Worth Sharing: New Year Thoughts

 




Resolution:  the firm resolve to do or not  to do something

Do you make New Year's resolutions?  

I was determined to make resolutions for the year tonight  but got involved instead in finding out the origins of New Year celebrations.

The Babylonians were the creators of New Year's celebrations but for them, the New Year began in March during the planting of Spring crops.  It was a 12 day celebration, and was the time when new kings were crowned, or  ruling kings were acknowledged.  As well, they made offerings to their various gods.  They made promises to friends and neighbors that they would repay debts or return borrowed objects.  These good deeds would earn them favor in the eyes of their gods. The favor of the gods was sought in order to have a prosperous and blessed year at a time of year when all life was seen as beginning anew.

January Goals: Do What I Can, Use What I Have, Start Where I Am

 


Are you ready?  A new year, a new start, a blank page?  Me, too.

I wanted to get it started early this week,  being most thoroughly ready to end the year.  I kept looking for ways to get ahead but the week was stubborn as could be and refused to budge from being 2020 despite all my good intentions, best efforts and aborted attempts.  I gave up finally and said "Just be yourself, then!" and let it have it's way in bossing me about with things I hadn't planned or wanted to do just as it's done all blessed year long.

I've been muddling along, feeling much as though I'm battling through a mud slogged field and getting stuck far too often for my own liking.  But in the end, I made it through.  We're here...I won't ask what else could go wrong because I know from sad experience that any number of things could and might but darn it, we're nearly there to the other side of the oddest, most puzzling and frustrating year I think I've ever experienced in my entire 61 years and I am so grateful it's coming to an end.

Random Things from Christmas Week

 


Saturday:  A lovely Christmas surprise last night about 9pm.  I'd been looking for a package from Amazon for three days.  Every day I got notice it had been delivered but when I'd track it online it was being delivered to various places in Macon, not in my area at all.  I was so frustrated!

Well, it wasn't until I got back indoors with the package (and by the way Bless those poor delivery companies showing up in the depths of country to homes with NO outdoors lights on because we're simply not used to deliveries or visitors either one at that hour of night), I realized it wasn't my Amazon package at all.

Advent Day 25: Journey To the True Heart





When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem to register for the census,  it is likely they might have planned to stay with family.  One scholar says that the word used in the Greek has been misinterpreted and was not 'inn' but something more akin to 'guestroom'.   If they were meant to stay with family, they most obviously were not the most honored guests the family might have had, because they were, according to the same scholar, offered the lowest floor of the house which  served as animal housing.  

Holiday Wishes

 


Merry Christmas and  A Very Happy New Year.  I'll see you in January 2021.  

Advent Day 24: The Shepherds' Journey





At one time in Judah's long history, to be a shepherd was to have a noble profession, but by the time of the 1st century A.D. this was no longer so.  It was likely an attitude learned during the Israelites stay in Egypt.  Joseph tells his brothers and father that he will tell the Egyptians that they were shepherds for shepherds were an abomination to the them and so they would be left alone.

Shepherds wore rough clothing, and often lived out in the elements with the animals they pastured so their appearance must have been rather fierce.  They often were uneducated  and spent most of their time in the fields away from society as a whole.   Their task was simple enough, to care for the flocks that were in their care.

Advent Day 23: The Wise Men's Journey

 







Who were the wise men?  No one knows for sure.

It's possible they were familiar with the prophecies of Daniel.  They would also have been more than familiar with prophecies those announced in Judah before Babylon occupied the country.  Wise men would have studied and practiced astrology among other divining arts.   

The Sun, Moon and Stars were clearly visible to the naked eye.  Even the planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn could be seen without any aid  if one was trained to know what your eye rested upon.  But it is possible that a sort of telescope might also have been used.

Worth Sharing This Week: Wonderful Things

 

                                          1892 

Years ago, when I was in late elementary, early junior high, I became quite fond of reading Barbara Cartland paperback romances.  Truth, I learned a great deal from her about history, since her novels were always set in different periods and she did impart more than the 'gasp...sigh...' form of romance to the reader.  One did come away feeling that something had been learned.  One of the books I remember most for what I learned dealt with a European (English?  French? No clue) who painted in the then controversial Impressionistic style.   I can't tell you now what I learned but I can tell you that once I was old enough to research art on my own, the Impressionists have always drawn my attention first and foremost.  

Advent Day 22: Mary and Joseph's Journey

 



Luke 2:1-5  1And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Cesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  2This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, into the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

They traveled to Bethlehem, a distance of about 90 miles and likely they traveled along the River Jordan.  If you're picturing a trip in arid land along a muddy river, think again.  The river's landscape is lush and green and the river curves gently along the way.  It would have been a pleasant journey, most likely, but arduous as well, because the elevation climbs steadily upward as you head into Bethlehem.

Advent Day 21: Taxes and Censuses

 


The gospel of Luke tells us that in the year Joseph and Mary were betrothed, Cesar Augustus sent out a decree demanding that all the world should be registered.  All the world?  Sounds a bit egotistical doesn't it?

Well as it happens the Romans occupied pretty much all of what would later be called Europe, Africa up to the borders of the deserts, all of the Middle East and parts of what would later become Russia.  Augustus was declared Pater Patriae or 'Father of the Country' and what a vast country it was.  

Advent Day 20: Zacharias' Song

 


When Elizabeth's time came to bear the child and she  brought forth her son, her neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her.  

On the eighth day, they came together to join in the ceremony of circumcising the child.   It was expected they would name the son, their only child, Zacharias after his father, but Elizabeth answered and said "No.  He shall be called John."

This created drama.  "There is no one of such a name in all your family!  You cannot call him John!"   Gracious!  Why must people try and spoil an affair of celebration with their own opinion?  

Advent Day 19: Joseph

 




We know very little about Joseph other than his family line.  Joseph of Nazareth's family line traced from Abraham, through the line of King David   This was an important fulfillment of prophecy.   We know Joseph's father was named Jacob, based on the genealogy provides us at the beginning of chapter 1 of Matthew's book.

Joseph was likely not from Nazareth.  He settled in Nazareth after returning to Egypt with Mary.   We know from a later chapter that Joseph's trade was as a carpenter or craftsman of some sort.  We can learn only that much from scripture.

The Week Behind: Fun? Wasn't It?

 



Friday:  I got up early this morning, but not quite early enough!  It seems my family thinks I rise very early indeed.  How surprised they would be to know that I have become a regular late riser.  I told John amusedly this morning that they obviously forget he has retired and I no longer have need to rise early.

Well I rushed myself and left the house within a half hour as I'd promised but it meant no tea for me this morning.  Fortunately Katie knows I am as fond as she of barista style coffees and we stopped for coffee.  

Katie had quite a list of errands to run and happily one of those places was Target.  I don't need to walk about Target but I did have a short list of things to buy and knocked out all but TWO items off my list, so I'm glad I went along with her.  For the rest of the stops, I stayed in the car with Caleb and we too chatted and played about until he finally went off to sleep for his morning nap.

Advent Day 18: Kinswomen

 


Luke 1:39-56   Tells us that Mary entered the house of Zacharias  and greeted Elizabeth.

Whatever Mary's doubts might have been on the journey to Elizabeth, Elizabeth set them to rest.  When Mary spoke the baby in her womb leapt and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Spirit.  She spoke a blessing over Mary:

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" And she blessed her further, "Blessed is she who believed, for there will a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."

Advent Day 17: Mary's Journey

 



What do you do when you're told that you are with child?  That the child resting within your body is that of God Himself?  That you are carrying The Son of God?

Mary took her cue from the culture in which she lived.  She didn't say a word.   Instead she went on a journey.

Mary was sure that God's word was true.  So she went to her kinswoman Elizabeth.  The Bible merely says "she went into the hill country with haste."   This 'haste' followed the angel's visit.

Advent Day 16: Mary



Have you ever considered Mary as a love struck teen?  Not like today's teens exactly but  in the most innocent sense?    Can you see her secret smile as she remembers some sweet moment that passed, if only a shared glance with Joseph as they passed on opposite sides of the street?

How she must have dreamed of her future home!  Can you see her laying out the items she has gathered for her future home, admiring them, handling them, smoothing the linens and stroking the pottery as she dreamed?   I wonder if she took her candlesticks, those meant to be lit for Shabat, and gently moved her hands over them and mimicked the prayers she'd heard her own mother use each Sabbath evening, practicing for the day she would bless her own home with the prayer.

Advent Day 15: Elizabeth

 




Her name meant, Worshiper of God.  She was of Aaron's lineage and had grown up in a priest's home.  She married a man who was also a priest.  Her name was Elizabeth.

As a couple, they were devoted to God.  Scripture describes the couple as "Righteous" and "blameless" and "walking in the commandments of God",  Oddly enough the words used all mean the exact same thing:  they walked in faith with God.  

They had a good life together. 

Advent Day 14: Betrothed

 


Modern day western culture engagements have little to do with what a betrothal was in Biblical times. 

By the time of the New Testament, Greek customs had been adopted and embraced by many of the Middle Eastern countries Greece occupied at one time or another.  A man and woman might become engaged, but it was not a legally binding arrangement.   Either could break off the engagement with no penalty or loss.  I love you, I love you not.  Goodbye!  That is much closer to our idea of engagement,  and heaven help us, marriage too!  I'm sorry to say.

The Week Ahead: Counting Down




I meant to get this all typed up early Friday afternoon.  Here I am on Sunday with no clear idea of what it is exactly I mean to do in the week ahead.   But let me think as I type.  Perhaps it will occur to me what must be done.

Advent Day 13: Zacharias

 



Zacharias was a priest of Abijah's division.  His wife Elizabeth was from the line of Aaron.  They were devout people, righteous in God's sight, living without blame according to all the commands of and requirements of the Lord.  But they had no child.

God had commanded his people to go forth and multiply.   Children were seen not only as a blessing but as a fulfillment of their duty to follow the will of God.  To be childless was seen in this culture as a curse, as an open result to a hidden sin.

Coffee Chat: Warts and All

 


Do come in.  I know it's unusual to have a chat on Saturday but I've time and things I'd like to say and so Saturday it shall be.   There's hot cocoa and coffee or tea.  Take your choice and settle in and let's talk.

Be forewarned...It's not an easy one today.

Anyone else struggling with holiday blues?  I am.  I cannot lie about it.  

I had a long and difficult conversation with Amie a bit over a week ago.  Difficult  in that I heard all the many things she's been through in the past months of her silence, all the things her therapist assured her she should share with me.  Things that were hard to hear and that were surely hell to bear.  

Advent Day 12: Setting the Stage

 


From 63 B.C. the Romans ruled Judah.

Herod the Great, a descendant of Esau was placed in power.  The priesthood was politically motivated and priests were no longer of the line of Aaron.

Because of the political affiliations of the priests there grew to be two factions, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Advent Day 11: The Great Silence

 



The Age of Prophecy ended.  The people of Judah had been restored to their land, their temple rebuilt and worship restored.

But the people continued to sin and to grieve God.

For the next 400 years, a great silence came from God.

I don't know about your parents, but mine had this look...They didn't say a word, but when I caught their eye and saw The Look, I knew what was ahead of me.   When I got The Look,  I was due some very real and well earned punishment.  They might well act out of anger and general discontent some days but The Look never preceded  unmerited punishment.  

The Week Behind: O Christmas Tree

 



Saturday:  This morning when I went to put jelly in the pantry, I discovered that I'd made 11 jars of homemade jam which is pretty darned good for something I gathered up from odds and ends I'd saved  I won't make more this year, nor save fruit just now, either.  We are just two people and we can only eat so many pints of jelly.  Not to mention that John will want his favorite strawberry jam and I occasionally want a jar of Grape Jelly or Orange Marmalade.  I might try my hand at the marmalade if I can find a small batch recipe.

Gathered Fragments: Second Week of December

 




Saturday:  I made pizza today and discovered a small jar of tomato sauce I'd set aside.  I get between 3 and 4 pizzas from an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce.  Apparently I'd set aside most of a can and poured it off into a glass jar and stashed it in a basket, which I'd normally not have done.  Thank goodness it was still good!  I used some on my pizza and then poured off the rest into the Spaghetti Bolognese sauce I reheated for supper tonight.

Advent Day 10: Break Every Chain


 


The exiles from Judah did not all leave at once for Judah.  There were four mass exoduses over a period of 80 years or so.  Some remained forever where they were.

Why?  Why not go to the homeland if you might?  

Advent Day 9: Who Will You Serve?

 


Born into  a priestly family in Babylon, Ezra was born into captivity.   Ezra spent his first years studying Torah.  He became a scribe by trade, writing the books of the Torah and Prophets, but was especially skilled in the law of Moses.  

Scribing was an especially tedious skill.  One 'jot' or one 'tittle' utterly changed the meaning of the scripture.  Deep concentration and attention to detail was needed.   His Mosaic scrolls are the ones still used today as the standard for modern day scribes to follow.  

Practically Speaking: How I Make My Annual Budget


 


I was asked last week to share how I worked up our annual budget.  I first did this years ago and I've just followed the same pattern since then.   These days, it's really just a matter of updating figures, increasing what has increased (usually expenses) and decreasing what has decreased (too often income!).   Then I adjust my budget according to what is needed to manage our expenses each month.

Initially the work to set up a budget is going to take some real work but unless things drastically change you should be able to continue to use the same budget with adjustments made in the proper categories year after year.

Advent Day 8: Rejoice Anyway

 




Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the other captives taken to Babylon did exactly what God urged them to do through the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:4-7  4 This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 "Build houses and live in them.  Plant gardens and eat their produce.  6 Take wives and have sons and daughters.  Takes wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters.  Multiply there; do not decrease.  7 Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to.  Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper."

Prosper in captivity.  Prosper when far away from the only home you've known, far away from the land of your ancestors.   Prosper.

Advent Day 7: The Four Wise Men

 


Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were young princes of the royal house of Judah.   When Babylon conquered the country, they were also taken captive.  Because they were well educated, of high birth and good looking young men, they were sent to King Nebuchadnezzar's palace and trained to become part of his royal household.  

As they were taught by the royal tutor they ranked high among the other young men in their lessons.  They proved to be already well trained in many disciplines and outshone even the wise men of the kingdom in their understanding.

The Week Ahead: Christmas Prep





After spending this past week submerged in my Advent  writing project, I am more than ready to jump into house routines once more.  I'm afraid not much got done but the basics this past week but thank goodness that's one thing my housekeeping does allow at times.  With just the two of us in the house and both of us fairly neat people, the house can hold up fairly well to just basic housekeeping for a short period of time.

But I could tell as the week went on that my homemaker's mind was ready to start a proper housekeeping week.  I saw mending that should be done and jobs I've put off doing because they aren't priority and I've noticed areas that needed attention.   Some got it right away and others are waiting still. 

Advent Day 6: Enslaved


Ezekiel ben Buzi was born in Jerusalem during King Josiah's reign.  He was a priest, as was his father before him.  He was taken into captivity by the Babylonians at age 25.   

Ezekiel led a life of relative ease in Babylon.  He was allowed to marry, to have a home and had a family.   As a man of high education, he had a broad knowledge of not only national traditions but of international affairs and history.  He was well versed in general matters of culture, literature and even of shipbuilding.

God was still very displeased with the captives.   They continued in their Godless ways, and happily participated in worship of the foreign gods.  Ezekiel was 30 years old, five years a captive, when he received the prophetic call on his life.  His record of that first vision is filled with vivid and frightening descriptions.  

Advent Day 5: A Confession




I have learned a great deal thus far about the old prophets and why they were sent to the people.  While Isaiah's prophetic words of Christ to come are powerful and moving, especially at this time of the year, it was not that which most impressed me.  

No.  What most impressed me was Jeremiah's willingness to speak honestly and truthfully to God about his own doubts and frustrations, to cry out over the hardships and struggles he faced.

Gathering Fragments: Post Holiday Week Leftovers

 Sunday:  As I put away supper leftovers last night I realized that I am going to need to do some major gathering this coming week.

I put half the cake Mama gave us in the freezer.  There are only two pieces in the fridge now.

I have an idea of how to use a few of the leftovers already.  I will do a comprehensive listing on Monday.

The Week Behind: When Inspiration Strikes

 


Thursday:  I had done as much ahead as I possibly could for our Thanksgiving dinner, but saved baking of the meal for Thanksgiving morning.  The plan was to pack it all up while hot and right out of the oven, then pack in insulated bags to carry to Mama's.  This worked out very well but did necessitate a change in plans.   Mama doesn't care for just marshmallow topped Sweet Potatoes.  She prefers a recipe with a crunchy topping, but I realized that the crunch topping was going to be soggy by the time we arrived.  Melty marshmallows can handle the moisture just fine.

We ran by Katie's on our way to Mama's and dropped off my lovely milk glass with gold edge egg plate.  Katie had a pecan pie to give us.  Two pies in two days!  Goodness it's starting to feel like a holiday.

Advent Day 4: Jeremiah, The Weeping Prophet

 

Jeremiah ben Helkiah of Anathoth was a boy of 12 when God spoke to him.  "I chose you before I formed you in the womb.  I set you apart before you were born.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations."  Jeremiah 1:5    Hilkiah was a priest and Jeremiah would follow in his father's footsteps.  

Although he was called by God to speak warnings of destruction over  Judah,  his early years were happy ones.   He served first in the reign of Josiah, King of Judah.  Josiah became king at age 8 and began a 31 year rule.  King Josiah tried to walk in the ways of his ancestor, King David and did much to restore the temple and it's practices and to deter pagan worship.  When he was 26, the priest Hilkiah, likely Jeremiah's father, sent King Josiah a scroll that had been found in the temple when they were restoring it.   On reading what scholars believe was the scroll of The Book of Deuteronomy, Josiah was convicted in spirit.  He sent for the priest and prophets and inquired of the Lord what he should do.

Advent Day 3: His name was Isaiah

 





His name was Isaiah, a Hebrew word meaning "God is salvation"  and he was the son of Amoz.   He lived in Judah.   His father was the brother of a king, and the boy was raised with the education one would expect of a high ranking family.  But his was a world of contrasts.   He saw the poverty of others.   He saw how the widows and orphans were treated, no one caring for their needs.  He saw the dejection and sorrows of the forgotten and the ravages of disease.   He saw that the majority of men and priests cared little for these people.  They had lost all compassion.  He also saw firsthand the sin and debauchery of the leaders, including the priests, of the nation, the very ones meant to care for the people they ruled or were meant to guide.  His heart was torn for those less fortunate.  

Advent Day 2: The Age of Prophets



The first prophecies from God were spoken as early as 800 B.C.  That is not to say that only then were God's peoples warned because we have Noah and the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and a few more examples to prove otherwise.  God warned  his people many times throughout the ages to remember who HE was and who he had called them to be, a people  created in His own image, a people to be set apart.

Advent Day 1: Journey of the Heart




Lately I've had a deep yearning that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  There were slight irritations, a sense of anxiety that threatened to overwhelm me at times and a tension in my shoulders.  I often found myself lying awake in the middle of the night, no matter how tired I'd been upon going to bed.  

Something was missing in my life.   I've felt I was distant and far removed from God.  I read my Bible and I say my prayers for others each morning and for my family each night, but I cannot deny any longer that I feel I am far away from my God.  

I sat down one morning this week with these thoughts on my heart and confessed to John that I'd lost heart. 

In My Home This Week: All Routine