Hag Sameach – Did you celebrate Purim?

Purim

Purim is the Feast of Esther.  It’s when we celebrate God’s continued protection of his people.  As many of you may know, the name of God is never mentioned in the book of Esther but that doesn’t mean he is not there.  As my pastor pointed out, the Jews in this story were post-Exilic.  Stop scratching your head.  It means the 70 exile from the land of Israel had ended and Jews were able to return to the land and rebuild the Temple.  Yet in the book of Esther, we read about Jews who did not return.  They remained in exile and, as is clearly demonstrated, God did not abandon them for not returning to the land.

Even though they did not obey God and return to the land, they are vital to the story.  God works through their continued presence outside the land to protect those who had obeyed and were inside the land.  God takes what appears to be disobedience and shows us that he will achieve his ends and his glory through it.  He is that powerful.

We had a blast.  But that is how it is supposed to be.  We are told in the book:

Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews in all of King Ahasuerus’s provinces, both near and far.  He ordered them to celebrate the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month Adar every year because during those days the Jews got rid of their enemies. That was the month when their sorrow was turned into rejoicing and their mourning into a holiday. They were to be days of feasting, rejoicing, and of sending gifts to one another and the poor.   Esther 9:20-22

And so on the feast of Purim, we tell the story.  Because we are supposed to have fun with it, often the story is told rather tongue-in-cheek.  This year we told the story in a Star Wars version, or, to be more precise, the Star of David Wars.  And I was Queen Esther-Leia.  Aaaah.  Yes, when the name of Esther is mentioned, we should say Aaah because she is the beautiful heroine.  When Haman is mentioned, we boo to drown out his name because he is the bad guy.  And when Mordechai is mentioned, we cheer because he is the hero.

Want to see it?  Use the link below and scroll down the page it pulls up.  Enjoy!  Hag Sameach!

http://www.olive-tree.org/purim

 

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THE COURAGE TO CALL THINGS WHAT THEY ARE IN A WORLD THAT WON’T

 

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal was in the news a lot about a year ago.  To refresh your memory, she was the head of the Spokane office of the NAACP.  After six apparently highly productive months in that position, her parents came forward with her birth certificate and pointed out that Ms. Dolezal was born a white person.  According to one article that I read, white with blond hair and blue eyes, no less.  They were confused at her insistence that she is a black woman.  Ms. Dolezal had to resign from her position in order to defuse the heated debate that surged around her.  She insists to the present that she identifies as a black woman.  In her eyes, she is black.  Or, as she has termed it, “trans-black”.  And it has cost her everything.  She is unable to find any type of employment, teeters on the edge of homelessness and is living on food stamps.  Who can doubt her sincerity?  If I am asked to judge her by the culture in which I live, there is no basis to challenge that claim.  If I am asked to judge her by the moral standards of my faith, then I must conclude that she is not black.  Why the disparity?  How can there be such a deep chasm between my culture and my faith?  Easily.  It all derives from the foundation on which each stands.

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I’m Already Dancing

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If you click the Youtube link to the left, you’ll find my latest video to date.  It’s ‘Testify’ by NeedToBreathe.  My rule is that I make videos to songs that make me cry.  This one made me laugh and cry.  Why?  It reminded me of some truths that are so easy to forget in my busy, adult life.

You’ll notice a maze theme running through the video which comes from the lyrics ‘there is a peace, there is a love, you can get lost inside’.  It made me think of mazes.  In adults, that is a theme that inspires trepidation.  We don’t want to get trapped inside a maze.  It’s threatening.  But look at the faces of the children running through the mazes.  It’s not fear or anxiety on their faces.  It’s excitement and anticipation and joy.  God wants me to run through the maze of my life with excitement, never knowing what he has around the next corner but safe in the knowledge that a good God will be there waiting for me.  I should lose myself in his peace and love.  My goal should be to reach the center, not to escape the maze.

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The Goodness of God

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The acts of goodness that most amaze us are the undeserved and unexpected acts.  We remember them.  The young man who takes off his own shoes and gives them to a homeless man whose shoes are in tatters.  The policeman bringing food to someone begging on the street instead of arresting them.  People like Mother Theresa who left a life of Western comforts to devote herself to the poor of India.  I remember as a child someone who used to treat me a bit harshly and then one day did something unexpectedly kind to me.  It’s been more than 50 years and I don’t remember the specifics of her harsh side but I distinctly remember that kind act.  Such acts bring us to tears.  They revive our hearts.  They give us hope.  Why?  Because we instinctively long for such gracious goodness in a world so lacking in it.  I read the internet news almost daily and what I see there is that for every act of gracious goodness, there are five or ten stories of murder, cruelty and betrayal.  These rare acts of goodness help to restore us in the face of such cruelty and wrongdoing.

And yet we do not see that our lives and the lives of the entire world are bathed in the gracious goodness of God.  God created this world knowing what we would do with it.  He could have simply said no to the very idea of the world.  He could have decided the world was not worth the trouble.  After all, the world breaks his heart every moment of every day.  Who needs that?  But for the sake of the love he decided to lavish on us, God decided we were worth all the pain we would inflict on him.  Gracious goodness.  Faithful goodness.

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Lazarus and the Rich Man

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This parable is told in Luke 16 beginning in verse 19.  Yeshua is on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified.  He knows this.  In chapter 17, we find him on the road to Jerusalem.  In chapter 18 he predicts his death for the third time .In chapter 19 we find the triumphal entry.  He knows where he’s going.  He knows what will happen and he keeps going.  So much is packed into these chapters.  He’s trying to get the people ready.  He’s trying to get the disciples ready.  I think that’s why he tells so many stories.  I don’t know about you but stories are much easier for me to remember than instructions.  I think that’s why Yeshua told stories.  There are some amazing things in this parable.  Yeshua was trying to jar the religiously righteous enough wake them up to what they were doing.  To wake them up enough to follow him.  He loved them.

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The Hands of Yeshua

what-happened-to-your-hand

I don’t know if anyone has noticed the Youtube link on the left side of the blog page.  It links you to my Youtube channel.  I make videos to music that moves me.  I just finished a video for Yom-Yeshua (aka Christmas).  If you want to see it, here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M29Q8V9i-ig&t=8s

I collected images from the life of Yeshua in chronological order.  The thing that struck me most was his hands.  Hands lifted to heaven.  Hands touching the sick.  Hands giving sight to the blind.  Hands taking two fish and a few loaves and feeding thousands.  Hands raising the dead.  Hands reaching out to Peter as he sank beneath the waves on a stormy night.  Hands touching people who were untouchable.  The hands of God doing what they had not been able to do for thousands of years…reaching out to touch the people he loved.  Showing them that he’d never forgotten them and that he never would.  And then at the end, hands carrying a cross.  Hands pierced by nails driven into his flesh by all of us.  It could have been me holding that hammer and in a very real sense, it was me.  And then the miracle.  Once again, hands reaching out to touch those he loved.  Hands pierced so that once again they can save those they touch.  Then he ascended to heaven where those hands speak to the Father, telling him that the price has been paid and we are clean.

The Bible says God created the world with a word and we know that Yeshua is the Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

All things were created through Him,

and apart from Him not one thing was created

that has been created

John 1:1-3

This is one of my favorite parts of the Bible.  I love these verses.  All things were created through Yeshua.  He was there at the beginning and he acted to create all that there is.

He created all knowing what would happen.  Knowing that we would fall and need to be redeemed.  Knowing what a mess we would make out of his perfect creation.  Knowing we would break his heart over and over and over again.  And he did it anyway.

We know that God created time and that he exists outside of time.  He sees it all as one thing.  To God there is no past, present or future.  It all simply is, at once, and within his view in its entirety.  He can hold time, space and the universe in those beautiful hands.  So you have to ask yourself, were the hands that formed the universe, the hands that made man from the dust of the ground, were they pierced?  Yes, I think they were.

Merry Christmas.

God and “Alternative Life Styles”

how-deep-the-fathers-love

How about a topic that is never far from the news these days?  One that is guaranteed to get me into trouble.  Let’s talk about God and gays, lesbians, transvestites, trans genders and the “gender-fluid”.  The world has changed considerably since I was young.

I believe that the people who argue that these sexual identities are part of a person’s make-up when they are born and the people who argue they are life choices are both missing the point here.  They are asking the wrong questions.  They are giving the wrong answers because they are asking the wrong questions.  There is something deeper at issue here, something more fundamental and that’s what needs to take center stage in any discussion of sexual identity.  The ultimate issue here is control.  Who is in control?  In control of your life?  Your decisions?  Your attitudes?

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