Dead Sea Scrolls – the Exhibit

A few weeks ago we spent the afternoon visiting the Cincinnati Museum Center and immersed ourselves in thoughts of the past sparked by the pots, coins, weapons, jewelry and writings from the beginnings of Western civilization. The Israel Antiquities Authority has made a sample of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other historical objects from the “the Holy Land” available for public viewing. Below I try to bring you an abbreviated history of the time period involved along. I hope you’ll bear with me. One thing I became painfully aware of while touring this exhibit was how little I know of world history generally and Middle East history specifically. Something I hope to remedy.

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The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Union Terminal Museum Center in Cincinnati, OH. January 2013

You might know the story. In 1947 a young Bedouin shepherd finds a cave in a crevice of the limestone cliffs lining the rim of the Dead Sea near the site of Qumran, east of the city of Jerusalem. The shepherd tosses a rock into the cave and hears pottery breaking. He investigates further and finds a collection of large clay jars that contain old scrolls. He has no idea of the historic and religious treasure he has discovered.

A clay jar found containing scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are  the collection of ancient religious writings, documents and letters, found in eleven caves near the site of Qumran. Some scrolls were found intact, but many were in fragments of parchment and papyrus.

The biblical manuscripts contain “books found in today’s Hebrew bible.” The non-biblical texts written during the Second Temple era are related to the texts in the Hebrew Bible. Some describe religious beliefs and practices of a specific religious community. (Exhibit signage)

Scales and weights – A barter system was used in biblical times. Towards the end of the Iron Age, scales, weights, and silver pieces appeared indicating a move to using silver in exchange for goods. Stone weights were used to determine the weight of silver ingots before coins were minted.

Jerusalem, sitting high in the Judan hills and roughly at the center of ancient Israel, was inhabited as early as the 4th millenium BCE. “King David chose the city for his capital, probably because the territory did not belong to any of the tribes, but also because its location on a hill meant it would be difficult to attack. […]”  (Exhibit signage)

Goddesses – Some 2000 goddesses were found in homes in Judah. They likely represent the Canaanite goddess Asherah or her Greek counterpart Astarte.
Evidence indicates that many ancient Israelites believed Asherah was consort to the god of Israel.

“The exact site of David’s Jerusalem remains hotly debated. Under King Solomon a permanent home—the First Temple—was built for the Ark of the Covenant atop Mount Moriah, and the fate of the city as the dwelling place of the Isralite’s god was sealed.” (Exhibit signage)


The First Temple (960 – 586 BCE) period began during the Iron Age while the kingdoms of Judah and Northern Israel were still divided. The first Isralite Kingdom was united under David and Solomon.

The biblical texts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have been composed during this time.

Jars from the end of the 8th century are common finds throughout the kingdom of Judah. Many are royal storage jars and may have been used to collect grain or other goods for royal taxes. They have a stamp on one or more handles designating they  belong to the king. The jars are associated with Judan King Hezekiah’s military administration.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written between the 2nd Century BCE and 2nd Century CE, during a time when different Judean groups struggled to obtain and maintain political and religious leadership.

Iron arrowheads

The Judean Kingdom came to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of citizens to Babylon in 586 BCE. The temple was utterly destroyed. “With neither Temple or homeland the exiles began to place their sacred writings at the center of their faith.” (Exhibit signage)

Small household items provide clues to the family’s activities

The Second Temple was built after 539 BCE when the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem. The Persians maintained control of the area until 332 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered Judea. This began the Hellenistic era. Most of the non-biblical texts of the Deep Sea Scrolls from Qumran date to this period.

Roman coins

Enter Rome.

Judea lost its independence to the Romans the first century BCE. After an unsuccessful Jewish revolt, Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE and much of the population was killed or enslaved. After the second revolt failed between 132 and 135 CE, the Roman emporer renamed the region Syria Palestina. He renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and forbade Jews to enter.

Many of the ceramic jars have pointed bottom. It is believed they were held in holes in the ground.

The  Post Second Temple time period included Roman rule from 73 – 324 CE, followed by the Byzantine from 324 – 638 CE. Palestine came under Islamic rule with the conquest of Jerusalem in 638 CE. Judea was incorporated into the Islamic Empire from  the 7th – 11th centuries, known as the Early Islamic era.


Then the Christians came.

Broken limestone bread stamp –  Bread intended for consecration and communion within the Christian traditions was stamped. This fragment of a bread stamp contains a Greek inscription circling sixteen squares. The center four squares contain a Christogram (abbreviation for the name of Jesus). The other 12 squares represent the twelve apostles.

Christian Crusaders from Europe were the dominant power in “the Holy Land” from the 12th – 13th centuries.

A ceremonial bath

At this point in the exhibit, we were ready to enter the room that housed the Dead Sea Scrolls, and photographs were prohibited. The scrolls were displayed in glass cases in a large ring in the middle of the room that visitors could walk around. Although translations and explanations were displayed beside each fragment of the scrolls, I could only imagine how thrilling it would have been to actually be able to read the writings. You can view images of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.

The other thing that struck me as I moved slowly around the ring, looking at these writings that were done so many years ago, was the realization that in a time period where communication of the written word was painstakingly done by scribes with ink and parchment and hand-delivered by walking or perhaps riding an animal of one sort or the other, these biblical stories were preserved, transferred, dispersed geographically, and carried on through the ages. It causes one to wonder.


The  Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times will be on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center through April 14. The first set of ten scrolls, including Genesis; Numbers; Samuel and Psalms among others, were on display until Jan. 28. They were rotated out and a brand new set will be on display until the exhibit’s last day on April 14.

“Because of the fragility of the scrolls, they may only be on display for three months at a time before they must “rest” in complete darkness for one year. The new rotation includes scrolls of Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah Commentary, Book of War, Aramaic Levi, Pseudo-Ezekiel, Apocryphal Lamentations, Papyrus Bar, Community Rule and Leviticus/Numbers.

“Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times is created by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) from the collections of the Israel National Treasures and produced by Discovery Times Square and The Franklin Institute. Local community partners include Presenting Sponsor: The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and Associate Sponsors: the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Diocese of Southern Ohio, SC Ministry Foundation, Office of the Provost, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University, among others. Special Exhibit Partner: Hebrew Union College.”  (Cincinnati Museum Center).

Sources of Information:

Signage at the exhibit: The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times, by the Israel Antiquities Authority, Viewed at the Cincinnati Museum Center, January 2013

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Libary 

The Cincinnati Museum Center

Waiting for miracles

I debated whether or not to post this. It came to me like a flash a few days ago. That often means there’s a revelation or message for me in it. I realize now that this is more about Annie miracles than book miracles. It’s a journey I’m on. Growing up with Annie had a profound effect on me; I’ve never denied it. As I mention in Dancing in Heaven, a lot of things got buried out of various needs: not to be a problem for my parents, not to feel guilty about my abilities—there’s probably a whole laundry list of things that happen in a child with a disabled sibling.

I debated because I don’t want everyone to think I’ve given up on Dancing in Heaven. I feel more at peace with its publication than ever. I hang on to the words of one of my faithful readers, William, who commented, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I think I’m off the starting blocks and well into the race. I’ve worked out the early kinks and pains, and am settling into a comfort zone in this particular marathon. I intend to continue to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. And I’ve got an idea or two that I hope to try. I’m just going to enjoy the view as I run, or in my particular case, walk.

(You might enjoy these humorous posts from William at Speak of the Devil: for dog-lovers—A day in the life of a dog, and for those who prefer feline friends—A day in the life of a cat. I promise you will at least smile and likely laugh. I did.)


I join the ranks of all the other writers I’ve read about who want to write, want to publish, but do not want to do the work necessary to promote their books.

Maybe it’s Annie’s story. Maybe it’s because it’s history, and family, and love. Maybe it’s because we always treated her gently and held her close. Even though talking about Annie’s story with others is rewarding, sending out press releases, holding book launch parties, and drumming up business at bookstores has never felt right.

Maybe if I wrote fiction, a fantasy or suspense. . .maybe then I would feel justified in beating the bushes and announcing to the world at every opportunity that I had a book to sell. Maybe I could approach it in the more professional manner I am continually encouraged to do in publishing-and-promotion-self-help posts and articles I read.

Maybe deep back in the dark recesses of my mind I always thought a miracle might happen for Annie’s story. Just like I grew up hoping for a miracle to happen for Annie. But miracles for Annie didn’t happen then. Why should the miracle of her story happen now?

Books from unknown authors, particularly self-published authors, don’t sell without people knowing about them. Promotion is required.

I see now that I may not be able to adequately promote that which is closest to my heart.

So I’ll wait for a miracle. That’s nothing new. I’m used to waiting for miracles.

R.I.P. Annie.

Elizabeth Bookser Barkley’s Power of the Pen

I read her name before I spoke with her. I talked to her over the phone before I met her. When I finally did meet her, I had no idea that such a huge influence on my career as a writer would come from such a tiny, yet feisty, well-loved woman.

When I decided to go back to college for an English degree, I found Elizabeth Bookser Barkley’s name in the College of Mount St. Joseph promotional materials. I was tentative about going back to school. I had quit my career as a chemical engineer (1979 degree from the University of Dayton), after working for Procter and Gamble a mere 3-1/2 years, to become a full-time stay-at-home mom. I really didn’t know if I had it in me to tackle college work again with other students less than half my age.

Photo from story

I found the courage to call Elizabeth Bookser Barkley and she steered me to the right course with which to begin. She continued to subtly steer me, something she excels at, through the remaining years I spent at the Mount working on my degree. I took five courses with her as the professor; when a position opened as a Writing Center Consultant, she recommended me; when she needed an editor for the school’s newspaper that she monitored, she asked me to do it.

Both of my stories that were published in the national magazine, St. Anthony Messenger, (The Joys and Challenges of Life with Annie – October 2008, and Sister Mary Beth Peters: A Heart for the Poor – April 2008) came from one of her classes.

Elizabeth Bookser Barkley, known as Buffy by her students and colleagues, is a professor and chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, Ohio. She is also a freelance writer who contributes to a variety of Catholic publications. You can do a simple google search of her name and find multiple articles and books written by Elizabeth Bookser Barkley.

The article I’d like to draw your attention to is one that was published yesterday (January 4, 2012) in the Cincinnati Enquirer and is now available online entitled, “The power of the pen.” I hope you take a minute to read it. I think it will make you smile.

Advent – Getting back to the garden

When our children were young, a friend gave me a pattern for a felt nativity. It functioned as an Advent calendar with instructions for a daily family devotion or activity . Each day I would read a short message and someone would hang a sheep, or a star, or an angel on the large dark blue felt square hanging on our refrigerator door. The small felt pieces naturally clung to the felt background. It was such a simple little thing, but the kids loved it. They used to clamor for a specific piece that they wanted to hang. We counted the days until Christmas this way.

As the children grew older and were no longer interested in felt nativities, I started a little Advent devotion of my own. I bought several books and every morning I turn on my iTunes playlist filled with Celtic Christmas music, mostly instrumental, and I sit in my comfortable though worn leather rocker-recliner and read daily meditations from my Advent books.

This year I’m reading Advent Christmas 2000 (Year C) by Mark Link, S.J., Trim Your Lamps Daily – Advent Meditations by Fr. M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O, Let it Be – Advent and Christmas Meditations for Women edited by Therese Johnson Borchard, and Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems.

I used to sing in the choir. We raised our children with a Catholic education and as a family we attended Mass every Sunday. We were actively involved in church and the associated school’s activities. We enjoyed friends in this faith community and it filled a place in our lives.

A lot has happened over the years. Our children grew up and left along with their activities that drew us into a faith community. The church’s priest scandal came to light and I found it difficult to forgive the decisions made by the church hierarchy. The Catholic church continued, and even strengthened, its position about the role of women. I looked around and thought, Can I really be an active member of an organization that would never allow me to be in a leadership role merely because of my gender?

When we moved out of the community right after Christmas in 2009, to get closer to my parents’ house, Mark and I sought and found a church we felt comfortable in. But without the children to pull us into activities, and with my continued issues with the structure and doctrine, in some cases, of the Catholic church and of organized religion in general, we have not been participating in church activities.

But I have not lost my faith in a higher order, in a creator, in the way to live, in God.

When I sit in my chair with the Celtic music playing softly and I read these Advent books, I feel a soft warmth flow over me and a very large hole inside me beginning to fill. And I know I am finding my way back home.

“We are stardust, we are golden—and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Joni Mitchell quoted in Advent Christmas 2000 by Mark Link

Resolving a quandary – one communication success story with Alzheimer’s

One of Dad’s first symptoms of Alzheimer’s was his inability to keep track of the days of the week.

Over two years ago, in July of 2009, I was driving to Dayton to visit my parents and I called to let them know I was on my way. Dad answered the phone.

“Are you going to go exercise today?” I asked him. Since he had been under the care of a cardiologist, he regularly went over to the monitored exercise facility at a nearby hospital.

“I don’t go on Sundays,” he said.

“It’s Wednesday,” I told him.

“Well, I’m not going anyway.”

I don’t know why my dad always thought it was Sunday. Maybe it was because he was raised by an extremely religious mother, and was a devout Catholic himself. The faith, the sacraments, attending Mass on Sunday morning, all those things were important to him.

This past Saturday Mark and I took dinner up to Mom and Dad to share with them. We were sitting around the kitchen table eating when Dad started making a motion with his hand over the wheel of his chair. I knew he wanted something but I didn’t know what. Mom and I both tried to ask him specific questions, but were unable to get to the bottom of it.

“Say what you what,” Mom said. “Maybe we should get the whiteboard out for him.”

“Maybe he needs a hankie,” Mom said noticing that his nose had started to run. I got one for him and that seemed to solve the problem. I also got the whiteboard and placed it on the table beside him.

Our conversation drifted to my memoir about Annie. I try not to bring Annie’s name up too much around Dad because it always makes him cry. But I had talked about the book at a nearby college class earlier in the day and I wanted to tell Mom about it.

Dad reached for the whiteboard and marker and started to write. “I” he wrote clearly. And then he wrote what looked like an “a” followed by what might have been multiple “m’s.” He was writing in cursive with small letters and a thick pen that all ran together. He also was not spacing the letters well and they were on top of each other. I had to watch the movement of his hand and try to guess the letter he was making.

“I am?” I asked.

He nodded. Then he continued to write what I was eventually able to decipher, with some effort, “in a. . .”

I had absolutely no clue what he wrote next. I guessed. Mom guessed. “You are in a what?” Mom asked. I asked Dad to print the letters really big. He wouldn’t. I started getting a sick, panicky feeling in my gut. What if I can’t figure out what he is trying to say? I thought. He was trying to communicate and I wasn’t able to understand. I got more desperate and tried to tease it out of him.

“Why don’t you say the word,” I suggested, “and I will spell it for you.” I think he got the joke, by the way he darted a look at me. My dad was always a big tease, and he could take what he could dish out.

All of a sudden, out of Dad’s mouth the word “quandary” came, clear as day. Jaw-dropping amazing. How did he manage to enunciate that word when he rarely speaks at all?

Uh oh, I thought. This was not going to be a simple “Pass the lima beans,” request.

“What are you in a quandary about?” I asked. Now I was really worried. Dad was upset, confused, or concerned about something and I might not be able to figure it out. We were talking about Annie, so I thought that it had something to do with her. “Write it down, Dad.”

“My daughter,” he wrote. “Which daughter?” I asked. “Are you in a quandary about Annie?” He nodded. Then I started to sweat. We had been at this for what seemed like an hour, although I suspect it was only several minutes. I started making guesses. I was afraid he didn’t remember that Annie had died.

“Are you wondering where Annie is?” He shook his head. “You remember that she died, and she’s gone now?” He nodded and began to cry. “What is it that you’re worried about?” Then I added, “You don’t have to worry about her now. She’s happy. She’s in heaven.”

He went back to the whiteboard and wrote something that looked like “Did a prt” and I eventually deciphered as “Did a priest,”

“Are you worried that she didn’t receive her Last Rites?” I asked. He nodded. The weight of the world dropped off my shoulders.

“She did, Dad. I was there. Mom and I both were there. Father Meyer came to the hospital early one morning and celebrated the Anointing of the Sick with us for Annie.”

“I told you about it, Jerry,” Mom said. “I hope you remember this time.”

Pulling threads of intelligible communication out of the Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles of Dad’s once-sharp brain was like wringing a drop of water out of a stone-dry sponge. But we got there. Thankfully, we did.

The Harvest Moon and Memories of a Young Mother

In 1996, my youngest son Mark Joseph (Joe) was in kindergarten. I spent many hours volunteering at the two schools my four children attended. One of my volunteer activities was to help serve pizza at lunch one Friday a month at Joe’s school. Pizza day was where I began to cement my friendship with Jan and where I met her sister-in-law, Joanne. Both Jan and Joanne had sons in the same class as Joe. Joanne also had a son in the fourth grade and a daughter in first.

The day I met Joanne, she was excited about having ordered new furniture and a carpet for her living room. Then she found a lump in her abdomen, followed by a positive biopsy. We were serving pizza together again right before her scheduled surgery to remove the cancer. I asked her about her living room furniture. It had been scheduled to be delivered the day she got her biopsy back. She cancelled the delivery. Her husband called them back and had them deliver it.

In the early hours of the morning last night, a rash I acquired in Hilton Head (likely due to the heavy duty sunscreen I was generously applying to every exposed square inch of my body) was itching and keeping me awake. I got up to get some antihistamine from the kitchen. As I walked through hall beside our great room, the upper windows glowed from a soft light in the night sky. In the kitchen, a rectangle of light coming from the outside glass door, stretched across the floor. It beckoned me to come and see. The moon was full and bright in the sky illuminating my yard, and a rectangular patch of my kitchen floor.

That’s a harvest moon, I thought. And memories of that September in 1996 came flooding back, along with my friend Jan’s words, “I’ll always remember Joanne when there’s a harvest moon.”

Here are two journal entries I wrote in the spring of 1996, when Joanne was first diagnosed with the liver cancer. She died in the fall. When my friend Jan left the hospital after her death, she saw the harvest moon in the sky.

May 2, 1996

You’ve heard the forecast.
The storm is coming.
And although you don’t want to believe,
You do.
And you’re afraid.

Sometimes the fear is worse than the storm.
Sometimes not.

So you prepare yourself as best you can.
But you know your power is not equal.
And you know you can’t stop the winds and rain.
And you know there is no place you can run
and hide.

But do you know that the storm will pass,
after the uprooted trees and broken windows?
Do you know the ever-faithful sun will dry the land?
And the determined flowers will push their heads up
through the devastated soil, once again.


May 28, 1996

I know a woman who is dying.
It’s so sad.
It’s so unfair.
The only thing we can do is try to make the remaining days as good as possible.
She will be treated with only kindness and gentleness.
Everyone will forgive her trespasses
as she forgives those who have trespassed against her.
For her days are numbered. And she is dying.

Will she hear the birds more clearly?
See the flowers more brilliantly?
Watch her children with loving adoration?
How will she spend her days?

All the women I know are dying.
How will they spend their days?


“The Harvest Moon is the full Moon nearest the autumnal equinox and is bright enough to allow finishing all the harvest chores.”
2011 Fall equinox will be September 23rd. The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The path with the light

I used to sing in the choir. Every Wednesday night at practice, every Sunday at Mass, and twice on Christmas Eve. My kids all attended the parochial school and we had a nice supportive community there at Our Lady of Lourdes parish.

It was during these years that I met Father Chris who was assigned to our parish early in his priesthood.

Two of my friends, and mothers of my son’s classmates, were fighting cancer at the time. I decided to start a Rosary prayer group for them with mothers who had kids in school. We met a half hour before school let out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, or maybe it was Friday. The group quickly evolved into a meditative prayer group when one of the participants asked Father Chris to join us. He taught us meditative prayer. It is one of the best things I ever learned.

I only tell you this because after my A Matter of Faith post, some of you may question my faith and convictions.

I remember these years at Our Lady of Lourdes as being among my most contented. My family was intact and at home. Nobody was seriously ill. Everyone was still alive. In some ways, I suppose, it was easy to be filled with peace and grace.

Eventually the prayer group dissolved as the kids moved on to high school and individuals went their own way. Father Chris was assigned to a new parish, (and eventually landed at the parish my in-laws belonged to while my father-in-law was still alive, and where my mother-in-law still belongs.)  I became disenchanted and largely disillusioned with the Catholic Church after the priest scandal and the church’s continued hard-line position about women’s roles.

I stopped singing in the choir. I eventually stopped going to the church except for rare occasions.

Yesterday my husband Mark wanted to go to church with his mother. I fully supported this and went along. Coincidentally, Father Chris was the celebrant. And because I equate him with a faith-filled, satisfying time of my life, and because I consider him a dear friend for the many things that we shared while he was at Our Lady of Lourdes, my heart immediately softened.

I feel like I am in a semi-permanent state of mourning with my Dad. I try to put my feelings about him aside and keep my emotions in check. I can’t live my life walking around carrying a bucket to catch all the tears. But seeing Father Chris softened my heart, and I sat down in church and proceeded to cry non-stop for the first five minutes, and then again at every song. Fortunately for me, and for everyone sitting within close proximity, there were only four songs.

I think I had an epiphany.

A thought came into my mind. When you are in the dark, find the light.

And very clearly I heard instructions coming from inside my mind, or outside of me in the church, or maybe from the universe at large.

“Get yourself on the path where there’s light.”

Sometimes it’s almost scary.