Tag Archives: James

42 SEGMENTS

Most mornings find me walking with the dogs and Hubby busy doing something important – like earning money for us to spend on the fixer-upper or bartering for mushrooms from a local grower in our neighborhood. Each of us on our own separate journey and yet – a joint journey as well.

“I remember how eager you were to please Me
as a young bride long ago,
how you loved Me and followed Me
even through the barren wilderness.
In those days Israel was holy to the LORD,
the first of His children.”~Jer 2:2-3

Jewish traditions have the people studying the Torah and holy books every week of the year. They do it in order; each week dedicated to teaching and reminding them of the depths of the journeys – massei – that they have taken together as a people both in the past to the present day. The studies are taught the same week year after year.

The interesting thing for me is that rabbinical wisdom says these 40 years are the blueprint of each individual’s spiritual journey as well. Our own personal journey in the desert – the dry place far from the Source of Life. The blistering of feet on hot sand of choices. The parched throat from lack of not drinking from the streams of living water. A place where the physical challenges the spiritual – pushing the individual/tribe forward to fall – to find its knees of – teshuva/repentance – to stand once more in the shadow of the cross.

Jewish wisdom says that there are 42 segments of the tribal desert journey – good and bad – as there are 42 segments in our personal desert journey – good and bad – but all leading to a reunification between the Father and His prodigal children.

“But he who looks into the perfect Torah of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” ~Jm1:25

I really need to study this desert journey of the Jewish people instead of just giving it that cursory nod that I have in the past. Looking at the different segments of their journey and comparing it to my own faltering – stopping dead in the desert – throwing down the tablets of law – finding the stream of living water – energized enough to start the journey once more.

Most of the time when I am walking the dogs, I keep my eyes focused on the next hill, cars that are coming a little too fast down the our road, or how close I am to that promise land in the middle where I can sit on the swing on our neighbors’ porch and see the neighborhood world from a different vantage point.

Jewish wisdom also says that as the journey progresses, the less we see overt miracles. Hence the name – a journey by faith not by sight. As long as I don’t lose faith in that Land of Milk and Home/the Promised Land or the One who is preparing my room, I know that no matter how challenging or scary the journey is – how much my knees or feet hurt – how thick the dust storm is that clouds my sight, I will make it. The Living Waters supply the Word that keeps me from thirsting for I know ‘…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ~Rm 8:28

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me”~Jn 14:1

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25 NAMES OF CHRISTMAS – GIFT

csscscsToday has been a blessed day. I am still coughing, hacking and whining. I am still plagued by two choc labs who think it is perfectly okay if they jump in any lap available when they are playing (think – homebase in tag). I STILL have not gotten my Christmas cards done. But today was that special- wrapped-with-all-the-trimmings gift placed in my hands by my Father.. How awesome is that? Unbelievably, it happens every day; we just don’t notice it most of the time..

“Every good and perfect gift descends from above, from The Father of lights with whom there is no change nor a shadow of variation.”~James 1:17

T’is the season for giving. Gifts sit under my small little trees. Others sit in bags under the trees’ tables. We are lucky and blessed that we are able to do so much. There has been many years when we scraped the bottom of our coin jar to find enough money to buy our gifts. So this year has been a gift.I think when you are sick, you noticed the little things because you slow your steps to match that jerky, up-and-down pace that is occuring inside your body.

“But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”~Rm 5:15

If you read yesterday’s post, I talked about going to one of the houses we had put an offer on last week. I didn’t do much but pray and listen. Occasionally, I remember that is the best thing to do. So I was not surprised when we woke up this morning to find a gift awaited us in the form of a text. That houses that had been lost had been found. A counter offer. A decisionto be made. A gift to be opened.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”~2 Cor9:15

The Christmas Spirit has made its way into our home this year. I wasn’t sure it wm485-lwould. The house is not totally decked out as it usually is. Some of my favorite Chrismtas things remain packed away. Between packing decisions, financial decisions, home decisions, and sleeping decisions (where will I cough less? Chair or bed?), I felt like i was letting the physical push the spiritual out the season. Blessings!Be! that didn’t happen.

It is time to go to that quiet stable. Bend a knee and recieve the gift. What a gift was given us so long ago. What a gift is given us every day, if we will just go to the stable.

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TEACHER-PEOPLE

img956It seems impossible to believe that one of my daughters is a teacher and now has a full schedule of classes of teenage faces looking to her for guidance.  Guidance in education.  Guidance in their peer groups.  Guidance in life.  She is a “teacher-woman”.  She has also become her worst fear – she has become her mother.

As I look at some of the pictures of her that hang on our livingroom wall, my mind img042drifts back. It seems like last week that her little face was looking back at me from our kitchen island where she learned to read.  Or an older version of that same face gazing at me from a desk in the middle of a junior high row, surrounded by her own set of peers. img041How is it even possible that she has become a leader in her own right? She is my baby girl.  My Littlest.  And yet – there she is.  A newer version of that same face – sadly for me – several states away.  She is totally out of the nest and seeking wisdom as her own version of a “teacher-woman”.

I am humbled.

Impossible things happen every day. It’s life. We “see” it happening,1978 but somehow – the miracle of the “happening” doesn’t register until the sun comes up some years later. The moon cast its pale light so many times that we lost track. The seasons rolled around and “suddenly” we open our eyes one morning and realize that time has escaped our notice, and we are left wondering just how that happened. Wasn’t I just teaching at OSU’s Campbell Hall nursery school?

This morning, I went down to the local gym, and stretched my knees. Watched the river flow for a few minutes and heard the birds chatter back and forth. Fussed in the garden and got buzzed by a couple of hummingbirds bickering over the feeder. Browsed through the paper and broke my night’s fast. Turned on the computer and read a few statuses and articles. Read two chapters of an old paperbook friend and thought about the start of school for me on Thursday. Then the impossible struck again – how can it be, that after 64 years, I still “see” the world through the school calendar lens?

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The impossible becomes possible. God reaches out. “Teacher-people” appear. we hear His whisper and not His roar. (1 Kg 19:12b)

Just like all the nations around the world that are hurting right now, history teaches us that Israel had her shares of trouble.  Once upon a particular time, they had a king named Ahab.  He was not a righteous king who worshipped God in his heart.  He was not content to just ignore God by not traveling and worshiping in Jerusalem.  He decided to push the envelop. He married Jezebel and began to worship another God entirely.

That old adage comes to mind, “As the leader goes – so goes the country.”

So God did what He does best. He reached out and sent a “teacher-man”. Just one man in the line of many that God sent to His people. His name was Elijah. Elijah was a “teacher-man”. He did a little more than teach, but teach he did.  A “teacher-man” that saw no limits on what God could do.  A “teacher-man” that had faith that the “impossible” was “possible” with God in his life. Course Elijah wasn’t perfect, he did get a little scared of Jezebel for a while. Eventually though, he managed to turn on his spiritual ears, amped up his faith and got busy doing God’s work.

We don’t know how Elijah became a “teacher-man”. We don’t know what qualified him to hold that position – but there he was.  Was he a scholar?  A rabbi?Whatever he was, he was the right man — for the right job — at just the right time — a “right”eous man. That is the way God works. Creating the possible through the impossible. As the “teacher-man”, he asked a simple question, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” ( 1 Kg 18:21).

Sound familiar?

“There is no servant who can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will honor the one and he will neglect the other…” Lk 16:13

The school calendar on this earthly plane has started. Parents are buying supplies. Kids are getting excited about who will be in their class. “Teacher-people” are planning. But if we open our eyes, we may see that school has started for all of us – for all of God’s children – for the whole world. God is doing what he does best. He is loving His children. “Teacher-people” are speaking to those who have ears to listen. They are speaking to the “impossibles” in our lives. They are speaking to those situations where we are torn between our “masters” – between our “choices” – between the just and the un-just. Individually. Physically. Nationally. Spiritually. Worldly.

As a “teacher-woman” , I guess I am stuck seeing the world through a school calendar lens. Praying and having faith that my spiritual eyes are open.  Praying and having faith that my spiritual ears are listening. Praying and having faith that “impossible” is  “possible” to those who believe in God.

Elijah.

Rabbi Yeshua.

“Teacher-people” that still teach us to pray and have faith.

“…for the power of the prayer which a righteous person prays is great.” James 5:16bme 1978

Sweet Lullabies

lullabyeThe softness of night is here. Dogs are snoring on the couch, and husband has tucked himself into our Armish Oak bed. Love this time of night; when the quiet sings sweet lullabies in my head, and my eyes grow heavy with dreams yet visualzied. God’s blessing to the end of a busy day weaves a comforter warmer than the heavy denim that covers our bed.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Jm 4:7

Thankful praises drift slowly through my foggy brain – dreams of builiding amishsomething together again – the call of a student’s story to listen – a Grand’s hesitant touch of a red fox pelt that Papa found on his walk this morning – the excitement to read aloud an old book to Grandma “One Fish, Two Fish…” – the echo of looking at a daughter/mama who once read that same book in the same happy voice – another Grand’s tiredness overcoming his curiousness as he curls into his daddy for comfort. Treasures beyond measure. Reams of dreams yet to be.

“Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Jm 8-9

But memories are two-edged swords. Repentenance pleas of sharp words, glances and failings that nip at my heels when I am not careful. Frustration over choices that I do not understand. Demons that haunt those I love. Pain and doubts that I can not answer…….for myself or others. My knees quiver as I curl tighter into myself and see the abyss’s darkness that always re-appears to block my path.

But I am blessed, the pit’s allure has lost its fearful power, and I no longer fall too deeply. Its deceptive reflection reminding me of how much higher I need and can reach.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.’ Jm 4:10

As always, His melody sings and His sweet lullabye surrounds me. The evil one has me in prayerno power against this and the path is made whole once again by prayer requests in my heart. Perfectly orchestrated counterpoints to His melody — miraculous rays entwined to carry forth healing to those in pain and weakness — those with torments that do not show — those unspokens that only He knows. Toes uncurl, fingers outstretched, and my hand reaches out to grip the One that lifts me up.

It is my nightime prayer; it is the sweet lullaby in the softness of the night. It is the soft bed that welcomes me. It is the soft quiet of the night at the end of a busy day. It is the knowing that God dances over me as I sleep, delights in me and reaches out His hand to lift me up…everyday – everynight.. Sweet dreams to all of you.

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Commandment Series: Prohibition of Sexual immorality

ten-commandments-400.hebrew abbrevMonday was a hard day at work.  Kids were restless.  Rainy day meant no outdoor play.  No outdoor play meant grumpy staff.  Grumpy staff meant less love is being spread around the workplace.  It was a long day.  Didn’t I talk about this yesterday?  Love started in the home radiates out to the world through us??? I guess Monday was assessment day for me.  Like the Good Teacher/Shepherd that He is, He wanted to make sure how well I understood this LOVE concept.  I probably got a 75%.  I tried.  The smile stayed in place, but the inner heart struggled.  Resentment.  Hurt.  Rant.  They all simmered slightly below the surface.  Instead of turning my face to Jehovah-Sabboth, the WORD and prayer, I made it a very long day.

“I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
      I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
      creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
      says the LORD. “And I will heal them.” 
— Isaiah 57:18–19

healing_flowIt’s a good thing that God has always shown forgiveness.  Adam.  Eve.  Moshe. David. Peter. Paul. Not only that, He promises to “heal”.  He is Jehovah-Rapha. He heals the person.  He heals the mindset.  He heals the ways that lead to darkness.  He heals the damaged land. He promises to dry their tears.  He offers guidance and peace to all.  Interesting concepts for the Old Testament that has so much violence and rebellion within it’s tomes.

“You shall not commit adultery.” Ex 20:14

I grew up learning this verse exactly as it is written above.  I  said to myself – “I will never be an adulterous wife.”  And lucky for me, I’ve been able to avoid that test, because if my misspent youth was any indication, I would have fallen flat on my face.  Sad to say, I was very good at retaliation when someone hurt me. Jewish wisdom and tradition expands the actual wording of this commandment hairto Sexual Immorality.  In my mind, that covers a lot more than just a wife or husband. I was a baby-boomer, coming-of-age child of the 60’s.  Peace.  Freedom.  Love. Gandhi.  King. Communes. Bra-less days.  Skinny Dipping. Drugs. Riots. Violence.  Colleges closed down.  ID’s issued.  I hit rebellion at the same time the country did.  It is little wonder that many times when I came home late at  night, I found my father on his knees.  He rarely went to church, and yet, he was my true spiritual mentor.

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

Hormones or lack of hormones travel through all of us.  They are a blessing from God as we develop throughout our lives…helping us to find a mate…conceiving children…aging…  The 7th Commandment is all about control of those hormones and reactions. We have the wonderful opportunity to choose how to act and control ourselves despite those chemicals that rage through our bodies at times. Growing as a person who wants to glorify God, we can choose the path we want to take.  Obey the 7th commandment or laugh it off because it is totally out-of-date with the progressive thought within our society.  It is so simple, it is complicated.  It is a life-altering  choice.  The Good News is…Jesus Christ showed us the way.  All we have to do is choose to follow in His steps.  It’s all about choice.Choices

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.

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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

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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.”