Season After Pentecost Thanksgiving Day 2018: The Old Testament, Gospel & Psalm Passages – Raising up thanksgiving to the Divine

Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!” (Joel 2:21)

I am very late in writing this commentary posting. And writing it very late at night/early morning. My second round of pies are in the oven and I am waiting for them to be done. So while I wait, I thought I would sit down and collect my thoughts. They are very scattered. I might mention, as I hinted above, I writing in “real time” which means whenever I get this written, it will be posted. No neat and tidy timing of 30 minutes past a certain hour. I might also add, I am exhausted.

As I thought about writing this, one thought came back to my mind over and over – all the things I have to be thankful for. And the things I am not thankful for. Actually, the two are quite similar.

“Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield. O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. “ (Verses 22 – 24)

Last year around this time I had gotten word I had been hired for a job. It was a long nine months of job searching. While I did not start until after Thanksgiving, the days was breathed in relief that soon I would start working ago and be able to afford to buy the necessities of life. This year I was not dependent on the benevolence of anyone (except the Divine) for buying the essentials of the Thanksgiving meal, and a few extras!

“I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.” (Verse 25)

But it also means I am working again, and wearing myself out. Last year the Thanksgiving preparations were made with plenty of time and I got to bed early. This year I am up late and was already worn out by the time I started. I guess you have to “suffer” for some blessings!

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”

But I really cannot complain much, or more precisely should not. I really do like my job and the people I work with. In the midst of the struggle of daily work and long work weeks, it is good to have a job!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” ( Matthew 6:25 – 27)

The other good/bad element of my life is my health. Yes, I was healthy enough to make the delicious pies for Thanksgiving. And will be healthy enough to join my family around the table. But my health has also become a worry. I had let a few hints drop in the past weeks that my health has had another set back but I have not been forthright about what is going on. Now that plans are set in motion, I am ready to say more. Beloved reader, I have a rare form of skin cancer.

I had written a week of posts well in advance so I would have the time to travel to learn the treatment options. It turns out the best treatment option is here in the city I live in. I will be starting radiation treatment in the next few weeks. I have learned quite a bit about the process and therapy, but still there are some unknowns. Chief among them (at least for me) is whether the radiation treatment will work. In a very short time my list of worries shifted dramatically. And while I am thankful that my health has been relatively stable up to this point, I am becoming aware of a whole other level of worry about my health. And as is so often the case, other worries same to find when placed side by side with this new development.

“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Verses 28 -33)

I am not ruling out that this may just be a brief chapter in my health history. I am very ready to believe that the therapy will completely cure me and that there will be no recurrence or lasting ill effects. My faith is not shaken, nor do I doubt the goodness of the Divine.

“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)

I have always believed that what comes my way prepares me for what tasks, purpose, and mission the Divine has for me. Great blessings may come from this time. And I am prepared to see the good, embrace the struggles, and keep my faith firm. While I come to this Thanksgiving season of 2018 with a whole different set of circumstances than last year, I still give thanks for what I have received, and I give thanks the endurance and strength to see my way through the challenges before me.

May this Thanksgiving season find you, beloved reader, in the most favorable of circumstances. And if not, may the Divine be with you day by day as your journey through what is before you. Selah!

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A different place where I also appear

I was doing some mental reminiscing, and got to thinking about a Facebook page I had set up some time back. And got to thinking that maybe I should see if the time is right for trying to revive it. It has been a depository for my blog posting from here. I had vision of it being more but those visions got lost in the large picture of life. I am taking some time now to see where I was a year ago, and how I got to be where I am now. And to start thinking about where I would like to be in the future. So I invite you to take a look at Enthyme Counseling. I just posted something fresh and new – that location only! See what you think! And then leave a comment if you would like. Shalom!

Trying to break through the fourth wall

Every once in a while I just want to interact with you, beloved and gentle readers. Most times I have commenting from behind/through the scripture for the day. While I may cover a small variety to topics, mostly it is related to scripture passages and my perspective on them through the lens of my faith beliefs. However as I have said on a few occasions, there is more to my life than just scripture. There is family and friends, work and leisure, reading and watching television – you get the idea. I am more than the words on this screen. And you, beloved and gentle readers, are more than the screens that you are reading this one. It is ironic than that it is only through our comparative screens that we can relate.

And it is only a one way connection – me talking to you. The irony is further compounded by the fact that recently I had to move off my Facebook profile, which is geared to me as a person,to the more regulated Facebook page that I have set up. Yes, the page that I had thought I would close down and then abruptly canceled its deletion. I still need to fine tune the settings to get the correct balance between transparency of intent and control of content. And no, Facebook tutorials have not been helpful.

Switching from one to the other reminds of the period of time and decision making I went through when I moved my blog from “A Simple Desire” to the current one “Pondering From the Pacific”. That was a decision that I mulled over for quite some time. It meant going from a high traffic situation and blog to a much more low traffic and smaller scale blog. I still check on the blog every once in a while. Yes, it is still active. I do not post on it anymore, but there are still people who visit it every day. In fact, irony upon irony, it sees more activity than the the blog that that I post one now! Oh well.

It would be nice to get feedback. When I was actively writing the blog “A Simple Desire” it accumulated an impressive amount of comments on the blog site itself. While “Pondering From the Pacific” was on my Facebook profile I would get comments occasionally. I have not gotten any comments yet on the Facebook page. I do not know for sure if interested readers could comment on my Facebook page. That is part of why I need to check the settings. I do know readers can post comments and feedback on my blog page. That does not happen much either. Like I said, communication is pretty much one way. I could wish it would be otherwise.

Some years back there was someone who commented quite regularly on my “A Simple Desire” blog. It got to the point where we were holding extensive conversations through the blog posts. I think we finally moved it to email. But things happened, and she stopped writing. I think she was going through some difficult times and she found me to be a good outlet for experiencing her feelings and processing her situation. But then things got awkward and she stopped writing. It was one of the very few times the “fourth wall” was broken through.

The term “fourth wall” comes from theater. The three walls are the back and two sides of the stage. The fourth wall, stage front, is the fourth wall that the audience can see through to the action. Breaking the fourth wall means the actor talks directly to the audience. But in my case it would mean that you, my reader are responding back to me in give and take. The “fourth wall” is that you can see and hear me, but I cannot see nor hear you. And I would like that. I freely admit that the idea of sending out my words and thoughts into cyberspace has great appeal. But at times if feels like a vacuum where there is no response or reaction back.

That was actually one of the reasons I started the Facebook page “Enthyme Counseling”, to set up an arena where people could post and respond back to me. It seemed as if the Facebook profile was just a factoid sheet about me. I was out there commenting on other people’s profiles/pages but it was again a one way street.

At the risk of bringing in faith issues and shutting down the conversation, it seems to me that our relationship with God (and the Divine) is a lot the same way. We pray up/out to God, but we don’t often get direct communication back. I guess heaven has a fourth wall too!

Well, this has just been my attempt to open up a dialogue. I will press “publish” and it will almost instantly appear on my blog and on my Facebook page. I would welcome and encourage you to send something back to me. Break down the wall and let’s talk! Shalom!

The Final Step – At The Source

“We wanted to update you about an upcoming change Facebook is introducing to their platform, and which affects how you may share posts from your website to your Facebook account.

Starting August 1, 2018, third-party tools can no longer share posts automatically to Facebook Profiles. This includes Publicize, the WordPress.​com tool that connects your site to major social media platforms (like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook).

Will this affect your ability to share content on Facebook? It depends. If you’ve connected a Facebook Profile to your site, then yes: Publicize will no longer be able to share your posts to Facebook. On the other hand, nothing will change if you keep a Facebook Page connected to your site — all your content should still appear directly on Facebook via Publicize. (Not sure what the difference is between a Page and a Profile? Here’s Facebook’s explanation.)”

I got the above message from WordPress.com today. Set me skittering to my Facebook PAGE to stop the delete process. I had some days back announced that I would be deleting my Facebook page because I was not using it much. Look up the meaning of the word “irony”.

It has always been my desire (no, not “A Simple Desire”) to have my writing published and/or publicized. And just because Facebook was changing did mean I was going to let this blog of mine lose its profile and presence! So I figured out (at least I think and hope I did) how to switch from these blogs being posted on my Facebook PROFILE to my Facebook PAGE. Time will tell if I am successful. If you have read two other announcement like this from me, I have been very successful! (Yeah me!) If I have not been successful (here comes more irony) you will never see this blog post at all. Wish me luck!

Sixth Sunday After Easter – The Gospel Passage: Before the praise & thanksgiving of tomorrow – but after I have given praise and thanks

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” (John 15:9)

I was hoping to gloss over the fact, but the first verse convicted me of being truthful – I forgot to do the Gospel passage Friday and instead wrote on the Psalm passage. I hurriedly changed the date that it posts so it is in correct order. But I needed to make this “confession” in order to explain why this verse touched me. The Psalm passage that you will read tomorrow is all about surviving a stressful time and that the psalmist felt the Lord’s presence. Well, this gospel passage is all about abiding in the love of Jesus Christ (that is, feeling Christ’s love) which is the same as being loved and protected by God.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (Verses 10 – 11)

It has become the pattern that I comment on the Psalm passage on Saturdays as a prelude to Sunday which is a traditional day of worship and Sabbath. Some faith traditions use Saturday as Sabbath, so I am covered there too.

I was so enthused and imbued with joy that I could enter into the praise and thanksgiving of the Psalm passage that I completely missed the fact that it was not the correct day for the Psalm passage. But when we abide in God’s love, such “errors” become a testament to the joy that comes from belief, and form love of and from the Divine.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (Verses 12 – 15)

I have to think of all the times that the ways of the Lord God and of Jesus Christ seem so mysterious. All the times when I have had to search for understanding about some passages. And I have to ask myself, was there ever a time when the gospel passages mystified me? If there was, was it because I did not understand, or because the gospel writer had cloaked the meaning and intent in a “mystery”, as the apostle Paul often talks about. Or, was there a time that the Divine spoke to me, and I was unsure of the meaning? I wonder that too. That leads me to wonder, is the writer of the gospel of John absolutely precisely accurate that Jesus told his disciples EVERYTHING that he heard from the Divine? Is that why it gets so confusing – that we make following the Divine confusing; because it is such a wondrous thing, is it too wondrous to be simple?

“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (Verse 16)

Or was it only the disciples that were so chosen, and therefore it is simple for them? This is not digression, beloved reader, but the confusion and tumultuous thinking that we, as humans, bring to faith. And to reading scripture. Because we get so involved in the theology and the praxis and the correct approach, faith symbols, icon, disciples, paraphrases and translations and, and . . . . and just all of that – that we forget . . . we forget it is very simple.

“I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (Verse 17)

And because it is THAT SIMPLE, we should praise and give thanksgiving! Selah!

Fifth Sunday After Easter – The Substituted Acts Passage: Seeing beyond your time

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.” (Acts 8:26 – 28)

If you consulted a biblical commentator, you would be told that Jews were spread over a large area and this court official was most likely a Jew or had converted to Judaism. And in his country he was quite important.

“Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading? He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.” (Verses 29 – 31)

Just because he was a Jew, however, does not mean he was learned in the Torah, the Talmud or the other holy scriptures that the Jews used. He professed Judaism but did not necessarily understand all the nuances. Even Jews in Israel and Judah had to study for decades. So it is not surprising that the Ethiopian longer for a teacher.

“Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” (Verses 32 – 34)

The Ethiopian asked a good question. Who is Isaiah talking about? It describes a man the writer of Isaiah says will do great things for the people. We can confidently assume that Isaiah was not talking about himself. Philip And we can guess that this prophetic passage is taken as referring to Jesus. At least that is how Philip explained it.

“Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.” (Verses 35 – 38)

This is one of several testimonies that the book of Acts contains; people coming to faith through the preaching of the disciples. It is interesting to me that the interpretation of this as a prophetic allusion to Jesus comes right within the New Testament as opposed to being applied by later generations. I sometimes become quite determined to maintain the authenticity of the Old Testament writers. In my younger years I was not quite so determined. I do not know what has changed within me. I suspect, however, it is a defense against what I write being used in ways I cannot foresee, and fearful that what I write may be misinterpreted. But I have to admit that is only brings honor and glory to the Old Testament writers and prophets that they were so “far seeing” in what they wrote. I cannot and will not claim that for myself.

“When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.” (Verses 38 – 40)

That Philip was “snatched” by the Spirit of the Lord lends great credence to his interpretation and will not go against it. In fact maybe it is time I lay down my determination to keep the writings of the Old Testament writers within the boundaries of the times they wrote in. I do not know what that means for how I perceive my own writings. Maybe there will be no change in my perception. I walk a fine line when I write – what is me and what is the Spirit. And I am loathe to blur that line. Although that line may already be blurred and I just don’t see it. I will have to ponder on this. Shalom!

Loosening Our Moorings; A reflection further down the path

In April of 2016 my father-in law passed away. It was a time of grieving and mourning in our family. At that time I wrote a post called “Loosening Our Moorings.” It summed up for me what that period of time was like. And it helped me in the grieving process. The reality is, time moves forward and we must move with it. And so we did.

I had a loss again today. I got word that my father passed away. I won’t go into the complexity of my family relations, but for valid reasons I will not be attending the memorial service when it is planned. But there is a large whole in my being, and I am feeling the emptiness. I am not sure I can find words to describe it. In trying to find the words, I remembered what I had written when my father-in-law passed. So I thought maybe some of those words might stand in for how I am feeling now.

I read through what I had written, and took out those words and sentiments that were specific from that previous period of time. And what I was left with was a strong statement of how I am feeling now. The loss, the emptiness, the wondering what comes next. It is very unusual for me not to be able to use words to say what I am feeling. I am very glad that I found words from the past that apply so aptly to my present. They comfort me, and remind me that time still moves forward, and that I will move with it. Sadder, and more alone, but moving forward.

If these words bring you comfort, I am glad beloved reader. But it is not for you that I post this; it is for myself.

But there is something about the passing of parents that loosens the moorings one had to the growing up years. Parents are the people who have known us through all the stages and phases. They are our connections to who we were, who we have become, and our inspiration for who we might be. Once those connections are gone, we are on our own. And we become the connections for our children – the link and reminder of who our children were, who they are now, and the model of who they might – or might not – become.

This, I am sure, is something that happens naturally to many families. But there is something significant when all other family is at a distance. Parents are the people who are always “there”, even when they are physically far away. Parents keep you moored and grounded in your past, and that is actually a pretty important and necessary thing. People might want to escape their past, or make new beginnings. However, despite what changes we make or where we go, we always carry a part of who we were with us. And if our past history has been a good one, and is filled with pleasant memories, it is a blessing and not a burden to be reminded of who we were through our parents. . . . the good memories continue, and in our memories they will live on. But the connection of physical being and presence is gone. And I think that is one of the things memorial services do. Recognize, mourn and grief that loosening. . . . at some point I will experience [loss] again when . . . my father [passes] away. I am not sure at all it is something I would look forward to – no, not at all. Though [my husband] has only met my father twice (family dynamics being what they are) there is a connection of sorts there to my “growing up” history. And there is the connection our children have to grandparents, and that is a vital one too. . . . But this time of grieving is a loosening of moorings for all of us.

While it is hard at any age, I think you can acclimate to this loss and loosening with more grace when you are older then when you are in your younger years. The sense of who you are “now” is greater, and the distance you have come from youth and childhood longer. So you have done more “moving forward.” Still it hurts.

At different stages of live our moorings to our past and present life loosen. The first overnight away from the family home, the first span of days away, starting school or going away to college – these are significant times when your connection to parents and home are stretched and loosened. We carry with us the memories we have made – for good or for bad – as to what our home life was like and what it was like to have our parents around us and being vitally involved in whatever we were doing. So the evolving and moving forward in life itself prepares us for these coming events. I know when my paternal grandmother passed when I was in college, I was not ready for that. And when my paternal grandfather passed when I was a younger mother, I was not quite ready for that either. When my maternal grandmother passed, I could take that in. But with parents/parents-in-law, it is like starting all over again in loss and loosening.

Even thought I will not physically be with family at the memorial service, I will be there in my thoughts and grieving. The memories of the years . . . are with me and overwhelm me. And each memory brings with it new feelings of loss, and loosening of moorings. [W]ho will I be when I am no longer daughter? Who will I be? What roles will I take up?

However, a loosening of moorings does not mean we are adrift. We are not lost or helpless. It means we must journey on and find new connections, new places to see and new people to meet. We journey from where we were to where we will be, carrying memories of family and friends as precious cargo that we can share. Just as I am sharing all of this with you, gentle reader.

I hope and pray, gentle reader, that in what ever loss you are going through you find comfort and stability. And that as you loosen mooring to places and people, you have the hopes and expectations for finding new people and experiences. And that all of those memories are precious cargo that you carry with you until you, yourself, are finally “home” and at eternal rest. Shalom!”