The Holiday that Almost Wasn’t

John on VacationLeigh Eric Schmidt writes in her fascinating little book, Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays, “The success of Mother’s Day was an inspiration.” (Mother’s Day was first celebrated as a recognized American holiday in 1908 after Anna Jarvis led a national campaign. Later Jarvis campaigned against the holiday claiming it had become too commercial!) In 1910 Sonora Dodd promoted the idea of Father’s Day among churches in Spokane, Washington. It only seemed fitting to honor Dads as well as Moms. Father’s Day was celebrated first at the local YMCA, but people were opposed to Father’s Day on two counts. First, it was too feminine. For Mother’s Day people were encouraged to wear carnations. For Father’s Day they were told to wear red roses.

It took some strong sermons to make Father’s Day masculine. One of the first was by a Presbyterian, Conrad Bluhm who titled his sermon, “The Knight That Never Retreats.” Fathers were “rugged, husky, [and] stalwart.” He went on, “It was Father’s Day when Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees. It was Father’s Day when Noah built the ark. It was Father’s Day when Christ chose the Twelve… The Bible is a man’s book and its lessons are his life-task.” Bluhm continued, “The word Father is found in the Bible 1650 times; mother but 311 times. It is a Father’s book!”

Father’s Day may have become more manly, but people were also tired of commercialism and it seemed like Father’s Day was just another ploy by retailers to sell pipes, socks and neckties so by the 1920s the fire of Father’s Day had nearly gone out – even in Spokane. Schmidt observes, “Father’s Day exchanges appeared as a kind of practical joke; Dad was bewildered by the attention or even somehow duped by these tokens of affection (some of which were clearly purchased more with the giver than the receiver in mind). Also, and this was a source of popular satire, Dad was seen as the one who, in the end, would have to pay for all these gadgets and trinkets. The bills for Father’s Day gifts were viewed as circling back to him, so that he was made to pay, quite literally, for his own undoing ….”

No wonder then it took so long for Father’s Day to be recognized as a national holiday. The first bill was introduced in congress in 1913. Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak for Father’s Day in Spokane in 1916. Calvin Coolidge recommended it in 1924. The bill was defeated three times in congress. (The last one was rejected in 1957.) In 1966 Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day, but it wasn’t until Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972 that Father’s Day became a national holiday.

Of course God was way ahead of congress and told us to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) As Paul observed, this is the first commandment with a promise. Happy Father’s Day Dad!

 

Humble

 

“In a society where fortune favors the strong, modesty is often seen as a weakness. Climbing to the top of a corporate ladder is our modern version of ‘survival of the fittest’ — and for that reason, meekness is often under-appreciated. But turns out, the secret to success and fulfillment may very well lie in the ability to express humility.” — Lindsay Holmes

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek,” but that’s a virtue we no longer seem to value. Americans tend to equate meek with weak, but true humility is a virtue of success. Later, Jesus told his disciples, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” (Matthew 23:12). So how can I learn to be humble?

Humble People Focus on Others

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” – Peter, 1 Peter 5:5

While it’s true that humble people tend to reflect inward, but they focus their energy on other people. C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Lindsay Holmes observes, “Because there’s this lack of self-absorption, humble people also have more courage to try new things. With a focus on others, there is less pressure to be perfect.”

Humble People Act on Their Compassion

Research has shown that humble people are more likely to help others in need. They are more charitable and generous, and, studies show compassionate people live healthier and happier lives.

Humble People Make Moral Decisions

Stuck between a rock and a hard place? Humble people look to their “moral compass” when they are making decisions. A proud man’s arrogance causes them to blunder, while the wise man humbly looks for guidance from above.

Happiness is a Journey

Everyone wants to be happy, but it is a strange paradox that people who pursue happiness often don’t find it, while people who don’t focus on happiness find it along the way. Mike Austin, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, explains, “Human nature is such that we want to be happy, however we tend to define that, but … people that are the happiest are the ones that don’t think so much about trying to be happy …. They get caught up in projects, people and things that they consider bigger and more important than themselves and then they get more happiness anyway as a byproduct.”

Humble People Make Great Leaders

“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth,” Numbers 12:3.

Humble people give other people credit inspiring the best from their followers. They are open to collaboration. Time Magazine reported humility actually makes people better employees and bosses. James reminds us, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” (James 4:10).

Humble People are Patient

Because humble people are focused outwardly, they do not require constant affirmations. They are willing to wait and enjoy the journey. The Apostle Peter said, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Modesty fosters patience.

Humble People Enjoy Stronger Relationships

Humility creates a sense of “we-ness” in relationships. Modesty and genuine graciousness fosters true friendships and builds stronger relations. The Apostle Paul reminds us to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love,” (Ephesians 4:2).

 

Thanks to Lindsay Holmes and a wonderful article in the Huffington Post, July 13, 2015.

The Cowardly Christian

Mountain Climbing on Mt. Rainier, Washington, USA

There is a passage in the Apocalypse that startles me. As the book is drawing to a close, Jesus tells John:

 “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death,” (Revelation 21:6-8).

The list startled me. I expected murderers, sexually immoral and liars to burn in hell, but cowards? As I continued to think about this, it dawned on me just how important courage is. Do you remember the Parable of the Talents? The one servant with the one talent failed because he was afraid:

24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you,’” (Matthew 25:24, 25).

“I was afraid.” How often has fear kept us from doing what we know is right? James, the brother of Jesus, said, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins,” (James 4:17). Theologians call this a “sin of omission.” Contrast that with a “sin of commission” – actively doing wrong. I suspect more people will fail to reach heaven because of sins of omission than any other. Again, Jesus told his followers, his disciples:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life,” (Matthew 25:41-46).

The more I thought about the sin of being a coward, the more I understood why Jesus is so appalled by the lack of courage in his disciples. A cowardly leader is so afraid of doing the wrong thing that he fails to act and the congregation suffers the consequences. A cowardly Christian is like outdated yeast that fails to leaven the dough and we end up with flat bread instead of a light, flaky, golden loaf. A cowardly church hides behind closed doors and fails to tell the world of a loving Savior.

So how do we learn to be courageous Christians? Courage isn’t something we think about. It is something we do. It’s time to step out of our comfort zones and be agents of change – the salt and light that Jesus expects us to be (Matthew 5:13-16).

 

Papa Was Right (Maybe)

My Grandfather, John D. McKeel

My grandfather was a huge influence in my life. He was a very small, dark Oklahoman, but had a ready wit and loved a good story. Papa was also very wise. For example, he noted that only fat people eat diet food, so if you want to avoid being overweight, you should avoid diet food, at least according to my grandfather. Likewise, Papa was a practical man. He insisted, “Life is uncertain so eat dessert first.” Papa also insisted that we should pray after meals instead of before so we would know just how thankful to be. It turns out, Papa wasn’t too far off base. The Jewish people, based on Deuteronomy 8:10, say the blessing after the meal!

“When you have eaten, and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”

On the other hand, Jesus gave thanks sometimes before (Luke 24:30), and sometimes afterwards (Luke 22:20). So why do Christians say their “blessing” over the meal before enjoying it? Some scholars believe the practice is tied to Jews and Gentiles eating together.

It must have been very hard for someone like Peter, a Jew, who had never eaten anything “unclean” (Acts 10:14), to enjoy a meal of forbidden food (Galatians 2:12). Perhaps that’s why Paul told Timothy, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” In other words, prayers make the food acceptable to eat, so it would make sense for Peter to pray before the meal.

But whether we pray before, after, or both, thanking God for our food is a wonderful practice. First, it cultivates an “attitude of gratitude” – an essential Christian virtue. I remember watching an old Walter Brennan movie where Brennan played a cantankerous old farmer. As he dug into the family meal his wife chastised him and insisted they say grace before they ate. I’ll never forget his bitter prayer: “Lord, we ploughed the field, planted the seed, hoed, watered and harvested the crop, but we give you thanks anyway.” His prayer reflected his sad character. How much sweeter is a thankful spirit!

Second, thanking God for our meals teaches us to depend on Him Who provides us with food, and shelter and clothing (Acts 17:25).

Finally, saying grace is a wonderful opportunity to teach our children to pray. Don’t you remember how special you felt when your father asked you to lead the family prayer at the dinner table? So, go ahead, take a moment to bow your head and thank the Lord for his love at every meal – even if, as Papa advised, it’s after dessert.

A 200 Year Old Solution

mcheyneRobert Murray M’Cheyne (pronounced “Mak-shayn”) was a minister for the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) from 1835 – 1843. Although he died of typhus at age 29, M’Cheyne left an incredible legacy. He was a very pious young man, praying for two hours every day (and six on Sunday), but what he is best known for is his “Daily Bible Reading Plan.” It’s a very simple schedule that allows the reader to completely read the Bible through once a year and the New Testament and Psalms through twice. It only requires reading four chapters a day.

Let’s look at the reading schedule for January 1st. John R.W. Stott calls these readings the “Four Beginnings.” Read Genesis 1 – the beginning of the world. Then read Ezra 1 – the new beginning for Israel, followed by Matthew 1 – the beginning of the Gospel, and finish with Acts 1 – the beginning of the Church. On January 2, read Genesis 2, Ezra 2, Matthew 2, and Acts 2. On January 3, read Genesis 3, Ezra 3, Matthew 3, and Acts 3. Simple! Now notice the beauty of this system.

When people set out to read the Bible, they either begin with Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, or they begin with Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. If you begin with Genesis intending to read through the entire Bible sequentially, most people give up somewhere in the dense book of Leviticus when we encounter all the rules for the Jewish people. On the other hand, if you begin with Matthew, the first chapter contains the genealogy of Jesus. Just pronouncing the names is a huge challenge for most people and, frankly, not that inspirational so many good intensions are shipwrecked here.[1] M’Cheyne’s plan avoids this problem. He surrounds Matthew 1 with the story of the creation of the world in Genesis 1, Ezra’s amazing story in Ezra 1, and the inspiring story of the beginning of the Church in Acts chapter 1 and so it is for the rest of the Bible. Brilliant!

In our next article, we’ll try to answer the question, “Why read such an old book?” Meanwhile, here is M’Cheyne’s plan for January:

Daily Bible Reading for January
Daily Bible Reading for January

[1] Although time spent studying this text is truly rewarding! See my articles, “Count Down to Christmas,” parts 1, 2, and 3.

Heaven, We Have a Problem

john-with-bibleAccording to Pew Research, America has a literacy problem. “When was the last time you read a book? For almost 1 in 4 of us, it was more than a year ago, according to Pew Research. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978.” [1] The problem is even worse than that because, although Christians claim to believe the Bible is the Word of God, we aren’t reading it.

“A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.”

What about in Great Britain? The United Kingdom Bible Society surveyed British children and found many couldn’t identify common Bible stories. When given a list of Bible stories, a staggering 59% didn’t know the story of Jonah came from the Bible and almost 1 in 3 didn’t know the story of the birth of Jesus was in the Bible! Parents didn’t fare much better. Around 30 percent didn’t know the stories of Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible! Worse, 27% think the story of Superman is in the Bible. 1 in 3 believes Harry Potter is a Bible story and more than half (54%) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible!

It shouldn’t be this way! Nine out of ten American homes (Christian or not) have at least one Bible in them. The average American (Christian or not) owns at least three Bibles.

What can we do?

  1. We need to confess our lack of study and ask God for forgiveness.
  2. Set aside a regular time – even five minutes a day – to read the Bible.
  3. Use a Daily Bible Reading plan to guide you. I highly recommend Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s.
  4. Join one a small group to help you study. A recent study “shows that as Christians increase their participation in small groups, their Bible engagement scores go up.”

Where should I start?

In my next blog, I will introduce my favorite Daily Bible Reading plan. It was written by a Church of Scotland minister over 200 years ago and it still blesses my life.

[1] All of the quotations used in this article were downloaded from http://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2015/epidemic-of-bible-illiteracy-in-our-churches.html?paging=off published by Christianity Today.

Failure Isn’t Final

boatyardOnce Jesus told a story about a rich man who took a journey to a faraway land. Before he left, the rich man entrusted his money to three men. To one man he gave five bags of gold. To another he gave two bags of gold and to the third man, he gave a single bag of gold. It was more money that the poor man had ever seen before. Can you imagine him holding the bag? Looking inside? Weighing and worrying about so much money? Worse, the wealthy man expected his three servants to put the money to work. The first two did so and reaped enormous profits. They doubled his wealth. Five became ten and two became four, but the man with a single bag of gold was so frightened he buried the money and waited for the rich man to return. Let’s listen to the conversation:

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 25:24–30). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

I’ve often wondered what the Master would have said if the fearful man would have tried and failed? “Master I did my best, but I failed.”

Have you ever considered the virtues of failure? Failure should be a learning experience. I’ve been told Edison burned up hundreds of filaments as he was trying to invent a practical light bulb. When asked about his failures, he objected strongly. We haven’t failed! We’ve just learned another material isn’t suitable. There is a true story about a project manager at IBM who lost the company 10 million dollars. Dejectedly, he walked into the president’s office and said, “I’m sorry. I’m sure you’ll want my resignation. I’ll be gone by the end of the day.”           The president’s response showed his understanding of the value of failure. He said, “Are you kidding? We’ve just invested 10 million dollars in your education. We’re not about to let you go. Now get back to work.”

Consider what these great men have said about failure:

  • Admiral Hyman G. Rickover said, “Success teaches us nothing; only failure teaches.”
  • Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, promised, “Success is on the far side of failure.” He also observed, “If you want to double your success rate, double your failure rate.”
  • Winston Churchill said, “Success is never final. Failure is never final. It is courage that counts.”
  • D. Mattiesen observed, “Failure is the true test of greatness.”

Perhaps one man illustrates the failure principle best:

  • 1831 He failed in business
  • 1832 He was defeated in legislature
  • 1833   He again failed in business
  • 1834   He was elected to the legislature
  • 1835   His wife to be died.
  • 1836   He had a nervous breakdown
  • 1838   He was defeated for Speaker of the House
  • 1840   He was defeated for Elector
  • 1850   A son died
  • 1855   He was defeated for the Senate
  • 1856   He was defeated for Vice President
  • 1858   He was defeated for the Senate
  • 1860   This man, Abraham Lincoln, was elected President.

So, while we don’t know for sure what the Master would have said to the one talent man if he would have tried and failed, I suspect this adage would have applied: “A friend is someone who, when you fail, doesn’t think it’s a permanent condition.”

Alan Loy McGinnis, in his book, Bringing Out the Best in People, wrote: “strong people make as many and as ghastly mistakes as weak people. The difference is that strong people admit them, laugh at them, learn from them. That is how they become strong.”

Philip C. Brewer composed these, “Paradoxes of a Man of God:”

 Strong enough to be weak;
Successful enough to fail;
Busy enough to take time;
Wise enough to say, “I don’t know”;
Serious enough to laugh;
Rich enough to be poor;
Right enough to say, “I’m wrong”‘
Compassionate enough to discipline;
Conservative enough to give freely;
Mature enough to be childlike;
Righteous enough to be a sinner;
Important enough to be last;
Courageous enough to fear God;
Planned enough to be spontaneous;
Controlled enough to be flexible;
Free enough to endure captivity;
Knowledgeable enough to ask questions;
Loving enough to be angry;
Great enough to be anonymous;
Responsible enough to play;
Assured enough to be rejected;
Stable enough to cry;
Victorious enough to lose;
Industrious enough to relax;
Leading enough to serve.

Finally, Emilie Griffin believes, “The Lord loves us — perhaps most of all — when we fail and try again.”

 

Cruel Christmas

Christmas Shopping
Christmas Shopping

There is a cruel side to Christmas. There it was under the tree: A Laser Blaster 2000! Nothing else mattered. You raced around the house gleefully saving the world from bug-eyed monsters from outer space, but then came that awful moment Christmas afternoon when you met your friends. You triumphantly held up your prize and pride, the Laser Blaster 2000 only to discover Billy got the Laser Blaster 3000 with battery powered sights and sound. The joy you had felt a moment before was snuffed out and you began to feel – perhaps for the first time – the spark of envy.

By the time we become adults that little spark has become the raging fire of “conspicuous consumption.” We begin buying things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know. The desire to be the envy of others often leads to overspending and consequent marital conflicts. (Arguments over money and spending is listed as one of the greatest causes of divorce in America.)  “A convincing case can be make that the entire free enterprise system is fueled by envy,” Harry Stein writes in his book, Ethics and Other Liabilities.

Envy isn’t just about material things. We envy successful people. We envy beautiful people. We envy powerful people and have you noticed the irony of it all? Envying someone causes them no inconvenience whatsoever. In fact, the object of our envy is likely to enjoy the envy of others! Stein continues, “No emotion is so corrosive of the system and the soul as acute envy” because, unlike hatred or lust or violent anger, it is internalized and there is nothing therapeutic about it. Envy can be debilitating to the point of paralysis and then there is the ugliness factor. It is nearly impossible to envy with style. Invariably we end up looking as small as we feel. In fact, at its base, envy is largely a matter of self-contempt – an intense dissatisfaction with what we are.

Anthony Campolo (The Seven Deadly Sins) observes, “Envy diminishes people’s enjoyment of life because they cannot be content with what they possess.” A man who covets another man’s wife becomes discontented with his own. A woman who envies another woman’s sexy appearance becomes a supporter of a cultural system which diminishes her own value and encourages her own unhappiness.

Envy isn’t just a sin of the world; I’ve seen it within the church. One minister is jealous of another staff member’s success and his envy leads him to say and do all kinds of horrible and hurtful things. The story is told of the devil. Once Satan was crossing the desert and came across some of his minions trying unsuccessfully to tempt a poor Christian pilgrim. They were trying every trick they knew – temptations of the flesh, doubts, fears – all to no avail. Satan smiled and asked them for a turn. The devil bent down and whispered in the man’s ear, “Your brother has just been made the Bishop of Alexandria.” The serene face of the pilgrim twisted into a scowl fueled by the fires of envy and jealousy.

So what can we do about envy? An attitude of gratitude can shield us. I like the wise observation, “If you think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, it is probably because you are not properly caring for the grass on your own side.” When we count our blessings and are grateful for what God has given us, we are protected from envy. Likewise, learning to be happy for others is a mark of wisdom. Christians are urged to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” (Romans 12:15). It’s all part of learning to live unselfishly. Third, we need to “learn to let go.” One of the greatest joys – and perhaps one of the hardest challenges – is to give things away. How much do we really need to be happy? Finally, we need to commit to the common cause. The war we face is not with each other! We are in this world together.

Let’s go back and change that Christmas afternoon scenario. “Billy that Blaster 3000 is great! I am so happy for you. Now let’s go save the world from bug-eyed aliens together!”

Stuff

boatyardI stood there in front of our storage unit with my hands on my hips and said it again, “We’ve got too much stuff!” Jan and I are changing jobs and all our worldly belongings were crammed into storage. Just eight years ago, we had disposed of everything (save a few family heirlooms) and moved onto a 40-foot boat. It felt so clean and unencumbered. Now we were wondering where we were going to put all this stuff we had accumulated.

The garage sale was a success, but, honestly, the most fun was giving it all away. People dreaded coming to my office because I sent them packing with double arm loads of books. We left the parsonage nearly furnished as we walked away from our living room furniture. The phone rang off the hook when Jan posted ads on Craig’s List for “Free Stuff.” They carted it all away and still we had too much stuff.

“I’ll need my table saw when we build the cabin,” I said. “I’ll need an outfit for our job interviews, and clothes for the island and the boat,” Jan replied. And there it all was – dining room table, grandma’s chest, lamps, box after box of kitchen equipment, dishes, office equipment, camping gear and clothes, sewing table, boat parts, TV trays, chest of drawers, beds and mattresses — boxes reaching back into the dark recesses of the storage unit. Things stacked floor to ceiling and not an inch to spare. Too much stuff!

So just how much do we really need? I desperately need the love of my wife. Without her, I would just be an empty shell. I need the love of my children and my grandchildren, but often they seem so far away. I need my friends for without them to share with, life wouldn’t be nearly so sweet. I need to walk in nature and feel the hand of God on my shoulder, but this stuff? No, Paul was right, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content,” (1 Timothy 6:6-8). The stuff I really need fills my heart and not my pockets – or a storage unit.

Marcus the Therapist

The Western Wall of the Temple
The Western Wall of the Temple

Marcus the Therapist sat down with Simon the Zealot. Simon was honing his short sword with a stone, then testing its edge by shaving the hairs on the back of his arm. “Simon, you seem to be a little upset right now.”

Simon rubbed his thumb along the blade drawing a bead of blood as he looked up. He clenched his teeth, narrowed his eyes and spat, “Right about that!”

“Would you like to talk about it?” Marcus asked.

Simon drew a deep breath and then let it out slowly. “Do you think in would help?” he asked.

Marcus smiled knowingly. “It just might.”

“Well,” the Zealot began, “those pansy priests are taking advantage of the poor pilgrims” he said. Marcus cringed at the word “pansy” but nodded and said, “Hmm. Go on.”

“Ya see, the pilgrims walk for hundreds of miles to worship in the Temple,” the crusty Simon observed. “Some of them are leading or carrying precious little lambs they have raised themselves.”

Marcus rolled his eyes. “How will we ever mature as a race if these bloody sacrifices continue?” he thought to himself.

“Well, think about it Doc. The people love those little lambs, but they hate their sins. They are consumed by guilt …” At the word “guilt” Marcus perked up. “That precious lamb will be their sacrifice to atone for their sins. Can you imagine?” he asked.

Marcus shuddered. He could hardly believe this was the first century! Hadn’t mankind progressed past such barbarity? “Continue,” the therapist nodded.

“When the poor pilgrim and his lamb get to the temple, the bleeding priest looks at the pilgrim’s sacrifice, shakes his head and points to some so-called ‘blemish’ on the little lamb. The sacrifice isn’t good enough. Then the priest points the pilgrim to one of the official lamb dealers where he can buy a ‘pre-approved’ lamb – mangy beasts,” Simon spit. “Naturally the priests are getting a kick back on the deal, but that’s not all!” Simon stood up gripping his razor sharp sword. “The pilgrim can’t even use his money – it being tainted foreign money and all. He has to exchange it – at a fee – for so-called Temple money. Only it ain’t even real Temple money. It’s a Tyrian shekel it is!” The Zealot raised his sword in holy anger. “I could just run somebody through!”

Marcus took a deep breath. “I see,” the therapist began. “Why don’t you sit back down and breathe deeply for a moment. That’s right. Try breathing in slowly and letting it out in one big exhale.”

With Simon sitting down again, Marcus continued. “Life’s not fair Simon,” he started. “Sometimes things don’t always go the way we think they should. That’s no excuse though for your losing your temper. You have a choice. You can choose to become angry and lash out and hurt others, or you can be in control. By not reacting to other people’s choices, you are really winning! Doesn’t that feel better?”

Marcus looked down at his sundial. “Well Simon, I think you’ve made good progress today.” He stood up, looked out the window and wondered, “Who is that Galilean with a whip over at the Temple?”