Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Treat or Witch's Night

Count me odd but honestly, I really don't like Halloween. As a child I took little pleasure in dressing up to walk door-to-door amongst scary costumes only to receive candy I detested. Although, I must say, sometimes I could trade off those undesirables and still end up with more candy than my parents usually had around the house.

And while candy is currently the main focus of this holiday, it did have questionable beginnings. The History Channel gives an excellent explanation of this celebration. I learned a great deal by reading their article.

One thing I already knew was that not every country celebrates this particular holiday. But, as I learned while living in Germany as an adult, there is another yet similar celebration. It's called Hexennacht or Walpurgisnacht, translated Witch's Night, and happens in the spring on the last day of April. Of course it's practiced in other European countries, but since my experience comes from Germany I'll stick with what I know of the celebrations.

What I do remember is that it was compared to our Halloween celebration with two differences. No candy was involved. And, it was only tricks and pranks that occurred that night. As part of the tradition the children or youth of a village play tricks on others in the town. If you left anything outside overnight, it was fair game. It could end up in the town square, or up in your neighbor's tree, or anywhere the teens found humorous. And, don't bother calling the police the next morning because you were warned of the possibility of damage. Most of the pranks we experienced were on the humorous side.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember being told in school that when the trick-or-treating practice began in this country, the tricking was a reality. Now, as I recall, the trickery was not malice in any way. Interestingly enough, I did not find that bit of information at any of the sites I researched. But it's got me thinking.

I feel this holiday has played the biggest trick on all of us. While we have wonderfully cute costumes nowadays, long gone are sheets pulled over heads to mimic and scare away ghosts, the evil factor still remains. We decorate with the goal of scaring people with fearsome skulls, gruesome cuts, and weapons of bloody destruction. So where's the trick in it all? It takes our focus off the real treat in life.

You see, there is an ultimate treat we might forget to focus on right now. No candy, no sugary substance, no colorful drink can compare to the treat that Jesus has given each of us. He suffered the horrors embraced in this season so that he could be an incredible life-giving treat which takes us away from the fears and dreads this season embraces.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sea Peoples

It's been a while since I looked at the book A Visual Guide to Bible Events, and this time I read about Samson and the Philistines. The chapter actually answered some questions I have had for a couple of years while doing research for a book.

In that time, I watched a program (which I can't remember the name of) that spoke about people hiding in caves to get away from the "sea people". The producers of the program didn't know who these people were. Only that they were greatly feared because of their ruthlessness. It was the first time I had heard the term sea people. And since I didn't use the internet to try to find the answer, it's been a puzzle for me. That is until I read the chapter mentioned above.

So, here's a quick synopsis of the chapter's short summary. The Canaanite people had strategically placed towns along the Mediterranean coastline. About the same time as the Israelites return comes a strong, highly militarized people with advanced weaponry attacking from the sea. The Canaanite cities are destroyed and the new people erect cities of their own. These people were called the Philistines by the Hebrews. But to the Egyptians, according to Mazar in Archaelogy of the Land of the Bible, they were also known as the "Sea Peoples". Bingo. Question answered.

And as far as Samson is concerned, his actions angered the Philistines over and over again. See Judges 13-16. Personally, I would have loved to have seen the fox episode. Can you picture foxes tied together by their tails? Now try to picture a lit torch tied between their tails. I can see them jumping and trying to pull away from each other. Then Samson sets the foxes free to run in the fertile fields of the Sorek Valley. And how many foxes did he tie up? Three hundred! Good-bye crops.

Samson wasn't a perfect man, but you have to admire the strength and ability to do such a feat. Most people remember him more for his encounter and demise through Delilah. But, ultimately his greatest victory came at his death when he pulled an entire building down on all the leaders of the Philistine people.

Did this stop the Philistines? No. When Saul and David come into the picture of Israel's history, the Philistines are still hanging around. Remember Goliath? Now you understand why the Israelites were very hesitant about engaging in fighting these feared people. Albeit they forgot they had God on their side.

The Philistines, or sea people, were a tough group to get rid of. And while they lived in varying stages of peace with the Israelites, they continually fought over control of the Sorek Valley. I'm not sure what happened to the Philistines in the end. Perhaps it was the Babylonians or Assyrians who finally destroyed their power. But by the time of the New Testament the fierce Philistines were replaced by the even tougher and more organized Romans.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Living the Unbelievable

When I started this blog I chose it's title because writing a blog post is something I would not ever considered doing based on my personality. It was a new requirement in my life pulling me out of the box I lived in and onto a dedicated path of writing. You must know that writing or spending time with technology are not natural callings for me. But when God calls you to write a book, you take the steps necessary to do it.

I must admit that writing has become more natural for me. I live, sleep, eat and drink post ideas as well as book ideas. I've been published in two books and written one of my own and am almost finished with the second book in the series. Who would have thought?

As I think on these things I realize I am living the unbelievable. But the unbelievable is not happening just in my life, it's all around me. We live in a time of unbelievable things happening. Just look at the news.

It has been a long time since we've heard of a disease attacking children to the point of paralysis and near death. Science has managed to stop most of the childhood diseases of the past; i.e. measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio, etc. This cold virus gone mad is their newest challenge.

But it doesn't stop there. The virus Chikungunya attacks all ages, as does the Ebola virus. While the concentration of these diseases is outside the U.S., it is still out there threatening to enter our borders. If you concentrate on all three of these it can be overwhelming.

The unbelievable situation of these diseases threatening to attack the unsuspecting is joined by the groups that hate everyone that is not a part of their group. "Wars and rumors of wars" keep coming to my mind. One country is attacking Israel in an attempt to conquer it. While another has a civil war threatening to go global. What I find more incredible is that they get their new recruits via the internet. News shows air snippets of these recruiting efforts coming from locations one would think didn't have internet connections. But somehow they do. Inconceivable.

I'm sure there's more I could describe that would point out that we all are living in an unbelievable time. And, as I've said before, I'm glad to know that God is in control of the bigger picture. In His book of Revelation, He tells us how crazy and unbelievable things will get as this world nears its end. None of this surprises Him. I just need to remind myself to look to Him when yet another thing occurs confirming how unbelievable life is right now.