Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hard years make an easy Thanksgiving.

Some beach on Whidbey Island

The Christmas after Ray's mother died was difficult. Jewel was the definition of Christmas for my husband. We slogged through it because that is what we were supposed to but it was horrible. Her death came back fresh and sharp for all of us that year. Christmas stopped that year.

Today is Thanksgiving 2012. It is still dark, my day has not started yet. Before the last pie goes into the oven or the bird starts the long slow roast, before the football games or another NCIS marathon pulls me in, I have a moment to give my thanks to YHVH for that difficult year.

It strikes me as odd that a day has been set aside for giving thanks to God for bringing us through another year just to dash out the door to get more stuff. We will eat a sumptuous meal as a prelude to shopping. "Thanks for what we got, now help me to get more... amen" The best thing about not doing Christmas is not shopping. It isn't that shopping is horrible, but finding a parking space is nasty, worrying about break-ins are fretful, feeling guilt for spending too much, only to have that guilt turn around on Christmas when you realize that you did not spend enough or that your gift is too low rent to compare to the beautiful stuff someone else bought you is embarrassing. I like the lights, I like the Christmas morning feeling, I love that my family will still include me on Christmas (I am hard to get along with). But I do not really like Christmas.

The second year after Jewel's passing, Ray made a menorah It was high time for a new tradition. We ate a lot of Jelly Doughnuts from Tim's and read about the Light of the World. We walked, we still ate a standing rib roast (there are some traditions that must be kept), cookies and clam dip. We talked a little bit about Jewel, about my parents, our sisters and brothers and were thankful for each of them. We talked to God about our sons.... the Gather's were right, uncertain days can be faced because Y'shua/Jesus lives.

Today we will eat a turkey. We will pray for our families. We will love our son's, we will remember Leah and Tyler who were a precious part of our family for a couple of years, we will pray for them and their new family. It will probably be a quiet day. We will try to remember the people in New Jersey and New York whose Thanksgiving may feel like there is less to be thankful for. We will be praying for Ray's brother Rich, across the country from us, spending his first Thanksgiving without his beautiful Kimberly who died too young. And if we are very lucky, we will get out for a walk while Ray can still walk and breath in the beauty of the natural world around us. Just maybe we will pack a left-overs picnic tomorrow and take a trip to Coopville or Leavenworth to shop for books and doo-dahs just because we still love to give.

This whole-lotta blah-blah-blah is the result of reading Ben Hewitt's Post. Not For Sale by Ben Hewitt

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mark 1: 21-28

I've heard tell that every great journey begins with a single step. So begins this journey of faith. One step. One normal trip to synagogue on Sabbath. Something these fishermen have probably done for most of their lives. Sabbath is for Synagogue.

And they went into Caper'na-um; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.  And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. Mark 1:21-22
Where does your journey of faith begin? Will any church or synagogue do? What kind of person do you want discipling you?

RT France tells me that saying a person is a Scribe is comparable to saying they are well educated. Power, or authority in this instance, does not come from education. It is only a tool. It is the difference between reading everything you can about Senegal and going to that African nation. I am sure that is a poor comparison to the difference between how Y'shua/Jesus taught and how the scribes taught. The difference was immediately noticeable. Those who heard Y'shua in synagogue that morning were "astonished."

"they were astonished" NT:1605.  Ekplêssœ, ekplêtt,; future. Explêx , 2nd aorist passive. Exeplág  from ek (1537), an intensive, and plêss  (4141), to strike. To strike out, force out by a blow, but found only in the sense of knocking one out of his senses or self-possession, to strike with astonishment, terror, admiration. In the NT only in the pass., to be struck with astonishment, admiration, to be amazed…. Followed by epí (1909), upon, with the dative.
 (from The Complete Word Study Bible and The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1994, 2002 AMG International, Inc.)
Y'shua sure gave them something to talk about. First they listened. He spoke to them in a way that no educated person had ever been able to speak. I can imagine that the same Torah portions they had been learning for as long as they could remember suddenly came alive! The Word was not just something to learn and try to conform to, it must have been exciting. They were knocked out of their normal into the realm of wow!

Astonishment is not faith, even among those of us on a faith journey. We are no different then the educated scribe until we take a firm stand on the word. That morning in Synagogue the hearers would be given an opportunity to take a stand.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit;  and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. Mark 1:23-26
Everyone has some kind of a reaction to the astonishing teaching of Y'shua. The "man with an unclean spirit," did as well. He (or the spirit) seems to attempt to control things with an arrogant fear.

Name it and claim it. Sometimes I listen to "Christians" go to war with the powers of darkness. I often wonder why we insist on taking our directions from the enemy play book instead of following Y'shua's example. In the same way that many so called exorcists try to get an advantage over some "demon of lust" or other dark spirit, by naming the demon or his job, so this unclean spirit attempts to take the advantage in the synagogue. He names both Y'shua the Netzer and proclaims his position, The Holy One of God. I find those statements more powerful then the question, "Have you come to destroy us?"

There was drama, which we have come to expect in an epic battle of good and evil. But the drama was not from Y'shua. Only the demon put on a show. When it comes right down to it, a show is all the powers of darkness have left on this side of the cross. That does not speak well for us who fear them. The creatures of nightmares have no power in the light. I love the message of Ezekiel 28: 13-19 where the kings of the earth finally see Lucifer and are amazed that this is what they were so afraid of.

Y'shua offers no special prayer or incantation  he does not cast a spell, preform a ritual or hold any powerful charm or prop. He does not call on the memory of some powerful past holy person (Apparently King Solomon was a popular person for exorcists to call on while preforming their rituals.) You can read about this practice in Acts 19: 11-20. Mark tells us that Y'shua did one thing. He quietly rebuked the unclean spirit to silence and ordered him out of the man. You would not be wrong to quote Y'shua as saying, "Shut up and get out." That was it. With one last display of temper-tantrum drama, the unclean spirit was gone. The room was brought to a whole new level of astonishment.

And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."  And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.    Mark 1:27-28 RSV
That must have been quite a show. Y'shua was not there to preform. He came for the salvation of souls. He is interested in people, not the monsters of the darkness we call demons. He is first of all a teacher of righteousness. To amaze us is not his goal. Though the first miracle Mark records is the exorcism, and the exorcism does display the power of the Son of God over the darkness, that display is not the goal. Setting twisted souls free does not save them, it only gives them a chance to think clearly. Watching a demon get kicked to the curb does not save onlookers, no matter how amazed they are.

Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,  and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." 
Jess, Chloe and Bug-Bear
Repent and believe. That is the whole of the gospel, the life changing "God-story" in the book of Mark. At least that is our part. Facing our tomorrow with eyes of faith is how we can expect to live. The rest of the book of Mark is about Y'shua who came to sacrifice himself for our sin. That sacrifice gives us far more freedom than the man with the unclean spirit experienced when the drama was over. That journey to the cross is the reason we are even able to start a journey of faith. Stick around, follow Y'shua on his quest but do yourself a powerful favor. Repent and believe. See what he can make of your little life....because as the song says, "Little becomes much when you place it in the masters hand"

MsH 11/6/12