Monday, September 26, 2016

How to Hibernate

A Facebook and church friend posted, “When does hibernation start? Because I am 100% participating in that.”
 I glibly responded, “With the first snowflake. I think we have to eat a lot of bacon first. Those are the survival rules.” Then I realized it is wrong to be cavalier about such an important endeavor. Maybe people want to hibernate, but remain fuzzy about hibernation procedures.
With cold weather fast approaching, consider this post a Public Service Announcement.
1. Decide to hibernate. Who should hibernate? Do you love to ski, snow board, ice skate? Does ice fishing excite you? You should not hibernate. Go away. You are making us cold.
2. Choose a hibernation location. Is there a heat source? One that doesn’t require you to go outside and chop firewood or shovel buckets of coal? Are the walls, windows, and roof insulated? Are the floors radiant like in those mansions on HGTV?
When hibernating, you want
to stay on this side of the window.
Is there a food source? One that doesn’t require you to clean snow off your car and drive through ice and slush to a grocery store? Do you have a cellar full of home canned goods? How about store bought canned soups? Do you have phone numbers for Chinese and Italian restaurants that will send daring teenagers out in a blizzard to bring you General Tso’s Chicken and cheap three topping pizzas? Will Blue Apron, Plated, or HelloFresh deliver to your front door expensive gourmet food for you to cook while you flirt with your loving spouse? Don’t forget the bacon.
 3. Choose hibernation activities. Do you like to hang out in bed all day, sometimes sleeping, sometimes reading, sometimes watching the telly? Do you subscribe to Netflix or another movie and TV subscription service? Choose a variety of series to binge watch. I recommend series with seven or more seasons, such as Star Trek the Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek Voyager. (By the time Captain Janeway gets her crew home from the Delta Quadrant, the first crocuses will be peeking through the melting snow.)
Warm up with a great book.
Procure a Kindle or other e-reader before the first snowfall or you may find yourself with no books to read and miles of icy roads between you and your public library or favorite bookstore. With your Kindle, you can read thousands of cheap and even free books between now and spring training. Of course, you can get a free Kindle APP for your computer, but it’s awkward to cuddle up in bed with a laptop. (You will definitely want to read Surviving Meemaw, and Surviving Jamaica will make you feel so sun-drenched you might even get out from under your comforter for a few minutes.)
 4. Choose hibernation attire. Do you have a supply of sweat pants or yoga pants? Do you have warm hoodies? Do you have thick, fuzzy socks? Do you have slippers that are not slippery, so that you will not slip down the stairs and break your hip like Meemaw did in Surviving Meemaw? Where did you put that Snuggie you received for Christmas a few years ago? It’s not as silly looking as you thought now that you are planning to hibernate.
Snuggle up in a second generation stylish Snuggie.
 5. Choose hibernation friends. I recommend other hibernators. People who leave the house to go to work, school, malls, and church will just pull you down. Plan to connect electronically during your hibernation. Use your cell phone and computer for social media. Caution:  Some of your Facebook friends may be taking tropical cruises while you are hibernating. Unfriend them or at least hide their feeds. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
6. Choose a hibernation end date. Study the Farmer’s Almanac and watch the Weather Channel to determine when Spring may actually arrive. Add six weeks to that date. Pay no attention to that mixed-up groundhog.
When the end date arrives, verify its veracity before venturing outside. Has the snow melted? Do trees have leaves? Are flowers blooming? Is grass green? Is major league baseball on ESPN? If so, proceed with your end of hibernation activities:  Shave your legs. Take a long, hot shower. Go get a spa pedicure and manicure. Meet your girlfriends for lunch. Go back to church and tell your pastor a vague, medical sounding excuse for your long absence. Assure him that while you watched many TV preachers during your time away, none of them preaches as well as he does.

7. Congratulate yourself! You are a first class hibernator.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Star Trek's Jubilee

            September 8 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek on network television. I appreciate BBC America’s marathon of the first two seasons of what we now call TOS, the Original Series. We call it TOS to distinguish it from all its offspring:  the Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine (DS9), Voyager, and the hopeful, but failed, attempt at a prequel, Enterprise. (Star Trek before Kirk and Spock and Shatner and Nimoy is just nonsense.)

My first and only Vulcan and my first captain.
            Few stories have been part of me for as long as this collection. The Star Trek universe shares top billing with the Wizard of Oz and all its sequels, which I read as a child before 1966, and Lord of the Rings, which I first read as a young adult in college.

            I remembered as I went to bed late Thursday night (after coming home from Back to School Night and watching on Netflix a Season 7 episode of DS9) that I had once written a Star Trek prayer. Now where did I put that thing? I sure wasn't looking that late Thursday night.

            I found it on this newest laptop, which means it was transferred from computer to computer since 1998 when I created it.

            I offer it as my contribution to the Jubilee. If you’re a Trekker, it will make sense to you. If you’re not, it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon, I mean, shuttle-craft. After all, the whole franchise has been relaunched with great casting choices and obvious homage to TOS.

Trekkers Prayer

Dear God and Father,
Creator of all the lifeforms in this vast universe,
Grant me today the courage of a Klingon,
The wisdom of a Vulcan,
And the empathy of a Betazoid.
May I have the vision of a Bajoran vedic,
The cheerfulness of a Talaxian,
And the savvy of a Ferengi.

As I navigate the uncharted quadrants of my life’s voyage
May I be aware of Your presence
As a Trill is of her symbiant.
Grant me safe passage through the nebulae of change
And the wormholes of sorrow.
When I encounter those who with relentless evil
Seek to dominate or destroy
May I never believe that resistance is futile.

May I live long and prosper.
And on that stardate when You beam me up
Beyond the final frontier,
May I shout with glorious conviction,
“Today is a good day to die!”

Beam me up beyond the final frontier.

Match the photos to the sentient lifeforms mentioned in the prayer.
You could win a strip of gold-pressed latinum!







Monday, September 5, 2016

Roberta Rants about a Pet Peeve

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. That is clearly stated in Genesis chapter 17.
God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. That is clearly stated in Genesis chapter 17.
God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. That is clearly stated in Genesis chapter 32.
God did not change Saul’s name to Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9.
The Conversion of St. Paul (1767), by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie (Wikimedia).

Did you catch that? God DID NOT change Saul’s name to Paul in Acts 9. It is not clearly stated in Acts or anywhere else in Scripture.
I don’t care if you’ve heard it from a pulpit. I have.
I don’t care if you’ve seen it used as an example in a Christian school grammar book. I have. 
I don’t care if you’ve heard Luis Palau say it on the radio. I have.
I don’t care if you’ve read it on page 493 of the Beginner’s Bible, published by Zonderkidz. I have.
I don’t care that it preaches well and that Saul and Paul rhyme—in English, anyway. 
Here’s what the Beginner’s Bible says:
"After this, God changed Saul’s name to Paul. He was a new man! Instead of hating Jesus’ followers, he loved them. And he became a follower, too."
 But here’s how Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, disagrees:  After Saul’s conversion, Luke refers to him as Saul five more times in chapter 9, three times in chapter 11, once in chapter 12, and four times in chapter 13.
If I have to choose between the accuracy of Luke and the accuracy of Zonderkidz, I’m going to choose Luke every time.
And then there’s this, Acts 13:2, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” If God changed Saul’s name to Paul in chapter 9, why does the Holy Spirit (also God) continue to call him Saul several chapters and a number of years later?
And then there’s this, Acts 13:9, “Then Saul, who was also called Paul…” (emphasis mine) It doesn’t say, “who was now called Paul,” or “who was exclusively called Paul.” It says “who was also called Paul.”
Ironically, it’s the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (the most useful set of books I own) that gives the necessary explanation. “It was common for Roman citizens to have three names:  the praenomen, nomen and cognomen…’Paul’ is the Apostle’s Roman cognomen.” (ZIBBC, vol 2, p 339) The praenomen is the individual’s name within the family, like our first names. The nomen is the family name, like our last names. The cognomen is another family name referring to a branch of the family, but also used as a personal name. Some people also had supernomen, which we might call a nickname, like the emperor whose nickname was Little Boots, Caligula. For the apostle, his Hebrew name, Saul, served as a type of supernomen.
My favorite set of nonfiction books.
The apostle’s cognomen was pronounced Paullus, and the Greek pronunciation of his Hebrew name was Saulos, which sounded like a somewhat nasty adjective in the Roman world. It meant “the loose, wanton gait of courtesans or Bacchantes.” Or as says, a “drunk female reveler.” That’s not exactly how you want to be introduced and taken seriously. We can only wonder, along with Clinton Arnold, if that influenced Saulos’s decision to be introduced as Paullus.
Also, Paul and his team were venturing beyond the borders of Israel into the mostly Gentile Roman Empire to share the Gospel. His Roman name and Roman citizenship, important elements of the total Paul, might serve him well.
Why am I making such a big deal out of this?
The Beginner’s Bible has altered many Bible narratives, I assume in the interest of removing violence and sexual content young children are not able to deal with. I’m okay with that. But, this time they added a fact which turns out to not be a fact. It serves no purpose other than to perpetuate a misconception.
It’s lazy, sloppy scholarship. Anyone who owns a Bible can read the book of Acts and track the use of Saul and Paul. Pick up a pencil and make hash marks. Or go to and let them show you every place in the book of Acts the names appear. Someone publishing a book or speaking from the pulpit or on the radio, hoping to influence others, had better do so.
If you’re making a huge spiritual point based on an error, don’t. Find another scripture passage or another point. Rely on solid study rather than flashy catchphrases.
Many thanks go to my go-to scholars who wrote the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Clinton E. Arnold, general editor and author of the section on Acts.

Friday, August 5, 2016

What’s in your wallet?

             The slogan for a Capital One credit card dates back at least to 2003 and the ads featured marauding Vikings before they morphed into touristy Vikings. More recently the question is asked by Samuel L. Jackson in his hip, yet authoritative, way.
            What’s in your safe?

            Obviously a spin off the wallet question, the safe question has us accompany veteran actor William Devane as he rides a horse or drives a golf cart or plays with towers of gold coins and encourages us to worry about the economy and the national debt.
            I discovered this morning in Proverbs 3 that those are flawed financial questions. The best question is, “What’s in your heart?” And the answer you want to be able to give is “wisdom,” because it yields a better return than other investments. Wisdom “is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” (Take that, Rosland Capital.) Wisdom is “more precious than rubies.” Wisdom’s other payoffs include long life, riches, honor, peace, and blessing.
            So if wisdom brings such success, I have two more questions:  What exactly is wisdom?  And, how do I get wisdom?
If you are "skilled at living,"you will not
put tomatoes in a fruit salad.
            The Hebrew word for wisdom, chokmah, means “skill in living.” Using the Hebrew Scriptures’ poetic technique of synonymous parallelism, I conclude from Proverbs 3:13 that “understanding” is a synonym for “wisdom.” Find and gain, verbs highlighted green, are parallel. Wisdom and understanding, nouns highlighted blue, are parallel.
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
            (My former English students will remember how much fun we had color coding verbs, nouns, and adjectives in our Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop books. I used the same colors above. That was a happy bunny trail.)
            Other phrases in the third chapter of Proverbs identify the source of wisdom. The writer says in verses 1 and 2 that his teaching and commands will bring long life, peace, and prosperity. Since those are the same yields attributed to wisdom, I conclude wisdom is found in those teachings and commands.
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
            So, now that we’ve decided wisdom is a good thing to have in one’s heart and more important than what’s in one’s wallet or safe, what’s the first step? Is there a toll free number to call for an application or a free DVD to be mailed to my house?
            No, but three Scripture verses relay the same advice:  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10) And that phrase begs for a definition, if not its own blog post.
            It’s a phrase I’ve pondered on and off for many years, and a passage in Isaiah gave me some insight. In chapter 1, God warns the prophet not to fear what the people of Israel feared, but to fear God instead. God even uses the word “dread!”
            Dread God? Sounds harsh!
This is exactly how I dress to disinfect my bathroom.
            But I think of it this way:  What I fear or dread controls me. Think of all the phobias out there:  If I have agoraphobia, I won’t leave my house. I dread public places and all those people. If I have misophobia, I’m going to always be disinfecting things. I dread germs. If I have peniaphobia, I will be consumed with what’s in my safe. I dread poverty.
            If I have agora-miso-penia-phobia, I fear a germ-infested mob will invade my house and steal my gold, leaving viscous slime in my safe.
            Wouldn’t it be better to fear God (who happens to love me) and let him control my life? I think it would be the beginning of wisdom.
            Thank you for staying with me to the very end of this rambling blog post. I can be concise, but not today.