What would you do? — H

How can an entire group of people be taken captive? You’ve likely seen the graphics where someone renders an overhead shot of a large, herded huddle of people being guarded by one or two guys with guns. How does this happen?

Granted, there are many stories where one or more breaks from the crowd and overpowers the culprit(s). On September 11th, Beamer, Bingham, Burnett, and Glick confronted the four hijackers of United 93, bringing the plane down before it could hit its intended target. There are accounts of individuals rushing school shooters or tackling someone who is threatening others with knives. We consider them heroes, and rightfully so.

John 15:13 (TLV) says, “No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”

What of those left back in the huddle, though? Were they just not “hero material?” Were they so used to acting as a group, for the sake of the group, that they decided, “a risky move will get us all killed,” perhaps? Did they wonder, “What if I’m responsible for something bad happening to all these people when it could be prevented a different way?”

I think of the WWII-era Nazi soldiers storming neighborhoods to gather up the targeted people for “relocation.” Before they became groups in trucks or on the death trains, they made individual choices. Some rebelled and died there in their homes or on the street. So, in those neighborhood raids, those who remained to be gathered were the more docile folks?

Ah, now, though, we are bringing religion into the mix. Did the Jews go “as sheep to the slaughter?” Did their religion tame them into being more timid? Or, are the gentle ones, perhaps the peacekeepers, the ones who are drawn to religion? Therefore, they are an easily conquered people?

Yet, look at historic groups taken captive. They are a mix of personalities and trades. Did the warriors among them already resist and die? So, all who remained were the ones who “turned the other cheek” or are somehow too slow or too weak to fight?

Once gathered together, though, they often outnumbered their guards. Had they put their heads together and concocted a plan, wouldn’t that have been worth a try?

Maybe the average citizen doesn’t think like that. We all have independent plans. Yes, there’s often a family or company goal. But, once we are gathered into a larger group, not all goals match. Most don’t generally train to work together against a common physical enemy. But, maybe that depends on how large of a group is threatened. If the entire country is threatened by an enemy, the citizens therein usually ban together and fight in the name of that country.

In the military, the leaders train soldiers to obey their commands. Eventually, those soldiers work together as powerful, close-knit units, especially once on the battlefield. There’s a common goal, and all have sworn to accomplish it.

I guess, when I think about it, the same thing happens when there’s a common “cause.” Within a country, a group of like-minded people will ban together to pass around inspirational, arousing rhetoric and “get on the same page” to create forward movement toward the goal. And, there are those who are passionate about their chosen cause, no matter the cost. Others seek out a cause just to feel a sense of belonging or for some other gain unrelated to the cause itself (mercenaries, for example).

Let’s boil it down again to the individual within the captive group. Have you ever placed yourself there, in your mind? Would you be one of the early rebels shot in place, perhaps as an example to onlookers who see what happens to those who resist? Would you go peacefully, at first, figuring you can plan a revolt or an escape later? Do you think of Joseph and turn to God, figuring He’s in control and must have a reason He’s allowing you to be enslaved?

What drives that choice in the moment? Is it personality? Is it training? Experience as a leader? Who it is that is threatened? How often you’ve worked in a group setting? Self-confidence? Beliefs/religion?

Ratcheting it down further, I think about me and what I’d do. In public, in group settings, I appear to be a docile person. Folks would likely see me as an easily-led lamb. Honestly, I don’t know how I would act in a setting where I am part of a threatened group. I look back in my own history for possible answers.

When an “ex” was angry with me, raising his hand to slap my face, I stepped toward him! Nose-to-nose, I squinted and assertively whispered, “You follow through with that and you won’t see me again.” His shocked look matched my own inward surprise at myself. His hand dropped to his side, and I walked away. Yes, I eventually left him.

Similarly, I’ve gone toe-to-toe with violently angry people in defense of someone else. I know that it was confidence and power from God making that happen. But, none of those were situations where I was in a group being jointly threatened. Would I think and act differently as part of a group? I’m not sure. I’d hope to be within God’s will in however I am to behave.

And, that’s just it. If God brought about this captivity as a punishment of the people as a group, is fighting it the thing to do?

What about Joseph? His captivity led to the salvation of many.

Look at Jesus. He didn’t resist arrest. It was part of the overall plan of salvation. He walked that path willingly for each of us. He was thinking like the hero He is. Like the heroes on the Flight 93, He acted for the sakes of the larger group outside the plane…the greater good. But, is it the same sort of group dynamics?

Did every passenger on the plane want to die right then and in that way, for the same cause?

Jesus acted alone on behalf of the threatened group. He died alone so that we might live.

Had each of the plane passengers had the time and ability to vote on what to do, what would have happened?
How would I have voted?
Would I have joined in the effort to thwart the enemy’s plan?

As a Christian, in any setting, aren’t I faced with that vote every day? Wasn’t I faced with that vote when called to follow Him in the first place? I knew the risks. I know the risks. Father, help me to choose well.

Observing Festivals, Short Diary — H

To us, observing God’s Festivals seemed more applicable to a Christian’s life than observing man’s holidays. For years, we’d already been keeping one of these appointed times — seventh-day Sabbath. Therefore, it seemed natural to include the other appointed times He asked us to remember and observe.  So, we incorporated His appointed times into our worshipful remembrances throughout the year.

Do we sacrifice animals? No. Jesus is the Lamb of God who died once for all, as is mentioned in Hebrews 10 and other passages.

Our first year of observing the festivals (2019), we jumped in just before Unleavened Bread. So, being new at this, we did a lot of research about what leavening is, what’s allowed in the house and what is not, what we needed to do with what is leavened, etc. Feeling satisfied we’d done what we could to remove all leavened products from our property, we observed the 1st and 7th day Sabbaths and we didn’t have leavened bread for a week. On the eighth day, we probably bought bread. (chuckle) (wink)

Hubby did a bunch of research on the “Jewish calendar” and what the Bible says about watching for the new moon to determine the start of each new month. It talks about gathering together to visit and see if the moon can be glimpsed, so we began having “new moon gatherings” at our house in order to enjoy one another and visit about God.

We didn’t do much for Firstfruits, as I recall. Just read about it, and I remember I did a study on the differences between barley and wheat. I’ll try to remember to post that here sometime.

Weeks/Pentecost 2019 — We observed the associated Sabbath, and I thought about the Holy Spirit and what I’d learned in several books I’d read in previous years about His being a Person.

Trumpets 2019 — I’d gotten hubby a shofar as well as a pocket trumpet, and he had begun blowing the shofar whenever one of us spotted the new moon. So, by the time this came around, he could blow the trumpet. We observed the associated Sabbath.

At this point, hubby was doing most of the research on the festivals. So, I was just kind of going along. I was excited about observing them, but I was busy enough with other things that I just went with what he was researching and telling me of what he learned.

Day of Atonement 2019 — I know we observed the associated Sabbath, but I don’t recall whether or not we fasted because I wasn’t writing in my “spiritual journal” at the time. I had the journal. I just wasn’t writing in it.

Tabernacles 2019 — I do remember this one. We observed the 1st day Sabbath, and we slept outside. Personally, I was excited about the latter. When I was in college, I’d sometimes drag my mattress outside and watch the stars until I fell asleep. It was a special privilege of having the freedom of being on my own. So, I was looking forward to sleeping under the stars again. Then, it got really windy, really cold, and really wet. We slept on the roofed part of the deck, but the wind drove the cold and rain sideways under the roof and right at us. It was an especially memorable time. (grin)

Then, there was the Eighth Day directly after Tabernacles. In our research, we didn’t know what we were “supposed” to do for it other than observing it as a Sabbath. So, we did that.

2020 — So, go back to Leviticus 23. We’d already been observing the 7th Day Sabbaths, as commanded, so next on the list is Passover. Well, there’s this COVID thing that makes this year rather interesting. Hubby had been doing research about the timeline surrounding Jesus’ last several days, death, and resurrection. He’d printed out that research, and it was stretched out on the table. It was nice to look at that chart as the times of the Festivals were going by.

Unleavened Bread 2020 — We banished the leavened bread from the house, and I learned how to make unleavened bread that wasn’t all that bad. Observed the associated Sabbaths, of course.

Firstfruits 2020 — By this time, hubby was still doing a lot of research and writing a book about the festivals and Biblical prophecies. I was doing some research on subjects mostly unrelated to what he was reading.

Weeks/Pentecost 2020 — We observed the Sabbath, of course. I don’t remember much beyond that. It has been kind of a blur where the days are blending into one another. What year is this again?

Trumpets 2020 — Hubby’s improving on the trumpet. He blasted it well at the start of the associated Sabbath, just like he has been on Friday evenings at sundown. I do wonder what our neighbors think. (chuckle) Maybe they think we’re Jewish. Maybe they think we’re looney. In all seriousness, by this time, I was starting to really dig these festivals. Remembering Him like this had started to become special times for me, and we had started calling it “God’s calendar” instead of the “Jewish calendar.”

Day of Atonement 2020 — I remember it this year. We observed it as a Sabbath, and we fasted.

Well, not long after, I was miserable with kidney stones. As I laid there on the bathroom tile, staring up through the skylight, I remembered that I should always be thankful in all circumstances.

So, I thanked God for the blue sky that turns into beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I thanked Him for trees, since I could see the tip of a tree that towers over the house. I thanked Him that a tree hadn’t yet fallen on the house. I thanked Him for a roof over our heads, food and clean water, friends who have become family, family members that are friends, etc.

WARNING: Doing some research after the troublesome time had passed (grin), I learned that if you are prone to getting kidney stones ((reluctantly raises hand)), you shouldn’t fast from food, even if you do drink a lot of water. Hmmmm.  I’m told there are all sorts of ways to fast rather than quitting all food cold turkey (heh!), so I decided I’d need to do some research on how I could still fast correctly without tormenting my body quite as much as I had this year. (grin)

Tabernacles 2020 — “Yay!” I thought, “We get to sleep outside and gawk at the stars!” We put out mattresses under us this year. That was smart. Last year, we’d learned that hip bones, knees, elbows, etc. all dig through the sleeping bag, a couple layers of blankets, and into the wooden deck quite noticeably by morning!

This was almost the last festival of the year, so I really wanted to “make it count.” I wanted to observe the Sabbath. I wanted the shofar to be blown. I wanted to sleep outside every night. I was so excited to be under the stars again and do some praying that I didn’t sleep much that first night. I learned some things. The next night, I slept more, but I still learned some things.

One of those things I learned was that the booths were temporary and made flimsy enough to be able to see the night sky. I wondered why. But, then, I slept in the same spot on the deck every night, and I was waking up at the same wee hour just as the moon appeared in my line-of-sight over the roofline. Observing it from night-to-night in relation to the roofline, I was amazed at how much change there was to the moon’s trajectory, appearance, and timing over the course of only a few days.

“God’s calendar moves fairly quickly,” I thought.

As I stayed awake until the first bird chirped, I checked the time on my phone. Yup, about the same time every morning. “God’s clock is pretty nifty, too. I bet if one was out in the wilderness every night and every day like the Hebrews were, you’d really get into the rhythm of His creation. You’d be able to know the seasons, the time on the clock, when festivals are supposed to be observed…all that by just observing God’s creation and being still.”

Not long after that revelation, the forecast was moisture and cold. It was left up to me what we’d do. We both knew it was going to be physically miserable out there, much like 2019 Tabernacles was. But, I’d been blessed by His lessons so much on previous nights. I prayed and wrestled with the decision.

“Do we have to sleep outside every night of Tabernacles? If we lived in a place where it was freezing and there was snow, would we? What was the weather for the Hebrews back in the wilderness? Shivering from the damp and cold probably isn’t healthy for us, and much of the commands from God are His way of trying to keep us healthy. If we open the curtains and put the mattresses right next to the windows, we’ll still be able to see the stars and moon if it clears up. Yet, we are supposed to sleep outside. God will take care of us. That’s the point of this, right?”

So, we put the mattresses out.

In the amount of time it took to gather our pillows and sleeping bags, the mattresses got quite wet and cold. Ugh. That decided it.

We brought the mattresses in, dried them off as best we could, and got set up beside the living room windows.

Indeed, I was blessed with the sight of the moon and the planet that had been accompanying it every night so far. I couldn’t compare it to the roofline, but I’d already observed on previous nights that the planet and moon were moving away from each other. I could see that such was even more the case on this wee hour of the morning. Interesting that I’d awakened at the same time I had on nights we’d been outside.

Would I still be able to hear the first chirp? Nope. But, the choir of birds later was loud enough to penetrate the walls.

The next night was kind of misty and cool, but nothing like the previous night. It was left up to me. To me, it wasn’t a “have to” sort of thing, but I wanted to sleep outside again because, as I told hubby, “I don’t want to miss the blessing of a lesson God might have for me.” I’d still learned some things the previous night, but sleeping more directly in His Creation made me feel like I was more in His house, seeing the calendar on His wall and watching His clock. I wanted to get to have that experience some more. I wanted to get to spend more intimate time with Him, learning at His feet. And, once again, I learned some things.

Before I was really ready for Tabernacles to end, the Eighth Day arrived. We kept it as a Sabbath, but I knew life would be returning to normal. Our normal bed. Man’s calendar on the wall, telling us when to do what. Man’s clock on the wall, ticking out times for meetings and meals.

And, it was over. The festivals were behind us for another year. I was disappointed this year.

“That was such a sweet time with You,” I whispered to Him. “I wish it wasn’t over.”

I told hubby of my disappointment, too. That’s when he reminded me that I was forgetting how Leviticus 23 starts.

“Oh yeah! We still have a weekly one between the Eighth Day and Passover! Seventh-Day Sabbaths! We get to have that every week!”

The disappointment about the festivals being “done” melted away. I still get an appointment to spend quality time with God every week! What’s more, the Bible is still right here! I get to read that whenever I want…at least until it is maybe taken away someday. One thing that will never be taken away, though….I still get to talk to God anytime I want!

And, suddenly, I realized that the festivals had become something really meaningful for me. As the year had progressed, they became more and more special to me. I was more drawn to reading the Bible. I craved more time with Him. When I read about God’s people being led through the wilderness or sinning as a group, I no longer pointed and said, “He led THEM,” or “THEY sinned.” It became, “He led US out of Egypt,” and “WE sinned against Him by turning to other gods.”

That relationship I’d had with Him when I was a kid…that intimacy I’d spent much of my adulthood trying to regain…  I grew back to that. And, maturity and experience makes me thankful and not take it for granted, bringing a promising richness I hope to grasp and treasure with all my heart, mind and soul. I enjoyed a deep, refreshing, renewed taste of Him, and I wanted more! I picked up my spiritual journal and started writing in it. I began researching about the festivals for myself.

And, as I thought about that, I finally understood what hubby was talking about when he called the festivals “God’s Plan of Salvation.” I hadn’t comprehended before what they had to do with salvation. Perhaps all the rest of the church understood this, but I really didn’t….not until now.

The festivals show the progression of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt (bondage to sin), a covenant relationship recognized at Mt. Sinai, and the entrance into the land promised to them.

The 2020 festivals represented my progression into more intimacy with Him…more stillness and listening at His feet.

I started studying the Tabernacle for myself this time, instead of relying on what others told me….others who’d studied it for far longer and far deeper than I ever had. They’d drawn out maps of it and made models. They knew this stuff, so I thought, “Why should I bother going back to read about it myself?”

But, the festivals have so much to do with the Tabernacle that I wanted to read about it myself.

And, that’s when I saw it. As I was gazing at an artist’s depiction of the tents around the Tabernacle in the wilderness, I thought about their observing the festivals.

Passover — In Egypt, they had spread the lamb’s blood on the doorposts and huddled within their dwellings. I remembered paintings of the families inside their protected homes while death visited other families. I looked at the tent dwellings in the artist’s rendition. “What was Passover like in tents in the wilderness?” I wondered.

Unleavened Bread — I thought about trying to remove every scrap of leavened bread from our house. I looked at the painting and pictured their removing every scrap from their tents.

Firstfruits — I thought about the Israelites going out to their fields to mark the plants that broke through the soil first so that they knew which ones were God’s when it came time to harvest. Yes, they went to the Temple to give offerings and sacrifices, but these are all things they were doing in their homes and their own fields, too.

Pentecost/Weeks — I looked at the lampstand depicted in the Holy Place. I thought about those who conquer having their names written on white rocks. I thought about God’s names. The Holy Spirit entered the disciples, and they were aflame with Him. The Holy Spirit is a Person; I knew that from my reading. But, why is “the” in front of “Holy Spirit” so often like that?

I whispered to God, “You, Abba, have a name….several. Jesus, You have a name….several. What is the Holy Spirit’s name so I can stop using ‘the?’”

Hey, I decided, I think I’ll just try to stop using “the.”

And, look, my focus is now in the Holy Place on the painting.

Trumpets — It’s an announcement. Of what? God’s voice is sometimes said to sound like a trumpet. An announcement that He’s coming? Why do we need to know? We need to prepare, for the Day of Atonement is coming up.

Day of Atonement — “‘Day of Forgiveness’ is what hubby’s been calling it. Hmmm. I was looking at the veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. This veil was rent. Jesus’ body was torn up, and He died. But, He arose. Because of what our High Priest (Jesus) did for us, we may now enter in.

I’d just read Exodus 33 and was struck by the knowledge in verse 9. “As Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance, and the LORD would speak with Moses.”

I thought about how the Temple is filled with smoke on the Day of Atonement.

I thought about how only the High Priest goes into the smoke-filled Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement.

Tabernacles — In my mind, as I gazed at the painting, I pictured now being in the Most Holy Place, reverently learning at His feet, sheltered in His Home, listening to the tick of His clock on the same wall where His calendar hangs. His Home. My Home because He calls me His own.

Do I HAVE to watch for the new moon? We forgot to one month recently, and I was disappointed. Yet, I didn’t feel like I’d committed a crime. I just felt like I’d missed out on a special time with Him.

Do I HAVE to keep the 7th Day Sabbath? It is a commandment, but it’s something we get to observe every week. And, that’s special, and I can make every day between now and the next festival special because I get to be with Holy Spirit anytime anywhere.

Do I HAVE to observe the other appointed times? Is it a commandment? Reading in Leviticus, it seems pretty important to Him. Observing them isn’t one of the traditional Ten Commandments, no. But, the festivals have become special to me. I really don’t care if it is a “HAVE TO.” I’m now looking forward to Passover, and I can now understand why maybe the Jewish people inserted things like Hanukkah and other religious holidays. More times honoring God.

And, something kind of struck me about the verses like Hosea 6:6 (CEV) — “I’d rather for you to be faithful and to know me than to offer sacrifices.”

Doesn’t that sound like the cry of a parent just wanting to hear from His kid?

Parents and aunts and uncles of teens know what this is about. The teen will understand the desire for communication once they are old enough with kids of their own. Meanwhile, kids still have a lot of “HAVE TO’s” with which to contend.

Did we HAVE to do sacrifices?

Do we HAVE to keep the Ten Commandments?

Do we HAVE to observe the festivals?

Sometimes, we need to do the “HAVE TO’s” until they become “GET TO’s,” and it is then that we have entered into intimacy with Him in the Holy of Holies….in the Promised Land.

Then, on the ultimate Eighth Day, I’m thinking there will be one whale of a celebration that we are finally all home with the Bridegroom!  
Thank you, hubby, for researching this stuff. Thank you for quietly writing about something really important and reaching out to serve in excellent ways….in a way that transformed my 2020 and built up my spiritual life. Together, what we are doing leads to “more” in our lives, allowing us to live more abundantly. I’m ever so grateful for that fact and for Him.

“Mother’s Day” by H

I hope you all have a blessed Mother’s Day!

Friends have wondered what Mother’s Day was/is like for me.

Growing up, it wasn’t the greatest because no gift seemed “good enough” to be pleasing to her, even if I’d saved up for something grand or spent long hours creating something I thought would be just right.

In grade school art class, we had to bring a bar of soap from home so we could each carve it into a turtle for our mother. I thought mine was awesome with sparkly sequins all over it! I even decorated the soap box so he could have a pretty home to stay in! I just knew I’d done well this time.

When I presented it, along with the handmade card we’d been encouraged to make, these are the words I remember being said in disgust as she looked at the wonky turtle in her palm: “What the &*%# am I supposed to do with this?”

I don’t know if she liked the card or the box. The words I heard and the look of disgust echo forward from the past. I’d heard similar words and looks about me instead of that turtle. So, the rejection was felt.

That was how I saw it from my viewpoint as a kid.

As an adult, I would hope I’d have the love and tact to thank a child and gush over whatever gift with which they chose to honor me. Also, from this older viewpoint, I look back at mom and wonder if it somehow comes from her being a child of the Depression era and rationing during World War II.  From that perspective, could I see that her statement was a criticism about the teacher’s choice to take a practical bar of soap and turn it into an impractical “sculpture” with scratchy sequins? Truly, what was Mom supposed to do with it? That isn’t quite it, though. She’d treasured impractical gifts from others. So, there was something more involved.

Back then, it felt like I’d failed to please her. More significantly, it was that expression on her face — the set of her mouth as she looked at the turtle with distaste. It was the same look I often received from her.

Now, looking back with logic and love, I realize that her focus was “off.” Instead of recognizing the loving gesture from the giver, her focus was on the gift. She didn’t know how to see and love me. She didn’t know me, the giver. In her eyes, the gifts were inadequate in quantity and quality because that’s where she focused.

In church yesterday, the sermon was partly about biases we have as we come to God and His Word. It made me think back to the many stories from people about their parents and how they grew up. When people describe their fathers, I can often see how that relationship affects how they see our Heavenly Father. If a person’s relationship with their earthly father was/is strained, abusive, or absent , there’s work to be done to separate how those dynamics work in comparison to how a healthy “Creator and created” bond should look.

I know my phenomenal Dad’s love contributed greatly to my perspective of God. I am so blessed in that! However, did Mom’s hatred for me and self-loathing do anything to negatively affect my bond with God?

My first thought is “no.” We’ll see if that changes by the time I finish writing.

My caution of her created in me a caution of people, both male and female. Anyone has the potential to sin, to be harmful to themselves and others. I’m included in that broad sweep.

Yet, God has taught me that people can be forgiven with His forgiveness. I’ve also learned that people have the potential to love. I’m included in that broad sweep, too.

In the after-church discussions, hubby was sharing with a friend the subtlety of a Biblical truth being overlooked. Our friend was glad for it because a possible “blind spot” of his might be getting wrestled through. I also hunger to know my blind spots and have them erased, so I understood that desire.  That’s why I’m thinking about this today.

Did Mom’s hatred and self-loathing negatively affect my bond with God? When I say, “no,” am I overlooking something? Do I have a blind spot here? Perhaps.

Is my caution of people at an unhealthy level? If so, then such does affect my relationship with God.

I currently don’t think it is at an unhealthy level, for either gender. That thought may change as God leads.

The next question seems to be, “Why hasn’t that caution been cranked up to “too high?”

Many have looked at my upbringing and express shock that it isn’t somehow more visible in my actions and words. I think that is due to God’s work in my life, so I am thankful.

Perhaps it is because of that very caution of people that I seem fairly “unscathed,” for that watchfulness is also turned on myself as a potential sinner. I have seen the state of humanity, which includes me. Beyond a shadow of doubt, I know God’s help is needed in order to corral my sinful nature.

The next question is usually, “Why isn’t that inward-focused caution beating you down, though? Why didn’t your experiences harm your self-esteem? Why didn’t these enemy attacks turn you into someone with self-loathing? What causes this self-confidence and sense of worth?

God’s Word tells me I have the potential to sin. He also tells me I have the potential to love. That’s my choice. I am no different than anyone else in that regard. Mom wasn’t different in that. Neither was Dad. My Heavenly Father tells me that we are all the same in that ability to choose.  So, if I don the glasses He gives me, I can view all with some caution because of that free will; yet, that shouldn’t stop me from also choosing to forgive and love.

Is Mother’s Day still a terrible day for me? No.

How do I know that, through God, I am getting close to reaching that good balance between caution and forgiveness? Perhaps it is partly because I have chosen people I consider to be mother figures for me, and I wish them well on this day. Perhaps it is because, if she was still alive, Mom would still get a call and a card from me.

Maybe the greatest thing that has spoken to me about where I am with people (and also God) is the fact that, even though I have birthed no children of our own, there are those who say “Happy Mother’s Day” to me because they consider me to be a “bonus Mom” or think I have motherly qualities. That touches me right to the core and seems to keep me all squishy and tender inside. 🙂

Thank you, dear Giver, for these gifts You’ve given me that are all wrapped up in human flesh. Thank You for wrapping Yourself in flesh and giving me You. Happy Mother’s Day, Father!