Coptic Christian Tattoos: Signs of Devotion

“In the first century, when the world was burgeoning with the flourishing of the Greek and Roman cultures, Christianity was flowing into certain sites around the developing world,” reports Justine Morrow for Tattoodo. “Egypt was one of these sites, and the country continues to hold the largest Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa: the Copts. The Copts are an ethnoreligious group that can trace its history and foundations back to when Christianity was first introduced into Egypt, 42 AD.”

Morrow’s article explores the lengthy history of tattooing amongst the Coptic Christians.

“For many of us, tattoos mean a great deal: they transform us into the people we want to be or know we are,” writes Morrow. “They can be ritualistic, and even metaphoric for memories or philosophies we’d like to carry with us always. For the Coptic Christians, this is certainly true. Wearing their sincere piety on their bodies for all to see, they’re courageously owning their beliefs and continuing a part of tattoo history that should never be forgotten.”

In an interview with Chandler Lasch for the Federalist, Anton Razzouk shared the story of how his family has been tied to tattooing for generations.

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The real St. Patrick

By Steve Beard

While sifting through obscure Spanish colonial records, it was discovered a few years ago that the very first St. Patrick’s Day parade was not conducted in Boston, Chicago, nor New York City.

Instead, the Irish feast day was celebrated in modern day St. Augustine, Florida, in 1601.

“They processed through the streets of St. Augustine, and the cannon fired from the fort,” said Prof. J. Michael Francis of the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, who discovered the document. The ancient records named “San Patricio” as “the protector” of the area’s maize fields. “So here you have this Irish saint who becomes the patron protector of a New World crop, corn, in a Spanish garrison settlement,” he said.

This strange twist in the story and celebration of St. Patrick, a fifth century holy man, is really not that surprising. Historians are constantly attempting to set the record straight. After all, Patrick was not Irish (born in Britain of a Romanized family). He was never canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. Interestingly, there are two St. Patrick’s Cathedrals in Armagh, Ireland – one Catholic and one Protestant. Remarkably, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is both Catholic and Protestant.

The legacy of Ireland’s patron saint blurs a lot of lines – but, he is notably worth celebrating. Continue reading

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The self-silencing majority

By Bari Weiss, Deseret News

I know a lot of people who live in fear of saying what they really think. In red America and in blue America — and, perhaps more so, on the red internet and the blue internet — we are in the grip of an epidemic of self-silencing. What you censor, of course, depends on where you sit.

My liberal friends who live in red America confess to avoiding discussions of masks, Dominion, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, the 2020 election and Donald Trump, to name just a few. When those who disagree with the surrounding majority speak their mind, they suffer the consequences. …

But there are two illiberal cultures swallowing up the country. I know because I live in blue America, in a world awash in NPR tote bags and front lawn signs proclaiming the social justice bonafides of the family inside. In my America, the people who keep quiet don’t fear the wrath of Trump supporters. They fear the illiberal left. Continue reading

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The Golden Girls who beat Covid-19

Gin-soaked raisins, champagne, chocolate, prayer, and two elderly survivors of Covid-19 provide a spot of positive news. While the infection has been a devastating health scourge around the planet, two women – one at 117 years old and the other at 105 years old – have beaten the dreaded infirmity. Sister Andre is a blind nun in southern France and the oldest person in Europe. She enjoys eating chocolate every morning and celebrated her 117th birthday with a glass of champagne. When asked if she was afraid, she said, “No, I wasn’t scared because I wasn’t scared to die.” More HERE.
In New Jersey, Lucia DeClerck celebrated her 105th birthday with news that she contracted the virus. She weathered the storm and beat the infection. How has she lived so long? “Prayer. Prayer. Prayer,” she said. “One step at a time. No junk food.” Interestingly enough, she does not consider the nine gin-soaked golden raisins she eats every morning to be junk food. She stores them in a Mason jar and has eaten them throughout her long life. More HERE. Congratulations to both Sister Andre and Ms. DeClerck.
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Remembering Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding Jr. performing on Broadway in “A Trip to Bountiful.”









By Steve Beard

Internationally-known for her six decades on stage and screen, award-winning actress Cicely Tyson died on Thursday at the age of 96.

“I come from lowly status. I grew up in an area that was called the slums at the time,” Tyson said while receiving an honorary Oscar award at age 94. “I still cannot imagine that I have met with presidents, kings, queens. How did I get here? I marvel at it.”

The revered actress knows that her fame is due to her superb dramatic roles over the years. “Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word,” Tyson writes in her autobiography, Just As I Am, published shortly before her death. “I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand.” Continue reading

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National Treasure

By Steve Beard

I spent the holidays with Dolly Parton.

Well, not literally. Like everything else in 2020, it was all virtual – and it was a whirlwind.

Throughout her rhinestone-studded career, Dolly has sold over 100 million albums, starred in countless movies and TV specials, launched an extraordinary book-gifting program, opened a theme park that attracts more than 3 million visitors per year, and has written over 3,000 songs. More than 200 of her songs have been covered by other artists.

One of twelve children, Parton was born in a log cabin in East Tennessee without electricity. At 74 years old, her literal rags-to-riches story continues to inspire fans across the spectrum around the world. Despite finding tremendous popularity under the bright lights of country music, Dolly’s magnetic folksy appeal has always extended far beyond Nashville. Continue reading

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Snake in the Manger

From “Love Actually.”

By Steve Beard

One of my dear friends bought a tree ornament featuring the Grinch in a Covid-19 mask muttering, “Christmas 2020: Stink, Stank, Stunk!” That exasperation and frustration is shared by so many.

Thankfully, some of our holiday traditions were able to be modified and reconfigured: Santa sat behind a plexiglass barrier at the mall to keep the kids safe. Handsantizer bottles and air-kisses replaced smooching under the mistletoe. Outdoor carolers wore those plastic face shields in order to keep audiences out of harm’s way as they sang “Joy to the World.”

Obviously, other Christmas traditions are not able to be modified. There are precious absent loved ones who would normally be sharing in the festivities. This year, instead, we will be cherishing our past memories with them.

Amongst my own family, the tradition of over-exaggerated yelling and cheering as gifts were opened ended up being toned down. We even connected via FaceTime with family members who were homebound.

Continue reading

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Brokenness, Burgers, and Redemption

By Steve Beard

At the height of the government mandated lockdown earlier this year, Kraft Heinz factories were operating around the clock in order to meet the demand for macaroni and cheese. According to the New York Times, retailers at the same time saw a 50 percent increase in demand for Slim Jim beef jerky and Chef Boyardee pastas.

Apparently, even some of those who had been eating organic kale and quinoa salads were turning to foods they had banished from their cupboards. “Consumers are reaching for foods that trigger a comforting childhood memory or simply their go-to snack when they need to relieve stress,” the Times reported. In an era of instability, we all look to the safe haven of comfort food – savoring the tastes, smells, and good memories.

My comfort food is a Double-Double Animal Style, a signature menu item at In-N-Out Burgers, a Southern California-based phenomenon. “No Microwaves, No Freezers, No Heat Lamps” is one of the company’s time-tested commitments. The simplicity, freshness, and mystique has garnered a passionate fanbase from Hollywood hot shots to celebrity chefs who crave an In-N-Out fix.

McDonald’s vs. Burger King, Shake Shack vs. Five Guys, Wendy’s vs. Jack In the Box. I leave the debate to others. I’m a lover, not a fighter. When I fly home to the West Coast to see my family, the first stop from the airport is In-N-Out. Go ahead, ask my mom and dad. In-N-Out reminds me I’m home.

Founded in 1948 by the innovative Harry and Esther Snyder, In-N-Out has had the same minimalist menu for the last 72 years. It is a privately-held, debt-free family company committed to strategic growth, high quality ingredients, and paying its employees better than any other fast food chain. As of mid-December, there are 361 bright red-and-white retro-style restaurants in seven Western states with a gigantic yellow arrow pointing the way to a premium burger. Continue reading

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Gratitude and the Socially-Distanced Thanksgiving

Robert F. Thomas Chapel at Dollywood.

By Steve Beard

Over the many months of the worldwide pandemic, our nation has weathered wildfires in the West, hurricanes in the South, “murder hornets” in the Pacific Northwest, stay-at-home orders, nationwide protests, shuttered business, postponed funerals, drive-up church services, video classrooms, mask mandates, and a deeply polarized election.

Lord, have mercy. It just seems exhausting to recount the events of the year. Even though the stock market continues to soar, the drive-up lines at food pantries have never been longer. There are a lot of conflicting messages to process.

Those in the white lab coats tell us that a vaccine is around the corner – but it is not here yet. Until it arrives, we wait. “How long, O Lord, how long?” we ask – six feet from our neighbor. These are the days we live in.

Somewhat fittingly, Sunday is the beginning of Advent, the start of Christianity’s liturgical year as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.

Waiting was one of the hardest aspects of Christmas as a child. There was such an allure to the wrapped packages under the tree. You could see but not touch. So close – and yet, so far away. It seemed absolutely nerve-racking as a child. Continue reading

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Dave Alvin salutes his friends and heroes

By Geoffrey Himen, American Songwriter

“Dave Alvin is one of our best songwriters. He wrote almost all the original material for the Blasters’ brilliant first four albums between 1981 and 1985,” writes Geoffrey Himen in American Songwriter. “He wrote ‘Long White Cadillac,’ a top-40 country hit for Dwight Yoakam and ‘Marie, Marie,’ a top-20 U.K. hit for Shakin’ Stevens. His second solo album (Blue Blvd. ) and his ninth (Ashgrove) are two of the best Americana albums of all time. And yet, for all of Alvin’s achievements as a songwriter, he continues to record songs by other writers.”

So, why does Alvin spend so much time with other people’s songs?

One of the reasons, Alvin said, was the challenge of reinventing a song: “You take the original and then tear it apart,” Alvin told Himen. “How do you do a song like ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ that’s not like Dylan, not like Johnny Winter? Dylan did it as a blues, leaning on the one chord, but I brought it what I call spooky chords, these suspended chords, to set up the refrain at the end of each verse. I wanted to sing it somewhere between Mose Allison and Ken Nordine. The Dylan version has the siren and the jokey/jiving feel, but I wanted to bring it down to the darkness. I wanted the guitars to sound like avenging angels, like you’re driving down the road late at night, and you see these apparitions flying at you until we get back to the one chord.” Continue reading

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