Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Feral Cats & "Captive" Thoughts

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." ~ 2nd Corinthians 10:5

I first realized things had gotten out of control when the conversation turned to feral cats.

Just like a 100-watt bulb flooding a room with light, the root cause of my problem suddenly glared – and I understood that the problem … was me.

I had been struggling since the night before with emotions that had taken root as minor annoyance and then blossomed into aggravation, anger, hatred and now gloom.

Feral cats?” you ask.

Well, yes. Feral cats were the trigger that jogged my perception that 2nd Corinthians 10:5 (quoted above) is more than a glib word of advice – the verse is a sober warning – and we’ll get to the feral cats in a moment.

Let’s rewind to Sunday night, when this all started, because it's important for you to see how one thing can quickly lead to another ... and why 2nd Corinthians 10:5 is such a vital verse to apply to your life with strict discipline.

Sunday nights are my favorite times of the week. I call them my "escape nights." I don't watch a lot of television. But there is one show that I never miss: "Once Upon a Time." This show allows me to forget whatever is going on in real life. All of my favorite childhood stories are in one place, the heroes and princesses and knights and magical creatures interacting in one fantastic storyline.

But Sunday night, the show was delayed for a few minutes due to a speech from the Oval Office. And the President was addressing tragedies created by ISIS. This is where my “minor annoyance” began. Reality -- that the real world is a dangerous and scary place -- intruded on my escape time. And as I listened to the President, that annoyance moved into anger. I started brooding about the terrorist attacks in California and Paris. By the time the President finished his speech, I was into an agitated state of mind.

Finally, my show started, and I settled in, anxious to be rid of the reminders of the cares of life.

Unfortunately, the Once Upon a Time screenwriters decided to take a U-turn. The plot became very dark and sad. And the story ended with not a little bit of gloom. Now I was dejected. I’d been looking forward to a night by the Christmas tree to relax fully. I went to bed.

And throughout the night, I dreamed. I woke several times, and by now, I’d moved from agitation and anger to anxiousness. I started thinking about my life as a single mom, supporting a child now in middle school. I started wondering about his future. I dwelled on school shootings and his safety. I churned about providing for him in a world that shifts with uncertainty and fear. 

I slept lightly through that night. When I woke, it was to a grey slate sky -- not a glimmer of yellow sunlight to be seen. The house was chilly. My dog was curled feebly and snoring. He’s old, and so then I started thinking, “It won’t be long until I have to put him to sleep. He looks so miserable and in pain.” I started worrying about my dog.

Then I heard it: a liquid cough coming from my child’s room. I groaned. He emerged with an, “I’m sick. I want to stay home from school." He threw his little arms around my neck. I took his temperature (none), washed some Tylenol children’s cold syrup down his throat and convinced him to go to the first two classes of the day and then call me if he still felt sick to pick him up.

While I was scurrying around, turning up the heat, lighting the tree, putting on Christmas music (I had to try to cheer myself up by now!) and feeding the dog, I pulled up Twitter. What was going on in the world today?

And that’s when I got hit with the feral cats.

I don’t know what people were doing on Monday morning as they got ready for work, but it seemed that the majority of the 7,000-plus people I am following on Twitter decided it was highly important to send out photos and videos of feral cats. These weren’t cute cuddly fluffy kittens, mewing quietly and batting balls of yarn playfully. These were the scrawny, spotted-striped outdoor cats that bring dead rodents to your doorstep as gifts. My mind flashed back to four years ago, when on a cold winter’s night I took pity on four neighborhood strays and brought them indoors. They wrecked the house, terrorized my dog and by the time all was said and done, I had to de-flea the place. Let’s not even talk about the half-dead bloody Robins that they dropped in my yard, I guess to thank me for my hospitality.

There was no good reason for my grumpiness, other than the fact that since the night before, I hadn’t been following 2nd Corinthians 10:5. I wasn’t taking these negative thoughts “captive.” I boiled over and sent out a snarky tweet about these photographs, comparing the need of feral cats to that of homeless people. Then in a self-righteous huff, I took off for my gym for yoga class.

That’s when things got even more interesting, because yoga is supposed to lead to serene calm, and I was trying desperately to grasp at every calm moment and image that I could. I usually hit the weight room before I go to class … but when I walked in, a gaggle of women were watching a broadcast on Fox News about Donald Trump.

You know …. I normally would have let that go. I normally would have just silently picked up my weights, ignored the television and the Right Wing comments about the President and gone about my business without comment.

But at that moment, I let loose.

I sort of …. Ummm …. How should I describe this?

OK, there is no other way to put this.

I growled. Sort of like a loud bear.

Everyone in the weight room stopped and turned and stared at me, their jaws agape. I can’t blame them. They probably were wondering if I was going to start shooting, given the recent events. But I just glared at all of them, mumbled something under my breath about “Fox News is for non-thinking idiots” (I think. Yep. That’s what I said.) and headed to the sauna.

And in the sauna was an immigrant from China. We talked about the smog in Beijing and about how long she’d been in this country. We talked about kids and yoga and exercise and food and my child’s fascination with Asian cultures. By the time I walked out of there, I was breathing more deeply, and I was starting to feel a little ashamed for my bear impersonation in the weight room.

After I got home, I pulled up Twitter one more time to see some questions about my tweet about the feral cats. And I felt ridiculous. Why on earth had I made such a big deal about feral cats? Why had I made an ass of myself at the gym? Why was I feeling doom and gloom and angry and frustrated and anxious and – frankly – hateful? Yes, I was feeling hateful towards people on the other side of the political fence. I was feeling strong hate for their views and strong hate that they were clinging to a candidate that I found completely repulsive.

And when I looked at that tweet I’d sent out about the feral cats …. Well, that’s when it hit me:

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." ~ 2nd Corinthians 10:5

Usually this verse pertains to the practice of defending the Gospel, but I also think that when we “spiral,” for lack of a better word, into this type of negative thinking – it takes us away from “the knowledge of God.” It strips us of being grateful and loving. It takes focus away from the blessings God has given us and places it instead on our fears, anger and frustration. Nothing good comes of this. And as you can see in my case, by the time I realized how my thoughts had traveled, we can actually alienate others from wanting to know about Him, just by our negativity and actions.

The holidays are here, and for many of us whose life circumstances have changed, that can signal a lot of negative thinking, even sadness. But I would challenge you – as I challenge myself – to “take captive every thought.” Take it captive. When tempted to yield to the worries of this world, take those temptations captive. Stop the thoughts in their tracks, and if you have difficulty doing that, ask God to do it for you.

It takes strong mental discipline to quell this. But I also believe that when Jesus says, “Ask, and it shall be given you,” that you can apply that to negative thinking. Ask Him to direct your thoughts, to fill your soul, to give you peace, to pour love in your heart for those that you find repulsive and to calm your worries.

Take every thought captive. I hope and pray that we can all do that this season.

And if you see snarky tweets from me in the future about feral cats, just assume I’ve had a bad morning … but I am trying hard subdue those thoughts into captivity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Personal Apology to the Ashley Madison Hack Victims

I was absolutely giddy. 


When the news broke that someone had leaked the names of adulterers on the Ashley Madison website and all of their personal information, including credit cards, I was elated.

I'm one of those people who relished in pranks when I was in school. And to me, the Ashley Madison hack was one gi-normous prank of epic proportions.

Except, THIS prank got at the heart of all of my personal anger, frustration and hatred towards a group of people that I had come to completely despise:


I really hated you. And I felt justified in my hatred. I felt justified in my anger.

I don't really need to go through all of the reasons. Some of you who have known me for years know why. Suffice it to say, there is a line between righteous anger/indignation and sinful hatred.

I had crossed that line. For a long time, I was on the right side of it, but at some point (and I don't know when, exactly), I moved into judgmental, self-righteous fury. I was good at fooling myself that I was "righteously angry," however. I mean, let's face it: the Ashley Madison website triggers every angry emotion in anyone who has ever been in a relationship with an adulterer. They were flagrant about their sin. They derided the poor saps left alone while they cavorted with their lovers. They had no shame, no hesitation in rushing to the beds of others. 

Ashley Madison users, I resented you. I resented your narcissistic, selfish decision to leave families behind while you indulged your sexual appetites. 

And I had ZERO sympathy for your plight. I had no mercy in my heart, no compassion, no forgiveness, no love. 

I was thrilled that you'd just met karma and that karma had served up a knuckle sandwich on a platter for you.

That is ... until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning, my pastor gave a sermon about the Good Samaritan. Well, you might think, this doesn't have anything to do with adultery. I thought so, too. I opened my Bible to Luke 10 and piously followed his points, thinking that I knew the story, thinking that I knew the punchline, thinking that I understood the morality, thinking that I had no guilt to confess ... thinking that this was not a sermon for me.

But then we hit the very end, where Jesus asked the lawyer in the crowd, "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"

And the lawyer responded, "The one who showed him mercy."

Jesus replied, "You go, and do likewise."

Suddenly, God brought another story to my mind's eye ... this one from John 8 ... the one where the mob brought an adulterous woman to Jesus, wanting to stone her:

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. When Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

And I saw myself ... but I was not the woman.

I was one of the faces in the crowd, one of the people who wanted to stone her.

What do you think? Was she someone who was flagrantly sinning, like the people on Ashley Madison? Was she proud of what she was doing? Was she in love with the man? Was she a young girl? Was she a prostitute? How did they catch her?

These questions are not answered in Scripture, but I can tell you that suddenly, I realized none of those questions mattered to the mob. They just wanted to see justice. 

I'm sure there was someone in that mob who was just like I was -- someone who had been profoundly hurt by adultery. I'm sure there were women in that mob who were seething with hatred for this woman. She represented all that can go wrong for a family -- an interloper who doesn't care what happens to the children or the marriage -- someone who is only in it for themselves, with no thought to consequences. I'm sure there were women who were frustrated with Jesus that day. Why didn't he back them? Why stand by this woman? Why absolve her of something that was so destructive, so infuriating?

For the first time, I saw my face in the crowd. I saw my cry for vengeance, for blood. I saw my visceral anger, fire hot, consuming me.

I saw someone with no mercy in their heart, no love, no forgiveness, no compassion.

And I was ashamed. She was my neighbor, and I was not showing mercy to her.

What did Jesus write in the dust? Of course, we don't know, but I'd wager He was writing names -- names of the people in the mob. Names of the accusers. 

Names of the guilty.

All were guilty.

All had sinned. 

No one was perfect.

And they left her. They dropped their stones and they left.

That morning, I dropped my stone.

I cannot judge you, Ashley Madison users. 

I was wrong to demand your demise. I was wrong to applaud when you were cast under a spotlight. Because, truth be told, I have my own sins. They may not be yours, but they are shameful, too. None of us are perfect, least of all me.

And so, having seen my face in the crowd, I asked God to forgive me. And now I ask you. I am sorry for my hate, my anger, my thrill at your plight. I ask your forgiveness, and I pray that after all is said and done .... We will go and sin no more.

And I will continue to pray that I will extend true mercy in my heart towards my neighbors.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Parable, Re-Told for 21st Century America

Taken directly from Luke 10:25-37. The only thing I have changed are names and geographic locations:

On one occasion a Christian who had attended church in the United States of America for his entire life stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
 In reply Jesus said: “A man from Indianapolis, Indiana, was flying to Los Angeles for a business trip, and he got lost in the wrong neighborhood. He was attacked by gang members. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A church preacher happened to be going down the same street, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Sunday School teacher, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a homosexual man from San Francisco, who was also in Los Angeles on business, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and called 911 and stayed with him until the ambulance arrived. Then he followed the ambulance to the hospital and stayed by his bed throughout the night and took care of him. The next day he went to the hospital billing office, took out a checkbook and wrote the hospital a check, as the man did not have any identification on him, and he had amnesia, and no insurance company could be billed for his stay. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return to Los Angeles next week, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The Christian replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Andy, the Bad-Ass Disciple

Part 3 of this story series ...

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”~Japanese Proverb

There are only 13 Bible verses about the disciple Andrew, and of those, four are where he is in a "list" of the names of the disciples. 

Not much to go on when you're trying to unearth who this guy really was, is it?

So, as the Japanese Proverb above so eloquently states, the best way to unearth Andrew is to take a look at his friends. And this is where it gets really interesting, because the first mention of him is not in context with his connection to Jesus. 

It's in his connection to John the Baptist.

You may not think this reveals much, but during the past week I've been doing some digging and have discovered that anyone who was connected to John the Baptist in Roman-occupied Palestine was ... pretty much ... for lack of a better description ... a bad-ass. Before you click the X in the right-hand corner and accuse me of blaspheming, let me explain:

Andy was one of John the Baptist's disciples. We first see him in John, chapter 1, right out of the gate. He's the first disciple that John mentions. (Scholars believe John is the other disciple mentioned in this chapter, although not by name.)

But before we get to the exchange involving John the Baptist and Andy in the book of John, we have to dig a little deeper and look at the world surrounding John the Baptist ... and who was actually afraid of John the Baptist.

Meet Herod Antipas, also known as Herod the Tetrarch. 

I sort of think of him as the Michael Corleone of Palestine.

Ruthless, ambitious, intelligent and cunning, Herod Antipas had gone to Rome after his daddy's death to argue before Caesar Augustus that he should be granted kingship of Judea. There was a lot of bad blood in that family. His father, Herod the Great, was the psychopath that slaughtered the innocents of Bethlehem after Jesus's birth. (Hit Matthew 2 for that story.) 

Herod the Great had changed his will before his death to grant kingship of Judea, Samaria and Idumea to another son, Archelaus. The will gave Galilee and Perea to Antipas. A third brother, Philip, received Gaulanitis (today's Golan Heights), Batanaea (today's southern Syria), Trachonitis and Auranitis. 

I know, those are a lot of "itises" to bog down the reading, but stay with me.

The three brothers traveled to Rome so that Caesar Augustus could ratify this will ... but Antipas in particular wanted Augustus to throw the whole thing out and give him kingship of Judea, which Herod the Great had originally promised to him and changed at the last minute.

Antipas had support from family members in Rome for his claim. His brother Archelaus was viewed as a dolt who shouldn't be ruling. But Caesar went with the division of the land that Herod the Great had outlined in his will, although he gave Archelaus the title of "ethnarch" rather than, "king."

You know what ... until I started looking into this for this blog entry, I could never keep all of these "Herods" in the Bible straight. Are you confused yet? Because I still am.

OK, now here's where it gets really interesting.

There was another drama behind all of this infighting over Daddy's will and who was going to be king and who was going to prevail before Caesar.

And we all know that every good story really doesn't get great ... until a woman is involved.

In this case, the woman was Herodias, wife of Antipas's half-brother, Philip I. (This was another Philip. Why on earth there were two brothers named Philip ... Anyway, I'm sure somebody can explain that one to me, but it diverts from the story. At any rate, it's not the same Philip who received part of Palestine that we discussed earlier.)

Herodias also happened to be the granddaughter of Herod the Great ... so ... now follow me ... while she was Antipas's sister-in-law, she ALSO was Antipas's NIECE.

Got it?


Understand this.

Antipas divorces his wife to marry his niece, i.e., sister-in-law, what have you ... and he's also the ruler of the region of Galilee. We already know he's arrogant and proud, because think about it. Who in that time or place would have had the guts to go before Caesar Augustus and argue that his father's will should be changed and the kingdom should be ripped from his brother? We're talking a ruthless individual, somebody who would have no hesitancy whatsoever in divorcing a wife and bringing in a new chippy.

Also, while Antipas was in Rome arguing about this will before Caesar, all hell was breaking loose in Palestine. A group of rabble-rousers led by a guy named Judas, son of Hezekiah, attacked a palace in Galilee called Sepphoris. They took money and weapons and did a nice job terrorizing everybody.

It's important that you understand that Palestine/Israel at the time was anti-Rome for a number of reasons, and the people were going crazy. Everyone was on the lookout for the promised Messiah. And anybody who stood up to Rome and the establishment got attention. False prophets were rampant. 

And here comes John the Baptist. He's getting lots of attention from the religious leaders, who come out to where he was baptizing to point-blank ask him if he was the Messiah. And he has thousands of people following him around, for the reasons we just stated.

But it wasn't enough for John to baptize and prophecy that a Messiah was on the way. 

Oh. No.

John, like every good rebel, found a target to antagonize: Herod Antipas.

John preached against Antipas's adultery with his sister-in-law/niece. And because of his popular following, and because there was so much tension and hatred of Rome, and because there had been a very successful uprising against that palace while Antipas was away, and because the religious leaders actually thought John could be The Messiah ....

Antipas was afraid.

This tough, ruthless guy, this Michael Corleone of First Century Palestine, was actually afraid of John the Baptist.

And who was in the middle of John's ministry? Who was the first person we read about in the Gospel of John when John the Baptist starts talking?


Tune in for the next part of the story ...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Andy the "Cultured"

Part 2 in this story series ....

His name in Greek was "Andreas," and, roughly translated, it meant, "manly."

By contrast, his older brother, named "Simon" by his parents (and who later received the name, "Peter" from Jesus), had a distinctive Aramaic name.

You may not think that signifies much, but the parents' naming choices for their sons reveal a lot about the two disciples' upbringing and world views before they met Jesus for the first time. And before we can get into the type of disciple that Andy was to, with and around Jesus, we first have to get our brains around his family and hometown.

His parents' choice of his name shows that this was a very culturally open family. Andy's birthplace was a prominent city in Galilee -- BethSaida. This mysterious place has recently been discovered after hundreds of years of searching, and archaeological excavations have uncovered some fascinating revelations about it:

It was very strategic in Roman-Empire-era Israel, at the tip top of the Sea of Galilee. An earthquake had disrupted the topography of the region, shortening the length of sea from 14 miles to 11 miles. As a result, today the site of the original city is further inland than it would have been 2,000 years ago. During Jesus's day, BethSaida was at the center of trade routes. It flourished with a year-round supply of water, fish and game and fertile soil.

As a result of its robust fishing industry, this seafaring community became a thriving, bustling place, attracting a diverse community. The Greek culture and language sat right alongside the Judaic culture and language. Anyone in the fishing industry like Andy would have been fluent in Greek and savvy and sensitive to Greek and Roman cultural nuances and differences.

But there was another over-reaching aspect to BethSaida: Its attractiveness to the Roman Empire, particularly Herod the Tetrarch.

Dr. Elizabeth McNamer is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Montana State University. Each summer, she participates in an archaeological dig in BethSaida. McNamer writes that excavators in 1996 uncovered a Roman temple in BethSaida.

She says, "Along side it  (the temple), there were incense shovels, the statue of a woman (Livia Julia), and coins depicting Philip and Livia. The temple is dated to the year 30 CE. ( Livia had died the previous year). That same year, we learn from Josephus, Philip raised Bethsaida to the status of 'polis,' a city, and renamed it Julia. By doing so he was promoting the observance of the Imperial cult and the embracing of all things Roman in this Jewish community. (He had already established Caesarea Philippi as a city dominated by the Imperial cult). It was a political act intended to curry favor with the Emperor." 

Think about this:

You're living in Roman-era Israel, specifically BethSaida, a hot spot for Roman pagan worship and culture, thanks to King Herod. And God has been silent for the past 400 years. And you're waiting for the promise of a Messiah to deliver you and your people from this Roman occupation and oppression.

That's where Andy was. 

He's an established pillar of the business community. He's been brought up in a home environment where Jews and Gentiles co-exist (even his name is Greek). He's living in a thriving metropolis on a major trade route in the Roman Empire. And his hometown also happens to be a favorite spot for King Herod, who likes the place so much that he eventually builds a Roman temple there. 

Like many other Jews at the time, Andy was on the lookout for a Savior. And at the same time, we've already established that Andy was no slouch. To borrow one of my favorite expressions, he was probably one of the sharper knives in the drawer. 

Andy, in short, was cultured and hungry -- hungry for freedom.

So it should be no surprise that when we first meet Andy in the Bible, he's hanging out with a guy that made King Herod pretty nervous. 

We now know him as ...

John the Baptist.

Tune in for part 3 of the story ....

(Research and background information has been provided by these Web sites:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Andy the Businessman

About 2 1/2 years ago, I started this story series for a dear friend of mine who is an agnostic. He'd called saying he was troubled, because someone (a believer) had compared him to the disciple Andrew. Not knowing anything about Andrew, he did some digging and discovered a couple of stories in the Gospels. And he was chagrined. It seemed to him that Andrew was like a "spare wheel," the guy who was "there" but just sort of one of those side-kicks who doesn't do anything of note. Why was he compared to this disciple? He wanted me to explain it.

I honestly didn't know the answer, so I did some of my own digging, and the results of what I was finding prompted me to start this story series here on this blog. But about two days after I posted this entry, I was hit by some personal unforeseen circumstances that really threw me under the bus. I sidelined the entry and didn't return to it.

Recently, though, as things have settled down in my own life, I have been reminded that I never finished this piece.

So here is Part 1 of the tale. In the next few days, I will post the rest of the story parts.

For my friend who originally asked the question ... this is really for you. And for anyone else who wonders whether you have a significant role in life .... this is for you, too.

Thanks for taking time to read, and now on to ...

Part one.

(Research for this story was provided by "Cast Your Nets: Fishing at the Time of Jesus," by Elizabeth McNamer)

When I was 12, a teacher assigned a family tree project. We were to interview our grandparents about their memories and get any information they could recall about ancestors.

My paternal grandfather, who I called, "Pop," had immigrated from Newfoundland to New England in the 1920s. I knew he'd been in the British Navy in World War I. And I knew he loved the sea. But other than that, I had nothing.

I remember sitting at a breakfast room table, notebook paper at the ready, and calling Pop to find out about the family's past.

"What did your father do?" I asked Pop.

"He was a fisherman." Pop replied shortly in a raspy voice.

I wrote that down.

"And do you know what his father did, my great-great grandfather?"

"He was a fisherman," Pop replied.

"OK. Well, this is going back a lot, but what about my great-great-great grandfather?"

"He was a fisherman."

My dad, who was listening on another line, chuckled when he heard me sigh.

"Pop, was my great-great-great-great grandfather a fisherman?"

"Yes. He was a fisherman."

We went on like this a few more times until Pop finally said, "Well, I don't know that far back, but I'm pretty sure that everyone else was a fisherman."

Today, as I read the story about Andy's life before he met Jesus, I can't help but recall that long-ago conversation with Pop.

See, Andy's family was in the fishing business, too. Now you might have heard sermons at your church about the lowly lives of fishermen. More than once, I've heard pastors wax poetically about Jesus hanging out with the stinky smelly men of the sea and how great it was that He gave them His attention.

But that description, quite frankly, is condescendingly incorrect.

In fact, fishermen were integral to the economy in First Century Palestine. And the men who owned fishing operations were savvy and successful businessmen. Think of them as active Chamber of Commerce members or pillars of your local community.

Consider the skills that the average Galilean fisherman needed. They weren't just sitting around in a boat. They had to be skilled at marketing their product. Israel's population at the time was about 500,000, and fish was a staple food. Not only that, dried fish from the Sea of Galilee was a "gourmet" menu item for Roman aristocracy. And in Jerusalem, fish was in high demand during religious festivals and seasons. So this required the fishermen to travel a lot.

And with travel during the era of the Roman Empire came along the need to know more than one language. The native tongue would have been Aramaic. But to converse with those who were buying the fish? You would've needed to know other languages like Hebrew, Greek ... and Latin, if they were selling to the Romans.

Are you getting the picture?

Andy was no dummy.

Fishing business owners also had to be skilled organizers in the running of their operations. They hired sailors and other fishermen to do labor (fish, mend nets, count fish). They were engaged in legal partnerships with each other. They had to maintain their equipment (nets and boats), deal with tax collectors and be skilled bargainers with their workers and buyers alike.

Andy and his brother Pete were in a partnership with two other guys, Jim and John, and their father, Zeb (a really wealthy fish business owner).

And it is against this highly successful backdrop of the business world that Jesus entered the picture and met Andy for the first time.

Tune in for part 2 of our tale ...