I and Thou: Traditions

Photo Credit: Sarah Loft fineartamerica.com

Zechariah 8:18-23

18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” 20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” 23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Thought: Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets, writes about sad and challenging fasts and how joyful and pleasant feasts replace the sad fasts. He tells people a message of God’s love for His people, reminiscent of holidays when families gather around a table to share a meal.

What holidays do you and your family celebrate?

Families make plans and celebrate all types of holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Labor Day, Holi, or Christmas. Some families come together each year for a family reunion while others celebrate a holiday unique to them. Some host Hawaiian Luaus, Memorial Day picnics, and others watch fireworks and picnic on the 4th of July.

Tradition, according to Wikipedia is, “a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.” * Traditions are true because they are believed to be true. In the case of Passover, angels of death passed over the Israelites, who had brushed the lamb’s blood, over their doorframes. (Exodus 12:7). God saved the Israelites, and the tradition of celebrating Passover acknowledges the event and commemorates it.

Traditions can last thousands of years or last only a few. However long a tradition continues, it creates memories. Holiday gatherings take place year after year and our children expect a house full of relatives. Right? Yet, we often forget how separation and divorce changes tradition. In some cases, it ends. Families no longer gather as years pass.

Maybe this post will change the minds of couples who are no longer couples – to forget about themselves for a day and to think about tradition, not for their sakes, but for the sake of their children. Go ahead and invite your former spouse to your holiday meal – I dare you!

Thankfully, the truth of God’s love is eternal and not measured by years of tradition or mistakes. It is simply the truth. The truth, as the prophet Zechariah wrote, in the last days, people from all nations will want to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. Let’s keep traditions alive so we all can have the opportunity to touch Jesus’ hem. Shall we?

Divine gifts – sharing religious traditions with family opens us up to experience grace and truth.

Action: What makes your family tradition special?

* Tradition. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from the Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tradition

I and Thou: Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Japanese cranes by CheetahArt on DeviantArt

God of heaven and earth, hear our prayer…

Thank you for all the abundant blessings you bestow upon us…

Ability to gaze in the eyes of a newborn.

Majestic feeling of a dolphin jumping within arms reach.

Gracefulness of a crane walking nearby.

Muscles that kayak under tunnels of deep luscious green vines.

Active minds that enjoy playing games with family and friends.

Hands that built caves in Mesa Verde thousands of years ago.

Bountiful food prepared for family dinners.

Creativity expressed through birthday-themed celebrations.

Gentle breezes felt on a boat ride.

Feeling truly loved.

Instead of falling into the hype of the holiday season, what would it look like if you took a step back and pondered what really is essential to you? Is it to mend a relationship? To spend more time with your children? Your parents? Or is it to reach out to someone less fortunate who could really use a helping hand?

Let’s focus on more simple ways of celebrating the holidays in this season of Thanksgiving. Shall we?

I and Thou: It’s All About Perspective

Fall into the Bible – Part 3


Artwork: Light on a Straight Path by Cynthia Jewell Pollett

In this blog post, I will look at these “fall” phrases in The Bible where the word “fall” and the personal pronoun “me” is used. Go ahead and read each of them.

Fall on me – Psalm 69:9

Fall on me and my family – 2 Sam. 24:17

Fall in behind me – 2 Kings 9:18

Fall away on account of me – Matt 26:31

Who or what is falling? In Fall into the Bible – Part 1: Three Spirit Pearls of Wisdom for You, posted on October 11, 2021, we read how we can choose to accept God’s love or not. We learned that the Spirit of God provides us with inner Wisdom when we tap into the depths of our soul when we are quiet and receptive. This blog post will focus on Spirit and choosing the path filled with grace.

The Bright Light Path

There certainly is a propensity to make good decisions and see the good in all things – don’t you think? Most of us like happy endings. The fairy tale. The underdog. The success story. Yet, in real life, we make decisions in situations where there is little information. Take dating. Do we go out with this new person? There is a choice. Trust and be positive or doubt and have anxiety. It does not need to be an either-or decision. We can be optimistic and still cautious as we enter into a new relationship.  

Now, let’s look at a relationship with God. We really have little information.  Right? God’s profile is not on a dating app. So, what exactly do we know?  We know that there is a force in this world that made the world what it is. Genesis 1:1-2:3 details The Creation Story for those of you who might need a refresher. Simply, let’s just say that God created every living, breathing creature that exists today in the world. Are you with me so far?  

Point 1. God created every living, breathing creature.

In Genesis 1:2, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Then, in Genesis 2:7, we read, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Then, fast forward a few thousand years, and we see in Matthew 3:16, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” Hmmm. So, here we have the Spirit of God from the Old Testament, making a debut in the New Testament.  

If you are like me, you might now be thinking, what is the difference between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit? At first, having thought that the Holy Spirit was a New Testament construct, I was pretty surprised that the Holy Spirit was first mentioned in Psalm 51:11. It is when David lamented to God after he was rebuked by Nathan about his affair with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. My theory was incorrect. After a bit of digging, most scholars believe there to be no difference between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit. Whew! That’s a relief!

Point 2.  Spirit of God and Holy Spirit are used interchangeably.

 Back to the four verses above. Re-read them now.  

Fall on me – Psalm 69:9 | Fall on me and my family – 2 Sam. 24:17

Fall in behind me – 2 Kings 9:18 | Fall away on account of me – Matt 26:31

In the context of Psalm 69, David is crying out to God, and he is asking God to save him, and he is feeling like a foreigner in his own home.  Others’ insults of God “fall on him.” David is choosing to have faith and not let the insults get to him. David is choosing God.

From a different perspective, “fall on me” can be seen as a request that may sound something like this, “God, please have your spirit fall on me.” The same can be said about the second verse, “fall on me and my family.” We ask for the Spirit of God to shower us with love and blessings. We trust God in the hope that we “fall” toward the light. The light of the triune God. The light of Wisdom. The good. In other words, faith.  

In 2 Samuel, God is asking David to prepare for battle against Israel. God was angry toward Israel and sent an angel to strike down people.  When David saw what was going on, he begged God to punish him and his family to spare the innocent as he said to God, “Let your hand fall on me and my family.” So, here we see an angry God and a faithful David. In the end, David builds an altar and offers a burnt sacrifice, and God ends the battle.

Point 3. Faith is a choice.

Fall on me” can also be a plea, especially in times of trial and tribulation. We may cry out, “Help us!” as we ask for protection. So, if God created every living creature, wouldn’t it be only natural for us to want to find favor with God? 

The Deep Dark Path

As Christians, we all have strayed from time to time, and we have allowed Satan to influence us. Our decisions. Our friends. Our surroundings. Our entertainment. Fall in behind me is authoritative. It can refer to commanding Satan, or the Evil One, to “get behind me.” In this scenario, we exert our authority over Satan, and we begin to gain control of the situation. In other words, trying to turn a bad situation from spiraling out of control. If we don’t do that, evil can overcome us and separate us from God. We really don’t want to do that, do we? 

In 2 Kings 9:18, Jehu was anointed by the prophet Elijah, King of Israel. Elijah instructs him to destroy the house of Ahab. As his enemies approach, Jehu asks, “Do you come in peace?” And, when they do not answer, Jehu commands them to “fall in behind me.” Jehu ends up killing two kings and ordering eunuchs to throw Jezebel out the window to her death, as seen in verse 36, “…This is the word of the Lord that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh.

So, the question is, does sin really separate us from God? From the 2 Kings story, murder is condoned, which certainly adds a bit of mystery to the whole sin concept. Yet, we must remember that Jehu was following God’s instruction. As we see in the New Testament, God emerges as a more loving and less angry deity.  

Sin does separate us from God; remember, there is grace. Grace to bring us back into harmony with God. When we feel God “falling away on account of me,” it is vital to recognize our shortcomings and ask God to help us overcome them. Not only when we strayed, but when we may have pushed God away.

Can you think of something or someone you may have lost or broken on account of something you said or did by pushing or pulling too hard? I know that I tried too hard with my children. To be completely different from my mother, I wanted to be the “involved” mother to my children. You know the type. The one who is the class parent. Then, the head of all the class parents. The parent who leads one of the segments of the annual school play and teaches Sunday School. The one that just goes over the top. Pushing too hard without even realizing that being involved with all the “parent” activities, there was very little time left to play that favorite video game. Or the patience to play the Monopoly game. Or the time to just be there when my child needed me the most. Even in the bad…there is good news! The good news is God loves us even when we push, pull, or fall away.  

The Path Filled With Grace

Separation from God may prevent us from blessings; yet, accepting God’s invitation of love and grace gets us back on track. The right track. The track to more blessings. The path that grants us the privilege and honor to be called a child of God. 

I and Thou: Summertime

It’s Summertime!

Artwork: Tropical Holiday Hawaii Beach by Robin Wethe Altman

Time to refresh
Time to renew
Time to reflect
Time to repent

Refresh.

What better place to refresh than a beach? 

Oak Island, NC, is a lovely, quiet, sleepy beach town. 

Growing up in NJ, where the shore was an hour away, it could take up to three hours to get there because of traffic.  And, of course, once you arrived, you needed to pay for parking and pay to go on the beach.  No free beach in NJ.  That is if you can find a public beach.  Many beaches are private and require a “badge.” In NC, it is entirely different.  Free public beach access that is clearly visible.  Plenty of free parking nearby.  What a joy to be able to enjoy an hour or so at the beach without the hassle! 

Refreshing is gaining a new perspective on the present.

Renew. 

Renewing our minds every once in a while, is good medicine for our souls.  How do you renew?  I renew by stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new. 

Renewing is being grateful for what you have and looking forward to what will be.

Reflect.

Growing up in a non-denominational evangelical home environment, the Church was the center point. All seemed to revolve around Church. Church was on Sunday.  That is what we did—Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. and Church service at 10:45 a.m. Then, sometimes, fellowship hour after Church.  Then home for Sunday dinner.  Maybe a ride in the car. Then, rest time.  Then a lite supper and then back to Church for evening service. 

Wednesday evening was Prayer Meeting, and I remember my dad faithfully going.  Then Thursday evening was choir rehearsal which my father participated in as well.  Thursday was also Pioneer Girls, similar to Girl Scouts, which I participated in for many years.  Youth group at Church plus a regional youth group, Youth for Christ, were activities held at various times throughout the years that I regularly attended.  I do remember one summer attending a bible study that was at 7:00 a.m.  I woke up, grabbed some juice, and rode my bike up to Church.  It really wasn’t that far – about 1 mile.  

When I was a bit older, the regional group expanded my horizons to meet other kids in nearby towns.  I appreciated learning more about different churches; yet I felt a tug to be more involved in my neighborhood.  My parents discouraged me from community activities.  And strongly encouraged Church-sponsored events and outgoings with “church kids.”  I also vaguely remember one summer going away to camp at a Christian Camp named Camp Cherith. That is where I learned to do archery, shoot a rifle (BB’s), and horseback ride.  Reflecting on my childhood, I felt that I was in a bubble; I could only do activities that were Church related.  I thought that I missed out on friendships with those who were unlike me.

My first experience with discrimination was when my parents did not support my friendship with a little girl up the block named Charlotte.  She was Jewish.  I don’t know why my parents were afraid of people who were unlike them.  I was five.  It had a lasting impact on me and my life.  It was then when my first questions started about religion, faith, and Christian love.  I still wonder if Charlotte knew why I couldn’t be her friend.

There were lots of rules growing up.

No playing on Sunday. 

No bike riding on Sunday. 

No going to school dances.

No going to movies.

No playing cards. 

I felt deprived.  I felt like a freak. I’m sure being bullied by a girl named Debby in junior high school didn’t help either.  I was so scared, and I don’t really know why.  Perhaps, I’ll never know.

Reflecting is learning from the past.

Repent.      

What exactly is repenting? And what do we need to repent from?  First, repenting requires acknowledging a wrongdoing or a regret.  Who in this world has not done something they have regretted?  Not me – for sure!  Then, repenting requires coming to peace with the regret.  For me, repenting is freeing.  Once you have come to terms with a situation, and only then, can you then move forward.  At the University of Ozarks, their mission is “to live life fully,” and you can only do that after you have reflected, repented, refreshed and renewed.  Not necessarily in that order.

Repenting is coming to terms and making peace.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!  Life is a life-long learning experience.

I and Thou – An Alien in a Foreign Land

An Alien in a Foreign Land

An alien in a foreign land…
Where all that is around feels unfamiliar.
New.

Yet, in some ways, strangely old.
Seeking to find the comfort of an old shoe or bathrobe.  
Lying in bed as the world goes by. 

Feeling frozen in time.  Short of breath.  
Not knowing where your children are or if they are safe.

An alien in a foreign land…
Writing, speaking to unknown faces. New.

Yet, in some ways, strangely old.
Meeting strangers, small talk, and dining in restaurants.
Wondering if this person will call you again. 

Feeling anxious.  Short of breath.
Not knowing what tomorrow will hold.

An alien in a foreign land…
Opening the door to online yesterday in person today. New.

Yet, in some ways, strangely old.
Conversing deeply about life and sharing freshly brewed coffee.
Embarking on a new relationship, perhaps. 

Feeling excited. Short of breath.
Not knowing where it will go.

An alien in a foreign land…
Letting go and letting God direct your life.  New.

Yet, in some ways, strangely old.
Following God’s call to a new foreign land.
Stumbling and falling along the way. 

Feeling hesitant.  Short of breath.
Not knowing where it will lead.

An alien in a foreign land…
Friendly faces are fresh and welcoming.  New.

Yet, in some ways, strangely old.
Sharing time and talents and learning in a new workplace.
Making a difference in people’s lives. 

Feeling humbled.  Short of breath.
Not knowing the impact for years to come.

An alien in a foreign land…
Casting out pebbles to see where they land.  New.

Yet, in some ways, strangely old.
Exploring new places and seeking adventures along the way.
Filling with anticipation.
Feeling thrilled.  Short of breath
Not knowing where the landing will be.

Artwork by: Ernest Mancoba

I and Thou – Better to Receive

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12 & 13

Artwork Credit: Faith Evans-Sells http://www.faithevansells.com

You enjoy holiday shopping. Don’t you? You aim to select the perfect gift for a loved one. Best of all, you love giving the gift and watching it be unwrapped.  All you want is to see the joy and excitement. Lately, I’ve been thinking about gift-giving. I used to think that it more suitable to give than to receive. Yet, in John 1:12 & 13, we see that it is much better to receive than to give. God has a way of turning our thinking upside down. In this passage, we see that our faith isn’t enough. We need to also receive. Receive God. Receive salvation. It is free for you and me. So, you may ask, how do I know if I am a child of God? Your logical mind may agree that there is a God. What does your heart say? It is the heart that causes your behavior to gradually change over time. When you strive to be Christ-like in your daily life, you become a child a God through your acceptance of God’s love.

I and Thou – Zero Contact

Blog_Pic56Relationships are not simple, far from it. Many parents have experienced children who pull away – sometimes for reasons parents can’t figure out others for apparent reasons. Children who distance themselves from parents believe the parents failed in some significant way – typically unbeknownst to them. The parent is left befuddled and profoundly heartbroken. Like a limb that has been severed; yet still feel is there. Human relationships are fragile. A relationship with the Divine is 100% contact. Faith in God is your rock. For those of you who have zero contact with your children – don’t lose hope. As long as there is breath in life – so is there a chance of reconciliation. Today, tomorrow or the day after. May you find restoration.

 

I and Thou – Global Pandemic Part 2

Family Roots.

These unprecedented times in which we now live may cause you to reflect upon the Pandemic of 1918.   Did the 1918 global event impact your family?

It has certainly inspired me to do a bit of family research. I am grateful that my Mom wrote down some of our family history in 1993, of which, I paid little attention to until now.

Since my dad was bBlog_Pic55orn in 1918, I thought maybe somewhere in my family history I could find out whether or not the pandemic affected my family tree. And, yes, sadly, I did discover a death in my family due to the Pandemic of 1918.

According to History.com (https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/1918-flu-pandemic)…

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans. The 1918 flu was first observed in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia before swiftly spreading around the world. At the time, there were no effective drugs or vaccines to treat this killer flu strain. Citizens were ordered to wear masks, schools, theaters and businesses were shuttered and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues before the virus ended its deadly global march.

My maternal grandparents were married in 1910. My maternal grandmother who died way before I was born (at the age of 48), had 5 pregnancies. Her eldest son, died at age 3 from whooping cough. In 1912 she gave birth to  a girl and in 1919 she gave birth to twins, a vibrant girl and a stillborn. 5 years later, in 1924, my mother was born. It turns out she had scarlet fever at age 9. Quarantine signs appeared on the doors of her home indicating no one could enter for 30 days. She writes that she felt like a leper because everything she had touch had to be burned including her toys and books. Hmmm. That explains a lot.

My maternal grandmother was born in 1890, making her 28-29 years old during the Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919. She was one of 7 children. It was my grandmother’s sister who died during the Pandemic of 1918. My great Aunt Bess, (not to be confused with my not “great” Aunt Bess) was born in 1893 and died at age 26 in 1919 leaving two small children behind. I never knew them. (as far as I know).

My father, the youngest of seven children, was born in 1918.

From theconversation.com/past-pandemics, “Those conceived or in gestation during the 1918-19 flu crisis in the US had reduced educational attainment, lower lifetime incomes, and disability rates that were 20% higher compared to those in other birth cohorts.”

I regret not asking him if he felt any impact of the pandemic on his childhood. What I remember most about my own childhood was the reference to “the Great Depression” of 1929. We (me and my siblings) never knew how good we had it – my parents would remind us quite often, especially if we were complaining. My father left school in the 8th grade to care and support his family. Later on, as an adult, my father earned his GED. My father was a sheet metal worker and died from pulmonary fibrosis in 1992.

As of today, June 28, 2020 there have been 10 Million people who have tested positive for Covid19 with 500,000 deaths so far. In the US, there are 2.5 Million cases with over 127,000 deaths. If this Covid19 virus is anything like the 1918 flu, we will be experiencing infections for the foreseeable near future.

To end on a more positive note, live each day as if there were no tomorrow.  Be kind.  Be gentle and please think before you speak. (that goes especially for me!)  God has a purpose for your life.  Go live it!!

As an update to my April 13th post –

My long time friend from high school lost her dad to Covid 19.  Both of her parents had the virus and her father passed away while her mother was recovering from the virus in a rehabilitation center.  So sad, to hear that a couple married for so many years that one spouse could not attend the funeral of the other.  On the other hand, maybe that was a good thing? May God rest his soul.

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/211528513717826885/

 

 

I and Thou – Love, Sweet Love

Blog_Pic54
Love for a child,
Runs deep in the soul.
Anger shades the leaves so green.
Love for a child,
Runs deep in the soul.
Shame shades the leaves so red.
Love for a child,
Runs deep in the soul.
Blame shades the leaves so brown.
The tree grows and matures through time,
The leaves once green are now so brittle.
Deep in the roots the tree lives on,
The roots fed by love sweet love.

 
Photo Credit:  Abhishek Kumar