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

Zebedee

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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.

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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

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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.

 

Chanukah

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Photo by Matija Barrett

Chanukah is a holiday commemorating a miracle that occurred between the times recorded in the Old and the New Testament (erroneously mistaken as the ‘silent times’).
Chanukah, also known as the Feast of Dedication (of the Temple), is recorded as being celebrated by Jesus in the New Testament as well, making it a holiday Christians too may celebrate and enjoy. (John 10:22)

To understand Chanukah, which has many spelling options as it is transliterated from Hebrew (spelled as it sounds since the language has a different alphabet), one must go all the was back to Alexander the Great who conquered much of the area surrounding Israel, then died. The vast amounts of captured territory were given to 4 generals, then one was split to include a 5th general. These were ruled somewhat peacefully for a while, until an egomaniac, who named himself Antiochus Epiphenius (god on earth) decided to conquer the other four kingdoms.

Antiochus ruled the Seleucids to the north of Israel and had to travel through Israel to get to the other kingdoms. Now Israel was in an odd position… When Alexander approached Israel the religious leaders met him and showed him prophecies in the Old Testament that appeared to be about him. Alexander assumed this meant that the Israelites were surrendering to him and left. The Israelites assumed that God had saved them through this revelation and believed themselves to be free. Israel paid tribute occasionally after this and everyone was happy.

Antiochus comes through, desecrates the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and destroying everything, including the jars of oil, and tells the Jewish people that they are to worship him. He then sends his troops throughout the countryside to desecrate the Jewish¬†altars that exist in the remote regions. (I know there was only supposed to be one altar, but if you read the Old Testament carefully you will see that the people rarely fully obeyed this rule.) At one altar a priest, Matthias, either pretended he was going to sacrifice the pig and instead attacked the soldiers, or attacked the soldiers while the pig was going to be sacrificed (the accounts I have read differ). In either case, one old priest, who dies of natural causes within the next year, kills a group of trained soldiers. His sons lead the uprising. This is known as the Maccabean Revolt and his son, Judah, is credited as the leader. Maccabee, loosely translated, means ‘strong hammer’ as the Jewish people were short on swords and used whatever they had to fight.

The Jewish people did not have an easy time winning. The turning point of the war came when they were facing the bulk of the enemy army and a young widow, named Judith, snuck into the enemy camp as a camp prostitute with a basket of salted cheese and wine. She entered the enemy commander’s tent, got him well drunk, cut off his head, put it into her basket and returned to the Jewish camp. There she gave the head to the Jewish commander, who presented it to the enemy. This disheartened the troops, and the Jewish people were victorious.

After winning the war, the Jewish priests went to cleanse the Temple. When they entered the Temple, they discovered that there was only one jar of oil to light the menorah, enough for one day. The menorah is needed to light the Temple as the Temple has no windows, but rather the golden walls reflect the light of the menorah inside. It takes 8 days to purify more oil in the manner prescribed for Temple use. As they were motivated to clean the Temple, they began the work immediately. Miraculously the oil lasted all eight days until the new oil was ready and the Temple was cleansed.
Chanukah therefore commemorates not only the miracle of the oil that allowed the Temple to be properly cleansed, but also a victory from oppression.

Remember, the Jewish people could have tried to use oil not prepared properly, inciting God’s wrath. Or, they could have waited to cleanse the Temple. Instead they were fervent in their dedication to the things of God, and did not wish to wait one second more than necessary to begin to honor Him. God saw their commitment and honored them with a miracle that let them know that He was indeed with them. A very personal miracle, showing that God blesses the desires of our hearts in small ways, such as oil lasting longer than it should, as well as large ways, such as the parting of the Red Sea.

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photo by Matija Barrett

One of my USSR immigrant patients informed me that ‘equality’ only works until people realize they get paid the same for tiny potatoes as they do for big ones.

This is how I explain it to my children (remember there are 7 of them, so we have a variety of personalities…).

If I gave $100.00 to each of you every week, what would happen?

A few of you would spend it right away, and still have nothing at the end of the week. You would be complaining that you had no money for whatever you needed and would ask for more.

A few of you would not spend anything, or maybe $5 here and there for the barest neccessities (Ramen Noodles) and have a huge amount saved up at the end of the year.

And some of you would budget wisely, spend enough to meet your needs and a few wants, and save a little as well. (This is probably the happiest way to live…)

The people who spent it all on the first day would be mad that their brother who usually did not spend a dime (we know who this is in our house) had so much- it would be ‘unfair’ and he was ‘lucky.’ In their childishness they would not see how many times he sat there without a soda or other ‘extra’ while they splurged.

The people who saved would see the ones who splurged as ‘stupid’ and ‘careless’ and perhaps even label those who spent some and saved some in the same way, saying, ‘If you had been like me, you would have all this right now,’ not realizing that money is a tool, and, if used wisely, makes life more enjoyable.

Life is not fair- we all know this. But many times it is not merely what we were given, but how we use it, that determines how much we have and whether or not we enjoy ourselves.

Another life lesson that has been repeated to me by some great Bible teachers is that you cannot give what you do not have. Generosity, which is not only the giving of money, but the giving of time as well, cannot be practiced if you have neither. Working hard enough, and obtaining skills so you are paid well enough so you don’t have to work all day, is important for a balanced life. There may be sacrifices at first, but there needs to be a path and a plan to a life you will find comfortable enough to be generous as well.

The beginning of this relationship is good. Both David and Michal prove their love for one another- Michal by requesting David as her husband and then saving his life, at risk to her own, by lying to her father to save David’s life. Michal puts an idol in their bed and claims David is ill. Since Saul almost kills Jonathan, his heir, over his loyalty to David, there is a very good chance he will not spare his daughter’s life if she angers him. David too risks his life to be with Michal. As he is a poor shepherd boy, with no means to pay a royal bride price, Saul asks him for 100 enemy foreskins. (Since Jewish men are circumsized, only those outside the Jewish faith would have these intact.) This is a suicide mission. Not only does David have to slay an inordinate amount of men, he must desecrate their corpses- not something the enemy who remains will take kindly to… But David manages to bring 200 foreskins to Saul and is allowed to marry Michal.

After fleeing for his life, David does not come back for Michal. He is able to slay and desecrate 200 warriors, but cannot sneak back for the love of his life?!?!? This likely makes no sense to Michal.

Rule 1: No matter how busy you are- make time for your wife. Women do not do well waiting for you to eventually get around to paying attention to them, and they will assume they are unloved no matter what you have done for them in the past.

Wives: In Song of Solomon the woman goes out and seeks her husband, despite the danger, when he is absent/ inattentive. Use common sense to stay safe, but you have a responsibility to address him and seek to resolve the issues when you feel lonely as well.

David then takes additional wives when he is on the run, proving he believes he can keep his women safe under these conditions.

Rule 2: Do not pay more attention to another woman than you do to your wife. No matter what your relationship with the other woman, she will likely not understand.

Wives: Don’t be stirred to jealousy easily. In today’s work situations men and women must spend time together and will enjoy each other’s company. Address situations that make you uncomfortable with your husband and resolve issues in a way that makes you feel loved without making it difficult for him in the workplace. Remember, Paul has female friends which he addressed as his adoptive sisters and/or mothers. Deborah sang a duet with Barak. Prophets stayed and formed relationships with married women and widows, and helped them achieve the desires of their hearts, etc. Plutonic relationships between men and women exist in the Bible, keep this in perspective.

Michal is then married to another by her father. Whether she has had it with David and was willing to remarry, or whether she was forced by her father, we do not know.

Rule 3: If you leave your wife feeling alone for too long you may lose her. Whether she gets sick of it, or others convince her you are never going to change, you are taking a chance by taking her for granted.

Michal and her new husband, Phaltiel, develop feelings for each other and Phaltiel follows Michal crying, asking for her back as she is taken to David. When David sends for Michal, it is after Saul is dead and Abner defects (Ishbosheth’s head of the military-the new kings, Saul’s heir as Jonathan is dead). It is also a sign of ‘proof’ the Abner is now loyal to David as he goes to bring Michal back. This does not look like the act of a loving husband, but an act of convenience. David, as king, cannot have his wife married to another- proving he cannot protect what is his. He also need proof that Abner is serious when he says he will now be loyal to David, and bringing Ishbosheth’s sister to David will definitely upset the new king.

Rule 4: If you leave your wife lonely, another man may pay more attention to her and gain her affections.

Rule 5: If you only pay attention to your wife when it is convenient, or suits your needs, she will not believe you truly love her, even if you do.

Michal is not back living with David. David dances before the ark, joyous. Michal is upset and berates him when he comes home. David banishes her. (Since she is the wife of a king he likely continues to support her and protect her, but has no contact with her. She cannot have children with another or it will make David look bad, but since David will not acknowledge her, she will be left childless, an embarrassing and potentially difficult situation for women at this time.)

Rule 6: Being happy when your wife is not happy with you will only enrage her. Don’t see her lashing out at you as her fault entirely. Try to discover what is pushing her to nag and/or lash out and work together to fix it.

Rule 7: If you nag and/or lash out at your husband, you will place distance between him and you. If you don’t resolve your issues, the distance may become permanent.

Rule 8: Passionate arguments often mean that the other person still cares. Sound contradictory? If someone I don’t know lashes out at me, I ignore or avoid them. They do not consume my time or energy. The people who get under my skin the most are the people who matter to me. Why? Because I want to matter to them too. You can’t get hurt easily by someone whose opinion or actions mean nothing to you. (Though some of us are such people pleasers that everyone’s opinion matters at an unhealthy level, but that is for another post…)

Real life example: (and I hesitate to put this in because of the emotional nature of our current situation- which I feel is also junior high idiocy- but again, that is another post…) Donald Trump was once interviewed as to what went wrong with his first marriage and rightly said that it was his fault- he spent more time on his business than he did on his marriage. This is true of too many people. Given how well he seems to know his three children from that marriage, it seems he learned from his mistake. Don’t make so many mistakes that you lose what is truly important in life- the people you love.

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