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Life

Happy May Day!

Happy May Day! Do I say that with any particular celebratory delight?  Not at all. But it’s still fun because spring is here and that means people are much happier than they were three months ago.

According to the most reliable source online, Wikipedia, the earliest May Day celebrations “appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries.”  The day also has roots in celebrating fertility (ancient Egypt), remembering political/social victories (U.S. and U.K.), engaging in sexual activity (Germany), warding against witchcraft (Germany), and commemorating the beginning of spring (England).  If people in the U.S. celebrate today, they normally give a May Basket to a loved one.

Back in medieval times, during the festival in England, at the break of dawn on May 1, villagers would go out into the forest and gather flowers and wood for the day’s celebration.  The largest piece of wood brought back would be used as the Maypole.  This gathering of flowers and wood is calling “bringing in the may.”

The poem The Court of Love (c. 1346), written by Geoffrey Chaucer (died c. 1400), was probably an inspiration to the poem which contains this excerpt, dated around 1541. It gives us a glance into the practice of “bringing in the may”:

And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.

Villagers & Morris-men dancing beside the Maypole on Ickwell Green, Bedfordshire; Dawn on 1st May 2005.

The Maypole, in England, in all its glory.

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Life

Happy May Day!

Originally posted on May 1, 2008

On Christmas Day, we put gifts underneath a pine tree, hang socks above the fireplace, kiss under weeds hanging on the ceiling, eat a lot of candy, leave cookies and milk out for Santa and perhaps, in some circumstances, might even sing happy birthday to Jesus.  Now that I think about it, that sounds a bit odd.  And  actually, the more I think about it, the more I wonder why we don’t celebrate May Day as a nation.  I mean, it’s not all that different from Christmas.  Well…it’s a holiday with pagan origins.  I guess that’s about where the similarities end.

The day has roots in celebrating fertility (ancient Egypt), remembering political/social victories (U.S. and U.K.), engaging in sexual activity (Germany), warding against witchcraft (Germany), and commemorating the beginning of spring (England).  During the festival in England, at the break of dawn on May 1, villagers would go out into the forest and gather flowers and wood for the day’s celebration.  The largest piece of wood brought back would be used as the Maypole.  This gathering of flowers and wood is calling “bringing in the may.”  Geoffrey Chaucer is attributed with the poem Court of Love, written in 1561.  The following excerpt is a glance into the Mayday Festival.  (It’s in old English…but you’ll do fine.)

And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.

I’m sure somebody will be able to put a Christian spin on this, right?

Villagers & Morris-men dancing beside the Maypole on Ickwell Green, Bedfordshire; Dawn on 1st May 2005.

The Maypole, in England, in all its glory.

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Life

God is a Strong Tower

When I was younger and heard or read, “God is a strong tower,” my mind immediately went to an image like the one above.  What you are looking at is your run-of-the-mill state park viewing tower.  It’s actually not very strong.  It’s not very powerful.  It can’t actually protect you.  And it’s not very threatening, unless you fall on the steps and get cut by those nasty steel holes.

Psalm 61:3 says, “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”  When Scripture says that God is a “strong tower” it means that he is more like a fort during wartime with 6-foot thick cement walls and razor wire on top, a treacherous moat surrounding, snipers ready at lookout points, and mines leading up to the gate.

I’m not trying to be severely violent, but I need to visualize what David mans when he says God is a strong tower against his enemy. We live in the midst of a war — not against Al Qaeda or the Taliban or North Korea.  Those are real enemies in the real world, but ultimately we battle against sin, the world, and the devil.  And when any one or all three seem to be bearing down on our souls, we have a refuge, a Strong Tower, who is actually able to defend, protect, and provide.

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Life

Long, Overseas Engagements Will Give Sweet Victory

A lot of you know that I’m engaged while living here in South Africa.  Carly lives in Nebraska, and will finish up her degree at UNL  in three weeks.  I wouldn’t recommend long engagements to anyone, especially Christians, however when you are separated by God’s call to minister the gospel and 10,000 miles of ocean, you fight through it and endure.

St. Augustine offers a wonderful comfort for why longsuffering and pain usually always result in sweet victory.  He says:

The victorious general marches home in triumph, but there would have been no victory if he had not fought, and the greater the danger in the battle, the greater the joy of the triumph…There is no pleasure in eating and drinking unless it is preceded by the discomfort of hunger and thirst…It is customary, too, for girls who are engaged to be married to delay the wedding for fear that a husband who has not suffered the trials of a long courtship may think his bride too cheaply won (Confessions, p. 162).

Well, it wasn’t Carly’s decision to delay our wedding to make me suffer, but she did willingly and joyfully join me on this adventure knowing that would be our road to travel.  It has been hard and wonderful.  And I’m thankful that in God’s great wisdom and insight, he thought it good for both of us to endure this time apart to make sure that our life together would not be a cheap victory.