Sunday, December 31, 2006

Remembering Ford

The news in my area is dominated by the remembrances of former Pres. Gerald Ford. I knew very little about his administration when it happened, being very young at the time, but I never heard anything bad about the guy really. A biography special seemed to confirm what little I *had* noticed- that he was genuinely patriotic, a stalwart friend to those fortunate enough to have gained it, modest in his ambassadorial dealings after his administration ended, and slow to criticize others. I am sure he wasn't perfect. No one in this life is perfect. I can say, however, that he always made a good impression on me. I am glad he had one last Christmas with his family. I am glad that the New Year's celebrations here and in D.C. have been altered to instead honor the life of an honorable man.

God bless.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Santa Penguin returns!

Heelloooo! :D

Our Christmas site has been completely reworked and is ready for visitors!

Please feel free to drop by and read the new story & see the new digital cards

an extra large version of the new card my daughter made is available by clicking the picture below

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Susan :D

Monday, December 11, 2006

Seasonality :D

Tis the part of the season when I dust off ye olde Christmas Links and find out what still works.

You can still read a wonderful devotional each day at Following the

or arrange a simple nativity scene here

or even listen to a few Christmas carols online

& now its time for a little mindless fun. buahahaha!

Our two day cold snap has already gone but a few snow-covered games can restore the wintry spirit well enough ;)

You can shake up a snowglobe

see some neat interactive seasonal cards

or play with peennggguuiinnsss.......

Miniclip Games - Penguin Push
Penguin Push

Push all the ice blocks into the yellow holes.

Play this free game now!!
or do some snowball stacking. You'll want some hot cocoa after this

Miniclip Games - Snowman Stacker
Snowman Stacker

Toss and stack snowballs to make the tallest snowman.

Play this free game now!!
This one was almost too simple to list. The more you click the more pressies appear.

(I just like the fact I managed to get 39 clickies in the time limit :)

Miniclip Games - Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

Get loads of presents.

Play this free game now!!
In this one you knock the penguins back in their pool

Miniclip Games - Penguin Arcade
Penguin Arcade

Keep as many penguins as possible from escaping their pool!

Play this free game now!!
[We had very good news about our relative today! Yay!!!!!!! :-D]

Friday, December 08, 2006

Celebrating Emmanuel

Its beginning to look (and sound) a lot like Christmas at my house - probably at yours too :-D

We're finishing up the retooling of our SantaPenguin Christmas site. I'll announce here when it is up. That's the family 'we' - as Rebecca is doing most of the web design this time. All I've done -so far- is look up a few things and a bit of writing. My Mom has done a few new sketches for it. Anyway, Its looking great & we are very much looking forward to sharing it with you. :-D

We're a little distracted at the moment. A near relation has taken ill suddenly & just had emergency surgery. Praise God the procedure seems to have been a total success! We still await word on when we can come visit her in the hospital. Whenever we are called, this will take precedence over our other activities for a bit. But as we haven't been alerted yet, we've actually just been busy with the usual holiday fun.

Its amazing how much time it takes to complete all the little details that make our traditional family Christmas what it is. Makes December fly past like a fuel-injected rabbit! We don't do anything spectacular- but all those cards, small packets, baking plans, holiday 'emergencies' (I was SURE we had more brown sugar), getting the Christmas (& hubby 's bday) presents together, our site etc -swallow whole days at a gulp. Without a little effort the Earthly events and trappings could overshadow the spirit of Advent.

Got inspired by Sarah's blog to think about what my focus is at Christmas. She made some good points, about how all these 'little' things can make a Martha out of even the most Mary-style moms amongst us. Seriously though, with all I've been through of late, I am in no danger of forgetting Jesus even for half an hour no matter how many pretty lights I see or how many secular carols I hear on the radio.

Sarah asked herself if she loved the trappings of Christmas too much. As she said, the first Christmas was the simplicity of the creche - a messy baby & Mary, a protective Joseph, angels, shepherds and warm, smelly beasts - and yet it was the best Christmas ever! Maybe we should keep Christmas simple too? Make sure that when we give its when we are sure we are giving for the right reasons rather than a personal sense of benevolence?

These are good things to reflect upon.

& I know I also have to step back at times from what Christmas has become in this world and make sure I celebrate with Jesus.

I kinda like to think though, that Jesus enjoys our enjoying those lights and music and all, especially when we're thinking how glad we are He is the reason -when we make time to enjoy God with us- Emmanuel.

I don't mind the benevolence thing either, as I would love to be more like the One who gave us everything. I think that's what St Nicholas was trying to do with his own life. Besides, we learn to do most things right by just getting out there and practicing them.

Sarah had a cool meme too. Decided to fill it out and share. :)

Christmas Meme

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? both, in moderation -but not at the same time :D

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Does any guy wrap his own presents? Honestly, if it wasn't for all the Mrs Clauses out there we'd have all gone to gift cards and lumps of coal long ago. lol

3. Colored lights or white? depends on the type and context. Ideally, I'd prefer dainty colorful lights, preferable the sort with a flower or star collar. Too bad I haven't been able to get that starburst style for awhile now. You only see them on spheres. What we actually use right now is just the house brand special strings. Except for the ornament ones in the hallway. :)

4. Do you hang mistletoe? nope. It got hung up in the forest all by itself. ;-)

5. When do you decorate for Christmas? Usually right after Thanksgiving. This year, I'm late to get the tree and garland and suchlike out. At least we have the new stuff out!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish, excluding dessert? We don't stick to one yearly menu, so this varies. We usually make a delicious roast of some sort (It'll be venison this year, thanks to the generosity of a friend), with homemade breads, yams or greenbeans, and a pie or two. Oh that's desserts.


What comes to mind (as a regular holiday - only, non-dessert treat), is my mother's special spinach/waterchestnut/yogurty dip that she makes to munch along with good crackers, a summer log, and some excellent cheeses. We usually don't have a regular lunch while opening the presents, you see. We just have some preprepared breakfast goody (quiche, muffins or cinnamon buns) and a good dinner.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? I think it was the Christmas my Mom surprised me with a 'Mrs Claus' robe & slipper set on Christmas Eve, and then I found she'd gotten me the Breyer's horses I'd wanted so badly the next morning, along with other presents. We drank hot chocolate and listened to Christmas carols while the lights twinkled on the tree. Everyone was actually happy that Christmas. It even snowed!

8. When and how, did you learn the truth about Santa? My Mom never kidded me about the Santa / Father Christmas thing.

b "What is your favorite Santa memory?" Learning that St Nicholas was real, and how he helped others. It is a wonderful thing to know that one bishop's determined generosity inspired so many others to do likewise. I am sure Jesus is proud of him yet!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Usually we open stockings -or one present, if we don't have stockings up.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Homemade ornaments, penguins, cool Christian themed decorations, garland. Here is one of our trees from 2-3 years ago. I photoshopped the image for a card. (click for the large version)

11. Snow. Love it or hate it? Love it - as long as I can stay warm

12. Can you ice skate? I guess I still could. Haven't been ice skating in years!

I was okay on a pair of blades as a kid, but this sport requires an artificial rink in this climate (doesn't stay cold enough, long enough). The only one near us doesn't have much of a rep.

I imagine I'd be fairly amusing to watch zinging around the ice now! hehehe

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I remember which gift was my favorite most Christmases. I don't think it'd be politic to list them.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you?
Celebrating being with Jesus & my family! :-D

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? pumpkin bread? strawberry cheesecake? chocolate mousse? What will be this year's choice? I'll just have to wait and find out! ;)

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Planning to do the same good things again?

17. What tops your tree? A homemade angel sharing the good news :D

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? both have pitfalls and highlights

~ Giving ~

The best fun in giving is the happiness it gives someone you care about. This depends very much on the goodwill of the recipients.

People often don't realize that, like many of the Beatitudes, Jesus' statement that 'it is more blessed to give than to receive' is even more counterintuitive than it seems at first blush.

Not only is it more fun - in a fleshly sense - to be remembered with goodies than to give up your own stuff, but you and your gift may well be rejected. Many folks are incredibly suspicious of unexpected generosity. Carnally-minded folks only give gifts to get an effect, so most Christian efforts to give freely, affectionately (trying to do as God Himself does) - whether individually done or as part of a missionary effort- are seen in through those mud-splattered glasses.

Its amazing even St Nicholas didn't get more guff in his own time for his continued efforts to bless those around him. [I read in one of those Saint's lives compendiums that he did run into some.]

~Receiving ~

I guess it helps to have had a wide assortment of friends & relations (rich & poor) to understand the range of pitfalls in receiving. One basic decision - unconditional gratitude for whatever the person gave without reference to intent- will avoid most of them, but this isn't so easy when you suspect an directed insult in the process. Maybe your family shows its favorites by who gets invited or what level of present is expected. Maybe your gift wasn't inline with normal expectations. Maybe you know you received far less than you gave. Some people are just very poor, or come from a different background - so what looked like a good present to them, wasn't exactly bowling you over. Sometimes you may suspect you have received a present just so someone can pose or otherwise use the fact they 'gave you something.' Basically, you may expect innumerable opportunities in your life where you will have to choose to receive well - or badly.

A wealthy relative I once knew made a point of picking presents that represented a reference to one or more 'cracks' they'd make in the year. If thanked, they'd tell me how cheap it was - compared with what they'd given another person in the room. I'd try to be nice about it anyway but sometimes the attitude did get under my hide.

Talking to God about it one afternoon, I believe I received an answer. He first asked me if I minded some of the dollar store presents I'd gotten from friends. Nope, not at all. Its hard to work in a lot extra people on a tight budget. I appreciated the thoughtfulness in what was chosen. Another also didn't choose well, but then they didn't have good taste to begin with - so again, no problem. How about when people reused a decent gift they had laying around? No, I understood that too. At least they were willing to share what they had to give! Did I mind handmade things? Of course not! In fact, I loved the effort this represented!
Such gifts have often represented a considerable affection, though they might not seem to reflect them well. I'd better understand, because I've been there. I always want to send good things to everyone, but what I've actually had available has varied widely from year to year.

Suddenly, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a simple reality. I had gladly accepted 'poor' gifts from friends & family who had done what they reasonably could - as coming from the wealth of love in their hearts. This 'successful' relation was scraping the bottom of the barrel there. Then I realized this was true of everyone who used Christmas (gifts) to treat others badly. They have no idea how bad off they are. Pray for them. Have compassion upon them, for they are miserable creatures indeed. Rejoice in whatever they are able to give, because it represents hope that they may one day accept the best present of all - Love, Himself.

I'm no better than they in and of myself. I love because Love came to fill me so full the overflow had to go somewhere! On my best days, I'm still just giving them my 'extra' from Jesus. I have nothing of myself worth sharing!

So, if I can't be happy about the thought someone sent me, I still look to celebrate Emmanuel's love. Share the moment with Him, and He will make such ashes and coal into beauty and diamonds that will last forever. Jesus came to share our poverty that we might share His richness.

I admit that I'm glad I don't have to see the relation I mentioned anymore, but in a way I benefitted from facing that trial too. I've reflected on these thoughts ever since the year I had the sense to really ask God about it all, and have since found it easier each year just to accept whatever people can stand to do. All I ask is that those who can show their goodwill in someway, please try.

That's all I really hope to see out of anyone.


Now in an Earthly sense, I think I can admit that I love to receive neat surprises. I also dearly love to hear I've made someone's day with what I was able to share. Either can do a lot to brighten my whole holiday, as I keep reflecting on the happy moment. When both happen (especially over and over), life is truly awesome!

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? I don't have just one favorite. Somedays I lean toward humorous hits like 'Grandma's Killer Fruitcake' and Veggietales' "He is Born, the Holy Child". Some evenings only traditional arrangments of hymns like "Adeste Fideles" & "We Three Kings" will do it for me. Sometimes we enjoy the folk versions of old tunes like "I Wonder as I Wander" & "
Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabella". Sometimes we even play the goofy radio favorites- "Holly, Jolly Christmas" and all that. You should see my Christmas playlists. They are lllooonnngg LOL

20. Candy canes. Yuck or yum? Candy canes are yummy when you've got a sore throat. I recommend bringing some along should you go caroling!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to go eat some fresh, sweet cornbread & awesome scratch chili con carne (venison! But nobody we know ;)

& Thank God for all His good gifts :)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Old Toys & Older Ways

Most homeschoolers want their children to learn the best virtues from the past, but adjust for surviving in the present world. We teach our kids to show respect, and use the manners that will bring them favor with gentlefolk. We teach them that they should save for what they really want, believing that the ability to defer gratification until it is affordable will enable them to avoid many troubles, financial & personal. We seek to instill morals of Christ and the wisdom of Proverbs. Its our hope that this will give them the best possible pathways along their journeys.

Gotta pray daily that this is blessed because I've been realizing of late that -while we are teaching the best we know - the world is getting sufficiently messed up to sometimes make even the truest of those old truisms appear false.

Good, old-fashioned courtesy is a good example. Mind you, manners are still very much a benefit in this world...around the right people... in the right situations. I've been facing squarely an unhappy truth of late. WE raise our children to be polite,

but many schools & a number of families are raising their kids rather differently.

Even in her first years in public school my daughter was being 'corrected' every time she addressed an adult as 'sir' or 'ma'am,' or held a door for an elder. These very behaviors had resulted in folks beaming at our little girl in public, and even resulted in a number of unexpected little presents and pleasant opportunities from these happy strangers. Her manners did benefit her out in the world, but - not at public school. She reported being openly picked on there for her courteousness, her modesty, and even her faith. One teacher (who loved to wear occult jewelry) was said to have openly ridiculed our dear daughter for quietly praying over her own lunch. Even other kids who told us they had been encouraged to mistreat our little girl, said they felt bad about what was going on. When I asked for more respect for what we were teaching our daughter, I got silly replies about how courtesies made them feel 'old' (and her faith might make others feel bad). Oh, Really? so... rudeness make them feel young? & I thought it reasonable that the teacher in question should receive respect for her faith BUT she also needed to show respect to other people's belief systems. The purported behaviors & attitudes (as reported to us) indicated a religious bigotry toward our baby that was intolerable (as well as intolerant). Besides, their arguments against showing respect were bogus at all levels. Seriously, it became very obvious that Rebecca's personhood (let alone her feelings) didn't count with these people in the slightest. Even as a general argument I found it truly weird that they wanted the younglings in their institution to address those in the teaching & administrative hierarchy as tall kids... or head kid at most. You'd think they'd appreciate, at the very least, that the respect for authority that went with those mannerisms had the potential to make their jobs much easier.

After we began homeschooling our daughter, many of these principles became solely a blessing to her for some years. Sadly, now that she is grown, this is not always the case.

Meekness/restraint is sometimes mistaken for weakness. So many people play false that other kiddos online don't always realize my daughter's courteous kindnesses are quite sincere. (Or mine either, but I am grown enough to be familiar with this reaction.)

Now, I truly believe she is better as she is than how the system here would have made her (had she been forced to accommodate it). I believe it will set her well for a happy life, hopefully with a similarly raised partner. I know kind teens are out there. Some days, though...

Similarly, we told our dear son he should save up for a toy he deeply desired that was a bit on the pricey side. What he wanted was a limited release R2D2 'droid that was a truly interactive little robot.

Given the trials we've had, this saving process was slow.

Sadly, the longer it took for him to raise the money, the higher the price seemed to get (and the harder it was to find.) When we finally persuaded a small local store to order it for him this fall, there were only 6 left in stock & the cost had gone up 50%. By the time R2D2 came home to us, the supplier was out entirely! Even more scary was the fact that our poor R2 seemed to have a problem with one limb. (R2 knew it too, poor thing.The only one making sadder noises than R2 was our son.) After all this waiting, it didn't look too good for the home team. Thankfully, God blessed my husband to fix it the misalignment issue & save the day. R2D2 has been a happy presence ever since, in spite of the fact that he and our bird don't entirely get along

*cough**cough*R2D2cancheepmoreloudlythanourpeach-facedlovebird.*cough* andhesoundsbetter*cough* *cough* OH!the jealousy! *cough* *cough*LOL*cough*cough**cough*

*typing pauses while Susan finds a Ricola drop*


Anyhow, I found myself reflecting on the near disaster for 'moral fibre'-ing that might well have resulted. . . Seems like "saving for what you really want' sometimes can mean not getting it at all in this day and time. PC/Video games, electronic toys, and similar gear have a horribly short shelf life. There is usually neat stuff out there at any given time, so once your money is saved, you can find something sorta like what you wanted (usually) but saving up for 'model-xz3345' doesn't work so well now. I am so very God blessed our son's willingness to save up and wait this time.

& The principle is still good. You shouldn't go into debt for trivial reasons. It is good to defer desires that will cost you dearly until you are sure the object is worthy of your labor -and that your affection will last. I can see for myself that having to save up & pay for R2 himself has resulted in our son being more careful with where he leaves R2 in between sessions. He's far more protective of it now than of many other expensive gifts he's gotten over the years. He's even become more careful of those toys too, of late. It seems he has learned something good from it all...but he could just as easily have ended up with no R2 at all - the way things were going.

Things like that have happened to me, of course, but again, I'm grown. There's less capacity for life-altering trauma in my not getting a drool-eriffic toy. Well, actually, I say that.. but I was just thanking God again lately for letting me have back all those toys I wanted so badly when I was kid. I've seen everything from my toddler-hood favorite 'hickory dickory dock' clock that came out in special edition just as my son was old enough to appreciate it, to great deals on lost favorite albums (last seen on LPs) that I'd never thought I'd see again, let alone put on cd (only Kol Simcha is now missing). Even my favorite old perfumes have reappeared online. & My favorite games have unprecedented comebacks all over the place. I remember well the early video games that I wanted so badly as a young teen, but could only play at my wealthy relations' houses. Some were so silly, I was sure I'd never get a chance to see them again. Wrong! I was playing Atari's Air-Sea Battle with my son just last month & having a blast! We've got home AND arcade versions of Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Frogger, Columns, Joust and so much more available to us now. I remember how happy I was in the 90's to get all those old 80's Infocom text games back that I'd missed (& on cds too! I've still got 'em. woohoo!) Even Chronotrigger was re-released for the playstation, allowing me to finally get my own copy. I had saved for weeks for the SNES cartridge back when Chronotrigger when first came out, only to find it was undersold and therefore unavailable. I was grown then, and 'only' disappointed not to be able to finish it after renting & finding it wonderful, but how happy I became to have that small sadness reversed. Soon even Uru may make its big comeback.

{& I've become a big fan of retro releases. Goooooo..... Gametap! :-D }

So God CAN make old dreams come true, old saved-for toys can reappear, and good people to come into our lives when goofs make a point of not appreciating what virtues we try to live by. Praise God He often does intervene this way! I just feel its important now not to kid our kids that virtue will always be rewarded here on Earth. The results are worth it, in terms of character, capabilities, and the soul's final destination, but sometimes living by your principles can cost rather dearly.

R2 says "beep boop"

(I think he's agreeing :)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Very cool commentary on schooling alternatives

Its nice to hear something sensible for a change :-D

Thanks Emily!

Song fancies

Ever had songs bring mini stories to mind other than the one they meant to share?

Happens to me quite often.

Listening to "All Around My Hat" by Steeleye Span brought to mind a grown Tiffany Aching handling a forward young man with her usual - intense - commonsense.

"Saucy Sailor" (also Steeleye Span) makes me think of Captain Jack Sparrow - not entirely down on his luck (for a change) in a Colonial gulf port town. He sees a pretty lass, but his burnt features and ragged coat do not appeal to this brazen social climber, so he entertains the whole pub at her expense.

"Northern Skyline" (by Clannad) might mark the end of trials for a missionary explorer. At last the shadows flee, the truths are heard, and all is peace in the world as he wends his way back home.

"Bard's Dance" (Enya) suggests to my imagination a simple minstrel dancing by light of the festival's bonfire, with bells on his boots, before the sour-faced chieftain and his court. He starts off slowly and simply, gradually the tempo increases as he wins them over with his grace and melodies..until bed and dinner are assured. :)

& "Journey's End" ( Clannad) would be perfect for Yeesha after she'd made a few friends with her quest ^_^

Friday, November 24, 2006

Five on Friday

How about... five sets of five?

A - The last five books I've read:

1. Left Behind: Soul Harvest
2. Left Behind: Apollyon
3. Reaper Man
4. Elijah & Jezebel
5. C. Lewis' letters postwar period

(1-3 are rereads. I've been working on Lewis' letters awhile. Finally finished it. Yay!)

B - Five magazines I've read lately:

1. Wired
2. Maximum PC
3. Country
4. Blue Ridge Country
5. Popular Science

C - Five albums I've listened to lately:

1. Come to the Quiet by JMT
2. Long Distance Voyager by the Moody Blues
3. Below the Salt by Steeleye Span
4. Soul Anchor by Michael Card
5. Dancing in Jerusalem by Lamb

D - Five things I would love to have (but probably won't see from my family) this Christmas:

1. Spiced Green Tea perfume
2. Aspen perfume (for women)
3. Babylon Rising: Secret of Ararat #2
4. The Studio Ghibli collection on dvd
5. the Mikado on dvd

Why? Because 1 & 2 & 4 & 5 are only available online. As for # 3 - My family can never seem to remember which Babylon Rising book is next.

E- My five new Christmas decorations:

1. Noah's Ark windmill/candle thingy
2. William's 3ft tall nutcracker guy
3. The fiber optic dancing penguin and polar bear
4. the big flashing blue & white snowflake for the window
5. a silver/blue wreath with tiny lights that is on the door.

(Yes, The new stuff is already up - but we haven't gotten out the the tree and all yet. )


edit: hhmm since I finished early Saturday I guess it ought to be six for Sat, soI'll do a bonus listing for each catagory

a - Hollyood vs America by Medved (another reread)
b - Consumer Reports
c - Book of Secrets by Loreena McKennit
d - a new cartridge fountain pen (because they think I already have all I could ever need ;)
e- pearl ornaments

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope yours was wonderful!

After a few emails & letters of the 'where'd you go?" and 'what ever happened after?' variety, I know its time to make a reappearance

Let's see.. I'll start with Thanksgiving. Tom wasn't quite up to going round and seeing his other family on the day, but at least he was able to enjoy dinner this year!

The Nor'easter in the area didn't mess with us much. We had a lovely quiet day at home with homemade quiche for breakfast, homemade bread for lunch, and a roast lamb dinner with cous-cous & organic baked yams on the side. YUM!

& After you feed everybody like that, they just curl up with a good book (or game) for awhile.

and a cuppa

Actually, this was our third big meal of the week because we wanted Tom to have all of the Thanksgiving choices he mentioned as nice -- after 3 years of being unable to enjoy much in the way of edibles on the day - due to his health problems. We had a big roast bird with stuffing a few nights ago, and a blade roast with fresh bread & sautéed veggies another time.

Its the upside of his having married a cook

We got smaller roasts with this plan in mind, but we'll still be plowing through leftovers for a bit after this.

In general we are doing better this fall than we have in awhile. Tom is healing, albeit rather slower than his surgeon would like. He will still have to have a hernia repaired on one of the surgery sites, but they are hoping to put that off until spring. Still, the major surgery seems to have held. He is definitely better than he was last year at this time..or the year before that....maybe even the year before that. Some relief in our situation came through as well. As a result, we are now out of debt and in possession of several upgrades that have been long desired - compy bits, tools, and other happiness. I have a better sewing machine too!

No, Mom hasn't had any serious repercussions from this summer's adventure, though she is still moving a bit slower than is usual for her. She is still recovering her interest in crafts and such. Probably this is due to the shots, and having a tougher time with the annual fall flu attack afterward - though actually, we haven't done nearly as badly as some families we know around here with this year's bug. Its been pretty bad in places. A school closed in an neighboring city because of a flu bug one week & a lot of kids have been visiting doctors & ERs incounty. Thankfully, nobody here has needed a doctor because of it, let alone a hospital.

Anyway, her big thing at the moment is Sudoku.

Nope, I've mostly been gone because this year's setup meant I was shopping and fixing things earlier than later. Both of my kids birthdays are in the fall. So we had those to plan - as well as Christmas to consider while we were in good enough shape to deal with it. And then we got our hands on a set of new-to-us captain's beds for the kids (in wonderful shape!) and this meant moving around all sorts of things in the house & garage while we sorted out the technical details of this blessing. We had to disassemble & reassemble the new beds because they wouldn't go up the stairs in one piece --while falling over interim arrangements until it was all done. So that's where I was THAT week. We also worked on a website for a friend & had to concentrate on schoolwork some days -this being fall and all. I've been one busy sheepy!

and then too - I was determined to finish the third part of Mizpah on here before posting anything else - even though my notes went permanently missing after a too enthusiastic cleanup of my office area. Reconstructing them took time that was hard to find for awhile.

...especially since I was redoing my computer at around the same time. (Why does it always take so long to get everything set up the way you want it?)

Happily, I am at last getting toward the end of my MUST DEAL WITH NEXT list. So then I'll be able to tackle the stuff I postponed while I was taking care of that

So... I am trying to be good.

I just have had a lot to keep up with again.

At least its happier stuff!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

To Know Him is to Love Him

Got inspired by another blog which hasn't been updated in awhile so I thought I'd share my thoughts here....

All I want is a mutual connection with someone. Someone I can connect with on a soul to soul level. Someone with whom I share common dreams and goals. Someone with a compatible personality and character. Someone I can talk to about anything and everything without being laughed at or judged. Someone I can share all my secrets with. Someone who will share his secrets with me! Someone I can share all my deepest and most private thoughts and feelings and who will do the same with me. I just want to share ALL of ME with someone!!! My heart, mind, soul, body.... for the rest of my life! And someone who will reciprocate! Someone who will love me with all their heart and make me FEEL it. I want to feel like I'm a priority in someone's life. I want to be someone's everything. I want someone that will look forward to coming home to me. Someone who will be faithful to me with the utmost integrity.

I want to be with someone who isn't afraid to share his emotions- both good and bad. Who isn't afraid to let his sensitive side show... who is open with "I love you"s and other sweet comments.

I long to fall asleep each night with someone's arms securly wrapped around me. I want to know that I am his and he is mine. I want to make love with someone tender and giving... with someone who is interested in what I need....and how I want to be treated, touched, and held. I want someone who makes me tremble with the softest touch.

And I want to GIVE to someone everything HE needs, too. I want to fulfill his deepest needs. I feel like I have so much love bottled up inside me to pour on someone,,,, but there is no one.

To be known completely, and loved unconditionally, thoroughly is the dream of every heart. God put it there, which sometimes seems unfair because we can never completely satisfy this desire in each other. All of us mere mortals fight the urge to judge, snap, be petty, and superior...all things we don't want in our perfect dream mate. We wouldn't (ideally) even want someone exactly like ourselves. I think this call to something higher we can attain is a clue of sorts.

We are not, any of us, good enough to give or receive what we really want. Not yet anyway. You are willing to try, from what you've written.

Have you tried satisfying that 'share all of me' thing with Jesus for awhile? Its not easy to do, it takes time to really build that relationship, but once there the grace is there to enjoy what Jesus loves about all the guys & gals around you. Who knows what may happen then?

I am not trying to be flip here.

I've felt that hunger myself. What I found was that only God could satisfy it.When I learned to look to Christ first for the perfect love, provision, & protection I craved, I was able to appreciate the guy God gave me so much more than before. My husband was then free to be himself, rather than the answer to all my needs. ya know?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mizpah: The Lord is Witness pt 3

"God judge between us!" is still the cry between offended brothers and sisters. Usually both sides convince themselves that God must give priority attention to the their side: the tricky insurance contract that didn't help when the storms came (and Dan goes to our church too!), the stolen toys from when they came over (or did you lose them?), the high-handed way the will was decided by Uncle Kenny (shouldn't we have gotten more?), the catty cracks 'sister' Lori made on the phone before the Bible study to spike your friendship with the pastor's wife... (Couldn't you take a joke at your expense?)

Feelings run high when we feel we've been wronged. We tend to forget the party we're pursuing is family, part of our body in Christ. [Romans 12:5] We cannot hurt them without hurting ourselves. [Gal 5 :15]

Amazing how quickly we forget all that when we think somebody 'owes' us.

Then we usually think in terms of checks and balances, of Ma'at's balance , the judge's bench. Surely one side's case outweighs the other?

Its not an unusual feeling.

Ringing through so many of the Psalms and prophet's pleas is a cry for justice, for God's judgement on those who have oppressed them. As C.S. Lewis put it "In the Psalms judgement is not something that the conscience-stricken believer fears but something the downtrodden believer hopes for. " Their plea is ours, and their hope in the faith of their Fathers to shield them from a similar judgement exists in us also, through Christ. It is Jesus who shields us from the accusations of the world and the devil, who atones for our sin with His own sacrifice.

But Christ's covering came with a price. He paid for the sins of these erring brothers and sisters just as he paid for ours. [Isa 53:6] He loves them, just as He loves us, and He says that we must forgive as we were forgiven [Matt 18: 20-35, Col 3:13] 'til seventy times seven' [Matt 18:21-22]

So... do we want judgment or mercy? Do we want to be judged or forgiven? Can we arbitrate the differences and truly let the matter be? Can we promise never to go past that rock of offence with any hurtful plan?

And does our forgiving those who unrepentantly war and sin against us save them from God's judgement as well? Does our blessed hope for eternal salvation mean we have to put up with injustice until we get to heaven? How can we balance 'normal' Christian living with evil neighbors who pick on us night after night - and still keep to the walk demanded of us in scripture?

We have a long list of questions when these things come up, and, sadly, its a rare church where they could be asked aloud. The jockeying for social prominence in many gatherings have squelched anyone voicing any thoughts that might weaken their position in the flock, or even get them driven out, rather than answered, loved, shepherded, treated like the family the Bible says we all are in Christ. Goats are bad for trying to horn in and butt away other flock members, demanding as much of the shepherd's time as possible. Even other real sheep can be a tad on the cranky, stinky, needy, or greedy side (everybody wants that green grass!). & Its a flat fact that snakes love warmth, but will bite the bodies that radiate it if they are allowed to snuggle in too close. What's snuggling up to you? Do you dare ask?

Its hard to know what sort of fruit your pew-mates bear in their lives when you only see them once or twice a week.

Thankfully God saw our need and gave His answers where we can see them, in His Word, as revealed through the Holy Spirit. Its there, though we don't always see it until we've read as led, studied on it, and prayed awhile. He can tell us, if we'll stick around long enough to learn to hear His voice. This is a grace Christ wants all us to learn.

Unfortunately, many people are unconfident of being able to hear directly. I think the explosion of teaching materials and multimedia missions (and even blogs like this one) in these last days has been an answer to the prayers of many saints like these. Those who have ears to hear can get a lot of help now, though we must still pray for discernment to choose the teachings that are solidly in scripture, instead of the 'itching ears' stuff.

& Sometimes it just helps to hear the answer again from another, even when we think we know the answer.

So.... What does Mizpah mean to the redeemed? What does the requirement to forgive add or take from it? The answer, as near as I can tell, is grace- dependent on our own ability to forgive/repent.

Carnal Laban cannot easily forgive, but can we? Can we truly forgive as believers should? Can we keep our Mizpah with Christ - our rock - who covers not only our sin, but the sin of brothers and sisters who acted evilly to us? Yes, with the Holy Spirit's help. We may have to fight to do this right, though, especially the first few times we've really been wronged by someone, and even more if they are not at all repentant about it. Again and again the enemy & our flesh will bring it back to mind, as well as the ugly complications that came from that sin. We may have to forgive the same offence 70 x 7, but it must be done if we would have victory in our life as believers in Christ!

I am not going to kid you that this is an easy path to take. Our carnal self is crucified with Christ, but he's a persistent ghost in this life. Thank God the Comforter is stronger in us when we seek Him, and the reward is worth the effort. If ever we strive for a crown of righteousness in this life, it will be against our own flesh in tests like this.

Mizpah within the church is called for when Paul says we should be willing to be defrauded by each other rather than disgrace the church in civil courts [1 Cor 6]. Mizpah is the warning from God who judges between the shepherds and the flocks, the goats and the sheep, AND between sheep and sheep [Ezekiel 34]. God deals with His flock first. [1 Peter 4:17, Hebrews 10:30-31] Mizpah is the coals of fire that are heaped on the heads of those who flaunt the forgiveness and the grace you give in Christ's name and continue to lie about, abuse, and otherwise mistreat you[ Prov 25:22, Prov 26: 17-28, Rom 12:20]. God calls us to give way to HIM in matters of vengeance [Rom 12;19]. He doesn't say there won't be any, a thought that should make us tremble - for in many things we ALL offend. [James 3:2] . Both now and later, it is God who keeps the covenants [Deut 7:9-12, Dan 9:4], gains our victories [1 Cor 15:57, 1 John 5:4, Rev 15:2] and deals with His & our enemies [Psa 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...17, 18, 19, 20....] He is our salvation in THIS life, as well as the world to come. (Which doesn't mean we are never allowed to act in self-defense or that of our family. This is another area of discernment.)

One of the hardest parts is that fear that your requirement to forgive just gives 'them' license to hurt you more, and without rebuke. Nobody with the dignity God gave a squirrel can stand to be a doormat indefinitely. We naturally want to either be defended, or defend ourselves. Are we required to do as St Stephen did and ask that God not hold his unbelieving murderers accountable for their stoning him to death? [Acts 6:8 - 8:2]

This is the complicated bit. Are you ready for this? As long as you do things God's way - you win! You are required to forgive but you are NOT required to do as St Stephen did (unless specially asked by God). God would indeed have held that crowd accountable for St Stephen's death without such a request. Stephen's life was/is precious to God (and so is yours). But Stephen didn't lose out for showing them extra grace. Indeed, he saw heaven early. Such a reward was only granted to one of those in the crowd against him, and then only with much pain - Paul, who was then Saul, paid dearly to take up Stephen's mantle on Earth. Stephen won with God, and he won big. No one would have believed it that day, or even that week, but Paul would eventually walk in that same grace.

It is an advanced position of grace and faith to understand that those who would hate you as a child of God are already in such miserable trouble that your releasing them from what burden you can, by complete forgiveness of what they've done to you on Earth AND in Heaven, is an act of love, of compassion, such as comes from the sacred heart of Christ himself. They still aren't off the hook, especially if they fail to receive the forgiveness Messiah has offered them. You can't release them from what they've done to others or to God himself. All you can do you have done in such forgiveness, a real (but comparatively) small gift, your own two mites, but it makes the angels sing and lightens the heart of God himself.

If all that just sounds like, 'yep! they get away with it' - then don't even try it. You are NOT ready. Stephen's walk is about loving the lost, about seeing into heaven's heart and desiring to further God's call for their salvation, desiring this more than even saving his own life - or his sense of justice - down here. I said it was an ADVANCED step for the saints. That's serious. By the work of the Holy Spirit in His life and mouth, as his last act, Stephen extended the grace of his own full forgiveness. He showing great mercy to these unbelievers in asking that they also be forgiven by God for what they were doing to him this one time. Few of us are up to that level, especially on a day to day basis.

And not all the saints prayed this sort of prayer, even in the days of the apostles. I can't always manage it either, though I admire it as a state of grace to which I should aspire. Hey, maybe one of these days! Right now I am only too aware on how badly I want God to win for me, and I know God would take me seriously if I prayed Stephen's prayer. Best I can do at the moment is pray for their repentance & mercy on them as God deals with them. I pray to see all God's children through the love of Christ, and that they will see me similarly. I can forgive, with Jesus' help, but haven't quite got to the state of '...and don't even worry about what they are doing to me, Lord. Please forgive them for the sin against you they've committed in attacking me unjustly.' & I still want God to stop them!

Forgiving unbelievers (which is also important) is generally unrewarding in a fleshly sense, since they rarely care about being forgiven! (You can see the usual fleshly response in Stephen's story as well. They went into a hate-filled, tooth-gnashing frenzy!)

But Stephen's gift is the sort of grace believers already have in Christ. They are already forgiven by God. Thereafter, God may chastise them as sons, but still he sees them as white through the atoning work of Jesus. Forgiving sins within the body ought to be easier than with those outside it.A real believer walking in the Holy Spirit ought to care that they may have harmed another, and possibly impaired their own walk & blessings in Christ Jesus until the matter is dealt with. We don't get many favorable hearings in heaven when we are slapping our church sibs around here on Earth. True repentance and forgiveness restores us to each other - and to God's wonderful presence. That's a very happy way for all offenses to end, when it happens.

So, how do we go about getting this happy ending?

The Bible tells us to speak privately to our brothers (and sisters) when we have a matter that needs to be cleared up 'that we may gain our brother.' [Matt 18: 15-17, Prov 25:8-9] The point of such a quiet confrontation is to prevent obstacles to our freely walking & working with our beloved companion. It is to clear the air, not look for excuses for further warfare, and you must speak with all the love and respect you can find (or borrow from Jesus). Unfortunately, in actual practice, this is sometimes when you find out (by their response) that they weren't walking in Christ at all!

The next steps are even more crucial. You said you forgave them. You've said all that can be said. Now you have to step back and let the matter drop from between you. Then give it time. Sometimes you gotta let go and give them back to God to be healed in time. Sometimes you gotta let go and let God work on you for awhile. Sometimes you have to do the 2 & 3 witnesses thing and let them go...period.

God's immediate responses will depend on a number of things -within you, within your brother, and within His plans. His ultimate answer will be perfect, as He is perfect. You have to trust that. You have to trust Him.

It is important to remember (while waiting) that God will see down the innermost thoughts of our heart - whether we were good to our neighbor or not. Did we truly care about him/her? Did we forgive him? Did we quietly gloat when they had a bad time after we were angry with them? [Prov 24: 16-18] Be careful. Gloating (or abiding in resentment toward the other) displeases God and may result in more discipline for you!

Do you remember the examples given at the beginning of this section? They are all drawn from life, from things I have heard. I don't know (and neither do you) whether the offenses were 'real' from the other side or not. Was Uncle Kenny being as fair as he knew how and still being blamed because they thought there was more to the estate even after all the medical expenses or did he have some Laban-esque ideas about how things should go once he was in charge? Was Lori just being insensitive or is she one of those who play off attacks as humor? Did Dan tell them about the exclusions or kid himself that these things are 'just business' & God understands a few white lies? We don't know where their hearts were. What we DO know is that we would be wise to make sure we do the right thing when similarly tried - and be quick to forgive those who 'owe' us as we would be forgiven. [Col 3:13] God shows himself merciful with the merciful! [Psa 18:25-26]

So while we are curious & would want to act differently depending on the answer, the responses we are given are the same. We are to forgive them, trust God to guide our steps, go before us with the favor we need with the people He has for us, and provide all we need.

The biggest stumbling blocks in forgiving others comes from carnal desires and our fears. [1 Cor3:3] As it says in James
"James 4:1 ¶From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
11 ¶Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" James 4 KJV

So we must give God our desires and let them be purified. We must let God end our fears by placing our hopes and faith in Him.

The biggest thing is to remember that Mizpah works both ways. Our God walks both sides of his wonderful covenant/promises with us so that we can keep them, but will also discipline us if we use our license in Him as liberty against others! [Gal 5:13]

Mizpah in the New Testament means we would be wise to avoid sinning against our brothers and sisters, or anyone else by choice, lest we be painfully chastened by the same just Father who defends & provides for us. [Phil 2:14, Heb 12: 6-7, 1 Cor 11:31-32]

Peace be unto you.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Mizpah: The Lord is Witness pt 2


"The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from one another."

The decided implication is that God will judge the oath-breaker. God will judge between us.

He will.

As you can see from the story, Mizpah was established between the kindred Jacob & Laban in lieu of physical battle, and that only because God had directly intervened and prevented open conflict. Everyone speaking in this courtroom scene had grievances

Let's look at them.

Jacob was aggrieved that he had been tricked into working for twice as long as he'd contracted to do and having an extra wife pushed on him as part of the deal. Laban changed Jacob's wages again and again trying to make a better deal for himself. God had prevented this from working the way it normally does in the meat realm, but Jacob was still very angry. He wanted to quit now and leave while he was still ahead of the game, as he could see his kinsman was getting hostile again. Unfortunately, Laban's previous 'sharp dealing' meant Jacob wasn't too sure Laban wouldn't just seize everything he had agreed to pay Jacob if he did. Laban had all the backup and all the connections there in Syria. So Jacob fled without warning, believing God had ordered him to go and would therefore protect Jacob's household from his unjust boss & senior relative.

Rachel and Leah were aggrieved that they had been 'sold' to Jacob for his labor over a very long period of time. (Waiting 7-14 years to marry wasn't usual then either) Worse, the money/goods that traditionally would have been theirs upon marriage had been kept by Laban and spent up. After twenty years in this situation and a bunch of kids with Jacob they have no good options now if Jacob left them or died.

Laban felt aggrieved that his best shepherd and 2x- son-in-law had left suddenly and taken most of the extended family's wealth with him. Laban suspected (correctly) that Jacob had tried to manipulate matters so that Jacob would always get the better babies out of the sheep. (What he didnt know was that Jacob's efforts were so silly they wouldn't have done a thing if God hadn't intervened on Jacob's behalf for His own reasons.) Worse, Laban's household idol(s) had vanished with him. Laban was accustomed to making things up as he went, staying vaguely within traditional bounds but always holding a trump card or three. As long as Jacob had remained at his home, Laban held hope of winning the last big hand. Meantime he was bluffing that he still held all the cards. As head of the house, technically everything was still under his authority and he could still claim a kind of ownership. Laban was very ticked things hadn't gone his way. He might well have lived down to Jacob's worst fears had God not challenged him directly.

And so we have this exchange of accusations at Jacob's camp.

Did you notice that the one who wronged the most also made the aggressive charge across the desert in order to pursue his own accusations? Jacob couldn't even defend himself without pointing out what Laban had been pulling. I've no doubt Laban was hopping mad to hear the implied criticism, no matter how true he knew it was.

& Laban had the mob on his side, initially - so he got to look around and try to make his best charge (the idol thefts) stick.

Unfortunately, Rachel HAD stolen them (to get a little of her own back), but not with Jacob's knowledge. Why doesn't God let her get caught? Simple. Jacob would have been blamed. Jacob was innocent. God preferred to vindicate his innocent servant. Rachel has some trials of her own later and dies relatively young. I wouldn't say she got away with anything. She probably felt justified in her behavior but notice this was the one action that could have undone everything. When God says He'll take care of something, it isn't wise to modify the plan.

Notice also how little remorse Laban has for his own behavior. Okay, so he can't get Jacob for theft. He knows perfectly well Jacob has a right to all he sees...but... Laban is gonna play to the crowd anyway.

His daughters 'were as strangers to him' before their departure but now he says he feels deprived because he wanted to give them a big party before they went. His son-in-law taking his wives & kids to see their paternal grandparents is likened to a violent raiding expedition. He just wants to kiss his grandkids now? yeah huh

Any more ham and Hormel would have been looking for him.

Its not really convincing, is it? So why'd he bother? As a matter of fact, his 'everything you have is really mine' speech probably didn't go over so well right after Jacob refreshed everyone's memory how much he had paid and how often the deal got changed. Notice how the tone changes immediately since everything is really my family how could I possibly hurt any of you? (turn sharp right here! Use the brakes! ssscccrrreeeEEEECCCCHHHHH!!!)

Laban knows Jacob has little standing with the society in which Laban usually lives. Even caught out, he knows his own accusations would not be rebuked by any other man as long as he could make some decent-sounding excuse for it. If he can get the herds back to his community everybody will agree with him tomorrow because he's de big stinky cheese in da tent. He is playing everything up to manipulate Jacob with the other men he knows are listening. He is not focused on justice, just on making the situation end as profitably as possible for Laban.

I feel sure he also knew the ladies felt ripped off. He knew perfectly well that witholding their money had made it hard for them to marry anyone BUT Jacob. Still, as far as he is concerned, he had the right to make the arrangements and if they didn't like them - tough! He was the judge of what rights they had. He'd gotten 'em married, hadn't he?

Laban seems to be one of those who figures that if he has the power to do something, he also has the moral right, and that if he can get the crowd to agree that his gripes are fair, God has to go along with it & call him righteous. I've seen a number of people try this, even today.

As near as I can tell the internal argument goes..."I can't see God's face & I'm ignoring that little voice. If a group of followers agrees that my cause is just, I have a good argument for saying I didn't know any better in Heaven's court...especially if I deliberately forget what I did that I knew was wrong at the time, and believe my own slander about the person. After all, if I can get enough people believing ugly things about my victim(s), they must have no favor with anyone, ergo: they must deserve it. God must hate them too." ***

[big hint: Heaven doesn't work this way.]

We know Laban had been trying to rip off Jacob's whole household

- but all Laban sees is that his social aspirations are endangered and ...that someone had taken something from him! And without any contractual excuses! Oh the inhumanity of it all! He wants justice! Now!

Laban is not a good loser. He's not about to admit God may have had a larger part in the story than the one warning dream he mentions. Laban has no intention of admitting... anything, actually. He's not the kinda guy to back down, show humility, or remorse. That's for losers...

But he isn't as bad as he could be or could have been. His indignant comments suggest to me that Laban is patting himself on the back for not being more violent, dishonest, or high-handed. People often do that too. They compare themselves as favorably as possible with the world's standard, instead of God's perfection. Somewhere in there must be the hope that God will grade on the curve. Even if he did, the upgrade still wouldn't equal a pass for the class. Think about it. You may be one up on your temptor demon, but that demon is already going to hell. Standing on its head won't make your eternal home a better place.

Instead God says that even our best efforts at righteousness are as filthy (mense) rags. [Is 64:6] Think about it. Our BEST efforts are unclean, nasty, gross, icky, unhealthy..and those are the good days. Without God's covering grace we'd have no hope at all. WITH God's covering grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit our standard is Jesus, the perfect one, not our neighbor, not our ugliest temptations. Its challenge enough to keep you busy your whole lifetime.

Hey, at least you won't be bored.

Getting back to Laban... our indignant, carnally-minded, brother....

Yes, to be fair, Laban had shown some restraint. He was willing to bend the facts & situation - to the breaking point- in an effort to make himself look good & the other guy look bad, but not make anything up wholecloth. He did at least keep to the letter of his contracts. The irony here is that you know what Laban has done, yet he probably felt that he was honest (comparatively) and had been cheated by Jacob's household because of the way things had gone for him. He kept the women's money, and it vanished. He changed the wages of the livestock, and the births changed to compensate. He tricks Jacob into marrying Leah first, and she gives him a quiverful of kids. No matter what he did, God made sure it worked out for the best for his Covenanted One. God gave Jacob everything anyway. It was also God that stayed Laban's hand from his worst temptations. God remained in control of the situation and looked out for those who trusted in him. Laban looked to his pet idols, the crowd, and his own wits. Calling on God was a last resort.

& As far as Laban is concerned his demand for satisfaction for the sin against him is a completely separate matter from his own sins...even to the same people.

We'd better be careful how we view that particular sin. Everyone in carnal mode does that one. Your spouse snaps at you and you are 'righteously' indignant, somehow managing to forget that you've been criticizing your partner all afternoon.

You have a private exchange with a co-worker who feels you've wronged them and you jump at first thing on the list you feel you can honestly refute. Bristling with indignation you want to denounce them for getting in your face, totally ignoring the fact that other points were just. Will you expand the war or feel smugly superior that you didn't say 'all you know' about 'how they did you.' This is not the grieved humility saddened to have hurt your neighbor, a concern for the relationship would have worked toward Godly repentence. This is the carnality wearing fallen man's 'filthy rag' robe... and calling it white. consider Gal 5:13- 26

(btw If you said line B to would commit three sins. You would be following the spirit of wrath/dissension instead of grace, warring upon your neighbor and creating a lying innuendo that implied the other one sinned far more than you did. How easy it is to add sin to sin when we don't seek God's ways!)

That's the carnal fallen man for you. He always jumps up to defend his own interests, puts himself in his best light, and believes he can justify himself at another's expense if he puts it just right. The most deceived think they can fool heaven.

Laban wasn't going to win the PR war this time and God had flat warned Laban to behave but...

God's message to Laban is interesting. For one thing, I am not sure we heard all of it. Laban says that 'the God of your father' told him "Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad." Laban gives this as the reason he didn't immediately violently attack the family. Laban admits he is changing his plans because of what God told him, and the restriction of activities is not in this bit. He doesn't precisely obey even what he reported as Laban certainly didn't keep his mouth off of Jacob when they met! Had Laban obeyed God even in this, he would have been better off, as Jacob's replies were humiliating...

The Mizpah covenant.

Genesis 31:44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
45 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
47 And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.
48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
49 And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
Genesis 31: 50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.
51 And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;
52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.
53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.
54 Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.
55 And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.

Notice that even in 'making peace' Laban adds in a few insults, conditions, and accusations to the 'covenant' with his 'loved ones.' Jacob is never to marry anyone else no matter what. God will see if you ever mistreat my daughters/grandkids! (um..who had the sword out, Granddad?) and so on... They swear before the real God, Laban's lost pet 'gods,' & before the ancestors, that they will not attack each other. There is a big dinner. Jacob makes a sacrifice to God (probably as a thank you for keeping Laban on a leash). There's a touching visit with the grandkids and then Laban finally gives it up and goes home.

Any takers as to whether Laban was smiling under his beard? Planning to send New Year's cards? Commended his daughters and son-in-law warmly to the neighbors when he got home? yeah. thought not. Truly making peace is difficult for the carnal man. Treaties are about as good as it gets. The more honorable will at least try to keep to terms. Laban knew all about terms...and loopholes.. and escape clauses... but God was the arbiter of this one. It held.

This is what Mizpah was about.

"God saw what you did to me! God will get you if you wrong my interests further!"

Yes, God saw. God saw what everybody did long before they invoked His name to settle the matter. God also saw that the results went the best way possible for those who trusted in Him first.

Jacob wasn't always the epitome of upright behavior, but in this circumstance he had more favor than wily, worldly-wise, self-righteously-indignant Laban.

Just the same.... Laban is in the family. Laban is Jacob's relative. Laban is willing to make a covenant before God and keep it. Laban doesn't live for God first, but he does acknowledge God. There is room for growth. There is still hope for him. God gives him the time to make the right choice beyond this day. Laban remains under different rules than a stranger would be. That is important to note.

Mizpah was enforced on family

How does this fit in with the New Testament & our lives today?

part 3 coming up!

***Proverbs 26: 28 "A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mizpah: The Lord is Witness pt 1


Sometime back I began a series of reflections/meditations called "the Cleansing of the Bride." Its one of my 'almost a book' projects, or at least it would be if I put all the notes into one place.

Mizpah is one of the chapters. It is too big to give all at once so I will break it over several days.

This first part deals with its meaning.



You've seen the cute half-coin sets and pendants. They are usually sold as best-buddy sets or as romantic trinkets, with two halves of a heart or a stone or whatever. "God watch between us while we are apart." Sounds like a prayer for the well-being of your loved one. Sounds nice.

There's nothing wrong with that sentiment.

Nevertheless, that is not the story of Mizpah. That is not what the words meant. This part of Jacob's story must be one of the least taught lessons in the church today, but we would be wise to learn from it. Several of the concepts illustrated here are crucial to living well before God.

First. Please just read the story from scripture.


Genesis 31:5 And [Jacob] said to them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not towards me as before: but the God of my father hath been with me.
6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times: but God suffered him not to hurt me.
8 If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bore speckled: and if he said thus, The ring-streaked shall be thy hire; then all the cattle bore ring-streaked.
9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up my eyes, and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ring-streaked, speckled, and grizzled.
11 And the angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lift up now thy eyes and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ring-streaked, speckled, and grizzled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth to thee.
Genesis 31:13 I am the God of Beth-el, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst to me a vow: now arise, depart from this land, and return to the land of thy kindred.
14 And Rachel and Leah answered, and said to him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?
15 Are we not counted by him strangers; for he hath sold us, and hath quite consumed also our money.
16 For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children's: now then whatever God hath said to thee, do.
17 Then Jacob arose, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
18 And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gained, the cattle of his getting, which he had gained in Padan-aram; to go to Isaac, his father, in the land of Canaan.
19 And Laban went to shear his sheep; and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.
Genesis 31:20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he was about to depart.
21 So he fled with all that he had; and he arose, and passed over the river, and set his face towards the mount Gilead.
22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled.
23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey: and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
24 And God came to Laban, the Syrian, in a dream by night, and said to him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban, with his brethren, pitched in the mount of Gilead.
26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?
27 Why didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?
28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons, and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.
29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spoke to me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou didst earnestly long after thy father's house; yet why hast thou stolen my gods?
31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, It may be thou wouldest take thy daughters from me by force.
Genesis 31:32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee: for Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.
33 And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maid-servants' tents; but he found them not. Then he went out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent.
34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.
35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.
36 And Jacob was wroth, and chid with Laban: and Jacob answered, and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so eagerly pursued after me?
37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household-stuff? set it here before my brethren, and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.
Genesis 31:38 These twenty years have I been with thee: thy ewes and thy she-goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.
39 That which was torn by beasts, I brought not to thee; I bore the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.
40 Thus I was; in the day the drouth consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from my eyes.
41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house: I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.
42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac had been with me, surely thou hadst now sent me away empty. God hath seen my affliction, and the labor of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.
Genesis 31:43 And Laban answered, and said to Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine; and what can I do this day to these my daughters, or to their children which they have borne?
44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
45 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
46 And Jacob said to his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made a heap: and they ate there upon the heap.
47 And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed:
48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed:
49 And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. Webster 1833 ed

I'll put the first part of my reflections on it on the next blog.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Its in the Way That You Use It....

Today was grocery day! Zee big trip takes me into the neighboring city & is always expensive, but happy! On the way we did a little people watching (as always) and got into a mild debate about some of their facial features. One lady's expression reminded my spouse of a bulldog and he wondered at the body styles God gave some folks. But I have seen all sorts of types of people who, because they have a good heart/expression, make their 'type' worth having. I remember a loving lady at a church whose 'bulldog' style meant being determinedly loving. Was she beautiful? With that heart, yes!

Conversely, I knew a guy in my high school who was such a snot that many of us never noticed his physical gifts. His face was always contorted with a sneer. A couple of years after I graduated, an acquaintance looking through my old pics asked about the 'hot guy' in several of my club photos etc. Took me a long while to realize who she meant. He was smiling in those shots. Interestingly, she didn't identify him as the same guy in the ones with a expression.

Now some people know how to look beautiful/charming but still have bad hearts. Some are afflicted with non-symmetrical faces or other aesthetic burdens that are hard for some folks to overlook, but most of us are greatly enhanced (even physically!)- or reduced by the lack of- love, humility, gratitude, hope, and joy.

In our positions too we have the chance to bless the lives of those around us, to show extra love to our families and friends in big and small ways, or dwell in the mire of petty offenses, grudges, slander, self-centeredness. A book I read sometime ago (I think it was Bad Girls of the Bible) suggested that even Delilah had held Samson less by her beauty than by her willingness to cater to him, to offer those little kindnesses and compliments that can feed a soul (or an ego!)

You'd be amazed how much love you can show by being willing to have a servant's heart toward your family. Try bringing a meal to your spouse in bed occasionally. Make your daughter a lovely skirt. Help your son find all his legos without the lecture (this time ;) Tell them when they do well (without mentioning the other time.) Keep a prayer list of their desires and needs. Keep a 'goodies' list of the things they mention over the year for birthdays and Christmas. Have 'favorite' meal nights.

Sounds like 'spoiling' them? Doesn't have to be. You can do all this and more and - as long as you also are firm in your discipline (the least popular form of love) - you will ensure that they always know that you love them, whether you said it today or not. Hugs are good, words are good, consistent actions are better. All of them well integrated into our lives is best of all.

Isn't it the love God showed us that he didn't have to, the extra miles He was willing to go to avoid judging us, the undeserved favor and care he gives us daily that make our lives worth living? Freely we receive, so freely we must learn to give. (and receive from one another. This is another weakpoint for some.)

If you think physical beauty or fame will reduce the need to develop the inner graces, consider how many divorces and other troubles the famous seem to have. You don't need to read a gossip rag to realize that all the trappings of worldly success do not wear well without a willingness to focus on the needs and merits of others. Even the most successful manipulator's selfish ways will wear thin over time, but a gentle spirit warms, heals, and builds up all those touched by its words and example.

Its all in the way you use what God gave you.

1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in decent apparel, with modesty and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array,
10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Webster 1833

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

in the news...

Sometimes I definitely feel like commenting on the news I hear. Usually, though, the time period for my observations passes before I get around to blogging again. Guess you're outta luck this week. :P

Definitely feel that the Muslimic over-reaction to Pope Benedict's measured words have more than affirmed his point. They even make a good case for the quotes that he made a point of not espousing... We've known Muslims who we totally respected but this behavior in lands where Islam is the only faith doesn't reflect well on their belief system at all! I think it was the 'protest killing' of that elderly nun that really did it for me. What kind of point do they think they are making by burning churches with women and children in them or by murdering a harmless old woman who spends all her time trying to help others?

I think, in time, Benedict will be shown to be in the right. But is it just coincidence that during this hullaballoo Pope Pius XI is finally being vindicated for his opposition to fascism at the height of its popularity?


My sympathies and prayers to the shooter's victims and their families in Montreal.

Very sad to hear about death squads in Iraq. That was one of the abuses we idealistic people had hoped to stop. :(((

Lord, please help the new Iraqi gov't get it under control so our men can come home!

We tend not to be surprised when we discover our national politicians are less In fact, about all national politicians have been criticized in the media so much that we (as a people) rarely credit any of them with the honesty we demand from our state & community leaders. We often go too far, imho, in not giving them at least the benefit of a doubt. Judging by their the outrage, it would seem Hungary's people have higher expectations... But why do they think Siberia would accept their minister?

Nearer home, things are going fairly well, Finally got some extra memory for the ole compies. William is doing well with his new curriculum. Tom is still healing. I've got a new toy ^_^ & it looks like Tom may get his jeep into regularly usable condition on the cheap (stay tuned! ;) Mom has seen relief from a concern she had. Its all good, though not always easy.

We are very grateful that Hurricane Florence kept away from us and didnt do too much to Bermuda. Looks like Hurricane Gordon may weaken just in time to give Spain & Portugal some much needed rain. God have mercy on the Azores inthe meantime though! Helene looking today like she may turn away from land also, but you never count a hurricane out until it has definitely gone away... We will stay ready!

I guess that's it for now!