Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Little Snippet, part 4

Ecclesiastes is the original source for phrases like “the sun also rises” and “there’s nothing new under the sun”. In fact, the word sun (shemesh in Hebrew) is found more in this book than any other book in Scriptures. I have the Bible on my laptop and I used the search option to verify this fact. I found that there are 32 verses in Ecclesiastes that contain one or more instances of the word sun. Every chapter in Ecclesiastes contains at least one and as many as five verses with sun.

Yet with all this sunshine Ecclesiastes is often called the most pessimistic book in the Bible. Why? We’ll see.

Tradition assigns authorship to Solomon. The word Ecclesiastes comes from the Greek word Ekklesiastes which means “speaker of a called out assembly”. The Hebrew Bible calls this book Qoheleth from the word in verse 1, chapter 1, that many translations have as “preacher” or “teacher”, but the original means “assembler” or “collector” of wisdom. That information, plus the fact that verse one also reveals the writer as the son of David, makes Solomon seems to be the obvious answer. After his scandalous backsliding he made public what he learned from his experiences. Whereas in Proverbs he reveals God’s wisdom, in Ecclesiastes he despairs over the complexity of life, the failure of natural wisdom and the futility of looking for truth and happiness apart from God. The major theme of the book is that without God’s blessing nothing satisfies, not wisdom, power, pleasure or riches. In fact, without God those things bring disillusionment and disappointment. Solomon says it right away. Read verse 2:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

Many translations use the word “vanity” instead of “meaningless”. Other interpretations are “worthlessness” or “emptiness”. The Hebrew Bible translates this word with the word “futility”. So now you see why Ecclesiastes is the most pessimistic book in the Bible. Vanity. Meaningless. Worthlessness. Emptiness. Futility. The sun may shine, but it’s all hopelessness unless you have the light of the Son.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Briefcase

Sharon noticed the briefcase as soon as she opened the closet door. She froze for a second as she considered the opportunity. Matt always locked it in his car at night, claiming he didn’t want to forget it in the morning. Now the case was right there, right in line with his shoes. What she needed was inside. Did she have time to get it? How long had he been gone?

She memorized how it was placed there: top to the right, handle flopping left, bottom front edge not quite in line with his black loafers. She checked to see if it was locked. It wasn’t. She carefully lifted it out and placed it on the bed.

Suddenly her heart was beating wildly. She was not secret agent material, not by a long shot. She couldn’t even spy on her own husband without her hands shaking so badly.

The kids were in the basement watching TV. She listened. The cartoons were loud enough that she could hear them up here. She glanced at the clock. She’d have at least fifteen minutes before the younger one came searching for her. But Matt was unpredictable. He had driven off this Saturday morning without explanation. Maybe he went to work out, maybe to meet with his hunting buddies, maybe to golf. He could be back in an hour, three hours . . . or ten minutes.

Sharon thumbed through the folders in the briefcase until she came to the calendar. She took out all the folders on top and set them aside. The calendar was open to this month, September, and creased back. She’d have to remember to put it back that way. She flipped back to January and scanned the notations Matt had made each day. This was just the information she needed. Her lawyer had been right.

Her eyes darted to the window. She had a clear shot of the road where it connected to the driveway, but it would barely give her enough time to put everything back if she spotted his car pulling in. She needed a view of the whole road. She took the calendar, grabbed a notebook from her nightstand and went downstairs to sit by the living room window.

She copied, scribbled as fast as she could, glanced out the window after every jot. Her heart still pounded. The cartoons still blared. She couldn’t let the kids catch her at this either – Matt would quiz them about every minute he was gone. His suspicions had swelled after what happened last week.

She finished recording August’s entries and folded the calendar back to September. She raced upstairs, replaced everything and hid her notes.

copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Little Snippet, part 3

Cool stuff I learned in Bible Study this morning:

1) If you list the 66 books of the Bible in three columns Proverbs, Luke and 3rd John all line up.

2) 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”)

3) 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.

4) The Greek word for proverb is parabole from which we get parable. There are more parables in Luke than in any of the other Gospels. (John has none.)

5) Proverbs are words of wisdom. When Luke tells the same story as Matthew and Mark, Luke makes a reference to wisdom. (Luke 21:12-15, Matt. 10:19-20, Mark 13:11-12) (Luke 11:49, Matt. 23:34)

6) 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.

7) Other Hebrew words that start with resh are physician, heal, mercy and womb which all occur more in Luke than any other NT book.

8) Mercy and Womb are written with the exact same Hebrew letters. Womb exemplifies a woman’s attributes of warmth, a nurturing spirit, love and mercy toward her child as well as protection. When we come across the words mercy (compassion) in reference to God we can infer that He has those same “womb” characteristics as a mother. (English is so much less descriptive than Hebrew and we lose so much in translation.)

9) To connect Proverbs and Luke to the tiny book of 3rd John we can look beyond the #3 above – that the word friend occurs many times – and see a connection with the word “health”, too. This word appears more in Proverbs than any OT 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).

10) I love God’s word more every day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ninja Night, excerpt from chapter 3

I think kids' middle grade reading can be suspenseful without being nightmare inducing. Bigfoot Day, Ninja Night is a fun and fast paced read. Here's a sample from the beginning of chapter 3 of the second story:

Chapter 3 The Plan

My whole world was about to explode. Forget about aliens sticking needles into you or an axe wielding psycho chopping you up or teenagers hassling you. This was worse. Much, much worse.

“No way, mom! Grace is not going to get to camp with us, is she?”

My mom and Gracie had trekked through the woods and found our private little boys-only campsite. Gracie had her pink backpack at her side and mom was carrying a pink sleeping bag with princesses all over it and a pillow with a lacy pillowcase. Gross.

“Luke, you did not tell me the truth when you said your father told you it was a “guys only” camping trip.”

Oh, oh. I should have known she would check with him.

“Gracie can stay until morning, then I’ll come back and get her. She has a gymnastics lesson at eleven and a birthday party to go to in the afternoon.” She put her hand up to stop me from protesting. I knew it wouldn’t do any good anyway, but I couldn’t help myself from groaning. “This won’t ruin your weekend,” she continued, “you’ll still have all day tomorrow and tomorrow night for just boys.”

She ducked into the tent and started spreading out Gracie’s pink stuff. Nicky looked at me and I frowned back, then he looked past me toward Ghost Hollows and I got an idea. Gracie would be begging me to call for mom before it even got dark.

copyright 2010 by Debra Chapoton
Would your young reader be reading on to find out what happens next?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Little Snippet, part 2

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)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Little Snippet, part 1

I’ve been working on a non-fiction project since 2009 and from time to time I like to post a snippet. 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.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

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?”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Proverbial Addiction

I have an addiction that I haven’t seen Oprah or Phil address. Maybe I should start a support group among bloggers because I think there are more than a few women with this problem. Undoubtedly men suffer, too, though probably not as much.

I love words and everything about learning a language. I’m also fascinated by slogans, mottos, logos, sayings, jingles, axioms, aphorisms, maxims, adages, dictums and even clich├ęs. There, you just saw my addiction . . . to words.

If there’s a 12 step program for “grammaddicts” or “wordaholics” I’m heading in the other direction. In fact, I’m moving on to lengthy truisms (wise sayings).
A great place to find a wealth of wise sayings is the Old Testament book of Proverbs. This book got its English name from the Latin proverbium which means “a common saying”. The two parts, pro (forth) and verbum (word), combine to indicate that you are “putting words forth”. We’ve come to understand proverbs as concise and to the point sayings that hold the wisdom of Solomon.

Here are 3 of my favorite proverbs:

Proverbs 3: 5 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding This is a great one to live by and to remember in times of trouble, doubt, tragedy and when you have seemingly unanswerable questions.

Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. That’s right, nothing is left to chance. God is in control.

Proverbs 22:1 – A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. This is a good one to discuss with teenagers and for you and me to think about.

There is one particular proverb that I memorized decades ago because it summed up my life: Proverbs 4: 13 – Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Instruction was and is my life. I taught for 31 years. This proverb was always easy for me to find because 4/13 is my birthday. Pretty cool coincidence, huh? I don’t think so – nothing is left to chance (Proverbs 16:33).

Monday, February 7, 2011

What I Learned about Blending Families

Tips for Blending Families – Remarriage after Divorce

When my husband and I married over 20 years 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, February 3, 2011

The Appointment

Melanie was nervous, scared and uncomfortable. She was five months pregnant. Her two-year-old was usually clinging to her swollen ankles, her husband’s job security was tentative at best, and she had an ongoing battle with an auto-immune disease. And now this.

It was a four and a half hour drive to the world renowned clinic and although her father had done all the driving she was just as tired as she would have been had she made the trip alone. It didn’t help that the doctor was keeping her waiting. She always saw a different doctor at each yearly visit, but she had requested this particular specialist because her obstetrician had seen some abnormalities on the ultra-sound. There was a one in seven chance that her son would be born with Down syndrome. Those odds came with something more than tears and apprehension.

She sat in the small examination room for over an hour before going out to the counter to see why she had been forgotten. The nurse paged Dr. Chang and escorted Melanie back to the little room, assuring her that he must have had an emergency and it wouldn’t be much longer.

Another hour passed before the doctor marched in, no apology, no explanation, not even a greeting.

“I recommend amniocentesis, definitely, yes. If it show’s Down’s then you can terminate. Down’s is horrible. You don’t want baby with Down’s. Not fair.” Dr. Chang’s English was clear yet held an unmistakable choppiness.

Melanie gasped. She would never consider an abortion. “That’s not . . . no, we, we wouldn’t do that.” She stumbled through her response, shocked by the doctor’s bluntness. “It’s not an option. We’re having this baby. I just want to know the risks for amnio.”

“No, I will recommend amnio only if you are going to do something about this.” He looked hard at her as she held her tears in check. “Are you so desperate for a baby?”

Taken aback she just shook her head. This baby was a blessing, planned, anticipated with joy and loved from the moment he was conceived. Dr. Chang began a speech trying to convince her that the only appropriate response to a child so deformed was termination. She interrupted him, suddenly strong in anger.

“I didn’t come here for a lecture about abortion. I came here to discuss my disease and to learn about the safety of amnio for an IBD patient. There will be no abortion.”

“It is strange to want a baby to live with such a defect. It is not right for the baby or the parents. I do not understand these American religions.” He shook his head and his face was an obvious display of disgust and revulsion. He began writing on his clipboard.

Melanie felt disrespected and betrayed. Had this doctor no ethics? Did he not know that in this country a woman had the right to choose? How ethical was it for him to stand there and slam her religion? Her head swirled with questions; her heart filled with resentment and frustration.

“Here,” he said, handing her the form she needed for her regular doctor. He opened the door and left.

Melanie looked down at the sheet. Boxes were checked, statistics were entered and at the bottom on the line for notations it read: OK with amniocentesis if she will do something about the results.

Melanie couldn’t suppress the tiniest of smiles. Yes, she would do something. In fact, she would do three things. She would write a calm and accurate letter of complaint to the hospital administrator. She would have an amniocentesis so they could mentally prepare. And then . . . then she would have a precious baby boy.