Monthly Archives: September 2014

Commandment Series: Prohibition of Physically Harming a Person

ten-commandments-400.hebrew abbrev“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”~ Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, the Grands came and spent their first overnight.  The air mattress took up half of our living room.   Piled high with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals  and an occasional, rather large, choc lab or two jumping into the mix, they played, drew pictures, giggled and laughed until finally…Grandma and Papa gave the thumbs up to the start to “movie night”.  Popcorn crumbs.  Stray pieces of paper.  A cold nose of  a lab pressed into tiny hands.  By 9:30, both were sound asleep and content.  Love danced, much as David did, around our home in a big way.

I love Mother Teresa’s quote for this reason.  Love in the home teaches love for those outside the home.  But as we all know, it is not always easy.  After all, people are different.  Different colors.  Different beliefs.  Different mindsets.  Different everything.  There is not one person that is the exact duplicate of someone else.  Buckeyes falling from a buckeye tree.  To love someone that we totally dislike is…sometimes…lol…most times, one enormous, challenging, overpowering test thrown into our life journey.  To kill – whether it is emotionally, physically, spiritually, verbally – hits all of us at one time or another.

“You shall not murder.” Ex 20:13

the-sixth-commandment-GoodSalt-lwjas0406In the Old Testament, God wrote upon the tablets a pretty simple concept.  Don’t kill anybody physically.  Jewish tradition still looks at in a fairly straight forward way.  Don’t physically harm anyone.  I like to think that these were simple commands because the Jewish people were babies in Faith.  When we are raising babies, we don’t use long complicated stories or sentences to get our point across.  Everything is stated in the simplest terms possible.  “NO!”  “STOP!”  “OK!” “GO” The Jewish people were the first to stand on their faith in Jehovah-Tsid-Kenu. By the time of the New Covenant when Rabbi Yeshua walked this earth, He could already see where we were headed.  There were already many ways to destroy a life.  So He used a more complicated parable to support and expand this radical concept – LOVE, PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES.  loveyourenemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matt 5:43-48

When we watch the news and see all the pain, degradation and mutilation that humans do to each other, we often feel anger and revenge thoughts enter into our sphere.  When a loved one shatters a vow, a trust we have placed in them, those thoughts appear just as strongly.  Yet, thankfully, most of us never resort to a physical murder. We’ve become pretty sophisticated.  We use psychological or emotional “murder” instead.  A FB post full of a few choice words – retaliation (an eye for an eye) – revealing a secret or two.  “Killing” words can be pretty damaging these days.  When I’m hurting I force myself to start looking for positive words instead of concentrating on all the injustice of the world that can be flashed across all our screens in high definition video – or living through a more personal bump in my life road (that feels like I’m watching a high definition video).  I kick my rear end in gear and into the book of Matthew and remind myself about the commandments of the New Covenant or cry as I sing the Psalms in my heart.  The promises that Our Father says over and over reassure me, and I can pray with a healing heart.

Jewish tradition has another neat way of looking at things.  Their Sages have written that as one sleeps, their souls ascend to Heaven.  While they are there, heaven-of-angelsthey record in Heaven’s books all the things that they did during their day.  Then they sign the book.  Traditionally, as practicing Jews say the Shema, (“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deut 6:4-5,)  they are also thanking God for returning their soul at the start of a new day.

If we all thought we were traveling to Heaven at the end of our day to write about all the things we did or said, would it make a difference? Would it make “Thou Shalt Not Kill” (meaning more than the physical act), more real to us?  Would it make it easier to obey?  I have found that I like thinking about this Jewish tradition. Traveling to Heaven each night, writing my part of the daily human existence in the Book of Life, signing my name at the bottom, and then thanking God when I awake in the morning seems like a fantastic way to start each day of my life.  Wisdom and discernment make the sixth commandment a little easier to obey. Just another choice.

(Google images)

 

Commandment Series-Respect for Parents and Teachers

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“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Rev 22:1-5

I love the word picture that John paints in these verses.  I haven’t read Revelations for a while.  Truthfully? I’ve been avoiding it.  When I was in high school and college I was fascinated by Revelations and read it often.  I thought if I read the words often enough, I would eventually glean the wisdom it contained. But so many of the pictures that John was trying to describe in this book was beyond my imagination and knowledge at that point.  Needless to say over the course of the last 45 years, I’ve returned to it periodically.  Occasionally grasping a thought or image only to feel that most of the wisdom in this book was still beyond my ken.  However, lately…even now as the sun’s rays are finally slicing through the clouds that have covered our area for the past 3 days to warm my typing fingers…hints that it is time to return to a more in-depth study of this book.

I wish there was a Jewish Talmud written about the New Testament.  A rabbi who looked at Our Lord’s and His disciples’ words in much the same way as they ancient-rabbi-teachingspoke them.  That is one thing that I truly love about the Jewish religion.  The sages have never stopped debating – concentrating on the very basics of the written Hebrew language, each jot and tittle, as well as the overall context and content of the Torah – seeking to take new understanding from the WORD and Our Father who spoke through them.  In our society, I believe most of us tend to think that if we have read our devotions and forced ourselves to find time to read a few new chapters in the Bible, we’ve done enough our filial duty.  Can we ever understand anything about God in just a few minutes out of our “busy” day?

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Ex 20:12

In Jewish tradition, teachers are included in the fifth commandment.  Since most societal groups look at parents as the first teachers of a child, this inclusion teachermakes a lot of sense.  The extension of respecting teachers follows logically. Yet – as more and more parents are working full time (or several part time) jobs – teaching children has become a communal project.  Teachers, yes – babysitters are teachers – are entering the child’s sphere of existence at earlier and earlier stages of life.  Whether you acknowledge it or not, children are being taught by whoever is around them. Teachers are found in all shapes and sizes.  Yesterday, at our after school program, a young 13 year old was explaining the facts of life to some of our  much younger students.  I’m not sure some of  our first grade parents were ready to have that conversation last night around their supper table.  Hmmm….that is….if they sit around the table to eat supper and actually talk to each other.  sigh.

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17 NASB

Is it any wonder that I kids argue with their parents and teachers?  They have had many teachers.  They see their parents argue with their teachers.  They see parents argue with each other.  Teachers argue with each other.  By observation Family_Portraitalone, children learn that rules must be negotiable.  Children learn that one set of rules at home, may be different at the babysitters’ – the pre-school’s – the other biological parents’ or grandparents’ homes.  Nap time?  Negotiable.  Homework? Negotiable.  Cuss words?  Jacket worn to school?  Move to a new seat in the classroom?  No recess?  Fighting at school? TV? Computer? Phone?  Children are adaptable and learn pretty quickly where they can stretch the boundaries…any boundary…ALL boundaries.

Our “busy” and “denuclearized” society makes this commandment even more difficult.  Parents divorced.  Many step-parents and siblings. Many quasi-step-parents and sibs.  Grandparents – married into or quasi????  Attachments extended familyto family members?  As adults enter their own sphere of knowledge, it gets easier and easier to break those familial attachments.  The “Honoring” bird flies quickly away when not fed.  Instead, it is much easier to use our “new” family, our job, our extra curricula activities (sports, friends, downtime etc.) as an excuse.  After all, how much time does that grown child remember spending with their own parents while they were growing up – especially if there was a divorce or multiple divorces?  A few phone calls – every so often (weekly? monthly? occasionally?) – to the parental units and call it good.  That’s honoring, right?  Spend a holiday or two with them – maybe – if they live close enough and nothing else is planned.  That’s honoring, right?  Asking them to help out with a sick child or pick-up child.   That’s honoring…right?

I don’t know about you, but as I ponder the fifth commandment more deeply and think about all the messiness of our world, I wish this commandment was handed out to every family unit and read aloud each evening as prayers are said. I wish it was still posted in schools.  Perhaps……sadly……the fifth commandment really is  hard to follow.

BTW – the sun that broke through the clouds as I was typing the first paragraph?  Was completely swallowed up by the said clouds as soon as I started typing the second paragraph.  God winked so I guess I’m going to be spending some time reading Revelations today.  joy-comes-with-the-morning

*pictures Google images/Youtube

 

 

Commandment Series – Observances of Sacred Times

10-commandmentsYesterday was a rainy, dreary day in NC.  The after school program was hectic since we couldn’t let the kids go outside t0 run some off the squirrel energy that always accumulates during the school day.  Yet Light was awaiting me at sundown.  It was  my youngest Granddaughter’s sixth birthday.

When we are SIX – school becomes a reality, friends gain a little more importance, letters start to meld into words and sentences, money is a great way to learn math, days of the week become distinct items in life and also a great way to learn to add, but cuddle time with parents and grandparents still rank in that #1 spot.

We gathered our brightly wrapped pink and white polka-dotted packages and set off for #1 Daughter’s house.  We arrived to the exciting pandemonium that always reigns when special days occur on weekdays.  Granddaughter is beyond excited and shows all the signs of having gotten up way too early; the long school day is over; parents (and Grandparents) return from earning a day’s provision;  younger brother – tired, cranky, hungry (no presents in sight) – birthday girl still jumping around; and everyday chores waiting to be accomplished.  Pull in the trash cans, unload dishwasher, fix supper and – somehow –  expand time to blend a little extra into the birthday mix.

The smell of lasagna fills the house and is enhanced by the laughter, crying and love that is shared by all of us.  Finally, #2 Daughter and her husband joins us via skype and the celebration has begun.  You gotta love family celebrations.  They remind us of what is really  important in a world that seems to be spinning completely out of control.

“Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.’” — Leviticus 23:24

As  we sat around the supper table, Skyping with #2 Daughter in AZ and her rosh hashanah bhusband, Love swirled over our heads and united us together.  It is no surprise that Jehovah-Shalom established commandments that would slow His children down a little and remind them of what His kingdom is like.  Yesterday, as we gathered around the supper table, Jews all over the world were also gathering around their supper tables to celebrate the birth of a new year – a new life.

Rosh Hashanah, according to Jewish tradition, is the day that God breathed into rosh hashanah aman’s nostrils the breath of life.  It is also considered the day that Issac climbed the mountain to offer his son as a sacrifice.  God bound Issac’s hand and a ram was offered instead.  From this ram two shofar trumpets were formed by Jehovah-Saboth, and one became symbol of Rosh Hashanah.  In fact, their tradition also says that the breath they blow through this shofar trumpet becomes the breath of God.   As the trumpet sounds over the nation of Israel on this holy day, so does God’s breath blow over their land giving it new life and strength.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  Ex 20:8-11

A long way around but it all seemed pertinent to today’s commandment.  Our Father established holy days and years (Shemitah) for us – for Him – to join together an celebrate what is really important.  Love.  Forgiveness. Grace. Renewal. Repristination. Things that swirl around His illuminating kingdom everyday.  Things that we forget in our cloudy kingdom.  I know that I need – at least – one day a week to remember where I came from and renew my goal for where I want to be.  A day to become new and pure once again.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me think and ponder a little more deeply when you see the commandments as Rabbi Yeshua, perhaps, saw them.  Is it really so hard to follow His fourth commandment?rosh hashanah

 

 

 

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17 NASB

Commandment Series – Prohibition of Oaths

10-commandmentsThis has been one of those weeks where I’ve had to deal with some of the aspects of teaching that I don’t like very well.  Our supervisor is out for the next 12 weeks enjoying a new blessing to her family which leaves us, not only short a person on supervisory portion of the job, but also puts me in charge of many more of the challenges that face teachers.  I thought when I retired, I wouldn’t have to do much of this anymore, but apparently – once again – I was wrong.  So here I am reminding myself – AGAIN – this is a blessing, this is a blessings, this…is…a…BLESSING.

I’m smiling right now, because yesterday I helped several second graders with a Common Core informational text that talked about the scientific concept of force.  Besides not knowing a lot of the words in the text, the conceptional ideas were a little abstract.  So we pushed and pulled some little things and then some big things, and the light bulb grew a little brighter. That is what I love about teaching.

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17 NASB 

It was the rest of the day that was a challenge for me.  Most of you who have ever dealt with children know that “when the dogs are away, the cats like to play”.  Needless to say, the students are pushing against any boundary just to see if they are still there.  Small children have small pushes.  Larger children push backs are with a little more force.  So far this week I have dealt with nuisances of talking too loud, constant roaming and ignoring simple rules that have been in place for the year.  Thus, instead of teaching, I talk to the kids, remind them of rules, line up the consequences and bring it to the attention of parents at end of day.  There has also been two small skirmishes.  Repetition occurs with a stronger talk to kids – line up consequences – implementation of course of action – apprise the rest of the staff – talk to parents about said skirmish and concerns – fill out paper work. Needless to say, amid all of this has been appearance of inappropriate language.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Ex 20:7 

This is a hard one these days.  Kids hear cuss words everywhere…parents, society, books, movies, even video games.   OMG (O My God)…or for that matter – any of the curses that employ Our Father or Jesus’s name…is so popular that it even comes out of my Grands’ mouths when I’m babysitting. (Needless to say, they do get corrected when I’m there.)  In Jewish tradition, God is often written G-d because the word is held with such sacredness.  In some sects, they will not even speak it.  God’s holiness is that special.  When we use anyone’s name in anger or frustration – let alone – God’s name, aren’t we “cursing them”?  As I’m writing this, I am trying to imagine substituting a loved one’s name for God’s name in OMG.  I can’t imagine even wanting to do that.

I read a book in college about how language is just a mess words that we assign meaning to and that cussing only holds meaning if we allow it to do so.  It’s premise was that cussing is fine, and people should get over it.  I tried cussing for awhile. Let a few words flit into my conversations here and there.  But when I began teaching and  watching my students closely, I could see the pain of ugly words and decided to try to turn my words once again. Blessing or curse, it is just a mess of words, but the choice is our – blessings or curse.

According to Jewish wisdom this commandment covers more than “taking His name in vain” (which was the way I learned it long ago).  This commandment instructs them to keep ALL oaths as sacred.  God makes promises to us and He ALWAYS keeps them.  This commandment instructs us to hold our promises with the same devotion as God holds His promises.

Make a promise in court?                     Keep it!

Make a promise to your spouse?         Keep it!

Make a promise to your children?      Keep it!

Make a promise to your boss?  Friend?  Pet?  Society?  Yourself?    KEEP IT!

When we keep our promises as Jehovah-Tsid Kenu keeps His promises, we are bringing His strong kingdom a little closer into existence within our rickety kingdom. Remember the old, old story of dropping a pebble into the water and watching the ripples radiate further and further out?  It is the same when we follow this commandment and keep our promise.  The consequences continue to ripple out from ourselves – to our families – to our community – to our society.  It is exactly what Christ asked us to do when He told us to pray:  “…thy kingdom come – thy will be done…”  LK 11:2    So…once again….is it really so hard to follow His third commandment?

Commandment Series: Improper Worship

10-commandmentsThe Holy Spirit was breathing on our church last Sunday.  It didn’t surprise me; this past year I have often felt the Spirit moving around lots of places.  Sometimes in the most unexpected places.  But Sunday was beyond my experiences, and I am still thinking about it.

Usually when I go to church, I like to try to soak everything that I can into myself.  Since I started teaching, church has been my reservoir.  Raising kids at home and giving as much as I could to my “kids” at school, usually left me depleted.  Sunday was my long drink of water…my “go to church” and “stare at the cross” day – or maybe – if they could talk me into it – sing a solo or direct the children’s choir on special occasions day. I have always tended to think of myself as a “closet prayer/worship” kinda person.  Somewhere along the way, I took Jesus’s words pretty seriously about praying privately.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. …”  Matt 6:5-6 

But as I said, this past Sunday was different.  It was our first communion service in our new church, and I was wondering how this would go in such a huge church.  Small churches are my thing.  I like them because there is intimacy when I kneel at the alter and time to tarry if I wanted to pray a little longer.  However, God is no respecter of small or large churches.  When a space opens that lets Him in, He moves.  Suddenly, during the song the choir was singing, I found myself on  my feet.  My hands raised.  My voice lifted in praise.  As the song went on, more and more worshipers stood and sang as well.  You’ve got to understand – this isn’t me.  I don’t do things like this.  But Sunday – I did.  Pen on floor.  Bible no longer on my lap.  Brain and heart filled with God. The Holy Spirit had me on my feet, and I don’t remember thinking about it……..at all.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and  fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” Ex 20:3-5

In Jewish tradition, the 2nd commandment is Ex 20:3-6.  That’s the thing about the 10 commandments.  Actually, Jewish wisdom says there are 613 commandments while the 10 commandments handed to Moshe on Mt. Sinai are considered categories.  Also, since not all religions have the same ones, I have gone with the Jewish tradition that, I think, Rabbi Yeshua would have been taught.  Commandment 1 already said no idols, so in Jewish tradition, the 2nd commandment deals with “Improper Worship”.  No idols – no graven images – no likenesses of beasts, animals, fish or anything of the earth – for there is only one God.  Don’t worry about the fashion idol, the “I-belong-to-the-hip-church idol”, best choir idol…(you got it, right?)  God is unique and beyond our understanding.  He is Jehovah-Shammah when we worship Him because He changes us to our core with His love, forgiveness and grace.

Worship leads us to His kingdom…brings His joyful, eternal kingdom a little closer to our painful, finite kingdom. So…is it really so hard to follow His second commandment?

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17 NASB

Commandment Series: Love God

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17 NASB 

10-commandments

Today was a good day.  Church and then lunch with Daughter’s family. Exercised.  Enjoyed conversations with those around me. Wasted time playing jigsaw puzzles on the computer.  Read a couple chapters of new book.  Took a small nap.  Watered a newly planted magnolia tree.  Played “ball” with the puppies – a million and one times.  Thanked God for the blessings of feeling sick over the past couple of weeks.

Did your eyebrows go up to your forehead?

Yup – I thanked God for having to deal with an aging body and a minor illness.  Illnesses slow me down. They come a little more often as I get older (cranky joints, nose that are sensitive to a million things that it never, ever noticed before, germs taking up residence in places I never knew existed – whoa – TMI).  Infections center me on the important things; they remind me upon Whom I really depend, because – believe it or  not – I do get all wrapped up in me.   Can you tell that humbleness has never been one of my strong points?  Well – it’s true.  I have a healthy ego.

I sin a lot.  Not the kind of sin that people gasp over (those I hope are in the past)– but sin, nevertheless.  God is not a respecter of any kind of sin.  He gasps at any sin. The old adage: sin is sin is sin, reminds us that to Jevhovah-Tsid Kenu, one sin is as grievous as another.  It is still wrong.  In a world striving to say that there are no absolutes, even saying the word “SIN” can bring a smirk, eye roll or sharp derision from family…acquaintances…best friends.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Gen 2:16-17

Once upon a time, there were absolutes.  It started in a garden when men and women decided to reached for a piece of fruits.  First absolute rolled upon the grass of history, and the Evil One chuckled.  Lucky for us, God has a soft spot for silly, rebellious people and not so much for angels in open rebellion.  (I think that they too had healthy egos.)  After watching His bumbling, stumbling people for the next few centuries, God reached out to a man named Moshe (who also had His share of mistakes, but, lucky for the rest of us, not much of an ego).  Moshe listened to God and walked up a mountain where he stood, kneeled and fell flat on his face on Holy Ground.  A new covenant was drawn up; rules were established once again.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Ex: 20:2-3  

When I was a child, I always thought that “gods” meant those little things you saw in the movies or books…carved figures that had human characteristics but looked a little exaggerated in many of their features.  As I got older, I finally figured out that those figures really had little to do with what Jehovah-Tsid Kenu was talking about in this verse.  Yes, there were societies that had “gods” that they thought would answer all their needs: rain for crops, victory in war, peace in their cities, a good marriage, children for barren wombs, and the lists could go on and on.  After all, isn’t that what “gods” are supposed to do?  The Evil One would not be much of a contender if he didn’t create a few false gods to muddy up a world that was already trying to hide much bigger things than a bite that they took from a piece of fruit .

More money is the answer to prayers?  A perfect marriage will solve all our unhappiness?  The “young, perfect” guy is a whole lot better than the “old, imperfect” husband?  That new car? New house?  New phone?  Notice that “gods” come in many shapes and sizes in our world these days, and sometimes we don’t recognize them until they have taken up residence in the home that we have built far away from Jehovah-Jireh’s kingdom.

Lucky for us, Our Father still has that soft spot for us.  Jehovah-Saboth still wants to help, so He sent His son.  Rabbi Yeshua stood on  holy ground where ever He walked, so instead of people having to walk up the mountain, suffer the elements, do without the comforts of “home”, Rabbi Yeshua walked among them.  He spoke to them in their language.  Yet, He knew exactly what choosing that “cup” held in store for Him at the end of His journey on this pitiful world. He spoke this old commandment to those around Him.

A new covenant to Love.  Love more than you think possible. Love that endures beyond hurt.  Love that forgives over and over again. Love that originated with the One who loved us first.  The One who taught us to Love.

I like to sometimes play with words.  In my head, I substitute “humankind” for “Lord your God”  and KNOW that is the commandment that Jehovah-Raah follows in His beautiful, peaceful, eternal kingdom. So…is it really so hard to follow His first commandment in our war-torn, stressful, finite kingdom?

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

SILVER

Silver was the first dog in my life that I remember.  Even though I didn’t name her, her name suited her.  She was an all-white, medium sized Alaskan malamute type of  mutt.  And…she was my best friend.  When your only brother is nine years older than you, you don’t have close familial playmates to occupy your time.  Luckily, I grew up in the 50’s.  Extended families tended to live close to each other.  Cousins were abundant, and even a an almost 4 year old could walk by herself around the neighborhood to find a playmate.  However, there were days when Silver was the only one around. In hindsight, I was lucky to have her.  After all, she taught me life lessons that no one would ever teach me half as well.

“This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'”  Zech 13:9silver 1955

Silver had an incontinence problem, so she couldn’t stay in the house all the time.  Mom always said it was because they neutered her too early in life, still –  if the night was really cold, she slept in the kitchen where clean-up was not too much of a hassle.  In the 50’s, it was not considered cruel to keep a dog chained to a lead wire in the backyard.  Silver had a long wire that ran from her doghouse to the end of the yard. There was plenty of shade where the dog house was and lots of sun further away if she wanted to walk to it. To me, that walkway was huge, but I’m sure it wasn’t as big as I remember it.  There was hay in the winter, baby bathtubs full of water in the summer, and wonderful nights when we were allowed to snuggle on the old back porch couch when it was too hot to sleep inside…a mini-campout made perfect with parents singing and a guitar or banjo playing back-up.

While there are many things I learned from Silver, there are one primary lesson that comes to mind immediately whenever I see a picture of her.  The first part of this lesson occurred on a hot April day.  I was just a couple months away from my 4th year of life. I decided that I wanted to play “store” with Silver.  Going to the store was an event in those days.  Stores were not always open.  You got dressed up go to the store.  Most of the time, the only stores you went to were in your small town, and of course, there were no stores (not even gas stations) open on Sundays or holidays………at all…………….ever.  In my mind, going to the store was special.  So Silver and I walked up and down her path – many, many times.  At some point, my mommy yelled at me from the kitchen to let Silver rest.  She said it was too hot to be pestering the dog.  I didn’t listen, and the rest was a lesson seared into my mind.  I leaned close to grab Silver’s collar, and she nipped at me her answer.  Unfortunately, she nipped my bottom lip and split it up the middle.img803

In our PC society of today, Silver would be logged as a vicious dog.  Tested for rabies.  Impounded by the county.   Locked away from the little girl and family she loved.  But, lucky for me and Silver, common sense still held sway over most things.  Little girl drove dog nuts on a hot day and got what she deserved. Mommy yelled, “I told you so,” as she picked me up and hauled both of our tails to the hospital for stitches.  One wise doctor who figured out how to save a lip with only a tiny bump and a scare as a reminder, and one huge lecture from my parents a few days later led me to be assigned my first chore:  make sure that Silver had water every day.  After all, I needed to learn that pets were not just toys.  We needed to be respectful and care for them like we would like others to care for us.

Sadly, like most of the lessons in my life, I didn’t learn this lesson very well the first time round.  A few years later, in a new house, Silver was still my responsibility.  But I forgot.  I got side-tracked.  It was another hot day.  She went without water all day, and when Daddy came home from his factory job, he found a very hot dog by the garage, panting and very weak.  The car horn beeped three times.  I came running from my “new” best friend’s house; sure it was time for supper.  Instead, I got my butt warmed from the house to the garage where I got the pan for water, and then got swatted a few more times (for good measure – I’m sure) on the way back to the water spigot.  It is the last official spanking I remember getting in this life.  I also remember lying on the ground with Silver for a long time.  Tears were falling, but more over her being so hot and looking awful than from the spanking I had just received.  Most of all, I remember the talk my Daddy gave me after I finally left Silver’s side.silver 1953

Sometimes lessons are pretty easy to absorb into our reality.  Other times – lessons have to be repeated until they are learned.  If we are lucky, we have parents who are patient and willing to help us stand back up and face our failings.  As we get older, we think we are past those lessons from our parents.  We become adults.  We move away.  We start families of our own.  We struggle to become parents. Our parents age and pass away.  But in reality…silently…consistently…, our other parent is still offering lessons.  Minute by minute.  Day by day.  Year by year.  Repeating them when we need them.  Helping us to stand when we fall.  We just don’t like to acknowledge it very often. Rabbe Yeshua called Him “Abba”.  I call Him “Father” because Christ did.

I like to think that Jehovah-Shammah let us name the animals so that we could not only identify them by name, but so that we would feel for them a tiny bit of what He felt for us when He named us:  “man” …… “woman”.  Naming something brings the power of love more deeply into our selves and shapes our relationship with them.  I think this lesson really was driven into me when I held my first new born child and felt the responsibility of “naming” them.  What a gift.  What a responsibility.  What a chance to feel just a touch of what Our Father feels when He stands beside our “dog house” and waits to take us to the store.

“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.  So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.” Gen 2:19-20

 

 

GOD STAR

saiya 9 14 14Immortal, invisible, God only wise… 

The Granddaughter has a name for it.  She calls it the “God Star”.  She generally colors it in yellow.  She sets it on buildings.  She sets it floating in the sky.  Yesterday, she set it attached to a huge pink and yellow heart with two giant Easter eggs on either side of it, and the beginning of a rainbow overhead (she got sidetracked).  Seriously, you have to love how a child sees things.   Maybe it is because I taught school for over 40 years, or maybe it is just because I am hopeful for the next generation, or maybe it is because my father wrote me one letter in my whole life and in it he said:  “And believe it or not, most of that light comes from the children”.  I only know I want to see things as my Father(s) see things.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”  Matt 18:3-5 

God has been bringing the “God Star” to my thoughts a lot the past few days.  The news, obviously, has been a catalyst.  The reports of crucifixions in today’s world seem unthinkable.  Even be-headings takes on a nightmarish quality as I try to pinch myself awake.  I pray.  I look up.  I wonder.  I read more and more of the WORD.  And…as I hug the Grands ever tighter, I pray some  more that I will “become like little children” in all things. 

Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days… 

Our minister has spent over a month teaching us to pray using the pattern that Rabbe Yeshua set before us in Luke 11.  You know – “The Our Father” one – the one we were taught to memorize on our knees with our parents – the one we recited every Sunday in church – the one that comes to mind whenever we are fearful, sad, angry, in pain.  The one we say by rote without even thinking about what those words mean.  It is just something we say, and sometimes, sadly, it has no meaning at all as we look at the clock and wonder how soon we can leave church and get busy with the important stuff in the rest of our day. However, times are changing, and the words are becoming more than just words.

Forgive us our sins, for [as] we also forgive everyone who sins against us…” Lk 11:4

I’m smiling because we are only half way through our study in this model prayer, and we started it a month ago. With the pastor’s words in my head, I thought a lot about what Jesus was saying in this small section of how He was teaching us to pray.  Asking God to forgive me for my sins is a daily occurrence.  Although I’ve gotten control of many things, there are oh so many more to go.  Resentment.  Doubts.  Fears.  Envy.  Old trespasses, grudges, hurts  that I keep imagining or nursing deep in my memory banks.  Forgiveness of those who sin against us is not as easy as just saying the words aloud or to ourselves.  Course, Satan is only too glad to remind us by using a smell, a slight, a piece of music, a picture to stir our emotions and amplify those old hurts right back to the fore front of our mind.  None of any of which is easy for me. 

“Almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.” 

However during church, this visual popped in my head.  Forgiveness is literally my granddaughter’s “God Star”.  Vertically, Our Father forgives us – totally – completely – repristination.  It is a unending,  A wide, golden ray that stretches all the way from Him, breaking the sin barrier of this fallen world, and blessing us in its encompassing, golden waves.  Our forgiveness becomes another golden ray, slightly less wide because our faith is still weak, that reaches horizontally to those around us on this plane.  If we forgive others as He forgives us, the “God Star” is complete, and we become the blessing to the world as Rabbe Yeshua modeled it for us.  Once again, it is not easy – especially when it is someone we love that hurts us.  Yet, isn’t that what we did when we allowed Christ Jesus to be crucified?  We hurt Our Father deeply, and still – He wipes it completely away with His Grace.  Can we not do likewise?

“Father, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us…”godstar b

Begin a New Work

cliff sittingThere are times when the air conditioning blows hot air into an already sweltering house; the dishwasher screams in protest as it grinds to a stop mid-cycle;  and the monthly paycheck seems insignificant to the mountain of bills looming overhead. Bills that I thought I’d have under control this month, just doubled in size.  The nightly news carries unspeakable human atrocities done to other human beings.  Visual images (even though I refuse to watch actual videos) that I never, ever dreamed would happen in today’s enlightened world.  Prodigal children.  Marital/Racial/Gender/Sexual Abuse. Child sex trade.  Anti-semitism. Mass murders. Beheading.  And the last one catches in my throat and stops my forward motion…Crucifictions. I drag my feet forward as my tongue traces a newly sensitive tooth.  Where are You?  I know You can make this STOP!  Why don’t You intervene? PLEASE!

Breathe deep.

Eyes close.

Cries choke.

‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’ Isaiah 47:10

I almost hate free will.  It would be so much easier to live in a world without choice, wouldn’t it?  The body hurts because of this or that, and I think that whoever called these years, “the golden years”, was really good at misnomers.  Doctor bills jut out of the mountain waiting to catch the toe as I stumble up the trail with checkbook in hand.  Worries that have been tucked into the corner of a smile, hidden from most of the world, threaten to pull the lips into a tight line revealing the fears held in check.  Are You listening?  Can I scream any louder? Strong winds of human frailty that seemed inconsequential when standing on terra firma below; now whip at my body threatening to send me plummeting into the dark abyss below.

Faith falters.

Darkness descends.

Harmony halts. 

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt 26:41 

The mountain’s height still seems insurmountable while the weight of the backpack stuffed full of prayers pulls my shoulders backward; it is way too heavy to carry any further. I think about slipping it off and just letting it fall away from me, beyond the narrow ledge a foot length away. Another choice.  Another curve.  The knees crumble and rocks slice the tender joints.  Precariously balanced, I wedge my body tightly between the ledge and the sheer surface.  Tears course through the soul, leaving salty tracks upon physical cheeks as I manage to look up.  The rocky path still threatens to cut and scratch and trip any foot or knee that struggles to maintain their tenuous grip.  Yet there is something.  Something in this foreign land that beckons me to stand and try again.

Word whispered.

Lantern lit.

Eyes searching. 

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.”  Samuel 22:29 

A Hand outstretched steadies my shaking, physical body.  It knocks away loose rocks and straggly brush to reveal words etched upon the face of the mountain; rough foreign letters that mold my fingers tracing their path. The thought that others have climbed these mountains make them not quite so scary.  Too often, I think, I rely on this world instead of placing my hand firmly on the rope-line of His Hand. Promises long forgotten begin to light the path with their wisdom. My eyes open wide.  Handholds and foot holds noticed. Forgotten is the weight of the backpack as each step forward brings new light to each promise. Questions formulate about those who have gone before.  How did they endure?  Where they saints or mere mortals – like me?  I am so like Peter. My faith is strong until I start to think.  Then the consequences overwhelm me, and I begin to sink until Christ’s Hand reaches down to pull me out.

Hope rises.

Faith emerges.

Peace envelopes.

“ ‘Father,

hallowed be your name…’”  Luke 11:3a  

A journey of choices is still in front of me.  Tight curves, protruding rocks, unpredictable weather, knee-shaking fear, and my own steps forward threaten my path.  Yet, the back-pack is no longer heavy.  It has sprouted wings and helps me to avoid many of the obstacles.  It is just one of the blessings – miracles that is now so readily apparent.  It is the manifestation of my faith in My Father’s love.  The world with all its intellect, studies, and well-educated people call it an addicting drug…a myth…a crutch…a historical fallacy.  Yet, all MY intellect, studies, education knows it is not.  I wish I was better with words.  I wish that I could give the world what is inside my heart.  I still, sometimes, wish that there was no such thing as choice and free will.  But what I know for sure is that My Father sees what even His Son and Holy Spirit cannot see, and He wants us to choose to love Him.

“…your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins,

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.’ ” Luke 11: 3b-4 isaiah

(pictures via FB images)

10 Book Challenge

Labor Day.  Big party was yesterday at the daughter’s.  Took lots of pictures.  Got my needed hugs and kisses from the Grands.  Today’s plan…dogs to lake…read book…write a little…pray a little more… and just laze around.

Got the first two things started and then made the mistake of checking FB because I had some pictures to share with the daughter.  One of my friends sent a challenge:  “In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the “right” books or great books of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends including me, so I can see your list.”

hopalongI was not tagged – shame on this friend who knew I would love this challenge, but I tagged myself because I loved this idea.   Seeing as how I really didn’t have anything major planned.  Seeing as how the husband was off “laboring” on Labor Day.  Seeing as how books have entirely ruled my life from the time I discovered words on my childhood area rug that said:  Hop-a-Long Cassidy in big white letters (if memory serves, mine was a brown rug – but then again – that is memory for you).  I thought, “This would be a quick and fun thing to do”.   HA!

Hmmmmm….not so quick but definitely a great pursuit for the introspective Jewish month of Elul.  Because – just how do you limit it to 10 books?   I have since thought of at least 5 more books, I should have liked to squeezed into the original “ten”.  Must be Common Core is sinking into my logic – 10 doesn’t necessarily mean 10 – right?  

1. bibleBible (where would my soul be without it?  I read it everyday.  2 chapters of the OT, 5 psalms, 1 chapter of Proverbs, 2 chapters of NT and assorted side tracks into Daniel, Isaiah, etc.)


2. ifjesuscameIf Jesus Came to My House by Joan G. Thomas (1st book I remember reading over and over)

 


3. black like meBlack Like Me by John Howard Griffin (read it in Jr. Hi. and sent me on a quest; took the 1st ever Black Studies classes offered on OSU-Cols campus, read tons more favorites (Malcom X, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Native Son, Fredrick Douglas, Langston Hughes…oooh where do I stop???)


4. Edgar Cayce the Sleeping Prophet (found on the self of the Loudonvillecayce Library when I was working there as a page and started me on my own spiritual quest outside of my parents’ faith…and all books by Cayce, Ruth Montgomery, Authur Ford, Jane Roberts, etc)

 

whitman
5. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (Thank you, Mrs. Robinson, for this one, the research paper I wrote on his life and all the poetry books that I devoured after that.)


6. atlasAtlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and all her books (changed my politics a little more and challenged my faith since she was writing from an atheistic bias)

 


7. Dialogue with the Devil by Taylor Caldwell handed to me by a stranger downloadin the Whitehall Library in Columbus who said I needed to read it (then I preceded to read every book she wrote, including her autobiography Growing Up Tough which I read portions of for our 8th grade autobio unit)

 

akiane8. Akiane Kramarik: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry (Added depth of thought on SOOOOOO many levels)

 


9.blessingsThe Path of Blessing by Rabbi Marcia Prager (continues to add so much depth of thought behind Rabbi Yeshua actions and words, even though she is not Christian, she is His child.  Thanks to my good friend who didn’t tag me for recommending this book)
10. And all classics – Children – Young Adult – Adult (doesn’t matter) – any genre (doesn’t matter) – after all – that is why they are called classics.

It got me thinking about how much reading has meant to me and continues to mean to me.  When my mom developed Macular Degeneration, we got her books on tape via the library.  She had a hard time operating the tape recorder, but she loved listening to me when I would read to her.  I read her newspapers, books, magazines and letters that my kids sent via e-mail.  It would make her laugh or cry or start a discussion that would last in my heart for many years.

Reading is like that.  It builds and elicits memories on so many levels.  Movies that exist in our heads.  New lands to visit.  New time periods to learn details that we never knew from the history books.  Emotions that we had forgotten.  Dreams to seek – as a child – an adult – a senior citizen.  Reading is all that and probably much more than I have remembered.

I love this Jewish month.  It is appropriate that school starts in this month as students start the long road of reading for knowledge, wisdom and discernment.  I love challenges.  I love a book challenge.

Wisdom is supreme:  therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.  ”  Prov 4:7