Monday, September 10, 2018

Faces on Money--10 Leva


On the front of the ten Leva bill, we find a picture of Peter Beron.  Peter was a Bulgarian scientist, and from what I have read about him, he was brilliant.

He was born in (or around) 1799 in the town of Kotel, Bulgaria.

Peter studied in Germany and wrote volumes in German, French, English, and Greek.  For those of you keeping score at home, that means he knew at least 5 languages well enough to write scientific papers in them.  Beron obviously had a sharp mind.

His principle work was the seven volume Panepisteme.  This massive work of over 5000 pages was Beron’s attempt to create a universal scientific system that would clarify, without contradictions, everything from origin, nature, laws of movement, and the development of the micro and macro cosmos.

He wrote and delivered a paper in Greece titled “The reasons for and consequences of the world-wide flood.”  He also wrote papers on the earth’s magnetism.

Beron’s scientific knowledge appeared to be vast and widespread.  He also was heavily involved in the world of philosophy, and is considered one of the great Bulgarian minds on the subject.

He was one of the most important personalities of the Bulgarian enlightenment of the 19th century.

He died on the 21st of March 1871, yet Bulgarians remember him today and have given him a place of honor on the 10 Leva note.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Faces on Money--5 Leva

Ivan Milev pictured on the Bulgarian 5 Leva note


The Bulgarian 5 Leva note has a picture of Ivan Milev. He was born just before the turn of the 20th century in Kazanlak, Bulgaria in the Valley of the Roses.  He lived a short life even for the time.  He died 22 days before his 30th birthday.  Yet he was gifted artist, and his art is a significant part of Bulgarian culture today.

In researching this article, I looked at a several of his paintings.  They have a distinct Bulgarian feel to them.  They remind me of works of art I have seen in other parts of the country.



This picture in specific caught my attention.  In English its title is “Our Mothers are Always Dressed in Black.”  It was painted in 1926, and considering the times, it would not be surprising that many mothers would have been dressed in black.

Black is the traditional color of mourning.  It is a fading tradition, but you still see the occasional older widow walking around wearing all black.  It makes sense that in the 20’s there would have been a lot of mourning women.  This was shortly after World War I, which began not too far from here on the Balkan Peninsula.  There would have been many dead sons and fathers.  Thus, many mothers during Ivan’s time that would have worn nothing but black.  It is a picture of sorrow and loss that truly a picture that speaks 1000 words.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Faces on Money--2 Leva



Bulgarian 2 Leva bills (worth about $1.20 at today’s rate) are in the process of gradually being replaced by the 2 Leva coin, but both are still very common in Bulgaria.  Both contain a picture of Paisii Hilendarski.  Hilendarski was born in 1722, and is considered the father of the Bulgarian renaissance.

The Bulgarian 2 Leva coin

My western readers might be a bit confused at this point.  We think of the renaissance as occurring between the 14th and 17th centuries, so how could a Bulgarian from the 18th century not only be considered a renaissance area man, but the father of the renaissance?  To understand this we have to look farther back in Bulgarian history.

The Bulgarian 2 Leva Bill

In the 1300’s, when the renaissance was in its infancy in Western Europe, the Ottoman Empire began expanding from what is now modern day Turkey into Europe.  Bulgaria stood in its way.  Over the course of several decades Bulgaria was conquered and absorbed by the Ottomans.

As most of Europe emerged from the Middle Ages and grew in knowledge and culture, Bulgaria was enslaved.  They became servants of the Ottoman sultans.  Their dark ages were just beginning.

Fast-forward hundreds of years and Paisii Hilendarski came on the scene.  He spent much of his early adult life in the Hilendar Monastery.  Here he grew in education and in freedom of thought.

He traveled around Bulgaria seeking to raise funds for the monastery, and found that most of his fellow Bulgarians were living in desperate conditions and were apathetic toward their situation.  They had been beat down and come to accept their lives of servitude.  Paisii decided to reignite the Bulgarian spirit by writing a history book.  It took a long time for him to research Bulgarian history as the centuries of Ottoman rule had damaged or destroyed much historical evidence, but after years of toil he finally finished his work.  During his research he also found evidence and documentation about the life of Ivan of Rilla (see the previous post on the 1 Leva note to find out more about him).

His work awakened the Bulgarian spirit.  It would still be over 100 years before Bulgaria would regain freedom again, but the seed had been sown.  Knowledge and history served to stir up a national spirit that would eventually lead to freedom and the rise of the new Bulgarian nation.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Faces on Money--1 Lev


Almost anywhere you go in the world you will see somebody’s face on the money you use.  Usually it is the face of someone important.  The US notes have presidents (with the exception of the 10 and 100 denominations), and the British and Canadian notes have Elizabeth (as do several other countries of which she is queen).  Whoever the people are on the currency you use, they are usually significant and valued by the people of that nation in some way.  Thus, I thought it would be good to go through the people on the Bulgarian currency to tell you how they are important to the country.

I’ll start with 1 Lev.

The term “Lev” is Bulgarian for lion, so the Bulgarians technically buy and sell by trading lions.  The plural is “Leva,” so while it is good to have 1 Lev in your pocket, it is better to have lots of Leva.

The one Lev bank note is very rare.  Technically they are still legal tender, but in my 7 years of living in Bulgaria I have never seen one.  Today you are much more likely to see 1 Lev coins, which are worth about 60 US cents at todays exchange rate. Whichever on you have though, a 1 Lev coin or 1 Lev note will have on it a picture of Sveti Ivan Rilski or St. John of Rila in English.

The illusive 1 Lev banknote
The common 1 Lev coin


John of Rila was born in 876 in a village that is now part of modern day Sofia.  A story is told of him as a young orphan boy working as a cowherd carrying a calf across a river by walking on the water.  For most of his adult life he lived as a godly hermit.  People started coming to the cave he lived in to become monks.  Eventually they established a church and a monastery.  Today the Rila Monastery stands in his honor, and is one of the most beautiful and sought after tourist attractions in Bulgaria.

Rila Monastery on the side of Rila Mountain (August 2017)

Late in life he wrote A Testament to Disciples, which is considered one of the finest pieces of literature in Old Bulgarian.

He continued to work in ministry leading the monks until his death on August 18, 946.

Though gone for over a thousand years, Bulgaria remembers him and has given him a place of honor on the 1 Lev coin.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Correcting the Evils of History


This past week I had a conversation about history with some friends.  We often have the tendency to look at history in terms of black and white.  We see some people groups as evil and others as good.  Yet in my amateur study of history, it seems the situation is often not that complex.  It is not a matter of some people groups being mostly good and some being mostly evil.  It is a matter of all people being evil.

It is easy to look at the evils of our ancestors and feel bad about them.  It is even easier to look at the evils committed to our ancestors and feel like victims.  Yet all of our ancestors engaged in evil acts.  None of them were good.

A significant portion of my ancestry is from Scandinavia.  Today Scandinavians are largely thought of as a peaceful people.  Yet this was not always the case.  Scandinavians were once vicious Vikings that would travel around committing atrocities to others.  They were fierce courageous warriors, but they were also terrible evil people.

A 12th century painting of Danish Vikings invading England.


When I brought this point up in my conversation, I was asked, “What changed to cause Scandinavian culture to shift from such a violent culture to the peaceful one we see today?”

The simple answer is that Scandinavians became Christians.  Missionaries took the Gospel north, and the Vikings came to know Jesus.  The Gospel radically changed the culture in a positive way, and as a result the people of Northern Europe no longer fear invasions of large marauding Norsemen.

I want to make the world a better place, because I love people and I love the world.  Some have urged me that the way to change the world is through political activism.  Yet what government program has ever changed the hearts of men?

If the world is to be changed, our hard hearts must change first.  Only God can do that.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God."  (Ezekiel 36:26-28)


This is the solution.  Let Jesus change your hard hearts into hearts of flesh.  All of us are evil.  All of our ancestors were evil as well.  It was a heart issue for them and it is for you today as well.

“Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only Love can do that.”  -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“God is Love.” (I John 4:8)

Let future generations look back on us and say that we were a people changed by love.

Let our history be different.