Tis the Season

I’m like a big, overgrown kid. I look forward to Christmas every year; not anticipating gifts as a child might, but as the season of remembering the most astounding event in the history of mankind – the birth of the Christ Child. But I also look forward to the Christmas lights – on trees and houses and the occasional automobile. I look forward to the Carols, though I have to admit a preference for the religious ones.

It started in July this year. That’s a first for me. Generally, like most Americans, I think that Halloween is the springboard to Thanksgiving which is the springboard to Christmas. Halloween whispers, “It’s coming”, Thanksgiving shouts, “It’s almost here!” This year, this 2020 year, this most unprecedented year, my need for Christmas reared it’s head and kept poking my heart. My gosh, it’s been a brutal year: an impeachment, a virus, no Memorial Day or 4th of July to speak of, the awful debates, and then the Never-ending Election. Brutal! I swung from depression to sadness to anger back to depression. I had to go to the best ‘feel good’ time of the year to get through it all.

I think it worth noting that the words of this Carol were what replayed in my head; the words, “God is not dead nor doth he sleep”. 

I had to keep reminding myself that He is, indeed, alive and He never sleeps and sees and hears all. That’s a comfort. A great comfort. So July-Christmas started there.

The months slowly moved through their days until, finally, December first. Oh, what a relief! I can completely submerge myself in the beauty and wonder of Christmas. People complain that Christmas has become (or has been for years) too commercial. I rather think of it this way – the Three Wise Men brought special gifts to the Child, meaningful, important gifts; isn’t that what we’re doing? The Magi didn’t have nine billion stores to choose from – that we do is both a blessing and curse but our thought is the same as theirs; to find the best, the most meaningful gift, for the loved ones in our lives. We, in our own ways, repeat the Magi’s gift-giving.

The evergreen tree – or whatever facsimile thereof – represents the never-ending life of Jesus. The angel ornament (or the star) at the top of the tree represents the herald angel that announced to the shepherds, (St. Luke, chapter two, verse 10) “And the angel of the Lord said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Linus tells it beautifully 

 And of course, the gifts at the foot of the tree are the reminder of the Magi.

There is a wonderful innocence to this time of year. Each Christmas is new and shiny and unsullied from the world. Each new Christmas is the reminder of Immanuel – God with us. We see our family and friends in the light of the newness of Christ Child. We find peace, joy, and contentment. That, my very dear friends, is the joy of Christmas.

 

The meat of the matter.

Oh, my gosh! Now I’ve done it! I am hopelessly scarred forever, I fear. I think I may have shot myself in the foot.

Well – you know what time of the year it is; we’re barreling into the holidays. For women, it’s a lot of pressure; for men, it’s a lot of expense you roll your eyes at. (laughing out loud!) It very much matters to us not just how the table looks when set for guests – it’s a labor of love to make the table look as festive and cheerful and beautiful as we can make it and yes, family members are guests – it’s not just the table that’s important, the entire experience is important. To us, anyway.

I was wandering about the meat section of YouTube (you know, it’s one aisle over from the bigfoot section. Just kidding!) and stumbled on some Ohio butchers. Immediately fell in love. Their video about Japanese meat is a delight to watch. Aside from the ZZ Top look – which I don’t object to – these guys know what they’re doing. They are family men, too, and I always like that part of men. Watch this video.

A little further down the aisle, I found the turkey video of my dreams. I am not exaggerating when I tell you there was a smile on my face for the duration of the video. I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving turkey dinner for 50 years and never once did any of my cooked turkeys look anything like this one. Ever. I’ve had some nice ones, I’ve had some pretty ones, but nothing like this. I was so totally invested in this video that I promise you I could SMELL that turkey! I’m laughing as I tell you my mouth was watering. Talk about the power of suggestion!

My first husband, the father of my children, was an excellent grill cook when we met. He eventually worked his way up to executive chef for some very good restaurants in the New England area. I, on the other hand, have no idea how to grill toast, let alone meat. My son has the grill the gene and living in Texas, he has mastered brisket; as a matter of fact, he’s a little chesty about it but what the heck, if you’ve got it – flaunt it.

I’m intimidated by grills. I always think the gas ones are going to blow up and those briquette ones will just cook the metal and wind up on the ground, burning my feet. I hear about the hot/sear side of the fire and the cook side of the fire – how do you know which one is which? Or, rather, how do you make it do that? Is gas smoke bad for you? Is charcoal smoke bad for you? Do you have to pour a gallon of water in the grill when you’re finished cooking? What do you do with the watery, greasy, charcoaly mess when you’re finished? See? Grilling is fraught with danger.

Best to find us a caveman and be done with it. You know – ‘that guy’ – loves a grill like his pickup and his guns. And his dawg. Lon’s younger brother is a pretty good grill man and he really enjoys grilling. I ask Lon, don’t you like to grill out? In his typical Lon face, he looks at me and says, “The meat doesn’t know if it’s in the oven or on the grill.” You can’t argue with logic like that.

But I’m dreamin’ of a caveman! Well; right now, anyway.

 

 

History of St. Valentine

Not St. Valentine, but a reminder of how much we need women (or men), and God, in our lives

FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

Who was Saint Valentine and how did he come to inspire Valentine’s Day?

In the early martyrologies, three different St. Valentines are mentioned, all sharing Feb. 14 for a feast day. Unfortunately, the historical record is sparse. The first St. Valentine was a priest and physician in Rome. He along with St. Marius and his family comforted the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II, the Goth. Eventually, St. Valentine was also arrested, condemned to death for his faith, beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded on Feb. 14, AD 270. He was buried on the Flaminian Way. Later, Pope Julius I (333-356) built a basilica at the site which preserved St. Valentine’s tomb. Archeological digs in the 1500s and 1800s have found evidence of the tomb of St. Valentine. However, in the thirteenth century, his relics were transferred to the Church of Saint Praxedes near the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where they remain today. Also, a small church was built near the Flaminian Gate of Rome which is now known as the Porta del Popolo but was called in the 12th century “the Gate of St. Valentine,” as noted by the early British historian William Somerset (also known as William of Malmesbury, d. 1143), who ranks after St. Bede in authority.

The second St. Valentine was the Bishop of Interamna (now Terni, located about 60 miles from Rome). Under the orders of Prefect Placidus, he too was arrested, scourged, and decapitated, again suffering persecution during the time of Emperor Claudius II.

The third St. Valentine suffered martyrdom in Africa with several companions. However, nothing further is known about this saint. In all, these men, each named St. Valentine, showed heroic love for the Lord and His Church.

The popular customs of showing love and affection on St. Valentine’s Day is almost a coincidence with the feast day of the saint: During the Medieval Age, a common belief in England and France was that birds began to pair on Feb.14, “half-way through the second month of the year.” Chaucer wrote in his “Parliament of Foules” (in Old English): “For this was on Seynt Valentyne’s day, When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” For this reason, the day was dedicated to “lovers” and prompted the sending of letters, gifts, or other signs of affection.

Continue reading History of St. Valentine. It’s an interesting story.

And that’s the story, as I’ve always known. That part of this post was originally published in 2013, and while there was more of it, it’s not overly relevant now. The day before I received one of those dreaded phone calls. My oldest sister died that day, and the rest of the post was me explaining why Jessica, my fairly new co-blogger at the time, would be taking over for a few days. And she did her usual superb job. I go back sometimes and read her posts, I did yesterday, and it never fails to amaze me how she could say so much in about 500 words, I’m almost always at 7-800 and not as clear as she was. Oh well. Things always change, and we carry on.

In any case, I read an article yesterday about how Charles Wesley, who along with his brother John, founded Methodism, found that loving his wife increased his love of God, and vice versa as well. I wonder if that isn’t true for many of those we admire so much, being both some of the best Christians we know and having those amazing long and seemingly really good marriages as well.

The “Lesser” Wesley

Accounts of the great evangelical revival of the 18th century often neglect the life and thought of Charles Wesley (1707–1788). He wrote well over 7,000 hymns, but his older brother John has almost always been honored as the greater of the two men. Even as a child, Charles tended to be sickly, and illness plagued him for much of his life.

Yet Charles was raised in the same home as his brother John, listening to their father, Samuel Wesley Sr., preach in the Epworth church in Lincolnshire, England. Charles, likewise, learned under the tutelage of their assiduous mother, Susanna, who guided the children in their earliest years and taught them the basics of Christian belief and practice.

At Oxford, Charles was initially rather indifferent to matters of faith. After a year of study, however, he recognized the need to set new patterns. Charles began to take the religious life more seriously, celebrated the Lord’s Supper weekly, and convinced a few of his friends to accompany him in the process.

Do read this one as well, it’ll make you smile (or at least it did me!) and help you to recognize the really important things in life. When I first wrote this, I said, “I was going to continue this with some thoughts on how we celebrate the day now. You know, all the money we spend and how every girl needs a dozen roses or a 4½ foot tall teddy bear and such.”

It’s true, that outward swag doesn’t really mean much, except perhaps to remind her you didn’t forget and that’s important. But what is really important is to love and respect each other. That I think is the key to loving each other, and maybe to loving God as well. At least that’s my 2¢ worth. I’m probably overcharging you though. I think I’m maybe a decent Christian, but I’m sitting here alone, having been divorced for over 20 years, so do as I say, not as I did.

The Pirates of Penzance – Wichita

Since it’s the weekend after Halloween, I think we need a pirate story, so here you go

Enjoy

 

History of St. Valentine

FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

Who was Saint Valentine and how did he come to inspire Valentine’s Day?

In the early martyrologies, three different St. Valentines are mentioned, all sharing Feb. 14 for a feast day. Unfortunately, the historical record is sparse. The first St. Valentine was a priest and physician in Rome. He along with St. Marius and his family comforted the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II, the Goth. Eventually, St. Valentine was also arrested, condemned to death for his faith, beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded on Feb. 14, AD 270. He was buried on the Flaminian Way. Later, Pope Julius I (333-356) built a basilica at the site which preserved St. Valentine’s tomb. Archeological digs in the 1500s and 1800s have found evidence of the tomb of St. Valentine. However, in the thirteenth century, his relics were transferred to the Church of Saint Praxedes near the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where they remain today. Also, a small church was built near the Flaminian Gate of Rome which is now known as the Porta del Popolo but was called in the 12th century “the Gate of St. Valentine,” as noted by the early British historian William Somerset (also known as William of Malmesbury, d. 1143), who ranks after St. Bede in authority.

The second St. Valentine was the Bishop of Interamna (now Terni, located about 60 miles from Rome). Under the orders of Prefect Placidus, he too was arrested, scourged, and decapitated, again suffering persecution during the time of Emperor Claudius II.

The third St. Valentine suffered martyrdom in Africa with several companions. However, nothing further is known about this saint. In all, these men, each named St. Valentine, showed heroic love for the Lord and His Church.

The popular customs of showing love and affection on St. Valentine’s Day is almost a coincidence with the feast day of the saint: During the Medieval Age, a common belief in England and France was that birds began to pair on Feb.14, “half-way through the second month of the year.” Chaucer wrote in his “Parliament of Foules” (in Old English): “For this was on Seynt Valentyne’s day, When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” For this reason, the day was dedicated to “lovers” and prompted the sending of letters, gifts, or other signs of affection.

Continue reading History of St. Valentine.

I was going to continue this with some thoughts on how we celebrate the day now. You know, all the money we spend and how every girl needs a dozen roses or a 4½ foot tall teddy bear and such.

But sometimes real life intrudes on blogging, and I’m going to be tied up for about a week on family business, and pretty much away from the blog. So my dearest friend and co-author Jessica is going to be doing most of the work here as well as her own blog.

There’s nothing especially secret about what I’m going to be doing, I’m just not ready to talk about it, maybe when I return. I couldn’t be leaving you in better hands, Jess is the one I turn to when there are problems in my life, and I like to think I’ve reciprocated as much as I could. There are several occasions over the last few months when I have, for one reason or another had enough, and nearly shut this place down, so if you like Nebraska Energy Observer, you have Jess to thank for it still being here.

And one more thing:

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jess. You already know how much you mean to me.♥♥♥♥

 

Union Station at Christmas

As I was heading east last month, I managed to get a few pictures of Union Station in Chicago at Christmas. I’m sure no Photographer but I hope you enjoy them.

Union Station, Chicago is, of course, one of the classic American Railroad stations, which at one time served about half of the railroads in Chicago, now it serves Amtrak and the commuter lines. eat your heart out, New York, you should have saved Penn Station.

A panoramic view of the front of the station

A panoramic view of the front of the station

The Porte Chochere at the Entrance

The Porte Chochere at the Entrance

A detail of one of the Luminaires

A detail of one of the Luminaires

 

The street entrance to the Great Hall

The street entrance to the Great Hall

The Great Hallthe main waiting room

The Great Hall
the main waiting room

The Information Kiosk

The Information Kiosk

 

The Christmas Display

The Christmas Display

Hope you enjoyed it.

 

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