Economic Development Authority of Jones County
153 Base Drive, Suite 3 Laurel, MS 39440
P. O. Box 527, Laurel, MS 39441
(601) 649.3031 | FAX (601) 428.2047
Email: email@example.com | www.edajones.com
Written by: Larkin Simpson, Jones County Chamber of Commerce Director, (601) 649-3031
RELEASE DATE: Sunday, December 23, 2012
The Magic of Mistletoe
by Larkin Simpson
If you are reading this one of two things has happened, the world didn’t end on Friday or we’re the only ones left after the rapture. In either case, I am glad you are still here. Merry CHRISTmas!
In light of everything that has taken place in the last week or so surrounding the tragedy in Connecticut, I have been examining my life more. I’ve been loving my wife more. I have been hugging my son more and holding on to him longer. I don’t have any sage advice or wisdom to share about what happened or why it happened. I don’t know that we will ever truly understand.
What I do have is a challenge for you and for me. As we gather ‘round this CHRISTmas with friends and family alike, let’s make this CHRISTmas more meaningful, especially those of us with little children. Let’s make sure we focus on the real reason for the season. Enjoy the packages and gifts but let’s make an effort to make this CHRISTmas about faith, hope, and love.
As a reminder of the beauty and hope that can come from tragedy and something ugly, I’d like to share a visual with you that will help you remember the true reason for the season this CHRISTmas and hopefully for many CHIRSTmases to come!
“It might seem strange to many people that each Christmas season, mistletoe – a parasitic plant – has the unique, mischievous, and delightful role of holiday matchmaker. Yet a stolen kiss on a cold moonlit evening is only one of many reasons that for centuries this waxy, green leafed plant has been tacked over doorways all around the world during the month of December.”
“The plant received its name from second-century Anglo-Saxons. In Old English, mistel is the word for ‘dung’, and tan means ‘twig’. Misteltan is the Old-English version of the word we know today as mistletoe. The name implies the plant sprang to life from bird droppings on tree branches. The inspiration behind the plant’s christening, though true, might seem a bit crude and distasteful today, but to the people of the first and second century it was a radiant sign of God’s power to bring life from death, to create something beautiful and robust from something ugly and useless.”
“In ancient times, mistletoe was viewed with awe. It was considered a miracle plant. During the harshest days of winter’s fury, when most everything else had died, this small, flowering, seemingly rootless plant thrived in the treetops. It offered beauty and color, life and hope, mystery and wonder.”
“Scandinavian warriors would stop fierce battles if they or the opposing soldiers suddenly found themselves under trees where mistletoe grew. They believe that to continue a war beneath the plant that God had given the world as a sign of life would dishonor him. A host of other societies soon adopted this rule as well. For millions of people, mistletoe became not just a symbol of peace, but a sign that demanded peace.”
“Growing out of its role as peacemaker, mistletoe took on another role – that of protector. Plants were cut from trees and nailed or tied over the doors of homes and barns to ward off enemies. Mistletoe was said to be so powerful that even the most fearsome of the forest’s beasts would not threaten a home with the plant hung on its door.”
“By the Middle Ages, mistletoe was placed over babies’ cribs to ward off illness and evil spirits. Mistletoe’s leaves and berries, though poisonous if ingested raw, were diluted and used in medicines. The plant was credited with treating epilepsy, apoplexy, palsy, tuberculosis, and stroke… A Norse legend held that mistletoe shaped into an arrow was the most powerful force in the world and could instantly bring down the mightiest warrior. The only way this fallen soldier would be saved was if a loved one used mistletoe berries to restore his life.”
“As this legend of restorative power migrated to England, the plant became a symbol of love. When a couple passed under the plant, they had to stop and kiss. If they did, God would bless them with everlasting love. Still, to make sure that this custom was not abused, the boy had to pick one berry for each kiss. When the berries were gone, the kissing was supposed to end.”
“For Christians, the plant became a symbol of life after death, of faith that was so strong it could grow even in the midst of the darkness. Like mistletoe, God’s love and true faith could survive even the most barbarous times and the darkest days. And believing in Jesus as Savior brought personal peace even in the midst of war.”
“Christians across Europe seized upon the religious symbolism of mistletoe and no longer posted the plant over their doors to ward off evil spirits but to show the world that they believed in the love God had sent the world through his Son, Jesus Christ. The power of the plant that thrived in the toughest of times also represented their faith. Christians believed God would see them through persecution, wars, famines, and plagues. His grace would cover them even on the darkest, coldest days.”
“For hundreds of years, people of faith who kissed under mistletoe vowed to keep not only their love for each other strong but their love for the Lord as well. Along with the faith and love represented by the plant that grew strong even in the harshest days of winter came a hope and understanding that brought peace to all who truly believed.”
“Today the mistletoe’s Christian message of peace, faith, and hope has been largely lost, but even if in a rather childish fashion, the message of love has remained. That is why mistletoe is mentioned in countless Christmas songs, movies, and TV shows. The green-and-red plant can be seen topping silly hats and decorating all kinds of clothing. It can also still be found hanging over millions of doors.”
“In a world that often embraces Christmas without embracing its real meaning, maybe it’s time to bring mistletoe back into the church. Maybe by having the green sprig with red berries hanging in a house of worship, people can reclaim mistletoe as the symbol of sustaining faith, hope, and love.”
Merry CHRISTmas everyone! I hope whatever your traditions are, they are full of faith, hope, love and that you are surrounded by more friends and family than you can count. Hold on to your loved ones this CHRISTmas, especially the little ones, let go of regrets and grudges and steal a kiss or two under the mistletoe! This year has been great for Jones County and I know 2013 will be even more promising.
From all of us here at the EDA and Chamber, we wish you a very Merry CHRISTmas and a very safe, happy and prosperous New Year!
My research came from Stories behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins. http://www.acecollins.com/books/traditions.html
The Twelve Days of Christmas
By Larkin Simpson
Christmas is my most favorite time of year. It is full of wonder, full of majesty, rejoicing, love, redemption and tradition. We have many traditions in our family that we partake in at Christmas time but I have started my own tradition just for me.
A few years ago (I don’t actually remember when), I received a book titled Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins. It is a great little book. It’s an easy read. It is full of history and legend and religion (all stuff I love).
Every year about Thanksgiving when we pull out our Christmas decorations I search for this book. For the whole month of December, and into January when we put our decorations up, this book finds a permanent home either on my bedside table or on the table next to my chair in the living room.
I recently read an excerpt that I would like to share with you to help us remember the importance of this season and what CHRISTmas truly is about for all of us. It is the true meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
“To many people, the lyrics of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” seem strange beyond belief. The odd carol’s words might make one think it is a novelty song, in the vein of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Though a host of modern internet sites and some magazine articles have tried to reduce “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to little more than a silly Christmas carol, in fact most scholars of the Catholic Church deem it a very important surviving example of a time when that denomination used codes to disguise their teachings…”
“By understanding why the clerics chose the twelve days as a wrapping for their poem, the full impact of the lost tradition of the twelve days of Christmas can be understood…”
“ Teaching the Catholic faith was outlawed in sixteenth century England. Those who instructed their children in Catholicism could be drawn and quartered. Thus, the church went underground. To hide the important and illegal elements of their teaching, clerics composed poems that seemed silly to most people. But these verses were veiled works that taught the church’s most important tenets...”
“Before translating the code locked inside this poem…, one needs to know the dates of the twelve days of Christmas and why they were important long before Britain outlawed all religions except the one endorsed by the king. Most people today believe that that twelve days of Christmas start on December 12th or 13th and run through Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But in fact, the first day of Christmas is December 25th and the final day is January 5th…”
“For Christians who lived during this extremely difficult age, the twelve days were a time of rededication and renewal. It was also a period when small, simple and usually symbolic gifts of faith were given to children. Thus, in both coded poems and public worship, the twelve days were considered a holy period...”
“In ancient times, when most societies were rural, few people worked in the dead of winter. It was a time when many were spending long, dark days inside their homes, looking forward to winter’s chill giving way to the spring thaw. So devoting a dozen days to prayer, reflection, and attending church was not a huge undertaking. Yet with the coming of the Industrial Age and the regular year-round work schedules it brought, finding time to continue the activities that had been traditionally associated with the twelve days of Christmas became all but impossible for most people. So the passing of the twelve-days custom probably had as much to do with ‘progress’ as with anything else…”
“As fewer and fewer churches and families participated in the tradition, it was all but lost. Yet in the obscure poem that was later turned into a popular carol, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ live on. And the twelve days described are actually a wonderful and complete picture of the Christian faith.”
“The ‘true love’ mentioned in the song is not a sweetheart but the Catholic Church’s code for God. The person who receives the gifts represents anyone who has accepted Christ as the Son of God and as Savior. And each of the gifts portrays an important facet of the story of true faith…”
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . a partridge in a pear tree. The partridge in a pear tree represents Jesus, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on the first day of Christmas. Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge, the only bird that will die to protect its young.”
“On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . two turtledoves. These twin birds represent the Old and New Testaments. So in this gift, the singer finds the complete story of Judeo-Christian faith and God’s plan for the world. The doves are the biblical roadmap that is available to everyone.”
“On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . three French hens. These birds represent faith, hope and love. This gift harkens back to 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter written by the apostle Paul.”
“On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . four calling birds. One of the easiest facets of the song’s code to figure out, these fowl are the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
“On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . five gold rings. The gift of the rings represents the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch.”
“On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . six geese a-laying. These lyrics can be traced back to the first story found in the Bible. Each egg is a day in creation, a time when the world was ‘hatched’ or formed by God.
“On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . seven swans a-swimming. It would take someone quite familiar with the Bible to identify this gift. Hidden in the code are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion. As swans are one of the most beautiful and graceful creatures on earth, they would seem to be a perfect symbol for the spiritual gifts.”
“On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . eight maids a-milking. As Christ came to save even the lowest of the low, this gift represents the ones who would receive his word and accept his grace. Being a milk maid was about the worst job one could have in England during this period; this code conveyed that Jesus cared as much about servants as he did those of royal blood. The eight who were blessed included the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
“On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . nine ladies dancing. These nine dancers were really the gifts know as the fruit of the Spirit. The fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
“On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . ten lords a-leaping. This is probably the easiest gift to understand. As lords were judges and in charge of the law, this code for the Ten Commandments was fairly straightforward to Catholics.”
“On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . eleven pipers piping. This is almost a trick question, as most think of the disciples in terms of a dozen. But when Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, there were only eleven men who carried out the gospel message.”
“On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . twelve drummers drumming. The final gift is tied directly to the Catholic Church. The drummers are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.”
A silly song? On the surface, perhaps, but in reality a refreshing reminder of the essential elements of the Christian faith.
Merry CHRISTmas everyone! I hope whatever your traditions are, they are full of faith, hope, love and that you are surrounded by more friends and family than you can count. This year has been great for Jones County and I know 2013 will be even more promising.
From all of us here at the EDA and Chamber, we wish you a very Merry CHRISTmas and a very safe, happy and prosperous New Year!
* This article was originally printed in the Sunday, December 2, 2012 issue of The Chronicle's "Planting Seeds" column.
Don’t Give Up the Ship!
by Larkin Simpson
"For in this modern world, the instruments of warfare are not solely for waging war. Far more importantly, they are the means for controlling peace. Naval officers must therefore understand not only how to fight a war, but how to use the tremendous power which they operate to sustain a world of liberty and justice, without unleashing the powerful instruments of destruction and chaos that they have at their command."
~ Admiral Arleigh Burke, CNO
As you well know I am a sucker for a good story. Somehow I garner inspiration from almost anywhere and I love to retell the stories I discover. The story I am about to share with you came from a simple internet ad. The charge was nothing but a simple image of a navel flag with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship” stitched in a crude font emblazoned on a sea of navy blue.
I did some very quick research and came upon the history of a thirty two year old United States Navy Captain, Captain James Lawrence who commanded the USS Chesapeake. A decorated Navy Captain who died in the heat of battle, who died some might urge as the victim of arrogance, but who lives on in history because of the dying charge he gave to his men; the men who took up his fight and carried on to victory.
Through the first year of the War of 1812, the infant United States Navy won a number of stunning victories in ship-to-ship engagements over Royal Navy vessels, including the capture of three British frigates (any warship built for speed and maneuverability with lighter armament, were square-rigged on all three masts, used for patrolling and escort). While this string of Yankee successes may not have surprised the American people, it startled, confounded, and angered the British nation which considered its sailors and warships more than a match for the upstart US fleet.
One American officer who contributed to these early triumphs over the Royal Navy was James Lawrence. On February 24, 1813, Lawrence commanded the USS Hornet in a successful battle that reduced the British Peacock to a sinking state in the space of fifteen minutes, killing and wounding more than a quarter of its crew. In recognition of this win, Lawrence was promoted to Captain and given command of the USS Chesapeake, berthed in Boston. Among the missions the Navy Department contemplated for the Chesapeake at this time was the seizure and destruction of British transports and supply ships en route from England to Canada.
When Lawrence arrived in Boston on May 20 to assume command of the Chesapeake he found his ship short of men and still in need of refitting for its intended voyage. He also discovered two British frigates cruising in the waters off Boston Harbor, awaiting the opportunity to intercept and capture any American vessel attempting to enter or depart from that port. By the 25th, only one British warship, the frigate Shannon, remained in view blockading the harbor.
Lured by the prospect of laurels in another single-ship combat with the enemy, and anxious to engage the Shannon before that ship was reinforced, Lawrence hastened to ready the Chesapeake for battle. Although the Chesapeake and the Shannon were nearly evenly matched in size and power, the Shannon held a decided advantage over its American counterpart in unit cohesiveness and training, especially gunnery. On June 1st when Lawrence sailed the Chesapeake out to meet the Shannon, he had directed his crew for less than two weeks, while the Shannon’s Captain, Philip Broke, had commanded his vessel for seven years.
This disparity in experience and service gave the well-trained Shannon the edge in the battle that ensued. After a hard-fought, bloody action lasting only a quarter of an hour, the American frigate struck her colors to the Shannon. The victory earned captain Broke a host of honors including a knighthood, while defeat gained Lawrence fame and honor as a fallen naval hero. The words of Lawrence’s last spoken command soon became a battle cry throughout the American fleet, most famously as the motto emblazoning Oliver Hazard Perry’s battle flag at the Battle of Lake Erie: “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
To memorialize the heroism and honor of his dead friend, Perry invoked the dying command of Captain Lawrence as his personal battle flag to commemorate his memory and rally his men. Perry earned the title "Hero of Lake Erie" for leading American forces in a decisive naval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal and the Thanks of Congress. His leadership materially aided the successful outcomes of all nine Lake Erie military campaign victories and the fleet victory was a turning point in the battle for the west in the War of 1812.
The point to the story is this, even if you make a mistake, jump the gun or fail in your mission; live your life at all times so that those around you will pick up where you falter and carry forward. Hopefully your mistakes won’t cost you your life, but perhaps your words and actions will inspire others to victory. We won’t always win every battle in life but hopefully we will make wise decisions and inspire others to win the war!
As we get ready to bring this year to a close and our eye is turned toward rest, family, and togetherness, I hope you are reminded of all of those around you who are impacted by your decisions. Your impact on their lives can be either positive or negative. I’m hoping you find your battle cry. I am hoping you are rallying your troops. I know that as we charge into a new year your leadership skills will empower others to follow in your footsteps and I know our community will be better because of it!
Merry CHRISTmas everyone and Never, Ever Give Up the Ship!
My research came from http://www.navalhistory.org and Wikipedia.
Seek First To Understand
By Larkin Simpson
“Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.”
Earlier this week I was graciously invited to attend lunch and present to the Ellisville Lions Club. I always enjoy getting out and meeting with our civic clubs and reminding them of all the wonderful things happening in our community. (Shameless plug, I'm available if you need someone to speak for your civic club.) I love to hear it when they say, "Wow! I had no idea we had that much going for us".
As I was preparing to give my usual updates of business openings, upcoming events and reports of how our leadership programs and other initiatives are doing, I ran across a leadership story that I had once read. It is a story I use sometimes with our leadership programs to help them remember it is better to take a moment and understand the whole situation before offering solutions; something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
(As I told the Lions, I hope you all can get the meaning of the message, but hope none of you can truly relate.)The story goes something like this:
One day a little old and very cute couple walked into the local fast food restaurant. The little old man went up to the counter and ordered their food. He brought back to the table a hamburger, a small amount of fries and a drink.
Carefully he sliced the hamburger in two and then neatly divided the fries into two small piles. He sipped the drink and then passed it to his wife. She took a sip and passed it back.
A younger man at a nearby table observed this couple and began to feel sorry for them. He offered to buy them another meal, but the old man respectfully declined saying that they were used to sharing everything.
The old man began to eat his food while his wife sat still, not eating. The young man continued to watch the old couple feeling there was something he should be doing to help. As the old man finished his half of the burger and fries, the old lady still had not started eating hers.
The young man couldn't take it anymore. He asked, "Ma'am, why aren't you eating?" The old lady looked up and politely said, pointing to the old man, "I'm waiting on the teeth."
I hope you're not waiting on your teeth! You might have the same initial reaction my wife did when I shared this story with her. She laughed and then with a disgusted look on her face said, "Eww, Gross!"
How many times are things not as they appear? Sometimes we are eager to help. We want to help people when they are hurting. We want to do good for others. Sometimes we have to understand what the whole situation is before we do anything. Sometimes, no matter how effective our solution, if the people we are helping don't have their teeth, our help is no good to them.
I urge you to help others. I encourage you, as we enter this time of Thanksgiving and season of joyful giving, that you reach out to those in need. Give and rejoice freely. Give with a generous heart, but realize that you must seek to understand other's situation before you can effectively help them change their situation.
However you give back this holiday season and into the New Year do so with understanding and love. If you do, I know our community will be better off because of it!
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving filled with friends, family and loved ones as you travel over the river and through the woods!
This story is from Mike Rogers at teamworkandleadership
* This article was originally printed in the Sunday, November 11, 2012 issue of The Chronicle's "Planting Seeds" column.
Choosing a Path
by Larkin Simpson
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
It’s dark at 5am. It’s even darker at 5am in November in the Mississippi Pine Belt. Surrounded by pine trees, the orange hazy glow of street lights play peek-a-boo between the pine needles as the chilly breeze whispers over the hills. Homes are dark. Their tenants and children clinging to sleep trying to liberate the last ounce of dream from their slumber before the day greets them.
I like to walk at 5am. It’s quiet. It’s serene. It’s peaceful. It’s just me and the deer and the road. There are no cars. There is an occasional opossum or barking dog. Those encounters are few and far between. Everyone and everything is hunkered down lost in sleep.
This time of year Summer refuses to release its choking grip on the South as the northern winds infiltrate the overnight hours bringing refreshing cooler air. As the seasons change we get more and more fog at 5am. The other morning as I was walking, I was quickly and without warning enveloped in a thick fog. The fog was so thick I could no longer see the orange glow of the street lights as I passed them.
My visibility was such that I could only see my feet touching the path I was on. I was operating more by touch and memory than by relying on my sight.I thought about stopping my workout, but I didn’t want to let the elements get the best of me. I didn’t want to have an excuse. I wanted to achieve what I had set out to do.
This got me thinking about how we live our lives and how we operate in business. It would have been very easy for me to call my workout off at that moment. I could have said it was too dangerous. The conditions were not right. The benefit did not outweigh the risk. I am sure I could have come up with many excuses (which might have been valid) of why I should not continue down the path toward the goal I had set.
I am sure many of you have been in a scenario similar in business. Things are bumping along like usual, the challenges aren’t difficult but they aren’t easy either.All of a sudden the game changes. You can’t see your way forward. Do you keep pressing on knowing the path is beneath your feet? Do you turn back to what is comfortable and safe?
I am glad I chose to move forward. It was difficult. It was a challenge. It was also a very peaceful and liberating experience. My reward was much greater than when I initially started my workout with full visibility.
I had to trust my instinct. I had to know my path. I had to rely on what I have done many times before to get me safely back home to accomplish my goal.
My path was set out before I took the first step. I knew where I was going before I left the house. I have followed my route many times before. I could most probably do it blindfolded.
What if I had chosen to take a different path that morning? What if I had decided to walk through the woods instead of along the road? Would I have made the same decision? I don’t know.
Do you follow a path that is well known and well-worn or do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Do you blaze your own path leaving it for others to follow in your footsteps?
As Robert Frost so eloquently stated in his poem The Road Not Taken, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/And sorry I could not travel both, And be one traveler”. Many times in our lives we will be faced with three options; follow the well-known path, create a new path, or doing nothing. Whichever you choose, doing nothing is usually never the best option. There are really only two choices: do something or do nothing.
Whichever path leads you on your journey to success, whether familiar and well-worn or a road less traveled, here’s to you finding your path, taking that first step, and never turning back. I know our community will be better off simply because you put one foot in front of the other.