Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


I want to wish everyone a very Happy and Prosperous New Year. I hope that we all have a great year! On this Freedom Friday I want to discuss the foundation of freedom and liberty. That foundation is moral agency - the freedom to choose. We had agency when we lived as spirits in heaven before we came to this earth. While we lived with our Father in Heaven, He presented His plan for our happiness. He explained that He had prepared a new home for us where we would receive physical bodies and learn many things that we couldn't learn in heaven. He told us that we would have the ability to choose how we wanted to live our lives on earth. He said that we would one day return to live with Him if we made good choices. After Father in Heavenly presented His plan, another plan was presented to us by Lucifer. Lucifer's plan would insure that we all returned to heaven. To do this, our agency would be taken from us - and we would be forced to be good. There was a war in heaven (Revelation 12:7) because those who chose to follow Lucifer's plan wanted to force everyone else to choose it also. Those who wanted to keep their agency - the freedom to choose - won the war in heaven and were allowed to come to earth, receive bodies, and learn new things. Those who wanted to use force were cast out of heaven without bodies. Among those who came to earth are some people who think they are so intelligent that they want to tell others how to live their lives. These people are sometimes called social engineers. They like to use the force of the government to change mankind and to cause them to fit a master plan. These plans are very much like the plan we rejected in heaven. Many different programs are used to change mankind through the force of the government. Progressives are currently trying to gain control of the citizens in this nation by forcing some of these programs on our nation under the guise of health care reform, climate change, cap and trade, etc. Previous programs in other countries fell under the titles of Nazism, fascism, socialism, and communism. They were all administered under the control of a dictator such as Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, etc. We fought a war in heaven over agency. Heavenly Father considered agency to be so important that He allowed one-third of the hosts of heaven - His children - to rebel and to choose to live another way. Our nation was founded on liberty - the freedom to use our God-given agency to make choices. Our Founders fought a war that we might have liberty. Now we are in a war to see if we can retain our liberty. The words agency, freedom, and liberty all describe the Right to Choose. Let's keep this Right and fight against any body and every body that wants to take away our agency!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crossing the Delaware

I started giving books to my children for Christmas when they were babies. Now they are all grown up with all of them married and most of them with children of their own. I still follow the tradition of giving books to them - plus their spouses and children. To make it easier on myself, I choose the books that I want them to read. I also give a certain book to a certain group. Some years the husbands form one group while the wives form another group. Another year all of my natural children form one group while their spouses are in a different group. I group the grandchildren by age. All of the books I gave for Christmas this year were about the Constitution and the Founders of our nation. I gave my youngest grandchildren a book by Lynne Cheney called When Washington Crossed the Delaware. This is a great Christmas book, which I hope will be read in their families every year at Christmas. Mrs. Cheney tells the story in a wonderful way, and the paintings by Peter M. Fiore are beautiful. I highly recommend this book to every family. For my post today I will write a brief summary of the story because I would be remiss if I let the Christmas season pass without this story being told. On July 4, 1776, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. While Congress was doing its duty, General George Washington and his army were about to be trapped in New York by the British army and their hired soldiers called Hessians who were from Germany. The Hessians were widely feared by the Americans because they showed no mercy. Washington planned an escape with his army from Brooklyn on Long Island to Manhattan. Five British warships were prepared to sail up the East River to block Washington's retreat, but there was a "miraculous" shift in the wind, which kept the British from coming up river. It was at this point on August 29, 1776, that Washington ordered the evacuation to begin. Colonel John Glover and his men from Marblehead, Massachusetts, all sailors and fishermen, took the American army across the East River to Manhattan in any boat they could find. They worked all night moving military men and equipment. When daybreak came, a thick fog rolled in also, thus enabling the entire army to move across the river without being seen by the British. Throughout the fall, the British pushed the American army south through New Jersey. Washington and his army retreated across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, destroying bridges and taking boats as they went. By December 1776, Washington's Continental Army was dwindling in numbers because enlistments were ending for many of the men. Washington's money and supplies were running very low, and his men were in great need of food and warm clothing. Washington contacted Robert Morris who raised enough cash to pay bonuses to the ragged, starving soldiers, and they extended their enlistments into the new year. On Christmas night Washington made a sudden attack on Trenton, New Jersey. Colonel John Glover's sailors from Marblehead, Massachusetts, again moved the entire army, including horses and cannon, across the ice-filled Delaware River. This little group of about 2400 men surprised the Hessian defenders, killed their commander and took nearly one thousand prisoners back across the river. The Battle of Trenton was over in two hours. Only two Americans were injured, one of whom was an eighteen-year-old lieutenant named James Monroe, the future president. Also in the group was a nineteen-year-old captain named Alexander Hamilton, a signer of the Constitution and the nation's first secretary of the treasury, as well as a young John Marshall, the future chief justice of the United States. Washington's attack was a huge success, and the Americans rejoiced at the victory. As a side note, Washington treated the prisoners humanly, and thousands of Hessian Germans would later settle in Pennsylvania and Virginia. With British and Hessian troops gathering at Princeton, New Jersey, Washington sent out a call for more forces. Veterans as well as inexperienced men came to help. While the enemy was advancing, Washington ordered most of his army to line up on the south side of Assunpink Creek and sent a force to the north side of the creek to slow down the enemy. General Charles Cornwallis, the British commander, thought the Americans were trapped on the evening of January 2, 1777 and decided to wait until morning to attack. Washington had another idea. About 1:00 A.M. he and his officers led their men quietly away to attack Princeton. Cornwallis didn't know they were gone until dawn. The American army encountered British troops in the farmland near Princeton, and many Americans fell in battle. As the survivors were retreating, General Washington on his great white horse rushed to rally his troops. Somehow, Washington was miraculously saved as he rode between to the two armies while they were preparing to fire on the other army. Within a few hours the Battle of Princeton was over, and the Americans had once again defeated the greatest army in the world. Although it was unknown at the time, these two battles, which were fought over the holidays, was a turning point in the Revolutionary War. "General Washington and his men had stood with their country in a time of crisis. When they were cold and hungry, they did not quit. When the conflict was hard, they fought on. And when they won, the victory was sweet. News of Trenton and Princeton spread across the land, lifting the spirits of patriots everywhere. Many a battle lay ahead, but now Americans could think of winning their war of independence. Now they could imagine that their great struggle would have a glorious end." (Lynn Cheney in When Washington Crossed the Delaware, a Wintertime Story for Young Patriots, last page).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Underwear Bomber

The latest attempted terrorist attack happened aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. A native Nigerian man flying from Nigeria to Amsterdam to the United States tried to blow up an airplane carrying 278 passengers. The explosive was hidden in a pouch sewn into the crotch of his underwear. He set off the device when the aircraft started its descent into Detroit. A malfunctioning detonator apparently saved the airplane and passengers. Instead of exploding and/or blowing a hole in the aircraft, the device started a fire on board. Passengers heard a pop, which sounded like fireworks, saw a glow of flame, and then saw a rush of smoke. It was coming from the area where a quiet man had pulled a blanket over himself just moments before while claiming to have an upset stomach. A Dutch tourist named Jasper Schuringa seated several seats away acted immediately. His first thought was "He's trying to blow up the plane." Without thinking about his own safety, Schuringa extinguished the fire with his hands. With other passengers and members of the flight crew, Schuringa took the terrorist to the first class section where they stripped off his clothing and searched for more explosives. Schuringa was applauded as a hero by the other passengers as he made his way through the terminal. This story reminds us of the passengers and crew members on board United 93 when they leaped into action on 9/11. It also reminds us of the passengers and crew members who overpowered the "shoe bomber" on a flight from Paris to Miami just three months after 9/11. In fact, the attack on Flight 253 was the "28th foiled terror plot against the United States since 9/11. What is notable is that of the 28 failed plots, 26 were stopped by intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies. Only two were stopped by citizens on the scene…. In both these cases, America got lucky - the plots were clumsy and the passengers and crew responded bravely and quickly" (The Heritage Foundation Morning Bell, Dec. 29, 2009). Passengers on aircraft are now much more willing to become involved when other people get out of line. One man who took off his clothes and punched and kicked a flight attendant was handcuffed by two off duty officers in June on a US Airways flight from Charlotte, NC, to Los Angeles. In April 2008, a drunken man who attacked a United Airlines flight attendant on a trip from Hong Kong to Los Angeles was duct-taped to his seat. You will, no doubt, notice that I haven't mentioned the names of any of the idiots involved, just the heroes where known. I do this on purpose in order to give credit to only worthy people. Airline passengers are no longer willing to tolerate aggressive actions on aircraft, but Americans continue to accept and make excuses for terrorist actions such as the Fort Hood massacre and this recent foiled attack. This is all done in the spirit of diversity and fairness. The problem with America being tolerant and fair is that the Muslim extremists who are attempting to destroy America are neither tolerant nor fair. They take full advantage of our willingness to overlook bad behavior. When Americans are willing to react to terrorist acts in the same way that Schuringa and other aircraft passengers reacted to on board threats, then and only then will we be able to overcome the terrorists. I get angry every single time I have to undress to go through security. Not only do we have to take off our jackets, shoes, etc. to get on an aircraft, but we can't even enter a federal building of any kind without going through security. This was all caused by the 9/11 attacks on our country. I wonder what the latest attempt will mean for us while trying to get through security. Are we going to be forced to totally undress? Every time I am denied one more freedom because of some action by a deranged terrorist, I become more determined to win this war against them - no matter what the cost! I have read that Yemen is the new Afghanistan, the new place to train terrorists. An official from Yemen was quoted today as saying that there are 300 terrorists in Yemen ready to attack the United States. If Yemen can't control the terrorists, I am not at all opposed to "carpet bombing" the entire nation. This applies to any nation that aids and abets the enemies of America. If countries knew they would be bombed if found sheltering terrorists, they just might work with us better. Israel has shown their willingness to be tough. When was the last time we heard of an aircraft from Israel being targeted? There haven't been any because there are at least two armed marshals on all their flights! We need to learn from Israel how to fight terror. Terrorists do not play fair; therefore, there is no reason why we should be treating them fairly! I say that we use all the power and strength of the United States of America in fighting terrorism instead of coddling them. There is no reason why we should be reading the Miranda Rights to captives on the battlefield or giving them access to our justice system. These are Rights that our government owes to its own citizens - not our enemies. I believe that we will continue to be plagued by terrorist attacks until we present a show of strength and actually win the war against terrorism. Muslim extremists are no different than the Germans, Italians and Japanese were during World War II who didn't surrender until they were beaten. Let's win the war against terrorism first; then and only then, can we show our humanity!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thomas Jefferson

My VIP for this week is Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). He is best remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence and as a great President. He is also famous as a diplomat, political thinker and a founder of the Democratic Party. He did not considered himself to be a professional politician but a public-spirited citizen and practical thinker. Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a family estate of more than 2,500 acres in Virginia. As the oldest son in a family of two boys and six girls, Jefferson inherited Shadwell at age 14 when his father died. The estate was managed by a guardian until Jefferson was 21. He was a tall, red-haired Virginian boy who developed interests in hunting, fishing, horseback riding and canoeing. He also learned to love music and to play the violin. He began his formal education with a tutor and spent two years at the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg. As a boy he learned Latin, Greek, and French. During his years at William and Mary, he formed many of his ideas about humanity and God. He began studying law in 1762 and was admitted to the bar in 1767. Jefferson was reared in the Anglican Church but learned to distrust organized religion. He wrote the following in his old age: "To love God with all thy heart and they neighbor as thyself is the sum of religion." At age 29, Jefferson married a young widow named Martha Wayles Skelton (Oct. 19, 1748-Sept. 6, 1782). According to legend, two rival suitors withdrew after watching Thomas and Martha play a duet on the harpsichord and violin. He designed and supervised the building of a new home at Shadwell and called it Monticello. The home was not yet finished when the bridal couple moved into it. They had one son and five daughters, but only two daughters lived to maturity. Martha died in 1782 after only ten years of marriage. He never remarried and reared his two daughters alone. Jefferson was a revolutionary leader but never fought in the Revolutionary Ward because he thought he could do greater good by staying in Congress. He was appointed to be on a committee with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston to write a declaration of independence. The committee unanimously asked Jefferson to prepare the draft and approved it with few changes. Congress made some changes but adopted it on July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence remains Jefferson's greatest accomplishment. Congress sent Jefferson to France to work with Benjamin Franklin. He became minister when Franklin resigned and went back to America. Jefferson was in France when the Constitution of the United States was written. His friend, James Madison, sent him a draft of the Constitution, which he approved but urged that a bill of rights be included in it. Jefferson's political career included being a member of the Continental Congress, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, governor of Virginia, Congressman (again), minister to France, secretary of state, vice president and two terms as President of the United States. While Vice President, he also served as leader of the Senate, at which time he wrote A Manual of Parliamentary Practice For the Use of the Senate of the United States, which is still is use today. Jefferson was the first United States President to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. He was also the first President to live in the White House, which was only partly built when he moved in. While Jefferson's daughter Martha Randolph served as hostess of the White House from time to time, his most popular hostess was Dolley Madison, the wife of his secretary of state. Jefferson's grandson, James Randolph, was the first child born in the White House. Jefferson was a poor public speaker but was a great writer. He was the first President to send his annual message to Congress rather than deliver it. This practice continued until Woodrow Wilson revived the tradition of the President appearing before Congress to deliver his remarks. The area of United States doubled in size in 1803 (May 2) with the Louisiana Purchase. This purchase ranks as one of Jefferson's greatest achievements even though it was a French idea. Jefferson sent James Monroe to France to help the American minister Robert Livingston negotiate with France for New Orleans and the Floridas. Before Monroe arrived in Paris, Livingston made a modest proposal for New Orleans. Livingston was astounded when the French foreign minister asked, "What would you give for the whole of Louisiana?" Negotiations, which took place after Monroe's arrival, helped the United States to gain control over the Mississippi River and to almost double its area. Jefferson felt like he was stretching the Constitution to make this purchase, but the Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 24 to 7. Other highlights of Jefferson's administration include: 1) War with Tripoli (1801-1805); 2) The United State Military Academy opened (July 4, 1802). 3) The Supreme Court decided the case of Marbury v. Madison (Feb. 24, 1803); 4) The Lewis and Clark Expedition set out for the Northwest (May 14, 1804); 5) Amendment 12 to the Constitution was adopted (Sept. 25, 1804); 6) The act prohibiting the importation of African slaves became law (Jan. 1, 1808). Even though many people urged Jefferson to run for a third term, he chose to follow the example of George Washington. He retired from the presidency at age 65 after serving two terms. He retired from politics but was consulted on public affairs. James Madison and James Monroe, his successors in the White House, freq1uently sought his advice. Jefferson had little money left. He sold his library of more than 6,400 volumes to Congress to replace the books destroyed by the British when they burned the Capitol during the War of 1812 (1812-1815). He was aided by public contributions in his later years. After his death, Monticello passed out of his family. Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the same day that John Adams died. It was exactly fifty years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. He was buried beside Martha at Monticello. He wrote the following inscription for his tomb stone: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, & Father of the University of Virginia." He ranked these accomplishments higher than being President of the United States. Jefferson left many good and famous quotes. I like the following ten statements, which he wrote in a letter to his namesake, Thomas Jefferson Smith, dated February 21, 1825: "1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do today. 2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. 3. Never spend your money before you have it. 4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. 5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold. 6. We never repent of having eaten too little. 7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. 8. How much pain have cost the evils which have never happened. 9. Take things always by their smooth handle. 10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred." Facts for this blog are from an article by Noble E. Cunningham, Jr. in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, pp 76-87.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Promote the General Welfare

The sixth principle of the Constitution of the United States is found in the Preamble - "Promote the General Welfare." This principle tells us that the Constitution is "designed to promote those practices and policies which shall be for the general welfare of the whole nation" (W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p 244). It also tells us that the citizens of the United States have the Right to expect their government to meet the needs of Americans as a group. It says "general welfare," not individual or personal welfare. It is interesting to me that the Founders used the word "provide" in the previous principle, as in "provide for the common defense," but they used the word "promote" in this principle. Provide means to furnish, give, or supply what is needed. Promote means to help something to advance, develop or grow. The fact that they used the two different words as they did tells me that they wanted the Federal Government to treat "defense" differently than "welfare." The Federal Government is responsible to provide the common defense but simply to promote the general welfare. The words "common" and "general" mean that these principles apply to all Americans as a whole but not as individuals, favored groups, or states, as some citizens assume that this principle means. "General welfare" means the care of the people as a whole. This principle is there to insure that "the national government administers its power without prejudice, discrimination, or favoritism. Furthermore, the Founders did not want the power and resources of the federal government to be used for the special benefit of any one region or any one state. Nor were the resources of the people to be expended for the benefit of any particular group or any special class of citizens" (The Making of America, p 244). A suggestion for teaching this principle to your family is to "pay" each member of your family a "salary" with play money. Collect "taxes" from each family member and then hand out other money to those that you feel "need" the extra money. A replay situation would be to have each family member pay a certain amount towards the house payment, food, and other family needs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Trilogy

I recently read an article in a newsletter written by Glenn Beck in which he referred to the three holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's as "the big holiday trilogy," which is a time of preparation for the "renewal of Easter." I previously considered the three holidays to be separate and distinct from each other with only Christmas being related to Easter. Glenn's idea of the holidays being connected and all part of a whole gives the sense of some kind of divine plan or something. I always considered Thanksgiving to be a time to express gratitude, a special day to count my many blessings, one of which is family. Glenn considers Thanksgiving to be "a time to look forward to spending [time] with family, a wonderful `excuse' to gather together and remind ourselves that our families are the foundation upon which we build our lives. Our families are what enable us to be the very best version of ourselves, and for that we should give thanks." This idea would put family as the top item on a list of blessings. Do we really consider family to be the "foundation" of our lives? Christmas comes next. I always - at least after I got past the what-am-I-going-to-get stage - considered Christmas to be a time of love. Heavenly Father loved His children so much that He sent His Son to earth on a mission to save all of His other children. Jesus Christ loved Heavenly Father and all of His Father's children so much that He accepted and fulfilled that mission. We celebrate the birth of the Son because we love Him as well as the Father. We give gifts to our family and friends because we love them. Glenn considers Christmas to be "a transformative gift of redemption - a wonderful present we've all been given and once we open it, we finally understand how fulfilling and rich our lives can truly be." Does this idea of redemption make the love of Christmas much fuller and more abundant for you? New Year's is third. This holiday often meant the end of the Christmas season - the time that the children go back to school, adult children leave for college, and family members return to their homes. It also meant a time to set goals for self-improvement. Glenn considers New Year's to be "a clean page, a fresh start and a new beginning filled with endless possibilities." Is New Year's a new beginning and a fresh start for you? Glenn's idea has helped me to see the connection between family being the foundation for our lives, redemption made possible by love, and an opportunity to start over. I now understand better how the three holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's prepare us to celebrate the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pumpkin Pie

One of my family's most favorite desserts is pumpkin chiffon pie. My sister-in-law gave her recipe to me for the first Thanksgiving after I was married. I have been making the pie for many years but never often enough to satisfy my family. They always wanted more. This week I wanted to make the pie to serve to company but didn't have the time to make a pie crust. I simply made the pie filling and poured it into individual serving dishes. After it was cool, I covered each dish with plastic wrap. I served it as a pudding with whipped cream on top. It tasted just like pumpkin pie but without the fats from the crust to raise my cholesterol! I'll admit that my husband prefers the pie to the pudding, and I'm sure that my children would also. The recipe is as follows. Pumpkin Chiffon Pie 3 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar (white or brown) 1 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin 1/2 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 1/4 cup cold water 1 envelope unflavored gelatin 3 stiff beaten egg whites 1/2 cup sugar 1 baked pie shell Beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until thick. Add pumpkin, milk, salt, and spices. Cook in double boiler until thick. Dissolve gelatin in cold water. Add gelatin to pumpkin mixture. Stir until completely dissolved. Beat egg whites until thick. Then add 1/2 cup sugar. Fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour into pie shell and chill for at least two hours.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

True Freedom

I wish everyone a very MERRY CHRISTMAS today. I hope that you are wearing blue in support of our troops even as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Many of our troops are in danger and difficulty to insure that we have the safety and security of being with our families and friends as we celebrate. As you celebrate today, please consider the appropriateness of celebrating Freedom Friday on Christmas Day. It was Jesus Christ who gave every mortal being who ever lived freedom from death. Because of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection, we will all one day have our bodies and spirits united in such a way that they will never be separated again. Jesus Christ also gave us freedom from sin through the power of His Atonement. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and goes through the process of repenting for his/her sins will have the sins forgiven. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the principle of repentance, we can all enjoy freedom from sin. Freedom from death and freedom from sin are not the only freedoms that we all have received or can receive from God. The very first freedom we received is agency, the freedom to choose how we will live our lives and the freedom of choice in what we do. Other freedoms come from living in obedience to the commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ. By living as God wants us to live, we can be free from causing abuse or divorce or contention or war. Jesus Christ is the great Peace Maker. Those who follow His teachings receive peace in their lives no matter what happens around them. Please enjoy your celebration today even more because you know that Jesus Christ has given us the greatest freedoms of all the many freedoms we enjoy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I love the Christmas story that tells of the mortal birth of the Son of God. The Christmas season reminds us that Heavenly Father loved all of His children so much that He sent a Baby - His Only Begotten Son - to earth on a mission to save all of us. I love the description of Mary who is always depicted as young and virtuous, fair and beautiful. I honor Joseph who showed great love, courage and strength in his marriage to Mary. I am awed by the idea of a God being born in a stable. I feel the excitement of the shepherds as the angel announced the birth of Christ and understand the haste with which they traveled to the stable. I seek to find the Lord just as the wise men did when they followed the star. I love this story so much that I choose to decorate my home with scenes of the Nativity. At my latest count, I have twenty-nine Nativity sets of different sizes made of various materials. I have sets with multiple pieces as well as ones with all the figures in one piece. I have music boxes and snow globes as well as a quilt, pillow covers, a lamp, a cookie jar, a stamp for making cards, pictures of various types and sizes, books, and many ornaments. I have both very inexpensive sets as well as some very nice ones. Most of my sets cost less than $30, and none of them cost over $50. I should say that I have never paid more than $50 because I shop around and find some good Christmas sales as well as off-season sales. My newest Nativity set is one that I made this year from pre-printed fabric. The figures are cut out, sewed together and filled with batting. I like this set because it is my first one that I feel comfortable about putting under the Christmas tree. I have slowed a little in my collection of Nativity sets. Now I purchase only those which are extra special or fill a certain place. I also satisfy part of my need to collect by giving Nativity scenes as gifts to my children. I am always pleased to receive Nativity sets as gifts, especially those made in other countries. I have a desire for a particular Nativity scene. I want one of those large, outdoor Nativity sets with lights. I haven't seen any of them in the stores, but I haven't actually gone looking for them either. I am hesitating about this set because I don't know where I would store it. If I could solve the storage problem, I would immediately start shopping for one! My favorite Nativity scene is the one enacted by my family each Christmas Eve. My husband and I started this tradition more than thirty years ago when our oldest daughters were just tiny tots, maybe the year our oldest son could play Baby Jesus. I am pleased that our children are continuing this tradition in their own homes. Some of our family Nativity plays have been elaborate like the one where a roving reporter interviewed the various participants in the Christmas story. Some of them are very simple with just reading the story in Luke and Matthew as it is acted out. For many years, our costumes consisted of bathrobes, towels, etc. even though I wanted real costumes. After most of my children were adults, I started making costumes, usually adding just a couple or three every year. Last year I made six new costumes because I needed one for each grandchild. I have also found that graduation gowns serve very well as costumes. Everyone in the house participates in our Nativity play in some way, whether it is someone there for the evening or someone just stopping by for a few minutes. In fact, we have sometimes had friends stop by just to take part in our Nativity play! The saddest play we did was done with just four or five people using the figures from a small Nativity set to act out the parts - but the good years make up for the poor ones. I remember our Nativity from last year with fondness as we had nine grandchildren as well as five children and spouses taking part in our Nativity. There were two brand new babies to play the part of Jesus. Thank goodness that they never cried at the same time because we would pass the crying baby to his mama and put the non-crying child in the manger. We had three little two-year old girls playing the part of the wise men, riding on the back of the camel (our oldest son who also played the part of Mary's donkey). The wise men were all crying by the time they reached King Herod. Our oldest daughter always plays the role of King Herod because she is so realistic in the role, but she was not at all realistic last year as she took pity on the crying wise men. Our older grandchildren - all under the age of nine - played the parts of Mary, Joseph, the angel, and a shepherd. Adults filled helping roles - such as the fourth wise man that helped the little ones, the adults who accompanied the angel or served as shepherds as well as the inn keeper with his wife. Others took pictures and read the story from the scriptures. Most of my children and all of my grandchildren are spending Christmas with their other families this year so I have invited some neighbors and friends to join my husband and myself, along with our oldest daughter and husband, for the evening. I found a family with enough children to help with the Nativity as well as some other adults. It should be a pleasant evening - but nothing like it would be if all of our children and grandchildren could be with us!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

American Prophet

December 23 marks the birthday anniversary of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Prophet. He organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became its first president. Several other churches consider him to be their founder, and his followers regard him to be a prophet of God. Joseph was born December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, the fourth child born to his parents, Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. The family eventually included six sons and three daughters. The Smiths moved from Vermont to Palmyra, New York, before Joseph was eleven. Four years later the family moved to nearby Manchester where they continued to farm. When Joseph was fourteen, there was an unusual excitement about religion. Joseph and other members of the family listened to many sermons from several different preachers. Each preacher claimed to have the truth, but they were all teaching different doctrines. Joseph was caught up in the excitement and wanted to join one of the churches, but he was confused as to which church he should join. While studying the scriptures one day, he read, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5). Joseph was aware that if anyone needed wisdom, he did, and he decided that he would ask God. On a beautiful, clear morning in the early spring in 1820, Joseph went to a nearby wooded area to offer his first vocal prayer. After some early difficulties, he called upon God for help. He saw a pillar of light, brighter than the sun, in the air above him. The light gradually descended until it fell upon Joseph. "When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - `This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!'" (Joseph Smith - History 1:17). When Joseph recovered from his shock, he remembered the reason he had gone to the grove to pray. He asked the Personages which of all the sects he should join. He was answered that he must not join any of them because all of them were teaching false doctrine. Joseph shared his vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with his family and other people. The members of his family believed him and accepted his report as the truth. When he told a preacher of his experience, the preacher ridiculed him, saying it was of the devil. Soon after his conversation with the preacher, Joseph became the object of great persecution. No amount of persecution or hatred could cause Joseph to disbelieve. "… I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me …. For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God and come under condemnation" (Joseph Smith - History 1:25). Joseph prayed and received an answer from God. He did not join any of the churches and continued to be persecuted. On September 21, 1823, Joseph was again praying for direction when he received another vision. This time he was visited by an angel named Moroni. Moroni quoted scriptures and taught him many things before disappearing into heaven in a conduit of light. Moroni returned two additional times during the night and again the next morning. The reason for Moroni's visits was to instruct Joseph about a record written upon gold plates and recorded by the ancient inhabitants of the American continent. Moroni told Joseph that he would have to wait to receive the plates until the time was right. When it was the right time, Joseph would receive the plates for the purpose of translating the information written on them. Many things happened in the next few years: Joseph's oldest brother, Alvin, died. Joseph married Emma Hale. Persecution continued as did the necessity for laboring to earn a living. During this same period of time, Moroni continued to instruct Joseph. At length the time to receive the plates arrived on September 22, 1827. Amidst increased persecution and several moves, Joseph translated the necessary information from the plates and returned the plates to Moroni. "The ancient record thus brought forth from the earth as the voice of a people speaking from the dust, and translated into modern speech by the gift and power of God as attested by Divine affirmation, was first published to the world in the year 1830 as THE BOOK OF MORMON (Final paragraph of "Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith" in the Book of Mormon. Concerning this record, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book" ("Introduction" in Book of Mormon). I have read the Book of Mormon many times myself. I have asked God to tell me if it is His word. I know the Book of Mormon to be true because the Holy Ghost has borne witness to me that it is true; therefore, I also know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God. Joseph, his family, and his followers continued to be persecuted. Joseph with five associates organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830. He continued to be an instrument in the hands of God. He lived as a prophet of God for all of his remaining days on earth. He died as a prophet, along with his brother Hyrum, on June 27, 1844, about 5:00 P.M., when an armed mob with blackened faces broke into the Carthage, Illinois, jail and killed them. Each man was shot four different times. John Taylor, the third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote the following: "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it…. He lived great and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and … has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood…." (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jesus Christ

My VIP for this week is Jesus Christ. He was the greatest leader this world has ever known. The Christian religion was founded on His life and teachings. I, along with most Christians, believe that He is the Son of God who was sent to earth to save all mankind. Many people who are not Christians believe that He was a great and wise teacher. He definitely was a most influential person. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, regarded Jesus as a great prophet and adopted many of His ideas. Luke 1:26-38 tells how an angel called Gabriel visited a young engaged woman named Mary living in Nazareth and told her that she was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary that the baby's name would be Jesus. When Joseph learned that his fiancée was pregnant, he planned to "put her away privily" (Matthew 1:19) until he was visited by an angel who told Joseph that Mary's baby was the Son of God and that his name would be Jesus. The personal name of Jesus Christ is Jesus. The term Christ is a title that is so closely associated with Jesus that it became part of His name. It comes from the Greek word christos, which is a translation of the Hebrew word messiah (anointed one). This tells us that Jesus Christ means Jesus the Messiah. The birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25 simply because somebody in charge decided that the new Christian holiday would take the place of a pagan holiday. Many people believe that Jesus was born in the spring because lambs are born in the spring. The shepherds were probably in the fields because they were there to help with the lambing. I personally believe that Jesus was born on April 6. Luke 2 tells that Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that all his people should be taxed in his own city. Joseph was from Bethlehem; therefore, it was necessary for him to return there to pay his taxes. Mary, being great with child, went with her husband. It is my understanding that Bethlehem is about one hundred miles from Nazareth. I was fortunate to give birth to on of my children in December. I became greatly enlightened by my experience of being pregnant while preparing for Christmas. I understood so much better the difficulties that Mary went through as she traveled by donkey from her home town and family to Bethlehem. I expect that the entire trip was very difficult for her and that she was greatly relieved to finally find a place to rest. After Luke wrote about the birth of Christ and the visit of the shepherds, he added these simple words: "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (2:19). I am sure that she had many things to ponder as she cared for her baby - who was also the Son of God. There are many books and articles written about the life of Jesus Christ - besides what is found in the scriptures. I like the way that Dr. James Allan summed up the life of Christ in his poem called "One Solitary Life." "He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind's progress. All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that ONE SOLITARY LIFE." Napoleon, French emperor and one of the greatest military commanders of all time, is quoted as saying: "I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of people would die for Him" (Josh McDowell in Evidence That Demands a Verdict, p 127. Thanks. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I love Him and worship Him as my Elder Brother. I thank Heavenly Father daily for the great gift that He gave to mankind when He sent His Only Begotten Son to earth to live and die for all of us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Provide a Common Defense

The fifth principle taught in the Preamble to the United States Constitution anticipated that the people had the Right to be protected from all enemies, especially those who might want to destroy the United States or conquer its people. Predatory nations use a couple of methods to attack. One method is to invade a nation; the other method is to undermine the government from within. A national government would be responsible to protect against both kinds of attacks. The Founders were committed to the idea that no nation could remain free without staying strong. Benjamin Franklin wrote: "The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure and negligent" (Smyth, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 2:352). George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the effectual means of preserving peace" (Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington, 30:491). At the time that the Founders wrote the Constitution, there were both British and Spanish settlements nearby. The Founders were obviously concerned that either of these nations could attack the fledgling nation. An easy way to teach the value of this principle is to teach the reasons behind our practice to lock the doors of our homes. There are people in the world that sneak into the homes of unsuspecting families to steal the belongings and/or to hurt members of the family. We lock our doors to defend our homes. Our nation cannot "lock its doors" to keep us safe; therefore, the government needs to be strong enough to defend us if some other nation wants to come in. The quotes from Franklin and Washington as well as information for this post were taken from The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution by W. Cleon Skousen, p 243.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Teach True Meaning of Christmas

Long years ago I received a handout with the following information. I hope that you will find it helpful in remembering and teaching the true meaning of Christmas. And Santa whispered, "Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas." The Star: A heavenly sign of prophecy fulfilled long, long ages ago - the shining hope of mankind. Red: The first color of Christmas - symbolizing the Savior's sacrifice for all. Fir Tree: Evergreen - the second color of Christmas - shows everlasting life. The needles point heavenward. The Bell: Rings out to guide lost sheep back to the fold - signifying that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. The Candle: A mirror of starlight reflecting our thanks for the Star of Bethlehem. Gift Bow: Tied as we should all be tied together in bonds of goodwill forever. Candy Cane: The shepherd's crook used to bring lambs back into the fold - a reminder that all of us are our brother's keeper. The Wreath: A symbol of the never ending eternal nature of love - having no beginning and no end. Children are innocent and need to be taught truth by those who love them, but children are often the greatest teachers as shown in this video.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Cookies

A favorite holiday tradition in our family is making frosted sugar cookies. I made these cookies for my children at various holidays throughout the year, but especially at Christmas. My children loved it when I made cookies for them, and they loved to share their cookies with their friends. I even mailed boxes of cookies to college students away from home. Some families make Christmas cookies together on Christmas Eve, but my family does not because our Christmas Eves are much too busy celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. My cookie recipe is as follows: Sugar Cookies 1 cup shortening 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 3/4 cups sifted flour 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda Cream shortening and sugar together well. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually blend in dry ingredients which have been sifted together. Chill dough for at least three hours. Roll dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut cookies with floured cookie cutters. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cook for less time if you prefer a softer cookie. Yields about 2 1/2 cookies. I add a light icing made with a little bit of milk, lots of powdered sugar, vanilla and food coloring, plus any other decorations I desire.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Generations of Freedom

Today is Freedom Friday. Are you wearing blue today to show support for our troops? I hope so! Yesterday marked 236 years since the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, when a group of patriots with independent spirits threw the tea from England into the harbor.

This independence of spirit lives on in Americans and made the United States of America a country that is unique and strong and that draws like-thinking people from throughout the world to her shores. Today the progressive movement would like to erase the current Tea Party people from the pages of history by simply ignoring the movement and not reporting it in the media.

Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States when men were free."

It is important that older people teach younger generations the principles upon which freedom is built and maintained. The United States became a strong country and remained one for over 200 years because it operated on the rule of law. The supreme law of this land is contained in the Constitution, and it is adherence to that Constitution which will keep us free.

Progressives want us to believe that the Constitution is outdated and no longer applicable in our enlightened time. They want us to give up our rule of law and adopt the rule of man. Progressive doctrine has slowly but surely been drawing us away from freedom and towards tyranny, away from Republican democracy towards socialism.

I learned recently one way that communists and socialists gain control over their people. They do away with the older generations [death panels?]. They get rid of those people who know how things used to be, and they indoctrinate the younger people to believe the new ideas.

This is the main reason why every American needs to study the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and other historically correct documents. We must all know how things should be done in our nation. This is one way that we can hold on to our freedom, protect it, and hand it down to our posterity.

"In the end, the American Founding was a test to see whether free men could govern themselves. But it is not a test that, once taken and passed, is over and done with. America remains a proposition … meaning that the validity of its claims is to be tested again and again and again" (Matthew Spalding in We Still Hold These Truths, pp 26-27).

Our Founders dedicated their lives, their liberties, and their sacred honor that we might have independence. Can we afford to do any less in order to keep it and pass it on to our posterity?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Around the World

Many of the American Christmas traditions came from Great Britain. These customs include sending Christmas cards, hanging stockings to be filled by Father Christmas, hanging mistletoe in a room or hallway to inspire kissing under it, and caroling in the streets. People in Ireland put a lighted candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome Mary and Joseph. People in Wales have caroling contests. Some people in Scotland decorate a Christmas tree and sing carols, but most Scottish people hold their main celebration on New Year's Day. Children in France put their shoes in front of the fireplace to be filled with gifts by Father Christmas. Many homes are decorated with nativity sets. Families attend midnight Mass and then have a festive supper. Germany has a tradition of celebrating Saint Nicholas Day on December 6. Saint Nicholas visits children's homes on the previous evening to leave candy. In the mainly Roman Catholic region of southern Germany, the Christ child brings gifts on Christmas Eve. In the northern area that is mostly Protestant, the Christmas man brings the gifts. Most families in Germany have decorated Christmas trees. People in Spain follow midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with singing and dancing in the streets. January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany or the visit of the wise men. On the previous evening children put their shoes by an open window or on a balcony for the wise men to fill with gifts as they pass by. According to legend in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas comes on Saint Nicholas Eve (December 5). He arrives on a boat from Spain wearing a red robe and then rides down the streets on a white horse. He goes down the chimney of each house to leave gifts in shoes placed in front of the fireplace. Most homes and churches in Italy display nativity sets. While the family prays on Christmas Eve, the mother places the Christ child in the manger. Italian children receive gifts from a kind witch on the Epiphany Eve (January 5). Many families in Poland have a tradition of sharing a thin wafer made of wheat flour and water and stamped with nativity scenes. The meal on Christmas Eve includes fish, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, and beet soup. The midnight Mass is called Shepherds Mass. Santa Claus is a familiar figure in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but the children believe his elf brings their gifts on Christmas Eve. Christmas is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand by going to the beach or on a picnic because Christmas comes in the summer months there. The children have six week Christmas vacations from school. There is caroling in the streets. Both Santa Claus and Father Christmas are popular for giving gifts. People in Mexico hold pilgrimages on the nine days before Christmas to find lodging for Mary and Joseph. At a certain house they are admitted and a feast and celebration follows. Part of the celebration is the breaking of a piñata containing gifts and candy. Children in some countries of Latin America, including Brazil, Colombia and parts of Mexico, receive gifts on Christmas Day. In Argentina, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and most areas of Mexico, gifts are left by the wise men on the eve of Epiphany (January 6). Christmas is not widely celebrated in Asia because of the small number of Christians living there. Where Christmas is observed, the people follow Western traditions such as attending church services, giving gifts, singing carols, and decorating Christmas trees. Christmas celebrations are increasing in Japan: business districts have Christmas lights, gifts are exchanged, stores have Christmas trees and Santa. People in the Philippines attend Masses of the Cock, each morning for the nine days before Christmas. On Christmas Eve they parade through the streets carrying colorful star-shaped lanterns. Some homes also display these lanterns. In Bethlehem where Jesus was born, Christians from throughout the world gather on Christmas Eve for midnight Mass. A silver star marks the place where Jesus' birth is believed to have taken place. The people kneel to kiss the star. Christmas is not widely celebrated in Africa. Celebrations there usually follow Western traditions. Africans sing carols and hymns in their own languages. Facts for this post came from an article by Robert J. Myers in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp 528-537.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Support Our Police Officers

I often read a blog that shows a graph for each day and find many graphs that are very interesting.. A couple of days ago the graph of the day asked the question, "How much confidence do you, yourself, have in each of the following American institutions: a great deal or quite a lot?" The blog then listed sixteen different institutions in the United States with the following as the top five on the list: The military (45%/26%), small business (28%/32%), the police (28%/30%), the Church or organized religion (26%/22%), and the medical system (16%/19%). It is interesting to me that these five represent the basic protectors that we have in our lives. The military protects us from foreign enemies; small businesses are the foundation of our economy; the police protect us locally; the Church guides us spiritually, and the medical system protects our health. A recent article by Colleen Long of Associated Press printed in the Anchorage Daily News stated that 2009 was a really bad year for policemen. During this year, 47 police officers died nationwide after being shot while on duty. This number is up 24 percent from the 38 killed in 2008. The figures for 2009 were particularly high because officers were shot in groups: four officers outside Seattle in November; four in Oakland, California, in March; three in Pittsburgh in April, and two in Okaloosa County, Florida, in April. Some of these officers appeared to be targeted while the others seemed less so. The article quoted Eugene O-Donnell, a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York as saying, "There's an increasingly desperate population out there. Other than in rare cases for ideological reasons, we really haven't seen people taking on the cops head-to-head. Something is amiss. It should be cause for grave concern." Criminologists say that the problem is compounded because guns are available, but the facts don't seem to bear this out. Pennsylvania has the most gun-related officer deaths this year as well as some of the strictest gun laws in the country. At the same time, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kentucky have few gun laws and few, if any, officer deaths this year. Kevin Morison, a spokesman for the Officers Memorial Fund, was quoted as saying, "But folks who are willing to intentionally target police officers seem to be able to find a way to accrue guns regardless of what the laws in those states would be." So, we have people targeting our police officers. We have a government that is trying to destroy small businesses and the medical system as well as not giving full support to our military. We know that churches and/or religions have long been under attack by the radical leftists in our nation. It is obvious that we need to do more to support our protectors. Few, if any of us, are in a position to take a bullet for a police officer, but there are other things that we can do for them. We can make sure that every officer we see knows that we appreciate their willingness to put their lives on the line EVERY SINGLE TIME they leave their home. We can make sure that we have enough police officers on the streets and that they are adequately paid for doing their duty to our communities. Even though our city is cutting expenses trying to save $20 million this year and $25 million next year, the number of police officers on the streets is not being cut. Another thing that we can do that will help our police officers is to obey the laws of our city, state and nation and show respect to the officers we see. The bottom line is, if we want the police there to help us when we need help, we need to support them in their jobs. This is a personal issue for me for I know numerous police officers personally.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Claus

Our VIP for this week is Santa Claus, the old, well-rounded man who brings gifts to children at Christmas time. This legendary man has been portrayed for a long time as a stout, white-bearded man in a red, fur-trimmed suit. This legend is popular mostly in the United States. There was once a real person named Saint Nicholas. Historians have little information about him but say that he was probably born in Patara in the area now known as Turkey. He became a priest at age 19 and served as bishop in a village near Patara. He died in the A.D. 300's. The legend tells us that Saint Nicholas helped a poor nobleman with three daughters. The nobleman was too poor to provide a dowry to any of his daughters; therefore, no men wanted to marry them. A dowry is money or property provided by the bride's family to the bride, groom or groom's family when the couple marries. According to the legend, Saint Nicholas gave three bags of money to the nobleman by throwing them through an open window in the nobleman's house - and fell into some stockings hung by the fireplace to dry. The girls then had dowries and were able to marry. The legend of Saint Nicholas as a man who brings gifts may have originated with this story. Before Christianity began, there was a custom of giving gifts on a certain winter day. Saint Nicholas became a symbol of that custom among Christians. Non-religious characters were substituted for Saint Nicholas during the Reformation in the 1500's. Father Christmas replaced him in England, Pere Noel in France, and Weihnachtsmann in Germany. Saint Nicholas was especially popular in the Netherlands. The first Dutch settlers to sail to America came in a ship with a figure of Saint Nicholas on the front of it. The American Dutch kept their custom of celebrating the saint's feast day on December 6 and told their children that the saint brought gifts on Saint Nicholas Eve. English settlers adopted the customs and traditions of Saint Nicholas, and their children turned the Dutch name for the saint, Sinterklaas, into Santy Claus or Santa Claus by speaking it quickly and with great excitement. Until the 1800's, Saint Nicholas was pictured as a tall, thin stately man who wore a bishop's robe and rode a white horse. In 1809 a book entitled Knickerbocker's History of New York was published by the American author Washington Irving. In his book, Irving described Saint Nicholas as a stout, jolly man in a broad-brimmed hat and huge breeches, carrying a long pipe. This Saint Nicholas rode in a wagon through the air and put gifts in children's stockings. On December 23, 1823, the familiar poem starting "'Twas the night before Christmas" was printed in the Troy (NY) Sentinel. It was entitled "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas." In this poem, written by either Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston, Saint Nicholas is a stout, jolly man with a red nose and twinkling eyes, wearing a suit trimmed with fur and riding in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. In the poem, Saint Nicholas comes on Christmas Eve. An American cartoonist by the name of Thomas Nast completed the picture of the modern-day Santa Claus. His drawings, printed in the Harper's Weekly between 1863 and 1886, showed Santa with a white beard in various poses: working in his workshop, driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer, or placing toys in stockings by a fireplace. Many people in the world are familiar with the legend of Santa Claus, but he is a tradition mainly in America. Facts for this post came from an article by Robert J. Myers in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 17, pp 113-114.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Insure Domestic Tranquility

I now returned to our study of the United States Constitution in which we are currently studying the principles found in the Preamble. The Constitution is designed to insure peace, security, and domestic tranquility among Americans. This principle indicates that the people have the Right to live in a land of law and order and thus have a feeling of peace and security. The responsibility for protecting life, liberty and property as well as maintaining order was bestowed on the states. If mobs were destroying property and killing citizens or if an invading enemy sought to overthrow state government, the states could call on federal forces for help. If - and only if - the state government were too weak to protect its citizens, then the federal forces could step in to help the citizens. As a means to protect the states, the Founders wrote it into the Constitution that all states were to be represented equally by each having two senators. They also wrote a clause enabling two-thirds of the state legislators at any time to propose and make legal alternations in the general system in case the federal government became overbearing. A simple way of teaching this principle to our families would be to remind the children that father has some responsibilities and mother has other responsibilities to take care of the family. They help each other, but they don't overstep the boundaries. For example, mom cannot go to the office to do dad's work - or vice versa. In the country, just like in our homes, we have to work together and get along in order to have peace and feel secure.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

God So Loved the World

I enjoy the Christmas season. I like the colors of Christmas. I like the Christmas music. I marvel at the softening of hearts that come at Christmas time. The spirit of Christmas is the Spirit of Christ. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (Saint John 3:16-17). God, our Father in Heaven, loves all of His children so much that He sent his First Born Son to live on earth that His other children might have the opportunity to return to God's presence. Our Father's gift to us is His Son Jesus Christ. He gave Christ to us for our benefit. As a parent, I learned a little about the great love that our Father in Heaven showed when He gave this gift. Some years ago my third daughter was playing soccer in Texas. She had the soccer ball and was on a break away run towards the goal. The opposing goalie ran out to stop my daughter from making a goal. In doing so, she planted her feet on my daughter's leg and broke both of the bones in her lower leg in several places. Our doctor would later tell us that he rarely saw such serious breaks from sports because they usually came from such things as car accidents. My daughter was treated in Texas and then made the long and painful trip back to Alaska. After a couple of weeks of pain, x-rays, and counseling with doctors, the determination was made that the bone would not stabilize on its own but would need more help than just a cast. Surgery was performed to install a titanium rod down the inside of her tibia. I've been told that bone pain is the worst kind of pain, even worse than child birth, and I believe it. I was with my daughter when she came out of surgery. She kept crying out with pain until a nurse would come to give her some pain killer. It seemed that only a minute or so would go by before she was crying out with pain again. It was a very difficult experience to watch a beloved child suffer such pain and to not be able to do anything to help her. I had to let her suffer until someone else would come to help her. While I was thus watching my daughter suffer, a thought went through my mind that I believe was personal revelation. The thought was, "This is how Heavenly Father felt as He watched His Son, Jesus Christ, suffer in Gethsemane and on the cross." This was a very shocking thought for me because I had never previously considered Heavenly Father's pain in connection with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…." He gave us the greatest gift that He could give to us and at great personal cost. I know this to be true because I have tasted of that pain. How can we show Him that we appreciate His gift to us? The only way that we can adequately show our gratitude for this great gift is to make room in our hearts and in our lives for His Son, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Protect Freedom

Today is Freedom Friday. Are you wearing blue in support of our troops? We must be ready and willing to protect freedom at all times and at all levels. Our local governments are just as capable of destroying freedom as our federal government is. An example of this situation happened in the Sussex Square community in western Henrico County near Richmond, VA. Colonel Van Barfoot, a 90-year-old veteran of World War II and the Vietnam War, is fighting for the opportunity to have a flag pole in his yard. His homeowner's association is trying to force him to remove his flag pole. The homeowner's association allows flags on porches and doesn't explicitly forbid flag poles. They insist that any flag pole be "aesthetically appropriate." According to family members, Barfoot is the most decorated American combat veteran alive. He has received more than 20 medals, including three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Medal of Honor. The homeowner's association gave Barfoot until Friday, December 11, to remove his flag. He has stated that he is willing to go to court if necessary to keep his flag pole. I have often longed for a flag pole from which to fly my flag but continue to fly it from my front deck. I wonder if my homeowner's association has any regulation prohibiting a flag pole. I guess I better check before I start pouring cement! Does your home association allow flag poles?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas in America

For millions of Christians, Christmas is the happiest as well as the busiest holiday of the year. The celebrations vary depending on the country, heritage, and customs of the people involved. Most Americans and Canadians decorate their homes, offices, schools, and stores with trees trimmed with lights, tinsel and colorful ornaments as well as wreaths and other Christmas decorations including Nativity sets. Yards and city streets are bright with colorful lights. The sounds of bells and Christmas carols fill the air. People send holiday cards to family members, friends and business associates. Children write letters to Santa Claus to tell him of their desires for gifts. Malls hire substitute Santas to listen to requests from children and to hand out treats. Presents are placed under the Christmas trees to be opened either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning. Children hang Christmas stockings so that Santa can fill them with candy, fruits and small gifts as he travels from house to house in his sleigh pulled by reindeer. A special part of the Christmas celebration is being with other people. Carolers walk from house to house singing Christmas carols. Special Christmas services are held in churches decorated with evergreen branches, red poinsettias and Nativity scenes. Families and friends join together for special feasts. A traditional American feast includes turkey with dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, other dishes, and wonderful desserts. Some people have ham or roast goose instead of turkey. Eggnog is a favorite drink for many people. In various parts of the United States and Canada, some ethnic groups celebrate Christmas using customs from their native countries. Some people in the American Southwest observe traditional Spanish customs. Some people in the Quebec, Canada, area observe French customs. Some Black Americans combine Christmas with the Afro-American holiday called Kwanzaa.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Slippery Steps

I stepped out my front door this morning to pick up my newspaper and found myself lying at the bottom of my steps a few seconds later. I didn't notice the thin, frozen layer of fog on the steps and, therefore, didn't take appropriate precautions. I am fortunate that I came out of my experience with only a sore muscle on my upper arm. I believe that our nation is currently treading on a slippery surface and that we could find ourselves in trouble soon. The slippery surface that I am speaking of is political correctness, multi-culturalism, and plain, old fashioned corruption. I believe that we have known and unknown traitors within our country who are trying to destroy the United States in order to bring about a world government. I believe that political correctness keeps us from identifying those who enter our country illegally. According to the political correctness police, we now have to call "illegal aliens" by the new name of "undocumented immigrants." Why? They are here illegally! Why not call them what they are? Why are we giving them a voice in our government? I believe that our nation is being over-run by Mexicans who are not interested in becoming citizens of the United States because they remain loyal to Mexico. I also believe that there are people from other nations coming into our country through Mexico. We built the Alaska Highway 1500 miles through Canada to Alaska in a couple of years at most. Why is it taking so long to build a fence between us and Mexico? I believe that our main-stream media is corrupt because they print only the information that the government wants us to have. When the ACORN story broke, the media kept quiet about it until forced to acknowledge the news. The news concerning the leaked e-mails about the corruptness of the climate-change program broke more than two weeks ago. I haven't yet read or heard anything about it from the regular media people. Anyone who wants to know what is really happening around us needs to be watching Fox News and/or listening to talk radio because the main stream media isn't telling us what we need to know. Our government is no longer supporting those who are protecting our nation. CIA agents are being outed and tried for doing the jobs that we sent them to do. Our soldiers at Fort Hood were killed and injured because no one wanted to point the finger at a Muslim who was serving as an Air Force major and went on his own personal jihad. Now we have Navy Seals on trial because they were doing their job in Iraq. They caught a known terrorist who killed Americans, drug their bodies through the streets and then hung them from a bridge. The Seals are being tried because the terrorist complained that he received a bloody lip from his captors. Today I heard the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell troops headed to Afghanistan that they must be careful to obey the rules of engagement because otherwise they could be prosecuted. I cannot imagine General Eisenhower or General Patton telling World War II troops anything of the sort! World War II was won because our troops had the full force of the United States government and its people behind them. I am sorry to say our troops no longer have our government's full support because we aren't fighting wars to win. Our President just uses our troops for "photo opts" and to make it look like he is doing his duty. If this nonsense continues, I expect that our volunteer military will dwindle to the point that the draft will need to be activated again. I cannot understand why any thinking person would put his or her life in the hands of this administration. I am grateful that my son's time in the military will soon be over! Our President goes around the world apologizing for America. When he isn't apologizing, he is bowing. He can't seem to understand that he is the President of the most powerful nation in the world! He recently took three months to make a decision about what to do in Afghanistan and then gave almost the same identical speech that he gave earlier in the year. He made a big show of telling the world that he was sending 30,000 more military members to Afghanistan - not the 60,000 requested by the general in the field though - and then in the next breath said he would began pulling them out in eighteen months. What kind of an idiot broadcasts his battle plans to the enemy? I cannot imagine any football or soccer coach telling the opposing team, "Our team won't be on the field during the second half of the game. We're going home early!" This President has surrounded himself with people who hate America, some of whom are self-avowed communists and Marxists. He is either really stupid or he has an evil plan to destroy America. I believe there is a plan that is slowly being put in place by people behind the scenes to take away the power of America and make it like other nations in order that a world government can be put in place. I believe that we all need to be alert and watch our steps. Otherwise, we may find ourselves flat on our backs looking up into the faces of our enemies.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I chose to blog about Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), nicknamed FDR while in office, simply because he was President when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I have some very mixed feelings about this President. I was born while he was in office, but he died soon after my birth. I admire the way he overcame physical problems and showed strong leadership during World War II, and yet I am amazed at his egotism that would cause him to even want to be President for such a long time. Besides, I believe that his New Deal moved our nation down the road towards socialism. His administration put programs in place that are causing financial problems for our country right now. FDR was born January 30, 1882, on his father's estate in Hyde Park, New York, and was the only child of wealthy parents. He studied under governesses and private tutors until he was 14. He then went to Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts. After graduating from Groton, he attended and graduated from Harvard University. He attended Columbia University Law School where he passed the bar examination but left school without a degree and with no interest to practice law. While at Harvard he courted his distant cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) and became engaged to her the year he graduated. His mother was a domineering woman and tried to convince her son to end the engagement. FDR and Eleanor were married on March 17, 1905. President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor's uncle, gave the bride away. (Theodore and FDR were fifth cousins.) The Roosevelts had six children. FDR enjoyed swimming, sailing, and sledding with his children, whom the Roosevelts called "the chicks." FDR entered politics as a New York state senator at age 29 and became known as a "bold and skillful political fighter." In 1912 FDR supported Woodrow Wilson against his cousin Theodore Roosevelt in the presidential election. Wilson became President and appointed FDR as the assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913. He sought the Democratic nomination as a candidate for the United States Senate in 1914 but lost. In April 1917 when the United States entered World War I, he wanted to serve in the military, but he was persuaded to stay in his position with the Navy. In 1920, at age 38, he was a candidate for United States Vice President on a ticket with James M. Cox. They were defeated by Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. In August 1921 FDR became ill with polio and suffered severe pain. He could not stand or even move his legs. His back, arms and hands were partially paralyzed. His condition worsened within months, and many people thought that his political career was over. His mother tried to convince him to retire. He began to fight back against the disease and by 1924 went swimming as often as possible. He spent several months each year at Warm Springs, Georgia. In 1926 he bought the springs and surrounding land and established the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation the next year with a group of friends. The foundation provided low-cost treatment for "polios," Roosevelt's word for his fellow sufferers. FDR returned to the political arena while learning to walk again. His first public speech since his polio attack was to nominate New York Governor Alfred E. Smith for President at the Democratic National Convention. Smith won the nomination and encouraged FDR to run for governor of New York. Smith lost his campaign to Herbert Hoover and didn't even carry his home state of New York. FDR barely won his campaign to become governor of New York. As governor, he supported a variety of progressive legislation. After the Great Depression began in October 1929, he began the first system for relief of the unemployed in New York. He easily won reelection in 1930. In the presidential election of 1932, he beat out the incumbent, President Herbert Hoover, and promised a "new deal" to lead the nation out of the depression. He became President on March 4, 1933, at the age of 51. His inauguration was the last one held in March. Amendment 20 to the Constitution moved all later inaugurations to January. The depression grew worse with thousands of unemployed workers standing in bread lines. Many farmers and city workers lost their homes and many more were about to lose theirs because of lack of funds to pay their mortgages. The country survived a banking crisis in 1933 because FDR closed all banks and reopened only the ones in good financial condition. In spite of many progressive solutions, such as unemployment legislation, public work projects, and the other unemployment programs, the Great Depression continued. All the government programs cost more than the government was collecting in taxes. The deficit was settled partly by raising taxes and partly by borrowing money by selling government bonds. The national debt was higher than ever before. It is sad to say that our nation was rescued from the Depression by World War II. FDR, like Abraham Lincoln, was either deeply loved or bitterly hated. Millions believed he was the friend and protector of the "common man" - the key to FDR's success in politics. His critics believed that his policies, called the New Deal, gave the federal government too much power. He was accused of usurping many of the rights that the Constitution gave to the states. He even tried to push through a Second Bill of Rights. There was much concern that the free enterprise system might be destroyed by government controls over business. While FDR was President, the New Deal recovery measures were enacted (1933), prohibition was repealed (1933), the Social Security Act was passed (1935), Supreme Court controversy happened over FDR's attempt to "pack" the court (1937), the United States began selling arms to friendly nations on a cash and carry basis (1939), Congress passed the Selective Service Act (1940), Pearl Harbor was attacked (December 7) and war was declared (1941), 26 nations signed the Declaration of the United Nations and the Allies invaded Normandy, France (1944). FDR served as President of the United States for more than 12 years, longer than any other person. He was the only President to be elected four times. No previous President ran for the office more than twice. The Constitution was changed after FDR's death to allow Presidents only two terms in office. FDR died in Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, just 83 days after his fourth inauguration. Facts are from article written by James T. Patterson, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 16, pp 452-453.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day

I interrupt our study of the United States Constitution to remind all of us about the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked. Pearl Harbor is located off the coast of Oahu Island and lies west of downtown Honolulu. The naval base there covers 22,000 acres. The harbor itself "is one of the world's largest and best sheltered naval anchorages. It is formed by two mouths of the Pearl Stream. The harbor occupies about 10 square miles of navigable water and has three lochs (nearly landlocked lakes). Its name came from the pearl oysters that once grew in its waters" (W. W. Reid, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, p 219). Japanese forces attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, with the first bombs falling about 7:55 a.m. The main targets of the attack were the eight American battleships that were anchored among 92 naval vessels. The United States suffered great loss: approximately 3,700 casualties, 18 ships sunk or severely damaged, and nearly 200 airplanes lost. Just as the cry of "Remember the Alamo" inspired Texans in the battle for freedom from Mexico, "Remember Pearl Harbor" became the rallying cry for World War II. The United States, Canada, and Great Britain declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. Germany and Italy declared war on the United States on December 11. World War II was then a global conflict. I have visited the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which stands above the partly submerged battleship. The memorial honors those who died in the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. It is a beautiful monument and wonderful memorial. For video about the attack on Pearl Harbor, you can go here or here or here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Jesus Christ is the reason that we celebrate Christmas; therefore, without Christ, there would be no Christmas. A dictionary definition of Christmas is "a holiday on December 25 celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ" (New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, 253). An encyclopedia entry on Christmas begins "Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ" (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p 528). These two independent sources confirm my statement that Jesus Christ is the reason for the Christmas season. Even though the people of the world do not know the exact date of Christ's birth, most Christians observe Christmas on December 25. "The word Christmas comes from Cristes maesse, an early English phrase that means Mass of Christ" (World Book, p 528). Most of the information that we have about Christmas comes from the Christmas story as found in the New Testament. St. Luke 2:1-20 tells the story of how Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. While they were in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor. The inns in Bethlehem did not have enough room for all the people coming to town, particularly Joseph and Mary, but Joseph was able to find some privacy for Mary in a stable. After Jesus was born, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manager. The new little family was still in the stable when shepherds came to visit them. The shepherds were alerted of the birth of Christ by an angel. They went with haste to see the new baby. St. Matthew 2:1-11 tells us that wise men in the east saw a new star in the sky and recognized it as the one prophesied to arise at the birth of the Messiah. They followed that star to Bethlehem, but by the time they arrived the family was living in a house (v 11). The wise men brought treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the new King. We do not celebrate Christmas simply because a little baby was born. We celebrate Christmas because the Son of God was born. He was born of a mortal mother in order that He could experience all the pains, experiences and problems of being mortal. Because He was the Son of God, He had the power to withstand the temptations to sin and to overcome all of the other problems of mortality. We celebrate the birth of Christ because of the person He became. As an adult He taught about faith in God, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Jesus Christ was killed because of the priestcrafts and iniquities of the Jews. Jesus allowed Himself to be killed in order that He could pay the price of the sins of all mankind. The reason He came to earth was to make an atonement for all those people who believe in Him. He overcame death by His resurrection that all mankind may live forever more. As we go into this Christmas season, let us remember the Man whose birth we celebrate. Let us be like the shepherds and the wise men who followed heavenly instructions and found the Babe. Let us seek this Jesus who was born in Bethlehem. We can seek Jesus Christ by developing Christ-centered family traditions. When we put Christ at the center of our Christmas celebrations, we bring the true spirit of Christmas - the Spirit of Christ - into our homes. Some ideas that you might consider are: 1) Emphasis Christ rather than Santa by focusing on Christ. Decorate with nativity sets and pictures of Christ. Read the scriptural accounts of the birth of Christ. Act out the nativity story. Sing or play Christmas carols about Christ. Count your blessings. Show gratitude by thanking Heavenly Father for the greatest gift of all - our Savior and His Atonement. 2) Simplify gift giving because Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ - not an excuse to empty the stores. There is no need to go into debt for Christmas. If we spend only what we can afford to spend, we can reduce financial pressures and feel more peace. 3) Spend time doing those activities that bring peace into your home. 4) Serve others in ways that are appropriate for you and your family. Go Christmas caroling. Invite a lonely person to join in your celebration. Volunteer at a local charitable organization. Give homemade treats to neighbors. As we remember that Jesus Christ is the reason that we celebrate Christmas, we can make each Christmas better than the previous one. We can bring the true spirit of Christmas into our lives - not only at Christmas time but throughout the year.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Traditions

Have you thought much about the holiday traditions that you have enjoyed in your family? I've been thinking about some of the traditions in my family. I grew up in a very large family of 12 children in farming country and without television, and our closest neighbors were about half a mile away. As a result of these three facts, my siblings and I grew up doing many things together and became good friends. In the warm weather months, we played softball, basketball and other outdoor games such as tag, no bears out tonight, Red Rover, etc. In the winter, we would ice skate, play in the snow, or go inside to play games. Our family owned a number of different pairs of ice skates so we could usually find a pair that somewhat fit. If our time outside was limited, such as between homework and farm chores, we would ice skate on the small "pond" in our yard caused by the overflow from the cattle watering trough. The pond was there because we had to keep a small stream of water flowing through the pipe from the well in order to keep the pipe from freezing. This pond made it real easy for little children to practice ice skating, but it wasn't very large or very smooth ice. On Saturdays or during Christmas vacations from school, the older children would go to a real pond located in the far corner of a pasture. Little children were not allowed to go to larger ponds by themselves so it was always a treat to go with the "big kids." I remember being very young, maybe as young as three or four years old, when I learned that my older siblings were going ice skating. I kept asking to go with them, and they kept telling me that I would get cold. After listening to my begging for awhile, they relented and took me. We walked through deep snow for a quarter of a mile and finally reached the pond. My siblings immediately put on their ice skates and started clearing the snow from the ice. I became very cold, and my older brother took me back to the house. He was very kind to me, but I'm sure that he didn't appreciate walking the extra half mile in order to ice skate. I remember going to other ponds to attend ice skating parties with our neighbors. I remember that we always had to clear the snow in order to find smooth ice. Sometimes tractors were used to remove the snow, but the usual method was large grain or "scoop" shovels. I also remember having fires by the side of the pond to keep warm and that at least one of those fires was made inside an old tire. I also remember that both of my parents would ice skate with us sometimes. My siblings and I played a lot of card games, especially while home from school for our Christmas vacations. I remember playing Pit, Rook, and Flinch. I also remember that Dad would sometimes play games with us during the holidays. I don't remember that Mom played with us - which could mean that she often did so or never did. I just don't remember her playing with us. I do remember that having Dad join us in our games was a BIG deal. He worked the grave yard shift (midnight until 8:00 a.m.) sleeping a few hours here and there during the day. I'm sure that he had little time for games, but I know that we enjoyed having him join us. My siblings and I still enjoy getting together, and we often play cards or other games. They are some of my best friends. I love them dearly, and I'm certain that they return those feelings towards me. We developed these strong family bonds by working and playing together. I'll be sharing other family traditions in future weeks. I hope that your family has wonderful traditions that draw you closer together and that will be memories of joy in later years. Good family traditions strengthen families. It is never too late to develop new traditions or to give a tweak to old ones.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Education and Freedom

Today is Freedom Friday. Are you wearing blue today in support of our troops? I believe that education is very important for obtaining and retaining liberty and freedom. I particularly believe that girls and women need education in addition to boys and men. I once heard a statement that went something like this: "When we educate a man, we education only a man. When we educate a woman, we educate an entire family. I believe this statement is true, particularly because mothers do most of the teaching of their children. I believe that it was the educational level of our Founders that assisted them in writing the United States Constitution as they did. I believe that it is because of their education that they knew about and understood the evils that bad government could bring upon the Americans. The Founders used their knowledge in a way that is a blessing to us today. Afghanistan is a good example of what happens in a country that does not encourage education for both their boys and girls. In the mid-1990s about 20 percent of "all Afghanistan's people 15 years of age or older can read and write. The law requires all children from 7 to 10 years old to go to school. However, many of these children cannot attend school because the country does not have enough schools or teachers" (Riffat Sardar, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p 95). In 1993 Greg Mortenson staggered into Korphe, a tiny village in Pakistan. He describes how he "watched 82 children scratch their lessons in the dirt with sticks" (Parade Magazine, No. 22, 2009, p 8). A young girl asked him to come back to her village and build a school that would be open to all children. Three years later he returned to Korphe and built that school. His organization, the Central Asia Institute (CAI) now has 91 school houses in the mountains of rural Pakistan. There are 19,000 students - three-quarters of them girls - being taught in those schools. CAI crossed the border into Afghanistan and opened its first school there in 2004. The 39th school was opened this year. Including tent schools in refugee camps, there are 39,000 Afghan children, mostly girls, being educated there. "Yet my commitment to educating girls has only grown stronger. Indeed, we hope soon to complete a 200-mile line of girls' schools directly through the heart of Taliban country. "Young women are the developing world's greatest agents of progress. Just one year of schooling will dramatically raise a girl's later economic prospects, and where girls get to fifth grade, birth rates and infant mortality plunge. Teaching girls to read and write reduces the ignorance and poverty that fuel religious extremism and lays a groundwork for prosperity and peace. In military parlance, educating girls is a `force multiplier.' Thus the flame that burns at the center of my work, the heat around which I cup my hands, are the stories of girls whose lives have been changed by education" (Parade, p 8). Mortenson reported that in 2000 only 800,000 Afghan children were in school - no girls. Now there are 8.5 million Afghan children in school, including nearly 2 million girls. The people of Afghanistan recognize the importance of education and are willing to pour scarce resources into schools. Mortenson is the author of two books. His first book, entitled Three Cups of Tea, published in 2006, is now required reading for all Special Forces soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. Military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, have turned to Mortenson for guidance in improving relationships with tribal and village leaders. Mortenson's second book, entitled Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was published December 1 by Viking. I saw copies of this book in Costco yesterday. "I have observed with my own eyes how America's welfare is tied to that of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world - and, in particular, that of our youngest sisters. Their dreams of progress rest in our hands; our desire for peace rests in theirs" (Parade, 10).