Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Illustrations from Jeremian and Lamentations

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. He cried for Israel who had turned away from God and for the punishment that was coming. He ministered for forty years. He delivered very pessimistic messages. A warning for the people to turn from sin and turn back to God. But the people hated the message, ignored Jeremiah’s warnings and punished him for it. He had death threats. He was attacked and persecuted. He saw his fellow prophets murdered and the people listening to false prophets proclaiming peace (Jeremiah 6:14b). No wonder he’s called the weeping prophet. There are many lessons and illustrations used in Jeremiah. I will discuss three of my favorites as well as a ray of hope among the severe messages.

First, God used the ruined linen belt to illustrate the uselessness of Israel. In Jeremiah 13:1-11, God asked Jeremiah to wear a linen belt and told him not to allow it to touch water. He then told Jeremiah to take the belt to a rock crevice and leave it. After many days, God told Jeremiah to retrieve the belt from the crevice and examine it. The belt had been ruined and completely useless from the elements. The Lord then says to Jeremiah, “In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follows the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt-completely useless” (verse 9-10). The illustration of the ruined linen belt shows that actions speak louder than words. Pride can make you useless to God because it can rot our hearts and leave no room for God’s work in us.

Second, the illustrations of the potter’s clay and the broken clay jar were used to demonstrate God’s power over Judah. In Jeremiah 18:1-17, God instructs Jeremiah to watch a potter as he molds the clay. When defects appeared on the clay, the potter had the power to fix the clay, mold it in order to repair the defect by reshaping the pot. “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as the potter does?” declares the Lord, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (verse 6). The broken clay jar in Jeremiah 19:1-12 is the illustration that God has the power to destroy the nation which doesn’t turn from their sins and like broken jar, it cannot be repaired. It is a warning to repent before God brings judgment. These illustrations remind me of the hymn, The Potter’s Hands, as the lyrics urge God to mold me, to guide me, lead me, to use me as I give myself to God’s hands. As we are clay in his hands, he will continue to work with us, mold us until he has finished with us (Philippians 1:6).

Third, the baskets of figs illustrate two types of people those God will preserve and those he’ll destroy. In Jeremiah 24:1-10, God shows Jeremiah two baskets of figs, one basket contained good figs and the other very poor figs. The good figs represent the people God will preserve by sending them into exile, saving from them the destruction of the land. He also promises to restore to the land (verses 5-7). They would be saved because their hearts would respond to God, not because they were good, sinless or perfect.  They were sent into exile because they still needed to be punished for their sins; however, God saw that their hearts were able to return to him. The very poor figs represents the people who would be destroyed or flee when the nation was conquered (verses 8-10). These people were arrogant to believe they were safe and blessed if they remained in the land or fled to Egypt, they would be destroyed by “the sword, famine, and plague” (verse 10). The baskets of figs also illustrates the adage of “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” Trouble or hard times can be a blessing as it helps us remain close to God. However, prosperity is a curse as it can entices us away from God. We need to be mindful of the good times to remain close to God, to use our prosperity for his glory and our troubles draw closer to him.

Despite the doom and gloom in Jeremiah’s messages, there is hope. In Lamentations 3, the theme is hope amongst affliction. Jeremiah reminds himself and us that God, with his great faithfulness, renews us every morning with a new chance to repent and turn to him (verse 21-23). Every morning is a new chance from God to follow him. God is the God of second chances and third chances and so on. We run out of chances when there is no longer breath in our bodies. Verses 25-26 tells us that “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” I think is where the adage “good things comes to those who wait” originated. God’s timing is always perfect and even though our hearts may burn with desire for whatever we are wishing for, God will bring us this desire when the time is right. It may be days, weeks, months or even years, God’s timing is always perfect (Ecclesiastes 3:11). For every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17).

In conclusion, for forty years, Jeremiah warned the people of Israel and Judah that if they did not repent and turn to God, judgment would be brought upon them. Many people mocked him, ignored him and even tried to kill him. Some were destroyed when the nation was conquered. However, some were saved. They were taken into exile, to be refined and eventually returned to their land. The lesson for us is to heed the warnings and repent. In time of trouble, we may be in exile, being refined and waiting to be returned to prosperity. As Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:40-42a, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven and say: ‘we have sinned and rebelled” Amen. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The complex causes of the Civil War

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861 with shots fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina and the beginning of the end with General Robert E Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses S Grant on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Courthouse in northern Virginia. The last official battle was in Palmito Ranch, Texas on May 13, 1865. Approximately 620,000 soldiers (although some studies put the number as high as 850,000) died from combat, accidents, starvation and disease. The Civil War is one of the bloodiest conflicts on American soil. Many people will say the cause of the Civil War was slavery and that is true and isn’t true. The causes of the Civil War are more complicated and still very much debated then simply the slavery. In no particular order, the causes of the Civil War can be seen in the struggle over states’ rights, the abolitionist movement, the economics and political power of the slavery system and the expansion or limitation of slavery into new territories.

First, the Southern states were asserting states’ rights over slavery. The Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The states’ rights struggle is between the federal government and individual states over political power (a struggle which can still be seen today). The struggle between the Southern States and the federal government began with the Tariff of Abominations on May 19, 1828. The tariff was designed to protect northern industry at the cost of the southern economy. The outcry from the Southern states nearly started a civil war with the threat of secession. So the debate of states’ rights began to hear up hotter than before in the decades leading to the 1850s. By the 1850s, tempers began to boil faster. In the case of the Civil War, the struggle of states’ rights was the question if the federal government had the right to regulate or even abolish slavery with an individual state. The Southern States said no, the Northern states and the federal government said yes.

Second, the abolitionist movement was a huge force behind the events leading to the Civil War. The first outcry over slavery was from the Mennonites and Quakers in 1688. It can gained momentum in Vermont in 1777 and successfully lobbied the new United States government to ban the importation of new slaves in 1808. The movement then looked to end slavery completely in the United States. As the North slowly did away with slavery due to the influx of Irish and German immigrants, by the early 1830s, the movement grew more and more influential. With the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the law states that a runaway slave from one state was a fugitive in another regardless if it was a slave or free state, helped the movement. Soon the Underground Railroad begins to form. The railroad was a series of safe houses which fugitive slaves used to reach freedom. The movement was further fueled by the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (newspaper series in 1851, book format in 1852. The book depicted the evils of slavery and offered a view many citizens in the country hadn’t thought before.

Third, the economics and political power of the slavery system was the most powerful cause to fuel the Southern states’ insistence on the continuation of slavery. The Southern states were largely agricultural and slavery helped keep the production going. The practice seemed to diminish and seemly on its way out when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin (1794) and the need for slaves exploded as cotton got easier to harvest (American Civil War magazine September 2010). The Southern states became very wealthy and very powerful with the expansion of slavery. When the Republican Party formed in 1854, the party gained prominence as members were strongly opposed to the westward expansion of slavery. As well as California being admitted to the union as a free state in 1850, the political power had shifted to the North and the abolitionist movement. The final fuel to the fire was the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln without a single Southern electoral vote. It was proof to the Southerners that their political influence was waning. Feeling excluded from the political system, the Southern states believed that secession was their only option. This decision would be the final act which would led to war.

Lastly, the fight over the expansion of slavery in new territories. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 restricted slavery in new U.S. territories. In 1819, Missouri requested admission to the union as a slave state which threatened to upset the balance between free and slave states. Congress passed the compromise allowing Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. It also passed an amendment that drew an imaginary line across the former Louisiana Territory establishing a boundary between free and slave states. Slavery could not be permitted in states north of this line thus being allowed in states below this line. It remained law until it was negated by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which contained the popular sovereignty clause which the residents of the territory would decide if they wanted to be a free or slave state, further divided the country. It would lead to the eruption of violence known as Bleeding Kansas, John Brown and his gang and their trial of massacres and murders. John Brown attacked pro-slavery settlers and later would lead an attack on the arsenal in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on October 16, 1859. 

In conclusion, the events which led up to the beginning of the Civil War helps see why the causes are still debated 156 years later. James McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, believes the ultimate cause of the Civil War was due to “uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery” in new territories. In essence, the argument over states’ rights is at the root of the Civil War. According to an article in the American Civil War magazine (September 2010), the origins of the Civil War began 250 years earlier when the first ship of slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Essentially, both claims are true and yet doesn’t paint the whole picture. Slavery was interwoven into every aspect of every event leading to the Civil War. Therefore, whatever cause you may point to, one thing is certain, the Civil War was most likely inevitable. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Only Child: when the monster is real

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper is the story of Dr. Lily Dominick, a forensic psychiatric, who is used to hearing bizarre and outrageous claims from patients. She was orphaned at six when her mother was killed by, what authorities would call, a bear. Until one day she receives a case with no name. He is a man who assaulted another man because he needed to talk with her. He has a gift for her. He claims he is over 200 years old, he’s not human and her father. Soon strange events lead her to suddenly go to Eastern Europe and track now this man’s history. The more she learns, the more his story seems unbelievable. He claims to be the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Creature from Frankenstein, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Lily soon finds herself in a race against time and against others who want to see this man destroyed. Is he really who he says he is? Will Lily finally learn the truth about her mother’s death? Will she be able to escape this real life monster?

The Only Child reminded me of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian with more intensity and action. From the opening word to the closing chapter, The Only Child is a fast paced drama which intertwines the stories of classic gothic novels. Without giving too much away, I loved how Mr. Pyper was able to weave the novels into this story. I feel it is an interesting twist and modern look into these classic characters. As I do with every book I read, after finishing this book, I read a few reviews and some of the other reviewers didn’t like it. The main complaint was it wasn’t scary. True, it wasn’t. It was more of an intense horror than scary horror. But to be fair, in my opinion, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, were not scary either. I think it is also unfair to view The Only Child in comparison with these classics. Bottom line, I enjoyed this novel. I was able to finish it in two days, not that it was a fast read but shows that I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good monster story. It will have you wondering who the real monster is.

The Only Child
is available on Amazon
in hardcover and on the Kindle
as well as
at Barnes and Noble

in hardcover and on the Nook

Monday, May 22, 2017

More than Words: family values in action rather than speech

More than Words 10 Values for the Modern Family by Erin Wathen is an evaluation of family values. According to Ms. Wathen, the purpose of the book is to find common ground between progressive and conservative Christians. Ms. Wathen is the senior pastor at the St. Andrew Christian Church in Kansas City as she uses her experience and observations to illustrate the values she feels are the most important as expression of love. Values such as compassion, joy, justice, and forgiveness. Each chapter features one particular value which people can practice in their home and in the community as well as questions at the end of each chapter to help the readers further put the value into action in their lives.

My first impression of More than Words was disagreement. I disagreed with many of Ms. Wathen’s illustrations as to why these values need to be practiced to our lives. I agree with the values that she is discussing and she had some excellent points. Despite the fact that I disagreed with her illustrations, I enjoyed her openness to discuss topics that many people would shy away from such as our approach as Christians to the LGBTQ community. I particularly liked her statement that marriage is an art, not a science. There is no formula for a great marriage, it is a piece of art which is worked and retouched as time goes by. I also liked that she said the old adage “don’t go to bed angry” isn’t good advice. I’ve found that sleep will often give you a new perspective in the morning and you are better able to talk calmly. I have other examples; however, I am recommending it for those who are open to a different point of view or if you would like to know what are the other viewpoints.

More than Words
is available on Amazon

in paperback and on the Kindle

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The different types of love in our lives

If I were to ask you what love is, what kind of answer would you give me? Most of you would probably give me a definition which would feature a romantic sense of love. Even when someone says “I love you,” many will think of romantic love. Did you know there are different types of love? Love is defined as a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties. The Ancient Greeks had four words for love. Each type of love focuses on a different part of the part and focuses on different aspects of our life.

First, Eros is erotic love, named for the Greek god of love and fertility, Eros. The Modern Greek word is erotas which is intimate love. It represents sexual passion and desire which focuses on the physical body. The Ancient Greeks considered eros to be dangerous and frightening because it meant a loss of control through the need to procreate. It is the primal and powerful fire that burns quickly. It needs to be fanned by one of the deeper forms of love in order to continue. Eros is not wrong, in fact, it’s an important part of life and a marriage. Eros was designed by God for marriage. The Bible is filled with examples. Genesis 2:24 states that a husband and wife shall “become one flesh,” that the intimacy of sex unites or bonds a man and a woman together. Eros or sexual desire should not be taken lightly. Even though it is the most basic idea of love, it is a vital aspect of a long lasting marriage.

Second, Philia is affectionate love or friendship. The Ancient Greeks valued philia far above eros because it was considered a love between friends, between equals. Being free from the intensity of sexual attraction, philia is about feelings of loyalty, camaraderie and a sense of sacrifice. It is also a general type of love for family, friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity or even between lovers. The focus here is on the mind. Philia is one of the four types of love to be specifically mentioned in the Bible. Romans 12:10 says “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Brotherly love is philadelphia (philia meaning love and adelphos meaning brother). This is why Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is known as the City of Brotherly Love. First Peter 3:8 says “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” God calls us to love each other as brothers with affection and friendship.

Third, Storge is kinship or family love. It is a common or natural empathy. It is almost exclusively used as a descriptor for relationships within the family. It is known for the expression of mere acceptance or putting up with situation because it is family. It can also refer to the love or affection for childhood friendships which have lasted into adulthood. It can refer to the love of one’s country. The focus here is on memories or a common thread. Family is a vital part of our lives. It is the first place we learn how to love and be loved. Or it may be the place we learn what love is not. There are many examples in the Bible of the love of family. Family was an important part of worship in the Hebrew communities. Deuteronomy 12:12, 18 tells everyone in the household to worship or rejoice before God. God commanded everyone in the household down the servants to worship.

Lastly, Agape, selfless love, is the highest, purest and most radical love. It is a selfless unconditional love with boundless compassion and infinite empathy. It is a deeper love that some ancient writers used to indicate the love of a spouse to separate from the other types of love. It is a love that accepts, forgives and behaviors for our greater good. The focus here is on the soul. It has been described as love of God for man and of man for God. The best verse to describe agape is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Christian writer, C.S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves, writes that agape is the highest level of love known. It is a selfless love, a love that is passionately committed to the well-being of the other.

In conclusion, we are called to love. However, when most people like of love, they think of romantic love. There is so much more to love than just romance. Love based on friendship and affection. Love based on memories and connections. Love based on the desire to sacrifice yourself for the needs of anyone. To sacrifice yourself isn’t always to die for someone, it can be to simply put aside your wants and desires because someone needs something more. The image of a mother eating very little so her family can have a feast. Or the husband who sells his prized pocket watch so his wife can pretty combs for her hair. Can you recognize the various types of love in your life? I bet they’re there.

Since my husband and I are attending the U2 concert tonight
I will leave you with one of their popular songs
Love Rescue Me

Everyone have a beautiful day!!!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Perennials: the summer when childhood must end

Perennials by Mandy Berman is the coming of age story of two friends. Rachel Rivkin is a teenager from the mean streets of the city and Fiona Larkin is from suburbia. The two friends spend every summer together at Camp Marigold, the idyllic sleeping away camp where they forget they are from very different worlds. Until one summer when they return, as counselors, fresh from their freshman year at college. This summer is very different and Rachel and Fiona learn there may be some differences you cannot ignore. Suddenly when tragedy strikes while at camp, the two friends must decide if they will come together with support or allow the events of the summer to drive them further apart.

Perennials is a story about the point where childhood ends and adulthood begins with the event that opens their eyes to the cruel world. It is a story about one last summer of childhood innocence before the real world interferes. I really, really wanted to love this book. I usually love coming of age stories where the door on childhood must finally close. However, I felt Perennials had a great start and then there were so many characters to keep track of and side stories that I felt didn’t add to the main story of Rachel and Fiona. The tragic event in the story was a bit of a letdown for me. While the tragic event is sad, the build up to the discovery of this event, I think could have been better for more of an emotional impact. Despite my issues with the story, I feel that this book would be a good book for young adults and maybe even adults were remember summers away at camp.

is available on Amazon

in hardcover and on the Kindle

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Witchfinder's Sister: a story of a forgotten piece of history

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown is the story about the infamous Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. The story is told from the perspective of his sister, Alice, who returns home after the sudden and tragic death of her husband. She quickly becomes suspicious of her brother’s business dealings and learns of the horrifying deeds he’s doing in the name of God. When local village women are accused of witchcraft, Alice doesn’t believe it and tries to persuade him to stop. But Matthew is insistent, specifically using a verse from Exodus that witches must die. She begins to work in secret to stop him. She begins to look into the family’s past, only to find horrifying secrets. When she confronts Matthew with what she has discovered, Matthew locks her away. Will Matthew stop his witch hunting? Will Alice be able to escape her brother’s hold?

The Witchfinder’s Sister is a fictionalized story of a terrifying figure in history. Very little is known about Matthew Hopkins’s past or family. However, his witch hunting is well documented and he is credited with killing over 300 women during 1644-1646. He is solely responsible for the increased number of witch trials in the area. He even wrote a book, The Discovery of Witches (1647) which helped influence the Salem Witch Trials (1692-1693). The story of The Witchfinder’s Sister is a look into possible influences to Matthew Hopkins’ obsession with witches and his drive to rid society of them. It is an interesting take on a man which history seems to have forgotten. A man who had done so much damage. I recommend The Witchfinder’s Sister. The story will intrigue you and you will not be able to put it down.

The Witchfinder’s Sister
is available on Amazon

in hardcover and on the Kindle

Sunday, May 14, 2017

To those for whom Mother's Day is a difficult day

Today is Mother’s Day, a day to celebrate the woman who has been the most influential in our lives. While many people of happily buying gifts and mushy cards for their moms, there are a great deal more who feel the weight of today. This post is for them. This is for the women who must hide their pain as they watch everyone’s joy and celebration. I feel your pain. I know your pain. You are not alone. I see you and you are in my prayers. Many people think that becoming a mother and even being a mother is something that just happens. I know the heartache and the struggles that some don’t think about.  

To the mothers who struggle with pregnancy loss: I know this day can be the hardest. And I know that nothing I say can ease your pain. It doesn’t matter if you have a child or you don’t, any loss of a child makes this day is a reminder that all of your children are not here. While the thought may be in your head all year around, this day can bring the thought to the forefront more often, I know. It’s okay to be sad and grieve for the child or children who aren’t here to celebrate you as their mom. I pray that the Lord draw you closer today and may you feel the love of the day. Because you are a mother. Your child may not have drawn breathe or lived to see this day; however, you still held them under your heart or in your arms for their time on earth. You still had hopes and dreams for life with this child. It’s okay to cry. If I could, I would hug each one of you and cry along with you.

To the mothers who may not have their children due to circumstances beyond their control: I can’t begin to understand the sorrow you feel with this day. Not all moms don’t have custody of their children because they did something wrong. Sometimes it’s just in the best interest of the child. At the time you may the best decision you could. To know that your child(ren) are out there somewhere and not with you. I wish I had words of wisdom for you, for comfort, for strength. I can only pray that the Lord gives you the comfort that your children are safe and loved. They miss you and think of you often. And may one day they will be with you again. I know there is no getting back the days or years without your children and the hope of seeing them again one day may be of little comfort, I hope you find it in your heart and mind to understand that you did nothing wrong. You were trying to be the best mother to your children. Unfortunately, this cold, cruel world was against you.  

To the individuals who mothers are no longer here: the loss of a parent is one of the hardest goodbye we will face in life, especially a mother. When your mother is a strong positive influence and force in your life, her absence can be felt the deepest on Mother’s Day. When your mom was your confidant and a source of comfort and advice and everything a mother should be, Mother’s Day makes her loss an even deeper hole in your life. Remember your mom with fondness, remember the good days and happy times. “When you speak of her, speak not with tears, for thoughts of her should not be sad. Let memories of the times you shared give you comfort, for her life was rich because of you” (author unknown). May the memories of your mom bring joy and laughter through your tears for our mom never truly leave us. Their love leaves a deep impression on our hearts.

To the individuals who may not have the greatest relationship with their mother: this day can be hard too. The greeting cards gush with love over a mom’s love, a mom’s care and influence. Cards thanking moms for being the reason you are such a great person today. However, this may not be a positive thing. I know many people who are great people despite their mother’s treatment of them growing up. When your mother isn’t a positive influence in your life, it makes the meaning of Mother’s Day very hard. I know people whose mothers act and believe that their children are here to serve them throughout their lives and never really see them for the adults they are today. The wound is deep when it’s your mom who doesn’t see you as a strong, successful person, living life and taking care of things as successful adults do. Nothing you do may be good enough for her, but you can be proud of your accomplishments.

In closing, I want to leave you with words of comfort. When Mother’s Day is a day mixed with sadness among the joy and celebration. To the mothers of loss and those who have lost their moms, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal” (from a Headstone in Ireland). To the mothers whose children cannot be with them, may you feel your child’s love across the miles. To the individuals with not so good relationships with their moms, I know it’s hard when the woman who is supposed to love you doesn’t act like it. To everyone who hurts on Mother’s Day, Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” May you feel the Lord’s comfort today and always. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

What does it mean to fear the Lord?

What does it mean to fear the Lord? The Bible uses the word fear at least 300 times in reference to God. But we are told God is love, so how do we fear and love God at the same time. How do we deal with this seemingly contradiction? While the Bible is filled with examples that fearing the Lord is a positive, rather than a negative, thing. In Genesis 42:18, Joseph wins his brother’s trust when he declares he is a God-fearing man. I think we need to look at the Hebrew word for fear, yirah, and discover what it means in the context of our relationship with God. According to Jewish tradition, there are three levels of fear.

First, yirat ha’onesh is the fear of unpleasant consequences or punishment. This fear is usually what we think of when we read to fear God. It is the anticipation of pain if we do something wring, therefore, we try to run from it. This is also the type of fear we could have when we think of what others might think of us if we do or don’t do an act. For example, as kids, if we think about stealing from the store, a child might think of what his or her friends might think when they hear he or she stole. That same child might think of what his or her parents might think when they discover their child has stolen something. Which opinion will win out if that child would steal and would it be enough to keep the child from stealing? If the child anticipates pain from punishment from the parents, he or she might think twice.

Second, yirat malkhut is the anxiety caused by breaking God’s law. It is the fear that motivates us to do good because we fear God’s punishment in life or in the afterlife. The Bible tells us that God is our judge for every deed we’ve ever done. First Corinthians 3:13 says “his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” Second Corinthians 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” This is the fear is the due to self-preservation to avoid God’s rightful wrath. This fear is the basis of good deeds get rewarded while bad deeds get punished.

Third, yirat ha-rommemnut is the most important and highest form of fear. It is a profound reverence for life that comes from rightly seeing the presence of God in all things. It is the Awe of the Exalted. We behold God’s glory and majesty in all things and we are elevated to a level of reverent awareness and genuine communion with God’s Holy Spirit.  It is the love of God which creates a loathing for all evil. Proverbs 8:13 says “to fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Therefore, the more a person fears and respects God, the more he or she will hate evil. In John 3:20-21 Jesus says “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

You may be asking “ok, so do I fear the Lord or do I love him?” Both. According to the Chofetz Chaim, a book of Jewish ethics by Rabbi Yirsael Meir Kagan, the fear of God’s punishment may deter you from sin in the short term but by itself is insufficient for a full and meaningful spiritual life. We need to completely see God as the bringer of justice as well as the compassionate savior. We must fear the Lord as our Judge and be in awe of him as our redeemer. You may think it sounds like a contradiction. But think of your parents. You may fear punishment from your parents for whatever you may have done wrong and yet you look to them as a source of love and comfort. So why is it wrong to see God that same way? Why does he have to be one or the other? We need to draw close to God while regarding him with exalted reverence.

In conclusion, we need all levels of yirah in our hearts and our lives. We all have fallen short of the Glory of God. Our sin keeps us separate from God. However, though the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we can be reconciled with him. Through Jesus, we can come to God as we would a loving parent, fearing the consequences of our sin and yet feeling the love of his forgiveness. The judgment and our punishment of our sin was made at the cross and now we can be declared righteous by faith. Therefore, it is the combination of fear and love that leads us to the place of genuine awe and complete communion with God.


The Awe of The Lord further thoughts on Parashat Eikev by John J Parsons http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Eikev/Yirah/yirah.html

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two new titles in the wonderful If you were me and lived in... series

Today I have two new children’s books from Carole P. Roman. First, If you were me and lived in…the Mayan Empire where this ancient society and culture from the Yucatan Peninsula is explored. In this book, Ms. Roman discusses daily life and rituals, the foods the Mayans cultivated and ate as well as the structure of the classes and the jobs everyone had. There is even a section which discusses that the lasting contributions to the world that the Mayans left behind. Such as the concept of zero in mathematics and their calendar.

Second, If you were me and lived in…Germany is an exploration of the European nation. The sights and sounds of the capital and largest city, Berlin. The foods which are common in German households and the famous festivals such as Oktoberfest. Readers will learn about the beautiful castle which are located in Germany, even the castle which inspired Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland. 

I enjoyed learning about the Mayan Empire which was instrumental to life as we know it today. I also enjoyed getting to know life in the beautiful country of Germany. These books will teach children about life in the past and life in a present country. They will realize that people may live in different countries but they may like and enjoy the same things they do. Both books are excellent additions to the If you were me and lived in… series. I highly recommend both books and the other books in the series to any family and classroom library.

If you were me and lived in...The Mayan Empire
If you were me and lived in...Germany
are available on Amazon 
in paperback and on the Kindle

Monday, May 8, 2017

The American Dream: origins and current thoughts on its possibility

Oh, the American Dream! The idea which has brought millions to the shores of this beautiful country. It is said to be a national value system of the United States which is a set of ideas for the freedom for the opportunity for prosperity and success. It is the upward social mobility for yourself and your children. It is the idea that all this could be achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. The American Dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence as it states “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What are the origins of the American Dream? What has changed? Is it really achievable today? Is it a dead dream? As I researched this topic, I realized what the American Dream means to me.

The term “American Dream” was first used by James Truslow Adams in his book, Epic of America (1931). He wrote “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. In the 19th century, the idea that the United States was the place that wealth and prosperity wasn’t just for the landed gentry but for poorest citizens to achieve as well fueled the American Dream. With the gold rush of 1849, the California Dream of instant success also helped fuel the American Dream. In the 20th century, the American Dream became a dream of social order in which every person can be able to live up to his or her potential in which a house, cars, and wealth can be available to anyone willing to work hard for them. The American Dream has even be a central theme in American literature. For example, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain, My Antonia (1918) by Willa Cather and The Great Gatsby (1925), which satirized the materialism of the American Dream, to name a few. Even in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman features the American Dream as a fruitless pursuit.

In a 2013 YouGov poll, 41% of respondents believed it was impossible for most to achieve the American Dream while 38% believe it was still possible for all to achieve the American Dream and 21% were unsure. Even when factored for race and gender, the majority still believed the Dream was possible. When factored for political affiliation, majority of Republicans believed the dream was still possible (55%) while the majority of Democrats believed the Dream was not possible (53%). With the majority of Americans believing the Dream was still possible, is the dream really dead? Most Americans believe the key to the American Dream is a college education. However, with the growing student loan debt crisis and shortages of entry level jobs for new graduates, the idea that a college education is the key is being undermined (Barlett & Steele, 2012). Homeownership is seen as another indicator of the American Dream. A status symbol separating the middle classes and the poor. However, with the push for homeownership as a symbol of success, many people will go broke in order to have the nice house like everyone else. According to author Mark Manson, “the sad truth is that fewer people today are getting ahead than before” despite their hard work or education. To further point that that a college education may be worth the cost. Mr. Manson believes that we have returned to “the feudal order where you’re born into your privilege (or lack thereof) and forced to just hope things don’t get any worse” (Manson, 2016). Economic mobility is lower in the US than in almost every other developed country.

You may ask what the point is. Is the American Dream dead or not? The idea of the American Dream has led to the belief system that hard work equals success and deserving great things while laziness equals failure and deserving nothing. This is similar to the Just World Hypothesis. That good things happen to good people; however bad things can happen to good people too. It’s just the world we live in. We don’t always get what we deserve: good or bad. The American Dream has led many to believe that they are only worth something based on what they achieved. Sound familiar? How many of us have heard someone brag that they got the latest and greatest gadget or purse or whatever status symbol may be in the style at the moment? How many of us have done the bragging as if it makes us better than the one who doesn’t have it yet? Is it really worth it to break the bank to have a certain gadget when you can’t feed yourself or have a decent roof over your head or a reliable car? It isn’t to me.

Researching this topic had me thinking about my American Dream. What do I wish to accomplish and is it because I want it or because society has led me to think I want it? When I was a teenager and later a young adult, I was dreamed of becoming a wife to a loving husband and a mother. And I accomplished that. I have a wonderful husband who is my whole world.  I cannot imagine life without him. While my road to motherhood has been rocky, I have been blessed with an amazing daughter. While I would love to have a career where I could make a difference in the world, I realize that that career may be different than the one I envisioned. My husband and I would like to buy our dream house one day and one day will come but it comes on our terms, in God’s timing. And not because society, family and friends try to tell us we are failures unless we are homeowners. I have family and friends who are homeowners and a few of them have honestly told us to take our time and buy a house we really want to live in because owning a house is a lot of work.

In conclusion, I believe the American Dream is deeply personal to each individual. Their motivation for what they want in life is found within them, not a collective dream we’re all supposed to have and work for. My American Dream is to live in relative peace. I want to cherish every moment I have with my husband and daughter. I want to treasure the time I am given with family and friends. I want to make a difference in my community, my country and my world if I can. I’m not interested in what others many think about what clothes I wear or don’t wear. I don’t care if you think my car isn’t new enough or if my phone is considered outdated. If it still works, I still use it. What is your American Dream?

Bartlett, Donald L. & Steele, James B (2012): The Betrayal of the American Dream, Public           Affairs, pp. 125-1296.

Manson, Mark (2016): The American Dream is Killing Us, www.markmanson.net, date retrieved May 6, 2017

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Say My Name: when the right love heals the pain and brightens the future

Say My Name by Tricia Best is a love story in which two people are deeply flawed and together they find healing and a future. Taylor Jenson is reeling from her breakup with her boyfriend, Ryan. He cheated on her with numerous women including her best friend. She is also conflicted about her choice of career. She chooses business to please her father but her real passion is music. She spends the summer before university with her half-sister, Kimi where she heals from her heartbreak and tries to find the motivation for her chosen career.  There she meets Isaiah Butler, who works at the local market. Instantly there is a connection with the two but there is also a barrier. As Taylor tries to understand and come to terms with why her boyfriend would cheat, Isaiah can’t seem to stay away from Taylor despite not telling her his deepest, darkest secret. When he finally reveals his secret, Taylor runs and attends university having no contact with Isaiah for months. When they see each other again, will the connection still be there? Will they be able to understand the past pain in each other which effects their present? Will they be able to help each deal with their personal demons?

The book opens with this dedication “To those who had their sexuality hijacked and are fighting to get it back.” When I read the description of this book and this dedication, I wasn’t sure what kind of story it would be. There are so many ways this story could have gone. The story was not what I expected in a good way. By the story’s end, I understood what Ms. Best meant and applaud her for a great story. Say My Name is filled with drama and emotional, heart wrenching scenes. The sex scenes with instantly beautiful and, to me, can only be between two truly in love. I loved the flaws of Taylor and Isaiah. They were real and dealt with realistically. I love how Ms. Best presents their demons as never really going away, we just learn how to deal with them when they chose to rear their ugly heads. I highly recommend Say My Name!

Say My Name

is available on Amazon on the Kindle

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Force Awakens v A New Hope: are the movies really identical?

After The Force Awakens was released in December 2015, many fans began to immediately compare it to A New Hope. The main complaint was that The Force Awakens is identical to A New Hope. With today being May 4th, I decided to do a comparison and contrast between the two movies to see how much the two movies are alike and different. Since I have seen both movies so many times and I didn’t have time to watch the movies over again before writing this post, many of the points I will bring up are from my memory. So please forgive me if I miss points that you may think need to be included. Thank you.

First, both movies have a special droid who is carrying information that both sides desperately wants. In A New Hope, R2-D2 is carrying the Death Star plans and in The Force Awakens, BB-8 has the missing piece of a map which leads to the missing Luke Skywalker. Second, the droids end up on a desert planet where we met our heroes. R2-D2 and C-3PO end up on Tatooine where they encounter Luke Skywalker and BB-8 is left on Jakku where he is rescued by Rey. Third, both Luke and Rey are skilled pilots when they are first introduced. Fourth, the main villain is a black robed, masked man. Darth Vader, of course, is the iconic villain. He was number 3 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains in 2003 (behind Hannibal and Norman Bates). In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren is a blacked robed, masked man who is trying to emulate his grandfather, Darth Vader. Although, honestly, Kylo Ren is only menacing when his mask was on. Once he took it off, he wasn’t scary anymore he was emo.

Another similarity is how the mentor was killed in each movie. In A New Hope, Luke’s mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is killed in a duel with Darth Vader. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo is killed by his son, Kylo Ren. I hesitate to called Han Solo Rey’s mentor because she viewed him more as a hero. She recognized him as the famous smuggler and not as the Rebel general like Finn did. Either way, the deaths propel the heroes on their life changing journeys. However, this plot point isn’t new. It’s a part of the Hero’s Journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949).  One last similarity is the presence of an ultimate weapon. In A New Hope, the Death Star was the newly operational weapon of the Empire in order to control the many star systems. In The Force Awakens, Starkiller Base is a mobile planet which has been equipped with a superweapon which is capable of destroying star systems from across the galaxy.

The first difference in the movies is in the main characters. After the deaths of his aunt and uncle, Luke leaves Tatooine to join the Rebel Alliance and to become a Jedi like his father. From the very beginning, Luke expresses his desire to leave Tatooine and with the death of the only family he has ever known, there is nothing there to hold him. In The Force Awakens, Rey flees Jakku only to take BB-8 to the Resistance’s hidden base. She fully intends to return to Jakku as she is waiting for her family to return for her. She doesn’t return as she decides to seek out Luke Skywalker now that the map is complete. Second, Luke has no Force vision in A New Hope and Rey has one in The Force Awakens. Luke’s lightsaber calls to her from the depths of Maz Kanata’s castle.

Another difference is in A New Hope, Leia is captured and rescued by Luke, Han and Chewbacca. In The Force Awakens, Rey is captured and is “rescued” by Finn, Han and Chewbacca. I use quotations because Rey is able to escape her restraints, secure a weapon and is trying to find a way off the base when she runs into her rescuers. Lastly, in A New Hope, the Emperor is only mentioned by name and isn’t seen until a hologram in The Empire Strikes Back and physically in Return of the Jedi. However, in The Force Awakens, Supreme Leader Snoke is seen by hologram throughout the movie. A slight difference sure; however, the leader who is pulling the main villain’s strings is more mysterious and menacing when he has influence and power when only his name is enough to strike fear in everyone else.

In conclusion, I do not see The Force Awakens as a copy of A New Hope. I see many of the similarities as homage to the original film which has captured our imaginations and hearts for forty years. I also see the similarities as history repeating itself because the citizens of this galaxy far, far away haven’t learned from the past. Just like humans of Earth do not learn from history and bring up old ideas as new. The Force Awakens is a great addition to the Star Wars universe and I look forward to The Last Jedi when it is released in December 2017. However, there are the hard core fans who love the original trilogy so much that any future Star Wars film will be compared, analyzed and probably found wanting.