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As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

I just finished reading Made in America: an informal history of the English Language in the United States  by Bill Bryson  copyright 1984

The title would lead you to believe that it is about language, but it is about so much more. You will learn all sorts of history trivia and facts about America from the Pilgrims to the computer age that you never learned in school.  Along the way, Bryson tells about new words and expressions that emerged from each era of history, where they came from, and what they mean.  It is truly fascinating - even for those of you who aren’t into history (or English language for that matter). Since it’s been around for awhile, you can probably obtain a copy from any used book source or a library.  My poor husband has had to endure my, “Did you know that…?” and “Oh for heaven’s sake!  I didn’t know that.” all week so now he has to read it!

Cathy

 

“Promise me you’ll always remember:  you’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

-Christopher Robin to pooh

 

“If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”

-A. Einstein

D-mail for the Week of July 22, 2010

Scripture: Romans 8:31 “What shall we say in response to this (see vs 30)? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
I Corinthians 1:26-27 “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

Symbols of Our Christian Heritage on the $1 Bill

I almost decided not to write this D-mail because there isn’t a spiritual lesson in it to speak of. However, as I did all the research on it, I couldn’t get over what a miracle it was that the United States of America ever got off the ground! It takes an awful lot of work to establish a nation and when 13 different states had 13 different opinions on everything from what to call the leader to where the capital city should be to how elections should be held, etc., it is amazing that anything was decided. Even though not all the founding fathers were Christians and some of the key decisions were made by unscrupulous men, I can see the hand of God in the founding of our nation. So many, many times this pipsqueak of a nation should have been swallowed up by a European giant. Up through the Civil War, the union of states was forever on the verge of caving in on itself. But I believe God wanted this country to be raised up. Read I Corinthians 1:26-27 and Romans 8:31. The early Americans did not think they were great or strong or brilliant or wealthy compared to the rest of the world, but they believed God had called them to be free.

One of the many decisions that had to be made by the founding fathers was what sort of currency the country would have and what designs would appear on that currency. The new Congress was given the task of appointing a committee to design the money. Before the adjournment of the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were appointed to develop a seal for the United States. However, designing the seal was a difficult and controversial undertaking that spanned six years and three committees. The final proposal, as accepted by Congress, was submitted on June 13, 1782, by Charles Thomson, a prominent Philadelphia merchant and secretary of the Continental Congress. He is credited with finalizing the design - unifying the ideas of the three committees, their consultants, and artists. The result was the Great Seal of the United States, and hidden within it are the messages our Founding Fathers wanted to
send to future generations of Americans.
Let’s take a look at the $1 bill. Take one out and look at it while you read this. The one dollar bill you’re looking at first came off the presses in 1957 in its present design. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, that is when the motto, “In God We Trust” started being used on paper money. “In God We Trust” first started to appear on U.S. money during the Civil War era, largely because of the nation’s increasing religious sentiment. The motto was used for the first time on the copper two-cent piece in 1864. But it was not until 1956 that Congress passed a law declaring “In God We Trust” the national motto of the United States.
If you look on the front of the bill, you will see the United States Treasury Seal and , of course, the image of our first President, George Washington. On the top of the seal you will see the scales representing justice. The chevron has thirteen stars represent the original thirteen colonies and the key is symbol of authority.

Now turn the bill over. The Great Seal has two sides so you see two circles on the $1 bill. In the left hand circle, you will see a pyramid, which Charles Thompson said was an ancient symbol of strength and duration. The unfinished state of the pyramid was intentional; it is UN-capped, signifying that we were not even close to being finished as a nation (No one could have anticipated that the U.S. would one day spread from sea to sea. Inside the capstone you have the all-seeing eye, and ancient symbol for divinity. Although Franklin’s committee did not suggest a pyramid, it did originate the suggestion of the eye. The term “the all-seeing eye” is never used in describing it. The Franklin committee wanted the seal to include a reflection of divine providence and discussed a variety of themes including the Children of Israel in the Wilderness. It was Franklin’s belief that one man couldn’t do it alone, but a group of men, with the help of God, could do anything . Some have suggested that the pyramid and the eye are the result of Masonic influence, but the only member of the original committee who was a Mason was Franklin and this committee’s design was rejected by congress. None of the final designers of the seal was a Mason. The eye as representing “the eye of providence” has a long history. It’s more likely that both the designers of the Great Seal and the Masons both drew from that history. The use of “the all seeing eye” as uniquely Masonic first appeared in 1797, nearly 15 years after the adoption of the symbolism by Congress. The Latin phrase above the pyramid, ANNUIT COEPTIS, means “God has favored our undertaking”. The Latin phrase below the pyramid, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM means “a new order for the ages”. The Roman numeral at the base of the pyramid is 1776.
If you look at the right-hand circle, and check it carefully, you may notice that with only slight modifications it is the Seal of the President of the United States. It also appears on every National Cemetery in the United States, the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery, and is the centerpiece of most heroes’ monuments. On the Great Seal, the eagle faces the talon holding the olive branch. The eagle on The Presidential Seal faced in the opposite direction-toward the talon holding the arrows until 1945, when Harry Truman had it redesigned to face the olive branch as well.

Today, the two most prominent features on the back of the $1 note are the pyramid and the eagle, which together constitute the Great Seal of the United States. To solve the mystery of what these symbols mean, we go directly to the source, Charles Thomson, who presented his written description of the Great Seal to Congress on June 20, 1782. The most striking feature of the front of the seal is, in Thomson’s words, “an American Eagle on the wing and rising.” The eagle flies freely, independent of any support, holding in its left talon 13 arrows, signifying war, and in its right talon an olive branch, signifying peace. You may think which talon holds the arrows and which holds the olive branch is of little consequence. But, in the language of symbols, it is of great significance. The right side signifies dominance.

The eagle holds a banner in its beak with the words “E Pluribus Unum,” which Thomson translates to mean “Out of many, one.” Thomson goes on to explain that the shield, or escutcheon, on the eagle’s breast is composed of two major parts: a horizontal blue band, which represents Congress, extending across the top third of the shield supported by 13 red and white vertical stripes, which represent the 13 original colonies. The 13 stars above the eagle represent a new constellation taking its place in the universe, in the same way that a new nation takes it place among the other sovereign nations.

The colors also have significance. Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance, and justice; red signifies hardiness and valor; and white indicates purity and innocence. Also, notice the shield is unsupported. Charles Thompson said it denoted that the United States of America ought to rely on their own virtue. The shield consists of red and white stripes with a blue bar above that represents Congress. The colors are taken from the American flag and officially the red represents hardiness and valor, the white represents purity and innocence, and the blue, vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

You wouldn’t be too stretching things too far by noticing that God’s hand was in the details. I venture to say that you will never look at the good, old $1 bill the same way again. One more observation I read about the symbols our founding fathers used may be significant or not, but it is certainly interesting. Nearly worldwide the number 13 is an unlucky number. You will usually never see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor, but think about this: there were 13 original colonies, 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 13 stripes on our flag, and on the seal, 13 steps on the Pyramid, 13 letters in the Latin phrases , 13 letters in “E Pluribus Unum”, 13 stars above the Eagle, 13 plumes of feathers on each span of the Eagle’s wing, 13 bars on that shield, 13 leaves on the olive branch, 13 fruits, and if you look closely, 13 arrows. And for minorities: the 13th Amendment. Coincidences? You decide.

Prayer
Lord God, as Americans we thank you for using the handful of wise men we call our founding fathers to build a new nation unlike any that went before it. Those men had feet of clay and yet, seemingly by accident, they drew up a constitution for a nation that has stood the test of time and been the envy of many nations since. They were brave and also foolish in the eyes of the world, but you say you use the foolish to confound the wise.
Thank you for giving them courage, determination, a sacrificial sense of duty,wisdom, and leadership skills. May we remember to thank you, Lord, for this nation and to pray for her in these trying times each time we look at a $1 bill. I pray that our motto, “In God We Trust” will never be put asunder. Amen

I Am the Voice

 

I am the voice in the song

of a gentle breeze.

I’m in each seed

that grows wheat on the plain.

I’m in the hoot of the owl

in the pale moonlight.

I am the rainbow

that follows the rain.

 

I am the strength in the waves

and the roaring gale.

I lit the sun

and taught eagles to fly.

I filled the oceans with plankton

and great blue whale.

I rule the forests

and I paint the sky.

 

I am the God who sees

each sparrow fall and I

count every tear

of your anguish and pain.

I’m your Redeemer,

your Healer and Comforter.

I am the Voice

that’s been calling your name.

 

by Cathy Conger

Copyright 2010 

.

 

 

 

 

Jesus is greater than any storm

Jesus is greater than any storm

D-mail for the week of July 15, 2010
Scripture

: Jude 24 , Proverbs 1:33, Proverbs 3:24-26, Isaiah 41: 10, Proverbs 27:14, Proverbs 24:16

FAILURE IS THE PATH OF LEAST PERSISTENCE

My two grandchildren have been with me going on two weeks now. Katie will be 3 years old next week and her little brother, Andy, is 11 months old. You can learn about life all over again by spending time with a toddler. Katie is learning to swim and we have had a lot of drama! Jolly, rotund baby Andy is learning to walk. Although he hasn’t found his center of gravity yet, he has a heck of a lot of persistence. Observing the kids falling, failing and overcoming fears, I am reminded of the benediction verse in Jude which says,
To Him who is able to keep you from falling and failing and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen

Nobody falls and fails more than a toddler. Every day they trip, fall down the stairs (or up!), run into walls, spill their cups, etc. They face new skills every day - walking, talking, climbing, using their tiny hands to make things, dressing, eating with utensils. They fail over and over, yet they don’t give up! Katie is in the throes of potty training. I think she just doesn’t see the point. Diapers are just fine by her. Though she has spent hours sitting on her little potty, she has yet to experience the “big moment” and yet she perseveres. Andy falls nearly every five minutes but he continues to pull himself back up to his feet each time. He can’t figure out why those appendages on the ends of his arms keep dropping toys from the tray of the high chair, but he keeps reaching for them anyway. Will my two grandchildren walk, talk, go on the toilet, swim, learn fine motor dexterity? Of course they will, because they don’t give up. They have no fear of failure. Instinctively they know that falling down doesn’t make you a failure, but staying down does.

It’s when we get older that we develop fear of failure, fear of falling, fear of getting hurt.
I can see it in Katie already. She is afraid of jumping into the pool ( granted a healthy fear, except when it’s time to learn to swim). She is afraid of angry voices and tragic stories (like Bambi). Most of all, she is afraid of the unknown. What if there are monsters? What if the bonging hall clock will come for her in the night? (She loves the cuckoo clock but we had to stop the large pendulum clock - go figure.) She is anxious about sleeping in a strange bed. Is that so different from what we adults fear? What things are you afraid to attempt for fear of falling on your face, getting hurt, or failing to succeed? A toxic marriage leaves a spouse fearful of ever opening the heart again. A demanding boss leaves an employee fearful of suggesting something new or afraid of failing a job challenge because he may lose his position. Fear of confrontation may leave someone bound up by a bully. Jonah ran away from God’s calling because he feared the outcome of preaching to the Ninevites. It took a whale of an experience to convince Jonah otherwise (sorry about that). I admit that evangelism frightens me because I don’t like rejection.

Anxiety, they say, is the space between now and then. “Then” is the unknown and we fear it. What keeps you awake at night? It might be the creepy noises the house makes - especially when your husband is out of town- but most likely it is the fear of how well you will cope with tomorrow’s unknown challenges or the crushing weight of today’s failure that you keep hashing over in your mind. Sometimes it feels like fear is crushing the life out of you. Who can help? Proverbs 1:33 says,
All who listen to Wisdom shall live in peace and safety, unafraid.”

When Katie cries out in the night from a childish fear, all it takes to give her peace again is for her daddy to come in and command the scary thing to leave, then take her into his arms and assure her all is OK. Daddy is here. Sleep in peace because God is always awake and on watch. That is exactly what our father God does for us.
In Isaiah 41:10, God says, “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” As the saying goes, Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Proverbs 3:24-26 says,
With wisdom and common sense on guard, you can sleep without fear; you need not be afraid of disaster or the plots of wicked men, for the Lord is with you; He protects you.”
In other words, don’t fear tomorrow; God is already there.

The story is told of a young man named Charlie who was practically catatonic with fear of what a powerful bureaucracy would do to him. His uncle put things in perspective with some common sense truth - “Charlie,” he said, “They can kill you but they can’t eat you.” The Bible tells us that this world may slay the body, but it cannot take the soul. This thing that threatens you is nothing to God. Stop telling God how big your storm is. Instead, tell your storm how big your God is! This thing you call failure is not the falling down; it is the staying down. “Don’t you know that this good man, though you trip him up seven times, will each time rise again?” Proverbs 24:16   Failure is just success in progress; ask any inventor.

“Wait for the Lord, and He will come and save you! Be brave, stouthearted, and courageous.” Psalm 27:14 Give your fear over to God. He is the one who keeps you from falling and from failing. He will give you bravery such that you won’t recognize yourself.  All you need to add is persistence and availability.

“You do not test the resources of God until you attempt the impossible.” F.B. Meyer

Prayer: Lord, you are my ever present help in time of trouble. You are my rock and fortress and my deliverer. You lift me up out of the mirey clay of fear and give me courage. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul; in you I trust. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. My hope is in you all day long. Amen

Scripture: Galations 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Malachi 2:10 “Do we not all come from one Father? Aren’t we all created by the same God? So why can’t we get along?” (The Message)

An Extraordinary Revolution

In 1776, the Founding Fathers of the United States made an extraordinary announcement to the rest of the world. In the most famous written paragraph in American history, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Why was this “an extraordinary announcement”? Because this was the only time in human history that a nation’s government was founded on a creed, a statement of faith, a profession of belief. It was also an extraordinary revolution; the first time a group of citizens ever dared to break away from a mother country much less succeed. These upstarts in the New World dared to defy the deeply ensconced class system of Europe as well as questioning the divine right of kings that had given the European monarchies power to do anything!

The Declaration of Independence is the statement of America’s founding ideals, a vision statement that is utterly unique in world history. Any progress we Americans have made in creating a society of liberty and justice for all has come by the application of this self-evident truth to the way we Americans live with each other. At the time of every great social crisis in our history this question has been at the heart of the conflict: Do we truly believe that all men are created equal, or are these just empty words and political window-dressing? This issue was the pivotal issue of the American Revolution, the struggle against slavery, the women’s movement, the Civil Rights movement, and is now at the center of the pro-life movement. Down through the centuries the American people have always believed that any public policy that robs some people of their basic equality with other people is fundamentally wrong and when some of the people were denied that belief, there has eventually been a righting of that wrong, albeit a hostile and bloody fight sometimes (treatment of our minorities). The Declaration of Independence needs to have a pre-eminent place in the teaching of history to our children — because this idea of human equality has literally created American history.

Notice that Thomas Jefferson said that these announced truths were “self-evident.” What he meant was that it was not just the Founding Fathers themselves that believed all men are created equal; so did the vast majority of colonial Americans and so did God! In the “New World”, this philosophy was a way of life, stemming from the fact that most colonists had fled Europe looking for a fresh start based on a level playing field. Jefferson said that he was not trying “to say things which had not been said before, but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject.” (See Malachi 2:10). How could the Founding Fathers say these truths were self-evident? What shaped their thinking?

James Otis, the orator of the American Revolution, wrote that government “has an ever-lasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God, the author of nature, whose laws never vary . . . There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the law of nature, and the grant of God Almighty, who has given all men a natural right to be free.” Alexander Hamilton wrote, “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among parchments and musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” Samuel Adams wrote, “The right of freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift.” Thomas Jefferson asserted that “the only basis for American freedoms was the conviction among the people that “these liberties are the gift of God.” So many other similar quotes from the Founding Fathers indicate that the principle of the “natural rights of mankind” was the foundation upon which to structure their government, rights they firmly believed came from God.

Some historians like to lump together the American and French Revolutions, since they both were based on the natural rights of mankind. But, the uniqueness of the Declaration of Independence as the basis of American government is seen in the fact that at no point in either of the French declarations of “the rights of man” is there any statement that these rights derive from God. The French Revolution, which followed on the heels of the American Revolution, was based on the secularist, progressive notions of the Enlightenment period in Europe. It was also contemptuous of traditional religion. In other words, to destroy the class system, they also had to destroy the church – which they attempted to do.

The American Revolution had Protestant Christianity at its heart. Why? Because another explosive revival, which began in the 1720’s in New Jersey, and carried the colonies through the Revolution and the establishment of American’s new government, was characterized by preaching that stressed the equality of mankind, thereby strongly promoting American democratic beliefs. (See Galations 3:28). At the same time that the founding of the new American nation was unfolding, a period in America known as the Great Awakening was proving to have  enormous impact on colonial America. In his famous essay, From the Covenant to the Revival, Professor Miller wrote, “The basic fact is that the Revolution had been preached to the masses as a religious revival, and had the astonishing fortune to succeed.” (Over the next century a string of revolutions occurred in Europe and South America, inspired by the success of the American Revolution. Ending with the Russian Revolution of 1917, none of them were successful or lasting.)

The preaching of George Whitefield, the best-known evangelist of the Great Awakening period, who gave over 18,000 sermons from Maine to Georgia, and, according to Benjamin Franklin, drew 10,000 people to Market Square in Philadelphia, emphasized that God is no respecter of persons, meaning that He pays no attention to people’s social status, and that all alike must surrender to Christ and receive salvation from Him. This democratic and leveling impact of the evangelical pulpit helped the American people revolt against the social and political tyranny being waged by a corrupt British aristocracy. The message was unmistakably clear: the only legitimate government in the sight of Him who made all men equal, is that which governs by the consent of the governed.

The importance of religion to the Founding Fathers in the Continental Congress is seen in the fact that the Congress called for 16 separate days of prayer and fasting, or thanksgiving and prayer, depending on the progress of the war, during the five years of its duration. For example, on December 11, 1776, the colonists were: “to reverence the Providence of God . . . and beg the countenance of his Providence in the prosecution of the present just and necessary war.”

So concerned were they about the moral and spiritual lives of the soldiers that on June 30, 1775, the Continental Congress decreed: “It is earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers diligently to attend Divine service; and all officers and soldiers who shall behave indecently or irreverently at any place of Divine worship, shall . . . be brought before a court martial.” The sharing of that Bible-based worldview on the part of both the people and their political leadership during the founding period meant that there was fundamental agreement on the self-evident truths that motivated the struggle for independence and the founding of our government.

It is not possible to accurately teach American history without taking into account the religious motivations and worldview of those who discovered this continent, settled the original colonies, fought for our independence from Britain, and established our government. Americans still believe that all men are equal before God and before the law; we still believe that these human beings who are created equal are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; we still believe that governments exist primarily to secure these rights; we still believe that the authority of government rests only on the consent of the governed, and that if the government loses that consent, the people have the right to alter or abolish it. These self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence that are the basis for American government are still unique among the nations to this very hour.

Let us teach our children the uniqueness of America — that this is a godly experiment in self-government that has no equal in all of human history. Let us pass on to them a love of this great nation; and let us lay on their hearts a sense of duty and responsibility to ensure that this experiment succeeds, that what Abraham Lincoln called “the last, best hope of earth” does not fail, and that Lady Liberty’s torch in New York Harbor is never allowed to go dark.

Prayer: Our God and Father, who created us equal – equally born sinful and equally in need of salvation in Jesus Christ, I pray that this nation, born as a godly experiment, unique in history, would take a good look at where we have ended up in 2010. I pray that Americans will have the common sense to see where we have drifted away from You and the consequences. I pray that we begin to involve ourselves in the government of our land. If it is too big or too corrupt, it is our own fault. Times have certainly changed since 1776, but our nation’s “vision statement” has not. We still have the freedom to preserve our freedoms. Show us, O Lord. May the principles of freedom, equality, social responsibility and godly citizenship be addressed not by conservative talk show hosts, but from our nation’s pulpits and in our homes. God, bless America – whatever that turns out to look like. Amen