Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

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(Based on my reading of The Queen You Though You Knew by Rabbi David Fohrman)

The book of Esther not only forwards the role of Esther as a queen, but also shows us a view of how the Jews view marriage at this time.
Mordecai comes to Esther to ask her to speak to the king. He tells her that if she keeps silent at this time salvation will come to the Jews from somewhere else, but she and her father’s house will be destroyed. (Esther 4:14)

What does Mordecai mean by this?

The first clue is that Mordecai uses a phrase from Numbers 4:14 hacharesh tacharishi. These are both words that mean to be silent. They are found in the verse in Numbers where it explains that a Jewish husband may annul his wife’s vow, if he does so on the same day he hears of it. But Esther is not a husband, but a wife. By using this term Mordecai shows that the Jewish people understood this command to work in reciprocity, where the wife could also dissuade her husband of something foolish, if she did so immediately. If she did not, she was tacitly agreeing to the commitment. This notion is further affirmed in the naming of the feast ‘Purim.’ The name Purim is the plural for pur, and means lots. Scripture tells us that the day is named thus because Haman used lots to decide the date that the Jews were to be killed. But scripture also tell us that the name also refers to the actions Esther took to save the Jews. We see the same double entendre in the naming of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, or Yom Kippurim (plural). Kip means like and Pur means to annul. Esther’s actions annulled her husband’s vow. (Yom Kippur is also the day the scapegoat is chosen by lot to be cast out for the sins of the people.)

So why would Esther’s father’s line be destroyed?

Esther is being given a choice. She is the only remaining person from her father’s household. She can either have a Persian marriage, where the woman has no value, or she can follow God and have a Jewish marriage, where the woman interacts with and advises her husband. If she chooses a Persian marriage, her children will be raised with Persian values and her father’s line will no longer be Jewish. This also shows us that while many of the laws regarding lineage follow the path of the male, the female is also important and considered part of the father’s legacy. Further, we see numerous examples in the Old Testament showing that having a Jewish wife determines whether, or not, your children will be godly. (Read the lists of the kings of Judah and see the pattern.) Today the Jewish line is followed through the mother, not the father, indicating that the mother plays a vital role in the beliefs of the child.

Further, the book of Esther shows that by remaining silent you are tacitly condoning, or allowing evil to occur and are as guilty as if you did the task yourself. This is a theme throughout scripture. We see it in the warnings of the prophets, as well as in Paul claiming to be a murderer of Christians when he held the coats of those who threw the stones. By allowing evil to go unchecked, when we could have stopped it (especially if, like Paul, we egged it on) we are just as guilty as those who did the deed.



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(Based on my reading of The Queen You Though You Knew by Rabbi David Fohrman)

Esther arrives at the King’s chamber. He as locked himself away from his people and seemingly needs a break from the stress of ruling. He is pleased she has come. Likely he believes it is a sign that she cares for him and is risking her life to comfort him. This is not a time to dissuade him of this idea, so she invites him to a feast with only her and one other guy in attendance. A private dinner with your wife makes sense, but the king has to be thinking ‘Why is this other man being invited as well? What is my queen trying to tell me?’ Haman has no such thoughts and believes this is a sign he is highly favored. The invitation merely boosts his ego.
At the end of the dinner, Esther has still not revealed what is on her mind. Instead, she asks the king, and Haman, to another banquet. In the first request she tells the king the banquet is for ‘him,’ but which ‘him’ it is for is a little ambiguous. In the second request, Esther states that the banquet is for ‘them.’ This has to confuse the king, and may be why he cannot sleep that night. In ancient Jewish writings (before the Middle Ages) Rashi (a famous Jewish Rabbi) suggests that the king believes Esther is insinuating that something untoward has been happening between her and Haman. This makes sense. After all, at this time in history the queen has very little power so what else could she have to say to the king that she is so afraid of saying that it takes three audiences with the king to get her courage up? All he knows is that whatever she wants to tell him, it has to do with Haman.
This brings us to the fact the Esther has never told the king that she is Jewish. He must have asked; what husband would not want to know, especially if he was a king trying to unite a kingdom? The only logical reply Esther could have given was that she was Persian and that nothing else matters, which would have pleased the king immensely. Now Esther must reveal that she really does have some loyalty to one of the nationalities that reside in his kingdom, which may alter the king’s view of her, especially since the Jews have been accused of trying to overthrow the kingdom.
The king cannot sleep. He is likely thinking about why the queen would throw two banquets for him and another man. Haman on the other hand has passed Mordecai on his way home and is now really mad since, as usual, Mordecai did not given him the respect he believes he deserves. (There is a lesson here about not letting on person’s opinion ruin your whole day…) Haman’s wife advises Haman to just have Mordecai killed, since, after all, Haman is in charge. She also tells him to talk to the king about it in the morning. Haman however does not wait. He goes to the palace at night, after the king should be asleep. As luck would have it, the king is not asleep and asked Haman what he would do to honor someone who has pleased the king. As you well know Haman thinks the honor is for him and is crestfallen when he finds out he is to honor Mordecai for saving the king’s life. His disappointment was likely evident. At this point the king must have been thinking, ‘This man thought he would ride my horse and wear my clothes in front of all my subjects? And he has something to do with my wife?’ He must also be wondering what Haman is doing back at the palace at this time of night after he had clearly left for home hours ago. Doubts are increasing as to Haman’s motives….
The queen then reveals that Haman wishes to kill her and her people, and has tricked the king into signing a decree to make it legal. The king steps out to think and walks in the garden. Why would Haman wish to kill his queen unless he made advances that the queen spurned in an attempt to take the kingdom? (At this time, one of the ways to usurp power was to sleep with a king’s women, showing that the king was not powerful enough to protect them from others.) The king returns and Haman is on the queen’s couch (which can be translated as bed) with her begging for his life. This looks bad and confirms the king’s fears. The king asks the eunuch (the man charged with guarding Esther) what to do. The eunuch, likely a friend of Esther’s by this point, points out the Haman has built gallows to hang Mordecai, the man who saved the king’s life. This is the final straw, and it looks very much like Haman is upset that Mordecai foiled the plot on the king’s life. Haman has signed his death certificate.
Mordecai is made second in command, after all he has proved his loyalty, as has Esther by seemingly not going along with Haman to overthrow the king, and Mordecai has been given all of Haman’s belongings, a sizable amount of wealth. But the decree still stands. Esther must again approach the king, who tells her that she and Mordecai have the power to do what they think best. This is a huge promotion for Esther, and should be noted in any discussion regarding how God views women. In this kingdom, as seen by Vashti’s inability to refuse a request, the notion that a wife must obey her husband at all times, the beauty pageant where the king takes all the beautiful women for himself without causing civil war and the fear Esther, the king’s wife, has in approaching her husband without being sent for, show how little value women have. Now the king is giving his queen the power to make laws with his advisor. This is a huge leap forward. (We will also see in Nehemiah the queen mother being consulted, showing that the position of women in the kingdom as people valued for their wisdom has remained. And some believe that the queen mother in Nehemiah is actually Esther in her old age….)
So, not being able to revoke Haman’s order to kill the Jews, Mordecai and Esther devise a new order allowing the Jewish people to defend themselves and keep the spoils. This is a test devised to show that the Jewish citizens are loyal. This is now the perfect time for the Jews to rise up and take control, or at least increase their control, of the kingdom. But Mordecai knows a few things about the Jewish people that the rest of Persia does not. First, the Jewish people at this time believe the teachings in scripture about not taking the plunder are there to teach them that war is not about personal gain. Further, their land is Israel, not Persia, and that is the only land they are to have according to scripture. Lastly, their prophets have told them to work for the good of this kingdom while they are there. Mordecai is confident that his people will show their loyalty and that this will go well for them.
Mordecai then throws a parade to celebrate the decree before the date the decree goes into effect. This tells the other leaders in the kingdom that he is in charge, has the king’s backing and has confidence in the results. The leaders have two decrees: Haman’s which says that they may kill all the Jews and take their possessions, and Mordecai’s, which says that the Jews may kill those who come against them and take their possessions. Which one will they back? Since Haman is dead and Mordecai has the power, it is really not a question. When the day comes, only those who really hate the Jews come against them and are defeated. Esther asks the king for a second day for the Jews to finish conquering those who came against them, and it is granted, keeping the Jews who did not finish defeating their enemies in one day safe from repercussions and showing the nation that the king currently sides with the Jewish people, which impression one did not get from Haman’s decree. The Jews also do not take the plunder, showing that this was merely an act of self defense and not for personal gain, further proving themselves to be loyal. Esther also has Haman’s sons hung from the gallows. They are already dead. This is a further statement regarding how the king now views anyone who is against the Jews, as hanging is an insult.
Esther and Mordecai proclaim a yearly holiday and call it Purim (lots). This is Biblical sarcasm. There are a lot of seeming coincidences in the book of Esther, but the Jewish people do not believe in luck, but that God controls everything.


A quick guide to celebrating Esther’s feast for Christians.

The holiday of Purim was established in the book of Esther by Esther and Mordecai. It is fun to celebrate with children, and a great way to teach them their Bible.

1. Traditionally the book of Esther is read on Purim. If you have young children with short attention spans, you may read a children’s version.
The children are given noise makers. During the reading they are instructed to make noise whenever Haman’s name is to be read, so loud that his name is not heard, and thus not honored.
2. The children dress up. They may dress as Esther (a queen), the King, Mordecai (a Jew) or Haman (an evil man). (The adults may dress up too.)
3. As a Jew, Mordecai would have worn a prayer shawl. Learning to tie the fringes of the shawl, the tzitzit, as instructed in scripture can be a fun family activity. (Google tzitzit for instructions.)
4. There are many recipes for Purim. 3 sided cookies, called Hamantaschen, are common and represent Haman’s hat.
5. Games of chance are also an excellent way to celebrate Purim. But emphasize that the point of Purim (which means lots) is that there is no chance; God is in control.



Zebedee, father of James and John, husband of Salome, fisherman.

In studying James and John I was struck by the account of their father, Zebedee. Zebedee was present when Jesus called his sons. He was in the boat that caught the surplus of fish and when it almost sank from the weight of the catch even though no fish were to be found prior to Jesus’ arrival. He heard Jesus preach from Simon’s boat…. yet he did not follow when Jesus called. His wife did, and was one of the women at the cross, one who supported Jesus, and was close enough to Jesus to ask favors for her sons, at her sons’ request, indicating that Jesus held her in such high esteem that his closest followers believed He would listen to her over them. So what happened to Zebedee?
Most scholars believe that Zebedee passed away at some time during Jesus’ ministry since his wife is known as the mother of James and John, and she has control of seemingly large sums of money. This may be true, but initially he is there. (There is indication that this is her money, and if you read Proverbs 31 you will see that she may have run her own business and had her own money as well.)
It is my belief that Zebedee is a good man who told his boys, and his business partners, and later his wife, to go, promising that he would stay behind and take care of the business, continuing to support the others. After Jesus dies we see Simon returning to his boat. Someone took care of it for him, and that someone was willing to relinquish it back to him when he returned. It is my belief that this was the faithful Zebedee, who loved his family enough to sacrifice an opportunity to follow the Messiah closely, so that those he loved could have the honor. His wife would not likely have been able to do so during this time in history had he not been a follower from afar and her closeness to our Lord suggests she was there for the majority of His ministry. Some are called to be close, in places of honor, while some serve from afar, supporting those whom God has called to a more public ministry. I believe Zebedee to be one of these faithful, humble supporters of Christ.


Photo by Matija Barrett

Don’t Worry, Immediately, In Scripture, Is Not As Fast As You May Think…

Undoubtably, if you have been a church goer for any length of time, you have heard a sermon referencing Matthew 4 telling you that James and John “immediately left the ship and their father” to follow Jesus. And then you would have heard the pastor go on about what that means for our walk with Christ. The problem with this line of thinking is that the Biblical writers’ sense of ‘immediately’ and our modern sense does not quite line up. And this is good news for those of us who feel guilty for our lack of an ‘immediate’ response to some matters of faith. For when you reconcile Matthew 4 with Luke chapter 5 you see a much different picture.
As you probably already know, Jesus came upon the group after a night when no fish, or at least very few fish, were caught. The lack of fish means the nets received very little wear. There were two ships present: Simon and Andrew’s and James, John and their father’s. And these men were partners in a fishing company of sorts. Jesus approaches and asks to borrow Simon and Andrew’s boat so He may preach from it. They put the boat out a little ways so everyone in the crowd can see Jesus, and He preaches. Andrew, Simon, James and John have thus just heard Jesus preach, and Jesus is not known for short sermons… (This is why feeding the crowd becomes important later on.)
Jesus then asks Simon to take the boat out and to let down the nets. Simon protests, but does it anyways. When the boat’s nets break, they call to James and John to join them, which they do, and both ships are filled with fish. They return to shore and begin to mend nets. It seems Jesus spoke to Simon and Andrew first at their boat, which would make sense as that was the boat he was in, and then moved on to speak to James and John. It was then, after hearing the preaching and after seeing the miracle, that James and John ‘immediately’ left their ship to follow Jesus. Additionally, scripture tells us in John 1 that Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist and when he saw Jesus approaching went to Him, bringing Him to Simon and telling Simon that he believed Jesus to be the Messiah. This group of men already knew about Jesus prior to this meeting, and were already aware of the teachings of John the Baptist.
In many areas of scripture we are advised to consider our actions, to do our research and look into the scriptures and to seek wise counsel before making a decision. These men did just that. But when the evidence was there, they did not hesitate to do what is right. That is the Bible’s definition of ‘immediately.’

A Jaded Christmas Movie Review….

this post is supposed to be humor/ sarcasm. if you find yourself becoming offended…. Shake it off!

As a mother of seven, granny of four, Christmas time means re-watching the same movies I have seen over and over and over…. Some of you share my pain.

Die Hard
-a truly American Christmas story. An ex-husband risks his life to save his estranged ex-wife. A real Christmas miracle!

A Charlie Brown Christmas
-an utopian Lord of the Flies. Where are the parents? (I actually really like this one.)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (The Jim Carey version)
-the story of a dysfunctional family. It explains why we don’t invite Uncle G to Christmas. It also explains why Uncle G is ticked with the family. It is the story of why the quieter family members need to speak up before the more pushy members drive those who don’t quite fit in to wrath. The older version had a more positive message.

Frosty the Snowman
-a twisted resurrection story? Are we sure this is meant for Christmas?

Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer
-liking someone because you suddenly need them is not the same as true repentance- just saying.

The Santa Clause
-why divorce sucks for the kids. Also a great excuse for post-holiday weight gain!

It’s A Wonderful Life
-no, it isn’t. George Bailey is wonderful; everyone else takes him for granted. This is why we need to show appreciation for the good people in our lives. No one who does as much good as George Bailey should feel alone and suicidal. Stop trying to keep the obnoxious people happy and start showering the good people with love!

A Christmas Story
-it’s time to get some work done around my house when this comes on. I don’t understand this one at all. What’s up with the lamp? Get the kid some eye protection. Lot’s of angst over trivial matters…

A Christmas Carol
-at Scrooge’s age, three ghosts in one night would put him in the ER. There’s only so much an aging heart can take!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
-unfortunately more true to life than most of us would like to admit…

Home Alone
-the local authorities couldn’t come and get the kid to a safe place before mom could get home? Really? There was no one local to call? What the heck were the parents trying to cover up that they didn’t want anyone to come to the house to help their kid?

How to Celebrate Hanukah

How To Celebrate Hanukkah


Photo by Matija Barrett

Hanukkah, aka Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication etc, is a fun holiday to celebrate, and it is an excellent opportunity to teach your children more about the miracles of God. (See my last post about why we celebrate…)

As Christmas and Hanukkah are close together, it is somewhat difficult for Christians to celebrate without getting holiday burn out. For this reason we typically have one larger celebratory night and then light the candles only, on other nights. For small children, without much of an attention span, celebrating with small gifts all eight nights sometimes takes the edge of the Christmas craziness…. your choice.

As the Jewish calendar does not line up with the calendar we currently use in the US you will need to google when Hanukkah occurs. You will also need a menorah, aka a Hanukiah, candles and a dreidel. Chocolate coins, known as ‘gelt,’ are also nice for small children. The chocolate is usually of a very cheap variety and will not impress your teens…

An 8 stem menorah is placed in a window. Each night at dusk it is lit from right to left (Hebrew is read from right to left, unlike English). The menorah actually has 9 candles. The extra candle, either in the middle or off to the side, is the slave or servant candle. This candle is lit first and is used to light the other candles. The first night only one candle is lit, the second two etc. The slave candle is also left lit. Hanukkah candles are made to last approximately one hour and burn completely down. Cleaning the menorah of wax is… interesting. (This is not the same menorah that sits in the Temple. The Temple menorah has seven flames and is filled with oil.) Typically the menorah is lit by the mother. A blessing over the candles is said. She then sits for at least 30 minutes while the husband serves the meal. This is to remind us that the victory over the enemy was delivered through the hands of a woman, Judith. The husband may make the entire meal, or merely serve it. This is to prompt the children to ask why mom sits, when she is busy every other night. Jewish traditions often set up situations to prompt the children to ask questions about godly things.

Food: Since this is a holiday which features a miracle of oil, fried foods are king. Potato latkes and jelly donuts are traditional. Feel free to make your own traditions. I like serving olives, from which the oil is made.

Games: The dreidel. A dreidel is a 4 sided top. If you are very creative you can make your own with your children. Otherwise you can buy one- they are relatively inexpensive. Each side has a Hebrew letter. As I do not have a Hebrew type setting, you will have to google this. In the US the 4 letters stand for ‘a miracle happened there.’ In Israel there is a slight difference and the letters stand for ‘a miracle happened here.’
To start everyone puts one piece into the center pot. This can be your gelt (chocolate coins), or pennies, or any other small item you wish to use.
Shin: it looks like a 3 pronged menorah, or w. When you land on shin you put a piece into the pot.
Hey: this looks like an n, a table or a house. If you land on this you take half of the pot. (If it is odd, take the extra.)
Gimmel: This looks like a boot. You take the entire pot. Everyone then places one piece into the pot.
Nun: This looks like a backwards c. You do nothing.
The dreidel game is not meant to be exciting. It was traditionally used to hide the fact that the Jewish people in captivity were teaching their children the Torah, which was against the law. When a stranger approached they resumed the game. The game was uninteresting enough that the foreigners did not want to join in. There are ancient texts with snippets mentioning the Jewish obsession with that boring game!

Music: There is a lot of Hanukkah music- google it and find your favorites. My favorite is The Hanukkah Song by the Bare Naked Ladies on their holiday album, Bare Naked for the Holidays, which contains a lot of interesting, unique Christmas songs as well. (I know, who would have thought a band called Bare Naked Ladies would be the one doing a great job here!)

The candle blessing: If you wish to do this in Hebrew google it and listen to the proper pronunciation, or listen to the Bare Naked Ladies song….. The blessings vary, depending on who you ask, and can vary by night. I do not use the blessings that imply that following the commandments makes us in relationship with God, though it is an important part of the relationship…
Here it is a blessing you can use in English:

Praised (blessed) are you, our God, ruler of the universe, who performed wonderful deeds for our ancestors in those ancient of days at this season.

You can add your own personal prayers as well, thanking God for the small ways He provides for you as well.


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