Friday, August 30, 2019


Introduction to Maccabees[1]


The name Maccabee, probably meaning “hammer,” is actually applied in the Books of Maccabees to only one man, Judas, third son of the priest Mattathias and first leader of the revolt against the Seleucid kings who persecuted the Jews. Traditionally the name has come to be extended to the brothers of Judas, his supporters, and even to other Jewish heroes of the period, such as the seven brothers. The two Books of Maccabees contain independent accounts of events that accompanied the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C. The vigorous reaction to this attempt established for a time the religious and political independence of the Jews. First Maccabees was written about 100 B.C., in Hebrew, but the original has not come down to us. Instead, we have an early, pre-Christian, Greek translation full of Hebrew idioms. The author, probably a Palestinian Jew, is unknown. He was familiar with the traditions and sacred books of his people and had access to much reliable information on their recent history (from 175 to 134 B.C.). He may well have played some part in it himself in his youth. His purpose in writing is to record the deliverance of Israel that God worked through the family of Mattathias—especially through his three sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, and his grandson, John Hyrcanus. The writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of Israel’s ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David.

The doctrine expressed in the book is the customary belief of Israel. The people of Israel have been specially chosen by the one true God as covenant-partner, and they alone are privileged to know and worship God, their eternal benefactor and unfailing source of help. The people, in turn, must worship the Lord alone and observe exactly the precepts of the law given to them. The rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in the book is the origin of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. There is no doctrine of individual immortality except in the survival of one’s name and fame, nor does the book express any messianic expectation, though messianic images are applied historically to “the days of Simon”. The author insists on fidelity to the law as the expression of Israel’s love for God. The contest which he describes is a struggle, not simply between Jew and Gentile, but between those who would uphold the law and those, Jews or Gentiles, who would destroy it. His severest condemnation goes, not to the Seleucid politicians, but to the lawless apostates among his own people, adversaries of Judas and his brothers, who are models of faith and loyalty.

AUGUST 30 Friday
MUHARRAM Begins at Sundown

1 Maccabees, Chapter 2, Verse 62
Do not fear the words of sinners, for their glory ends in corruption and worms.

Maccabean wars were fought for religious freedom. Reflect today on our own Declaration of Independence for freedom from the English Crown.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. 

Prayer[2]

Almighty God, Father of all nations, for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1). We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty, the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good. Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties; by your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land. We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Muharran (Isalmic New Year)[3]
·         Muharram (1st first month of the Islamic calendar), is the holiest month after Ramadan.  This month is most recommended by Muhammad to fast and worship in.
·         The Islamic method of dating was invented by Umar ibn Al-Khattab, a close friend of Muhammad.  He was the second Islamic Caliph (rulers) and in the year 638 he standardized the many calendars of the Arabian Peninsula.
·         The Islamic calendar is lunar cycle based and contains twelve months that make up a total of 354.36 days together.
·         There are parallels between this holiday and the day of Ashura.  Ashura commemorates what Muslims believe is Moses crossing the Red Sea to escape the oppressive Pharaoh on Ashura.  Similarly, the Islamic New Year marks Muhammad's crossing the desert between Mecca and Medina to escape the oppressive Quraish nobles.  For both observances, Muhammad recommended Muslims to fast.
·         The Islamic calendar is abbreviated A.H. or Anno Hegirae in Western languages.  The first date on the Islamic calendar, 1,1 Muharram A.H. corresponds to July 16, year 622.

Top Events and Things to Do

·         Muslim parents traditionally tell their children of Muhammad's escape from Mecca to Medina on this night.
·         Attend a Islamic New Year Celebration.  In Indonesia, the government holds various parades and marches to celebrate the Islamic New Year.  This includes chanting songs called kidung.
·         Read more about Muhammad's journey from Mecca to Medina by reading his biography, The Sealed Nectar.



Fitness Friday-Sleep[1]

Sleep. Something we all need more of, but never seem to get. (If only we had more timeright?) Today we’re going to cover how you can. First stop and think!

Sleep is important, and you should get more of it!

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” (Proverbs 3:24)

Before we cover why sleep is important, let’s talk about what happens when you don’t get enough For example: If you manage to only get four hours of sleep, a sleep deprived body can actually act similarly to an intoxicated body.

Getting less sleep than average regularly? This is correlated with increased bodyfat percentage, more issues with insulin sensitivity, and even a disproportionate decrease in lean muscle mass when eating a caloric deficit. We all know missing sleep can make us grouchy, miserable, unfocused, and unproductive. I know I’m going to have a crappy day in the gym when I don’t get enough sleep the night before. I know not sleeping enough AFTER a workout day can further hinder the muscle building process.

So, what else happens when you don’t get enough sleep? “One study found that skipped sleep led to a shrinking brain. The heart and kidneys also take a beating as does your blood pressure. You, in fact, put yourself at continually increased risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases, including obesity and diabetes.

What is the logical extension of this pattern? Numerous studies link partial sleep deprivation/disruption and increased mortality risk!”

Conversely, let’s talk about the awesomeness that is sleep.  Here are the benefits associated with getting enough shut eye:

·         Sleep will enhance your memory performance and creative problem solving skills.  You know, those things that make you smart.
·         Sleep can boost your athletic performance.  And we all know appearance is a consequence of fitness.
·         Sleep triggers the release of human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a huge role in muscle and cellular regeneration.
·         Sleep cuts your risk for the common cold and other basic illnesses.  Less sick days at work = more productivity, more awesome, more leveling up.
·         Sleep makes you more resilient to daily stress..aka more willpower!

Moral of the story: Sleep is awesome.  Yes, some adults can function perfectly on only five hours of sleep, while others need 9-10 hours of sleep to thrive. Most people will fall in that 7-9 range for sleeping needs. So let’s get to the root of the problem for most: “I know I need to sleep more, but my day is too busy and I just can’t get to bed sooner or wake up earlier.” First and foremost, you’re not alone. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of all working Americans get six hours or fewer of sleep a night.

Does any of this sound like you? I am always freaking tired, and I need five cups of coffee to get through the day. Even on days when I get enough sleep, I wake up groggy. I get to ‘bed’ but I toss and turn and it takes me forever to fall asleep. I hit snooze half a dozen times before miserably crawling out of bed.

A perfect night of sleep

Let’s imagine a perfect night:  

·         You go to bed at a time that you’re happy with.  
·         You’re not stressed out because you didn’t just watch The Walking Dead.
·         You’re reading a good book in bed that’s putting you closer to sleep rather than checking your smart phone or screwing around on the internet (damn you Twitch.tv).  
·         You sleep uninterrupted through the night
·         . You have good dreams.
·         When you wake up, either naturally or with an alarm…you immediately get out of bed, without a single snooze, and you feel damn good.  
·         You then crush your morning routine and dominate your day.

If you’re looking at your screen and laughing right now, you’re not alone.  I’d guess this is a pipe dream for a huge majority of our society because they’re not sure how sleep actually works, and thus have NOT made sleep a priority.

It’s time to start looking at sleep as one of your most important tasks.

How to get better sleep

We have a circadian rhythm (a daily biological clock) that ebbs and flows throughout the day. Our body uses outside stimuli and our own activity to produce certain hormones at certain times to make our body more prepared for the required functions at that time (alertness vs restfulness).

·         When the sun rose, our bodies are signaled “the day has begun! Get cracking!” We reduce the hormones that make us sleepy and produce more hormones that allow us to do the things that need to get done.
·         As the sun went down, our body starts to produce more melatonin, which produces that sleepy feeling and encourages us to rest/recover.  Our only option for light back then was a candle or campfire. If that went out, we’d have moonlight and nothing else.
·         While sleeping, our bodies knew to cut back on urine production, decrease body temperature, decrease heart rate, and muscle activity.  Our brains are still highly active during our sleeping.

Unfortunately, these days, our bodies aren’t tied to the rise and fall of that giant ball of gas above us. Instead, we use electricity, alarm clocks, computer screens, smart phone screens, and all other sorts of outside stimuli to adjust our natural sleeping schedule. This means that our bodies often have no effin’ clue what time it is!

Here’s how we can get back to our roots:

Trying to get to bed sooner or fall asleep sooner? Limit your exposure to the blue glow of your computer screens, TV screens, and phones later in the evening.  Our bodies look at blue light and think “Sun is up! Sky is blue! Energy! WEEE!” Conversely, lights with a red/orange hue are more reminiscent of a campfire or candle.  

·         If you are somebody who has to spend time on your computer at night, consider installing a program like F.lux – it syncs with the sunrise and sunset in your time zone, gradually shifting your screens hue from Blue and bright to red and dim.  I’ve been using the app for over a week now and have quickly adjusted to it.
·         Purchase old-man blue blocker glasses which limits the colors your eyes are exposed to after the sun has gone.
·         Consider purchasing red lightbulbs to install in your bedroom.
·         Consider getting black-out curtains for your bedroom windows, especially if you live in a city.
·         No TV in bed.  This might be incredibly difficult for you if you’ve been falling asleep to TV for years.  Instead of falling asleep with the blue glow of a TV at the foot of your bed, read a book – real books or read on a Kindle, no iPads! trust me, it will put you right to sleep.
·         Buy the right TYPE of Mattress for you
·         Have allergies? Try a hypoallergenic pillowcase!  Your allergies could be affecting you while you sleep and having the proper pillowcase can make a world of a difference.

How to get more sleep

So we’ve covered how to get BETTER sleep, what if you also need to get more of it? In order to start getting more sleep, sleep must become more of a priority. If you constantly stay up too late because things need to get done, evaluate how your time is spent after work. Seriously, think about it!

Are you doing the important tasks first?

Are you watching late night shows long after they’ve become enjoyable, simply because your DVR records them?

Are you checking your smart phone while in bed, watching Vine videos, or using your laptop to watch more shows you don’t really care about on Netflix?

Here are the best practical tips for giving you the greatest chance at getting into bed earlier:

·         Don’t drink caffeine after lunch if possible.  Caffeine can have an effect up to 6 hours after consumption.  We love caffeine for many reasons (in moderation); however, you want to make sure its not consumed too late or your body will revolt.

·         Turn off the electronics sooner.  I have to enforce a “laptops closed by 11PM” or a “TV off after 10PM” rule on many nights or I never get to bed. I get lost in internetland far too easily.  Putting in actual barriers really helps.  If you find yourself checking Facebook and Twitter and other sites incessantly, BLOCK YOURSELF from those sites after a certain time.
·         Stop watching crap TV shows! DVRs can be helpful, but it’s so easy to record shows without second thought…and then we end up spending WAY too much time watching TV.  
·         Shift things by 15 minutes every week. If you want to get to bed sooner, don’t just try to get to bed an hour earlier than normal. You’ll probably lie in bed for that whole hour wondering why you can’t fall asleep, stressing yourself out and making things worse. I shifted my pattern by waking up 15 minutes earlier and getting to bed 15 minutes sooner. Then I repeated that process over a series of weeks. Eventually, you can shift your bedtime by an hour or two but do it gradually!

How to wake up better

Is there any more annoying sound in the world than the “beep beep beep” of an alarm clock?  So here you are, dreaming about riding a dragon with Daenerys Targaryen, doing improv with Liam Neeson, and playing poker with Iron Man and Spock…and that damn alarm clock wakes you up.  You are now incredibly groggy and miserable.

Here’s what’s happening: Remember earlier how we talked about different sleep cycles?  Depending on which cycle you were woken up during, your body can struggle to move from “asleep” to “wide awake.” Wake up in the right phase and you can feel energized and ready to go. Wake up in the wrong phase and you will feel lethargic and sleepy. Because we’re often waking up at times when we’re not ready to wake up, we need to use technology to our advantage.


Instead of snoozing, set your alarm for 30 minutes later and SKIP snoozing entirely.  If this is an issue for you, put your alarm across the room so you need to physically get out of bed to turn it off! 
I’ve been using the Sleep Cycle App to wake up and it’s been really interesting. You simply put the time in which you want to wake up, put your phone on your bed, and it will wake you up slowly and quietly in at the best point in a 30-minute window. Because it also tracks your sleep incredibly accurately, it’s probably the best 99 cents I’ve ever spent on an app. Try a dawn-simulator alarm clock.  Rather than waking yourself up in the pitch black with a disgusting beeping noise, why not gradually rise as if there was a natural sunrise in your room?

Still feeling groggy? Go for a walk first thing; a mile every morning, if you can.   Walking outside and seeing that blue sky can trigger your body to release the hormones that encourage you to feel more awake and alive.

What about naps?

Although generally not part of a day here in the states, we’re actually programmed to desire a quick nap in the early afternoon. In other countries, naps are more socially acceptable (Siesta?  Si, por favor!).  If you feel bad that you get tired in the early afternoon, it’s not because you’re lazy. It’s because you’re naturally wired for naptime.  Now, you might still be lazy, but it’s not related to your nap schedule.

What about second sleep? Biphasic Sleep is sleeping in two distinct periods. We’re gonna go back in the day again: during winter months, night time could last 12-14 hours. With our bodies production of melatonin (the “sleepy time” hormone) kicking into high gear when that sun drops, people had nothing else to do (no TV, PS4, or iPads) and would fall asleep  early. Then they would wake up for an hour or two in the middle of the night to read, pray, or think, and then fall back asleep for another 4-5 hours before waking up for the day.

If you’ve ever gone to bed at a normal hour, and then woke up in the middle of the night without being able to fall back asleep for an hour or so, you know what I’m talking about. Here’s the thing: this is actually quite natural! Rather than freaking the heck out and lying in bed wondering why you can’t fall asleep…consider it something that is more common than our current sleep schedule. Don’t be afraid to turn on the light and read a book or use the time for meditation until you can fall back asleep. This one ‘mental shift’ alone can keep your stress levels down and let you get back to sleep faster and provide you with BETTER sleep.



[1]https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/are-you-making-these-mistakes-with-your-sleep/

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Battle for the Soul of America-Day 15
·         Operation Purity
·         Day3 Novena to the Holy Face



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