Tuesday, February 26, 2013


This week's Sunday school lesson, from Judges 13-16...

God used Gideon to end the Israelites’ worship of Baal, and then to defeat the Midianite army in a very strange way. How often do you hear of an army killing each other after hearing smashing pots, trumpets and shouting? After the victory, Gideon went on to judge Israel for forty years, and they had peace. After he died, his son Abimelech took his place. Then came Tola. Then Jair. Jephthah. Ibzan. Elon. Abdon. Throughout this time, the Israelites kept forgetting God and calling out to Him when they got in trouble. Whenever they called out, God sent them a deliverer. Jephthah in particular won an important victory with God’s help, but he learned too late that it isn’t a good idea to make promises to God without thinking about what might happen when you have to keep them. But that’s another story.

After Judge Abdon’s death, the Israelites turned away from God again, and so He let them be oppressed by the Philistines for 40 years!

During that time, there was a man named Manoah, who wanted a child, but his wife couldn’t have children. One day, an angel appeared to Manoah and his wife and gave them some great news. They were going to have a son! But there was a catch. The boy would be a Nazirite. That meant he would be set apart for God. He wouldn’t be allowed to have a haircut, touch a dead body, or drink alcohol.

So, true to the angel’s word, the couple had a baby boy, and they named him Samson. As he grew, his hair got very long, and God gave him amazing strength. This guy was a rough, tough, macho man, and he tore a lion apart with his bare hands! Later, he found the lion’s dead body and discovered a beehive in it. There was honey, and it looked delicious, so he took some…but in the process, he touched the lion’s body even though God had told him not to touch dead bodies.

Samson fell in love with a Philistine woman. He wanted to marry her, even though God had commanded the Israelites long ago not to marry Philistines or anyone else from the lands they had conquered. At the wedding, he came up with a riddle and offered a big reward for anyone who could answer it:

“Out of the eater, something to eat;
Out of the strong, something sweet.”

When the Philistines couldn’t figure out the answer, they convinced his bride to coax the answer out of him. So she betrayed him, and everyone was mad, and not everyone survived. In fact, her father was so mad at his son-in-law that he gave his daughter to someone else. When Samson found out that his father-in-law had taken away his wife, he got really steamed. So he rounded up 300 foxes and tied their tails together in pairs. He tied a burning torch to each pair of tails and let them run wild in the Philistines’ fields. (Think about it. Foxes are wild, and it’s tough to catch one, let alone 300!) The Philistines were very upset about Samson burning their crops, and they got really mad. The Israelites got scared and took Samson to the Philistines so they could take out their anger on him. But as he got close to the Philistines, God’s strength came on Samson. He took a donkey’s jawbone and used it to defeat 1000 strong men! So he became Israel’s judge and led them for 20 years.

Sometime later, Samson went to Gaza, where he ripped off the doors of the city gate and carried them to the top of a nearby hill. They were heavy! The Philistines could tell he was very strong. About this time, he fell in love with a woman named Delilah, and the Philistines asked her to find out Samson’s secret to being so strong. She tried several times, but he kept coming up with lies about it:

“Tie me up with seven bowstrings, and I’ll get weak.” But when they tried that, he easily snapped the bowstrings off.

After he suggested they tie him up with new ropes, he snapped them like twigs. Maybe if they weave his long hair into fabric? Nope. He broke the loom and pulled the hair fabric apart. Day after day, Delilah nagged and prodded Samson, and she started to wear him down. So he said, “OK, fine. I’ve never had a haircut. Try cutting my hair.” Nothing else had worked, and Samson didn’t think this would work either. But he didn’t know that this was the final straw for God. God had given Samson so many chances, and he had disobeyed so many times, that God had had enough. Samson had the surprise of his life in the morning when the Philistines came in and tied him up, and he wasn’t strong enough to fight back! They poked out his eyes and threw him in prison, where they made him grind grain.

But while he was in prison, his hair started to grow back. One day, the Philistines had a big celebration to honor their false god Dagon. They liked to humiliate prisoners at their parties, and Samson seemed like a really fun idea for entertainment. The blind strongman performed for the Philistines, and they loved it. But then, he asked the servant who was leading him around to place him between the two main pillars of the crowded Philistine temple. Samson knew that he had done some terrible things, but he also knew that God had sent him to deliver Israel from the evil Philistines. So he prayed that God would give him superhuman strength once more. He no longer cared for his own life. Samson stood between the two pillars and put a hand on each one. With all his might, he pushed outward, and he brought the house down. Literally. That day, more Philistines died from the building falling on them than he had killed in his lifetime. Samson himself didn’t live to tell the tale.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Phở with Puns

You know how Phở restaurants tend to use puns in their names? I had some brilliant ideas for some more. In case anyone doesn't know, Phở is a kind of Vietnamese noodle and meat soup. It's pronounced "fuh".

Phở and Games
A combination arcade and restaurant

Phở Tography
A photography studio that also serves pho

Phở Langes
A pho restaurant with a finger theme (They could also serve ladyfingers at Halloween)

A restaurant that serves Vietnamese and Egyptian food

An espresso stand that also serves pho

A pho restaurant dedicated to fandoms everywhere

Thay spel awl thuh wurds on thare menyoo funetticly. Yoo may take longgur reeding it, but at leest yool say thuh wurds rite. (They spell all the words on their menu phonetically. You may take longer reading it, but at least you'll say the words right.)

Had to get a Dr. Who reference in there...

Luke, I Am Your Phởther
The Sith branch

The Phởlowship of the Ring
A necessary destination on your quest to destroy the Ring of Power

Get Quark on it! He would probably make a mean pho! 

Phở Phở Away
Princess Fiona's favorite Vietnamese restaurant. She loves taking Shrek there.

The restaurant Simba founded right near Pride Rock, in memory of his phởther

Hamlet's favorite Vietnamese restaurant. Laertes hates it when Hamlet goes there. It drives the restaurant mad.

Harry Phởter
Magic happens here.

Expecto Phởtronum
Protective magic happens here. Your soup takes the form of an animal, but a different animal for each customer.

Ziegfeld's Phởlies
Serving up song and dance and soup

HMS Pinaphở
They never ever make their soup too hot. What, never?! No, never! What, never?! Well, hardly ever.

Phởrates of the Caribbean
Yo ho, yo ho, a phởrate's life for me! The Black Phởrl can't be far off. (OK, that was phở-fetched)

A great ministry idea for any church who wants to serve pho

A pho restaurant that goes back to the basics 

Socrates would have loved it!

They donate their proceeds to charity.

Hooked on Phởnics
Worked for me!

The cafeteria in a Roman army, that serves pho

Located in Arizona. They go out of business from time to time, but they always rise from the ashes.

A revolution in archaeology related to ancient Vietnamese soup

Phởsical Phởtness
They feature a well-rounded combination of healthy soup and a workout facility.

Do Bánh mì Phở So La Ti Do
They have a stage for singing, in addition to offering music lessons and singing about pho. They also serve Vietnamese sandwiches.

Phở, a Noodle Pulling Bread
From the Vietnamese parody of The Sound of Music 

The Phởntom of the Opera
...is there inside my mind!

A pho restaurant in New York (that was my friend Eddie's idea)

Phở Rensics
A murder mystery restaurant that serves pho (also Eddie's idea)

Just Phở You
Shanel's idea

Anyone else have ideas? Feel free to comment, but please keep it clean. :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Sunday school lesson from this morning, from Judges 6-7...

God had brought the Israelites through a lot. General Sisera did horrible things to the Israelites, and God sent Barak to defeat him. When Barak got scared, Judge Deborah went with him into battle, and with God’s help, they defeated Sisera’s army. But because Barak didn’t trust God enough, Sisera himself was defeated by a woman named Jael.

After that, there was peace for 40 years.

But then, as Israelites did often, they forgot God again. They did evil things, and God allowed the Midianites to do bad things to them. As soon as the Israelites’ crops were ready to harvest, the Midianites and Amalekites swooped in and stole it all. They stole their crops, livestock, and anything they could find to eat. This kept happening for seven years! Finally, the Israelites were so poor and starving that they cried out to God for help. So God sent them a prophet to remind them that He had brought them out of Egypt and provided for them, but they had decided to worship other gods.

Because the Israelites needed to eat, they had to get creative about where they put their food, to hide it from the invaders. One day, God sent an angel to the farm of a guy named Joash. The Midianites would expect to find lots of wheat to eat on the threshing floor where they separated the good wheat from the chaff, the skin of the wheat that wasn’t good to eat. So Joash’s son Gideon was threshing wheat in their winepress. The angel sat under a nearby oak tree and said to him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Gideon was pretty surprised. He said, “But sir, if that’s true, what happened to all the miracles? I’ve heard all kinds of great things He did for our ancestors when He brought them out of Egypt, but He seems to have abandoned us lately.”

“Go, save Israel from Midian,” said the angel. “I am sending you.”

Gideon wasn’t satisfied. “But, but…how do I do that? My family is the weakest in the tribe of Menasseh, and I’m the weakest in my family! Why call a wimp?”

But the angel said, “Go. I will be with you, and you will defeat the Midianites.”

“OK,” said Gideon, “I need a sign. I’ll go get an offering. Be right back.” He went in and cooked a goat and made some bread, and then brought it out to the angel. He put it on a rock, and the angel touched it. Fire came out of the rock and burned it up! Then the angel disappeared. So Gideon knew it really was an angel that God had sent. He was scared.

Then God told him to do something really scary. God told him to tear down the idols of the false god Baal, then sacrifice his father’s bull on a proper altar, using the idols as wood to burn it.

Gideon obeyed, but he was too scared to do it during the day, so he took ten of his servants, and they did it at night when everyone was asleep. When the neighbors got up the next day, they discovered their idols had been destroyed, and they were furious. They marched over to Joash’s house and demanded to have Gideon so they could kill him! Joash replied, “If Baal is such a powerful god, don’t you think he can deal out his own wrath? He shouldn’t need help killing someone who destroyed his altars.” So they called Gideon Jerub-Baal, which means “Let Baal contend.”

The Midianites were coming! Gideon was learning, and with God’s help, he started building an army to fight them. But he was still scared. He asked God for a sign again. “If You really want me to do this, show me. I’m putting a wool fleece on the threshing floor, and if the fleece is wet with dew and the ground is dry in the morning, I’ll know.” So God did it! Then he said, “OK, don’t be angry, but I need to double check. This time, I’d like you to make the fleece dry and the ground wet with dew.” God did that. So Gideon had no doubt this was what God wanted him to do.

He set out leading his army, but God had another surprise for him. There were too many people for God to show them that this was His plan! So God had Gideon tell everyone who was too scared to go home. 22,000 soldiers left, leaving only 10,000. But that was still too many! So God gave them a really strange test. 10,000 soldiers went down to the river to get a drink. 300 men lapped the water with their hands to their mouths, while everyone else knelt down to drink. The people who knelt down ended up having to go home. So that meant the army only had 300 people left!

God told Gideon to sneak into the Midianite camp during the night. When he did, he overheard two Midianites talking. One of them had just had a dream that a barley loaf had fallen into the Midianite camp and hit the tent so hard that it collapsed! The second person said, “That means that God has given our camp into the hands of Gideon son of Joash!”

Worshiping God, Gideon snuck back up to his camp and laid out his plan. It was the middle of the night at this point. He split the small army into three groups and gave each of them trumpets and empty jars. The three groups surrounded the camp, and at a cue from Gideon, they blew 300 trumpets and smashed 300 clay jars! 300 voices shouted, “A SWORD FOR THE LORD AND FOR GIDEON!” The Midianite army awoke with a start and panicked. They were so scared that they grabbed their swords and started to fight…but in their fear and confusion, they forgot that they were killing each other! The survivors fled, and the Israelites chased them. Gideon called for more men in the area, and the men of the tribe of Ephraim answered. The Israelites defeated Midian that day, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was God who had won the battle.


The following pictures are of a threshing floor and the process of threshing, or separating the grain from the stalks and chaff. I printed them to show the class. Click on them to see them larger.

Source: Fletcher, Elizabeth. "Bible Archaeology: The First Farmers: Food in the Ancient World." Bible Archaeology. Web. 17 Feb 2013. http://www.bible-archaeology.info/agriculture.htm

A stone threshing floor surrounded by a low stone wall to contain the grain

Threshing: woman with grain on a threshing floor, Israel, 19th century photograph

Deborah and Barak

Sunday school lesson from February 10, from Judges 4-5...

Israel had come a long way. God brought them out of Egypt, and He used Moses and Joshua to lead them to the Promised Land and then go through the long and difficult process of conquering it. They saw the Red Sea and the Jordan River part. God gave them manna and quail in the wilderness, and He made water come out of rock. He made the thick walls of Jericho fall with trumpet blasts! He even made the sun stand still so they could defeat six cities in one day. After that, God led them to defeat more enemies until they conquered the land. But after Joshua died, the Israelites started to forget everything they had seen. They worshiped statues instead of God, and He wasn’t very happy about that. In fact, He became so angry that He sent more enemies against them, and the Israelites became slaves to a new enemy. But then, they remembered God and prayed. So He heard them and raised up a judge named Othniel. He was Caleb’s little brother. Othniel led the Israelites to victory, and they defeated their enemy. After Othniel died, Israel forgot God again, so He sent them another enemy. Then they prayed, and God sent Ehud to be their judge and lead them to victory. After Ehud came Shamgar. But then, Israel forgot God AGAIN! You’d think they’d learn their lesson!

This time, God punished them again by sending a Canaanite King named Jabin to attack them. His army general was named Sisera, a nasty character. Sisera did terrible things with his chariots and army, and for twenty years, Israel was miserable under his cruelty. By this point, there was a new judge named Deborah. She was also a prophetess, and she got a message from God. She obeyed what He told her to do. She sent for a man named Barak of the tribe of Naphtali, and when he arrived she told him, “God commands you to go, lead the men of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun to Mount Tabor. God will lure Sisera and his army to the Kishon River, and you will defeat them.”

But Barak was scared out of his mind. He responded, “I’ll go, but only if you come with me.”

Deborah said, “OK, I’ll go, but since you don’t trust God enough, a woman will defeat Sisera!”

So Deborah and Barak set out, leading the armies of the Israelite tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, and they went to Mount Tabor. When Sisera got word that they had gone there, he led his army to the Kishon River, just as God had said would happen.

Deborah told Barak, “Go! This is the day God promised! He has given Sisera into your hands!” So Barak led his army of ten thousand soldiers down the mountain to meet their enemy. God sent an earthquake and a powerful rainstorm. Barak’s army defeated Sisera’s, and many of the enemy soldiers were swept away by the river! Israel chased the survivors of Sisera’s army, and not one of them survived.

But Sisera got away! He escaped to the tent of Heber, the man who had warned him that the Israelites were coming. Heber’s wife Jael welcomed him in. Sisera was all tired out from fighting and running, and he asked her to hide him and to give him a drink. She gave him some milk and let him get some sleep, covering him. Once he had fallen asleep, Jael took a tent peg, quietly snuck up to him, and…

Pretty soon, Barak and his army arrived in pursuit of General Sisera. Jael ran out of her tent and told Barak, “Come see! I have something to show you!” He stepped into her tent and found the evil Sisera, dead, with a tent peg in his head.

So, just as God promised, He helped Barak and Deborah to defeat Sisera’s army, but Sisera himself was defeated by a woman.

That day, Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to God for saving them from their evil oppressor and leading them to victory.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Sun Stands Still

This morning's Sunday school lesson, from Joshua 9-10...

Word was getting around. Egypt had been hit with ten nasty and deadly plagues. The Red Sea had parted for the people of Israel, and fire and cloud had led them forward. As they advanced in their slow 40-year journey across the wilderness, they had defeated everyone who attacked them. Heshbon, Bashan and Ashtaroth had fallen. Now Israel had crossed the Jordan River, which had also parted for them! Soon after, Jericho fell, literally. Israel suffered a defeat at Ai because Achan had stolen from Jericho, but once they got that straightened out, Ai was destroyed. Everyone in the surrounding cities was terrified, and they got together to try to put an end to General Joshua and his scary army of Israelites. Everyone but Gibeon. They were scared too, but they were clever and decided to try a more crafty way of not being killed.

The men of Gibeon came up with a plan. They found some dry and moldy bread, put on worn-out clothes, and they made sure everything they brought with them looked old, cracked and worn. They found Joshua and the Israelites nearby and told him their sad story. “We’re from a far-off country, and we’ve heard reports of everything your God has done, and how you’ve been victorious against everyone you’ve fought. We’ve come a long way to make peace with you. We don’t want to be any trouble to you, and we were wondering if you could sign a treaty with us. Look at this moldy bread. It was fresh and steaming when we left home! Look what the long journey has done to our clothes and sandals!”

The Israelites looked at the Gibeonites’ clothes, tasted their bread, and saw that it looked like they were telling the truth. They just forgot one thing…to ask God about it. So Joshua and the Israelites believed the lie and made a treaty with Gibeon. Three days later, the truth came out. These guys were neighbors! Israel wanted to punish those crafty Gibeonites for fooling them, but they had made a promise to protect them. So instead, the leaders of Israel made them cut wood and carry water for them.

King Adoni-Zedek of Jerusalem soon heard that Joshua had destroyed Ai and signed a treaty with Gibeon, an important city that was even bigger than Ai. Gibeon had a lot of good fighters. The combined forces of Israel and Gibeon were even scarier than just Israel. So Adoni-Zedek called four other kings from nearby cities, and together, they marched to attack Gibeon.

The Gibeonites sent word to Joshua: “Help! We’re your servants, and now five kings and their armies are attacking us! Come quick and save us!”

This time, Joshua learned from his earlier mistake. Last time, he hadn’t asked God about the treaty, and they had been tricked because of it. Now, Joshua prayed. God answered, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it. Go and defeat these five armies. Not one of them will be able to stand.”

So Joshua and the Israelites marched all night and took the attacking armies by surprise. God threw their enemies into confusion, and Israel defeated them and chased them away, defeating more and more as they chased them. As the enemies continued to flee, God sent a big hailstorm, and the huge chunks of ice killed more enemies than the Israelites did with their swords.

The day was getting on, and Joshua was worried that it would get dark and some of their enemies might get away. So once again, he prayed:

“O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon!”

The sun was directly overhead, and there it stayed for almost a day. The sun, moon and earth stopped moving, and God gave Joshua and the Israelites extra time to defeat five united armies in one very long day. God had never done that before, and He hasn’t done it since then.

The five kings were so scared that they hid in a cave near the city of Makkedah. When Joshua found out about that, he told the Israelites to block the cave with rocks so the kings couldn’t get out, and then they defeated almost every single enemy soldier. Then he let the kings out, and they didn’t live to tell the tale. The Israelites then defeated Makkedah. So it was that in one very long day, God helped the Israelites to defeat six cities!