Epiphany - a bit of a revelation!

Today is officially the end of the Christmas season.

Yes, I’m aware that most of us think Christmas ends on Dec 25th, but in strictly theological terms, that’s the day it STARTS!

And the ’12 Days of Christmas’ then run until today – January 6th – which is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany.

This important holy day originates in Eastern Christianity and in fact today is Christmas Day in the Eastern Orthodox churches. It’s also called ‘Old Christmas Day’. In some countries  January 7th is also celebrated with a Christmas bank holiday.

Traditionally, today marks the moment when Jesus was made known to the world. If you think about it that’s where the word ‘epiphany'’ comes to us … not to get too technical but if you look up the word in the dictionary … it means ‘a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation’.

Epiphany

January 6th is the day when the Magi – the Wise Men/Kings – are thought to have visited baby Jesus, the Christ Child,  as related in the New Testament of the Bible in Matthew Ch 2: 1-12. Yes, I know, in the traditional Nativity we have them coming to the manger in the stable at the same time as the shepherds on the night of the baby’s birth, but this narrative tells us it might have been a bit after that.

But as those wise men (and by the way there’s nothing to tell us there were three of them – we just assume that because they brought three gifts … gold, frankincense and myrrh) represented the wider world outside of the place of his birth, the place we now call ‘The Holy Land’, it has become the time when we commemorate the ‘revelation’ or ‘appearance’ of Jesus Christ to the world, to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish populations of the world.

Another tradition also links Epiphany with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, thirty odd years after his birth, just as he was about to start his ministry. This story is shared in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22, with Christ revealing himself to the world as God's son. Some Christian denominations also celebrate Epiphany as the commemoration of Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), an event thought to show the divinity of Christ and his divine power.

To put it simply - today, Epiphany, is a day laden with significance.

Epiphany was introduced into Western Christianity in the 4th century and these days many churches also celebrate the festival on the Sunday before January 6th – it’s called ‘Epiphany Sunday’ and soon after there is ‘Plough Monday’ but that’s perhaps a story for another time.

There are many traditions which have developed down the centuries associated with Epiphany. Today is the day when it’s thought we should take down our Christmas tree and decorations.

So that’s one of my jobs for today then!

Epiphany (holiday) - Wikipedia


Giving Thanks for the Everyday

Sometimes it's easy to take life for granted isn't it?

As we step into this new year - yes I'm still on about that - I for one am reminded that life is not all about the STUFF we gather around ourselves, or the status and position we have in life, or the state of our bank account.

Sometimes it's just about being grateful for the everyday.

Over the years I've gathered a lot of thoughts about Gratitude. They are on my Facebook page called 'Don't forget to Say Thanks' which I still update from time to time, so don't be surprised if this subject crops up from time to time. Being thankful is something I'm passionate about!

So today I bring you a message from an 'Author Unknown' (as far as I can tell) ...

 

Thank You for our Messy Home

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this sink of dirty dishes; we have plenty of food to eat.

Thank you for this pile of dirty, stinky laundry; we have plenty of nice clothes to wear.

And I would like to thank you, Lord, for those unmade beds; they were so warm and comfortable last night. I know that many have no bed.

My thanks to you, Lord, for this bathroom, complete with all the splattered mess, soggy, grimy towels and the dirty lavatory; they are all so convenient.

Thank you for this finger-smudged refrigerator that needs defrosting so badly; it has served us faithfully for many years. It is full of cold drinks and enough leftovers for two or three meals.

Thank you, Lord, for this oven that absolutely must be cleaned today; it has baked so many things over the years.

The whole family is grateful for that tall grass that needs mowing and lawn that needs raking; we all enjoy the yard.

Thank you, Lord, even for that slamming screen door. My kids are healthy and able to run and play. Many children cannot.

Lord, the presence of all these chores awaiting me says You have richly blessed my family. I shall do them cheerfully and I shall do them gratefully.

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings... Thank you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as possible...Thank you, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising...Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic with socks that are lost, toast that is burned, tempers that are short, and my children that are so loud...Thank you, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times not balanced...Thank you, Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous...Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who are jobless.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my circumstances were not so modest...Thank you, Lord, for life.

Author Unknown


Remembering Uncle Mike

Today is World Braille Day.

If you’re not already aware,  braille’ is a system of reading and writing for people with no sight. Put simply, although there is a lot more to it than this - it’s a series of raised dots which spell out letters and words. It’s brilliant.

I first came across braille when I was a child.  ‘Uncle Mike’ was a great family friend, and he was blind. I remember his many braille books – large bound copies sitting on a sturdy book shelf, and I was fascinated by the bumps and dots on the pages. I wish now I’d asked him to teach me a bit about reading that way.

Because Uncle Mike WAS a teacher, a headmaster actually at a secondary school for blind pupils in a place called Thika in Kenya in East Africa. Mike was not just an intellect, he was also a man of deep faith, a loving family man, a talented musician (a pianist, playing by ear and blessed with a gorgeous singing voice) very funny and tremendously adventurous – he once climbed Mount Kenya!

But back to the braille and why January 4th is World Braille Day.

It’s because it was on this day back in 1809 that the creator of the reading and writing system - Louis Braille – was born. He was French and was born sighted. Unfortunately, at the age of three he had a terrible accident which blinded him in one eye. An infection followed and spread to both eyes, and by the time he was five, he was completely blind. I read that because he was so young he didn’t realise he had no sight and often asked why it was so dark. His parents were apparently determined that their youngest child would not miss out on life and he was educated and learned to make his way around his village using a cane.

Louis was very bright and eventually received a scholarship to France's Royal Institute for Blind Youth, where he first began to investigate reading and writing systems, including a military cryptography system devised by a chap called Charles Barbier, which allowed night time reading and writing. By 1824 Louis was ready to show his ideas to the world and the system he devised has become a window on to the world for blind and partially sighted people down the years. Although it’s been slightly tweaked from time to time, the system even today remains virtually changed from Louis’ original concepts.

Today – it’s simply known as ‘braille’ and is used across the globe!

And so today – January 4th – is World Braille Day and this month is Braille Literacy Month in some countries, helping us all to celebrate not just Louis Braille’s incredible invention, but also encouraging us to understand the needs of people who have no sight.

As ‘Uncle Mike’ proved to me all those years ago – not by telling me but just by being who he was - just because one has a disability doesn’t mean that the world is closed to us! We can all climb our mountains, even if we think it might be impossible!

Louis Braille - Wikipedia / Braille - Wikipedia / What is World Braille Day? - Braille Works


Simple Things

There are some things in life we just take for granted, aren’t there?

Like picking up a spoon to eat our breakfast cereal.  Grabbing a knife when we need to cut something up?

Or how about a drinking straw with which to sip our cool beverages? 

Just simple things!

Straws have gone a bit out of fashion in recent times ... plastic straws having been identified as possible pollutants. These days, of course, we're encouraged to use the biodegradable kind and lots of different types of drinking straws are being created as alternatives.

But did you know that the modern drinking straw was patented today – Jan 3rd  in 1888 – by an American inventor called Marvin C. Stone?

He was originally in the cigar making industry but came up with an idea to wrap paper around a pencil and apply thick layers of glue to make a drinking straw.  Bit by bit, the process was refined to ensure the straws would survive even strong alcoholic beverages. He created an automated machine to produce the straws and they proved instantly popular. 

But drinking straws go back much further, and some take us back actually to more biodegradable options.

Over 5,000 years ago the ancient Sumerians used straws made from gold and lapis lazuli, a precious stone, to sip beer. Sumer was in Mesopotamia in modern-day Iraq and Kuwait,  and archaeologists have discovered drinking straws in the ruins of cities and tombs dating back to 3000 BC. And it appears that even earlier versions which preceded those had been crafted  in wood or from hollow plants.  Told you - biodegradable!

Meanwhile, in Argentina in South America, there’s evidence that natives also used drinking straws made from wood for several thousand years. Later they developed devices made from metal called "bombilla".

By the 1800s in the USA, the trend for drinking through cheap, easily produced rye grass straws took off, but they were prone to turning to mush when left in liquid for any length of time.  Cue Mr Marvin C Stone!

It’s easy to forget that sometimes even the simple things in life come after much hard work and testing by pioneers who have come before us.  We take for granted the freedoms that most of us enjoy, forgetting the sacrifices that might have been involved to get us to this point.

As we step out into a new year, let us stop to think about the people in our lives who have brought us to this point. Those who have shaped us, who perhaps gave up things and gave something of themselves, including talents, intellect, imagination and expertise, so that WE might have the lives we enjoy today.

Note - http://www.eatingutensils.net/history-of-other-eating-utensils/drinking-straws-history/


Every Step Will Show

When I was a child and into my teens I had an autograph book. 

It was the thing to do and it wasn't particularly about getting the signatures of famous people - this was a LONG time before our celebrity culture kicked in! It was more about gathering the names and thoughts of our friends and relatives. So whenever I had the opportunity I whipped out my little autograph book and asked people to sign. 

I was at boarding school when I first started gathering names and so my friends signed, as well as family members, and visitors to our home. Some just signed their names. Others wrote a little joke, some gave me their favourite Bible verse. And others left little sayings which they hoped would help me.

One of those went something like this ...

The future lies before you, like a field of driven snow
Be careful how you tread it, for every step will show

I've discovered over the years that's it's quite a well known adage written by 'Anonymous' or 'Unknown'. There are sometimes slight changes to the wording. Some versions have 'paths of white snow' and 'a field of fallen snow' in that first line but the sentiment is the same.

It's a thought that's travelled with me since I first read that entry in my little autograph book when I was a pre-teen.

Every time I experience snow, even very occasionally in my back garden in Jersey, the strength of the proverb impresses again. Snow jersey garden - cropped

So as we enter 2021 with all it's 'unwritten pages' and every day being a new one, I am once again reminded that whatever I do and however I behave, it has an impact on the world around me. My actions affect others. My behaviours can be selfish, or selfless. I can be a good in the world, or a 'less than good'.

It's up to me to decide what mark my steps leave.

 

Image by Cathy Le Feuvre

 

 

 

 

 


One Day At A Time

A little while ago, before the coronavirus pandemic took over our lives, I was rummaging through a pile of stuff in a charity shop when I came across a little pendant. 

It's not gold, or silver - worth practically nothing. But it carries a very special message, I think.

One day at a time

I've been thinking about trying to do a daily blog for a while now. Just a few thoughts to help me/us through the day maybe, or the week ... or the moment we're struggling in.

I'm a bit of a spiritual person, so this might be sometimes sort of religious, but not always. 

And when I found the pendant, I knew I had my title!

And as we move from 2020 into 2021 - with all the relief we can muster after the pandemic lockdown and disruption and with all the hopes and dreams for a better, healthier year ahead - for me this thought is engraved in my mind, and on my heart. 

Just this - I'm not going to get ahead of myself. I'm going to try to breathe into each moment, find joy in the simplest of things and satisfaction in the everyday. While planning and dreaming is the human condition, for me it sometimes stops me from just BEING in this moment.

S0, don't know about you but I'm going to try to live this year ... just One Day at a Time!

If you fancy it ... why not join me?