Archive | October 2012

Christopher Columbus … who knew?

In a past post I mentioned that I had relocated an old history book, copyright 1885, on my book shelf. Since today we celebrate Christopher Columbus Day, I thought it fitting to see if there was anything of interest in this timeworn volume about this renowned explorer.

According to Barnes Historical Stories, Columbus entered the world in 1435, the first of four children and the son of a poor wool-comber.  He assumed responsibility to contribute to the family to educate his young brothers and support his aged father from the savings of his meager wages. Did you know that his hair was totally white by age 30? Supposedly due to trouble and anxiety, it makes you wonder why it is included in this history text. Can you imagine today’s kids even caring about the color of his hair let alone what might have caused it?

Yet Columbus had a dream that was 18 years in the making. Determined, shrewd and intensely religious, Columbus believed his mission came from the Lord to carry the true faith to the uttermost parts of the earth. He deemed this cause his purpose and pursued it with courage and devotion.

You would think that with the acclaim Ferdinand and Isabella received from sponsoring Columbus’ travels, they would have treated him exceptionally well. Evidently that is not the case. Columbus made four voyages for the Spanish royals, yet evil men slandered Columbus, and they disregarded their promise to him that he should become governor-general over the lands he had discovered. Instead, they appointed another governor, who promptly returned Columbus to Spain in chains. Spain’s general population was outraged, and Ferdinand and Isabella tried to ease the wrong done to Columbus although they never permitted him to be governor. Eventually they neglected him altogether. Columbus died a grieved and disappointed man and requested that he be buried with his chains, a symbol of the Spanish ingratitude.

Here we are 506 years after his death celebrating his discovery with a holiday, yet in this age of global travel and communications, few of us even think about the cost of his investment let alone the man himself. So, take a minute today, just for fun, and quiz your family and friends to see if they can remember any details of Columbus or his voyage to discover a new world. He changed history. As you share what you have learned about him, it might become a conversation starter leading to discoveries of your own about their dreams, goals and purpose in life. Hmmm, Christopher Columbus. Who knows? He might still impact lives to encourage a new world.

What was it like during the early Plymouth days?

I’m not sure how I ended up with this treasured volume, but Barnes Historical Series found its way to my bookshelf likely coming from the home of my maternal grandmother. Used as a textbook for 11th grade students in the Philadelphia schools circa the end of the 19th century, it covers US history from the explorers through some events in the late 1800’s. I especially enjoyed reading the fine print explanations of life during these various periods.

No way would you find this information in today’s academic resources. They would neither be politically correct nor would they support the changes that have occurred as history has been rewritten to agree with the more modern models of government. You know how it goes, if you say a lie often enough, someone will believe it, and it will become fact. The ironic part is that someone thought this volume with a copyright date of 1885 had already been rewritten as I found references relating to General Greene of Revolutionary War fame corrected in pencil. (My grandfather’s family was Greene, but I have no idea if they were related to the General.)

But alas, I digress. My intent was to provide a humorous example of life during the early Plymouth days.

In the early Plymouth days, every house opened on Sunday morning at the tap of the drum. The men and the women, the former armed to the teeth, assembled in front of the captain’s house. Three abreast, they marched to the meeting-house, where every man set down his musket within easy reach. … The sermon was often three or four hours long, and at the end of each hour the sexton turned the hour-glass which stood upon the desk. Woe to the youngster whose eyelids drooped in slumber! The ever-vigilant constables, with their wands tipped on one extremity with the foot, and on the other with the tail of a hare, brought the heavier end down on the nodding head. The care-worn matron who was betrayed into a like offense was gently reminded of her duty by a touch on the forehead with the softer end of the same stick. … “

Although the religious services provided a great contrast to those today, this text presents our ancestors as real people struggling with real life issues. You also see the level of vocabulary with which they wrote. Makes you wonder if today’s high school students would understand the words. I confess. There were a few words that I had to look up. I guess it’s a good thing I live in the age of the Internet and not in early Plymouth.

Fall Castings

The calendar reveals that the season has officially shifted to fall, and as I gazed out my window, I could not help but notice the flurry of leaves falling from some of the trees. Here in Pennsylvania the foliage is just beginning to turn. Although a few trees wear coats of red and gold, most continue to sport their green. Only a few trees are beginning to shed their foliage. As I thought about the trees casting their leaves in preparation for the winter, I wondered if the shedding related to life in general.

Actually, it caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with a former coworker now retired. Although her life has been riddled with hardship, she chooses to focus on what is good and positive rather than what is no longer possible. Her husband has traveled a rough and difficult road of health and though making progress, he’s unable to do some of the “chores” that usually would have been meaningful. Without use of his limbs, he could no longer mow the grass, tend flower beds or work on the car. It troubled him to have to pay someone to do these tasks. In years past, though bothersome, these jobs would have been a simple undertaking. My friend reminded her beloved spouse that it was OK to let some of these things go. The chores would get done but in another way. She encouraged him to let these jobs go and save his energy for those activities that were more important or pleasurable.

Sometimes in life, we are forced to let things go – a relationship, job, house or a myriad of other things which seem important to us. We can fight the loss and become depressed, OR we can let them go tumbling beneath us like the tree leaves in autumn. We can choose to focus our mind and energy in other directions and with higher priorities.  It seems fall’s castings may relate to life after all.

What do you do with cracked pots?

Before you think I’m crazy or using the term loosely to refer to those who disagree with my point of view, I’d like to clarify. I’m really talking about all of us because in one way or another, we’re all flawed human beings, and these imperfections, whether congenitally- or experientially-related, influence our lives. The way they impact us, depends a lot on how we choose to view and deal with them.

Few of us would judge a little boy who experienced a double amputation of his legs below the knees if we watched him sitting in a wheelchair or on the sidelines watching other children compete in running games. We’d understand that he had a justifiable reason to watch the world go by. We’d have compassion on him.

This is the story of Oscar Pistorius, one of the South African runners in the 2012 Olympic Games, who experienced this situation because he had been born without a fibula in either leg (fibular hemimelia). Yet the scenario painted above does not reflect Oscar’s life. Greatly because of his mother’s influence, he overcame an attitude that could have crippled him for life. Instead, with the help of specialized Flex-Foot Cheetah carbon fibre transtibial prostheses he overcame his handicaps and went on to achieve great things. We could name others like Joni Eareckson Tada and the late Chuck Colson, who started outstanding ministries because of what happened in their own lives, results of accidents or poor choices. Although you and I may not have suffered to the degree that these folks have, the point is that these challenges helped them to find their niche because they chose to allow God to use it.

Life comes at us from all directions – health, finances, relationships …, and we can choose to be blown over or take courage and stand up again. What we learn from these experiences will help to define who we are as well as shape who we are becoming. And, it may provide another aspect to consider when discovering where we fit – our niche for business, job search, ministry, service, writing, etc.

So what’s in your past that’s changed you, created a new sensitivity or heightened awareness and passion? Write these things down and see if a pattern develops that might direct you to future endeavors. See if you can find a spot for your cracked pots.