Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Christmas Traditions or Christmas?
We now enter the wonderful time of the year we call Christmas. It has been described as magical. Christmas is the decorations, the Christmas tree, the lights, and family get-togethers. During this year, travel and visiting have been discouraged, but many feel they can not have Christmas without gatherings.
But, we have surrounded Christmas with these traditions. Let's look at the first, true Christmas.
Please journey back with me for more than 2000 years to Nazareth.
In the custom at that time, parents could betroth their daughters as young as 13. They wanted to have an older, stable man making a good income for their child. We do not know how old Mary was when her parents betrothed her, but scholars think that she was likely about 15. The parents decided on Joseph, a carpenter, who was around 30 years of age (according to Bible scholars).
The couple would not date nor be alone together. If Joseph decided Mary was suitable, he would agree to the marriage. Some parents would allow the girl a say in the matter, and some parents would not.
A betrothal is more than an engagement but not quite a full marriage. The marriage ceremony would come a year after the betrothal, at which Mary would enter Joseph's home. During the betrothal, Mary's mother would instruct her on her duties as a wife and prepare what we would call a hope chest. Tradition indicates Mary was 15 or 16 when she entered Joseph's house.
Now, for a miracle. After Mary is betrothed, around 15, and is living with her parents, she is visited by an angel. She is told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and she will bear the Son of God. We can read her answer, and it is beautiful, but imagine how overwhelming the news would be to a teenage girl. Think about when you were a teen.
Did she tell her parents? If so, did they believe her? We do not know. We know she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who immediately knows and confirms that Mary will have a child, and the child will be God. This may have helped Mary's confidence and faith. Were her parents with her to hear what Elizabeth said? We don't know. To visit Elizabeth, she would travel 80 to 90 miles, so Mary would not travel to Elizabeth's home by herself. People traveled in groups or caravans for safety. Plus, she would need to be chaperoned. Scholars think she stayed for three months.
When Mary returned to Nazareth, she was likely showing that she was pregnant. Joseph found out. He thought of disbanding the betrothal quietly. A Jewish woman could be stoned or burned to death if she were pregnant and not married. Joseph did not want this for Mary or shame for her parents. He decided to send Mary away quietly, where she would not be known. But then he had a dream. It must have been One Powerful Dream to have him set aside his beliefs and traditions and take Mary as his wife into his house. Although they were now living together, he did not know her as a wife.
Mary is likely going through what all pregnant women go through. She could have had morning sickness, tiredness, and other discomfits.
Then the news comes the men must go to their ancestral home to be counted for the census. Joseph's ancestors were from Bethlehem. It is 90 miles from Nazareth. We don't know where Mary's ancestors were from, but they didn't care about the women in that day.
Scholars think Mary is now in her ninth month of pregnancy. We don't know if Mary rode a donkey, but some paintings suggest she did, at least on their way to Egypt after Jesus was born. If Joseph had enough money to have a donkey, Mary could ride it, likely bareback and with both legs on one side.
Because the dirt road goes through rough territory, frequented by bears, mountain lions, wild boar, and thieves, the people would travel in groups. On foot, most people would cover 20 miles in a day. We do not know if Joseph and Mary could keep up that pace. Some scholars think it was closer to ten miles a day. Each day the donkey clops, clops, and clops. Most of the way to Bethlehem is uphill and then down. The donkey lurches forward, making his rider lean forward up a long steep hill, and then the animal goes down the hill, forcing the rider to lean back. The swaying back and forth and side to side is not pleasant when nine months pregnant. Riding a donkey is unpleasant, even when not pregnant, and it often balks and quits when it wants to do so. Riding might have been the last choice of the options. Most people chose to walk. Wives walked three paces behind the husbands. Did Mary? I like to think Joseph would walk with Mary and support her over the rough spots, which were many.
They likely took bread and water in wineskins with them, and it was the custom that if travelers stopped at a village or farm, the people would give them shelter. With many people traveling, did Mary and Joseph get shelter?
They may have worn heavy woolen cloaks, and under them, long robes belted at the waist. On their feet, they may have had tube-like socks and sandals with enclosed toes.
The trip would have taken more than a week for the nine-month pregnant teenage Mary and Joseph to get to Bethlehem. If Joseph had relatives living in the small town, they must not have been able to help as he had to go to the inns. They, too, were full. So, they were permitted to lodge in a stable. Most stables were caves in the mountains around the town. As the inns were crowded, the stable caves could have more than one family in them. The animals were likely more donkeys from travelers. Sheep would be in the pasture with the shepherds.
The caves would be smelly with the animals and old straw. Joseph may have found clean straw and then put their heavy woolen cloaks on it for Mary to lay on. The light was likely a torch (a large stick with one end covered with rags and dipped in tar or oil and lit) which was very smelly, or an oil lamp, which also smelled, or candles which would not be good with so much straw about. This smell would not help a pregnant woman. If there was no light in the stable when they got there, they would have to get fire from someone (remember, no one had matches). The light would cast eerie flickering shadows on the cold walls.
Jesus decides to come into the human world. If there were other women in the stable, they might have helped Mary, or Joseph may have found a midwife. I wonder if Mary wishes she was home with her mother and family (tradition says Christmas is all about home and family, and although we are told not to travel, many people still do). Mary had to travel under challenging conditions, which took her away from her family. The first Christmas was without her family.
Going through the pain of natural childbirth, she yells and cries. With all its uncertainties and fears in a strange city, her first childbirth, among strangers, with an older man who is her husband that she doesn't know, she becomes a mother.
Jesus enters the world as most babies do. He is no different. He is human. He cries, his face is red, his hands are scrunched up, his toes are curled, and his hair is wet.
After he is cleaned up, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and given to his mother, he is soon nursing. Later he is laid in the manger, not made of wood as the animals would chew on it. It is made of stone. Cold stone.
This is the miracle of Christmas. It is not the traditions we put on it (which I do enjoy very much).
This is God becoming a human, experiencing everything we experience, and finally lifting our burden of sin so we can become God's family.
The Miracle of Christmas is the best and really is all of it.
As always, send me your thoughts. Love to hear from you.
Monday, December 14, 2020
Submitted by Shirley Franklin
Saturday, October 24, 2020
I am one of the 'odd ducks' who believe God is involved in our everyday lives when He is invited in.
Today I am going to share a blessing from Him. If you have any blessings you wish for me to share on this blog, please send them to me, and I will be delighted to post them. We need to see His blessings during this difficult time as He cares for us.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Horrors of Horrors! Themes and Outlining!
When I first started writing, I read I needed to write the book's theme, and I should do it before I wrote the story. I did not even know what a theme for a fiction novel was. I knew what themes were for high school and college papers as they were assigned by the instructor, but for fiction? I just wanted to write a story that I thought was fun. What kind of theme is that?
Articles on writing said the theme helps to keep the author on track going in the same direction toward the end. Other articles said a writer can change the theme in the middle or the end of the manuscript. So, I thought, why not wait until the end to begin with, which I do.
Some writers call the theme the moral of the story, some authors say it is the point of the story. I view it as a short summary of the story.
In summary, what is a theme? The theme is the point of the story or summary ( as I see it). It can be what you want the reader to take away from your novel. The theme is about the conflict or conflicts. It can be decided at any time, in the beginning, during, or after the story is finished.
This is the story of ______________________________________(finish with 25 words or less).
Or, This story of _______________________________________(finish with 25 words or less).
This is helpful to do if you need to write a short blurb for your book.
My opinion is if you don't know the theme of your story, don't sweat it. Write your creative fiction anyway, and enjoy doing it.
My theme for the book I am working on now could be the following.
This is the story of powerful and wealthy men justifying their illegal actions as necessary for their survival. I may change this when I finish the book.
Horrors! Outlining Your Story!
Outlining your fiction novel is not the old Roman Numeral system taught in grade school. Yippee! There are several ways to outline your creative baby. I will present some ideas. You can try one or perhaps make one that works for you.
Most authors advise new writers to outline their novels before they begin to write. Unfortunately, you(like me) may not know the whole story. So, you can outline the parts, you know. And, if I may dare say, "Horrors of Horrors, you could outline your story after you finish the entire novel. Any missing material will show up for you to fill in. Do what you are comfortable with for getting your scenes and chapters down, in any order you want.
Some examples of outlines are:
Number One Method:
To me, this is the worse one that has been recommended, but it may work for you.
1. Write down all possible book titles. You can change it later.
2. List all the characters and make up their complete biographies, even if you won't need the information in your story. This would include birthplace and year, education, religion, race, work, anything you can think of for any real person.
3. List each chapter and give it a title. Write the first sentence of each chapter. Then outline each chapter.
I can not do this method.
Number Two Method
1. Outline of __________________________ (Name of Novel).
2. The Complication (internal,or external, or both). Use three words. The first word is a noun, the second is an action verb and the third is a direct object.
__________________________ ____________________ ____________________
3. Follow this with as many chapter outlines as you need to develop the complication using the same format as above for each chapter. Chapter One, Two, Three, and so on. Noun, action verb, and direct object.
4. The last chapter is the resolution of the problem. Again, it would be a noun, action verb, and direct object. The chapter must show what the character learned.
Outline of Betty Fights for Her Rights (Title)
The Complication Company fires Betty Noun, verb, direct object.
Chapter One Depression paralysis Betty
Chapter Two Betty regains confidence.
Chapter Three Betty sues the company.
Resolution Betty regains job.
This method does not work for me as I don't know how many chapters I will need.
Number Three Method
1. Use one, two, three, or four-word titles for each chapter (use few words for chapter names).
2. Go back and write a short summary paragraph for each chapter. If you don't know what each chapter will be about, put in the ones you know.
3.You should put the protagonist, the antagonist, setting, and the conflict in the first chapter.
4. Later chapters explain the complications, obstacles, emotional challenges, etc. and how they are faced by the characters. The last chapter is the resolution and the growth of the protagonist.
5. Reminder: You do not need to do the outlining in order. If you know part of the middle, do that first leaving room for the beginning. Or start at the end. This method can go on individual index cards for each chapter so they can be moved around.
I can't do this method either. Planning chapters and their names and summaries when I have bits and pieces not joined is too frustrating. But it might work for you.
Number Four Method
1. Write a Headline, like a newspaper headline, to state briefly what the story is about. This is the theme.
2. Beginning of story: What are the problems?
3. Middle of the Novel: What are the obstacles to be overcome to solve the problem? (plot)
4. End of your creative baby: Solution
Once again, this is not for me unless I use it after I have written the novel.
Number Five Method (My Method)
I see my story in pieces (like watching a movie), and I write the sections I see, and later I put them in order and put in transitions, so they flow. The characters talk to me, usually late at night, and tell me their side of the story. After everything is written, I divide the story into scenes and chapters where they seem to fall naturally. As I do this, the theme of the story becomes clear to me. Sometimes when I finish a major section or the entire manuscript, I will do a simple outline. If gaps show up, I will fill them in. This is why I am not a famous author.
To sum up, do what is comfortable for you. There is not one that is perfect for everyone.
I hope you have enjoyed the journey on writing tips. I wish you all the best in whatever writing you do. Please, contact me if you have questions, ideas, suggestions, etc. I do want to hear from you. If you send me your short story or part of a longer story, I will send you my gnomes and trolls short story. Stay Well. God Bless Pat