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Bibles

Bibles

The Complete Jewish Study Bible

Rabbi Barry Rubin, General Editor

Of the seven different versions of the Bible that I have read from cover to cover, The Complete Jewish Study Bible, has made the most lasting impression upon me so far. In “Illuminating the Jewishness of God’s Word” as proclaimed on the cover, my experience of the scriptures has been fuller and richer.

Each version I have read—Revised Standard Version (RSV), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), The Message (MSG), and English Standard Version (ESV)—has been an important part of my faith journey; and not one of those versions is any better than any other version.

What made reading this version particularly alive was the context—insights into the history of the times about which it was written and through which it was written, explanations of misunderstood words, use and pronunciation of Jewish names, and the perspective and purpose of Jewish festivals.

Other versions of the Bible may have those kinds of features as well, but this Jewish experience seems to have filled an intense yearning within my spirit while further deepening my awareness of God.

Breathe

Breathe

Every now and then some little something will grab my attention and spark a bit of creative energy. Each wee tidbit, however, does not have enough substance on its own for a full post. Yet, when all these small sound-bites, sightings, feelings, happenings, etc. combine, they become a journey of sacred moments.

Today was a day chock full of holy occurrences.

As my five-year-old grandson’s Kindergarten class was settling, preparing for me to read aloud, one little girl said: “I like your hair, it’s changing color. Some of it is white.” Precious! Then after picking up my grandchildren from the bus, there was a brief respite where the three of us were languidly lounging in a huge, purple beanbag chair with a sleepy puppy. Heaven! A friend called to see if I would be interested in being a judge for some school projects—I wasn’t, but thanked her for thinking of me. To which she responded, “I think of you a lot.” Loved!

Or yesterday . . .

Wednesday is the day I volunteer at the food pantry. There were quite a few boxes to be broken down before they could be recycled, which I did with great enthusiasm.  I was thrilled that manual labor brought me such purpose and pleasure.  Exhilarating!

Even though I did not feel like it, I went to choir practice—it was dark and cold and I just wanted to stay home where it was warm and cozy. Afterward, though, I felt refreshingly enervated and woke up the next morning with my spirit singing. Joyful!

The day before that . . .

. . . was a day with absolutely nothing to do and I enjoyed doing it! I sat in my recliner rocking away, watching the birds and feeling so profoundly grateful for a cousin who would give me the gift of this website. My heart felt like it was bursting with pleasure in the silent solitude. Thankful!

By now you may be thinking, “But what about those days when life is not rosy and lovely?”

I get it. Sometimes it seems as if days can turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years of one hardship after another. This crazy world is filled with overwhelming unfair and undue pain, grief and suffering.

And yet gratefulness, here we breathe . . .

My mind wanders back in time to when I was in labor with my sons, and was told to breathe. Seemingly I am still giving attention to the intentional breathing practices I learned in childbirth class.

. . . just breathe.

My yoga instructor ended our session today by having us concentrate on our breath, the “divine energy that sustains life.”

Could this be what Paul meant when he said “pray without ceasing” in I Thessalonians 5:17? Some translations say “pray regularly,” “pray constantly,” “pray continuously,” or “never stop praying.”

Breathe . . . in . . . out . . . regularly, constantly, continuously . . . in . . . out . . .

. . . sometimes that is all we can do; and maybe it is all we need do . . . each breath–this very here and now sacred, eternal moment.

Visit the link below for a treatise on the connection between prayer and breath.

www.chaimbentorah.com/2019/04/hebrew-word-study-breath/

Terror

Terror

“Jesus’s primary intent is to produce in sinners a terror of eternal hell—a fear that would drive them toward repentance and faith in the gospel. Knowledge of that fear should motivate believers as well.” John MacArthur

WHAT? People don’t really believe that, do they?

I wrote a HUGE, emphatic NO with multiple exclamation marks in the margin.

I could not believe I was reading this in a book written by a well-respected Christian author on the parables of Jesus, that I am using to teach a Sunday School class at the church I attend.

The author uses the following from 1 Corinthians 5:11 King James Version to support his thesis: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”

Then, after finishing Sunday morning breakfast with my father at our usual diner, a local pastor was conversing to anyone who would listen about his upcoming sermon on Leviticus 19 and having good morals. His opinions continued to the effect that people are just not afraid of God and this lack of fear is what is wrong with our society.

In our culture this misinformed and harmful belief is fundamental to why so many people are traumatized through abusive relationships, and why so many have a difficult time believing that God is Love.

The fear these pastors are perpetuating does not motivate or move anyone toward lasting, loving and trusting relationships with beloveds, much less with God. Their brand of fire and brimstone fear is instead a means of controlling behavior by manipulating the mind and emotions. The fact that people continue to propagate this devastating lie is in many ways central to what is wrong with our culture.

Here is the truth . . . the word “terror,” or “fear” in some translations of the above verse and elsewhere in the Bible means “divine or reverential awe.”

Being awestruck . . . the end of separation, Creator and created as One . . .

. . . like when you view a rapturously colored sunrise or sunset . . . or listen to a moving piece of music that envelopes your soul . . . or are mesmerized by artwork that captivates your senses . . . or the fresh scents of a long walk in the woods . . . or experiencing the miraculous birth of a child . . .

. . . this is how we are to be motivated to trust that God is Love and that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

There is much more lack of knowing in the quote that begins this essay than can be explored here with these few words, but it is the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of what has been translated as fear that ignites my ire.

I don’t know where I read this next, so can’t give rightful credit for it:

“You hear a text from your own level of development and consciousness. Punitive people love punitive texts; loving people hear in the same text calls to discernment, clarity, choice, and decision.”

Or as Marianne Williamson says,

“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.”

To this I say, Amen.

Palette

Palette

Autumn is my favorite time of year!

I love harvest reds, golden yellows and pumpkin oranges that appear as the waning chlorophyll finishes its job for the season. Then the leaves begin to fall and give way to a skyline highlighted by chocolate browns, burnished bronzes and dull silvers against a backdrop of mossy-green pines, azure skies and the tawny tans of harvested corn fields.

All of these hues and tones arouse my Taurus earthiness. Even as the tapestry of colors herald the beginning of a deep cyclical slumber, I am feeling vibrantly alive as if the Master Artist has created all of this just for me.

On my way to church recently it was as if the painting was being created right before my eyes—like a three-dimensional, interactive work of art in which I played a dynamic role.

A light fog hugged the rolling hills and hollows like a down comforter on a warm, toasty bed. Sunshine glimmered through the water vapor producing pulsating columns of sunbeams.

As I crested a hill, four large black birds gently swooped down just above and in front of me in precision formation. Their leisurely flapping seemed to pull my truck along like a Roman chariot through brilliant murkiness. After a short while, they gently broke free of the reins and calmly—almost as if in slow motion—swept up and away in balletic unity.

With their departure, the magical moment ended but left a feeling of Oneness in my being . . .

. . . the Creator and Created as One.

Our lives are the palette of colors and our actions are the brushstrokes coeval—synchronous– with, in, and through God.

This aesthetic knowing is something my Yoga teacher, Lisha, intuitively celebrates with each class she teaches. Leading her yogis through contemplative poses, our energy is meditatively yoked inspiring a harmonious pictorial of grace and peace.

What hues of prismatic light and what brushstrokes are you using in this universally creative process?

Whether it is singing or dancing or painting . . . whatever the creative process . . . we are more than labels, we are a Community of One.

Justice

Justice

In no other experience have I grown more in my spiritual journey than in and through my interactions with clients at the food pantry; which is why these encounters are a frequent topic of this site . . .

. . . as it is with this entry.

Homeless, diabetic, confined to a wheelchair due to the loss of a leg below the knee, missing teeth, hygiene issues and a food pantry regular. This 26-year-old man who had been a student at the middle school where I once taught died recently.

In school I did not have any direct contact with him because he was in the BD (Behavior Disorder) classroom, but I knew of him. He lived a difficult life, more challenging than I could ever imagine on my worst day.

We had absolutely nothing in common and yet I am very grateful for his life!

I learned so much from him. Justice taught me what it really means to not judge someone. I do not know and cannot see what is in a person’s heart. Neither do I know the rest of his or her life’s story, nor do I need to know—God knows and that is enough.

In serving Justice, I got to serve Jesus and learn the real value and fullness of love. Matthew 25:40 says . . 

The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’

Loving one person is loving all people and loving all is loving One.

And . . . I thought I was a compassionate person—not even close! Thanks to Justice, I learned compassion like that of the good Samaritan . . .

But a man from Shomron (Samaria) who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. So, he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two days’ wages, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend more than this, I’ll pay you back when I return.’ Luke 10:33-35

Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other. Their ancient enmity grew out of favoritism, abandonment, deception and wars. Prior to the Samaritan stopping to care for the Jewish man, two others—a priest and Levite, both Jews and both well versed in Jewish law—intentionally crossed to the other side of the road to avoid helping the victim of a horrendous crime. The man had been beaten, robbed, stripped and left for dead. This is one of the reasons the actions of the Good Samaritan are so remarkable.

Recognizing the suffering of others is not enough, one must take action. Actions that can be financially costly and possibly time consuming; not to mention inconvenient and maybe uncomfortable. Actions that are sacrificial. Actions that are more concerned for the welfare of another, than for oneself. Actions that look beyond the labels of race, religion, sexuality, politics–any ideas that serves to separate and divide. Actions that recognize suffering as universally endured.

One need not believe in God to practice this kind of empathy, kindness and mercy. We are all neighbors while we share this time and space on planet Earth.

Justice called this out in me and I hope you hear him calling it out in you too.