Thursday, January 31, 2019

Friendships: true, fake and Biblical examples

Friendship is defined as a relationship of mutual affection between two people. It is a stronger form of interpersonal connection than an association. Our friends can have a profound influence on us often in subtle ways and more than our family of origin. However, we need to be careful about the companions we keep as Proverbs 13:20 says “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” As Walter Winchell, an American newspaper and radio gossip commentator, once said “A real friends is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” How do you know a true friend from a fake friend? What is a model of a true friendship?

True friends are more than just companions who enjoy each other’s company. They encourage each other’s faith in God and trust each other with deepest thoughts and oldest confidences. True friends also should help, not hinder us, as we draw closer to God. As Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or set in the seat of mockers.” We must ask ourselves: do our friends build up our faith or do they tear it down? Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” The greatest evidence of a genuine friendship is loyalty. Being able to help in times of distress or personal struggles. Too many friendships are fair-weather friends. They stick around when things are good and leave at any signs of conflict or bad times. True friends practice sacrificial love: listening, helping, encouraging and giving. John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” It is putting our needs and wants aside for a friend. Jesus is a great example of a true friend as he is more than Lord and Master but a friend (John 15:15).

Fake friends are often hard to spot because we don’t want to believe that a person that we care about is not a true friend. If we look closely, to spot a fake friend. Here are a few signs to look out for. First, fake friends are selfish. They only want contact when they want or need something. Sledge calls this friend a “Kanye,” the relationship revolves their needs, wants and even opinions. Second, fake friends thrive on gossip and drama. These friends also known as “emotional vampires” as they leave you feeling drain and empty. Mary DeMuth calls these friends “Dramatic Drakes”, as these individuals have a need for drama and even thrive on it. Third, fake friends lie, and they can lie about everything. They lie about their accomplishments in school, at work, in their other relationships. It doesn’t matter what it is, they will lie to make themselves look better than you. Lastly, they are not trustworthy. They will not hold confidences and will gossip about you to others. This friend is known as a “Brutus” the friend who stabs you in the back. Oscar Wilde said, “True friends stab you in the front.” Proverbs 27:6 even says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” A true friend’s advice, confrontation, whatever it is and no matter how painful, is better than an fake friend’s betrayal.

A great model of a true friendship is found in the relationship between David and Jonathan. It is one of the deepest and closest relationship recorded in the Bible. 1 Samuel 18:1-2 says that Jonathan was “one in spirit with David” and “loved him as himself.” David and Jonathan became close friends as soon as they meet. Their relationship was based on their commitment to God, not just each other. They let nothing come between them, not career or family issues, his father, King Saul would attempt to kill David multiple times. As the son of King Saul, Jonathan was the rightful heir for the throne of Israel, but he recognized David was called by God to be the next king (1 Samuel 23:17) and he did not allow this to come between them because he rather lose the throne than lose his friend (1 Samuel 20:4). David and Jonathan relied on each other when their friendship was tested especially when Saul was determined to kill David (1 Samuel 19). They remained friends until the end when Jonathan was killed in battle (1 Samuel 31:2). When David heard of his friend’s death, he mourned, wept and fasted (2 Samuel 1:12).

In conclusion, friends are hard to find. True friends are even harder. While we go through life and multiple true and fake friends, we need to remember to find a true friend, we need to be a true friend. We need to look closely at ourselves and make sure we aren’t behaving in ways which keeps us from true friends. We need to be supportive and encouraging. We need to listen and communicate honestly and openly. A true friend is there when it seems that everyone else has left. They are there through thick and thin, in good times and in conflict. Friendships are also a two-way street, what you get from it is what you put into it. Sometimes friendships need to end especially when it is bad for us. It’s okay to grieve the ending of a friendship. It is okay to miss a friend but sometimes that friend is not good for us and we need to say goodbye.

DeMuth, Mary. The Seven Deadly Friendships
Sledge, Benjamin. The 5 Types of Fake Friends to Avoid. Retrieved January 24, 2019

Monday, January 28, 2019

Daughtry's Cage to Rattle is great fun music

Cage to Rattle is Daughtry’s fifth studio album, released on July 28, 2018, it was released five years after their last album, Baptized (2013). It received predominately positive reviews from music critics with some calling the album the band’s strongest and most mature to date. Working with a new producer, Jacquie King, the band explores “new musical styles far away from the earnest, polished pop-rock of its predecessors” (Gary Graff, Cage to Rattle has been called a crossroads of sort as it is devoid of the usual angst and has “an honest, open, encouraging effort that’s ready to rattle” ( The album speaks to the anxieties and pressures we all face daily but encourages listeners to face them head on, to keep going.

I have been a fan of Daughtry since 2013 when their song, Gone too Soon, from their 2011 album, Break the Spell, helped me through my darkest days after the loss of my newborn daughter. I received this album as a Christmas gift and immediately was drawn to four songs which became my favorites. First, Deep End is a message of love and encouragement in times of need. It is very emotional and when I heard it for the first time I immediately thought my husband and I with lyrics like “We're all swimming into the light/I want you by my side/And I'm right here waiting for you/Right here waiting for you/We're all living on borrowed time/I've been holding my breath all night/Waiting for you.” Second, Death of Me is where the album gets its title. The song is filled with emotion and frustration at the difficulties of life’s obstacles: “We're all under pressure/Can't stand the weather/For the worse and not for the better/Please, this ain't the way to live/Something's got to give.” But the song offers hope to hold on: “Blood is thicker than water/But love is even stronger/Hold out a little longer/Until we found ourselves/Again, again…” I also enjoy the song, Back in Time as a call to memories of the newness and excitement of a relationship when we were “doing things that Momma said don't do.” Lastly, White Flag closes out the album as an anthem with spiritual aspects to keep fighting through hard times: “With one hand, we're reaching for the sky/And one hand, holding on for life/I won't raise my, I won't raise my white flag.”

While researching the album for my review, I found other reviews which weren’t very glowing and downright hated the album. I understand that Daughtry’s type of music isn’t for everyone. Just like with beauty, music is in the ear of the listener. If you are a fan of Daughtry, you will enjoy this new album. It has the heart and soul of their previous albums as well as an added depth and maturity to the topics which the songs cover. I find some songs to be fun and others to be the encouraging anthems I look for when I was to rock out my frustrations and cry out my fears. I highly recommend Cage to Rattle.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Edmund Burke: an interesting historical figure

During my research for a previous post, I came across Edmund Burke. He is a name that I have heard before but knew very little about the man. I decided to research him and discover who he was and what contributions he made to history. Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher. He served as a member of parliament (MP) from 1766 to 1794 in the House of Commons with the Whig Party. In the 20th century, he is widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern British conservatism.

Burke was born in Dublin, Ireland on January 29, 1729 to Mary (nee Nagle) and Richard Burke. His mother was Roman Catholic and his father was a member of the Church of Ireland. Burke adhered to his father’s faith and remained a practicing Anglican throughout his life. He would be educated at a Quaker school in Ballitore, County Kildare. He started Trinity College Dublin in 1744. On March 12, 1757 he would marry Jane Mary Nugent (1734-1812). Burke was first elected to the House of Commons in December 1765 representing the region of Wendover. He argued strongly against unrestrained royal power and thought that the role of the political parties was to maintain a principled opposition to prevent abuses by the king and the government. He would leave the House of Commons in 1780. He would retreat to his country estate where he died July 9, 1797.

He became a proponent of underpinning (solid foundation) virtues with manners in society and of the importance of religious institutions for the moral stability and good of the state (A Vindication of Natural Society, 1756). He criticized the British treatment of the American colonies. He also supported the rights of the colonists to resist authority; however, he opposed the attempts for independence. He urged to make peace with the colonies and to avoid war. He also supported Catholic Emancipation which called for the reducing and removing many restrictions on Roman Catholics in the UK. His support of the Catholic Emancipation and other unpopular causes cost him is seat in 1780. He also supported the impeachment of Warren Hastings for corruption. Hastings was an Englishman who served as the first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal) and the head of the Supreme Council of Bengal, effectively being the first Governor-General of India from 1773-1785.

Most scholars agree that Burke had a gift for deep analysis; however, his work was controversial. Supporters like poet William Wordsworth would call Burke “the most sagacious politician of his age.” Opponents, like Karl Marx, would call him a bourgeois stooge of the English ruling class. Burke’s legacy in contained in his extensive writings. He explained a coherent system of ideas about the nature of man, the organic state, the benefits of prejudice, the dangers of government by secret consensus and the role of political parties. With the nature of man, Burke condemned the idea that social harmony can be achieved once differences of race, nationality, culture, gender and ability are removed. He would say that humans are not abstract but “distinctive identities, that we love our kin above strangers and that this must affect the type of society we create. It is not morally bad, it is simply the way we are.” He would also call equality a “monstrous fiction.” According to Andrew Webster, “At worst, ambitious elites use equality as a pretext to reallocate resources to themselves. At best, well-intentioned people see equality as no more than a benign aspiration. They think it would be just in theory but of course not when applied to themselves in practice, lest this endanger their own privileges. This is perhaps the greater error. "Abstract principles, however appealing, cannot be applied directly to solve real political problems. Any attempt to do so will have futile or harmful results.”

In conclusion, Edmund Burke was a man whose importance can be seen today. Reading some of his writings, I was surprised how well he described the future with the political thought of the time. I can see what he warned about in the political climate of today. He acknowledged that humans are unique and cannot be expected to behave in a certain way. Humans nature will always surprise us. Just think about how we are surprised when someone can to horrible things to another human being or when someone does amazing acts of heroism or charity for strangers. I am interested in reading further about Edmund Burke as this post only briefly touches on the man, his ideals and his legacy.

Webster, Andrew. Edmund Burke’s Legacy and Retrieved January 23, 2019

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Jesus Storybook Bible: a great Bible for young readers

I found The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones while searching for a bible for my daughter. The idea is that “every story whispers his name.” Twenty-one Old Testament stories and 23 New Testament stories are featured from the Creation Story to Noah to Abraham to the gospels and the parables. It is recommended for preschool to 6th grade (ages 4-8 years old) readers. It is a great format to be read aloud or independently.

The opening chapter, “The Story and the Song” is a great introduction to who God is and what his Word is to us. The Bible is more than just rules or a guide to life. It is about God and who is he and what he has done for us. The stories are beautifully illustrated by Jago. The language is simplified for young readers. There are creative liberties to help illustrate the point of each story without being too complicated for young readers. A few people who have reviewed this bible had issues with the liberties; however, I find the Bible to be a great introduction to who God is, who Jesus is, without going over their head with philosophy and theology. I highly recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible.

The Jesus Storybook Bible
is available in multiple formats
at major booksellers

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tummy Time: is it necessary?

New parents are directed to place their babies on their stomachs for tummy time. When I had my oldest daughter seven years ago, the idea of placing her on her stomach frightened me. So, I delayed it until she was four months and she did tummy time without a problem. When my youngest daughter was born last August, I was better prepared and placed her on tummy time as soon as I could. And boy does she hate it! She hates being on her stomach. She even doesn’t like being held with her stomach against my chest. So, I started research alternatives to help her develop the skills that tummy time does without doing tummy time. What I found surprised me. What is tummy time? Is it necessary? Are they any alternatives?

In 1992 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that babies sleep on their backs in order to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. Also known as crib death as many infants die in their cribs. As a result, the rates of SIDS decreased by 50% since 1994. However, there was a sharp increase in plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome. Several studies since 1998 reported that infants placed in the supine (face upward position) lagged in motor skills, social skills and cognitive ability development. In order to combat this, the AAP recommended parents place their babies on their stomach while awake and supervised in order to help strengthen their neck and shoulder muscles and promote motor skills. Doctors recommend that babies do tummy time soon after birth for a few months and adding time as the baby gets older for a total of twenty minutes a day.

According to Magda Gerber (d. 2007) and the RIE philosophy, tummy time is not necessary and that parents need to allow babies to move freely according to their inner schedules and dictates. By allowing gross motor development to unfold naturally means avoiding placing babies into positions they can’t get into or out of on their own. Therefore, according to this idea, babies shouldn’t be on their stomachs until they can get into the position on their own. By placing babies on their back for sleep as well as play allows babies to be more relaxed and freer to move. Gerber suggested that babies know best how to be babies and some thing we should not be rushing and putting babies into position they are ready for sends the message of “I don’t value and appreciate what you can do, but I expect you to do what you can not yet do.” She also suggested that tummy time makes the babies more dependent on their parents and stuck until we can rescue them. According to Irene Lyon, a Feldenkrais and Somatic Experience Practioner, says rather than listening to our babies, “we are asked to put faith in recent studies about plagiocephaly, studies that do not take into account that infants are now spending more time than ever in restrictive devices that inhibit babies from doing what they are naturally inclined to do” round out the back of their head by turning it side to side.”

I found anecdotal evidence that there are countries which do not follow the back to sleep program or even tummy time. One commenter on an article stated that Indian parents do not do tummy time and that the thought of tummy time is ridiculous; however, I could not find another source to confirm this. So, if tummy time is not necessary, what is the alternative? Many opponents of tummy time suggest floor time instead. Floor time places a baby on his or her back on a firm surface with interesting toys or objects to look at. Playmats are a great tool to use for floor time. Many childcare websites suggest usually a boppy pillow or a rolled blanket under their arms until they learn to be conformable with the position. There are also toys which are designed specifically for tummy time. During my research, I also discovered that a baby laying their parent’s chest counts as tummy time. It allows for a more comfortable position and the incentive to lift his or her head up to met Mommy or Daddy’s eyes.

If there is one thing I have learned as a parent is that the doctor is supposed to be a partner in the care of a child. He or she is supposed to advise the parents on a course of action. They are not to dictate what should be done. Parents don’t realize that one doctor’s suggestion is not set in stone and we are entitled to a second opinion. When my oldest daughter had a problem with jaundice, her pediatrician recommended supplementing with formula without an explanation. Discouraged, I switched to formula exclusively. I find out that breastfed babies are often jaundiced longer than formula fed babies. I hated myself for not question her doctor why she recommended formula. Now that I have another daughter, I was ready to question her doctor, not to be a pain but to be informed. I understand that most doctors are used to patients being read up on the medical information. But that’s not me. I researched babies disliking tummy time and what to do. I was prepared to engage in a conversation with the doctor. However, this doctor basically just said tummy time was the only option and to force her to do it because “she’ll learn to love it.” I laughed. Have you every tried to learn something and get frustrated because you weren’t getting it? Did you learn to love it, or did you try a new way to learn it? There is always more than one way to do things. There are always more than one way to help babies develop the skills the they need.

In conclusion, I feel tummy time is a tool to help babies develop the skills they need. However, it is not the only tool. I was worried about my infant daughter’s development when she screamed and cried whenever she was on tummy time. She even doesn’t like to be held with her stomach against my shoulder. I searched and searched for other ways. I still place her on tummy time, this time I listen to her. If she is upset and only last a few minutes, then that’s all she will be doing. I place her on her back, on the floor on a playmat and she will play for quite a while. She can reach and grab her toys freely. She is even in the process of learning to roll over from her back to her stomach. Bottom line, YOU know your baby more than a doctor who sees him or her for a short visit every of couple months. If your baby doesn’t like being on his or her stomach, listen and try other ways to help develop the necessary skills.

For further information
Regrading Baby
The Case Against Tummy Time: Guest Post by Irene Lyon

Friday, January 18, 2019

Nartional Winnie the Pooh Day: the story behind everyone's favorite bear

Today is National Winnie the Pooh Day celebrated on the birthday of his creator, author A.A. Milne. “Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, Chubby, little cubby all stuffed with fluff” …the song plays in your head. Winnie the Pooh was based on one of Milne’s son’s toys and their adventures took place in a forest near their farm. We all know the bear, most of know a little bit about his creation but what is the full story? While being a beloved character around the world, the success of his stories would bring heartache to the Milne family. Who was A.A. Milne? What is the history behind the beloved character? And why is he so popular 93 years later?

Alan Alexander Milne was born January 18, 1882, Kilburn, London. Kilburn was a small public school his father ran and where one of his teachers was author H.G. Wells. He joined the British army in World War I. He was later injured in the Battle of the Somme (July 7, 1916). He would marry Dorothy “Daphne” de Selincourt in 1913 and their only child, Christopher Robin, was born in 1920. Milne and his wife became estranged from their son who resented the “exploitation of his childhood” and came to hate the book that thrust him into the public eye. However, his son would occasionally visit him as he grew ill. He would write other genres including plays, poetry and detective stories. Given the success of his children’s books, he was annoyed that he could not write whatever he pleased. He was felt “amazement and disgust” at the fame his son was exposed to, commenting that "I feel that the legal Christopher Robin has already had more publicity than I want for him” (AA Milne and the curse of the Pooh bear, BBC January 28, 2016). Although Milne and his wife didn’t exactly shield their son from publicity. Milne would retreat to a private life on his farm. He died January 31, 1956 at the age of 74 from a stroke.

The toy which became Winnie the Pooh was originally named Edward and was a gift to Milne’s son for his first birthday. The name was changed to Winnie in honor of a Canadian black bear named Winnie (from Winnipeg) who was used as a military mascot during World War I and would later be housed at the London Zoo after the war. Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger were also modeled after his son’s toys. The originally toys are on display at the New York Public Library. Only Owl and Rabbit were created from Milne’s imagination. The Hundred Acre Wood was also inspired by the real life Five Hundred Acre Wood in East Sussex which the Milnes lived on the northern side on their farm and where father and son would take walks. Pooh’s first appearance was in a poem known as “Teddy Bear” in a 1924 Punch magazine. He would later appear in books such as Winnie the Pooh (1926) and The House on Pooh Corner (1928). The rights to Winnie the Pooh characters would be sold to the Walt Disney Productions in 1961 with the film, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh being released in 1977.

Everyone is familiar with Winnie the Pooh and his friends. Whether it was growing up with the stories, the Disney films or both, Winnie the Pooh is beloved around the world. Described as naïve and slow-witted, he is also friendly, thoughtful and steadfast. While he is often described as having no brain, Pooh often comes up with clever ideas usually driven by common sense. Everyone also have a favorite Pooh character, my favorite has always been Eeyore. Eeyore is described as the pessimistic, gloomy, depressed donkey which isn’t like me at all because I’m usually very optimistic. However, something about Eeyore draws me to him. Winnie the Pooh and his friends remain popular after so many years. Since the initial publication, the Winnie the Pooh stories have never been out of print. Never. Some say the draw to the characters lies in their relatability. James Campbell, who runs the EH Shepard Trust and is the author of The Art of Winnie-the-Pooh, says, “Readers could recognise these characteristics in themselves or their friends” (What makes the Winnie the Pooh books so popular? September 18, 2017). The stories brought innocence to a population which had suffered a war that the world had not seen before. And for the generations afterward who have known nothing but war, it brings a simplicity and tenderness we wish the world knew.

In conclusion, A.A. Milne is a writer of many genres while being most well known for the Winnie the Pooh stories. While it brought him great success, that success came at a cost. He came to have a love-hate relationship with the bear who brought him success. However, to the world, Winnie the Pooh is a lovable, innocent bear who reminds us of childhood adventures and make believe with our toys. Whether you love Winnie the Pooh or his fellow friends, these characters help us see parts of ourselves. One quote that has been going around sums up the appeal of these stories: “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Christopher Robin says this to Pooh. It’s a great reminder to us all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Seven Deadly Friendships: who they are and how to deal with them

The Seven Deadly Friendships by Mary DeMuth is a book on the types of relationships that can harm us. Taken from her own experiences and Proverbs 6:16-19, Ms. DeMuth takes the reader through the different types of dangerous relationships, what to look out for and how avoid them. Part of the book covers the different relationships. The seven relationships are: narcissistic friends, unreliable friends, predatory friends, conman friends, tempter friends, fake friends and dramatic friends. She also encourages the reader to look at themselves to evaluate if they behave like any these types and offers suggestions to change and avoid these behaviors in the future. Part 2 covers how to move forward, find healthy relationships and gives Biblical examples to encourage and support the readers and he or she strives to change. She offers seven life-giving practices to ensure we are in healthy relationships on everyone’s part. From reviewing the past for patterns of behavior to avoid the behaviors which hurt us and ways to move forward in healthy relationships.

The Seven Deadly Friendships was suggested to me in an email from a publisher I subscribe to. The premise was interesting, so I ordered it. The book was an easy and quick read as I was able to finish it in one day. It’s short only 200 pages but the information is valuable and worth reading. We have all come in contact with individuals who may fit these categories. Whether these individuals are family, friends, co-workers, etc, this book can help you recognize unsafe people and gives strategies how to deal with them if they are people that you must interact with. Ms. DeMuth is very forthcoming and honest about her past experiences with these individuals and offers other people’s experiences. I especially like the parts in which she has the reader evaluate if they have behaved this way in the past or even behaves in these unsafe behaviors in current relationships. She offers strategies on how to deal with moving forward and seeking help, if necessary. If you are looking to improve your relationships with people around you, the first book I recommend is Boundaries by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. The second one is this book.

The Seven Deadly Friendships
is available in paperback, eBook and audiobook

Monday, January 14, 2019

Addicted to Hate: a heartbreaking story of parental abuse

Addicted to Hate by Lucia Mann is the story of one woman’s life of tragedy. Suffering abuse at every state, Madeline “Maddie” Clark just wanted peace, love and a life. She is abandoned in Milan, Italy after being forced from her home in Africa. She meets David Blakely who promises her a wonderful life in England but when she gets there, her prince charming turns into an ugly villain. Repeatedly raped and abused, Madeline has few joys in her life. When she discovers she’s pregnant despite a tubal ligation, she is ecstatic. But her dreams of being a mother is soon dashed when her children turn evil and verbally abuse their mother. Occasionally, angels of mercy give Maddie hope and happiness in the bleakness which had become her life. Will Maddie ever find true happiness? Will she escape the abuse from those she loves?

Addicted to Hate is a different book to read. A powerful read but not easy as the horrors Maddie suffers are real and occurs in the world around us. The reader experiences the abuses and pain as Maddie suffers first at the hands of men and then at the hands of her children. Her children whom she had shown nothing but love and support. Parental and elder abuse is on the rise. The statistics are heartbreaking. According to my research, 1 in 10 Americans 60 or older and 1 in 6 individuals 60+ will suffer some form of parental or elder abuse. Ms. Mann brings to light a growing trend which needs a harsh look at what individuals are doing to a growing population. Like others books I have read and reviewed for Ms. Mann, the subject matter is hard to think about, but it needs to be addressed. I applaud Ms. Mann for her dedication to bringing such realities to light. I highly recommend Addicted to Hate for its attention to details and its truthfulness. Exploitation and abuse of our elderly needs to stop because one day it could be us.

Addicted to Hate
is available on Amazon
in paperback and eBook

If you know or suspect someone is being abuse, please contact your local authorities or hotline and report it. Abuse of any kind should not be tolerated. Please reach out and help.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Today in History: Thomas Paine's Common Sense is published

As many people who know me know I love history. Today in history a very important pamphlet was published. A pamphlet which helped open the door to revolution even wider. A pamphlet which helped bring the call for revolution to all the people. Common Sense was published today in 1776 by Thomas Paine. It was required reading in my college US history course which I still have a copy of it in my personal library. Paine is known for being a philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary. He is one of the Founding Fathers and authored two influential pamphlets.  Who was Thomas Paine? What was Common Sense and why is it historically significant?

Thomas Paine was born February 9, 1737 (O.S. January 29, 1736) in Thetford, Norfolk, Great Britain. He migrated to the colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin. After the American Revolution, he lived in Paris for most of the 1790s and was deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote Rights of Man (1791), a pamphlet in defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on Edmund Burke, an Irish conservative writer, led to a trial and conviction in absentia in England in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel. He became notorious for his pamphlet, The Age of Reason, which advocated deism, promoted reason and free thought. He argued against institutionalized religion in general and Christianity in particular. In 1802, he returned in the US, where he died on June 8, 1809 in Greenwich Village, New York. Only six people attended his funeral as he had been ostracized for his ridicule of Christianity. After his death, Paine’s body was to be buried in New Rochelle as per his will. However, the Quakers would not allow him to be buried in their graveyard. His remains were buried under a walnut tree on his farm. In 1819, an English agricultural radical journalist, William Cobbett, dug up his bones and brought them back to England. However, it never happened, and they remained in Cobbett’s possession until his death in 1835 and the bones were later lost. No one knows for sure what happened to his bones, but various people have claimed to have all or some of his remains.

Common Sense helped crystallized sentiment for the fight for independence. It was published anonymously “by an Englishman” and was an immediate success. One hundred thousand copies were sold in three months and during the war, it would sell 500,000 copies. The pamphlet would attack the monarchy, essentially King George III. Originally the colonial resentments originally directed primarily against the king’s ministers and Parliament. Paine would make the claim that the king was solely responsible and while not expressing any original ideas, Common Sense employs rhetoric as mean to arouse resentment of the Crown. For example, he argued “That the King it not to be trusted without being looked after; or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of monarchy.” The pamphlet has two main points: 1) independence from England and 2) the creation of a democratic republic. He used two ideas in his arguments. First, Scottish Common Sense Realism which states that man has the innate ability to perceive common ideas and this process is inherent with judgment. Pain used this to argue that ordinary people can make sound judgments on major political issues. Second, Continental Enlightenment which states that common sense could refute the claims of traditional institutions like the monarchy.

Common Sense is historically significant as it was used as a weapon to delegitimize the monarchy and overturn the prevailing conventional wisdom. He also used a writing style to take complex ideas and make them understandable for the average reader of the day. He wrote in the language of the people, quoting the Bible to further his arguments. Even though he was not religious, Paine knew his readers were. For example, he references Judges 6 when Gideon led the Israelites against the oppressive Midianites. The pamphlet was a catalyst for the colonist to declare war as the Declaration of Independence would be signed six months later and many of the pamphlet’s senitments would be the basis of many premises in it. For example, Paine would also state that government at its best is a necessary evil and at its worst was intolerable. The Declaration of Independence would state “Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Paine would argue that community was dependent on both the strength of the government and the happiness of the governed. Common Sense, among other philosophical thoughts of the day, highly influenced the Declaration of Independence.

In conclusion, today we celebrate the 243-year-old pamphlet which brought the argument for revolution to the masses. Thomas Paine was able to take an argument for revolution and present it in a way that the common man could understand it. And understand it they did. Common Sense helped give one of the final pushes to revolution. It gained popularity during the war and has remained an important document in our country’s history. If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you do. You can find the full text free on the internet. It is a quick read and well worth it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Who would be my special dinner guest?

My writing prompt this week, which sometimes turns into a blog post, was which celebrity would I enjoy having dinner with. As I couldn’t think of one individual, I expanded it to three, died or alive, that I would find interesting. I know that they say to not meet your heroes, but I think it is fun to think of what would happen during a hypothetical dinner. I picked three celebrities, then I thought why did I chose these individuals and what would we discuss? My celebrities I chose Charlotte Bronte, one of my favorite authors, Queen Victoria, an historical figure and Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch.

First, the author Charlotte Bronte. I have loved her books for a very long time. I actually enjoy her books over Jane Austen’s (gasp!). I would love to discuss her books in particular Jane Eyre (1847) and the events which inspired her stories. How much of her real experience made it into the book? And did she add a bit more drama for the books? She was born on April 21, 1816 and experienced tragedy at a young age. The death of her mother in 1821, after which her father sent his daughters to the Clergy Daughters’ School where her older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, would die of tuberculosis in June 1825. The school became the inspiration for the Lowood School in Jane Eyre. She would continue her education and found work as a governess in Brussels, Belgium, which became her inspiration for her books, The Professor (1857) and Villette (1853). Since books by women authors were seen as less than worthy, Charlotte and her sisters, Emily and Anne, decided to publish under masculine pseudonyms. Charlotte Bronte was published as Currer Bell. She died on March 31, 1855, weeks before her 39th birthday.

Second, Queen Victoria and how she inspired an era which is named after her. She was born Alexandrina Victoria on May 24, 1819 and became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on June 20, 1837 when her three uncles died with no surviving legitimate heirs. She became a national icon, identified with strict standards of personal morality. Her long reign, known as the Victorian Era, was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific and military change in the United Kingdom as well as the world. Victoria was the first to wear a white dress at her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Austria, which inspired many women to wear white and it is a tradition which is still carried on today. She also helped popularize many of our Christmas traditions such as Christmas trees and sending Christmas cards. When she died on January 22, 1901 at the age of 81, she held the longest reign at 63 years, 7 months and 2 days until her great-great-granddaughter, Elizabeth II, surpassed her on September 9, 2015. She was one tough lady who survived at least six assassination attempts and multilingual, speaking English and German fluently as well as French, Italian and Latin. She even learned Hindu and Urdu phrases when servants from India came to Windsor Castle.

For my third person, I chose Queen Elizabeth II. I have long admired the queen as she was thrusted into a role she was never expected to fulfill. Her father, King George, would take the throne after his older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. During World War II, at 14, Elizabeth would broadcast over the radio, speaking to the children who had been evacuated from London during the Blitz. In February 1945, after she turned 18, she was appointed as an honorary second subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service where she was trained as a driver and mechanic. She married Philip Mountbatten, a prince of Greece and Denmark, on November 20, 1947 and would have 4 children, Prince Charles (1948), Princess Anne (1950), Prince Andrew (1960), and Prince Edward (1964). As I mentioned above, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning British monarch in 2015 and the longest reigning monarch in history after the death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13, 2016. At this post, she has reigned 66 years 11 months and 3 days and has no plans to abdicate. The queen rarely gives interviews, and little is known about her personal feelings. However, she maintains a sense of religious and civic duty and takes her role as queen very seriously. In 2000, she said “To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example” (Christmas Broadcast, December 25, 2000). While she does not have any real power in the British government, she performs the State Opening of the Parliament, which opens a new session of Parliament.

In conclusion, from my favorite author to an historical world leader and the history making monarch, these dinners would be filled with fun conversations about literature, culture and world events which these individuals have seen in their lifetimes. The three women lived very different lives, and each had something to say about the world around them. Charlotte Bronte wrote novels and poetry but had to hide her gender as publishers were reluctant to publish a woman’s work. Queen Victoria followed in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth I and refused to allow a man to dictate her role as queen. Queen Elizabeth has become a beloved queen to many around the around. While being famous, it would be interesting to see how much they would or could have in common with me. Who would you choose?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Christian Feast of Epiphany

Today is a celebration in many Christian churches of Epiphany. Also known as Three Kings’ Day or the Baptism of Jesus, it is a feast which celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. Western churches primarily commemorate this day as the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus which represents the physical manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. In Eastern Churches, this day commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River which represents his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Who were the Magi? What is the history behind this celebration and how do the various churches celebrate this day?

The Magi (or the Three Wise Men or the Three Kings) are only mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 2 verses 1-12). They were distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus and his mother, Mary, after his birth. They brought him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Magi (Latin magus = Greek magos = Persian magus from the Avestan magȃunȗ) were a religious caste of Zoroastrian priests who gained an international reputation for astrology and astronomy.  Matthew does not mention the number of Magi but traditional it is assumed to be three based on the number of gifts which were given. Their identification as kings is linked to Psalm 72:11 “May all kings fall down before him.” Even though nothing in Matthew’s gospel implies that the Magi were kings, the link to the Psalm may be due to the face that kneeling is indicative of great respect. Although many people think, as tradition has taught us, the Magi had visited the baby Jesus on the night of his birth. However, Matthew’s account doesn’t specify when after his birth they arrived.

The feast of Epiphany may have originated in the Greek speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire as a feast to honor the baptism of Jesus. The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast is 361 CE by Ammianus Marcellius. The scope of Epiphany was expanded to include the commemoration of his birth, the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus’ childhood events, his baptism by John the Baptist and the miracle at the Cana wedding. In Latin speaking West, the holiday came to emphasize the visit of the Magi. In 385 CE, the pilgrim Egeria (aka Silvia) described as a celebration in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, she called “Epiphany” that commemorated the Nativity. A sermon on December 25, 380, St Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as “the Theophany” also commemorating the nativity. Then in later, sermons on January 6th and 7th, he declared a celebration of the birth of Christ and the visit of the Magi. Fifth Century St John Cassian noted that Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and the Baptism together.

In most Protestant churches, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Catholic churches celebrate Epiphany as a single day on a Sunday. Orthodox churches celebrate Epiphany on January 19th. In Spanish and other Spanish speaking countries, The Three Kings (los Reyes Magos) receive letters from children and brings them gits the night before Epiphany. Each Magi represents different regions: Europe, Asia and Africa and come from the Orient on their camels and visits the houses (much like Santa Claus and his reindeer). Towns organizes cabalgatas in which the kings and their servants parade through the town and throw sweets to those in attendance. In Poland and German speaking Catholic areas, sternsinger (star singers) are a group of children dressed as the magi, one carries a star, and sing Christmas carols as they go door to door. A ring-shaped cake is made for the Epiphany feast. In Spain and Portugal, the cake contains a small figure representing the Magi and a dry bean. The person who gets the figure is “crowned” and the one gets the bean must pay the value of the cake to the person who originally brought it. In Mexico, the cake contains a figure and whoever gets it must organize and host the family celebration for the Candelaria, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, usually held in February.

In conclusion, Epiphany is a Christian feast which celebrates various aspects of Jesus’ birth and life. The feast has a long history and variations in what is commemorated. Depending on the church and the countries, the celebrations vary from the focus of the feast and the activities and food presented at the feast. Some Christian churches do not celebrate this feast at all. The Magi were priests from the East who watched the stars and were said to follow the Star of Bethlehem to the baby Jesus. To those who celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, happy holiday!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Ready Player One: book and movie review

Ready Player One is a 2011 science fiction novel by Ernest Cline which became a feature film in 2018 directed by Steven Spielberg. I watched the movie first which is unusual for me because I like to read the books first before seeing the films. After watching it, I read the book and re-watched the movie. I came to an odd and rare conclusion: the book and movie were both entertaining on their own. However, together I see the movie as better than the book which is something I rarely say. Both have their merits with the story and both can appeal to the reader and the expert and the novice gamers.

The book opens with the narrator, later revealed to be Wade Watts, introducing the audience to the great and powerful, James Halliday, the creator of OASIS the massive multiplayer online virtual world. Halliday has died, leaving behind no family, so he created a game so that a single player can inherit his estate. The Hunt for the Easter Egg, the ultimate prize, begins. Wade lives in a dystopian world in 2044 where most people spent their day in the OASIS, some were hunting for the egg and others were simply living in a virtual reality because it was better than the real world. Wade soon discovers the first clue in The Hunt and soon it becomes a race against time as he is up against the evil Nolan Sorrento and the Innovative Online Industries (IOI) who want to control the OASIS themselves.

The movie opens in Columbus, Ohio 2045 and it’s been 5 years since Halliday has died and The Hunt began. Eighteen-year-old, Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) lives in “The Stacks” with his aunt and her boyfriend of the day. It is a world where “people stopped trying to fix problems and just tried to outlive them.” He has virtual friends, Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Sho, and together they team up to figure out the clues which leads them to the next challenge. However, he must be careful. Can he really trust them? No one is really who they seem in the OASIS and his “friends” could be members of the dreaded Sixers, IOI employees whose sole purpose is to figure out the challenges and find the egg. Their leader, Nolan Sorrento (played by Ben Mendelsohn) tries his own tactics in the real world to win the game.

As I mentioned in the introduction this is an odd and rare instance where the book and movie cannot be compared. Each were enjoyable on their own and there is so much in the book that cannot translate to the big screen. So much had to cut or changed in order to keep the audience engaged. For example, in the book, Wade plays the game, Joust, in the first challenge and unless you are the ultimate gamer (which I am not), you cannot imagine what the game looks like as he plays it. In the movie, the first challenge is changed to a racing game which many people are familiar with. Even though the ending is a bit predictable but still enjoyable. I also enjoyed that the moral of the book remained the same in the movie: “As terrifying as reality is, it’s the only place you can find happiness because reality is real.”

In conclusion, both the book and movie were filled with 80s pop culture references from television, movies, music, books and, of course, video games. Many of the characters are the same with their bios being relatively unchanged from book to movie. I enjoyed each on their own. However, if I had to choose, I would watch the movie again over reading the book. The book was weighed down with a lot of narrative which, while important to the story, seemed to drag on and on. I think the background information could have been shorter while still being effective. The book is a great read for the gamer bookworms out there and the movie is a fun, entertaining adventure story for the novice gamers. I highly recommend both.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
is available in paperback and eBook
at all major booksellers

Ready Player One (2018)
is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download
at all major retailers

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Monsterland Reanimated: the monsters return!

Monsterland Reanimated by Michael Okon is the sequel to Monsterland. The story picks up the night after the events of the Monsterland Catastrophe. The protagonist of Monsterland, Wyatt, tries to pick up the pieces from the events he experienced in Monsterland. Little does he know but someone is still in Monsterland, trying to complete the mission and reanimate the monsters. Communication is still down, and the world is on chaos. Wyatt decides he needs to go to Los Angeles to get news, supplies and find any other survivors. He, along with a group of friends, start on the journey and soon realizes that he is being followed. There is a bigger threat out there than just vampires, mummies, and werewolves. Oh my! Can Wyatt and his friends defeat the new threat and shut down Monsterland for good? Will it really be the end?

Monsterland: Reanimated is a fast-paced sequel to Monsterland with a new villain and new monsters. Each step of their journey brings new scares and threats which culminates into the battle of Monsterland. The ending of the book suggests a third adventure is coming. I would like to see how the author ends this story with a third story. Will the humans win? Or will the monsters take over once and for all? If you enjoyed Monsterland, you will enjoy Monsterland: Reanimated. If you haven’t read Monsterland yet, I recommend you do so before reading Monsterland: Reanimated.

Monsterland: Reanimated
is available in hardcover, paperback and eBook