• A rainy, slow afternoon here in Mattoon.  Charge Conference is done, the stewardship campaign is almost done, the church bazaar is done.  Now to get caught up at work on all the work I've set aside to handle the seasonal busyness.  
  • Jie said this morning that when she gets home, we'll rake leaves...since they are finally dry.  But it has been raining all afternoon, so I'll have to suggest something lazier to do.
  • Scarlette, Tristan, and Sean have returned home after a two week (quick) trip to China.  They'll be getting over jet lag...and then I'm looking forward to talking with them.
  • Mindy's play at Parkland College opens this weekend

November 5, 2018
Happy Days Are Here Again
What to celebrate?  So many choices!  In addition to this being "All Saints Sunday," we could also set off fireworks this evening in observation of Guy Fawkes Day.  On Monday we'll observe Nachos Day.  Tuesday we can celebrate Election Day.  We'll do Diwali on Wednesday.  Thursday is Scrapple Day.  Friday we can celebrate Area Code Day with vanilla cupcakes (it is also Vanilla Cupcake Day) and top the week off on Saturday with Armistice Day, unless you happen to be Chinese, in which case you'll be celebrating Single's Day.  With so much excitement this week, it's a good thing we're starting the week off by celebrating The-End-of-Daylight-Savings-Day, treating ourselves to an extra hour sleep.
On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up King James I, the guy who bestowed his name on the King James Bible.  So, you might ask, why would we give him a holiday? I know the King James Bible is reallyhard to read, but that's no reason to celebrate the Guy who tried to kill him!  It turns out, however, that Guy Fawkes Day is not set aside for liking Mr. Fawkes, but for transferring our anger and violence on him.  Guy Fawkes himself would have been executed for his criminal intent...had he not tripped on his way to the scaffolding and accidently killed himself, thus depriving authorities of the pleasure of hanging him.  It turns out that Guy Fawkes and his buddies were Catholic...and James I was Protestant...and the two denominations were not playing nice with each other in those days...  So Guy Fawkes Day was a kind of anti-Catholic day:  a day for giving thanks that the Catholics didn't succeed, a day for setting off fireworks and exploding gun powder...pretending to blow up the Catholics instead of actually doing it.  Although...I'm pretty sure a few Protestants accidently maimed themselves on Guy Fawkes Day through the years.  
Monday is our day for giving thanks for nachos and for remembering their invention, in 1943, by Nachos Anaya, who had to scrape something together late one day when a group of American soldier wives came into his restaurant, and he was almost out of food.  It was already after closing time, and all he had was some left over tortillas, some cheese, and some other odds and ends.  He tore up the tortillas and baked them with the cheese...and some other stuff, and the wives loved it.  So says the internet.
On Tuesday, we will not so much celebrate Election Day as the end of the election season...and no more TV commercials...or pop-ups every time I turn on my computer.  I'll hold my traditional Election Day party at the parsonage:  homemade bread and soup, Election Day Cake, and two TVs turned on.  Everyone is welcome, just let me know if you're stopping by so I can prepare enough food.  (Remember, bread takes several hours to bake, so it would be best if you let me know sometime before Tuesday.)  Or, if I run out, I'll just whip up some nachos for you.
My Google calendar keeps telling me that Wednesday is Diwali.  Not being Hindu, I had to look it up.  It is the festival of lights, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.  We Christians are all for that too!  According to tradition, it is the time to clean up your house, dress up, and invite everyone over for a banquet...with lots of sweets.
I am really looking forward to Thursday:  Scrapple Day. Unfortunately, it's hard to buy scrapple around these parts.  Beachy's Bulk Foods outside Arthur has some in their frozen meats locker.  But otherwise, you have to drive to Pennsylvania to get some...or make it yourself.  You'll need a hog's head, some pork liver, and a pot of corn mush.  Cook hogs head and liver, scrape the meat out of the skull, chop in the liver, and fold in the corn mush; chill in a pan; cut into slices and fry for breakfast.  Outside of bacon, it's my favorite meat. Honest!
On Friday we eat vanilla cupcakes (because it will be Vanilla Cupcake Day) and ponder our area codes, which is slightly more exciting than pondering our navels.  But maybe your navel is more exciting than your area code, which you would know if you actually pondered your navel last June 23, which was National Belly Button Day. This is not to be confused with National Naval Day, which was last Tuesday, because October 27 was once thought to be the birthday of the U.S. Navy, until some history buff discovered that the Navy started on October 13 instead.  The 27thof October was actually the birthday of former president Theodore Roosevelt, who also happened to be assistant secretary of the Navy. But Teddy's birthday has now been moved to the third Monday in February, "President's Day," along with the birthdays of all the other presidents. But...I digress.  
Area Codes began in the 1940s when telephone companies began to worry that there would soon be so many phones and that numbers would become impossibly long and chaotic.  When I was in the 5thgrade, we lived in Dalton City and our phone number was "7."  If you lived in Dalton City, you just dialed "7," and whichever kid won the race to the phone would answer. If you lived outside Dalton City, you had to talk to your operator and ask for the Dalton City operator, who would then connect you with "7."  
Finally, geographic areas were each given their own area codes, with the more populated areas given lower digits:  it took less time to dial the area code on a rotary phone if the numbers were 1, 2, or 3.  Anyway, eat a vanilla cupcake while you're pondering all this.  But...we might want to do a calorie check at this point.  If you add up your nachos, election day cake, Diwali banquet, scrapple, and vanilla cupcake, you've gained about 15 pounds since Sunday.  
And then Saturday is Armistice Day, except if you are Chinese.  Armistice Day celebrates the end of World War I.  When I was a kid, there were still lots of World War I veterans hanging around, including a great uncle of mine.  They loved Armistice Day because it brought back memories of bells ringing and dancing in the streets when war was declared "over" in 1918.  But eventually all the veterans of that war died and no one was still around who could remember.  The last WWI vet was Florence Green, who died in 2012 at the age of 110.  She had joined the Women's Royal Airforce just two months before the end of the war.  Frank Buckles, the last Americansurviving veteran of that war died in 2011.  Mr. Buckles also fought in WWII and was captured by the Japanese, spending three years as a prisoner of war in the Philippines.
Armistice Day has now become "Veterans Day" for remembering all those who served in the United States Armed Forces.  But China does a different thing.
Even though the Chinese tried to get in WWI, England and France rejected their offer.  So they fought the best they could:  taking over German banks in China, sinking German ships in Chinese ports, and rounding up German immigrants and deporting them. And then when the war ended, they got completely ripped off in the Treaty of Versailles.  Since the end of WWI didn't mean much in China, except humiliation, they needed another celebration for November 11. 
And so, at Nanjing University (Jie's alma mater) they came up with "singles day," for the men.  (in 1993)  November 11 is written 11/11, and with all the "ones," it seemed an apt time to celebrate singlehood...for men, at first.  But the women soon got in on the act, and now the day is a time for "blind dates" and parties...and shopping.  It has become the largest shopping day in the world...exceeding "Black Friday" in the U.S. 
Hope you all have a nice week!  Just don't eat all your calories and spend all your money thisweek...or you'll be in no shape to live next week to the fullest:  it'll feature Chicken Soup Day, Indian Pudding Day, Pickle Day, Use-Less-Stuff-Day, Button Day (not to be confused with Belly-Button Day), Petroleum Day, and Micky Mouse Day.
 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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