Sunday, September 30, 2018

What I Learned about Blending Families


Tips for Blending Families – Remarriage after Divorce

When my husband and I married long ago our children were 6, 8, 10 and 11. My girls were 8 and 11 and his daughter was 10 and his son was 6. We both had full custody. Divorce and remarriage was challenging for all of us, but we succeeded as a family and all of the kids have grown into wonderful, productive adults with children of their own. Here’s what we learned from our experience.

1 – Get a new place. This may be really hard, especially with the real estate market the way it is, but everyone needs to feel that the house is theirs. Otherwise, somebody is going to feel like a visitor, somebody is going to feel intruded upon, somebody is going to be resentful, somebody is going to feel like an outsider and your family will have difficulty blending.

2 – Have a room for each kid. For the same reasons as stated above, each child needs his own space. If he or she shared with a sibling before, it would be all right to continue that, but if a child has to suddenly share a room there will be problems.

3 – Get counseling as a blended family. Many insurance companies pay for this as long as there is a certified psychologist on staff at the counseling center you choose. It might be once a week for a few months or once a month for a year, but it will be vital for a good, strong start to blending your families and learning about one another.

4 – Start traditions. Pick a new vacation spot. Have a movie night. Make up a family holiday, name it and create activities to associate with it. Have a family board game night – a great way to get everyone to know one another. Plan on making Christmas (Thanksgiving, Easter, the 4th of July) a different day in your house. (We started having Christmas on the weekend before – everybody knew the schedule and it didn’t conflict with step-families or ex-spouses and it took the anxiety away from coordinating pick-ups and drop-offs on Christmas Eve. The tradition has continued and has withstood the pressures of extended families and grandparents now that the kids are married.) Go to church together. Talk about a great tradition! Give your kids a solid foundation and enjoy the blessings.

5 – Decide on consistent discipline. Present a united front, but don’t discipline your step-children without your spouse present. This is probably one of the most difficult things to do because sometimes your spouse isn’t present. But, aside from immediate danger, leave the punishing to the natural parent.

6 – Never, never, never say anything bad or even slightly negative about your ex or your spouse’s ex in front of the kids. They already know that you don’t get along any more, don’t make things worse. Remember, your child derives his or her identity from both of you. Do you want him to think he descended from a moron? He will take it to heart and internalize all the negative stuff. Try to say only positive things like “your mommy is a good shopper” or “your daddy is very strong.” You may think your ex is stubborn, but use a phrase like “he knows how to stick to his guns” instead or else say nothing at all.

7 – Don’t try to mark occasions like your anniversary (the day your family became blended), which are important to you, but are not necessarily happy points in the child’s life. Sorry, but they may never acknowledge your anniversary, it’s actually a sad point in their lives.

8 – Treat all the kids equally and make sure they know that no one gets more allowance, more presents, more privileges than anyone else. They are very, very much aware if someone else breaks the rules, gets away with something, gets a special privilege or receives extra attention. Be sure to make it well know that everyone gets the same treatment and then give them all the same treatment.

9 – Explain really, really carefully to your own parents that they are to think of your step-children as their own grandchildren and to treat them no differently. How sad for a child to grow up loving someone as their grandparent and then being told by that person that he isn’t really their grandfather. How sad for a kid to overhear his grandmother say that she has four grandchildren when there are six kids.

10 – Schedule visitations so that the family is all together or all away on the same weekends. Kids don’t want to miss anything or find out that you took the step-kids shopping while they were away. The added advantage is that now you and your new spouse have some alone time together to keep the new marriage strong. Good luck and God bless.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Cool Stuff You Learn Reading this Blog



1) 
If you list the 66 books of the Bible in three columns Proverbs, Luke and 3rd John all line up. They also line up with the 20th Hebrew letter, resh. The symbolic meaning of resh is “head.” (Ever heard of Rosh Hashana? The Jewish New Year or “Head of the Year.”)

Also, the letter resh starts the Hebrew word for friend which occurs more than twice as often in these 3 books combined than any other 3 books. Think about that!

2) 
The Greek word for proverb is parabole from which we get parable. So the book of Proverbs should line up with the New Testament book that has the most parables, right? It does! There are more parables in Luke than in any of the other Gospels. (John has none.) Proverbs are words of wisdom. When Luke tells the same story (parable) as Matthew and Mark, Luke makes a reference to wisdom. (See for yourself: Luke 21:12-15, Matt. 10:19-20, Mark 13:11-12) (Luke 11:49, Matt. 23:34)

Luke describes Jesus (2:40, 52): And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

3)
So how does 3rd John match up with Proverbs and Luke?   To connect Proverbs and Luke to the tiny letter of 3rd John we can look at the word friend, mentioned in #1 above – that the word friend occurs many times – and see a connection with the word “health.” This word appears more in Proverbs than any Old Testament book. Luke was written by a physician. 3rd John opens with John saying he will pray for Gaius’s health (the only reference to health in all 22 epistles).

Monday, September 10, 2018

Secret Codes in the Bible? Yes!

Image result for eyeball
I’m pretty skeptical when I read that there are codes and secret messages in the Bible. Since I love all types of puzzles I’m willing to check out these claims for myself.

Have you ever played the game where you have to name something you’re taking on a trip? You start with the letter A and the next person says your answer and adds a new item that starts with B and so on through the alphabet. If you had to remember a large number of random things it would be a lot harder than it is when they’re in alphabetical order. The Bible does the same thing a number of places. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and in several chapters of Psalms, Proverbs and Lamentations the verses or lines start with each succeeding Hebrew letter. These are called acrostic verses or alphabetic verses. Unfortunately the beauty and meaning of these chapters are lost in translation.

The most well-known example of alphabetic verses is chapter 119 of the book of Psalms. For eight verses in a row the Psalmist started each verse with the first Hebrew letter (aleph), then there are eight verses all starting with the second letter (bet), then the third and so on through all twenty-two letters.

The really cool thing is that Hebrew letters have symbolic meanings all by themselves. Once I learned the alphabet I was eager to go on a treasure hunt of sorts to find these meanings in the psalms.

For example, I learned that the 16th letter “ayin” represents “eye” so I started checking alphabetic verses. (By the way, many Bibles put the Hebrew letter before each section of alphabetic verses.) I knew that the alphabetic verses are found in Psalms 119, and also in Psalm 25, 34, 37, 111,112,119,145 (and also in Proverbs and Lamentations). Here’s some of what I found:

Psalms:119:123: Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.
Psalms:25:15: Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
Psalms:34:15: The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
Psalms:145:15: The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.

But if that isn’t amazing enough for you let’s see if there is more “treasure” hidden at a deeper layer. “Ayin” is the 16th Hebrew letter, so what if I look for eyes in the 16th book? – Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:16: And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

Okay, that was pretty nifty. But there are 66 books in the Bible – if you link them up at intervals of 22, like the letters, then there should be “ayin” symbolism in Zechariah. What I actually did was a command search for the word “eye” and found 15 (!) occurrences in Zechariah. (There were fewer than 12 in all the other books of the minor prophets combined). All of Zechariah’s prophecies start with “I lift up mine eyes.” (Not all translations preserve the actual words and might say “I look up” and miss out on the cool “secret stuff.”)

I moved 22 books on and came to 1st Peter, a short letter of fewer than 2500 words.

1st Peter 3:12: For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous

Need I say more?
(quotations from the KJV, public domain)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Cool Stuff about the Psalms


Everybody has heard about the Psalms, right? Who doesn’t know the 23rd Psalm? The Lord is my shepherd . . . Well, here’s a small piece from one of my chapters that gives, I hope, some information that you may not know.

The Psalms were written by various authors spanning a time period of almost 1000 years. Among the authors were Moses, King David and King Solomon, and also various priests or Levites. The book of Psalms is a compilation of prayers, poems, and hymns that focus on praising and adoring God. Some were used in worship services of ancient Israel. According to Talmudic tradition, psalms were sung by the Levites immediately after the daily pouring of the wine offering. The word psalm comes from the Greek word psalmoi meaning "pious songs". The Hebrew title for this book is Tehilim which means “hymns of praise”.

The New Testament story of salvation, the story of Jesus Christ, can be found in the prophetical words of the Psalms.

Jesus is the Son of God: Psalm 2:7, 22:10
Jesus is the Shepherd: Psalm 23
Jesus spoke in parables: Psalm 78:2
Jesus calmed the storm: Psalm 89:9
Jesus was rejected: Psalm 69:8, 20
Jesus was conspired against: Psalm 31:13
Jesus was betrayed by Judas: Psalm 41:9, 55: 12 – 14
Jesus was crucified: Psalm 22:1,2,7,8, Psalm 89:50-51, 69:21, Psalm 22:14-18, 129:3, Psalm 34:20
Jesus conquered death: Psalm 16:10, Psalm 68: 18, Psalm 118: 20, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 80:17
Jesus is the King of Righteousness: Psalm 110:4
Jesus will judge the nations: Psalm 89: 3 – 5
His reign is eternal: Psalm 89: 35 – 37
He will rule the Earth: Psalm 72: 8, 11
He will judge the Earth: Psalm 98:9, 50:4

It’s pretty clear that we can look to the Psalms for prophecies of Christ. Jesus, Himself, knew those Scriptures well. He is quoted specifically in Luke 24:44: He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

The New Testament as a whole has 224 separate passages from 103 different psalms. Some passages appear more than once making a total of 280 psalm quotations in the New Testament.

Maybe this is more than you want to know, but I can’t learn enough. Next post I want to reveal the amazing codes found in some Psalms.

(More amazing and cool Bible stuff in CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES, available on AMAZON in paperback and Kindle.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop



Win a mobi or epub copy of THE TIME BENDER.

If you've already read it then comment on your entry with a link to your Amazon review and I'll automatically send you the second book in the series for FREE! Win, win, win.

If you want to win and read THE TIME BENDER, be sure to enter. I'll be giving away at least twenty copies - your odds of winning are great.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats



The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is found in Matthew 25: 31 – 46. Many preachers use this text to encourage us to be kind to strangers, to help the needy and to visit those in prisons. Great advice – but there is so much more to this parable. In fact rather than call it a parable let’s call it a secret message about the last days. You know I love decoding secret messages . . . here I go:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. (Jesus Himself is talking about His 2nd Coming at the end of the 7 years of Tribulation)32 All the nations (“nations” refers to Gentiles) will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (the sheep are the saved, those who will come to belief in Christ during the Tribulation, and the goats are the unsaved, those who will side with the Anti-Christ)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father (implies grace, that is, salvation through faith, not of works); take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  (Did you get that? The Kingdom has been prepared for us since Creation!) 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (All of these kind acts, though definitely things we should do now, are in fact referring to the potentially fatal acts that Tribulation Christians will graciously perform for “Christ’s brethren” mentioned in verse 40.)
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ (Christians will be surprised that as they help Christian Jews during the Tribulation they help Christ.)
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (“One of the least of these who are members of my family” or in some translations: “these brothers of mine" refers to the 144,000 Jews who will proclaim Jesus as Lord during the Tribulation.)
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ (These verses about what happens to the goats contrast exactly with what happens to the sheep. The goats commit the greatest sin of all: a sin of omission; they fail to put their faith in Christ.)
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Jesus is quite clear: it’s either eternal punishment or eternal life.)

What do you think? Did I miss anything?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Psalm 133, A Song of Ascent - Going Up the Steps


There are 15 psalms in a row, Psalm 120 through Psalm 134, that are labeled “Songs of Ascent” or some translations may have “Songs of Degrees.” Since I love to solve a puzzle I did a little research and found that these psalms were sung by the procession as they went up the steps to the temple. Some sources say there were 15 steps from the court of the women up to the next court in the temple and the priests would chant the next psalm as they ascended. Possibly the key changed, musically going a step higher as well.

I looked into this because Psalm 133 is often read as a responsive reading in church services. It’s very short, just 3 verses, but seemingly obtuse on first looking at it. Here it is, verse by verse:

1) Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Well, yes, that’s a nice thought. Actually King David wrote this when he regained his throne after his son Absalom’s rebellion. The story is in 2nd Samuel and 1st Chronicles and tells how the people were of one mind to make him king and support him again – together in unity – and the Hebrew word for together and for unity is the same word and is repeated here so the verse ends with the same word twice.

2) It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
Sounds kind of messy and oily, but as I looked up the recipe for this oil (Exodus 30: 25) I found that it contained myrrh and cinnamon and lemon grass and other great smelling herbs and I bet it was a very pleasing aroma, very different from the smells I suspect were common place in Bible times.

3) As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
This place called Hermon has really, really heavy dew, so here the psalmist is just coming up with a way to show how the Israelites’ unity was covering them all. I love the commanded blessing: life for evermore.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Family Cliches

“It’s dumb. It’s stupid. I hate it,” were the standard three sentences my step-son gave in response to anything that didn’t work out right. If he was frustrated or angry or annoyed we could count on hearing this triad of opinions.

Are there “family clich├ęs” in your household? Phrases that everyone can finish? If I say something is dumb, I can expect my husband to add that it’s stupid and a daughter to say she hates it. Then we all laugh.

Something bad happened one Christmas years ago and one of the kids accused another of ruining Christmas. Her response was “I said ‘oops’.” Now everyone waits for the inevitable mishap at any family holiday so they can be the first to say “you’re ruining Thanksgiving (or Easter or whatever)” and someone else will say, “but I said ‘oops’.” Again we laugh. It never gets old.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Near Rape?

I had heard this story as often as the usual anecdotes that started with “did I ever tell you about the time...” My mom didn’t have to retell this one over and over in order for me to be able to recall, with vivid clarity, every detail. At the time of her ordeal I would have been too young to understand even if I had been awake, and not in my crib.

“Debbie has heard this before,” she began, pausing and giving me a glance that seemed to warn that maybe, this time, I was going to hear something different. She went on “But she won’t mind hearing it again.”

We were sitting at a small round table with two of her lady friends from church. It struck me as strange that here were two women she had known for twenty-five or thirty years and she had not told them her famous “near rape” story.

Or maybe she had and now, with their support, she could tell me the frightful truth.

“My husband was gone to a reserve meeting and I was home alone with the girls. I had just put Debbie to bed – the crib was still in our room – and I decided to put Diane in our bed so I could scrub the floor in her room. Well, I got distracted and found myself reading and before I knew it, it was too late to scrub the floor.”

My mom always laughed at this point and she did today, but the story was slightly off. Why wasn’t she telling what it was that distracted her? I remember it was a magazine article, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, and it was so interesting that she couldn’t put it down.

I glanced at the ladies, one had been my Sunday School teacher many years before, and they both had that questioning look that made it seem like they were ignorant of what was coming next in the story. My hearing felt sharper.

“So I went in our bedroom and reached down to pick up Diane and take her back to her own bed . . . and the bedroom door closed behind me and some man’s voice said ‘Don’t move, I’ve got a knife.’ And I squeezed Diane tightly . . . and she woke up and said ‘Oh, mommy, it’s just Daddy.’”

Mom quoted the exchange as if by rote, her eyes focused elsewhere, her hands clasping her purse.

“And I said with a sigh ‘Oh, honey, no it isn’t.’ I said ‘What do you want? You want money?’ And he said no. He wanted something else. So I just started talking.”

This is where always before she would tell how she had read an article by Dr. Crane advising women to keep a man talking so he couldn’t “get his motor running” as she put it. That had always seemed rehearsed to me. She left it out this time.

“So I kept him talking and he was trying to fondle me and kept backing me up. He got me as far as I could go, against the crib, so I said ‘Okay, I’ll give you what you want but you have to give me that knife.’ He said okay . . . and I told Diane to leave the room.”

Mom sighed again and her eyes refocused on her friends.

I knew what she would say next. She would say that she had no intention of giving him what he wanted. She would say that Diane wouldn’t leave the room and had started crying. The man would get flustered then and ask for money and my mom would tell him it was in the kitchen. He would follow her out there, she would dig in her purse and thrust all she had into his hand and as soon as he went out the door she would start screaming. That’s what she would say. But she didn’t.

“Oh, dear, that must have been horrible,” one of her church friends said, the one that had been my Sunday School teacher. Maybe she had heard the story before after all. She leaned over and patted my mother’s hand and said, “Did I ever tell you about the time that George was gone to Cleveland and I was alone for two weeks?”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Who's Your Soul Mate?

According to the internet the chances of meeting your “soul-mate” are one in ten million. And if you do . . . he/she is probably already married. (Reminds me of the song lyrics “sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along”.) Of course this statistic reveals that you may have as many as 600 perfect matches out there since there are 6 billion people on the planet.

Doesn’t everybody think they’re marrying their soul-mate? How did the researchers determine soul-mate status? I’d love to see their questionnaire. I can’t possibly imagine how they could verify soul-mate-ness when the people involved don’t really know. Because, after all, Suzy thought Bob was her one-and-only until it ended in divorce and Jim was shocked when his supposed soul-mate left him for someone else.

Here’s what I THINK the “experts” might ask in a soul-mate questionnaire:
1. Does he/she laugh at all your jokes?
2. Does he/she have the same religious beliefs?
3. Does he/she have the same political beliefs?
4. Does he/she have the same child-rearing strategies?
5. Does he/she have the same taste in movies/books/music?
6. Does he/she have the same interests?
7. Does he/she know what you want without asking?
8. Does he/she understand you?
9. Does he/she keep your secrets faithfully?
10. Do you feel the need to be with him/her above all other needs?
11. Do you have far more similarities than differences in your life experiences?
12. Are your goals, values and priorities the same?
13. Is there a 6th sense of perception between you?
14. Do you rarely disagree? (Arguing may even become a “laughing matter” because of its infrequency.)
15. Do you appreciate each other exactly as you are without desiring or expecting change?

Answer yes to all the questions and you have found your soul-mate . . . maybe. What other questions would you put on the list?

Friday, June 15, 2018

What's Your View of Heaven?


Some people believe that heaven will be a fantasy of happiness, pleasure and complete contentment with no more tears or pain. And no work. All your friends and loved ones will surround you. Imagine the joyful reunions you’ll have! Imagine the fun things you’ll do: fly like an angel, ski down mountains fearlessly, visit other galaxies and more.

You know what’s wrong with that picture? It’s all about YOU.

This is what I think will happen when I get to heaven (and I’m sure I’m getting in because I’ve put my trust and belief in Jesus Christ, the one and only way into the Kingdom):

I will be overjoyed to have a new imperishable body and I will praise God.

I’ll be in God’s presence and I’ll praise His Holy Name and thank Him with more words of praise.

I will bow at the throne and thank Him that my loved ones are there too. I will praise Jesus for His saving grace.

I will see the angels around Him who are praising Him ceaselessly. I will join their songs of praise. (No, I will not become an angel. I’ll still be me.)

I’ll notice who isn’t there: those people who didn’t accept the gift of salvation, who denied God’s existence or trusted some other path as if Buddhism or Islam or just being a Good Person were enough. I’ll have an awful moment of sadness as I realize they will burn forever in the lake of fire, but then I’ll have an awe filled moment when Jesus wipes away my tears and comforts me in an eternal embrace. I will praise Him again.

You see, it’s not about ME in heaven. It’s about GOD! And frankly, here on Earth, it’s about Him, too, though we forget that most days, even the Sabbath.

I don’t expect to fly to other galaxies, but I might. I don’t expect to ski down mountains, but I might. I don’t know what wonderful things God has in store for me, but I’m certain they’ll be wonderful even if I can’t imagine them now. I’m also certain that we will praise God for all of eternity. How can we not?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Recommended Reading: The Hunt for Komodo Cracker

THE HUNT FOR KOMODO CRACKERThe Hunt for Komodo Cracker: A Novel by [Cloutier, Michel]


Komodo hacks into a Montreal pharmaceutical company. He steals nothing, and causes no damage. Instead, he plants encrypted files for the company's network security professional, Thomas Faraday.

Halfway around the world, somewhere in the Zagros Mountains, a secret religious league with time travel technology excavates an ancient Persian gravestone containing a coded message. When the league recruits Faraday for a mission to the mighty Persian Empire of 473 BC, he discovers the league is hiding a sinister plot.

Now trapped in an ancient nation at war and with time running out, Thomas must decipher both the Komodo files and the Persian gravestone if he and his fellow time travelers ever hope to return to the twenty-first century.

But someone does not want Thomas Faraday to succeed.


THE HUNT FOR KOMODO CRACKER by Michel Cloutier is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.