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By rebeccapricejanney, Nov 15 2017 06:08PM

Have you ever gone to a book signing? If so, what author did you see? I recalled going to the King of Prussia Mall in the 90s where I stood in a vast line for a couple of hours to have Charlton Heston sign a copy of his book for me. That special moment took all of a minute, but his friendliness and personal inscription were worth the wait. Authors are happy when people come out to see them!

I’m not expecting lines to be snaking around the building, but this Saturday I’ll be doing a book signing at the CLC Bookcenter in Moorestown, New Jersey. I would love to see you if you’re in

By rebeccapricejanney, Nov 9 2017 06:01PM

Veterans Day is one of those holidays that seem to have been around practically forever, but its official observance is actually less than 100 years old.

On November 11, 1918 four horrific years that had plunged the entire world into conflict at last came to an end. Although the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, for most people the date of November 11, 1918 represented the end of the Great War.

To mark the first anniversary of the end of the war, President Woodrow Wilson created Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. Thirty states made this a holiday, and elsewhere in the world countries observed “Remembrance Day.” In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make the date a regular observance, to remember and to honor our nation’s veterans. Congress said the “recurring anniversary of (November 11, 1918) should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

Twelve years later, November 11th became a U.S. holiday, and on June 1, 1954 the name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. Veterans, not just though who had served in the First World War.

As we observe Veterans Day this year, please share stories of veterans from your family. Also, please let me know if you do anything specific to thank or serve these brave men and women.

As I’ve mentioned before, my maternal grandfather, Harry Kocher, served in the U.S. Army during WWI, and my father, several uncles, and aunt were in WWII and its aftermath. One cousin was in the Navy during the Vietnam War. My husband’s father and several uncles were in the armed services; one uncle died in the Sea of Japan during WWII. From the beginning of our nation’s history, my family has served in every war, and for that, I am truly grateful. God bless our veterans! God bless America.

By rebeccapricejanney, Nov 3 2017 12:09PM

Anyone who knows me understands how important family is to me, not just those of my current generation, but my ancestors as well. Ever since I discovered where I came from a few years ago, I’ve been so inspired I’ve had books published (Easton at the Forks, Easton in the Valley), and I do a fair amount of public speaking on the subject. This isn’t just a personal thing with me. I truly believe all of us should know something about our family histories.

Today I’m offering one good reason for doing so—the children we pass these stories down to become more resilient.

According to a recent study, one of the best things we can do for our families is to develop a strong narrative of our family.* Child psychologist Sara Duke, who works with learning disabled kids, agrees. “The (children) who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”

Duke conducted a study in which she asked children 20 questions, such as:

“Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?”

“Do you know how your parents met?”

“Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?”

She also ran a series of psychological tests. “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”

She’s discovered in times of national trauma, such as terrorist attacks, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

When we find out about grandparents who fought in wars or supported the cause on the home front, their patriotism, their self-sacrifice encourage us. I’m proud that my mother was a Rosie the Riveter during WWII, how she worked after school in dangerous conditions—there were no safety guards on the machine she used—because she couldn’t go to war like her big brother, but she wanted to support the war effort.

Similarly, when we discover how a relative overcame a debilitating illness, or lost everything in the stock market, we gain knowledge of how they survived and realize we can as well when our own hard times come.

My husband tells the story of his grandmother, who raised ten children in a two bedroom house in Pittsburgh during the Depression and World War II. Although they usually just had something simple to eat for supper, Grandma often sent a child to the neighbors’ to make sure they had food before her own family sat down to eat. From her example, Scott learned compassion, to put the needs of others ahead of his own, and to be grateful for his blessings.

What stories from your family history have strengthened you in times of trial?

* (Bruce Feiler, “The Stories That Bind Us,” The New York Times, March 15, 2013)

My Mother and Son Looking Over a Family Document at the Marx Room, EAPL
My Mother and Son Looking Over a Family Document at the Marx Room, EAPL

By rebeccapricejanney, Oct 26 2017 12:58PM

Last week I mentioned my family’s connection with Martin Luther, the great 16th century reformer. Today’s post is in honor of his posting of 95 Theses on the castle church’s door at Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, Who Goes There? A Cultural History of Heaven and Hell, regarding Luther’s vast influence over the western world.


The official beginning of the movement known as Protestantism came on October 31, 1517 when the German monk Martin Luther took his church to task on several points of faith. While there had been other expressions of protest against church corruption and calls for a return to a purer form of Christianity, Luther was “the first outstanding leader” of Protestantism. His major problem with the Roman Catholic Church centered around issues of heaven and hell.

Luther was born in 1483 and raised in the traditions of medieval Roman Catholicism. According to one scholar, “The young Martin grew up to fear God, to believe in the reality of heaven, hell, angels, saints, the Devil, and demons. He stood in terror of Christ as judge, but he also believed in the efficacy of the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the apostles, and the saints.” One day while Luther was studying law in 1505, a lightning bolt nearly struck him, bringing about a seminal change in his life.

He was so terrified of hell that Luther pledged himself to become a monk, thinking that would pacify God’s anger and lead to salvation. Choosing a religious order, the young man “mortified his body. He fasted, sometimes for days on end and without a morsel of food. He gave himself to prayers and vigils beyond those required by the rule of his order. He went to confession, often daily and for hours at a time.”

All of his intensity and service to God left him exhausted spiritually. Then one day he had a revelation prompted by Romans 1:17: “The righteous shall live by faith.” It dawned on him that good works do not earn God’s favor or get someone to heaven. Rather, they are products of a faith in God that alone wins His grace and secures salvation. That is why Luther became especially disturbed by a certain practice in the Roman Catholic Church.

Arising in the Middle Ages, indulgences were a way in which the faithful could get the pope to secure forgiveness for their sins, or the sins of others. It didn’t matter whether those sins were past, present, or future, or the other person being prayed for was dead. All this could be had for a price that had enriched pontiffs and their supporters. One Dominican monk “hawked” indulgences with the zeal of a medieval infomercial, claiming that as soon as the money fell into the coffers, a soul was released from purgatory (in Roman Catholic theology, a provisional place for the dead to be cleansed before entering heaven).

Luther was not pleased, especially considering his prior spiritual suffering over the state of his soul and the great revelation that had set him free. On October 31, 1517, he posted a list of 95 theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, a kind of university bulletin board in which academics invited debate about all sorts of subjects. Such postings were not uncommon; what resulted from this one, however, turned European Christianity upside down. Luther maintained that no pope had power to free anyone from purgatory and that claiming to do so gave people a false sense of security about eternity, as well as the wrong theology about heaven and hell.

Aided by the printing press, various movements within the “Reformation” spread throughout Europe. The key component in them all was the concept of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Those refusing belief in Christ, or trying to attain salvation in some other way, were hell-bound by their own choice.

(Excerpted from Who Goes There? A Cultural History of Heaven and Hell, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009, pp. 27-29)

All Saints Church (Schlosskirche), Wittenberg(Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)
All Saints Church (Schlosskirche), Wittenberg(Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

By rebeccapricejanney, Oct 19 2017 05:18PM

A few months ago I discovered an interesting app related to my account with “We’re Related” tells subscribers whether or not they’re connected to famous people or folks who’ve friended them on Facebook. Since I was bitten by the genealogy bug nearly six years ago, I jump at opportunities to discover more about my family’s story, and this seemed like a wonderful way to find out more. I’ve not only found out the names of ancestors I’d never heard of, but been able to push back the information I have about my family to early Medieval Europe.

I’ve known for several years that some of my ancestors were connected to the 16th century Swiss Reformation, although I haven’t yet found out specifics. Ulrich Zwingli is one of my favorite figures from that place and time, and I’d love to find out I’m related to him. However, I didn’t have any idea my maternal grandmother’s line went straight back to Martin Luther himself! My jaw dropped when his portrait popped up on my screen with the information we’re first cousins, twelve generations removed. No wonder my own theology is heavily Reformed in its orientation! I come by this honestly.

In college I read a few books about Martin Luther and was fascinated by his story, his faith journey in particular. In commemoration of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 2017, I’ll be blogging about Luther and his influence, not only on Western European history, but the American story.

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