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?

Friday, December 4, 2015

42341: The Reason for the Season

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was a homeschool Mom, and in a sense, it was. In 1986, my youngest started Kindergarten, and our family started on the journey of DIY Education. And that in itself is a tale for another day, but it is the preface to my journey away from celebrating Christmas.

I was sold on the idea of "Unit Studies", and what better way to incorporate this most beloved of traditions into our curriculum than to study the traditions of other cultures during this time of year? Remember, this was 12 years before Google was at our fingertips, Wikipedia was not going to be founded for another 15 years, and all we had to rely on was the library and our World Book Encyclopedia.

We had a lot of fun that year, putting out our shoes for Saint Nicholas Day, baking Santa Lucia buns, learning new songs, trying new recipes; we even put water and hay out for the wise men's camels on Epiphany. (Boy, were those camels messy!)

Why, we even studied about non-Christian traditions, and that my friends, is when I first learned that Hanukkah was more than the Jewish alternative to Christmas. It was much, much more! In fact, as we learned about the history of Hanukkah, I found myself saying to my husband, "I don't know why ALL believers don't celebrate this holiday! It's about standing up to persecution and injustice in the face of tyranny and oppression. Isn't that what we are called to do in our faith walk?"

Now, you have to understand that, for our family, Christmas really was about Christ. We did not go overboard into debt to buy gifts, we read the Nativity story aloud as a family, we did the advent wreath and prepared our hearts for His coming... ours was no pagan celebration of the sun. We really did celebrate Christ's birth, down to the birthday cake. We knew that the date was symbolic, that Christ was not really born in December. But we didn't think it mattered. We thought that as long as we were "keeping Christ in Christmas", God knew the intentions of our heart and honored us for honoring Him.

So, we added Hanukkah into our winter tradition, and exchanged our gifts on Saint Nicholas Day, so as to keep Christmas about Christ, and I patted myself on the back that I had one up on these people who got sucked into the commercialism and seasonal insanity that we call "the most wonderful time of the year."

But I have discovered that once I know the truth of a thing, I cannot un-know it. And that is how it has evolved over the years, as my naturally inquiring mind wants to learn more about the heart of a thing, I have gradually become convinced that just because we have honorable intentions, if we are in opposition to what God has actually asked us to do, then we have a dilemma. Do we continue to do things "as we have always done them", or do we find out if God has a better plan? I think you can guess the answer to that one.

The problem comes when we do not read all of the Bible; somehow we like to believe that everything in the front of the book does not apply to us. So, in Deuteronomy 12: 30, when God says, "be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates." we just gloss right over that: "Well, He is talking to Israel. I'm not Jewish. That doesn't apply to me... So what if Christmas was originally a pagan celebration? I'm not worshiping false gods."

Oops. Next I find out that "Israel" really means everyone who is a true worshiper of Yahweh. So, over the years the truth has continued to chip away at the layers of "harmless traditions" that have kept me from understanding how He really wants me to worship Him.

Since this is just one more step in my life/faith journey, I want to be very careful to only walk in the way I am being directed and not presume to take over the reins and direct my own path. Where I am now gives me no right to criticize another person for where they are in their own walk. I didn't get here overnight; it has taken me half of my life to get this far. One of the more important lessons I have learned along the way is speaking the truth without love makes me nothing more than a clanging cymbal... and who wants to listen to that? If I can't extend the same grace to others as He has extended to me, then I haven't learned much. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

42178:: Random Thoughts About "Race"

"Ask a geneticist to define race and they will probably stare at you in confusion. Race is a cultural construct that evolved in our country as a way to justify and sustain slavery. It is not much inherited as imposed.
A recent genetic study demonstrated an interesting fact about racial identity in the US. Across the southern states, between one in seven (South Carolina) and one in ten (Georgia) of each state’s white populations carry enough black ancestry to have qualified as black under those states’ Jim Crow laws."
-Hip Hop Republican

Recently, someone I have known for most of my life, someone whose opinion I respect on most other topics, offhandedly made the remark in reference to a news report of a black husband who had killed his white wife and their children, "that's what happens when you marry outside your race."

I was stunned. And silent. While I realize that the gentleman to whom I was speaking is a product of his environment, it still surprised me to hear him speak such an ignorant sentiment aloud.

For the past three federal censuses, I have listed myself as "Other: Human" when the race question comes up. I do this for no other reason than this: I truly believe if we are every going to get rid of these artificial ideas of race, we need to see other humans as God see us: We.Are.The.Same.Race. We are not horses, we are not chickens, we are not Martians, we are humans. Why else would Revelations 7:9 describe the people of Earth as: "every nation...all tribes and peoples and languages..."? 

Is this splitting hairs to differentiate between the term "race" and the terms "tribes...peoples...languages"? I don't think so. Tribes (or clans, as some call them) are groups of people related by heritage: Scottish and Irish call themselves 'clans', Indigenous groups often identify as 'tribes', languages is an easy concept to wrap your brain around, and different people sharing the same genetic ancestry can easily speak dozens of different languages (take the Jewish people as an example.) Other Bible translations say "tribes, tongues, and nations", again - "nations" is an easy term to understand. But, throughout history we can see people in one locale losing their national identity as conquerors move through and upset the reigning tribe.

An amazing time-lapse video of Europe from 1100 to today can be quite an eye-opener to someone who boasts of German, Italian, or Polish ancestry. Spend a little time living in almost any country on the continent of Africa and you will soon be made aware that not all "Africans" are treated equal. There is just as much "racism" between blacks and blacks as there are between any other tribe competing for land, resources and power on any scrap of ground on this planet.

My point being, we need to see past this "artificial construct" that we call "race" and see our interpersonal relationship problems for what they really are: fear, lust and greed could easily top any list. 

Until we see ourselves and each other in the way that we were created, we are doomed to this way of destructive thinking. 

Food for further thought:
Social Definition of Race

Sunday, April 5, 2015

42099:: In which I mull over telling the truth

Not so many years ago, I would have been spending this day like many others: wedging myself into an already over-crowded church, wearing a new outfit and shoes that turned out to be a bad choice, wondering who all these "new" people are in church today, to be followed by a rousing hunt in the garden with dyed eggs and too much candy, followed by photos of children in their frilly dresses and over-flowing baskets of booty.

Instead, I am sitting in my robe with my cup of tea at the kitchen table listening to the dishwasher work its magic on yesterday's dishes, watching the cat freak out and run inside at the bursts of wind and blowing leaves, and laying out my paperwork to get the taxes finished.

So what happened to me to turn me into an anti-Easter, church-ditching Scrooge? I guess you could say, "Truth."

Looking back, I think my search began long before I became aware of it. I recall a discussion with my then brand new sister-in-law about my discomfort with lying to children about things like Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. My reasoning was, how can we expect children to believe us when we tell them that God and Jesus are not made up stories when we mix the truth of "important holidays" such as Christmas and Easter with Santa and bunnies and eggs. Her reply was, "Just wait until you have kids of your own." Meaning, I suppose, that the pressure to conform to what other families and churches and children are doing during these seasons is enough to make you lay down your questions and convictions. And she was right.

I did not have the strength to be "that mother" who spoiled the fun for her children by denying them the innocent fun of wearing K-Mart costumes while dragging pillowcases around the neighborhood to stock up on candy that I did not want them to eat, followed by sitting on a stranger's lap in the mall to get a piece of candy after drilling them about never taking candy from strangers, followed by pasting heart-shaped doilies and stickers onto cards made of red construction paper to give to others in exchange for cupcakes with so much red dye that it came out looking like they'd eaten beets the day before, followed by wearing green clothing to placate imaginary arm-pinching leprechauns and eating cupcakes with so much green dye that it came out looking like they'd eaten... well, green dye the day before. And on the heels of all this mindless, sugar-filled frivolity was the capper: dying eggs no one will eat, filling plastic eggs with candy no one will eat, and arguing about "who ate the ears off my chocolate bunny" until Mom or Dad takes them all away and puts them in the freezer - while all the while pretending that these activities are harmless because we have turned them into opportunities to teach our children about "Jesus."

Until I wondered why my children walked away from church and its hypocrisy.

How do we get ourselves into that place where we sacrifice truth and our convictions for fitting into whatever is currently perceived as "the norm"? I have even heard it preached from pulpits that "even though this holiday started out to mean that, it now means this." I suppose the idea is that we can redeem practices that originated as worship of false deities by slapping a Jesus sticker on them. That's what it meant to them, but this is what it means to us now, so now it's O.K.

Then I read this: Deuteronomy 12:29-32 - When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

It saddens me that I did not have the confidence to live out the truth I believe in and lost many opportunities to impart that truth to my children. It does not escape my notice that we might all be in a different place spiritually had I not knuckled-under to the pressure of being normal and accepted by people whose opinions do not really matter in the scope of eternity.