February. Ugh.

February is a difficult time of the year for some folks, just like December is a real problem for others.

The Problem of February

Single Folks

If you’re single, every well-meaning friend and relative you’ve ever met tries to hook you up with every unmarried human they know. Never mind that you might be perfectly happy in your unmarried-ness.

Just as bad, if you mention a name the well-meaning friend or relative doesn’t know, their eyes light up like LED flashlights because they’re sure you’ve found That Special Someone. Then you get grilled about the likelihood of a meaningful relationship with that person.

Meanwhile, all your married or attached pals are gushing about their plans for Valentine’s Day or going on about the special thing they’re going to get for their Significant Other or what they hope to get from their Significant Other.

Related, this can also be a rough time for widows and widowers. If they used to do nifty stuff on Valentine’s Day, they might find the holiday particularly difficult with sad or bittersweet memories.

Even shopping becomes dangerous. Everything in the universe suddenly has cute pink or red cartoon hearts all over it. No matter what you’re looking for, expect to find only versions with sappy little hearts on it. So much sappiness is bound to leave you teetering on the edge of a sugar coma.

Married Folks

If you’re married or dating or engaged or in some way not exactly single, you have a different array of problems.

Sadly, not all relationships are the happiness and joy they’re supposed to be. That makes this time of year difficult because the romantic ideal is thrown in your face as a constant reminder that what you have is nothing like the happy smoochiness you’re told you should have.

Then, what do you do for the Special Day? Christmas wasn’t that long ago, and coming up with The Perfect Gift was hard enough then. Now you get to do it all over again. Whoever designed the calendar should have spaced these gift-giving adventures out a bit better. This gets even more complicated if you’re on a budget or if your budget hasn’t recovered from Christmas, either.

Non-Football Fans

If you don’t care about football, the first half of the month is just a confusing mess. Everyone’s going nuts about The Game — you know which one: Stupor Bowl! The same people who make fun of sci-fi/fantasy fandoms for dressing up and having themed parties about their favorite movies and books will put on colored face paint, weird wigs, and huge foam hands so they can eat chips and salsa and holler at the TV when some guy carries a lopsided ball over a line.

The lead-up to The Game is huge. What little you can find in the store that doesn’t have a heart on it will have football team logos. Then Game Day happens and the rest of the world shuts down so people can watch the game and see which star is getting into what kind of shenanigans for the half-time show.

The end of the game does not signal the end of the mess. There’s at least a week of post-game exhilaration and armchair quarterbacking and “Hey did you see the commercial about …” No, I didn’t, and I don’t consider that to be a huge loss, actually.

Health Conscious Folks

If you’re watching your diet for health or personal reasons, Valentine’s Day is a hazard second only to Halloween and Christmas.  Candy. Cookies. Cake. EVERYWHERE. You can’t get away from the stuff.

How to Survive February

Single

Whenever you mention the name of someone your relatives and friends don’t know, make sure you add a disclaimer. “Yeah Bob — he’s married — said that movie was fabulous!”  or “I saw Steve — he’s gay — at the grocery store last night.” This might head off the LED eyeball look and the interrogation about the likelihood of a relationship forming.

Pick a movie or a book with a character you like and tell people you’re spending Valentine’s Day with that character. Don’t mention that it’s a character. Just call the person by name. Later on, when the February is finally over, your pals will still want to meet this person. You can either invite them over for a binge-viewing of the show or answer with “It just didn’t work out.”

Be mindful of the widows and widowers you know. If they’re the sort who like company, invite them along for whatever adventures you’re getting into. If they’re the sort who prefer solitude, don’t get pushy. Respect their need for space. Everyone handles emotional messes in ways that might make no sense to anyone else.

Married

Don’t make it complicated. Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Yes, big, impressive gifts have a lot of Wow Factor, but simpler things mean just as much, maybe more. Don’t look at me for ideas, though. You know your spouse better than I do.

Non-Football Fans

What a great time to go shopping!  The stores will be empty because everyone will be watching The Big Game. Be careful, though. What few people you run into will either be other non-sports fans or sports fans who are MISSING THE GAME. These latter are more dangerous because they have one thing on the brain right then, and it’s not their good manners and patience.

As for the pre- and post-game wrap-up, this will test your patience, but just think of it as another fandom. That may help you put up with their weird behaviors.

The Non-Candied

Wow, yeah, willpower don’t fail me now!

Actually, for me, it’s not an issue. Sugar and chocolate cause such a bad reaction for me that they even smell bad now, but I understand the allure for others who are not dietarily challenged. Walk fast and stay away from the candy aisles, which easier said than done in this time of putting “holiday” displays every ten feet in the store.

For everyone

Most importantly, remember that making someone else responsible for your joy is a treacherous road. Married, single, widow(er), sports fan, dieter … be careful with your heart. It bruises easily, and leaving it in the care of another is risky. Sometimes you find a good person to entrust your heart with, but in my experience there are a lot of gooberheads out there.

There is one person I trust with my heart without reservation: God. He hasn’t let me down yet, and I don’t think he plans to any time soon.

The Angel Outside Jericho

Name the angel who appears to Joshua outside Jericho.

Start with Revelation 19:10 and 22:9. When John tried to worship these angels, they scolded him for it. There is only one angel who allows, and some say demands, worship. I read the end of the book, and he has a very dismal future ahead of him.

Now go with me to Joshua 5:13. Joshua was outside Jericho some evening before the battle and came across an armed guy. Good military man that he was, Joshua challenged him like a sentry. Joshua 5:14-15 will show you the exchange between them. You might think initially that this is Michael, but it isn’t. This Angel (Captain of the Lord’s Host) told Joshua to remove his shoes because he stood on holy ground. Where else did that appear?

Why, in Exodus 3:2 of course, with the burning bush in which that “Angel of the Lord” identified himself as none other than Jesus Christ. Seriously? Yes. Look at Exodus 3:14 where the Angel of the Lord identifies himself as “I AM THAT I AM.” Now go to John 8. Jesus and the Pharisees were having a knock-down, drag-out round of verbal fisticuffs. We get to John 8:58 where Jesus says, “Before Abraham was I AM.” He used the same term of identification.

So… the Captain of the Lord’s Hosts who appeared to Joshua outside of Jericho is none other than Jesus Christ. Appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament (OT) times are not unheard of (Genesis 16, Numbers 22, Judges 2, and many others. See a concordance for more info. If it helps, I use this one: http://www.blueletterbible.org ). The term “Angel of the Lord” often refers to Him, but not always so look for other clues or references to YHWH in conjunction with the term. These OT appearances of Jesus are called “Theophanies.”

Source: Missler, Chuck. Verse by Verse Commentary on Joshua. Koinonia House.

2016: Goal #5

This is my last goal for the year. I’m sure I’ll accomplish other interesting things, but this should keep me busy enough.

Goal #1: Draft a novel.

Goal #2: Search for a job that uses my Master’s.

Goal #3: Start an LLC

Goal #4: Make all the Christmas presents I’ll need this year.

Finally…

Goal #5 is going to be all about marketing. I’ve done sporadic marketing for my books, but I need to do a better job of that, and I now have an LLC to advertise for.

One of the things i tried to do was hire a marketing company to do a bit of the legwork for me for the release of Like Herding the Wind: An Urushalon Novel. I may use the same company to do smaller marketing adventures for my other novels.

Really, though, I’m at a bit of a loss about how to market. I can tell you all about the snazzy things I’ve tried that haven’t worked. Buying Google or Facebook ads just seems to cost money. ROI stinks. Guest blogging can be interesting, but I’m not sure I get much bang for my buck.

This will definitely take a bit of research.

So, the specific goal: Research at least 5 new strategies for marketing books and a company and implement at least 3 of them.

What would you do to market books and a new company?

Ambassadorship

Consider Exodus 20:7: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

What if this isn’t just a matter of vocabulary? There are plenty of other places in the Scriptures where you’re told to watch your language. What if, instead, this refers to ambassadorship?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that names in the Bible are often very complex. The poor kid would have to learn most of the alphabet just to spell his name. You get real tongue twisters like Mahalaleel or Mahalalel in some translations (Genesis 5:12) and Zurishaddai (Numbers 1:6) and Shephatiah (Ezra 2:4). Yes, they’re pronounceable, but you have to give them a good, hard look. This gets more complicated since they’re transliterated, or spelled by sound rather than translated for meaning, from Hebrew to Greek to English (or depending on what source text your Bible uses, you might have to throw in Latin).

Once you figure out how to say the name, you’re not finished yet. The names have meanings. According to the Blue Letter Bible, Mahalaleel means “The blessed God.” Zurishaddai means “The Almighty is my rock and strength.” Shephatiah means “The Lord that judges.”

Names are significant because they link to the identity of the person. If you’re taking someone’s name, you are representing that person. When that person is God, you need to be very careful.

Random trivia point: Puritans were also known for their really interesting names in a very different kind of way. According to the More Baby Names book I have (No, there are no storks coming my way … I use it to come up with character names in my writing), there are records of names like Fear-Not and Search-the-Scriptures. In fact, one poor kid in Rhode Island was named “Through-Much-Tribulation-We-Enter-Into-The-Kingdom-of-Heaven Clapp.” Makes you wonder what his nickname was, y’know? Anyway, back to the point.

There are examples in Scripture of people who weren’t very careful about being God’s ambassadors. There was Moses who hit the rock when he was supposed to just talk to it, and for that, God forbid him to go to the Promised Land. He didn’t lose his salvation, fortunately. We know that because he’s one of the two who show up at the Transfiguration, and there’s evidence to support that he’s also one of the two Witnesses in Revelation 11.

Who else? King Saul blew it big time first when he assumed the duty of a priest and then when he consulted divination instead of God. As a result, Saul lost the throne to David. David committed adultery and murder in short order. The prophet called him on that, and he repented, but he still lost his son. It’s encouraging to see that David made huge mistakes but could still be called a man after God’s own heart because he repented when he was confronted by either his own conscience or by someone else. In the New Testament, Ananais and his wife Sapphira were false representatives when they pretended to give everything to the Lord but kept a little back for themselves, and they both got taken out of the game. The error was not that they kept some of the money for themselves, but that they pretended to be more generous than they were. They sought their own glory rather than the glory of God.

You’ll note that each time someone was a poor ambassador for God, there were consequences, even if there was repentance. We need to make sure we’re being proper representatives of God. Remember that people are watching, and you might be the only Bible in their lives. Be who God made you to be, certainly; and through that lens, make sure you correctly serve as his ambassador.

2016: Goal #4

Goals are a great way to keep you going in the direction you want to go. They can help drive your decisions so you can choose an advantageous path.

My first goal was related to writing: write a draft of a novel.

The second and third were related to the job I need to afford to do everything else: find a job in my field and start an LLC.

My fourth goal is craft-related. I had this brilliant idea to make everyone’s Christmas presents this year, but then I spent most of November moving into and out of my apartment because of a flood on the night before Halloween. Consequently, I didn’t get to finish anyone’s Christmas presents, and ended up buying stuff instead.

Well, this year, I want to finish my brilliant plan of making quilts for folks on my list. I’ve already got some of the work done like designing patterns and cutting out the pieces. Now I just need to get them all finished.

I also decorate packages with small ornaments. I would like to make the small ornaments to go with the bigger packages.

That’s a lot of making, but I do have a truckload of quilting and crafting material. I think I can do it.

Related, but entirely for me, I want to make a Doctor Who scarf. I snagged a link to the pattern used. I crochet instead of knit, but I might just have to learn how to knit so I can make this. If not, I understand that the ratio of crochet stitches to knitting is about 3:1.

I’ll post a picture or few as I make progress.

Tachygraphos

“What does being a tax collector have to do with Matthew’s greater accuracy in the recording of Christ’s words?”

Matthew, alias Levi, was a tax collector. In the Roman government, that was an office you bid for. The Romans would tell the tax collector how much they expected in taxes, and anything collected above that was the tax collector’s pay. As you might guess, this made the tax collector very unpopular.

Do recall that this was a time when there was no carbon paper, no photocopier, not even a typewriter. Everything that had to be recorded had to be done by hand on clay, wax, or papyrus. To be in some offices, shorthand was a required job skill. These people were called “ready writers.” Psalm 45:1 uses the term. In the Greek, that term would be “oxygraphos” or “tachygraphos.” “Graph” refers to written recording. “Tachy” is the same term that appears in our words “tachometer” and “tachycardia.” Oxygraphos is a synonym.

So, Matthew’s Gospel has really detailed accounts of Jesus’ words because Matthew could take shorthand. There’s a really good chance that he wrote what Jesus said verbatim.

Source: Missler, Chuck. The Book of Matthew: A Commentary. Koinonia House.

2016: Goal #3

Goals keep us focused, so I’m setting a few as the year gets started. Goal #1 was to write the draft of a novel. Goal #2 was related to finding a job in my field.

Goal #3 is to create a job in my field.

I’ve been job-hunting for most of 10 years. At first, I was trying to get out of public school teaching. Now I’m trying to land something in my new field. Neither has gone very well, and the best I could land was a retail gig. Don’t misunderstand. It’s honest work, and it pays the bills. I’m glad it’s there, but it’s not what I want to be doing. It’s a step on the path, and I truly hope it’s the penultimate step on the path.

Because finding a job is not going well, I’m going to create a job. I’m starting an LLC that will allow me to pursue my various interests and possibly make money at it. This doesn’t conflict with Goal #2. I don’t expect the LLC to make me the minimum of $35K/yr I need to pay the bills and buy the food, so I still want to maintain a “day job” so I have a steady income, benefits, and so on. The LLC is intended to close the gap between the $45K/yr I used to make teaching and the pay of the day job. It also lets me do stuff I enjoy and get people to pay me for it. :D

The company, Time Koepp, LLC (because I like playing with words and I kept running into conflicts with all my other ideas. My last name is fairly obscure. ;) ) will provide performance improvement consulting and DIY kits, editing services, and crafty stuff.  Yes, I know. One of these things is not like the others, but I want to sell my crafty stuff and vintage jewelry on eBay, and I’ve been told that an LLC is a good idea to provide a level of separation between my stuff and company stuff.

Drop on by to Time Koepp’s website and check it out.