Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Remember When . . . Easter Traditions Began?


So, this past winter I looked up the start of some of our most long-lasting Christmas traditions--namely, Santa Claus. And what I learned made me determined to revive the roots of the tradition, not abandon them altogether as I'd been tempted to do.

The Easter Bunny, on the other hand...I think I'm pulling the plug on him.

I actually made Xoe look up the history of the Easter Bunny last year and write a report on it for school, LOL. She was totally confused by what she found--or rather, by what it has to do with Jesus's resurrection. Good question, my girl. Good question.

Easter is actually from the Roman goddess of spring, Estre. She was a magician, a trickster, and her most famous trick was when she turned a chicken into a rabbit--but which still laid eggs. The Easter egg, then, was an ancient memorial to this goddess and her magic. The egg laid by a rabbit. The Easter Bunny was the product of this magic. Easter, in ancient mythology, was the celebration of the arrival of spring.

It just so happens that the date coincides with the Jewish Passover, which is, of course, when Jesus was crucified and resurrected. And so, the traditions of the Romans merged with Christianity when it was brought to Rome. But unlike Santa Claus, this was no saint who gave selflessly in honor of Christ, and in whose name other gave so their gifts could be anonymous, as Jesus commanded. No, this is pure paganism.

Do I have a problem with searching for colorful plastic eggs? No, not really. It's a scavenger hunt, which is totally fine. But I do wonder why we call it Easter instead of Resurrection Day. (Actually, my piano teacher growing up thoroughly objected to this and always, always called it Resurrection Day.) I do wonder why the Easter Bunny still shows up. I love celebrating the resurrection, and I'm happy to do it with food, with treats, with things that bring joy--because it should bring joy!

But I'm all done with the word "Easter." I'm all done with the traditions that have absolutely no tie to what I'm really celebrating. Resurrection Day, even more than Christmas (in my opinion, LOL), is the foundational day of my Christian faith. Without this day, my hope would be naught. Oh, Jesus still would have paid the price for my sin had He not risen--but if He had not defeated death, then I wouldn't have hope in life eternal with Him.

This Sunday, my friends, is the anniversary of the absolute best day in human history. And I'm tired of calling it by something that cheapens it. This isn't the day of spring, of the rebirth of the year, of magical bunnies who lay eggs. This is the day of Resurrection--of the rebirth of my soul. The day Jesus defeated sin and the grave.

Way better than a chicken-rabbit. Just sayin'.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Word of the Week - Hello


I can't tell you how many times I've looked up the etymology of hello...but for some reason, I've never shared. Obviously time to remedy that!

So the life of hello began with Old High German's hala, hola. It was an imperative form of halon, holon, which meant "to fetch." It was what people cried out to ferry boat captains to get them to pick one up.

English adopted it as early as the 1400s, using it as an exclamation meant to attract attention, spelling it holla, or hollo. But they didn't stop there--they also came up with a "bewildering" amount of other forms, like:

halloo 
hallo 
halloa 
halloo 
hello 
hillo 
hilloa 
holla 
holler 
hollo 
holloa 
hollow 
hullo

Hello didn't catch on among the British for most of history.  Hullo became the standard there, while in the 1880s, America adopted hello as their standard form. It rocketed to the forefront of American speech with the advent of the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell and his cohorts agreed there should be a standard greeting when answering the phone. Bell wanted "ahoy" (which I think is super fun, so I've been known to answer like that when it's my hubby calling), but "hello" won out.

And now hello is quite common in Britain:


Hello, formerly an Americanism, is now nearly as common as hullo in Britain (Say who you are; do not just say 'hello' is the warning given in our telephone directories) and the Englishman cannot be expected to give up the right to say hello if he likes it better than his native hullo. [H.W. Fowler, "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage," 1926]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . A Prayer Request

The Black Sea coast in Bulgaria

Since we began using Sonlight curriculum for our homeschooling when Xoe was in 1st grade, we've read a lot of missionary stories--and honestly, those stories are some of the best things we've read (in my opinion), even amidst all the literature I absolutely adore.

Maybe it's because I love hearing how the light of Christ has been shone around the world. Maybe it's because I'm always awed at hearing how He protects and provides for those living out the Great Commission. Maybe it's because even the losses and sacrifices and martyrs still portray His greatness.

I've never felt the call to go into foreign missions myself, much as I admire those who do. My mission field is behind a computer, using the written word, and it's something I'm passionate about--passionate in the true sense, something I'm willing to suffer for (which is where passion comes from). But I take great joy in supporting those missionaries who do go out into the world.

Today, I'm sending off my husband on a missions trip. He's traveling with a family that has long been friends of mine. They were full time missionaries for much of my growing-up years, and now the couple feel the call to return to Bulgaria, where they served for several years before. David is going along to try to help them find business opportunities to help employ the people in the gypsy village they hope to call home, and to provide resources for this couple too.

You may recall my post a few months ago about Stolen Blessings--these are the same people, the same general area in Bulgaria.

And so, I ask today that you pray. Pray for smooth travels into Eastern Europe. Pray for open doors where they're meant to stride through and closed doors where they're not. Pray for supernatural understanding. For wisdom. For knowledge. For the glory of the Lord to show up in ways no one expected. For divine appointments and blessings unforeseen. And of course, for safe, uneventful travels back home again.

The kids and I will be here, carrying on with business as usual. And praying. Lots. =) Thanks so much for joining me in those prayers!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Remember When . . . George Washington Was Bullet-Proof?

It's the fourth Wednesday of the month...which means my turn on Colonial Quills!

Today, I'm sharing a really cool and inspiring story about a close call George Washington had during the French and Indian War...and how the hand of God was acknowledged by all to have preserved and protected him on that gruesome day.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Word of the week - Planetarium

My not-so-fabulous shot of the earth as seen at FSU's planetarium

Last week, we were super excited to get to visit a local university and see the planetarium with our homeschool group. And of course, this being my family, the night before we were talking about the word.

Rowyn (7) said, "Hey, I know why it's called it called planetarium. Because we see planets!"

"But what about the arium part?" Xoe (9) asked.

"Hmm," I said. "What do we think it could mean?"

Yes, I'm raising nerds, and I'm proud of it. ;-) They reasoned that -arium must mean something about an area. And we came up with some other words that have it, like aquarium (see, an area that holds water!), terrarium (an area that holds...terra? [Me: that means earth]), solarium (an area for solar? Oh wait, solar power means the sun--how can a place hold the sun? Ohhhhhh...I get it).

But just to be sure, we looked it up when we got home--that conversation had taken place in the car on the way home from ballet. Sure enough -arium is Latin for "a place for." And planterium has been around since 1734!

Yep, we felt pretty darn smart. And thoroughly enjoyed our time at the area for planets. ;-)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Wisdom and Knowledge


I've always known there was a distinction between wisdom and knowledge. There is, after all, a reason they're listed as two separate spiritual gifts. A reason they have two different words. And while I've long had a basic idea of that difference, I hadn't fully thought it through until this past weekend.

It started when a list I belong to invited everyone to take a look at this blog, which claims that the church is largely anti-intellectual. The part I found most interesting was more than America as a whole can be anti-intellectual. By which I mean, we put great stock in experts, in facts, in hard knowledge...but not so much, anymore, in those who pursue knowledge for its own sake. That we love experts put pooh-pooh scholars.

I consider myself a scholar--I love learning, and I don't love learning just a particular field for a particular purpose. I just love learning. I love the discovery process, I love the way knew information makes me pause and think and reflect and reexamine all I once thought I knew. But that certainly isn't the way most schools teach kids to think these days, and so it's not where society's focus has turned. We as a whole aren't interested anymore in the what ifs, we're only interested in the Cold, Hard Facts.

But that's what led me to this distinction--there's no such thing as Cold, Hard Facts. Facts can change as knowledge grows. (Hello, eggs. Are you good for me this year or not?? And Pluto, I do so miss counting you as a planet...) As definitions change. As new information comes to light.

Knowledge is supposed to change as it grows. That's the beauty of it. That because we can stand on the shoulders of those who came and discovered before, we can reach new heights. New understanding. We can challenge old "facts" and find new ones. In my sophomore year of college, we read a lot of Aristotle, and one of the translations of the Metaphysics that most stuck with me was by one of our tutors [professors], Joe Sachs. He translated a certain line as "All men by nature stretch themselves out toward knowing."

That really hits the truth of the human condition, and it really captures what Aristotle was trying to say. It's not that we all know. It's not that we all reach toward knowledge. But we do all, naturally, stretch ourselves toward the process of figuring things out. But when society starts pooh-poohing the process and instead only emphasizes the "facts"...

It ain't good, folks. Discovery grinds to a halt, and you end up with a generation of parrots, capable only of telling us what other people thought and unable to think for themselves.

So that's knowledge. But wisdom...wisdom is something altogether different. Wisdom does not change with time. You can't shed new light on moral Truths and have them change. Right is still right. Wrong is still wrong, even after millennia of changing facts.

Wisdom is what God most often supernaturally reveals to people. Oh, we see in Daniel where He gave him the gift of knowledge, and it's listed in the New Testament among the gifts too. I think that's really, incredibly awesome. But when we pray, it's rare that God plops a new fact into our laps. What He does give us, regularly, is understanding of the human condition. Of moral truths. Of spiritual precepts.

This is wisdom. And this is deserving of all sorts of capital letters. Truth. Justice. Right. Wrong. Ideals. Principles.

But there's a very real difference between biblical wisdom and worldly wisdom, which is addressed many times in the Bible. Worldly wisdom says, "Might equals right. If you suffer, you're being punished. If you prosper, you must be just and good." Godly wisdom says, "Even when my enemies have me hemmed in all about, even when my world crumbles around me, I'll trust in my Salvation. I will follow His will, even when the world calls me a fool."

Worldly wisdom says, "There is no Right and Wrong. There's right for me, right for you...live and let live." Godly wisdom says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

The Bible, beautifully, isn't a treatise. It's not filled with knowledge alone--if it was, it would expire. It would go out of date. It could be termed wrong. But it can't, and it isn't, because it deals with the unchanging and unchagable.

Oh, the world tries to change that too. They try to claim that wisdom is like knowledge--mutable and shifting. And when the world tries to do that...

It really ain't good folks.

But understanding the distinction is our first step toward preserving each in its rightful place. And hey, when we do that...we've all got a bit of the scholar going on. ;-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Remember When . . . I Needed an Adjective?

I mentioned this briefly last week, when I was sharing the bling for my Ladies of the Manor Series. ;-) But I'd like to find a new adjective to describe my last heroine for the series.

In book 1, we have The Lost Heiress. "Lost" describes what Brook has been for too long...and what she fears being known as by the populace at large. At one point there's an exchange that goes something like this (I'm paraphrasing myself, LOL).

Brook - "That's what they'll all know me as now. 'The lost heiress.'"
Justin - "You are an heiress, Brook. You can't expect them not to notice."
Brook - "But for too long I was just...lost."

Love being able to work my titles in. ;-) 
This photo of Emma Watson is what I sent to Bethany House
as my inspiration for Rowena. Can't wait to see the model they choose for her!

In book 2, Rowena is most assuredly The Reluctant Duchess. She doesn't want to marry the hero but has little choice. To her own mind, she doesn't know how to be a duchess--or at least, not his duchess. She has been brought up to inherit a Highland earldom (women could inherit titles in Scotland), but Brice, the Duke of Nottingham, belongs to a fashionable set that have always entertained themselves by poking fun at Rowena with her "backwards, backwater ways." Reluctant...aye, to say the least.

So you see, both adjectives for the first 2 books appeal to the characters' fears. Their insecurities. The thing they have to overcome.

At the moment, the adjective I gave Bethany House for my third heroine, Ella, is waiting...but it's not quite right, and my editor invited me to come up with some alternatives as I'm writing it. I'd love some suggestions!

Because waiting is one of her strengths, not her fear. Not that I have to do a fear exactly, but I'd like a stronger, more compelling word. Of course, first you have to know a bit about Ella and her circumstances.

http://www.periodimages.com/-/galleries/victorian/gezzi-1/-/medias/b9637ac0-acca-11e3-a54c-329e81129ea7
This shot from the fabulous PeriodImages.com is such a great Ella
(used with permission - click on photo for link)

Ella is an optimist. Not just your run-of-the-mill optimist, but an Olympic-medal-worthy optimist. It's her sport, her event, her defining characteristic. When shadows come in her life--and trust me, they have--she clings all the tighter to faith and to the deep-set belief that God will work out even this. Then she goes and falls in love with who everyone in her life deems the wrong man.

He's got a past--a selfish one. His first marriage was for money, pure and simple, and everyone is convinced his chose his heiress-wife because she was sickly and would soon die, leaving him free to pursue someone else. The worst part? Everyone's right. In part. But he's changed through his marriage, through his wife's death, and now through raising a child on his own. He's changed...but he's still learning. And from his eyes, the world's a pretty hopeless place, especially when old, ill-chosen friends show up at his door and threaten his daughter if he doesn't help them commit a crime...against Ella.

He warns her away--she doesn't listen. He claims he doesn't care about her--she knows well he means the opposite. The more he pushes, the tighter she holds to what she knows in her heart is true. He needs her, and she needs him.

What one word can convey that? The "lady" part of the title will likely stay put, as it's the only suitable word to describe her. As the daughter of a duke (now the sister of one, since her brother has inherited), Ella has no title of her own, just the courtesy "Lady Ella." She is, quite simply, a lady. So let's focus on the adjective. Something that might speak to her fears, but which harkens to the challenge she faces--and in this case, most likely to the quality that helps her overcome it.

I've toyed with:

Hopeful
Relentless
Persistent
Unshakeable
Steadfast
Tenacious
Unyielding
Constant

Do you like any of those? Or do you have other suggestions???