Who were the Picts?

Researching my ancestry has sparked the idea for a new book which is set in the Hebrides during the first century A.D.  That has fed into hours of study about the Picts.  The result?  I’m almost as confused about their identity as when I first began.

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St. Columba Altarpiece — Missionary to the Picts 

That’s not because little has been written about them.  On the contrary, these tribes of northern Scotland and of the western islands have a mysterious cachet that has captured popular imagination.  There are any number of novels, articles, movies, and studies which mention the Picts.

They, themselves, did not leave many writings, at least not many that have been identified as such and also translated.  Their contemporaries did describe them, but some of these historians may have seen the Picts through their own cultural bias.  This seems to be the case today, as well.  Various novelists or script writers present them as savage, as civilized, as pagan, as eager for the Christian truth, etc., depending on the author’s point of view.  So, it seems that the Picts (the painted people) have become a canvas on which many imaginations have drawn numerous, conflicting images.

Naturally, societies change over centuries, and I have no doubt that the Pictish culture evolved, as well.  Here again, it’s hard to nail down exactly what might have been going on in their world during the time that they were kept north of the Roman Walls.  The Picts of several centuries B.C., the Picts of Roman times, and the Picts of the late middle ages are most likely very different.  Yet, some writings do not take this into account.

Here is one lovely recent discovery about the Picts:  The Truth About the Picts.    Findings at a place called Portmahomack indicate that the Picts did, in time, create a society that was far more advanced than they have been credit for.  This society reflected not only their Christian faith, but their love of art, nature, and beauty.  I hope you will enjoy reading about these fascinating people.

Happy Reading!

 

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Powerful Words: Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States
A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln

happy thanksgiving words

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The 1870′s called, and it wants its politics back…

The 1870′s called, and it wants its politics back….

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The 1870′s called, and it wants its politics back…

Lately, I’ve been researching the 1870′s as background material for my upcoming novel,”By Streams of water”. I’ve been struck by how that time laid the groundwork for issues that have carried forward to today. I won’t go into a lot of detail about that. You can 8125485_sthem through their various points of view.

Here are some things I personally learned by vicariously living through those times with my characters.

1) The hanging chads of a few elections ago were nothing new. The compromise of 1877 was due in part to disputed election results from where? From my beloved birth state of Florida. Other returns in dispute came from South Carolina, Louisiana, and Oregon. The election confusion was not solved until the March after the November 1876 election, and during the intervening months, the country was without a clear executive leader. America survived in the 1870′s just as it did during the Bush/Gore election dispute.
2) When Rutherford B. Hayes came to office, his presidency was controversial. Even today, historians debate whether his presidency was legitimate and whether or not he was an effective president. We can’t expect that politics will always run smoothly or assume that controversy means our country is doomed to fail.
3) Failures, misunderstandings, and even corruption among Republicans, Democrats, northern, southern,  whites, blacks, farmers and businessmen set up a political and social climate that still haunts us today. We still debate many of the same issues. How far should the federal government intrude into state government or even into an individual’s personal life? we ask. How do we ensure the rights of minority groups without curtailing the rights of majority groups. Not only that, but we are all more affected by 1870′s stereotypes of what it means to be a native American, a Southern white, a black person, a Northerner, a conservative, or a liberal than we realize.  We are rightly appalled by the racism intertwined in 19th century society, but we still react to certain groups for what their ancestors did or didn’t do in the nineteenth century.
4) We are fortunate to live in a society in which we, as citizens, can be part of the governing process. There are positive things that can come from a representative form of government.
5) Having said that, it’s time to acknowledge the limits of government, science, and business to provide the deep answers to life’s problems. Individual and group sin really does interfere with our ability to understand each other and to deal with each other in an equitable, just, and beneficial way. Thus, Reconstruction era politics could only do so much, and the country abandoned the effort. Likewise, the Progressive era that followed failed to achieve its objectives. To be properly related to others, we all need divine grace and wisdom. We need our Savior, and when we reject his ways, we suffer. Only Christ’s kingdom stands when human kingdoms falter.

Enjoy!

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Ouch!

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I love this quote from Samuel Johnson: “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” Ouch!

Enjoy!

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Convalescing…

small_Woman sewing

It seems to me that in days past, there was something of an art and a science to convalescing. The definition of to convalesce is to recover one’s health and strength over a period of time after an illness or operation. In the days before antibiotics got people up and running quickly — in those days when people often died of sinus infections or strep throat — it was imperative that a patient fully recover from an illness to prevent relapse. This was especially true when it came to diseases such as typhoid and tuberculosis. In our modern culture, however, we expect to be back at work within 24 hours of coming down with nearly anything.

In an article on her journey back to health after an illness, Johanna Fitzpatrick writer, “At first it (convalescence) seemed an agreeable idea. As a teenager, I had quite fancied myself as a tragic 19th-century heroine – usually consumptive – whiling away my time in a sanatorium in Switzerland. But this wholesome image of convalescence belongs to a gentler time, when getting better was an accepted part of being ill. That has been lost as modern medicine came up with magic bullets – antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc – that seemed to cure instantaneously. It has altered our perception of illness, and now a period of convalescence does not translate easily into our frenetic pace of life.”

I am currently recovering from a bout of pneumonia. This began with an ordinary virus that inflamed my asthma, which I tend to neglect when I am feeling well, and then progressed into a bacterial infection in my lungs. I am, for once, sufficiently sobered by how sick I was to know that I need to get fully well before resuming my usual pace of life. However, I have discovered that I — like most Americans — am not good at convalescing.

As Jane says, “at first, it seemed like an agreeable idea.”

Here are the hours to read, to write, to watch movies, and to sew and not feel guilty for whatever else I might be neglecting. Here is the time to write real letters and also to catch up via email, texting, and the like. Here is my time to recover as a Jane Austen heroine would, with hours passed in gentle pursuits. Yet, my tired mind and a tired body wearies easily of even these pleasant things. I also fret that I’m not “accomplishing anything constructive”. The agreeable idea becomes a little less agreeable when you long to be out and doing.

I remind myself that it’s also a time to spend more time reading scripture and praying, and these things are nourishing to my health. I also consider that to convalesce is a blessing, considering the alternative, and that just a week and a half ago, I’d have been delighted to be as well as I am now.

I also remind myself that one of the best medicines is that old tincture of time.

Enjoy!

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Words Aflame with Revolutionary Joy!

“The cynics, they can only speak of the dark, of the obvious, and this is not hard. For all it’s supposed sophistication, it’s cynicism that’s simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is to see the cracks?

The sages and prophets, the disciples and revolutionaries, they are the ones up on the ramparts, up on the wall pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and to the Blazing God who never sleeps.”

Ann Voskamp

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