Shemitah

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Sometimes, what we need doesn’t exactly line up with what we think we need. Our lives are filled with highs and lows, with straight paths and twisting, rock-strewn passages that take more stamina and fortitude than we are even aware we possess. It brings to mind Ecclesiastes chapter 3. The one that starts with “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time…” 2015, for me, was a time to be silent, to be reflective, in short, Shemitah.

As we count down the end to 2015 and look forward to the New Year, I’d like to share a few thoughts on my time-out, my Shemitah year.

  • When you promise God that you’ll do something, it’s best to be faithful to that promise lest he force you to keep that promise by any means necessary.
  • True forgiveness is a very hard pill to swallow, but once you’ve choked it down, I mean really let it go, there is such freedom in it, compassion, love, and joyous peace.
  • Trusting in God is something that has to be actively practiced EVERY day. It’s hard sometimes to give it over, but every time you do, it turns out to be soooo much more than you could ever have imagined.
  • Actively loving others is hard, very hard, and without God’s help, we pretty much suck at it!

Shemitah is a time of respite from your labors, a sabbatical; it’s about the space in between, the quiet void that speaks more loudly than the words that surround it, about what we learn through contemplation rather than action, about faith in God rather than our own earthly wiles and abilities, and why we are needed instead of what we need.

I look forward to resuming my postings in the coming months, and wish all a happy and fruitful new year, and may your 2016 be blessed beyond measure.

Shalom

~SLM

Whatever Happens, Be Thankful

It’s so easy for us to be thankful when Life goes the way we think it should, we say “Praise God,” or “God is good.” And it’s also easy to forget. When life smiles on us, the stars align, and we seem to dance into our future without a care, we get all full of ourselves, feel entitled, forget to be grateful, and when life throws us a curve ball, we can’t bring ourselves to it. But gratefulness is important, whatever happens.

In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul tells us to be thankful in every circumstance. No matter what the situation we find ourselves in, whether joyous and care-free or stress-filled and disastrous, we can be certain that we are exactly where we have been called to be. God has put us there. Paul tells us in Romans that all things work together for God’s good purposes. At any given time, we are where we are most needed to do honor and glory to God, even when we can’t see it. We must press on, remembering that where we find ourselves is merely a weigh station along the road, a pause, a side trip, not the final destination.

Here is the constant: God is good, and no matter how bad I’ve been, or how I perceive the circumstances that I may find myself in, He still is. So, thanking him every day for whatever life throws my way is the best way I know to be faithful to Him, to honor Him, because He has put me here, this is where he needs me most at this moment in my life.

~SLM

 

Proverbs 11 The Handbook for Life Part IV: Karma

Any handbook for life worth considering is bound to have a healthy chapter covering Karma. As defined by the dictionary, Karma is the concept of “action” or “deed” understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. It’s the prevalent “hip” expression for payback, but, Karma is more than just “what goes around comes around,” it’s about the law of attraction, about actions; how we act and thereby live our lives dictates what we attract unto ourselves.

 

It’s funny to me how we like to pick and choose the attributes of Karma that suit us at any given time, and we are more apt to apply it to others than to ourselves. We are quick to point out how we think the actions of others are bound to return “bad Karma” to them, while completely ignoring our own actions. Saying things like, “well, maybe I’m so-and-so’s karma,” or “Karma’s a bitch, man. Maybe you should think about what you are saying [to me],” meaning that if what is said is egregious enough, we’d be justified in meeting out our own brand of Karma. When we take matters into our own hands, avenging a real or perceived wrong, then our revenge is met with further revenge, and the cycle continues to spiral downward until only hate and prejudice remain. And, if you think about it, the idea that we have the right to make someone pay for what we believe is wrong, is the height of arrogance. It’s the ego throwing a temper tantrum, because someone dared to be thoughtless, unkind, or unjust to us, and, in our own hubris, we are determined to punish the offender.

Karma is a concept that involves consciousness, the thoughtful awareness of one’s actions, and the realization of how we impact others, and to me, it is synonymous with the idea of turning the other cheek. Not reacting to a situation takes strength of will, it takes courage. It’s the ultimate state of being mindful of our actions and their consequences, allowing us the opportunity to treat others as we would be treated, no matter what the situation, creating a positive charge, and giving the responsibility of retribution to a power greater than us, which frees us from the cycle of cause and effect.

 

The law of attraction compels us to trust in spirit, to strive to do the right thing, even if doing so seems naive or foolish at the time, because it teaches us that we attract to ourselves those things which we seek. If we seek goodness, we find it, if we seek spirit, we find it, if we seek wisdom, we find it, and if we seek trouble, we find it. We are continually seeking every day of our lives, whether consciously or cavalierly, whether fully engaged or on auto-pilot, we usually find exactly what we seek, we reap what we have sown. Therefore we must guard our thoughts, our tongues, and our actions, being ever mindful of the fruit we bring to bear.

 

Luke 6:43-45 tells us “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

 

We eat the fruit of our own choosing, and if that fruit is bad, rotten, then it is we who shoulder the blame.

~SLM

Proverbs 11:1-16: Handbook for Life Part III

…and the interpretations continue…

1The Lord detests dishonest scales,
but accurate weights find favor with him.

Treating everyone and everything with honesty and fairly is pleasing to the eyes of God.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.

Pride is the great downfall of mankind. When we let our pride get in the way, we cannot hear the voice of wisdom, but unpretentiousness opens our ears to God’s guidance.

The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Those who strive for decency have truth and authenticity to guide them, while the false and faithless will be ruined by their deceitfulness.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.

The accumulated possessions of this world hold no value in times of disaster and crisis, but wisdom, knowledge and honesty provides safety.

The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight,
but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

The very act of living honestly and respectably simplifies our lives and makes them straight-forward, but if we scheme, our schemes become our undoing.

The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

It is our integrity that carries us forward, that gives us rectitude and keeps us truthful, but the dishonest, the devious, the treacherous, are enslaved by their malicious desires.

Hopes placed in mortals die with them;
all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

Faith given over to humans is misplaced faith, because all of mankind’s promise and power comes to nothing, for men die and with them dies all their desires, all their prospects, all their hopes.

The righteous person is rescued from trouble,
and it falls on the wicked instead.

An honest person is liberated from trouble, which falls on the despicable instead.

With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors,
but through knowledge the righteous escape.

With their words, godless people destroy others, but through wisdom and judiciousness the decent can escape the trap of gossip.

10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

When good triumphs over evil, or when the wicked are destroyed, we all celebrate it.

11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

Through their blessings, good people exalt others, and through their words, the malicious tear others down.

12 Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense,
but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

Someone who put others down, ridiculing and disparaging them spreads ruin and destruction, while those who are wise do not judge.

13 A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

If a gossip will tell just one thing, he will tell all, but one who is trustworthy will hold his tounge.

14 For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.

It is best for leaders to listen to the points of view from all sides, to consider the advice of many in order to give wise counsel and provide for stability safety.

15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer,
but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.

Vouching for the credit of someone you do not know well is a fool’s errand, better to walk away than to suffer for a bad decision.

16 A kindhearted woman gains honor,
but ruthless men gain only wealth.

Honor and respect are given to a kind and gracious woman, while money only goes to heartless men.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

This section of Proverbs is clearly about how to treat others, about how to live our lives in conjunction with others. It instructs us to live our lives honestly and conscientiously, to think of how our actions, or lack of actions, affect others. Romans 12:17-18 advises us, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Proverbs 11:1-16 serves as a reminder of the laws of physics, which demand that for every action there is an equal and/or opposite reaction. Living consciously is the key; being aware of how our actions produce re-actions, of how our daily lives, and what we choose to do and say, influences all those with whom we interact. We should think of ourselves less and others more, remembering that community is as important as we are.

If we would simply hold our tongues, close our lips, open our eyes and ears, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, keeping His commands, we would see and understand many things we have never even thought it possible to know.

~SLM

Proverbs 10:17-32 Handbook for Life Part II

…and the paraphrasing continues with chapter 10, verse 17…

17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Those who exercise discipline, who observe and follow a mindful philosophy, are like a beacon shining on a hill for others to see and emulate, but those who disregard their need for adjustment, who discount their actions, and deny their faults, are like blind curve on a mountain pass that can send you crashing into utter ruin.

18 Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
and spreads slander is a fool.

Smiling faces sometimes tell lies, and those who cover over hatred with congenial gestures while disparaging others misuse their mental powers, reason wrongly.

19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.

Misdeeds cannot be corrected by confusing the situation with word upon word of superfluous information, because words without sincerity and intention are meaningless, but when we stop and contemplate, conserving our remarks, we act judiciously.

20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

When we live in a place of honesty and integrity, speaking with kindness and love, our actions become a gift more valuable than the choicest silver, but those whose hearts harbor selfish desires and malicious intent hold no worth, they are of little consequence.

21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of sense.

A fool would rather die than to think differently, to use their intelligence to help others instead of for their own selfish desires. But when we come from a place of honesty, choosing a moral path, encouraging others to be the best version of themselves, we are like fertile ground; we feed the spirit.

22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,
without painful toil for it.

See the post titled “Count Your Blessings” for this one!

23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes,
but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.

This one needs no translation. It speaks for itself in plain language, ‘nough said!

24 What the wicked dread will overtake them;
what the righteous desire will be granted.

When we walk out of step with wisdom, what we fear and worry over is called to us, but if we seek wisdom’s counsel, and live our lives rightly, then our desires are called to us.

25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.

When things get hard, complicated, and the “shit hits the fan,” the vile disappear, but the reputable stand firm and work through the tempest.

26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so are sluggards to those who send them.

This verse serves to remind us that no one appreciates laziness. When we are lazy, we cause pain and suffering to those who depend upon us.

27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life,
but the years of the wicked are cut short.

Respect for things we don’t understand, the powers of nature, of the universe, of God, and a humble attitude toward these powers, makes us more prudent in our choices, while an irreverent, arrogant attitude toward them spur rash and irrational behavior that can put our lives in danger.

28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,
but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.

When we live an honorable and faith-filled life, our outlook transforms into happiness and enjoyment, but the expectations of the hateful will not materialize.

29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless,
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

Following God’s laws are a comfort and a sanctuary for the virtuous, but God’s way is both a threat and a disaster for those who are corrupt and unethical.

30 The righteous will never be uprooted,
but the wicked will not remain in the land.

If we live our lives with integrity and authenticity, we become like an oak tree, deeply rooted in spirit, but when we choose the path of dishonesty and immorality, we are like tumble weeds, drifting in the wind,.

31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be silenced.

The person who does the right thing speaks with the voice of wisdom, but those who twist the truth, distorting it, will be stifled.

32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favor,
but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.

Those who are decent and upright speak in love and consideration, while the unpleasant and malicious skew truth, speaking in profane and self-serving nonsense.

It is interesting to me how many references to speech are used Proverbs 10, as if reminding us that “loose lips sink ships!” To live wisely, we are advised to watch our mouths, to hold our tongues, to understand that what we say can and does have a huge impact upon others, as well as ourselves. There are consequences to everything in life, and spreading gossip, speaking badly of others, and using our faculties of language to impugn or injure others will most certainly come back upon us, will indict us with our own words.

~SLM

Proverbs 7 What Waits in the Shadows

Ah, the seductress, once again she visits us to tempt and deceive, to lure and entrap.  Solomon uses her to paint a picture of how we can allow flattery and desire to mislead and betray us. He describes her as brazen and brash, as roaming the streets and lying in wait for just the right time to approach, using our cravings to entice us into sin.  She snares us by our own folly, and we willingly follow her down the path of destruction and death.

While reading this chapter, I couldn’t help thinking of “The Lord of the Rings.” The details with which the story is related, reminded me of the tale of the Nazgûl, the nine black riders, who once were mighty kings and whose greed and lust for power became their undoing, distorting and disfiguring them, transforming them into hideous, unrecognizable creatures. Like the naïve young man in Solomon’s account, they were seduced by the promises of forbidden fruit, and through their eager acceptance of the dark lord’s gifts, they became enslaved to his will.

We have all, at one time or another, been in Solomon’s shoes, looking out upon a scene we know will not end well, watching from a distance as a loved one makes a wrong turn, seeing the outcome as if someone had drawn a diagram on a chalkboard. If only they could see what we are seeing, the traps that have been set, the heartache, the devastation waiting in the shadows.  We can protect ourselves from the snares of the seductress, and Solomon tells us that wisdom’s voice is the only guard we have against her, that the temptations of our worldly desires can be waylaid through talking to wisdom as if she’s a sister, and through treating her insight as a constant companion.

 

~SLM