Pentecost 2021

Pentecost (Feast of Weeks/Shavuot)  2021

We’ve kept Saturday as the Sabbath for decades, but we are fairly new to the concept of mindfully keeping the other Biblical festivals (Genesis 1:14; Leviticus 23), making God’s other appointed times as our recognized holidays. In the past couple years, we’ve been doing so privately. See the blog post about that.

For the first time, this year we planned an event for the body of believers to attend. We did so for Pentecost/Shavuot, which is a festival Sabbath. So, Saturday was our weekly Sabbath, and Sunday was one of the seven festival Sabbaths. We thought we’d share with you what that event was like.

Our chosen “theme” for this year was the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, including Who He is (with an emphasis on the fact He is a Person of our Triune God).

Below, we’ll share the “script” we used. All the attendees were to follow a path as the mixed multitude being freed from Egypt, going through the “wilderness,” and arriving at Mt. Sinai. We’ll also note within the script the “stations” of learning and what was located at each one.  It was a park setting, so our starting position, stations, and “Mt Sinai” were a garbage bin, parking lot, trees, picnic bench, hill (Mt. Sinai), and ending at an outdoor amphitheatre.  Our pastor and a church elder took turns reading  and taking inspiration from the script (words in bold) as we were stopped at each location. Instructions and tips in brackets. Our comments to you, the blog reader, in parenthesis.

As people arrived, they mingled together at a quick snack bar filled with finger foods that might have been found in the Promised Land (dates, figs, fruits, bread, nuts, pomegranate juice).

Then, we made our way to the start (“Egypt”).

—————————

[PRAYER: Ask for God’s teaching. Thank Him for His Word and for Holy Spirit.]

[START: Garbage bins (representing starting out in Egypt; spiritually, in bondage to sin/garbage).]

[ON DISPLAY: Two loaves of homemade, leavened bread.]
(Yes, we know that they carried no leavening nor leavened bread on the journey. These were props for the start when talking about the two loaves for wave offering. Then, while the group was walking through “the Red Sea,” a festival facilitator quietly moved them to be on display at “Mt. Sinai” when the group arrived.)

[Shavuot (how to pronounce)]

Elder/Pastor: This festival is a Sabbath called Feast of Weeks or SHAH-VOO-OAT.  In history on this day, we entered into a covenant relationship with God at Mt. Sinai. Also, in Biblical history on this day, PENTECOST occurred.  (Talking points below.)

  • Jesus died as the Lamb of God on the day and hour when the lamb in the Temple was to be slain on Passover.
  • Jesus rose from the grave on the Festival of Firstfruits.
  • 40 days after Firstfruits, Jesus ascended to Heaven. 
  • The 50th day after Firstfruits is the Feast of Weeks. 
  • In Jesus’ day, on the Feast of Weeks, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ disciples at what we now call, “Pentecost.” 
  • “Pentecost” means 50. You “count omer” for 49 days, starting the day of Firstfruits. Then, on the 50th day is Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. 
  • 50 represents jubilee, freedom.
  • As we somewhat re-enact the journey of the mixed multitude fleeing from Egypt into the wilderness, we will have 6 stations where we will learn more about the Holy Spirit and one about the Mt. Sinai experience, 7 stations in all — one for each Sabbath during the 49 days.
Station Signs

(Each sign had the station’s name, a unique “flame” made with colored office paper, and the number associated with the station so the leaders knew what text in their 3-ring binder corresponded.)

Leviticus 23:15-17 about Feast of Weeks:

“‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day of your bringing the wave offering’s sheaf—there shall be seven full weeks. Until the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days; then you shall present a new grain offering for Yahweh. You shall bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread made with two-tenths of an ephah of finely milled flour; they must be baked with leaven—the firstfruits belonging to Yahweh.”

PENTECOST:

Acts 2:1-11 (ESV): When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

[POINT OUT TWO LOAVES OF BREAD]

We know that, for the Feast of Weeks, there’s a wave offering of two loaves of leavened bread.  (The elder pointed out that Bible doesn’t tell us what the two loaves represent but that some scholars say one loaf represents the Jews, and the other loaf represents the Gentiles. Some say the Old and New Testaments. Some say they are the two tablets given at Mt. Sinai, the first loaf representing the Law regarding our relationship with God and the second representing the Law regarding relationship with our fellow man.)

In Acts 10:44-48, it talks about another day when the Holy Spirit descended upon people: “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” 

[Pass out bags to the attendees.]

Gold mesh bag, full
Gold Bag Contents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Each adult got a gold mesh bag packed by a couple ladies in our church. See photos above; Contents: a small journal on a ribbon (some had a black cover with white writing; made by one of these sweet ladies), pen, baggie of Skittles.)
(Each kid got one of the filled gold bags in a 9×12″ colored canvas bag, along with 2 coloring pages (Moses receiving the tablets on Mt. Sinai and the apostles with tongues of flame over their heads), an extra pen, and a 10-pack of crayons.)

NOW, FOR OUR JOURNEY. In your bag, you’ll find a pen and a mini-journal for the trip. If there’s a word or thought that stands out to you, write it down or even draw on the circles, either while at the station or later when you think back on our journey.
Kids, in your bag, you have a pen, crayons and pages to color. If you want, you can write or draw on the back of the coloring pages.
Bring your bags, for you might discover things to put in them.

God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. They chose to trust God, following Him into the wilderness.

Exodus 13:20-22 ESV And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

Exodus 14:19-22 ESVAnd the angel of God who was going before the camp of Israel set out and went behind them. And the column of cloud set out ahead of them, and it stood still behind them, so that it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. And it was a dark cloud, but it gave light to the night, so that neither approached the other all night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and Yahweh moved the sea with a strong east wind all night, and he made the sea become dry ground, and the waters were divided. And the Israelites entered the middle of the sea on the dry land. The waters were a wall for them on their right and on their left. 

[HAND COLUMN OF CLOUD TO VOLUNTEER TO CARRY.]
(Column of cloud made by a brilliant fellow in our church. White balloons tied to a long, sturdy stick. A teen volunteered to represent the Column of Cloud, carrying this along in front of us.)

Column of Cloud

[RED SEA KIDS TAKE THEIR STATIONS AND PREPARE TO “PART.”]
(We had two blue foam boards. Each kid stood with his foam board close to the other, then they parted to let the people file between them, following the Column of Cloud. The multitude, thus, transitioned from the parking lot to the grassy, tree-filled “wilderness.”)


(Station 1) Water

(sign tacked to a tree; bowl of “water droplets” at base of tree)

In the Old Testament, we learned that, in the wilderness, God gave the Israelites food and water — manna to eat and water from a rock. In the New Testament, we know Jesus started His ministry by being baptized in water. John was the baptist. 

John 1 ESV — “19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John 4:4-14 (NIV) — “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water,
Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ESV — For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV — “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

[GIVE AWAY BREAKABLE GLASS “DROPLETS” (Blue-tissue wrapped) TO KIDS.]
(We ended up having enough for some of the adults, too. They were made using 1″ glass craft gems. The flat side is coated with colored nail polish (clear with glitter first, then swirl lines of light blue then darker blue, then coat fully with darkest blue, then finish with a layer of clear coat.) Photo below shows an unpainted and a painted gem, each looking down through the clear, rounded top.)

Water Droplets, in process
Water Droplets, wrapped in blue tissue paper


(Station 2) Dove

(Sign tacked to another tree; festival helper quietly carrying paper bag.)

John 1:14-18 ESV — And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him. John 1:29-34 talks about that moment: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

In Matthew 13-17 ESV, we read that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God were all present during this baptism John is talking about: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

Then, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to stay and be tempted by Satan for 40 days.

The Israelites were led through the wilderness for 40 years.

[GIVE AWAY PAPER DOVES TO ALL.]
(Several industrious ladies in our church made origami doves. It was quite a flock! A paper grocery sack full of paper doves was given to a kid for distribution to all journeyers.)

Paper Dove


(Station 3) Attributes of the Spirit
(sign tacked to a tree; white-painted 1″ wooden craft coins sprinkled in grass around tree)

If you want, we can email you the scriptures where these concepts and others can be found in the Bible. Meanwhile, listen to these Biblical statements about the Holy Spirit.

  • Derived from “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit” by R.A. Torrey:
    • “Statements, which in the Old Testament distinctly name the Lord or Jehovah as their subject are applied to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, i.e. Isaiah 6:8-10 refers to Jehovah while in Acts 28:25-27 Paul quotes Isaiah and applies the passage to the Holy Spirit. Then also read John 12:39-41 where the same passage is ascribed to Christ. 
    • “So in different parts of Scripture, we have the same passage referring to Jehovah, the Holy Spirit, and to Jesus. In Isaiah 6:3, the angels cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy. Each Holy refers to one of the Godhead. ‘And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.’…A further suggestion of this tri-personality of Jehovah of Hosts is found in the eighth verse of the chapter where the Lord is represented as saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”] [Exodus 16:7 where the murmuring is against Jehovah. But, in Hebrews 3:7-9, this reference is referred to and we read, ‘Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith,…When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.’ 
    • “This leaves it beyond question that the Holy Spirit occupies the position of Jehovah (or Deity) in the New Testament.”
    • “The name of the Holy Spirit is coupled with that of God in a way it would be impossible for a reverent and thoughtful mind to couple the name of any finite being with that of the Deity.” [1 Cor. 12:4-6: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”][Tell kids to search in the grass for the 1″ white coins.]
      Each coin has on it one of the many titles the Holy Spirit holds.

      (As the kids found the coins, they graciously gave them to the teens and adults who then read them aloud to the group. Each coin contained a title for Him on one side and the supporting Bible reference on the other.)(We didn’t get a photo of the coins, but here’s one of the tree.)

      Attributes Station; Isaiah 11:1-2 quote


(Station 4) Fruits of the Spirit
and Gifts of the Spirit
(tacked to deciduous tree: station sign; paper heart with “faith, hope, love”; Fruits of the Spirit ribbon, paper leaflet listing the Gifts of the Spirit )(hanging from branches of nearby evergreen, at kid height, cardboard cut-outs for each Fruit of the Spirit)

FRUITS

Galatians 5:LEB 13-15 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
22-26 — “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh together with its feelings and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

[Tell kids to go find the Fruits of the Spirit on the evergreen and they can check if they have them all by looking at the ribbon list on the deciduous tree.]
(The clever kids counted the number of fruits listed, then counted the number of cardboard cut-outs they’d found. ((chuckle)) Again, they, then, graciously passed the cardboard cut-outs to individual adults at random.)

FHL Heart, Fruits Ribbon

GIFTS
1 Corinthians 12 ESV1-13 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13 ESV“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

[GIVE ONE HEART TO EACH PERSON.]
(One talented lady in our church made origami hearts. She and the kids passed those out to everyone. They were white so that they could be colored or written on, if desired.)(The pastor and his wife also got glass heart ornaments filled with sweet-n-sour Nerds (colorful candy bits).)

Paper Heart


(Station 5) Wind/Breath
and Still, Small Voice 
(station sign tacked to a tree; Voice rock set at base of tree; bamboo wind chimes hanging from a branch and gently tapping notes; 10 sparkly silver and iridescent pinwheels stuck in dirt of a nearby flower bed)

“Still, Small Voice” Rock

With His Voice, God spoke creation into existence. Genesis 1 again, 1-3 LEB: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth — Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light.”

John 3:1-8 LEB — “Now there was a man of the Pharisees whose name was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him at night and said to him [Jesus], ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one is able to perform these signs that you are performing unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is an old man? He is not able to enter into his mother’s womb for the second time and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘It is necessary for you to be born from above.’ The wind blows wherever it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”

Jesus rose from the grave on Firstfruits. The counting of the omer (the 49-day count) starts on the first day of the week (Sunday) after Firstfruits. Let’s read about something that happened on this first day of the count.
John 20:19–23 LEB — “Now when it was evening on that day—the first day of the week—and the doors had been shut where the disciples were because of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ And when he had said this, he showed his hands and his side to them. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

Acts 2:1-4 LEBAnd when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in the same place. And suddenly a sound like a violent rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And divided tongues like fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability to speak out.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 LEB — “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as if God were imploring you through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.”

Back in 1 Kings 19, when Elijah was afraid for his life and went one day’s journey into the wilderness and said to God, “It is enough now, Yahweh; take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” (verse 4),
God didn’t deal with him harshly. God took care of him. 

1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV — “He lay down and fell asleep under a certain broom tree, and suddenly this angel was touching him and said to him, “Get up, eat!” He looked, and behold, a bread cake on hot coals was near his head and a jar of water, so he ate and drank. Then he did it again and lay down. The angel of Yahweh appeared a second time and touched him and said, “Get up, eat, for the journey is greater than you.” So he got up, ate, drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights up to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
So, he’s on Horeb, the mountain of God, which is another name for Mt. Sinai. This is where God spoke through the burning bush to Moses. This is where the Law, the Covenant, was given to the people. So, Elijah finds a cave on this mountain.

9-14 RSV — “And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And he said, ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’”

Then, God sent Elijah out to anoint a king over Syria, a king over Israel, and Elisha as a prophet in his place.

We need to have moments of rest to drink of His Living Water He gives us and eat from the Bread of Life, His Word.

[Time of silence, listening to the wind in the pinwheels perhaps. :)]
[HAVE KIDS EACH TAKE A SPARKLY PINWHEEL.]

10″ Holographic Pinwheels

 

(Station 6) Oil
(picnic bench with clay oil lamp filled with olive oil; bell jar over the lamp, since it was a windy day)

[Designated adult helper lights lamp and places jar over it.]

Olive oil was used for food and in the lamps for light (Exodus 27:20-21). 

Oil was used to consecrate the priests (Leviticus 8:30).

Oil was used as part of the healing ritual (Leviticus 14:1-18, cf. James 5:14). 

Oil as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit’s presence and action is clear in the anointing of prophets, priests, and kings. 

Isaiah 61:1-3 LEB — “The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives and liberation to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Yahweh’s favor, and our God’s day of vengeance, to comfort all those in mourning, to give for those in mourning in Zion, to give them a head wrap instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. And they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, to show his glory.”

Acts 10:34-38 LEB — “So Peter opened his mouth and said, “In truth I understand that God is not one who shows partiality, but in every nation the one who fears him and who does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the message that he sent to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—this one is Lord of all—you know the thing that happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism that John proclaimed: Jesus of Nazareth—how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him.”

Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, Matthew 25:1-10 LEB: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.
“The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”


(Station 7) Mt. Sinai
(tacked to a tree at the top of the hill above the amphitheatre: station sign; sign with question, “Which commandment is most important?” and Mark 12:29-31)

[Present: Commandment Tablet(s), 2 loaves displayed on a tray, big white hearts to give to kids] 

Redemption was found at the Cross through Jesus. Revelation was given at Mt. Sinai through the Word of God, via Jesus breathing on the disciples and their receiving the Holy Spirit, and via the Holy Spirit descending on those in the Upper Room. We were taken out of Egypt, redeemed from sin. But, without the revelation and help from His Spirit, we would regress back into the slavery of sin. 

God wanted to break the slave mentality of His chosen people. He took them out of Egypt, then He began taking Egypt out of Israel. God gave us the gift of His Word and the gift of His Spirit so that we can transform and be spiritually free.

Ezekiel 11:19-20 ESV — “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

Ezekiel 36-26 ESV — “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Jeremiah 31:33 ESV — “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Tablet(s) reverently held by teen volunteer. Hebrew numbers, 1-10, representing the Law.

[Each kid gets a large, unique paper heart.]
[Tell them to pick up an Exodus 20 hand-out sheet as they make their way to sit on the amphitheatre terraces.]

(One of our talented singer/musicians was seated in front of us, guitar and portable speakers ready for use.)

[Once people are seated, tell them to take out baggies of Skittles.]

(A neat thing happened here. Some of the folks had eaten most of their Skittles. Others hadn’t. Since we each needed 10 Skittles, those who hadn’t eaten many or any shared with those who didn’t have 10. <3)
(The Elder read aloud each of the 10 Commandments that had been rephrased as promises by Jill Morikone on a 3ABN Sabbath School Panel episode. After each promise was read, the elder shouted, “God is good!” Singer shouted, “God is good?” The attendees shouted, “God is good!” Singer quietly confirmed, “God is good.” We each ate a Skittle. Another promise would be read, then the process repeated.)

  • From Jill Morikone: “We see God’s promises in the Ten Commandments… The word in Hebrew isn’t ‘commandments’ at all. It’s simply the ‘words of God,’ or you could say the ‘sayings of God.’  When you look at the Ten Commandments, or the ten words, the ten sayings, we tend to look at it in language of ‘do’ and ‘don’t,’ ‘thou shalt,’ ‘thou shalt not.’ But, if you look, it’s actually written in the second-person, singular imperfect. You may say, ‘What in the world does that mean?!’ The imperfect verb form notes action or state that is still in progress. So, it’s not something that’s completed nor something that’s already done in the past. It’s something that is still in progress. The same verb tense, the same wording, is used in Judges 6:23, ‘And the Lord said unto him, “Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” Now when you hear that, Pastor Johnny, I wouldn’t think, ‘Now that’s a commandment, “Don’t die.”‘ What do I think?  ‘That’s a promise.’ You’re not going to die. The same thing in Psalm 91, verse 5, this same verb tense, ‘Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;’ so when we read that, we don’t think a command: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ It’s a promise; you don’t have to be afraid. So, I took the liberty to rewrite the Ten Commandments, this is Jill’s version — Ten Promises:
    1. You will desire only Me, nobody and nothing else.
    2. You will have no need for other gods or other support systems because I will give you everything that you need.
    3. You will reverence and respect Me — My Name and My Character — and will do everything you can to guard our relationship.
    4. You will delight in spending time with Me on our special day, the seventh-day Sabbath; no interruptions, no distractions, just quality time with Me.
    5. You will love those who have given you life and respect the family that I gave to you.
    6. You will respect others’ lives and hold them sacred as you would your own.
    7. You will delight in and love the spouse that I gave to you.
    8. You will have enough with what I have given to you and will have no need to take from somebody else.
    9. You will speak truthfully and well of your neighbors and associates.
    10. You will be content with what I have given you and will rejoice in My gifts for your life.

“That is the promise of grace that God gives to His people.”

(Then, our singer taught us a new song, Kadosh, and we all sang it.)

Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh
(Holy, Holy, Holy)
Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh
(Holy, Holy, Holy)
Adonai Elohim Tz’va’ot
(O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts)
Adonai Elohim Tz’va’ot
(O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts)
Holy, Holy, Holy.
Holy, Holy, Holy.
O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts.
O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts.
Asher hayah V’hoveh v’yavo
Who was and Who is and Who is to come.
Asher hayah V’hoveh v’yavo
Who was and Who is and Who is to come.

 

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!