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Excerpt: The Zealots Chapter 2: Shim’on

G.K. Johnson

Shim’on couldn’t remember the last time he had awakened without the heavy weight pressing down on him. He carried it like a bag of stones, dragging the weight through the streets, onto his fishing vessel, to the market, and back home every day.

The afternoon and evening hours, free of distractions and when he most needed sleep, were the worst. He could feel the pressure on his chest, crushing the life out of him, and bruising his heart and ribs. If it were a real sack of rocks, the bag would have been torn open by now and the stones inside strewn in his wake. But it wasn’t real and tangible, it only felt so, and he couldn’t shake the burden as much as he wished he could.

Shim’on lay in bed wishing he didn’t have to get up and go to the lake. In fact, he wished he hadn’t woken up at all. Yes, that’s exactly how he felt. He glanced over at his immah, who made the evening meal quietly attuned to her sons’ much-needed sleep. Shim’on watched immah’s movements. Maybe she wanted to keep her thoughts to herself.

He could never tell her his thoughts

The vision haunted him. Watching the Romans kill his abba happened over and over.

He knew the darkness inside him would scare her, and she was already scared enough. He knew abba’s Miriam needed him now, but she seemed to be grieving alone. Grief absorbed her not only because of the loss of her husband but also because of the depression and silence of her eldest son.

Shim’on sighed, the weight heavier than ever on his chest.

Looking back on that night, he cursed his cowardice. With his dagger, he could have at least tried to save his abba. Now Yitzchak was gone, and Shim’on felt crippled by the guilt and anger he carried. He was letting his immah down. He was letting Hanoch down. Even Yitzchak must be disappointed if he could see him now.

When Shim’on returned to their home that first night without Yitzchak, Hanoch had pushed him furiously. Deep in grief, Shim’on realized his brother couldn’t understand why he’d gone to Bin-yamin and Yeshua rather than to his own brother. Shim’on tried to explain, but Hanoch refused to accept his answer. His brother remained angry and hurt since that day, an invisible wall rising between them. Shim’on couldn’t blame him.

Reluctantly now, Shim’on pushed himself up from his mat and put on his leather sandals. His day as a fisherman was just beginning.

He performed netilat yadayim, pouring the water over his hands using a clay basin and cup. He nudged Hanoch awake from where he slept on an adjacent mat and waited as his brother readied himself. The young men ate a hasty meal before leaving.

Closing the door behind them, they began their short walk to the shore. Months ago, Yitzchak, Shim’on, and Hanoch had chattered loudly and happily as they made their way to the sea. Back then, Miriam laughingly teased that they were like the Shabbat shofar, letting the neighborhood know that night was falling.

Since Yitzchak’s death, the walk between brothers was made in silence

Reaching the shore, Shim’on strode down to the water’s edge and knelt. He scooped handfuls of the cold water to wash his face and wake himself up. Meanwhile, Hanoch commenced unfurling the sails.

Shim’on climbed back up the shore and into the boat, smoothing his hand over the boat’s cedar planking. The vessel was twenty-three-feet long and seven-feet wide and required a crew of five men to operate. It contained room for twelve to thirteen passengers, though they seldom had any though after Yitzchak’s death, Shim’on had hired another man for their crew.

With a flat bottom allowing it to be pulled ashore, the crew was able to unload a catch quickly and efficiently. He joined his brother and their hired men, Demas, Tertius, and Gaius, as they deftly prepared the nets and hoisted the sails to take them to the middle and deepest part of the lake.

“Ready?” Hanoch glanced towards Shim’on. He nodded.

“Ready.”

Hanoch and Tertius jumped from the boat and pushed it backward into the water, then pulled themselves over the railing.

The warm wind filled the sails and they moved from shore. Shim’on took a deep breath of fresh air and exhaled. This was truly the one place where the weight lay lightest on his shoulders. He still felt it of course, but the physical demands of fishing distracted him from the constant thoughts battling in his mind. Gusts caused the boat to dip while skipping over the choppy water kicked spray against his face. Light from the full moon above them glanced off the waves, surprisingly bright. His abba had loved it out here too, and Yitzchak always had a knack for knowing where the fish would be from day to day.

“Adonai told me to fish at the north end today boys,” he would say, or “Adonai is good, He sent me a dream that we will fill a net just off the shore.” His sons and the other fishermen had often teased Yitzchak about his heavenly directives but more often than not, Yitzchak was right, and they would bring in a good night’s catch.

Brothers at Odds, The Zealots by G.K. Johnson

GK Johnson’s debut novel, The Zealots, will arrive in January 2021. Will Shim’on’s guilt find acquittal or will it drive him to wrong? Will Hanoch accept Shim’on’s excuses and explanations regarding the night of his father’s death, or will he seek revenge?

Subscribe today to get your own Advance Readers Copy of The Zealots for review; on sale, January 1, 2021!



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Magdala By the Sea

By Historic Novelist, GK Johnson

A hiking trip through Israel was one of the inspirations for my debut novel, The Zealots, appearing on shelves in January of 2021.

I first saw this incredible painting when my husband and I visited the ancient town of Magdala located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The painting, named ‘The Encounter’, by Daniel Cariola, takes up an entire wall in the Duc in Altum spiritual center.

As I sat on the rough-hewn stone bench across from the larger-than-life depiction of a woman’s hand snaked through a maze of dusty, sandaled feet, (view link to The Encounter) I was transported to a time over two thousand years ago.

***

When the bleeding first began she didn’t worry. Like all women, her menses arrived regularly. As required by law she gathered up her mat, some clothes, water, and food and bade farewell to her husband and children.

Wedding Scene from The Zealots by G.K. Johnson

She walked outside the gates of Capernaum and joined the other women gathered in tents on the outskirts of the city. They shared this in common: they were all considered unclean so long as their menses continued. Once the bleeding stopped they would complete the ritual purification rites and rejoin their families in town. The women were far from bemoaning their temporary exile, however. In fact, they thanked Adonai for the respite from their daily responsibilities, enjoying the time of community, and the rest with the other women.

She anticipated returning to town after seven days, the normal duration of her cycle, the required time by law. When the bleeding did not cease after seven days she refused to worry. A woman’s body was an unpredictable thing. She would enjoy the extra day of rest and return home soon. After ten days she began to worry. Her young daughter brought more food and asked when she would return home. She tried to reassure her, “soon.” Surely the bleeding would stop tomorrow.

Another week passed and then another.

It became a singular torture to see the other women come and go back to their husbands, their children, their bodies dependable and self-healing. Her body, broken.

She cried out to Adonai to stop the flow of blood. Her husband and sons sent messages to her. They often stood at a distance from the tents, their conversation disjointed and awkward. She tried not to cry when her daughter visited. Was this curse to pass down to the little one? Each time her daughter visited, she seemed a little older for carrying the duties belonging to her mother at home, a little more resigned to the fact that her mother now lived outside the gates. Magdala not only experienced the physical cramping, but also the cramp of guilt, resignation, loss, humiliation.

Many nights the woman cried herself to sleep, craving her husband’s arms around her, longing to touch her sons’ faces.

Months passed, then years.

The woman’s daughter soon joined the women who came to the tent every few weeks, but empty years had untangled their ties as mother and daughter. The girl seemed guarded and withdrawn. Other women treated her like a leper. They worried the issue was a contagion. Shamed and confused, Magdala grieved her years. The bleeding was a thief! Every morning and evening she removed and replaced the bloody cloths that evidenced her required isolation.

Watching her numbness to the physical pain and a growing bitterness to the emotional pain that tore at his wife’s heart, her husband had commissioned many doctors to try to find a cure over the years. None had been successful.

Where was Adonai?

What had she done that she was being punished–as people insinuated?

One day a friend arrived in the tent bearing news of a traveling rabbi. The man spoke like no other teacher and healed the sick and lame. The woman begged those who came to the tent for news of the great rabbi. She sat enraptured, listening to the accounts. At night she dreamed that the rabbi came to the tent and healed her, but when she awoke she knew it was impossible. Those in the tent were unclean. No man would ever enter the tent.

It had been twelve years since the bleeding began.

Magdala had missed the marriages of her children.

She hadn’t been home to share in daily intimate conversations with her husband, or touch the softened wrinkles that time had worn in his face. She was in the tent when her daughter gave birth to her first child, and had listened, tears streaming down her face, as her daughters-in-law described her grandchildren. She had missed so much.

In that moment she wished the bleeding would consume her.

When she heard that the rabbi was in Capernaum that day, the woman made a decision.

It was unlawful for her, an unclean woman, to leave the tent. If she were discovered she would be publicly humiliated, punished, forced outside the city, and her actions would bring dishonor on her family. But she was desperate. Hadn’t all of these things already happened to her and to them? From what she had been told, large crowds followed the rabbi everywhere he went. If she could simply touch the hem of his garment, perhaps then her prayers would be noticed as the physical reality they were.

She crept from the tent and covered her head with her cloak. She kept her face to the ground and joined those entering the city, glancing up furtively every so often. Maybe she would be seen as a foreigner. No-one had seen her up close in years. She hurried to the hope of a savior.

It wasn’t difficult to find the rabbi as the streams of people surrounding her carried her to where he stood, surrounded by his disciples. She listened. He spoke with authority just as they said. But how was she to get close enough to touch him?

Years of pain and desperation had worn away her pride. She began pressing through the crowd, one hand grasping her shawl over her face, so that only her eyes were visible. If anyone discovered who she was she would be removed from the crowd, this she knew.

Perfumed people stood with sweaty. Thickly, their robes overwhelmed her. They complained and elbowed her as she pressed past them, hunched over against the pain. Soon she stood just the space of another person from the rabbi, but here the people jostled one another, each wanting to be as close to the man as possible.

She sank to her knees and crawled around the leather-thonged feet. A curse rang out above her. She was kicked and stepped on, but still, she reached forward, her eyes fixed on the white linen tunic only a couple of steps from her. Finally, she was close enough. She stretched desperately to touch the hem of his tunic.

A jolt of pain wrenched through her then left entirely.

She sank back on her heels and was knocked over by someone. She didn’t care about that. Delighted in the complete absence of cramps, she also realized that the helpless river was stopped. She was healed. She could feel it.

Tentatively she stood to her feet. Drops of sweat and dust rolled down her forehead and neck.

Her back hunched, a body instinctively trained from years of pain. Yet now she felt nothing, no spasms or pangs. She drew her shoulders back, forcing herself to stand tall. Still no pain. A sigh of relief slipped from behind lips still covered by her cloak. She had forgotten how it felt to be well.

As the wonder enveloped the town of Magdala, the Rabbi in the white tunic turned and looked straight at her.

“Who touched me?” He questioned, looking into her eyes.

One of his disciples gestured to the masses surrounding them, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

“Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out of me.” The Rabbi replied. His eyes continued to hold hers, and the woman began to tremble. She fell to her knees. Those surrounding her drew back, hundreds of eyes now looking at her and the Rabbi. Voices quieted.

“I…I’m sorry, Rabbi.” The woman pulled back the shawl covering her head and face and heard some around her voice their recognition.

“I have been bleeding…for years now. None were able to heal me. I have been separated from my family…” Salty tears ran down her cheeks; she could taste them. She glanced up and saw her husband’s astounded face in the crowd.

“I heard about you…about the miracles you do. I had to see if you could heal me. I touched your garment and immediately I felt the bleeding stop.”

Tears flowed down her husband’s face. The woman wanted to stand and throw herself into his arms, but she restrained herself. What was the Rabbi going to do now that he had singled her out of the healthy crowd?

She hadn’t sent him messages about healing her before touching his robe. She, an unclean woman, had touched a holy man against the law, and had she made him unclean? Would he withdraw the healing and demand punishment? Would he make her pay for her disobedience to the law?

Trembling, she waited. She looked up into the Rabbi’s face.

Rather than condemnation, she saw his kindness.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

The crowds around her surged back to life, surrounding her. She shakily made her stance and wiped the hair from her eyes. Though people studied her, curiously, no one laid hands on her. She was free to go.

She flinched when a hand landed firmly on her shoulder and turned. Her husband stood before her. Without waiting a moment longer she fell into his arms. The tears they shared were tears of wonder, victory in love, and peace.

The town recognized that this rabbi had singled her out and pronounced her healed. Yet surely he was more than an ordinary rabbi making pronouncements.

“Where is he? Please thank him!” She turned to locate the Rabbi again among the people, but he was already blocked from her view. Still no pain.

Ref: Luke 8:43-48 NLT

G.K. Johnson is the debut author of The Zealots, a story of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot, a story for boys and men. Johnson is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

If you would like to read a pre-release copy of The Zealots, please subscribe today.

 

The Zealots, coming soon. For men and boys. Illustration and cover design by James Dawson.
About The Zealots by G.K. Johnson
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Why Hybrid Publishing? Why this Co op?

Here’s a colorful picture of the hope. Lying on the ground are many colorful leaves.

Winter is approaching, but these leaves are making their statement, and a photographer was clever enough to memorialize the image.

Here, we believe that hope is realized in community.

Within the Books For Bonding Hearts agency, we share the author journey with many varied and colorful authors and speakers. We gather contacts for our author mailing lists. We help authors reach out to libraries and gather their publicity tools. We vet advertising opportunities. We record interviews for Captive Audiences or refer our authors to other podcasters, radio opportunities, and audio book companies see our first book Mister B or The Big Creek Series by Tonya Blessing, recorded by professional voice actress Courtney Patterson.

Books for Bonding Hearts is the agency helping a boutique publishing group, Capture Books.

Are you one of these colorful leaves on the ground? Tell me, what are you hoping for?

So many creatives swing on this pendulum between “spiritual talk” and “pragmatic living.”

Occasionally, the two ends of the pendulum meet up for coffee, and they discover what time it is. A piece of art should be born. It is born. Viola!

In fact, I met with a friend in the middle one day to ask her about her intentions regarding her own writing skills. “It’s time,” I said.

“Funny you should mention my writing!” She said. Many years ago she’d surprised herself by writing a piece of poetry in her history class. It seemed good to her, and so surprising. So, she decided to memorize it. 

“What? Have you ever told anyone?”

“Not that I know of, no.”

“Do you still remember it?”

At the age of forty, she roundly quoted the whole thing without a hitch sitting in the passenger seat of my car.

And golly, it was good. When I told her so, she shrugged and sighed and said that since she had also written a song once, and then this poem, she was convinced that there was some creativity stuffed inside of her somewhere. But she had no idea where to find it again.  She had been living between the “spiritual talk” and the “pragmatic living” for a very long time.

Creatives need community.  We need to breathe where there is a view to grow the precious seeds of color. We need to keep track of time gained and time lost. We need to give each other assignments that bring our brains together with our spirits and cast that vision for a perfect landing.

We need to touch each other’s lives with our own creative voice, not just spiritual talk, or pragmatism. Our souls need to be filled with mojo!

If God’s grace isn’t guiding the actionable hours of your day, the choices and relationships you make, and your own creativity, then honestly? I wonder if you are hobbling God’s purpose squirming around inside you on the ground.

It was kind of fun to sew together the many small pieces so that I could take a good look at the bigger picture, that is, why we do what we do. My little exploration into video making, that is.

Why do we come alongside of authors and entrepreneurs?

Making the video was a discovery experiment, but it touched something inside me so valid and sweet, like piercing a shaken up can of soda, and the pop spewed in wonder like a fountain.

pexels-photo-862517

SEWING CREATIVE BITS TOGETHER CREATES VALUE

When someone uses his or her unique voice, it joins a variety of things together, as two pieces of fabric can be sewn into a shirt, a sleeve added, and buttons.

The cloth becomes larger than the sum of the parts when it becomes a shirt.  It doubles its value.

This is why we are desperate for community. We use creative juices like threads sewn together for the purpose of creating a shirt, a pair of pants, a dress, or a pair of socks. Bits of fabric are no longer random. Like the need for tailoring the raw sheets of material into a garment, the threads of fabric find their purpose.

We need to find the meaning for the poetry of our existence.

An author might enter into an author co-op, or a hybrid publishing company, and discover that creative juices in many areas exist, not only do they exist,  but they swell to overflowing in such company!

This is because

  • When authors see the benefits of applying business to their craft,
  • When they add up the expenses and profits and create line item budgets,
  • Then they open up a new brain synapses that
  • Triggers a sum where places of personal worth and value can land. 

Understanding the quantum physics of a group effort in publishing and marketing is the math which defines the bottom line. This bottom line can trigger a God-given energy and value to a creative goal never before articulated, perhaps never faced.

Joining a publishing and marketing co-op puts a framework to creative dreams and hobby writing.  We need to understand the costs, the additional work to build a goal. We need to be inspired by the possibilities of sales and speaking opportunities.

Joining  a publishing and marketing co-op makes you accountable to be your own magnanimous best friend. A group like you! You can see the way then to invest in yourself. The group will help you understand that your God-given gifts are not only meant to make you curious, but they are meant for a greater good.

Shivoo Bk Mobile device

Welcome to the Shivoo! I wrote this book all about the power of community in publishing your prized manuscript and then making sure you reach the audience thirsting for it.

When we give ourselves this gracious gift of time to rest and dream and process in an community fashioned for accountability, it means that we are able to give a reason for the hope that lies with us on a very personal level in a uniquely styled expression.

Find out more. https://booksforbondinghearts.com/why-hybrid-publishing/

MY BLESSING TO YOU FOR A CREATIVE LAUNCH

May you rise up into your own Resurrection Day through Christ Jesus, and through His community, His Church, His body. May you unhobble that precious inner soul that God gave to you in hopes that you would use it. No one else was created like you.

Only you can speak your wonder into your world. Let’s go for it, shall we?