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! 


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