This video has gone viral because it is so beautifully written and performed by two Canadian sisters, Cassandra Star (aged 10) and Callahan (aged 19) Armstrong. It uses the melody of Leonard Cohen’s famous song “Hallelujah” with words written by Kelly Mooney that tell the Easter story. The sisters originally recorded it as a gift for their grandparents as their grandmother battles illness and the family is separated for the holiday. Their grandmother is a religious person and has been unable to go to church since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Listen and watch – the lyrics are printed on the screen as they sing.
Fandango’s back with his weekly provocative question: What is the one thing in life that you are most excited about right now? Why?
I could answer this is one sentence, but decided to do a little more with it. I’m assuming that the question implies something that I anticipate happening soon that makes me excited, not something that already happened. The first thing that came into my head was I’m excited for the pandemic to be over and I can travel again. Because I live for travel. So I am hoping that we will be able to take the cruise I’ve already booked and paid for, in November 2020, to the Amazon. I have always wanted to cruise the Amazon although when I was younger I probably would have pooh-poohed a nice cruise ship with all the amenities. But now I don’t think I would go there any other way!
Then I heard Dr. Fauci saying that we likely will have a “second wave” of the coronavirus along with the regular flu season near the end of the year. The cruise leaves on Nov. 29! So then I furiously got to work paging through the catalogs of my favorite travel companies to find something we could squeeze in between the first and second waves: Yes! Possibly a trip to Central America where we would likely be seeing mostly ruins and nature in September. Also in September, a couple of choices of African safaris. So once again, we wouldn’t be often among lots of people – we’d just be looking at animals! If there is to be a second wave, avoiding cruise ships might be wise right now. Even so, getting on an airplane in the next few months?! We could go to New Zealand where they’ve already gotten the virus under control: because they acted early to take mitigating measures, they only had about 1,500 cases and last I heard, no deaths! Great – if we could get there without exposing ourselves to the virus in tight places with people occupying every seat on the plane…
Anyway, so my first answer is I am looking forward to the pandemic being over, at least for the most part, so we could travel again.
Then I thought, well, there is another very important thing that I would be extremely excited about and that isgetting Trump out of office!! (The two things are actually connected because in 2016 we got on a plane for Brazil on Nov. 8, not knowing the results of the election and expecting Hillary Clinton to be elected. When we woke up from dozing during the night, we were about to arrive in Sao* Paulo, and as we were all standing in the aisle with one hand on our carry on bags, someone checked his phone and announced Trump had won! It kind of put a damper on the trip and I seriously considered overstaying our visas in Brazil. But this time, if we can take the cruise, we’ll be able to go with the satisfaction of knowing the election results.) I feel pretty confident Biden will win because most people are so disgusted with how Trump has handled (or not handled) the Covid-19 crisis – a non-leader when we need leadership more than ever. Then this last week, he added insult to severe injury by threatening to call the military to stop the protests around the country due to the unnecessary killing of George Floyd. And just two days ago, he had police disperse protesters in front of a church with tear gas in Washington D.C. for a PHOTO OPP!! A photo of him holding a Bible with a sour look on his face. The incongruency of the image of Trump, his facial expression, and holding a Bible made it even worse – if you’re going to chase people away to have a photo opp, at least make it a decent one! But there is no decency with Trump. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word decency and he certainly has no idea what Christianity is all about.
But once again, I feel confident about a Democratic victory, as I did in 2016. Although terrible things can happen, this time we’ve lived with four years of this maniac and any thinking person has to realize by now that he is an existential threat to our country if he stays in office for a second term. (He may not calmly walk away from the presidency if he loses, but we’ll deal with that when and if it happens.) I wish the Democratic nominee were someone other than Joe Biden – I’ve nothing against him per se, but he’s sorta old and sometimes says some weird things (although nothing as insane as the Orange Moron). He is a kind person, which is good, and he has experience, also good, but after having a youngish black president for eight years, why are we taking a step backwards to elect another old white guy? (Two steps forward, one step back perhaps – Trump was the step backward – so change is slow but at least it happens and our country is saved from tyranny.) Biden has promised to nominate a woman as his running mate so I reserve final judgment until we find out who that is. (And even if he nominated Minnie Mouse, I’d still vote for him, obviously).
So, to conclude, considering the first part of the question “one thing IN LIFE” I would be very excited to see the United States join the rest of the “first world” in becoming a better democracy and with sane leadership to tackle serious problems such as health care for all and climate change. That is something I would like to see before my life is over, so I can die knowing my descendants will have a decent, safe world to live in but still have lots more to do.
And considering the EXCITEMENT part – or as I interpret it, anticipation – my desire for my own life is to see as much of the world as I possibly can and still have a few years to write about it!
*Dammit – why did WordPress take out the ability to put in special characters that other languages use???
When we visited Caen, France last summer, we toured its St. Peter church. Being a Catholic church, there was a carved Jesus on the cross in the front, behind the altar. I noticed something red between Jesus’ feet.
Melanie’s weekly Share Your World this week is about celebration of the winter holidays.
Questions: What’s your remedy for the Holiday blues?
Sing carols or if singing is not your thing, listen to cheerful holiday music. Go to a light show at your local botanic garden or zoo or wherever there is a holiday light show. Stay inside, curl up near the fireplace (or some other warm spot in your home) with a hot beverage and read a good book.
Your favorite beverage (if it differs) during the holiday season? If it doesn’t differ, just answer the ‘what’s your favorite beverage” part.
In our family, the tradition is to serve “jolly jolt” on Christmas – this is hot apple cider with cinnamon and cloves, and possibly spiked with a bit of liquor – this is added to taste (rum, vodka, brandy, wine), so the children can enjoy jolly jolt without the liquor! This one has been asked before, but what’s your take on pumpkin spice?
I like pumpkin spice, as in cake or cookies. Is there is a person or god connected with your holiday?
Yes, the “son of God” or Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I was raised that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and while I do believe that and I love to celebrate and put up a creche or nativity scene in my house, I don’t actually believe literally in the story of Jesus’ birth. It just doesn’t make sense to me that three wise men followed a star or comet that led them to his birthplace or that angels appeared to shepherds and told them to go to Bethlehem to worship him.
I’m not even sure that he was born in Bethlehem, although I did go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem last January and was just as excited as anyone to see the place where he was supposedly born. In my opinion, Jesus was just a baby, born like any other baby and probably “worshipped” only by his parents and other family members. But it doesn’t matter – the Christmas story is symbolic and it is the spirit of the holiday that counts. As well as all the traditions having nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, such as Christmas trees, decorations, snow, etc. I enjoy giving gifts and also receiving them and I enjoy singing carols and spreading the love of the season to others. Love, family, friends – that is what Christmas is all about. • Who are they and do you believe in them?
I do believe in Jesus Christ but not as literally the “son of God.” He had an earthly father and mother and was conceived like any other baby. Call me blasphemous, but that’s what I believe. He was a man of peace, a very pious Jew who nevertheless challenged the Jewish establishment; he was the Messiah, as it were. But to me he isn’t technically a god. • If you do not believe in these people or gods, does the celebration/honoring of that being, bother you in any way (e.g., ignored, dismissed, angry, etc.)?
I believe in freedom of religion and respect everyone’s faith or lack thereof. My husband is Jewish and every year is bothered by the onslaught of commercialism and Christmas-in-your-face from October through December. I sympathize with his feelings in spite of thoroughly enjoying the season myself.
Gratitude: Share a song that you enjoy during this Winter season (whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, The Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa and so forth.
It’s hard to choose just one. I enjoy Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs, and many secular songs of the season. I guess my favorites are Angels We Have Heard on High and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, as well as the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. As a classical music lover, I enjoy Handel’s Messiah and other oratorios of the season, as well as madrigal groups singing medieval and Renaissance carols. I also enjoy singing a Christmas cantata every year in my church choir as well as the traditional carols and secular songs.
This song, Lead Me Back to Bethlehem, is from the cantata our church choir sang last year, (but this is a different choir – we don’t sound this good!!) – I loved singing this cantata, called Lead Me Back to Bethlehem by Pepper Choplin. https://youtu.be/vwWt-e1–xs
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week has the theme of HANDS. Looking through my photos, I found hands in various positions and engaging in various tasks – hands are seldom idle!
Some hands are meant to scare…
like on Halloween!
Sometimes hands are helpful, pointing out things of interest…
Hands demonstrate how to make things…
like this man showing us how to make papyrus. He owns a shop that sells paintings made on papyrus “paper.”
Some hands have painted fingernails.
Hands can be used as perspective to show how (in this case) deeply ancient Egyptians carved their images in rock.
Little hands are very busy! My grand-niece makes “buttered popcorn bagels”…
A 4-year old’s hands are always busy exploring! Here my grand-niece (the same one) tried on some big yellow gloves and held something in one of them.
Sometimes to get a photo of the inside of a flower, I have to hold it up…
Hands can spoil your photo when they reach up to take a photo and their shadow falls on your subject!
Sometimes hands are used for sacred acts…
such as prayer;
or when Mary Magdalene touched Jesus’ robe and felt the power of his spirit;
or when a man’s hands protected the children of the Warsaw Ghetto, while their hands could do nothing in their sadness and fear but hang at their sides.
Hands are essential in the evolution of the human species: they grasp tools, they work, they perform intricate surgery, they play music, they embrace, they pet animals*, they are used to show emotion, or to use sign language – they are used in all kinds of expression and communication. Without the development of our hands, we would not have evolved into who we are today.
*I wanted to include photos of hands petting my cat, Hazel, but she jumped on my computer, which I took to mean that I will have to create a separate post on my cat-centered blog of hands petting her!
Frank Jansen at Dutch Goes the Photo has selected worship as his photo challenge theme for Holy Week. I share the sadness of the world for the devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris. But there are many holy places around the world that inspire awe where people worship.
Below are photos of worship from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and the ancient Egyptian religion.
The ancient Egyptians had a pantheon of gods that they worshipped, and many of their temples contain images of pharaohs and others worshipping the gods.
On January 13, our Maranatha tour group visited the Church of All Nations, which is right next to the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. The Garden of Gethsemane has several olive trees that are thousands of years old – that is to say, they were already there when Jesus went there to pray before his crucifixion.
The church was built in 1919-1920, using funds from many nations, which is how it got its name. Officially, it is called Basilica of the Agony.
The church has an interesting history. The current building stands on the foundations of two other churches – one a small chapel from the time of the Crusades, and the other a 4th century Byzantine church. While doing excavations for the current church, parts of this ancient church were found – a pillar and fragments of a beautiful mosaic. Upon discovery of the Byzantine church which had been destroyed in an earthquake in 746 CE, the architect immediately removed the foundations of the new church and began excavating the old one.
The main entry to the church:
When excavations were complete, work was resumed on the current church, using plans that were altered to encompass the ruins of the Byzantine church. In June of 1924, the Catholic basilica was consecrated.
The exit door encompasses a metal sculpture of an olive tree and beautiful metalwork around the door.
The main altar
Here is the exit door from the inside.
The coat of arms of many of the countries who funded the building of the church are incorporated on the ceiling, each in a separate dome, and also in the gorgeous mosaic floor designs.
Looking up toward the central dome
There were several lovely windows like this one.
When we exited onto a walkway that leads to the garden, we passed this side door.
In the garden, the word “peace” is spelled out in stones.
Detail from the front gate from outside, incorporating many symbols: a dove, a chalice, the sun and several Jerusalem crosses.
Of all the churches we visited in Israel, this one was my favorite.
We’ve been so busy since we got home from our trip to Egypt and Israel last week, due to our daughter’s wedding this weekend, that I have not had time to organize my photos for blogging about the trip. Plus my camera broke while on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem so I need professional help at least to restore the photos in my memory card(but that’s a whole other story)!
Thursday has rolled around again so I have compiled cellphone photos of the doors of Old Jerusalem. These were taken on the Via Dolorosa (literally “Sorrowful Way”) which is said to be the route Jesus took after his arrest and condemnation to carry his heavy cross to the place of his crucifixion.
Old Jerusalem has so many beautiful doors and gates that I even saw a poster depicting many of them. (I guess Norm and his fellow door lovers aren’t the only ones obsessed with doors, lol!) This post is strictly doors – I did not include gates because that would double the number of photos in this post!
We started at the Temple Mount, including Dome of the Rock, which is said to be the spot on which the temple stood, and ended at the Western (Wailing Wall), which will be the subject of a future post. These are doors I photographed along the way, and many of them I do not specifically identify because we saw so many places that day! (I’ll try to be better organized when blogging about the actual places. :-}
All photos taken with Samsung Galaxy S7, on January 14, 2019.
One of the most beautiful churches in Evanston, particularly its stained glass windows, is the First Presbyterian Church, which we visited during Open House Chicago 2018 in mid-October. The architect of this building was Daniel H. Burnham, the same man who made Chicago famous for the design of the White City during the World’s Columbian Exhibition in 1893. (If you have read Devil in the White City, you have learned a lot about him.)
The church was built in 1894 and completed in 1895 after a fire that destroyed the previous sanctuary.
Additions to the Joliet limestone building included a Sunday School wing (1926) and the Walker Chapel (1969).
The stained glass windows contain a lot of sapphire blue, which is City Sonnet’s color of the day today.
These large windows which flank the north and south sides of the church depict the Old Testament (south window) and the New Testament (north window).
If you look closely at this window depicting the Ascension, you can see Jesus’ feet and the bottom of his turquoise robe, just above the heads of the witnesses!
These windows tell the story of Adam and Eve.
The Balcony Rose Window is the most beautiful of all! Fully illuminated by the setting sun, it draws its inspiration from the Beatitudes which Jesus shared during his “Sermon on the Mount.” (Matthew 5:3-11) Each “petal” depicts one of the Beatitudes.
Looking toward the altar from the main entrance. Everything on the platform on which the altar sits is removable so the space is very flexible for concerts, pageants and other performances. The sanctuary plus the balcony seats 1,100 people.
Much of the wood trim has carvings, such as these angels. All the columns and decorative trim were not part of the original structure and were added later. The types of wood used were red oak and Georgian pine.
Also notable is the splendid organ, which the organist let me try out! The organ is an amalgamation of parts from the original 1895 organ, the 1940 installation and the 1958 Aeolian Skinner instrument.
The sounds of different instruments, such as the oboe, flutes or violins, can be produced using the levers on the left and right; the sound is transmitted through the approximately 3,500 pipes arranged in 64 ranks.
The organ pipes, as seen from the balcony. The blue ceiling and back-lighting in the organ chamber were added as part of a major renovation of the church in 2001.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Rating: 4 stars
Finished Reading: January 24, 2018
Zealot, by Reza Aslan, is the author’s quest to find the historical Jesus (as opposed to the divine). Who was Jesus really? What was his life like? What were his beliefs? What did he actually say and do? Who were the people that influenced him and that he influenced? These are questions explored in the book.
Aslan was born in Iran into a secular Muslim family, but attended an evangelical Christian camp as an impressionable adolescent, where he embraced Jesus as his savior wholeheartedly. With age, he became less zealous and more circumspect about religion in general. The author’s note on the back flap of the book says that he is “an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions.” He has written about Islam and about God in the modern world.
I would attend Bible Study if a book like this was used. In fact, I went to many passages in my Bible that he quoted in Zealot, in order to see the wording and context.
Jesus of Nazareth in fact did exist. Was he born through immaculate conception? No. (But then, I’ve never believed this anyway.) Did he literally rise from the dead? Probably not. (I don’t believe this either.) So why is he the center of one of the largest faiths in the world?
It’s important to understand that, with our modern obsession about history and facts, “history” as we see it today was an unknown concept in Biblical times. History wasn’t about facts, but rather about revealing truths. People were less interested in what actually happened than in what it meant. This is why it is folly to take the Bible literally, word for word, as the “Word of God.”
Israel at that time was ruled by despotic and often cruel leaders of the Roman empire. Jerusalem was the holy city of the Jews, centered around the holy Temple. The Temple had several courtyards, into which were admitted increasingly select groups of people. Only the high priests could enter the very heart of the Temple. The priests were often allies of the Roman emperors under whom they served, and they also were exclusive, rich, powerful, and not particularly interested in the poor, except the taxes they could get from them. Under these conditions, it was no wonder that the Jewish people were fervently hoping and waiting for the true Messiah.
In the Old Testament, there are several criteria laid out which would point to the real messiah. Jesus of Nazareth did not meet any of these criteria – in the end, instead of becoming the ruler “on the throne of David,” he was executed through crucifixion without having achieved any change in the power structure of Jerusalem. Moreover, Jesus was only one of many such “messiahs” that preached throughout the countryside.
Jesus came from the small village of Nazareth, an insignificant hamlet of poor farmers unworthy of even a dot on the maps of the day. He was a peasant, most likely illiterate like most people then. The idea that he was born in Bethlehem is most likely untrue, which is explained in the narrative. Historical records indicate that he had several brothers and probably some sisters (although females were unworthy of mention and not counted in the census). One of his younger brothers was James, who becomes his principle disciple and after Jesus’ death takes leadership of his movement.A close examination of the gospels by religious scholars have led to discussions and disputes as to which passages are more likely true and which are more likely made up. The gospel of Luke seems to be the most fantastical of the four gospels. John was written quite a bit later and takes bits from the other gospels and from the teachings of Paul. We are thus left with Mark and Matthew to decipher the truth.
John the Baptist led his own movement, and Jesus most likely was a member of that movement. The Bible says that he was baptized by John the Baptist. When he died, various of his disciples went out to preach on their own. In fact, there were many men who claimed themselves to be the messiah. Most were executed and forgotten. Jesus was not.
The “miracles” he performed were probably his most famous and convincing acts. Most of the men who could perform miracles (such as healing the sick) charged for their services; only Jesus did this for free. That attracted many to approach him. The author does not say whether Jesus performed actual “miracles.” I was interested in knowing what exactly he did to heal people, but there are no historical records other than what is written in the gospels and by other religious writers of that time.
The prophecies of the Old Testament (i.e. those that were written down) and oral prophecies were scattered and caused confusion, which is why the New Testament gospel writers invented a narrative that fit with the messiah prophecies that were known to them. It was sort of like a couple of old Jews studying the Talmud, arguing about this point or that – they can go on for hours. They find it a worthy exercise. Perhaps the faithful of those times did something similar.
In fact, the author points out, OT prophets such as Micah, Amos and others were in fact making veiled criticisms of their current king and political order in their narratives, such as wishful thinking about what a good leader should be. But on one thing they all agreed: THE MESSIAH WOULD BE A HUMAN BEING, NOT DIVINE.
The transformation of Jesus from a mere man to a divine being, the literal Son of God largely came from Paul, a Diaspora Jew who spoke Greek. He preached to both Jews and gentiles and invented his own narrative to exalt Jesus as the promised messiah. For the people in the Jesus movement in Jerusalem, calling Jesus the “Son of God” was bestowing a regal title; but for Paul, it was a literal description: Jesus was God’s son. This transformation did not come easily or without conflict. The Jerusalem Jews who were Jesus’ followers found out about Paul’s revisionist teachings and they were considered so bizarre that James called him to Jerusalem to perform a ritual in the Temple recanting his false teachings. Paul apparently did undergo this ritual to appease James, but it was already too late.
The discord between the two groups [the remnants of the Twelve vs. the Greek-speaking Jews] resulted in the emergence of two distinct and competing camps of Christian interpretation in the decades after the crucifixion: one championed by Jesus’ brother, James; the other promoted by the former Pharisee, Paul. …it would be the contest between these two bitter and openly hostile adversaries, more than anything else, would shape Christianity as the global religion we know today. (p. 171)
When Jesus was crucified, over his head was placed a sign which read “bandit.” All of those crucified had an identifying plaque such as this, to indicate their crime under Roman law as a deterrent to others. “Bandit” didn’t have the connotation it does today. It signified “revolutionary” or “zealot.” Jesus was not the meek and mild personage some portray. Although he was not a believer in violence per se, he realized its necessity in some cases to rid society of despots.
His condemnation and crucifixion apparently happened shortly after he entered the Temple and famously overturned the tables of the money lenders. These people were essentially salesmen, vendors who had been situating themselves and their wares inside the outer courtyard of the Temple for ages. It was not illegal nor violated Jewish law.
Jesus’ anger and outrageous act in doing this brought him to the attention of Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler in Jerusalem at that time. Pilate was not conflicted about condemning Jesus as the Bible would have us believe. He had Jesus brought in front of him to answer the question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” but Jesus’ answer didn’t really matter. He was summarily dismissed and sent to be crucified.
To piece together a truly historical narrative of Jesus of Nazareth, scholars today use passages from the Bible, especially those that recur among different writers, and the historical details of society at that time. This is what Zealot attempts to do. I learned a lot from this book but by no means were all my questions answered. Historical facts about Jesus are sketchy and thus we are left with questions. Perhaps the answers to those questions can only be answered through our faith.
All images downloaded from Google Images, except book cover, which was downloaded from Goodreads.com.