Monday, December 30, 2013

Blessing or Toasting the New Year

When you are ringing in the New Year 2014 this Tuesday night and make a toast for good health and happiness, you may not need to know what I am sharing here.  As a member of Toastmasters International, I have been wondering where the ideas of toasting came from.  Then, we had an article in the December 2013 Magazine  on toasting and I felt inspired to read more about it.
“Here's to the bright New Year
 And a fond farewell to the old;
 Here's to the things that are yet to come
 And to the memories that we hold.”

What is a Toast?
A toast is a ritual in which a drink is taken as an expression of honor or goodwill. The term may be applied to the person or thing so honored, the drink taken, or the verbal expression accompanying the drink. Thus, a person could be "the toast of the evening," for whom someone "proposes a toast" to congratulate and for whom a third person "toasts" in agreement.

There are many occasions in life to share a toast: the birth of a newborn, weddings, good byes, birthdays, or any party.  The custom of drinking to the health, prosperity, happiness, or good luck of another is not new; it rather has a long history.  The curious practice of raising our drink containers is one of the most ancient of these.

“A Toast or Sentiment very frequently excites good humor and revives languid conversation; often does it, when properly applied, cool the heat of resentment, and blunt the edge of animosity.   A well applied Toast is acknowledged, universally, the flame of acrimony, when season and reason oft used their efforts to no purpose.”
~ Craig Harrison, DTM

Why Toasting?
But it wasn't always called a toast. The term didn't come about until the late 17th century. In the same way you throw a lime in tequila, it was customary to plop a piece of toast or crouton in a drink, Dickson says. Think of it as an early form of a cocktail snack.

And just in case you are wondering where the English phrase "toast" comes from, it comes from the practice of floating a piece of burnt toast on top of the wine of the loving cup. The reason for this was that the toast took away some of the acidity of the wine.

History of Toasting
Ironically, the cheerful clinking of a friend's glass before drinking evolved from one of the darker practices of the distant past. The custom dates back to the Middle Ages, when people were so distrustful of one another that they weren't above poisoning anyone they perceived as an enemy.  As a safeguard, drinkers first poured a bit of wine into each other's glass, acting as mutual "tasters." Trustworthy friends, however, soon dispensed with the tastings and merely clinked their glasses instead. This custom is said by some to explain why "to your health" is the most common toast worldwide.  Some other historians hold that clinking glasses provided the noise that would keep evil spirits at bay.

Cheers - Why do we click the glasses?
There can be various answers to this question but the common notion that this was done so as to spill a little wine into each other's glasses thereby ensuring that the drinks are not poisoned is not true. This custom is relatively new. Touching your glasses gently is done to incorporate the sense of hearing in the processes of making a toast. Earlier only four out of our 5 senses were gratified.
What to say in a toast?
Here is a link for some sample toasts, blessings and graces: Chosen words for Toasts

For those who are looking for formal toasts for a special occasion, here is a whole book by the master Paul Dickson: Toasts

For the rest of us, let just enjoy this New Year’s Eve with a cheer of goodwill and blessing for the New Year 2014.  I hope and pray that the New Year will take us into better circumstances, and we can create health and prosperity for our families and country.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Silent Night, Holy Night

Plaque from the authentic replicated chapel St. Nicholas in Frankenmuth, Michigan
I just recently learned about the background history of the popular Christmas song: Silent Night, Holy Night. It was written by a young Priest Joseph Mohr in 1816 when he was traveling to some parishioners in the country side of Austria.  He later became the shepherd of the St. Nicholas church in Oberndorf nearby Salzburg.  When the organ broke down at the church and Christmas approached, he was concerned that he couldn’t create enough spiritual power to pull the parishioners to church on Christmas Eve.  He remembered his poem from the years before and went to visit his good friend Franz Xaver Gruber who was the schoolmaster in Oberndorf.  He asked Franz to compose music to the words and the original version of Silent Night was born.  They performed the song that Christmas Eve at the midnight mass with Franz playing the guitar and the choir singing the words.  Everybody loved the song because it was written in their native language, German, while they often sang Latin songs.

When in the following spring the organ master repaired the organ of St. Nicholas, some children performed the song along with the refreshed organ.  The organ master took the song to other parts of Austria, where the song took a life of its own.  Eventually, it traveled to Berlin, and even London.  They even changed some notes and translated the words into English and many other languages.  It became one of the most popular Christmas songs.

Just recently, some German/American film makers refreshed the whole history of the song and made a movie "Stille,Nacht, Heilige Nacht,” about Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,                        Silent night, holy night

Alles schläft; einsam wacht                       All is calm, all is bright
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.              'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,               Holy infant so tender and mild
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!                       Sleep in heavenly peace!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!                       Sleep in heavenly peace!

music in German

What I am most amazed about is that this song as well as stories and even persons: how often the origin or the surrounding facts are forgotten and/or changed.  Brother Mohr had the best intentions to bring joy and revival to his congregation at a time when people had little, and especially folks that lived in remote mountain villages lived in poor circumstances.  Until this day, the music just warms one’s heart, being soothing and uplifting at the same time, appropriately for a sleeping baby.


My inquiring mind has to wonder though, why was Jesus the King of Kings born in a manger in the first place?  And how could a virgin have a baby?  Who was the physical father of Jesus?  What has commercialism to do with the true meaning of Christmas?

I had similar questions when I first joined the Unification Church in 1973.  My leader, Paul Werner, told me to read the bible and referred me to:

Matthew 1  Genealogy of Jesus, Birth of Jesus, Joseph protecting Mary’s pregnancy by taking her as his wife.

Luke 1:5-56  Zecharias and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist; Mary stays with Elizabeth and Zecharias; Mary accepts her role as Jesus’ mother.

NOTE: Matthew 1:16: Two genealogies of Jesus in the Gospel, one in Matthew and one in Luke.  The differences can be explained by the fact that Matthew records the genealogy of Joseph as the legal (adopted), not the natural, father of Jesus.  Luke (Luke 3:23-38) traces the genealogy of Jesus through Mary, his mother, which accounts for an almost completely different set of ancestors.  In those days, women’s genealogies were not traced through females.

If you read these bible passages from the traditional Christian view, you will not find any new truth in these words.  I read the verses and realized right away that Jesus had a physical father as well a spiritual father.  It does not take anything away from Mary’s faithfulness and even Joseph’s obedience to the direction (Matthew 18-25) he got from the archangel Gabriel to make Mary his wife disregarding the fact that she became pregnant by another man while they were engaged.

When Father Moon started to preach about Jesus he gave many deep insights from his personal encounters with Jesus.  Therefore, in the Divine Principle, he goes into hidden secrets of the Bible which he received through revelation and personal guidance from Jesus himself.  Based on the Old Testament, he draws on certain parallels in order to bring about restoration of the lineage of God.
What has all of this to do with the song “Silent Night, Holy Night?”  We are living now at a time where many people have lost their faith in God because they cannot accept certain things with their logical mind.  God, the author of our mind and our heart, has given us all three faculties: Intellect (reasoning), Emotion (heart), and Will (choices to act upon).  It is our responsibility to bring all three into harmony which will take us to fulfill our God-given purpose, our heart’s desire.


Monday, December 16, 2013

What Exists first Force or Energy?

Scientists maintain that the universe is made up of energy. Energy exists everywhere, as well as force or power. Is force or energy first? Does the Divine Principle teach that force comes into being by give and take action, or does give and take exist after the force exists? We should examine our thought carefully to see if we are not taking the answer for granted. Seen from different angles, both viewpoints seem entirely correct, so it is important to know which is the correct answer.  What is your opinion?

 Action certainly must come from a definite source. The subject and object precede action. If we pursue this a little further, we can say that if God is omnipresent then He must have both subject and object qualities. God's dual characteristics are not just conceptual or abstract; they are very real and important to our lives. Ever since the universe and individual entities came into being, subject and object were the beginning of the existence of self. All things in the universe are made up of these two different qualities or parts, and each is involved in give and take action.

The force, or the result, is the consequence of the subject and object having give and take action. Let us take the simple example of parents having give and take of love; their child will be the result. The child is like the force which results from give and take action. What causes that? God is the cause, and that process follows the pattern of God's creative process. The force has within itself the possibility of give and take action because it is the result of give and take. When we think of force we immediately comprehend two qualities of subject and object, cause and result.

When you think of your existence you think of the power within yourself, but prior to that you realize the give and take action within yourself. Therefore, you are the subject body of force. You are very powerful. In you are a mind and body which form a subject-object relationship, and when they have give and take you can't help but feel the resulting power within yourself. When you draw a line down your front, dividing you in half, the two parts look alike externally. Why is that? Because the cause has that quality, the result has to be that way. That's a very logical reason.

When scientists examine the development of life forms, they conclude that energy randomly evolved into higher and more complex beings, and this is how man came to exist. This theory is not logical when we really examine it. It is more reasonable that subject and object together would form a self, which in turn would become a subject, and take an object. Together they would form some higher life form or bigger self as subject and take an object, and so on, forming greater and greater entities.

In our social life we want to broaden our sphere of influence, increasing our areas of activity. When you become a subject on one level you want to find an object on that level, and then when you are united you find that together you become a subject on another level. Scientists explain the formation of new species through random mutation, saying it happens by chance. We can immediately see that is false logic, but they have not come up with some better theory so they stick with this one. It does not stand to reason to say that a small thing could just suddenly become big. Even a non-scholar would find the subject-object explanation more reasonable.

From a sermon by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon --  Myself – January 13, 1980, Tarrytown, New York


Monday, December 9, 2013

Do Woolly Bear Caterpillars Predict Winter Weather?

Last Saturday, I was sitting around a lunch table, and suddenly the topic of winter came up.  One lady shared the story about the woolly bear caterpillar predicting the severity of winter.  Since we just had survived the first major snowstorm here in South-Western Ohio, I listened up.  I was already tired of the cold weather and being cooped up in the house.  What is this tale about the Woolly Bear caterpillar?  Can it be a clear prediction for a harsh or a mild winter?  It’s kind of like the ground hog predicting the end of winter. That gave me the idea to look up the folklore behind the woolly bear worm.
Scientific Facts about The Pyrrharctia Isabella Moth
The caterpillar is the familiar Banded Woolly Bear, and even today it seems necessary to point out that the width of the brown band has nothing to do with the severity of the forthcoming winter. The caterpillar can be seen running across roads in October. It is seen again in February and March, after having spent the winter as a full-grown caterpillar. Before winter the caterpillar feeds on various low-growing plants such as Plantago and Taraxacum, but does not feed again until spring before it pupates in a silken cocoon in which larval hairs are incorporated. The adult moth, which has distinctly reddish forelegs, has a rather unpleasant smell!

In some parts of the world, it is believed that the severity of the winter can be predicted by the intensity of the black on the Isabella tiger moth’s larvae (caterpillar). In the American Northeast, it is believed that if the woolly worm has more brown on its body than black, it will be a fair winter. If the woolly worm has more black than brown, the winter will be harsh.

In 1608 Edward Topsell, a naturalist, called them "Palmer" worms - so named after the "palmer", or wandering monk - because of their roving habits and ruggedness (they are seen so late in fall). He also mentioned they were known as "beare worms." They have further been compared to bears in that they hibernate and have a similar walking gate. They have a dark hairy appearance, and curl up into a ball when touched. Today they are commonly referred to as "woolly bears". "Woolly bears" are caterpillars of moths and there are over 2,000 species of them.

As cold weather approaches, the "woolly bears" are one of the few species of caterpillars known to hibernate. In spring they emerge very hungry! They feed for a short time and then build a cocoon made from hairs of their shed larval skins mixed with silk which they make from glands in their own bodies. After pupating they emerge from their cocoons as adult moths.

I think for the most part, people find these caterpillars cute, fuzzy and downright fun to watch as they inch their way across a sidewalk.  These harmless caterpillars have enjoyed being the center of weather folklore for a very long time!  Like the groundhog’s shadow, the woolly worm’s thirteen distinctive black and reddish-brown bands have become a rule of thumb in forecasting winter.

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the longer the middle brown band, the milder and shorter the coming winter; the shorter the brown band, the longer and more severe winter will be.

The woolly worm tale was popularized in the 1950s by Dr. C. H. Curran, the curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Over an eight year period, he collected woolly worms and measured the width of their colored bands, generally finding wider brown segments, which he linked with milder winters in New York during the same time period.

Festivals celebrate the Woolly Worm Caterillar

Three festivals are planned each year in honor of the clever creatures: the Woolly Bear Festival in Vermillion, Ohio; the Woolly Worm Festivals in Banner Elk, North Carolina and in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. And the myth continues on, all over the United States.

What’s the Forecast for the Winter of 2013/14?

·       Overall mild

·       Start of winter will be more harsh than the end of winter.

·       Early spring

Other Nature’s signs

Here are some other ways of looking at nature and predicting weather: Winter Outlook 2013-2014 Animal Style! You'll love the spin plants & animals can tell us all

I copied some of the information in this blog from the respective websites.  I enjoyed he legacy and the tales connected to the Farmer’s Almanacs which I hope will never be taking away completely because they make good conversation topics.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Woman Named Miriam

During this week, where many Jews celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah I like to review a book a recently read: Miriam by LoisT. Henderson.

Even though the book is a novel, Ms. Henderson follows the story according to the biblical records.

Miriam is the older sister of Moses, who rescues the baby Moses after he was placed by his mother in a basket and floates down the Nile river in order to avoid being killed as the first-born son of the Hebrews. (Exodus 2)
The parents of Moses, Aaron and Miriam are Amram a Levite and Jochebed.

The novel tells the story of Miriam’s role preparing for the Exodus and staying with Moses and their brother Aaron, the priest, all through the wandering in the wilderness. 

Before that Miriam served the princess Hapithet who was the woman who became Moses’ mother, and raised him as a prince of Egypt until he leaves for Midian.  After Moses’ return, the two brothers and sister collaborate with other Hebrews to prepare for the Exodus. 

As a woman she is very assertive, but is also aware of her role to be obedient and submissive.  Her relationship with the princess gives her access to many privileges including comfortable living in the palace.  She is also the one who arranges an audience with the Pharaoh for Moses. 

Throughout the book, Ms. Henderson describes Miriam’s struggle for leadership.  As a widow she has no hope for children.  Her faith is constantly challenged, as she tries to interfere in the life of her nice, daughter of Aaron.  After Moses’ wife Zipporah dies, he marries again a Cushite (the land south of Egypt - Ethiopia) woman, in order to have more children.

That’s how Miriam’s biggest struggle came about.  After Zipporah’s death, she was caring for Moses’ two sons Gershom and Eliezer.  She loves them as her own sons but when Moses gets married again, she feels as if she lost her purpose.

Not only does she miss the children, but she is also jealous of the new wife of Moses and along with Aaron opposes Moses for his decision.  She is always wondering why God cannot work through her, too, since she has prophesied before.  As she is in her pouting stage, she suddenly becomes covered with leprosy. (Numbers 12:10-14) After a few days of internal struggles she finally surrenders herself renewed to God, and finds that she is healed. She hears an internal voice and learns to trust God.  She has to accept that God works through Moses who has greater authority with the Israelites.  She starts to talk to Him in a loud voice, sharing her heart, and God hears her because she had a change of heart.

I could feel with Miriam (the novel may just be a partial true account of what happened to Miriam) because she goes through the similar struggles we all go through.  With the help of her family she is able to overcome and is victorious.