Thursday, April 2, 2015

the Legend of the Dogwood...a Maundy Thursday reminder

It was a warm spring day many years ago when I first heard the legend of the Dogwood tree. My Grandmother was standing at the wood line behind her home and she was so joyful that she had spotted a dogwood in the shadow of the tall long leaf pines. I remember walking over to where she stood to see what she was doing. We were there for Easter, having driven from Tampa, Fla., to spend Easter with the family. Mammy, as we called her, was stroking the petals of the little tree and a tear was rolling down her face. I asked her why she was crying and she told me she was sharing the pain of the little tree. I didn't understand and she saw the confusion on my face and smiled. She asked me if I had not been told the Legend of the Dogwood. I told her I didn't think I had and she shook her head and told me to sit down. Now, Mammy had been a teacher most of her life. She never missed an opportunity to teach us things she thought we should know. I took a seat on a big old tree that had been felled by a spring storm and she sat beside me. This is the Legend she recited to me. At the time of Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus nailed upon it, sensed this. In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering Jesus said to the tree: “Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross — two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember.” It did not take long for the forests of Dogwoods to begin withering and dying. They did not die completely, only becoming slender and bent and now the flowers came profusely, showing the story of the crucifixion in their petals. I thought of this a few weeks ago as I noticed the dogwoods in bloom as we drove down Highway 151. The most beautiful of all were not the healthy ones that came from a nursery, well fed and tended. They looked taller and stronger than the real beauties, the ones that grew up wild in the woods of pine and oak, their limbs spindly and bent … the flowers are white, the nail marks marred by the rusty color of old blood and the crown of thorns at the center that speaks out to remind us, our Savior blessed you and and forgave you, just as he did the once majestic Dogwood tree. Sometimes being brought low is not a punishment, but a reminder. Rejoice, because this is Maundy Thursday. Good Friday will be time enough to reflect on what was done to this gentle man, this son of God whom we call Jesus. Our tears may flow as we do the Stations of the Cross, but much joy will be shared on Easter Sunday. He is Risen … and the Dogwood still blooms with the story.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN (as published in the Cheraw Chronicle)

When we were growing up we had the best of both worlds where our religious training was concerned.  We were brought up in both the Catholic and Southern Baptist churches.  We learned to understand and cherish the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, the peace of the Mass and the strict discipline of the Sisters that taught us in school (might I even say, fear?)  I attended Catholic schools until we moved to Ruby when I was 15. From the Southern Baptists of my Grandparents church (our beloved Douglas Mill Baptist Church) I learned to read my Bible and things I did not understand were explained to me my Grandmother, ever the teacher.  I learned to love all the old hymns in the Broadman Hymnal...one of my favorite hymns was Wayfaring Stranger.  It says so much about our Journey here on earth and what God expects of us.  To often we ignore a call or put aside an obligation.  We have a wealth of freedoms that we take for granted untill it is nearly to late.  Bitter words can part of us from the love of our Church families and essentially from the Benediction of our faith.
 
Most of you know that I came close to meeting Jesus this past summer but while I may have been ready, others including God had other ideas.  I even had a visitation from long passed mothers of my family who told me that all would be well.  Eventually.  So, I held onto my faith and let God work his miracles.  On facebook when I was finally able to sit up for while and read all the prayers that had been sent up for me, I found I had a new friend that I really had never heard from before. I have never been sure how this Minister of a church in Kenya came to be my friend, but trusting in God we have been visiting on Facebook for many months.  He has offered up prayer for me and I for him and his flock.  They need rain for the crops, so I pray for rain for them.  His church is in its infancy but they have so much faith.  We have been discussing the possibility of a Sister Church to sponsor them and help them to get Bibles and Bible story books for the children; to give them moral support and help them get firmly on their feet.  I love to look at the photos of his Congregation and how they get to their knees to  ask for God's blessings.  In a time when so many are punished by death for their Christian beliefs, and even here some of our traditions are banned where our holidays are concerned, I know that their little church will survive.  If you would like to friend Lucas and his Church on Facebook his full name is Lucas Wafula Wechuli.  Just go on Facebook, tell him God sent you.  Here is a photo of three of the little children in Jesus's care...there are many more photos on Lucas's home page.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Tomato King

Last year, Mac said he wasn't going to plant so many tomatoes.  This was after our tomatoes were like zucchini in that we couldn't
 give them away.  I canned and froze tomatoes and wrapped green ones in newspaper and stored them in the pantry.  We were eating tomatoes at Thanksgiving.  He grows some really great ones in these things he call "growtainers".  They hold two plants each.
  He has four of them.  The tomatoes get to be softball and bigger size.  They make great sink sandwiches.  He has the makings for
 four more of these growtainers out there.  Okay, so that's eight tomato plants already bearing.  But wait!  He has nearly an acre  planted in melons, beans,  Armendian melons (a great cucumber), eggplant and peppers...we have strawberries (still putting on fruit)
 and YES we have TOMATOES.  There are Celebrity,  Mortgage Lifter (three different varieties) and lord knows what else.  He even
 has some grafting stock to try grafting.  Like we don't have enough already. 
 
I saw this little marvel  of a gadget on The Price is Right.  It was called a Tomato Press.  Okay, so lots of you already knew about this thing, but I didn't.  So that weekend, I used it for the second time.  I put on a big pan of boiling water and started blanching the
 baskets and baskets of tomatoes that were sitting on every available space in the kitchen and dining room.  I just plopped the tomatoes, skin and all, into the hopper and started turning the handle.  Out poured lovely tomato sauce.  I put the skin and seed  back through and got more juice...I worked for nearly three hours and ended up with ten quarts of lovely tomato's for use in sauces of  all kinds.  And it made a pretty good juice, too. 
 
Last year, it went like this: I had just spent two hours watering the garden.  I  watered the fruit trees and all the tomatoes, the  Strawberries and the eggplant. I watered the peppers (bell and HOT) and the flowers even got some attention for a change.  Done  with the front, I turned the hose over to Mac and came inside for a cup of coffee!   Mac was down in the big garden watering .  I went down to take him a cold drink and he was shaking his head.  "What's up?" I asked him.  He looked around at the 80+ Tomato plants (including the three he had planted on Saturday) and said "I'm not going to plant so many tomatoes next year."   I  nodded wisely, but a mental eye roll was what was going on in my head.  Yep, I've heard that before!  Right  now, at this very  second he is going through a box of seeds he saved from last year.  They are tomato seeds.  I give up.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Reading THE BOOK THIEF

Power outages are a pain...and due to a bit of ice during the night, we had a countywide outage. 
awakened at about 4 a.m. and noticed that the fan was not running.  Getting up to check the 
clock, I immediately crawled back in my warm bed before it became a cold bed.  I didn't have long
to wait.  At 6:30 I got up and still no power.  Fetching the torch (flashlight) I went looking for my
Kindle.  I am half way through The Book Thief, and this was the perfect opportunity to get deep
into the other half.  I haven't seen the movie, which I understand is very good, but I often refuse 
to see the movie before reading the book.  Hollywood never does the book proud.  I remember  
once after reading Dean Koontz's The Watchers for the third time going to see the movie.  The
only thing vaguely familiar was the beautiful Golden Retriever.  What a waste of money.
So as I am reading The Book Thief, I noticed something.  My face was in turmoil.  It couldn't smile,
it wouldn't hold even a hint of a smile.  I stopped to think back on other favorite books and going
down the list in my mind realized that most books have humor in them, even if the books are not
intended to be funny.  It makes a nice break in the book from the terror or the haunting or
whatever the nature of the book might be.  Humor is definitely not the nature of The Book Thief. 
The nature of this book is not really fear either.  The nature of this book is Doldrums...because that
is where you are from page one onward.  The Holocaust is the main thrust of the book, but even
in The Diary of Anne Frank you smile on occasion and are even able to laugh out loud.  But not
here.  I hope I am not putting you off reading this spell binding  book because that is exactly what
it is, spell binding.  I find my self putting off the last few pages hating to come to the end of it
Because I know I will  never want to read it again,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Ugly Tattoo



I was talking online to my granddaughter Arianna yesterday.  She loves school, and for that I am grateful.  I loved school, too.  I attended many of them during my schoolyears and  even once went to school in a skating rink (our school in Savannah had burned to the ground).  Arianna told me that they are reading To Kill a Mockingbird in English Lit and how much she is enjoying it.  I asked her if she had read The Diary of Anne Frank and she said no.  I was shocked, as it was required reading in my class at Our Lady of Victory in Washington, DC.  It was not, however, how I first learned of the Holocaust. 
I was twelve years old and we lived in Cleveland, Ohio.  Our neighbors 2 doors down were the Silvers.  I was friends with their daughter Regina and frequently was a guest in their home.  We played card games with Mrs Silver and it was she who taught us to play Rummy 500.  One day when I was there Dr. Silver came home and was so excited he was actully shouting as he came in the door, yelling for "Mama".  "Mama Mama, are you here?"  He ruffled mine and Gina's hair as he rushed by us, looking for his wife.  He called her "Mama" and she called him "Papa".  His voice was filled with excitement and something I only identified as justification years later.  I heard the name Eichman mentioned and that he had been captured by the Israeli's Mossad and was now being held for trial.  Mrs Silver came in and sat down with a whoomph on the feather sofa between Gina and me.  She turned her wrist over and gently stroked the numbers and letters inked permenently there on that pale skin.  Gina had told me some time ago that her parents had been in the Concentration Camp Treblinka and had been freed at the end of the war by American troops.
There were many war criminals to be held up to public scrutiny and put on trial at Nuremburg but many still who escaped justice.  One of them was Otto Adolph Eichmann.  And that was what was causing all the excitement in the Silver household.  This cruel man had finally been found in South America and was going to finally face the victims who were still living and hopefully pay the price for ones who did not.  My eyes kept going to the tattoo on Mrs Silver's wrist.  She took my hand and laid my fingers on the ugly block of ink.  "Never again we pray..." she whispered.
When we moved to DC one of the books we were required to read was "The Diary of Anne Frank" and I was mesmerized because finally I understood a bit of what the Silvers had been through.  A very little bit, but I would learn more as I grew up.  I was haunted by that turned wrist and the anguish in the eyes of a friend's mother.  Here is a short history of one of the cruelest men to ever draw breath...Otto Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi SS-Obersturmbannf├╝hrer and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust. Eichmann was charged by SS-Obergruppenf├╝hrer Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II. In 1960, he was captured in Argentina by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service. Following a widely publicised trial in Israel, he was found guilty of war crimes and hanged in 1962.
Last week was the 70th anniversary of the discovery and freeing of the prisoners left alive in the camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, camps to numerous to list here.  Lest we forget...