and established a Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the many good and loving kindnesses shown toward us as a people." Its observation occurs on the first Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving in Grenada is a public holiday held on October 25th each year. Banks, business places and most shops are closed. Religious services, family meals and get-togethers are the order of the day in most households. In addition, the date commemorates the 1983 joint Caribbean and American military intervention (by invitation of the legitimate government) in Grenada, which restored free elections and a democratic way of life.

Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders is a public holiday in Croatia, celebrated on August 5th. In 2008, the Parliament also assigned the name Day of the Croatian Defenders to the holiday, as a memorial to its War of Independence.. The main celebration is centered in Knin where there are festivities commemorating the event, beginning with a Mass and laying of wreaths in honor of those who died in the war, and continuing with parades and concerts. “

Annual Thanksgiving days are not as common perhaps as soccer in the wide world, but it is cool to see the threads that connect us in our shared histories with these nations. We can all find reasons to sit down to a good meal and say grace together! 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A GREAT Christmas This Year, No Matter What

One of the most memorable Christmases in my life was in the depths of the early 1980s recession, the year my grandmother had open heart surgery right after Thanksgiving.  Between unemployment, faltering businesses, and serious health issues, everyone in the family had Big Worries and no money.

All of our gifts that year were either homemade or inexpensive. And we were together. The children were young. Confidence and hope for a good future took hold. It was Christmas.

Mema had always made the holiday dinners, but she wasn't able to that year, so Mama got to make Christmas Dinner and have it at her house. It was not something she wanted to take on permanently, but was a fun new experience, and we had a sumptuous meal.

Mema usually took care of buying any purchased gifts they gave, and Nandy often built furniture or toys in his workshop for us. But this year, he was too busy caring for Mema to make anything, so he went shopping on Christmas Eve.

Under the tree for me was a simple motto plaque. He said he thought about me immediately when he saw it. It reads:

"The Way To Happiness:
Keep your heart free from hate...
Your mind from worry...
Live simply... expect little...
Give much..."

It still hangs in our home, and it has inspired me during good times and bad for 30 years.

What were some of your best Christmases? I'll bet they weren't times when your family had the most money, but when you had the most love.

Make up your mind to make this one of those best Christmases.

Give from your heart in every way you can, and even if you don't spend a dime, Christmas will be beautiful for your children, your spouse, your family, your friends, your neighbors... and for you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

De-Occupy Wall Street

Speaking of toil, there's a new Facebook group, and even though I have withdrawn from most FB activity, I like it!   

"De-Occupy Wall Street"

My favorite comment so far, from the administrator: 

"Create a job if none are available... that's what we do in the land of the free. There is no crying in freedom...only an open market."

Thanks to my FB pal for sharing it. :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"...but the blessing of earth is toil."

"Born within a lowly stable, where the cattle 'round Me stood,
Trained a carpenter in Nazareth, I have toiled, and found it good.

"They who tread the path of labor follow where My feet have trod;
They who work without complaining do the holy will of God.

"Where the many toil together, there am I among My own;
Where the tired workman sleepeth, there am I with him alone

More from Henry Van Dyke's "The Friendly Year". These verses are a small excerpt from "The Toiling of Felix, and Other Poems",  first published in 1900, a lyrical meditation on the spiritual value of work and labor in a happy life.

...and another Henry Ossawa Tanner painting: the oft-marketed "Young Sabot Maker", in which Tanner, in Paris, depicted a young apprentice learning to make wooden shoes, using the same kinds of woodworking tools that carpenters have used for thousands of years. Compare with the one above, which Georges DelaTour painted in the mid 17th century, of St Joseph in his cabinet shop, with the young Jesus at hand. As Tanner moved deeper and deeper into his calling to paint the biblical reality, it is easy to imagine his meditation on Jesus' childhood in a carpenter's home.

Tanner said of his work "My effort has been to not only put the Biblical incident in the original setting ... but at the same time give the human touch "which makes the whole world kin" and which ever remains the same. "

In the poet's words:
"This is the gospel of labour, ring it, ye bells of the kirk!
The Lord of Love came down from above, to live with the men who work.
This is the rose that He planted, here in the thorn-curst soil:
Heaven is blest with perfect rest, but the blessing of Earth is toil.


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