Thursday, April 28, 2016

42488 :: My point being...

It has been rightly said that I get a little verbose as I meander through my thoughts. You will get no argument from me there.

I do, however, wish to clarify the general points I was trying to make yesterday without making anyone else follow my rabbit trails. So these are those:
  1. You don't understand everything. Neither do I. 
  2. No one ever changed anyone's mind by bullying them into silence or "winning" an argument.
  3. Believing you are "right" does not give you a ticket to force another to do things your way. This goes both ways, so examine your own actions and motives.
  4. Talk to people and find out who they are instead of pigeon-holing others with tidy little labels. We have more in common that we think. 
  5. Being kind and treating others as fellow human beings trumps winning any argument about who is right or wrong.
There, is that better?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

42487 :: Truth. A matter of opinion?

I am not a morning person. I don't wake up well. So I have developed a coping behavior that helps me ease into consciousness that works very well for me. Some people might not be able to leave their dinner dishes overnight, but washing dishes is something I can do even half-awake. Standing in my robe and sandals at the kitchen sink with a soapy sponge in my hand, making short work of a few spatulas and pots and pans (last night, I made a batch of strawberry jam after dinner... so more than a few pots and pans!), and the warm water. In just a few minutes I can go from grumpy and disoriented to being able to face the world and tackle the problems the day brings.

It works for me.

The other thing that washing dishes in my sleep allows me to do is to think. I can literally work my way through wooden spoons, funnels and all the things that don't go well in the dishwasher at the same time as thinking my way through the conundrums that have pickled everyone's brains for the past few days on social media. Things like what is "normal" when we are talking about Religious vs. LGBT rights, what is the answer to bathrooms for transgenders, who is right? who is wrong? how do we live together in this society?

OK, I admit I didn't quite figure out the last part about how we live together, because I can't control the behavior of other people, only myself. But I do think I have figured out the rest of it:

We are all wrong.

We think we know the answers when in reality we have limited understanding and vision. And we also have freewill to believe or not believe in a Higher Power who created or designed it all. Even those of us who do believe, we are still limited to our concept of what or who that "higher power" really is. So, what it boils down to is that, in and of ourselves we cannot know who or what is really right or wrong. We do not have that power, because what lifestyle or belief system or behavior we consider "right" for ourselves is ultimately governed by our understanding and/or belief in our chosen god or God or nongod. We cannot "know" for a certainty if our belief system is The correct belief system like we can know from experience that by drinking a glass of water we will no longer be thirsty, or by taking a nap we will no longer be tired. We take our belief system on faith... hence the term faith-based belief.

So, based on that (slightly convoluted) point of view, I think we have to agree that we do not agree, and probably will never agree with everyone else on what is right, or normal, or acceptable behavior. Then what?

My mother used to say, "Your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins." At the age of 12, that philosophy didn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me. Then I grew up and I realized that the rest of the world did not walk in my shoes. They did not wear my glasses. And I had to adjust my thinking and decide if I was going to remain a child and insist on having my own way, or was I going to learn to respect others and allow them to think the way they do and let them go on their own way, even though I sincerely thought they were making the wrong choice. I know some evangelicals have a problem with that mindset, and I do understand where they are coming from, but my faith-based belief system is such that it is not up to me to argue someone out of their point of view, but to so live my life according to my own belief system and do it in such a way that shows respect and tolerance for where another person camps out, that my belief system will eventually trump another intolerant, hate-based belief system and actions will speak louder than words.

In the end, even though I believe my truth to be the most logical, "correct truth", as long as your "truth" does not impinge on my "truth", you are on your own and you are responsible for the consequences of your choices.

Having said all that, it still remains that forcing me to call "normal" what my belief system defines as "not normal" is, in effect, crossing that metaphorical line of swinging your arm into my nose. That is where we have to agree that we are not in agreement. It does not call for name calling, I am not an "idiot", I am not a bigot or an "anything"-phobe just because I do not agree with you.

The reality is, we live in a post-Christian nation. Yes, there are still plenty of people who wear that badge, some wear it well, some are an embarrassment to the name. I cannot help that, because I am not in charge of them. It does not mean that all people of faith are bigoted or narrowminded, or even right-wing conservatives. So we - who try to live out what we believe to be true in a way that is mindful that others do not believe as we do - are trying like everything to figure out how to love without compromise, and it is not an easy bike to pedal, believe me.

Treat other people as you would like them to treat you

It's not just a cliché phrase by some dusty rabbi 2,000 years ago, It puts into terms anyone can understand how we are to treat someone else, even when we don't agree with them. It is not by mistake that he also taught that the world is going to hate us, and we should do good to them anyway.

But I tell you,love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

Seems like that bike should be pretty easy to ride, if we can keep that in mind.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

42479 :: I like to browse

Sometimes, when I have a little free time, I like to browse and Google "contentment." I often come up with some interesting (or sometimes ridiculous) quotes, often sentiments that are a little further "out there" than where I live, but many times I will run into something that resonates with me and I say, "Aha! That one I have to pin on my board."

I do not define contentment by modern psychology. If I did, I would have to have wasted much more time than I did in college Psychology classes to even begin to wrap my brain around such statements as:

Contentment is hypothetically a mental or emotional state of satisfaction maybe drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one's situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness." - Eisenblatt, S (2002). The Straight Road to Happiness: A Personal Guide to Enable Us to Overcome Tendencies which Block Our Natural Flow of Happiness and to Explore New Horizons of Inner Joy. p. 292.

Wikipedia does, however, boil it down nicely when it states:

A more practical way for most people would be to simply practice contentment as an attitude: Just be contented. It might be added that being grateful for the good things – to count one's blessings – is perhaps a more reasonable way to understand what contentment as an attitude is about.
Practicing contentment as such does away with the need for other concepts – be it arguments about why one is unhappy and various practices to achieve contentment. Seen in this light, contentment is not an achievement but an attitude that one can adopt at any time. There is really no explanation or teaching needed for this.

I guess I am just simpleminded, but I can for sure wrap my mind around the statement:

...we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it...if we have food and clothing we will be content with that... -1 Timothy 6:5-8

I have a lot of appreciation for Wikipedia as they use as an illustration of "Contentment" the painting (the image is now in public domain) by 20th century Belgian artist Edgard Farasyn, Human Contentments.

Yes, enjoying a life well lived, sitting in the garden with my child or grandchild, something to read and a glass of wine. I can most definitely be content with that.

Monday, April 11, 2016

42471 :: It's the small things

Just the other day I happened to see a short video clip about the importance of making your bed every morning. Now, I have had this preached to me since I was a child. I rebelled against it then, I rebelled against it when I was FLYing with F.L.Y. Lady, but this time, it all made sense. His point being, start with one small accomplishment and it sets the tone for the rest of your day. (Or, at least that is my "boiled-down" version of his point.)

As I was dressing the next morning, as I do each morning I straightened my tzitzit and said a short blessing... and began to think about the importance of doing the small things. Like wearing tassels on our clothing. When I began investigating what it meant to live a Torah-observant life, I couldn't help but wonder about the validity of some of the teachings. Many I had grown up with in the Christian church, some made sense to me as I learned about them and could understand the underlying principle of the teaching; but there were others... like the wearing of tassels. I just could not find any way of reasoning a logical answer for why I should do such a thing that was so foreign to me.
And then I read the verses again:

Numbers 15.37 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be [set apart] for your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

That's when it hit me: I don't need a "logical" reason. I need to do it because He asked me to. He had a reason, and as I began to do what He asked, I began to understand why He asked it... because apparently, we need a daily reminder. It's really a small thing, to put on tassels, to bless YHVH for speaking to us, for choosing us, for setting us apart. But when we do that "little thing", it sets our mind on the right path as we start our day. I am beginning to understand by doing this one small thing how living out my faith by being obedient is of benefit to me.

It reminded me of another video I watched recently where they asked a very simple question: Which of YHVH's commands are too difficult for us to do? I had to admit, wearing tassels was surely not one of them, so what was I so hesitant about?

The short and simple act of remembering whose we are, and blessing Him for that is a small thing... that sets the tone for the rest of our day. And why would I not want to head in that direction?

If you have further questions, check these out:
Unlearn the Lies
Test Everything
How Can We Implement Tzitzit Today?
Which of the Commandments can we keep today?
Practical Guide to Walking Out the Law of the Fringes

Friday, April 8, 2016

42468 :: A good friend said

A good friend said recently, "This is sure not where I expected to be by now." And I knew what he meant. He recently turned 65, is still working to the best of his physical ability, and believes he has nothing to show for it.

And truthfully, by our society's standards, he is probably right. He owns no home, he drives a 20 year old truck with no prospects of being able to replace it, and has only a meager savings account that would not sustain him for even a year.

This is my same friend who, 16 years ago, sold his home and up and moved to some remote village in Africa and worked with his wife for a year and a half at a small mission hospital because "it was the right thing to do." Many people might look at that and think it was an irresponsible thing to do, but if you talk to my friend (or his wife), they will insist it is one of the best choices they have made in life.

Which leads me to wonder how we shifted our focus from "doing what is right" to "what's in it for me?" At the end of the day, I would so much rather go to sleep knowing that my choices were based on helping others and being of service to my brother than based on whether those choices serve to pad my retirement fund or buy a new car.

I'm not saying that having a healthy retirement fund is bad, but with our limited resources, when we have to choose helping someone with a genuine need or stocking up for a rainy day, I say "to heck with the rain"...

Feed the hungry child in front of you. Cloth the naked stranger in front of you. Tomorrow is not even guaranteed (even if you do have a healthy retirement fund. Just ask those who invested in the dot com bubble or trusted Bernie Madoff), and when the future comes, it is still in our Father's hands. Which brings to mind:

Men of corrupt mind...think that godliness is a means to financial gain...But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
I Timothy 6.5-8

Monday, March 28, 2016

42457:: In response

My reply: Does it bother me that Easter traces its lineage to a pagan holiday? Not in the least! However, it does bother me that those who are followers of the Most High God celebrate “Easter”, admit that it is a pagan holiday, and then claim to do so in His name. Even those who call it “Resurrection Day” seem to have no problem with a church putting on a Pancake Breakfast and Easter Egg hunt on in order to bring more people in to “hear the gospel.”

There seems to be a disconnect in people’s minds when it comes to going along with tradition versus obeying the God they believe in. They take great pains to explain that the pagan meaning of a holiday no longer means the same to them. They even go so far as to claim that Jesus has redeemed a pagan celebration. But is that what God really says? What did Jesus actually say about it?

  • If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15
  • My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. John 7:16
  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

That sounds to me like Jesus is saying he is not changing the game. He did not come to invent a new religion, but to help us understand how God wants to have a relationship with us… on His terms. We don’t make the rules, and it’s not for us to change the rules. We are not God, He is.

So then, what exactly does God have to say about how we are to relate to and worship Him?

  • You must not worship the Lord your God in their way (talking about the pagans here… I don’t hear Him saying anything about “redeeming” their worship practices), because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. Deuteronomy 12:31

Think He was just talking to “The Jews” when He said that?
Read on:
  • The community (also translated as ‘congregation’) is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.’” Numbers 15:15-16
It would seem that God doesn’t differentiate between Jews and non-Jews when it comes to living set-apart lives devoted to Him. That lines up with what the Apostle Paul said not once, but twice in Romans: “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile.”

Yet I think it’s important for us to acknowledge why the Israelites were sent into exile, not once, but several times… it was because they ignored God’s instructions for how He wanted them to relate to Him. They incorporated pagan practices into their worship. He had singled out the children of Israel, He set them apart to show the rest of the world how to relate to our Creator. But they got distracted and lost sight of their calling.

Bottom line: It is not up to us, it is not up to the Church Fathers, it’s not up to tradition to alter what God said. If we truly believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, if we truly believe it when we say that the whole Bible is true and is our guidebook for life, wouldn’t we do well to examine what God actually has to say? He doesn’t mince words when He warns us to have nothing to do with pagan practices:
  • “Come out of her, my people! Run for your lives! Run from the fierce anger of the Lord. For the time will surely come when I will punish the idols of Babylon; her whole land will be disgraced and her slain will all lie fallen within her. Jeremiah 51:45, 47
  • Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues. Revelation 18:4
Personally, I just can’t rationalize that away. The argument that the names of the days of the weeks (and months of the year) are after false gods is irrelevant. We are not worshipping false gods or our own God when we differentiate between one day and the next. Yes, God can redeem what’s lost through the power of His resurrection. He sent His only Son to redeem His lost sheep. He said nothing about redeeming pagan practices. We are adding to His words when we claim that He has said something that He did not say.
  • Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you. Deuteronomy 4:2 - and, See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32.
If the Lord thought it was important enough to say twice, I believe we would do well to listen to Him.

If we are relying on the institutional church to bombard non-church goers twice a year with “the good news” in hopes of bringing them into the Kingdom, then we are failing miserably at the calling of the Great Commission to go forth and make disciples. Jesus did not say “sit there and invite people to church and I hereby absolve you of the job I have given you.” We are called to let [our] light shine before others, that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16.

Not my words, but Jesus.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

42342 :: The Source of Light

Guest Blog courtesy of Bonnie Hyden
I'd like for you all to humor me a moment. What I'm going to say could be difficult for many to read. It might even anger some. But hear me out.
The days for Hanukkah and Christmas are approaching. And it seems there has come a sort of battle between the two. I'm going to try very hard to not put my personal opinion in this but to point to facts and Scripture. On the surface, the two holidays could be seen as "holy days". They both contain light. Both in a dark and cold time of year. Who wouldn't want to have light during this time? Who wouldn't want to have a bit of cheer to get us through the winter months? But I would ask the question: what is the source of that light?
If we are brave enough to look as far as we can into the source of Christmas, we will find that "Jesus" is not the reason for the season. He was an addition made in order to make the day acceptable in the Christian realm. This is not Christendom's redemption of a day...because it was never a day that belonged to that Kingdom. There is nowhere in Scripture that God tells us to remember the birth of our Savior. Yeah, I seems like it would be a very good day to remember and celebrate...but God's thoughts are above my thoughts so since He never tells me to go there...I must then surmise He has a good reason for that. We're not even overtly told when Yeshua was born. We can deduce from certain texts...but God does not go out of His Way to make this information known to us. And so, "we" insisted on doing it anyhow. We say that we love our Messiah so very much we will call a day his birthday and we will light up that day...a day that was borrowed from those who served other gods. It was their light that lit this day before. But now we say it is the light of God.
Then we have Hanukkah (Chanukkah or whatever spelling you choose.) A day when mostly Jews around the world begin to light candle at a honor of a reported miracle that took place thousands of years ago. Did the miracle of one day's worth of oil that burned for 8 days really occur? We really don't know for sure. But...there's a different question to ask here:
Are all fires (lights) created equal?
To borrow from Mr. Fohrman of AlephBeta, "Some fires are fueled by oil and wicks. Some are not. When there's only one day's worth of oil and the fire continues to burn and burn and means the oil wasn't the fuel for the fire. The fire was coming from somewhere else. The source for the light of Hanukkah isn't terrestrial's transcendent God."
The source of Christmas is not God...the source is "gods". The source of Hanukkah is in the lesson that in the dark times...the times when it seems we are unimaginably outnumbered...the times when all we can do is to be still before our God and let HIM win the battle...and He does...and then all we can do is praise Him and bask in ...HIS LIGHT! It's happened over and over and over in Scripture...
  • Israel's deliverance from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus.
  • Israel's deliverance from Palestine in 1 Samuel 13 & 14.
  • Israel's deliverance from Greece in the Book of Maccabees.

And why would God repeat these stories over and over? Why is it so important for us to see this light? Because these stories will be repeated again. We NEED to know that there will be dark times again. We need to know there will be a ruler who will not remember the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There will be a ruler who will attempt to blot out God's People in unthinkable ways! There will be a ruler who will attempt to change God's Times and His Ways. If you stop for just a can see it starting to take place now. You can see the dark clouds gathering and the light is getting dimmer. our Heavenly Father's love and mercy...He points us back to other dark times and He says, "See these times? See these men? I want you to learn from these. I was there...I will be with you. These were My battles then...these are My battles now. They were My victories then...the victories will be Mine now. need to know I am The Only Source of True Light. When all other lights lead you down the wrong path and they eventually go out...MY Light will continue to show You that I am always there."
All I ask of everyone reading this is that you check the source of the light of the day you celebrate. Not what you've been told is the source of your light. The Greeks told Israel that Antiochus was the source of their light...or Zeus was the source of their light...and some of Israel believed that lie. The Maccabee family, however, held firmly to the belief that God...YHVH Almighty was, is and always will be the ONLY True Source of Light. And God rewarded them with a miraculous victory...and maybe even possibly...a miraculous miracle of a light burning from the Menorah for 8 days. But after that one day's worth of oil was used up...earthly oil was no longer the source. God was The Source.
I will light the Hanukkah candles this year...that center candle especially...remembering that my Messiah...the Suffering the Source of my Light. And from that center light...all the other candles are lit. There is no other Source beside Yeshua Messiah. That Light will conquer all. That Light will come again as the Conquering King!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
So...after these two holidays are passed...which light is more apt to continue burning? The one who has the Everlasting Father and the King of Kings...The Creator as it's Source.
What is the source of our light in this season?