Historical Trivia

I thought I’d follow up last week’s blog of New Years myths with a few tidbits of historical trivia.

Many things are going on in the world today and we tend to get tense, worried, and cynical.  But I think we need to “lighten up” … for at least a week. Also, I think humor is appropriate since Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (NLT). So, here is some light-hearted trivia that I found many years ago. When I first read them, it looked like some had incorrect information so I did a little “lookin’ up” to get as close to the truth as I could. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the next five minutes.

Have you heard the saying “God willing and the creek don’t rise”? Some folk have a picture of an uncrossable stream or creek rising during a torrential downpour – especially with all the flooding happening in parts of the world today. However, there is one small error in that quote. The statement was written by Benjamin Hawkins, a politician and Indian diplomat in the early 1800s. While on the job in the southern USA, Hawkins was requested by President Thomas Jefferson to return to Washington D.C. and give a report about what was happening. His response was, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.” Because of his job, and the fact that he capitalized the word “Creek,” it is deduced that he was referring to a potential Creek Indian uprising, and not a flooded body of water.

In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington show him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back, while others showed both legs and both arms. In fact, many paintings show people with arms or legs out of sight. That’s because prices were based on how big the canvas was, how many objects (things and people) were to be painted, and by how many fingers, hands, arms, legs, and feet were to be painted. Arms and legs are more difficult to paint, therefore painting them raised the price considerably. This is one probable origin of the expression, “It’ll cost you an arm and a leg.” By the way, that’s why many (if not most) cartoons show the characters with only three fingers and a thumb. Omitting the fourth finger reduced the production costs.

In centuries past, personal hygiene was not understood, and people didn’t bathe very often, which aided in the profusion of lice. Therefore, many women and most men in the European higher social strata shaved their heads because of lice and bugs, then wore wigs. This continued in colonial America – which, of course, was primarily an extension of British society. Wealthy and influential people could afford to buy larger wigs – and they did. Today we still use the term “He’s a big wig” because someone appears to be, or is, powerful and wealthy.

You might have heard various stories about the origin of “chairman of the board.” Well, some of the stories are flakey, but this is probably correct. The word “chair” infers sitting in the chair, or seat of authority (at times, perhaps the only chair while others sat on benches), and “board” (as we know it) was first heard of in the 13th century spelled borde, and means “table” – such as “God’s borde” (meaning “the Lord’s table.”) A mother’s call to the family was: “Mi bord is maked. Cumed to borde.” – meaning, “The table is set [for a meal]. Come to the table.” Also, people pay a fee or rent for “room and board” – sleeping quarters and food at the table. So, chairman of the board would be the person in charge at the table where business is conducted: be it church, industry, restaurant, or government.

Here’s one more. Have you heard the phrase, “turn a blind eye” in a situation?

In the naval battle of Copenhagen in 1801, British Admiral Horatio Nelson (who was blind in one eye) lead the attack against a joint Danish/Norwegian flotilla. The British fleet was commanded by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Sensing defeat, Parker sent a signal for Nelson to disengage, but Nelson was convinced he could win if he persisted. In Clarke and M’Arthur’s biography, Life of Nelson, published around 1809, they printed what they said was Nelson’s actual words at the time: [Putting the field glass to his blind eye and addressing his assistant] “You know, Foley, I have only one eye – and I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal.” So, turning a blind eye to Admiral Parker’s order, Nelson proceeded to defeat the enemy.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a pleasant week.

On January 24, 2022 I wrote … “In Case You’re Interested”

 

In that blog I talked about this book, Charter of the Christian Faith. I said that it would be beneficial to whoever wanted to enhance their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is absolutely true.

After hearing from many folks commenting on it and how it helped them, I took the privilege of writing a second edition. I refocused the message and gave the book a new title. Also, in order for readers to get the updated edition and not be confused with the two books, I took Charter of the Christian Faith off the market.

I replaced it with the new edition, Truth not meant to be Hidden, pictured here, and I’ve kept the price the same. This is a power-packed message you might never have heard before. And it does reveal truth that has long been hidden.

You’ll find the book at: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=S.+Eugene+Linzey&i=stripbooks&crid=NO0PDTQR3CQL&sprefix=s.+eugene+linzey%2Cstripbooks%2C107&ref=nb_sb_noss.

If you copy that url address and paste it into your browser, it will make finding this book very easy. It was published just last week, and I believe you will want to read it. You will see life in a way you’ve never seen it before.

The reason I wrote the book in the first place is although I know that all Christians go to heaven, much of the Church seemed to have forgotten how Jesus wanted a Christian to live while on earth. I didn’t see much difference in many people’s lives when they became a Christian or joined a church. On Sundays, most people talked about the Lord, sang, bowed heads in prayer, listened to the pastor – most of them – but something was missing.

Why would the Church of Jesus Christ—including all divisions and denominations–be confused as to what the Christian life is all about? Simply because I know many Christians who don’t seem to understand the Faith they claim to believe. Going to church and joining it is not the same as understanding the faith.

The Church, including each member of it, needs to keep in mind that our goal in life is not merely to get to heaven. Our goal in life, both on earth and in heaven, is to be a member of Jesus’ team and grow the Kingdom of God throughout eternity. It is by becoming an adopted child of God, and growing into a mature spokesman for God, that we can fully take our place in the Kingdom. That is why we need to know and understand the teaching in Matthew 5:1-12.

This book, Truth not meant to be Hidden, addresses this topic.

Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941

On December 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a dive bomber from the Japanese Imperial Navy flew unchallenged over the mountains on the island of Oahu. Then 360 Japanese warplanes, following closely behind, thundered over the mountains, descended on and attacked the U.S. naval base and the Army air base at Pearl Harbor. That catapulted the United States into World War II.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt then galvanized the US Congress and the nation into action with his memorable speech which started with: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Part of our Pacific fleet was crippled. Included in the destruction were: four battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, several other ships and subs, and almost 200 planes. Over 2,300 Americans were killed and 1,200 wounded in that disaster. That debacle could not and would not be ignored.

Interestingly, the attack was engineered to prevent the United States from entering the war which would have enabled Japan to advance her imperialistic goals.

Dad’s 1999 book was updated and in December of 2021 was released under a new title: Dead in the Water. I put in new Introduction and numerous pictures, and my brother, Paul, put in a new Afterword. You can find the book on Amazon, and you’ll be glad you bought the book.

Japan’s surprise attack – prior to declaring war – propelled this mighty nation into action. The US aircraft carriers which Japan intended to sink at Pearl Harbor were not at Pearl. Admiral Chester Nimitz, also a Texan, had sent them elsewhere, and the aircraft from those ships destroyed the core of the Japanese Imperial Navy six months later in the Battle of Midway. My father was on the USS Yorktown in that battle.

Recently we seem to have forgotten about the attack on Pearl Harbor. No, we don’t hate the Japanese, but if we forget history, we’ll forget who we are and why our nation exists.

When I worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory – where our first atomic bombs were constructed – every year well-meaning people protested on August 6 and 9. Those were the dates the US dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They thought we should never have bombed Japan.

The fact is, we didn’t want to bomb Japan; we didn’t even want to get into the war. But when we are attacked, we do respond.

Bible Versions

The first time I was asked about my preferred version of the Bible, I said I preferred the KJV – the King James Version. I was in high school and had only recently been introduced to the Amplified and the New American Standard versions.

But in the past 56 years (my entire married life) I have studied out of numerous versions. When someone recently asked me the question of my preferred version, I told him, “I prefer the NCV – New Century Version. However, the KJV is the one I take with me wherever I go simply because I grew up with it and my Bible memorization came from the KJV.”

Some time ago a man told me that I was wrong for not sticking with the KJ because, he claimed, it was the only accurate Bible in the world. I tried to discuss the topic with him, but he wouldn’t consider my point of view. I finally said, “In that case, you have just presented one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world.”

Asking what it was, I responded, “If the King James Bible, published in 1611 AD (or CE), is the only real Bible, the Christian church existed for almost 1,600 years without a Bible and the Jewish Church existed for about 3,500 years without a Bible. Isn’t that amazing?”

He hadn’t thought about that. Many others haven’t thought about it, either. But neither had he thought about the fact that the KJV is only English. If the KJV were the only real Bible, no other language group in the world would have a true Bible.

With that said, people should not spend so much time creating more English versions. Instead, they should invest money to translate Bibles for the ethnic groups who have no Bible in their language.

I remember being in Bible studies when the leader asked, “How do you interpret this Scripture?” Since those studies didn’t involve linguistic experts, the question didn’t make any sense to me. The leader should have asked, “How do you apply this verse?” or “What does this verse convey to you?” or “What is the Lord saying to you through this verse?”

Two major problems most people have of interpreting Scriptures are: 1) many people, if not most, do not understand the history and culture of the Biblical era, and 2) most people do not understand many of the idioms and idiomatic phrases the original authors used. 

There are books to help us with culture and history, but idioms and idiomatic phrases trip us up. (That’s an idiomatic phrase and might be difficult for someone to understand and translate properly 500 years from now.)

A current example of translating idiomatic phrases is the following. Mark 14:38, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” was translated into Russian by an American, then retranslated into English by a Russian. The result was “The Vodka is strong, but the meat is rotting.” Both non-Christian translators tried to be literally correct, but they missed the intent.

Some of the problems generated today are by many church leaders and Bible scholars who normally filter the Bible text through their own cultural background. But the only proper way of understanding Scripture is through the context of the original writers who wrote the Bible.

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg (professor of Jewish Studies for Christians in Tel Aviv, Israel) said in his book, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, “The proper context for interpreting the Bible is the context of the biblical writers – the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible. Yet there is a pervasive tendency in the believing Church to filter the Bible through creeds, confessions, and denominational preferences.”

That’s why we need Bible scholars, pastors, and teachers who have studied the culture and language of the Bible times to help us.

No matter how we cut it (idiomatically speaking), it is dynamically important that we read the Bible. Study it. Apply the truths and morals to your life. Honor the Lord Jesus Christ by the way you live. Studying the Bible will help you do that.

What’s the Basis for Your Faith?

The title of this Reflection is a question I’ve been asked several times. Years ago, I often said: “The Bible is the basis for my faith.” But my answer has changed. Now I joyfully say, “Eyewitnesses, and the empty tomb where Jesus was buried is the basis for my faith.”

What’s the difference? To answer that, I’ll use a Protestant version of the King James Bible.

This version of the KJV Bible (printed around 1885) has 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses, and 788,258 words in the text. It contains stories and narratives that relate information such as numbers of people killed in numerous battles, lists of kings, priests, and prophets, and genealogies of various people.

But that information, and a lot more, is based on various dating and numbering methods. For example: some cultures listed the second year of the king’s reign as the first year simply because some kings were killed before the first year was complete. Sometimes the second year of a baby’s life was counted as its first because 1st-year mortality was rampant. Sometimes, a king and a co-regent reigned simultaneously, yet their individual reigns seem to be listed consecutively.

Various versions of the Bible – even various KJ versions – have different word and verse counts. Other things are documented differently, depending on the original ethnic scribes or subsequent translators.

All of that, plus more, give people opportunities to call the Bible wrong – therefore, impugning the integrity of the Bible – which, consequently, tends to impugn the integrity of those of us who believe the Holy Bible.

Therefore, I no longer say the Bible is the basis for my faith because detractors, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and adherents of other religions think they have grounds to prove the Bible wrong.

I now rely on eyewitnesses and the empty tomb as the basis for my faith. As surely as the person on the right of this blog witnessed the US Navy Blue Angles flying over Duncanville, Texas, there were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and of the empty tomb in which He had been buried. That means Jesus rose from the dead. How can you argue against a person who predicted that he would die, how he would die, by whose promptings he would die, by whose hands he would die, and that he would come back to life in three days – and it all come true? Are you going to call him a liar? Not me; especially since much of it was also predicted centuries earlier by others.

How can a person debate that? Jesus either rose from the dead, or he didn’t. It isn’t “The Bible” I have to believe – it is eyewitnesses I believe. Witnesses such as Matthew, Peter, John, and others who documented their observations. They had no idea that their writings might be saved for people to read centuries later. However, because their observations and stories were found to be authentic, they were incorporated into a group of books that became the Holy Bible.

Merriam-Webster defines the word bible as: a publication that is preeminent especially in authoritativeness or wide readership. Many bibles abound such as the Machinists’ Bible, Deer Hunters’ Bible, Flower Gardener’s Bible, the Holy Bible, and many more.

The topic of Jesus’ rising from the dead has been found by archeologists in ancient Roman documents because it was a political concern for the emperors. Therefore, it is worth our time discussing it, but not arguing over it.

But I don’t blindly accept the Holy Bible. We can believe it or we don’t have to believe it; but there isn’t much sense in arguing over it. The fact is that the Holy Bible is not just a spiritual book; it is one of the oldest and greatest history books in existence. It’s also a matter of faith. But faith goes both ways: you either have faith to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or you have faith that he didn’t rise from the dead. You have faith to believe the Bible, or you have faith not to believe it. You have faith to believe in God or you have faith not to believe. Everyone’s life is based on faith in something or in someone.

The historicity of Jesus living and dying has been proven by non-biblical sources, so that is not the issue. His raising from the dead is the issue. But you’ll also discover that Jesus’ resurrection has been proven by atheists and agnostics. Of course, they became believers in Christ once they verified the deity of Jesus Christ.

Not only does the empty tomb provide me with answers for this life, it also substantiates my faith for eternal life. And I ask you to turn to Jesus Christ and live for Him.

The Calaveras Jumping Frog

I had no idea what to expect when Carol and I went to San Andreas to visit our son and his family. Our first three nights were in the town named Angels Camp just eleven miles south.

No; that isn’t a place where celestial beings hunted and camped out. It is a town started by Henri Angell in 1848 as a gold mining town. Originally named Carson’s Creek, the town was incorporated under the name Angels in 1912 (located in Calaveras County) and eventually renamed to Angels Camp.

Although more than $20,000,000 in gold was processed there in the middle to late 1800s, one thing brought fame to both the town and a man: a story about a frog.

Sam Clemens, under the pen name of Mark Twain, was down on his luck and came to try his hand at panning for gold in the winter of 1864-1865. He didn’t do very well during his 88 days here in the California hills, but he heard a story in one of the taverns about a jumping frog. The veracity of the story is questionable; but embellishing it even further, Mark Twain wrote it up and sent it to his newspaper, The Territorial Enterprise, in Virginia City, Nevada.

That story, only 2,637 words including the title (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras by Mark Twain), brought him immediate fame and fortune; that story became his “gold mine.”

Our son, Ron, took me to visit the site of his cabin on Jackass Hill where Mark Twain lived for almost three months. The hill received that name because at least once a week, a caravan of up to 200 donkeys with supplies for the miners in Carson Creek (Angels Camp) would stop there for the night.

Today, the main feature of the Calaveras County Fair is the frog-jumping contest. It is called the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee and is one the longest-running events in the state of California—going back to 1893. Of course, as with any good county fair, it includes entertainment, livestock, food, music, and crafts.

The frog-jumping contest is usually in the third weekend of May; and in a town of about 3,900 population, about 50,000 visitors attend the jubilee. People can bring their own frogs or rent them from a company in town (who catch the amphibians in the local ponds). The winner of the contest each year gets a plaque and $900 in cash. But if a frog beats the world record of 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches, the owner gets a World Record Holder title and $5,000 cash. Now maybe you can see why this is a big deal in Calaveras County.

Frogs are placed at the starting line. They get three jumps. The actual distance they jump is immaterial – it’s how close the critter gets to the finish line that counts. They seldom jump in a straight line, but you should hear the noise of the crowd as they both cheer the critters and scare the daylights out of them.

Another event that takes place is the Mark Twain Wild West Fest on the third Saturday of October. Gold Rush village is a kid’s area with fence-painting, knot-tying, a petting zoo, historic town with candle and soap-making, and more. There is gold-rush era music, and in honor of Mark Twain, a liar’s contest. That’s a real hoot!

Mark Twain was a good story-teller. In 1899 he wrote an article titled, “How to Tell a Story.” He said, “The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic and the witty story upon the matter.”

Twain learned to tell stories in a dead-pan manner. The audience would be in a gale of laughter while Twain would sit there and watch them. That made it even funnier.

Mark Twain sent his story about the Calaveras County frog contest to The Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada. I read recently that although the paper had gone out of business sometime ago, it is now back in operation. It was in this newspaper that Twain wrote, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

Angels Camp is about 132 miles east of San Francisco by road, and about 80 miles southeast from Sacramento. My favorite eating establishment in town is called Round-Table Pizza, and the best ice cream place is called Yummy Ha-Ha.

Jesus Overruled Physics and Politics

Before Jesus was born, His title was “The Word.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 tells us that the Word became a human and lived among us. God, the Word, was born under the name of Yehoshua (the Lord is Salvation) and translated into English as Joshua. Translated from Hebrew into Greek, his name is Iesous, and then translated into English is Jesus.

Historical records verify that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; lived in Egypt, Nazareth, and Galilee (and several other places), and His vocation was carpenter and stone mason. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus was no wimp. Although He had a gentle disposition, He was muscular, physically tough, and had a will of iron. Those who were hurting or oppressed received gentle looks of compassion, but some of His adversaries shriveled under his steely glare!

Jesus had no identity crisis. He knew who He was and knew why He left heaven to live on earth. This was verified in Luke 2:48-49. Joseph and Mary were looking for Jesus and found Him in the temple bewildering the teachers of the law. When Mary asked twelve-year-old Jesus why He didn’t stay with them, Jesus responded, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus never did anything worthy of execution, so why was He crucified?

A sacrifice had to be made to rescue us from the black hole of oblivion called hell so that we could live with God forever in heaven. But to complete this liberating task, the sacrifice could not remain dead. Only God could accomplish this other-worldly task, and that’s why Jesus came.

Historical records verify that multi-thousands of people, including the Roman Emperor, heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, although most folks didn’t want to believe it. When the guards told the leaders of the Sanhedrin that Jesus had left the tomb, the leaders paid them to lie and say that Jesus’ disciples took His body from the tomb while they were sleeping. But that lie was absurd. Any reasonable child understands that we don’t know what’s happening while we’re asleep.

In 1546 AD, John Heywood said, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” That reminds me of the verse in Jeremiah 5:21, “Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear” (NLT). Both Jeremiah and John were speaking to people who refused to believe the obvious: those who closed their eyes and ears to reality. But Jesus was seen by many hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people during the forty days after He left the tomb. Jesus is alive!

Myths and legends have been created by those who refused to accept the fact that Jesus is alive, and I’ve been asked a number of times what happened to Him? The greatest history book in the world – the Bible – answers that question.

In Acts 1:9-11, after Jesus gave parting instructions to the hundreds of people standing with Him on the hill, He left earth under his own power. The verses say, “…as they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. As He was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go’” (NCV).

Not only did innumerable people see Jesus for forty days after He walked out of the tomb, but hundreds of people also watched Jesus overrule gravity and ascend into the sky. As He disappeared into the clouds the angel told them how Jesus would return.

Return? How? Why?

Jesus was not ruled by the laws of physics nor the pressures of politics, and the same will be true at His next appearance. Accompanied by myriads of angels and people, Jesus will come out of the sky under His own power. He will end the prevailing wars and put an end to all evil empires, corrupt democracies, and inadequate kingdoms. Jesus will set up His own Kingdom, and those whom He calls righteous will rule with him.

This is not the end of the story: read the Bible for more.

Current Actions Produce Delayed Results

The phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, I answered, “Howdy Paul.”

“Hey Eugene, what are you doing June 21 through June 24?” Paul was an army chaplain, recently retired, and is now a supporting chaplain at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

I responded, “Nothing’s on the calendar for those days – yet. What do you have in mind?”

“You want to fly to Montana with me?”

“Are you driving?”

“No, big brother. We’ll fly commercial.”

“Are you looking for grizzlies, moose, bison, or what?”

“Wrong on all counts. I want to see the shortest river in the world. You coming with me on this ‘brother’s trip’ or not?”

“Count me in!” And that started an adventure that two close brothers will never forget; and will result in a co-authored book.

Flying out of Oklahoma City, we changed planes in Salt Lake City, then made Helena, Montana home for two nights.

Over dinner, we discussed the purpose of the trip. Up near Great Falls, Montana, there is a natural phenomenon called Giant Springs from which flows what has been dubbed the shortest river in the world. Paul informed me, “Both the Springs and the River are why we are here.” The next day, we drove 75 miles to Giant Springs.

The Little Belt Mountains are sixty miles from Great Falls. As it rains and snows in those hills, water seeps into the Madison Aquifer. Most of that water flows underground into five surrounding states and up into Canada, but a portion travels to Giant Springs. There, approximately 150 million gallons push to the surface every day through openings in the limestone overlaying the Madison Aquifer. Situated on the east bank of the Missouri, some spring water flows directly into the Missouri, while the remainder enters the Missouri by way of the 201-foot-long Roe River. Fish eggs are called roe, and a portion of the short river is diverted into the fish hatchery. Therefore, the name Roe River.

As Paul and I approached the water, I incredulously asked, “That’s a river? That’s shorter than a football field.”

“Sure is. I was on a business trip in 2004, and I always wanted to come back and study it.”

Well, study it, we did – and still are. Various reports say it takes the water twenty-six to fifty-six years to make the sixty-mile trek through the Madison Aquifer, flowing from the Little Belt Mountains to Giant Springs. Yet other reports say some of the water is diverted through different layers of limestone and takes 3,000 years for the journey. Why is there a diversity of opinion about how long it takes? There is an answer, and we will find it.

Another point: the water becomes impure as it seeps into the ground. It can become contaminated by animal droppings, dead animals, mold, and so forth. But as it flows through the limestone, much of the impurities are filtered out.

But what’s the point of it all? I’m glad you asked.

There is a cause and effect working here. The mountain rain and pristine snow (the cause) and the beauty and majesty of the springs (the effect) remind us of the timeline of human life. As it takes many years for the water to seep through sixty miles of limestone to the Springs, things also happen in our lives that often produce a delayed response.

As a child you may have been told, “You’re dumb; you’ll never amount to much!” Or, “You can’t do anything right!” Those are devastating blows that contaminate life; and the clock begins ticking for results to push to the surface. But as the limestone removes the impurities from the water, someone’s intervention can remove those impurities from life. Loving interactions heal wounds.

On the other hand, you might have heard, “You are GOOD at this! You will do well in life.” That, also, sets the clock ticking, and what bubbles to the surface years later can benefit both humanity and God.

The point is: events and personal interactions shape us, but it may take years for the results to show.  So be kind to others and guide them. Help shape lives in a positive manner. Love others as God loves you.

Well, after the working part of the trip, we drove to the town of Stanford, Montana, where Paul treated me to lunch. He said, “I’m taking Stanford (my first name) to Stanford for lunch in honor of your first name.” It was sixty miles out of the way, but who cares? We had a wonderful time up in Big Sky Country.

Dickens and Christmas

Have you heard about the movie: The Man Who Invented Christmas?

Chris Knight, chief film critic for the National Post, said, “The movie is based on Les Standiford’s long-winded historical non-fiction from 2008, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits.” Knight also said of the movie, “By all rights, The Man Who Invented Christmas should be a humbug. Instead, it’s a humdinger.”

Charles John Huffam Dickens was a prolific writer. One article says he is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, and that he created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters. Several of them are: Jack Dawkins, the pick-pocket in Oliver Twist; Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Mr. Pott, the editor in The Pickwick Papers; and David Copperfield in David Copperfield.

Dickens was a prolific writer. But did he invent Christmas? Humbug!

But some pagan activities did intermingle with the sacred celebration.

Another commentary is from Ronald Hutton, an historian at Bristol University in the UK. He said, “It’s a mistake to say that our modern Christmas tradition comes directly from pre-Christian paganism. However, you’d be equally wrong to believe that Christmas is a modern phenomenon. As Christians spread their religion into Europe in the first centuries A.D., they ran into people living by a variety of local and regional religious creeds.”

One report says: “A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.”  (history.com/topics/christmas)

Philip Shaw, who researches early Germanic languages and Old English at Leicester University in the UK, said, “Early Christians wanted to convert pagans to Christianity, but they were also fascinated by their [pagan] traditions.”

Stephen Nissenbaum, author of “The Battle for Christmas”; Vintage, 1997) made a good case for an old Christmas celebration when he said, “If you want to show that Jesus was a real human being, not just somebody who appeared like a hologram, then what better way to think of him being born in a normal, humble human way than to celebrate his birth?”

Christmas celebrations developed independently around the world for almost 2,000 years. And why not? Jesus’ birth was probably one of the two most important events in the history of the world!

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas – God became man in order to redeem us and restore our fellowship with Himself. And he came as a baby, born in a manger.

But as mentioned previously, many of the Christmas festivities became corrupted. Instead of candlelight services or worship services, rowdy and drunken revelries became common. Therefore, many protestants rejected paganized Christmas celebrations. Early Protestants wanted to honor Jesus Christ, our Savior – not have a festivity which obscured Christ. Denouncing sin and frivolity, they gave necessities for life as gifts; avoiding superficial parties, they shared sacred meals.

But as some Protestants squelched the pagan revelry surrounding Christmas, they also put down anything associated with Christmas celebrations. They threw out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, they threw out observing the birth of Jesus with the pagan celebrations.

Enter Charles Dickens.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in the 1840s, Dickens vowed to do something about it – and writing was what he did best. In six weeks, he wrote A Christmas Carol. If you’ve read it, you know why it became an immediate best-seller.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. Without ignoring the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them.

Did Dickens invent Christmas? No. But he did encourage joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

Jesus, who is God (John 1:1-3), came to earth to restore man’s relationship with himself. But he came as a baby (Matthew 1, Luke 1) so, as he grew, he could personally experience mankind’s trials, hardships, and joys.

Jesus loves you and desires for you to know him as he is today – God and Savior.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

What Should We Do?

When people slander you, what do you feel like doing? When someone hurls insults in your face and maligns your integrity, how should you respond? What does human nature demand?

Please hear this: when we respond in our fallen human nature, war breaks out!

I grew up in a family of 10 kids, and if you know anything about children, peace does not always freely reign. We could sing When Peace Like a River Attendeth my Way, Let There be Peace in the Valley, or Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men all we wanted to, but when one of us was offensive, only Dad or Mom could break us up. That’s fallen human nature. Why are we that way?

Now, lest my siblings find this and read it, I want to affirm that we had a lot of fun and have a barrel of good memories. Our family memoir, Looking Through the Rearview Mirror, bears this out. But we did have war at times. You might enjoy reading about the adventures and misadventures of our family, and can order the book at: https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Through-Rearview-Mirror-Linzey-ebook/dp/B09JM3N5TD/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1634619105&sr=1-2

When emotions get riled up, words tend to fly out of the mouth that might not be true. But if there is any truth to the words, the angry person tends to blow it out of proportion. And this problem is not relegated to children. Adults from 18 to 100 are just as guilty.

So, how should we react when someone attempts to destroy our character? How should we respond when someone broadcasts his or her disdain for us?

The wrong answer is to fight back; to fight fire with fire. Bristling, getting huffy, and trying to set that person straight tends to prove the angry person’s accusations.

There are several versions of the right answer. But since I have a habit of giving simple answers, let me give you one right now although I’m not the author of it.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says it this way, “I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you.”

But eighteen of twenty-eight versions I read simply say something very close to, “I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.”

Loving others simply means, be kind to them.

When I was twelve years old, one of my school-mates hollered, “Your family isn’t fit for a pack of wolves!” When I complained to Dad, he said, “If kids say things like that, just respond, You’re right. we can’t stoop that low.” A few days later when the junior high school thug hurled another similar epithet, I responded as Dad suggested. Amazingly, that was the end of the potential feud.

The old saying, it takes two to tango, can be applied to many situations. Recently, when a man who despises my worldview hurled hateful words at me in a public setting, I told him I considered him a friend. Was he friendly? Of course not, but his actions do not mandate my reaction. I purposely chose to respond in the manner that Jesus taught, and I pray for the man.

Getting angry raises our blood pressure and increases our cholesterol level, both of which are hard on the heart. Anger confuses us and immerses us in a moral quandary. Angry people don’t merely offend people they dislike, it puts a wedge between them and their friends.

An angry person develops a hollow feeling that cannot be filled. The person then has a compound-problem: he must amplify angry emotions and increase his outbursts to justify the feelings of hate. As the situation intensifies, a false reality develops which deepens the deception.

What should angry people do? If they enjoy being angry, they’ll continue as they are. But if they want peace in their lives, they’ll need to realize that the answer to the problem comes from Jesus and can be found in the Bible.

Jesus, the Prince of peace, wants to heal us of our self-inflicted problems, and as Philippians 4:7 says, Jesus gives us peace that cannot be adequately explained.

What else should we do? Follow Jesus’ example and forgive those who offend you. You’ll be happier and healthier if you do.

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