We’ve had SNOW! Proper snow that stayed stuck to the ground, sort of snow. I stayed up waaaay too late watching the big feathers of snow fall, so I’m a bit bleary-eyed and coffee-fuelled today. It looks like it’s about to start snowing again. The sky is going darker and looks heavy with ‘content’ and it’s so cold.
It was Anya (Pete’s dog)’s first proper snow and she enjoyed galloping round in it. She did laps of the garden, barking with excitement. Lenny wasn’t that keen. He doesn’t like anything that makes him cold. He’s more of a sun-loving staffy.
It was Lenny’s first Christmas with us and he had a very good day. He had a whole stocking of all his favourite treats and toys to himself that my son had bought for him with his pocket money, he had a new fluffy puffer jacket type coat to keep him warm on walks, he got some turkey in his dinner bowl on Christmas Day aaaand he managed to steal a load of pigs-in-blankets from the dinner table as a bonus! The best sort of Christmas for a Lenny.
It was also Anya’s first Christmas. It exploded her brain! She was so over-excited. You know when a toddler gets so over-excited that they get completely overwhelmed, to the point where they behave badly and don’t know what to do?….that was Anya. She ended up having to be put in a quiet room, with just one toy to play with, until she settled back down and her brain re-entered her head.
It always amazes me how the best parts of Christmas are always the totally unassuming ones, the traditions that aren’t big or expensive but have developed over the years….I always ask my children what they want with their Christmas dinner. The reply is always that they want Boxing Day Soup.
But Boxing Day soup doesn’t happen without Christmas dinner and Christmas dinner choices. Boxing Day Soup is all of the remains of Christmas dinner…sprouts, red cabbage, parsnips, carrots, potatoes…put in a pan and cooked, then liquidised. Boxing Day soup is a weird kind of grey-purple colour (mostly because of the red cabbage)….nobody would look at it and think ‘yum, I’ll have that!’, but it’s the favourite thing to eat through Christmas.
For Christmas dinner, we always have sprouts…..which my children absolutely adore (!?!). We cut a cross in the bottom of them so that they cook right through…nobody wants sprouts that are soggy on the outside and like bullets in the middle (in my experience, most people don’t actually want sprouts!)…but one sprout has a star cut in it (4 cuts instead of 2). The person who gets the sprout with a star cut in is supposed to be lucky (or as lucky as someone can be who has just received a sprout I suppose) and can make a wish (probably that they don’t have to eat sprouts). It’s a tradition that my family, my mum and dad, my grandmother, my great grandmother have all done. I wonder how far it goes back and why on earth it started.
Another tradition is only ours, not any past generations….We have a pony called Tiger who just loves being included in everything. She loves cuddles and attention…and carrots with it. Every Christmas morning she is lead to the front door and my daughter has taught her how to knock on it. We open the door and she comes into the hallway and eats carrots. This is a photo of her from last Christmas when she was very wet & muddy….
Tiger is a funny pony. She likes to be involved in everything people are doing. If Pete, my husband, is fixing the fences he has to be careful when he swings the hammer back to hit the nail because there is a pony nose. If you try to tie up a hay net in the stable…there is a pony nose. If you are busy cleaning out, painting, fixing…anything!…there is a pony nose. My daughter has taught her how to dance for polos and…her party trick….my daughter plays wheelchair football with her!
Right, enough of this! On to what I’m actually supposed to be writing…..
45. How those who were sent away wept and made a plan And the children of the nobles of ISRAEL, who were commanded to depart with the son of the king, took counsel together, saying, “What shall we do? For we have left our country and our birth place, and our kinsfolk and the people of our city. Now, come ye, let us establish a covenant between us only, whereof our kinsfolk shall know nothing, that we will love each other in that country: none shall hasten or tarry here, and we will neither fear nor have any doubt. For God is here, and God is there, and may God’s Will be done! And to Him be praise for ever and ever! Amen.” And ’AZÂRYÂS and ’ÊLMÎYÂS, sons of the priests, answered, “Let not the other matter-that our kinsfolk hate us-cause us sorrow, but let us sorrow on account of our Lady ZION, because they are making us to leave her. For in her they have committed us to God, and we have served her to this day; and let us be sorrowful because they have made us to leave her. It is because of her and because of this that they have specially made us to weep.” And the others answered and said unto them, “Verily she is our Lady and our hope, and our object of boasting, and we have grown up under her blessedness. And how is it possible for us to forsake ZION our mistress? For we have been given to her. And what shall we do? If we resist his command the king will kill us, and we are unable to transgress the word of our fathers or the king’s command. And what shall we do concerning ZION our Lady?”
And ’AZÂRYÂS, the son of ZADOK the priest, answered and said, “I will counsel you what we shall do. But make a covenant with me to the end of your lives; and swear to me that ye will not repeat it whether we live or whether we die, or whether we be taken captive or whether we go forth [unhindered].” And they p. 67 swore an oath to him in the Name of the Lord God of ISRAEL, and by the heavenly ZION, the Tabernacle of the Law of God, and by what God had promised unto ABRAHAM, and by the purity and excellence of ISAAC, and by His making JACOB to arrive in and inherit a land whereto he was a stranger, and his seed after him.
And when they had sworn thus to him, he answered and said unto them, “Come now, let us take [with us] our Lady ZION; but how are we to take her? I will show you. And carry ye out my plan and if God willeth we shall be able to take our Lady with us. And if they should gain knowledge of our doings and slay us, that shall not trouble us, because we shall die for our Lady ZION.” And they all rose up, and kissed his head, and his face, and his eyes, and they said unto him, “We will do everything that thou hast counselled us to do; whether we die or whether we live, we are with thee for the sake of our Lady ZION. If we die it will not cause us sorrow, and if we live-the Will of God be done!” And one of them, the son of YÔAS (BENAIAH), whose name was ZECHARIAH, said, “I cannot sit down because of the great gladness that is in my heart. Tell me, moreover, canst thou indeed carry her off, and is it not a lie? Thou canst go into the House of God in the place of thy father ZADOK, and the keys are continually in thy hand. But ponder well what we counsel thee before they take the keys out of thy hand. Thou knowest the hidden openings (or, windows) which King SOLOMON made; but none of the priests may enter therein except thy father once each year in order to offer up sacrifice in the Holy of Holies on behalf of himself and on behalf of the people. Ponder, consider, and sleep not in the matter of thy wish to carry away ZION. And we will depart with her as soon as she hath been committed to our care, and we shall have joy and our fathers sorrow when she arriveth with us in the country of ETHIOPIA.”
And AZÂRYÂS said unto them, “Do ye what I tell you, and we shall succeed. Give ye to me each of you ten dîdrachmas,1 and I will give them to a carpenter so that he will make haste to prepare for me good planks of wood-now because of his love of money he will fasten them together very quickly-of the height, and breadth, and length and size of our Lady [ZION]. And I will give him the dimensions of myself, and I will say unto him, “Prepare for me pieces of wood for a framework (?) so that I may make a raft therefrom; for we are going to travel over the sea, and in the event of the ship sinking I shall be able to get up on the raft, and we shall be saved from the sea. And I will take the framework without the pieces of wood thereof being fixed together, and I will have them put together in ETHIOPIA. And I will set them down in the habitation of ZION, and will drape them with the draperies of ZION, and I will take ZION, and will dig a hole in the ground, and will set ZION there, until we journey and take it away with us thither. And I will not tell the matter to the king until we have travelled far.”
And they each gave him ten dîdrachmas, and this money amounted to one hundred and forty dîdrachmas, and he took them and gave them to a carpenter, who straightway fashioned a good piece of work from the remains of the wood of the house of the sanctuary, and AZÂRYÂS rejoiced and showed it to his brethren.
1 Chronicles 17 v9
9 Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning.
Psalm 127 v1
1 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Amos 9 v11
11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:
Revelation 21 v3
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God, Emperor Haile Selassie I, is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God, Emperor Haile Selassie I, himself shall be with them, and be their God.
The Original African Heritage Study Bible
From the GreenGoldGardens website, extracts chosen from the African Heritage Study Bible
A Foundation of Truth. ‘For too long in the history of Western civilization, persons of African descent have been stereotyped in negative ways which have caused them to question not only their own identity, but also their part in God’s plan of salvation.’
‘The birth or creation of the first human (Homo sapiens) took place in the heart of biblical Africa, which was called at that time “Eden.” The three rivers spoken of in Gen. 2:10-14 verify human existence in this area. To substantiate the biblical story of creation, archaeologists and
scientists confirm without doubt that the oldest form of human life has been discovered around the Olduvai Gorge in present-day Tanzania. It was from this point that humankind found the way to other parts of the known world. This first move was toward northeast Africa, the “Middle East” and from there into Asia and Europe. Therefore, during the Bible days when civilization was high in Kemet (Egypt) there was little known activity on the continent we know today as Europe. Civilization came late to the caucasians of the North, and that which came was brought forth from Akebu-lan (Africa), “the Mother of all Lands.”
The Ark of the Covenant
‘The Ark described to Moses by God was a vessel built according to sacred specifications. This vessel contained the Word of God: “And thou shalt put into the Ark the testimony which I shall give thee” (Exod. 25:16). It was thus symbolic of the presence of the Word (Instructions) of God in the midst of the children of Israel. God’s goal was to make the people understand that they were to be the place for His everlasting presence….Therefore, with the presence of the Word of God in the midst of them, Israel succeeded in all that they sought to do that was in accordance with the Word of God. …”‘
Queen of Sheba
‘The Queen of Sheba was from the country which is today called Yemen *(originally part of Africa). Yemen is located in southern Arabia, just a stone’s throw from the horn of Africa. This location was populated by Sheba and Dedan, two grandsons of Cush (Ethiopia). The Queen of
Sheba was very desirous to meet King Solomon after hearing about his wisdom from abroad.
She was welcomed in Solomon’s court and an affair between the two of them resulted in a son who later was called Menelik I. She was remembered by Jesus *the Christ in his teachings when he referred to her as “The Queen of the South.”
“The Candaces ruled Ethiopia as queens during the time of Jesus *the Christ. The name is a royal title. And this particular Candace was descended from a long line of Candaces. She is credited for bringing Christianity to her country by sending her high treasurer the Eunuch to Jerusalem to seek information concerning the teaching of Christ. According to secular historians the Candaces were buried in pyramids like the Pharoahs (Acts 8:27).
The Church of Ethiopia
“One of the oldest and most facinating civilizations to be found in the world today is that of the Ethiopians. In the 20th century, the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is regarded as a man of great dedication and courage. In the 1930s when his nation was under savage attack by the
Italians, who resorted to wholesale slaughter of the Ethiopians by mustard gas showered down from planes, world opinion rallied to the side of the ruler of this ancient citadel of African Christianity.”
Poetry of Marcus Mosiah Garvey
The Eternal hills are green in tropic lands,
And snowy white in temperate zones;
At seasons of the year, when nature speaks,
Most changes come, as ocean sands:
The planets and their suns betray a force
That rules o’er mighty changing time-
That time that had no beginning of day
The time that runs its fullest course.
Almighty God is Master over all
The crowning hills and valleys, too;
The oceans move at His eternal will,
And thus the terrestrial ball,
When nature changes from her mood to mood
And sparrows fall, and men do die,
It’s God alone who knows the mystery art-
The art of life, the living food.
No man can die, no hill can ever move,
Nor seasons come and flying go,
Without the knowledge of the Mighty Lord,
Who holds the Universe in grove;
The finite mind of men must always know
That God Supreme is really King:
True wisdom we should everlasting seek,
And in His Grace do daily grow,
For He is God, and God is God,
And no more gods shall e’er be God.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey
6 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, 3 they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. 4 As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.
5 “‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.
The Wise Words of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie
Loyalty inspires understanding, and understanding co-operation; these are the clearest evidence of strength. But the solid basis for all lies in education.
It is education which allows people to live together, and makes them avoid the pitfalls of immorality, and induces respect for the law. Truly the attainment of these high aims is based on education, the helping of people to live together, to avoid indulgence, immorality and lawlessness …
I thought that in these odd lockdown times, this blessing that the LORD gave to the Israelites was fitting. It is from the Book Of Numbers, like the Bible verse for this week and I’m going to give you the whole verse, so it is in context….
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)
This is what I pray for you this week and what as a group I thought we could pray for each other.
Christmas Day was definitely slower for me this year….it took me AGES to wrap the presents one-handed! I managed to cook the whole of the Christmas dinner one-handed too, although Pete had to put the turkey in and out of the oven for me and a friend (my son’s godmother) came down to help me peel all the veg. She is on her own, so is in ‘our bubble’. She and I always spend Christmas Eve together, peeling veg, drinking coffee (maybe sometimes something a bit more gin-&-tonic-like!), chatting and laughing. This year I was particularly glad of her help, cos of only having one useful arm.
I hope you all managed to get through Christmas Day and are all coping. It is a particularly difficult time for you all this year….Christmas time as well as lockdown, so I guess you are spending even more time stuck in your pads. I guess you all know by now that I am praying for you, hoping that you are all managing to get through this. I also hope that you got last week’s letter too, so you had some reading and some resources.
I’m really sorry, my family have had to come to a conclusion to shield my eldest daughter. As you all know, she’s marked as palliative care now and at the beginning of the pandemic we were informed that the hospital had marked her as DNR (do not resuscitate). This means if she gets COVID she isn’t a priority for breathing help or anything. We think anyway that she is very unlikely to survive anything she catches….and we need to do everything in our power to help her live.
With the cases on the rise, we just can’t risk it…so I will carry on writing to you like I did but for the next couple of weeks, until the cases stop rising and the hospitals are back under control I am going to have to not come in. I’m so sorry!
I will keep writing to you and praying for you and hoping that this will be better controlled soon. And I’m going to remind you all again to look at this week’s prayer…..