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What’s in a Valentine?


Did you know?  Valentine’s  Day began as a memorial; held for a man in the early church ages known as Valentinus. In his book, “Foxe’s book of Martyrs,” John Foxe records the story of this amazing man.  Apparently, during the second century, Valentinus was imprisoned by the Romans for performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers forbidden to marry.  He also gave food, shelter and comfort to early Christians, which was also a crime.

While he was in prison, his jailor, Asterius, communicated with Valentinus that his daughter was ill and about to die.  In desperation, the jailor asked Valentinus to pray to his God for a miracle.  Within days, the woman was healed and had returned to her healthy self.  She began to visit him in prison, and the two became very close friends.

On the day Valentinus was to be executed, Foxe records he sent a letter to her, as she had become the closest person to him. In the letter, he declared his love to her, and wished her well; signing the letter with “from your Valentine” as his farewell.  According to tradition, his execution day was February 14.

As word spread of Valentinus’ experience, the practice was repeated by early Christians who were about to die.  The term “Valentine” eventually became associated with the concept of expressing undying love in the face of difficulties.

Several hundred years later, during the Middle Ages, knights were assigned to care and protect for the female members of royal families. Because of time spent together, and inevitable conversation, the term “courtly love” became accepted.  This term became a description of the unspoken love and attraction between a maiden and her protector.  In that age, a knight would be executed if he expressed love for his charge as his objectivity in the situation was considered a major asset in serving as her protector.  In his writings, Geoffrey Chaucer used the term “Valentine” to explain this frustrating circumstance, and as a result, the practice of sending notes from a secret admirer became a practice in England.

In our day, Valentine’s Day still has the same symbolism, but without its history, we can forget the depth of its meaning.  But no matter the depth of meaning, the words “Happy Valentine’s Day” communicate affection and the desire for closer relationship.

Blessings! Enjoy your day!

 

©2013 dcg/atg


Every time I see a picture of a dragon, I wonder whether they really existed.  They are a fascinating subject, and so it seemed natural that when I began a series of allegorical/fantasy based novels, I would start with the subject of dragons.  I mean, why don’t we ever see a baby dragon?  Where do they come from?

The Trouble with Dragons is my second attempt at fiction; this time in paranormal subject and allegory. The story is set in the Kingdom of Hausse, which is ruled by an evil queen, Souhaites. She outwardly shows allegiance to the king, whose name is Suzerain.  That word was new to me when I began writing — it is a description of a chief ruler, or emperor, who, although they are in complete control of an empire, allow their sub-states and subjects the luxury of ruling their own inner realm.

The story is filled with Light-Bearers, and fallen Light-Bearers, known as Pythons, Shades, Weavers and Muddlers (depending on their strength). In Hausse, the invisible is visible, and interaction takes place between mortals and those entities. The Dark Prince, Sausmas, who used to be a Light-Bearer, has dominion over the BorderLands and the DarkLands.

In the story, it is the mission of a gypsy family (who are actually the king’s agents in disguise), to rescue a princess.  The agents range in age from five to beyond ancient, with introduction of allegory and symbolism to help the reader understand the reality of the spiritual realm.  What began as a short story has now become a series.  I am now working on book two, “The Trouble with Tyrants.”

Particularly satisfying in regard to this particular book, is that I have had readers in my “test market” tell me they “couldn’t put it down.”  One was 18 years old, and one was over 65!!  I would love to getyouropinion!

Writing this stuff is just too much fun….. Please order it and read it, and then give me your feedback! Here is the link:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/chronicles-of-hausse-book-one-the-trouble-with-dragons/18956715?showPreview

And Here is a preview of the first section of the first chapter:

Chapter One

  “Five Years before It All  Began”

 

“There’s the signal!”

Startled by the hand shaking his arm, as well as by his friend’s loud whisper, Peyton looked up quickly.

“Are you sure it wasn’t more lightning?” he asked.

“No, look!” Jaret pointed towards the castle window. “The lantern went back and forth three times. You’d better get a move on.”

Jaret let out a low whistle. In response, a horse’s snort was heard from further in, behind the trees.

Stepping out from under the cover of branches, Peyton grimly assessed the rain which continued to fall. “Hope I can get there through the mud,” he muttered.

“You cannot fail,” Jaret spoke with determination, handing his partner a bow and quiver of arrows. “Here; just in case.”

Peyton stroked his horse before he took the reins, swinging up into the mount. After checking to be sure his rapier was still in its sheath at his belt, he took the additional weapons. “Thank you,” he said. “Now, remember, if I’m not back before daybreak….”

“I know what to do. Don’t worry.” Jaret gave the hind quarters of his friend’s horse an encouraging whack. “Good speed. Be careful.”

Lurching just a little in the saddle as he began to move forward, Peyton looked back over his shoulder. “You as well,” he replied.

Watching his friend ride away, Jaret spoke quietly, more to himself than to anyone. “Without help, we will all be dead by morning.”

Slipping quiver and bow over his shoulder, Peyton put his attention forward.  He pulled the thick black hood of his cloak over his head, to further hide himself in the darkness.  Perhaps the rain was a good thing, he considered.  No one would be walking the castle walls tonight.  More likely, they would be inside warming by a fire.

Nearing the castle, he noticed the drawbridge had not yet been drawn up for the evening, and the gate was still open. He breathed a sigh of relief.  The informer had been genuine after all; they had kept their side of the bargain.

Just before reaching the drawbridge, Peyton dismounted and tied his horse loosely to a nearby tree. He took off his cloak. As he wrapped up his sword and quiver in the cloak, he spoke gently into his horse’s ear.

“Stay here, Goliath. Wait. I’ll be back, and I’ll need you.”

He then made his way into the cold water of the moat, holding his cloak and weapons over his head, to keep them from soaking.  Arriving at the gate, he silently slipped through, staying against the walls and in the shadows.

Once through the gate, he looked for the…. What had the informant said?  Oh yes, the second door to the left.  Look for the burning torch mounted on the wall.  He was to go through that door, and wait in the darkness for his contact to come. Strange, he reasoned. He still had no idea what the purpose of his mission was. It was better that way, he decided. If he was caught, there would be nothing to deny. He could not endanger the rest of the Protectorate – or, as the Queen referred to them, “The Rebels.”

Shutting the door of the little room, Peyton took a quick breath, double-checking his movements. Was this mission going too easily?  Could a trap be waiting for him? Well, it was too late to worry about it now. Hurriedly, he stepped away from the grate-covered window opening in the door, and leaned against the cold stone of the castle wall. Just as he did so, two of the Queen’s Guard walked by on patrol.

Had they seen him?  No, apparently not. He was safe for now.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, Peyton slid down against the wall, into a sitting position.  After a few moments more, he caught himself nodding off into sleep.  He shook himself awake.  No, this would not be the time or place to take a nap, he thought.

Suddenly, there was a noise at the door.  Peyton reached for his rapier, and slid up the wall to stand on his feet once more. As the door opened, he readied himself to run the intruder through.

A girl’s voice spoke softly and carefully.  “Is anyone in here?”

Startled, Peyton remained silent, not sure whether this was his contact.

The girl spoke again into the inky darkness. “If you are here, the Prince will come.”

Relieved to hear the code words he had been waiting for, Peyton replied. “And the King will rule forever.”

“Oh good,” the girl replied. “This is my second time to come since the signal was sent, and I wasn’t sure how I would explain another absence to my mistress.”

“What is my mission?” Peyton asked her.

“Here,” she whispered in reply, lifting the rather large bundle she had been holding close to her chest. “You must take special care of this package. Don’t let anything happen to it. Strap it to yourself if you must.  But hold it lightly. It can be easily broken. Don’t undo the wrappings until you are sure you are back in a place of safety.”

“What is the package?” Peyton’s curiosity posed the inquiry before he realized his question placed both the girl and himself in grave danger.

“I cannot tell you,” she replied.  “But you will find out soon enough. Seeing that you were the one trusted for this task, you must know that to succeed you will have to move with great speed and speak to no one. The Sausmas has his spies everywhere. The entire future of the Protectorate Cause might rest on what you do tonight.”

Peyton stuttered. “I –I wasn’t told. I’m sorry.”

The girl lowered the shawl she had pulled up over her head, smiling.  “Don’t worry. I am sure there are Light-Bearers all around us. Do you know the way out?”

“I came by way of the moat and inner gate.”

“Oh, no,” she whispered. “You cannot go out that way.  We met in this room, because there is a tunnel entrance which begins here and lets you out in the trees.  There is a small cottage there, where you will find provisions to accompany your package. Here; let me get a little light to show you.  Hide behind the door. Crouch under the window.”

From her cloak, the girl drew a candle. Opening the door, she looked carefully to and fro to be sure she wasn’t observed. Then, she reached up to the burning torch and lit her candle.  Cupping her hand around the flame, she pulled carefully back into the dark room.  From there, she moved to the corner of the room and lifted an escape hatch hinged in the floor boards.

“Come!” she urged. “Quickly!”

Peyton clutched the package tightly, and prepared to go down the short stairs into the tunnel.

“Here,” the girl said, “take the candle.  You will need it down there.”

As the candle passed between them, Peyton caught a glimpse of the girl’s face. She couldn’t be much older than I am, he thought. “What is your name?” he asked as he took the candle from her.

“Elda,” she replied. “Yours?”

“Peyton.” He paused. “How old are you?”

“I am the Queen’s third handmaid. I am nine years,” she whispered, motioning for him to hurry.

“I’m ten years a week last,” he whispered back.

“Good to meet you,” she said. “Now get out of here before you get us all killed. Remember the instructions I gave you about the package. Don’t open it until you are sure you are in a place of safety.”

Waiting until she saw the candle’s glimmer fade into the tunnel, Elda lowered the escape hatch door once again, and stepped back into the center of the room.  Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath.

“Please, please surround him with safety,” she whispered.

Then, pulling her shawl back over her head, she stepped out of the room into the castle courtyard, and pulled the door shut behind her. Hastily, she made her way back to the Queen’s bedchambers, hoping her absence had not been noticed.  Even one hint of a doubt, or shadow of a question would endanger the plan they had all worked towards for months now.

Exiting the tunnel in the woods, Peyton was thankful for the candle Elda had given him.  He blew it out and decided it would be wiser to place it in his pocket and take it with him, than it would be to leave a trace of his presence behind.  Taking in his surroundings, he discovered Goliath no more than ten feet away.

Now, where was the cottage she had mentioned? Looking around, he saw an abandoned guard house.  It probably hadn’t been used since the drawbridge was built, he supposed. No need for a guard or a guard house when one added a moat to a castle.

Stepping into the guard house, Peyton saw a rather large basket on a table.  Next to the basket was a wooden crate, filled with various containers and scrolls.

How would he get all of this onto the back of his horse, he wondered?  After some consideration, the boy decided to place the package inside the basket and then surround and cover the package with as much as would fit from what was in the crate.  Then, he realized, it would be easy to travel, with the basket held in front of him as he rode Goliath back to the Protectorate Encampment.

As he completed the task at hand, Peyton’s thoughts turned philosophical. Funny how even what they called themselves came down to the side someone was on.  The King, Suzerain, (Soo- zee- rayn) had decreed that those who stood against the Queen and Sausmas (Sawz-mahs) were to be given honor and respect.  He had even issued orders to his Light-Bearers and all those in His Realm were to offer assistance to the Cause in any method necessary.  In fact, the title “Protectorate” had been his creation. But to Queen Souhaites (Soo-hay-teez), and to everyone else under Sausmas’ controlling influence, they were considered Rebels.

Preparing to mount his horse again, Peyton remembered Elda’s words. “Hold the package lightly.  It can be easily broken.”  Sighing, he readjusted the items in the basket, placing the package on top.

Riding stealthfully back to meet Jaret and the others, and then to the Encampment, Peyton once more found himself thankful for the rain. He wondered just why the mission had gone so easily.  Upon his arrival, the sentries wasted no time ushering him to Commander Carel’s Pavilion.

The Commander was pacing back and forth, anxious for news of Peyton’s mission. “How did it go, boy? Were you discovered?”

Here is the link to lulu.com for purchase.  The book is also availabe in epub format.

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/chronicles-of-hausse-book-one-the-trouble-with-dragons/18956715

Blessings,

Debbye

(c) ATG 2012 Duplication without permission prohibited.  All rights reserved.


 In the 4th century (300’s AD),  a man named Nicholas, wanted to serve God with his whole heart. His family was wealthy, but he didn’t want to live like a rich man. He wanted to help poor people, and help people come to know Jesus Christ.  Nicholas was born in a Greek town called Pantara.  When he grew up, he became a pastor in a Myra.  The area where he lived is now known as the country of  Turkey.  Nicholas love to worship Jesus. He spent his entire life helping the people in his church come to an understanding of why Jesus came to earth.

 One story of his generosity and caring for people helps us to understand what kind of person he was. There was a family in his village with three daughters.  They were very happy, and welcomed Nicholas, their pastor, into their home on a regular basis.  The father was a nobleman, and many times  sought Nicholas’ advice for decisions he needed to make.  One day, the nobleman’s wife became sick and died.  The man and his daughters were hard hit with grief. In fact,  the nobleman stopped asking Nicholas for advice, and began making impulsive and selfish decisions.   Soon, all his money was gone.  As the years went by,  he lost his large mansion.  He and his daughters had  to work in the fields to find food, and their home became  a small cottage. 

Now, in that day, young women could only marry if their parents could supply a dowry for them.  A dowry was a  sum of money that would help a newly married couple  not have to work so hard to make ends meet, and be able to get to know each other during the first year.  Well, the nobleman  no longer had any money; and no dowries for any of his three girls.  One night, Pastor Nicholas was invited for dinner.  He spoke to the  father, and offered to supply dowries for each of his daughters, out of his own pocket.

 “No,” replied the father stubbornly.

 “God will take care of us.”  Nicholas noticed during dinner, that  the girls had apparently done their laundry that day.  Stockings  had been hung by the fire to dry. That night,  the young pastor  climbed up on the roof of the house, and dropped three small bags of gold down the chimney.  As the story goes, God directed the  money – one bag into each girl’s stocking.  In the morning, the girls were surprised and overjoyed.  God had truly taken care of them!

 As news spread of Nicholas’ generosity, everyone in the village began  hanging their stockings by the fireplace at night, hoping  Nicholas would drop a gift down the chimney!  

Nicholas died in 340AD. His body was buried in Myra, but in 1087  Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to  Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout  Europe.  His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to  claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop’s mitre.  Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and sometime around the 12th century an official church  holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity. After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the stories were kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. Dutch colonists brought brought this tradition with them to America in the 17th century and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.

In 1822 Clement C. Moore composed the poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas, published as The Night Before Christmas as a gift for his children. In it, he portrays Santa Claus:

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Other countries feature different gift-bearers for the Christmas or Advent season: La Befana in Italy ~ The Three Kings in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico ~ Christkindl or the Christ Child in Switzerland and Austria ~ Father Christmas in England ~ and Pere Noël, Father Christmas or the Christ Child in France. Still, the figure of Santa Claus as a jolly, benevolent, plump man in a red suit described in Moore’s poem remains with us today and is recognized by children and adults alike around the world.

In our home, we have a small cross-stitched picture we hang in the entryway at this time each year.  It is a picture of Santa Claus, hat in hand, at his knees at the side of the Christ-Child in the manger.  How simple it would be to resolve the debate over the Santa Claus symbol, if we all would just consider that picture in our celebrations……  For example, have you ever stopped to consider that in depicting Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, we have actually reproduced an emblem of the True and Living God?   He rides the wind in his chariot (Psalm 104:3);  He never sleeps, but keeps watch over us (Psalm 121:3-4);  He rewards the obedient (good) and disregards the disobedient (Deuteronomy 28); He gives gifts from above and shows no partiality (James 1:17); He tells us to ask Him for what we need (James 4:2); He will come in the “middle of the night” (I Thess. 5:2);  He keeps His promises (II Peter 3:9).

Why would we censure people from seeking this figure this time of year?  Why not enlarge who he really represents? Especially, dressed in the symbolic colors of red and white!! Blessings!

Remember:  There are many Santa Claus

figures out there this time of year.

The real Santa Claus

was/is the gift-giver who

loves and obeys Jesus first.

(c)2011 dcg/atg. Duplication without permission prohibited.  Thank you for your integrity.

Why Do We Wrap Gifts?


Did you know that the original Christmas gifts when given were  placed in a treasure box, or inside a vessel?   Paper was invented in China in 105AD, and since that day, gifts were wrapped. The method and procedure for making paper was kept secret by the Chinese for several centuries.  However, by 800AD, the process was known in Egypt.  Then, knowledge of the process spread to Europe, where the first paper mill began production in 1085.

In 1509, during the reign of Henry VIII in England, wallpaper was invented. For a short time, gifts were wrapped in wallpaper, but it cracked or tore when folded. By the early 1900’s, gifts were wrapped in plain brown paper, or tissue, and tied with cord or string. A reference to this practice is found in Richard Rodgers song lyrics for “My Favorite Things:”  “brown paper packages tied up with string; these are a few of my favorite things.”  Printed tissue paper in varied designs was also used.

In Kansas City, MO, a man named Joyce C. Hall owned a stationery store, selling his own card designs.  Hall is known for being the founder of the greeting card industry, but is also credited with the “invention” of present-day gift wrap.  Hallmark’s launch of printed gift wrap actually happened by accident.  Just before Christmas in 1917, the Hal Brothers’  store had sold out of the white, red and green tissue and one holly pattern for customers to use to wrap holiday packages. So, in an effort to help customers, Rollie Hall, Joyce’s brother, had an idea.  Why not bring some of the envelope lining papers from France, and sell them for 10 cents a sheet?  That year, they sold out quickly.  The next year, the sheets were offered 3 for 25 cents.  Again they sold out.  Soon, Hallmark began manufacturing their own wrapping paper; the first product they made as a departure from greeting cards.

In the 1930s, the brothers introduced Hall Sheen ribbon, which sticks to itself when licked like a stamp.  It is still the company’s most popular ribbon, even now. In 1970, they introduced jumbo plastic gift bags, and paper gift bags with hands in 1987.  Curling cascade ribbon was invented in 1994.  Today Hallmark is the leader of the giftwrap industry, in addition to greeting cards, and unique gift items.

“I never saw anything accepted so quickly,” J.C. Hall said in his autobiography, When You Care Enough. “We didn’t realize it then, but for all practical purposes, an entire new industry had been born. In fact, the decorative gift-wrapping business was born the day Rollie placed the French envelope linings on top of our showcase. Soon gift-wrapping paper became the first product we made that was a departure from greeting cards.”

When I wrap gifts, I am reminded of the Charles Wesley’s words in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing:” veiled in the flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity.”  When someone receives a gift, they might remember temporarily how it was wrapped, but they will remember forever the gift inside. It is the gift that remains.  When we receive the gift of Life in Jesus, the outer trappings of image and status fall away, and His Life begins a transformation process with us.  The Holy Spirit changes our values, and our methods of relating to others. He calls us to growth.  He calls us to discipleship.  It is His Life that remains – for eternity.  And, in the process, we experience the Kingdom of God – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness,  Long-Suffering and Self Control.

In essence, the Incarnation happens all over again.  Jesus comes to live His life in us — We become the Manger.

People may forget us, but they will remember forever what God does through our lives.  Blessings!


Why do we give gifts at Christmastime? After all, for years, our children told us it was the best part of Christmas!  I’m sure most children feel that way—the anticipation, the excitement, the WAITING! What would it be like to observe Christmas Day, and NOT exchange gifts?  And yet, that is exactly what the early church did.

Originally, gifts were exchanged on different days, based on cultural traditions. For example, in the past, some countries have given gifts to each other in honor of Nicholas of Pantara, the pastor who became known as St. Nicholas, or Sinter Klaas. These gifts were usually gifts or acts done in secret to help those in need. Other countries waited until January 6th to give gifts to those they love.  These gifts were given in honor of the treasures given to Jesus by the wise men, or Magi, who came from the East (China, India, or other lands, undisclosed in the Scriptures).  In the Catholic church, January 6th was set as the day to remember the wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem to find the Christ Child; otherwise known as “The Epiphany,” meaning “The Manifestation, or Appearance.” Historically, the feast celebrated on this day observed three events:

1)      The appearance of Jesus as Who He is – God come in human form, recognized by the Magi.

2)      The disclosure of Jesus as Who He is – God who works miracles and brings all things together for good for those who believe, recognized by the servants of the house and his disciples at Cana, when He changed water to wine (His first miracle- John 2 ; Romans 8:28)

3)      Heaven’s endorsement of Jesus as Who He is – The manifestation of God on earth, recognized at his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

In the first five centuries, the early church celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus in conjunction with Jewish Passover.  Next to that celebration, the most important became the Feast of the Wise Men.  Both holy days were remembered with prayer and fasting prior, and feasting and rejoicing on the day.  On the Day of the Feast of the Wise Men, many people were baptized, or even re-baptized, to renew their commitment to Christ during an age when the Church was just learning her identity. Also, during this feast day, the doorways of believers’ homes were sprinkled with water, as a symbol of the inner cleansing that occurs when a person gives all they have, and are becoming, to Jesus Christ in surrender. Over time, it became a practice to write over the doorposts of those homes, “C+B+M,” which meant  “Christ blesses this house (Christus bendicat mansionem).” Since the three gifts of the wise men were also remembered on that same day, someone decided to remember the Latin blessing with three initials – CBM.  Over time, these initials were given names – Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. The names stuck, and so did the concept that there were three kings who came to the house in Bethlehem.  In actuality, there was a company of more than 50, who traveled in caravan for two years or more to arrive in Israel, led by the “star.”

After the Reformation, as the Protestant Church moved away from the more formal liturgies of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the concept of gift giving remained.  The quandary became, “when do we give gifts if we don’t celebrate the Feast of the Wise Men?”  For a time, the twelve days between December 25th and January 6th were known as “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  Gifts were given on each day, similar to the practice of Jewish Festival of Lights, or Chanukah, also celebrated at this time of year.  During the years when this was a widespread practice, it was a small reach to teach those in learning that the Incarnation, (the indwelling of Christ in human form), marks the beginning place of growth and discipleship for believers. Subsequently, then, came the second lesson: Our life on earth is a journey, through which we follow the Light we receive, and in the end, we offer all of our treasures to the One Who came to rescue us.

During the Middle Ages, the feast of Christmastide, became more universal, incorporating the practice of gift giving to honor and remember the Gift of Life in Jesus, even by those who did not yet know Him.  By the mid-1800’s, the general practice of giving gifts to loved ones on Christmas Day, as well as the custom of secretly giving to help those in need, had melded into the celebrations on one day rather than twelve – Christmas Day.  In America, many writers of fictional works have added to the Christmas culture, shaping our celebrations and adding other aspects to the holiday.

For me, the key to giving gifts at Christmas, is not about what day I give them; nor is it about keeping up with traditions.  For me, gift giving at Christmastime, and any other time of year, keeps my heart open and filled with gratitude.  When the Season becomes a dry practice, or feels like a chore, I have to remind myself to step back and consider:  Why am I doing this?

And then it comes:  An Epiphany – Because Jesus gave, and I want to be like Him.

 (C)2011 atg/dcg.  Duplication prohibited without permission.  Thank you for your integrity.

Why We Celebrate Advent


Did you ever hear the story about the new bride who went to cook a potroast? As she placed the meat into the roasting pan, she cut the end off of one side.  “Why do I do that?” she wondered. “I don’t understand.”  So she called her mother.  “Mom, why do we cut the end off the potroast?”

Her mother thought for a moment.  “I don’t know,” she replied. “I have just always done it that way. My mom did it too. Call grandma and ask her.”

So the new bride called her grandmother.  “Grandma, why do we cut the end off the potroast?” The answer was a moment of silence, broken by a small giggle.  “You’re still doing that?” the grandmother asked.

“Yes, I was making a potroast, and I wondered why we cut the end off of it.  Mom did it, and that’s how she taught me to do it.  Do you know why?”

The grandmother’s giggle had become a chuckle. “My pan was too small, and we couldn’t afford a larger one.  So, I cut the end off the roast to make it fit.”

Sometimes in the midst of years of liturgy, the original intent behind certain traditional practices can be lost.  When that happens, all that remains is an empty practice.  When this happens, valuable history and lessons learned can be lost forever.  By the same token, when we do something without realizing why — our actions have no meaning except to just repetitively copy what has “always been done,” without enjoyment or meaning. In fact, we can attach wrong meanings and symbolisms to events just because we are wrongly taught.

 Over the next few days, I want to try to post the results of some of my research of the history of the Christmas Season…. I have already posted some of these on my facebook site, but will try to enlarge them in this space, as time allows.

Many times, in the midst of the stresses of the Holiday (or holy day) Season, we can allow ourselves to become “squeezed.”  In so doing, we forget to teach our children the why’s of what we do — passing the baton of honoring the past; lessons learned; joys rekindled — After all, the purpose of celebrating; any celebrating; is to call to mind something we are giving thanks for.  For instance, when God instructed His people to remember Feast Days, it was for the purpose of teaching the present generation the lessonslearned by their elders. In saying this, let me include here that our celebrations of Advent, and Christmas, and any holiday, are to provide a learning environment for the next generation….. We hear it all the time, “Christmas is about the kids.”  Even in our remembrances of those who have less than we do this Season, we consider the children of families, and what they need or want this time of year…. Without those shiny eyes of wonder, many of us just stop celebrating — “It’s too much work,” we say.

Advent, which means “Waiting,” was originally designed by church leaders to help followers of Jesus Christ prepare their hearts for the coming of a New Beginning (otherwise known as the New Year).  In the earliest days, it was a time of prayer and fasting, which began on November 11th, on the Feast of St. Andrew.   Advent is traditionally the season when the church begins celebrating the manifestation of the Only Living God come to earth in human form.  Even today, in the most Orthodox of churches, the follower of Christ is asked to assess the state of their living practices and their heart in light of the Return of Christ.  As a New Year approached, believers asked themselves:  What healing and cleansing was needed to enable a more intimate spiritual experience with Christ as they moved into the New Year?  In the Middle Ages, families would enact a play depicting the choice of Adam and Eve in Eden to sin; which ended with the prophecy of a coming Savior who would rescue the world form the inevitable death their choice had ushered into the planet.

Many statements have been made about whether December is the actual month when Jesus was born.  Some historians believe Jesus was born in the spring in Israel — However, the temple flocks were moved to Bethlehem in the fall of the year, and these were the sheep tended by shepherds at night; lambs being raised for sacrifice.  Records indicate that Caesar Augustus mandated the census to be taken in late October.. so those who oppose the holiday are correct…. The problem however, is that many who hold this opinion have ceased to celebrate the coming of Christ at all.  Christmas is about the Incarnation – it doesn’t realy matter WHEN we celebrate.. the point of what we pass on to the next generation is THAT the Incarnation is WORTH CELEBRATING!

For example, this is the only time of the year when I can walk into a grocery store and hear the name of Jesus sung over the airwaves. Even in environments who are “politically correct” the rest of the year, we hear lyrics from traditional carols — “Glory to the newborn King,” “Christ the everlasting Lord,” “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,”  just to name a few lines we all know and recognize. 

As we approach the actual Christmas Day, let me challenge you to consider what your children are learning about Jesus this time of year — everywhere we look, there are opportunities to share the gospel…. How will you be “Jesus with skin on” to those around you during these weeks and days?

 More to come. Blessings!

(c)2011 dcg/atg.  Duplication without permission prohibited.  Thank you for your integrity.

Happy Resurrection!


           Today’s post is a second excerpt from my historical account of the life of Mary Magdalene, entitled “Journey: a novel”.  The book recounts the lives of Mary Magdalene, Simon the Pharisee and many of Jesus’ disciples, and has received some exciting reviews …..  It is the result of over 8 years of research and a trip to Israel. If you would like to read it, it is available on Amazon.com.

This morning’s post is my feeble attempt to begin to explain what the power of the resurrection of Jesus means in my own life. ….

           Three days later, just before sunrise, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, made their way to Joseph’s garden tomb. “Surely they will let us anoint his body,” they told each other. “What should we do if no one is there? Who will break the seal and move the stone?”

            As they neared the path leading to Joseph’s garden, both women were unexpectedly knocked to their feet. The ground was shaking again, this time with more force and power than either of them had ever seen. Below them, the earth roared, thundering.

            Was the world coming to an end?

            Just beyond where they were on the path, a flash of lightning lit up the sky.

            “Did you see that?” Mary asked Magdalene.

            “Yes.” She answered. “Where did it come from?”

            “I wondered that too. It didn’t come from the sky.”

            Both women broke into a run. As they entered the clearing in front of Joseph’s tomb, they stopped in astonishment.

            The great flat stone, some six feet in diameter, had been rolled away from the door. Who had broken the mortar seal?

            Around them, on the ground, looking as though they were dead, were five Roman soldiers. 

            However unusual, these were not the things that drew their attention.

            Sitting on top of the stone, to the right of the open doorway, was a young man. He was clothed in a blazing, white garment. He shone with a piercingly bright light. It emanated from him and enveloped him. It moved as he moved.

            And yet, they observed, he was real.

            The young man looked at them, as though they had been expected. He smiled. “He is not here,” he announced. “He is risen — just like he said.”

            “What did you say?” the older Mary asked him.

            “Come and see.” The young man indicated the open doorway to the tomb. “Go in, and see the place where he was laid.”

            Not exactly sure what they should do next, the two women looked at each other. They would have to pass this glowing figure in order to go through the door.

            The older Mary took the lead. Taking Magdalene’s hand she led them through the doorway. Was it authentic? Magdalene watched the young man, to see what he would do.

            He seemed to be enjoying himself.

            He watched them as they passed. He smiled at them.

            Entering the grave, the two women were greeted by two more young men in glowing white garments. Both were sitting on the bench where Jesus’ body had been placed the day after the feast.

            Was it brighter in here, the older Mary wondered? Where was the Light coming from?

            Who were these men, Magdalene questioned? They carried the same Light and Substance with them she had encountered the night of her deliverance.

            Were these angels, then?

            She couldn’t stand up in this atmosphere, she realized. She fell to her knees. So did the other Mary.

            The angel sitting on the head-plate spoke, looking directly at Magdalene. “He is not here,” he said clearly. “He has risen. Look here. This is the place where he was.”

             The second angel, sitting at the foot-plate, looked at the older Mary and smiled. “Go and tell the learners — and Peter — He is going before you to Galilee,” he said.

            What? The women looked at each other, and walked out of the tomb. Upon their exit, they were greeted by Salome, Elsbeth, Joanna, Abigail and Hadassah. Each woman was carrying a bag of myrrh and spices.

            “Good morning!” Hadassah said.

            “What are you doing here?” Magdalene asked.

            “We came to anoint the body. We’ve decided we will unwrap him if we have to,” Salome spoke.

            “It’s not here.” The older Mary spoke with a new conviction.

            “What’s not here?” Salome asked.

            “The body; it’s not here.” Mary looked at them as she repeated her words.

            “Did you see the angel?” Magdalene asked. “He was sitting right here.”

            “No, we didn’t see an angel.” Joanna looked at her strangely. “But we did see the soldiers running down the road as we were coming. One of them said something about going to make a report.”

            “To Pilate?”

            “I don’t think so. They said something about giving account to Caiaphas.” Abigail answered.

            “I think one of them was in Commander Flavius’ regiment,” Elsbeth offered. “I remembered seeing him before.”

            The older Mary looked at Salome. “The angel said we should tell the disciples the Master is alive, and will be waiting for us in Galilee.”

            Salome’s face broke into a smile. “Are you sure?” she asked.

            Mary glanced back toward the open door. “Pretty sure!” she answered.

            The group of women left together, talking and sharing. It would be wonderful to share the news with John, and James, and Andrew…. They couldn’t wait to see their faces.

            But Mary Magdalene couldn’t find the strength to leave the garden area. Old emotions began to surface.

            If he wasn’t here, where was he?

            She looked back through the tomb door.

            Yes, the two angels were still sitting there. She just wanted to be sure.

Her thoughts began to race. Her eyes filled with tears. The pent up fears of the past few days began to rise in a torrent of emotion.

            She began to weep; the sense of abandonment overwhelming her once again. What would she do – without Him?

             “Why are you weeping?” The angel at the head plate asked, his voice coming through the open doorway.

            “Because they have taken my Master away; I don’t know where he is,” she answered. How would she learn to live her life, she wondered? Who would teach her the things she was still missing? Who could she ask?

            Would anyone else understand her heart?

            Perhaps she just needed to find a place to have a good cry, she thought. Looking down, she turned, and almost ran into someone.

            Oh, she thought. The gardeners are here to tend the grounds. I will have to go somewhere else to be alone.

            “Why are you weeping?” the gardener asked.

            There it was; the same question. Magdalene decided to get some answers. There had to be an answer. She would find strength somewhere inside herself to handle this. She took a deep breath

            “Sir,” she said. “You are the gardener. If you have taken his body somewhere, please tell me where it is….” Her voice broke, and she began to weep harder. Sobs were beginning now. She had to get the words out. “I …. will…come and take… his… body… away.”

            There was a short stretch of silence. She didn’t know what else to say.

            Where could they have laid the body?

            The Gardener spoke, gently; kindly, quietly.

            “Mary!”

            From the deep caverns of her soul, her being resonated with response. This was the Voice that shattered her chains in the storeroom. This was the Voice that called her brother back from beyond the grave. This was the Voice that had shaped her identity since the night of her deliverance.

            This was the Voice of her God.

            She fell to her knees, and took hold of his feet in worship, weeping. “Oh, Master!” she cried with relief. “Jesus!”

            He knelt down and lifted her to her feet. “I haven’t ascended to the Mercy Seat, Mary. Don’t cling to me yet.” He paused. “Go and tell my friends that I am ascending — to my Father; and your Father — to my God; and your God.”

            She stood up. Looking at him she realized he was shining. It was the same light she had seen surrounding the angels; but it was brighter, stronger, somehow. She took a deep breath, and smiled at him.

            “I will, Master,” she replied, her heart suddenly light. She turned to go, and then excitedly took a step to return to him. Thinking better of it, she turned again to go the other direction, returning to her task, remembering his words.  For a moment, she looked back at him. He was watching her and chuckling. Yes, it was Jesus.

            She ran from the tomb. Was this a song she was humming? She didn’t know. She had never been so full of joy. He had kept his promise.

            I will not leave you alone. I will come to you.

            Perhaps she could still catch up with the others.

            A few moments passed.

            The older Mary, Salome, and the others, were still moving towards the city. In actuality, they were not too far ahead of her. Coming off the pathway which led to Joseph’s family home, the group turned onto the main road.              Suddenly, a man stood six feet in front of them.

            “Good morning, friends!” he called in greeting.

            Stunned, the women looked up. No one had seen him walking down the road…. Where had he come from?

            “It – it’s Jesus!

            The older Mary stood in shock for a moment. Then, all at once, she ran to him, and dropped to her knees, grasping his feet. Was he real? Was it really true?

            The other women gathered around him as well; Salome and Joanna, Hadassah and Abigail. Elsbeth just stood weeping. Each one found themselves wanting to confirm what their eyes told them. They too, touched him, hugged him.

            As the discovery of reality became clear, a sense of fear emerged. The desire to be separated from such power; somehow given a “safe distance,” whispered to them.

            “Don’t be afraid!” Jesus looked clearly at Salome and those standing back, beginning to just observe.

             “It’s all right! Come closer!” he said. “Go and tell my friends I will meet them in Galilee.”

            The women had run elatedly to deliver the message.

            At first, it had not been well received.

            At first, the men had not believed them. “Silly women!” a few said. “Magdalene has always been too emotional!”

            But then, Simon Peter and John decided to confirm the story. John had gone into the tomb first. He was convinced, and had told them all so.

            Poor Simon, Mary considered. He had been sure it couldn’t be true: even when his wife told him her experience!

            Then, he had looked into the tomb’s doorway and seen the wrappings neatly folded. The handkerchief Nicodemus had placed over Jesus’ face that night was over to the side, as though he had wiped his face before getting up. In disbelief, Simon Peter had gathered the linen wrappings to his chest.

            He had wept, full of remorse, for hours.

            He still wept easily, and often.

            No one knew when, or where, but the Master found Simon Peter at some point during that first day. She could only envision the conversation which had taken place between them.

            Peter didn’t talk much about what Jesus had said to him, but just the mention of it in conversation always brought him to tears.

            The fisherman had been different since then too, she considered.

            He was gentler, less impulsive; certainly less forceful in his opinions.

            Elsbeth had confided that changes had taken place at home as well……

…. To read the rest of the story, look for “Journey” to be available later this spring, released through Advantage Books.

(c)2010 DG — Awakened to Grow — Duplication without permission prohibited.     

            After that, Jesus had appeared to so many.

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