Monday, April 6, 2020

Waiting and Suffering

Was Jesus really a carpenter?

I was reading a British author, Caryll Houselander, when I came across her quote: “Yet Christ welcomes the cross. He embraces it, he takes into his arms, as a man takes that which he loves into his arms. He lays his beautiful hands on it tenderly, those strong hands of a carpenter that are so familiar with the touch of wood…”

I had a difficult time with these words. Why?

At some point during his adolescence, Jesus, the Divine Son, became fully aware of his calling and his sacrifice. But at the same time that he was understanding his mission, Jesus, the man, was also training with his foster father in the trade of carpentry. He worked with wood daily—carving it, shaping it, and bending it to his will. And all the while he knew that his destiny lay on a tree—his arms outspread dying for the entirety of humanity. How do you work with the very device that will be your death? Confronting it daily next to your human father? Confronting it for years.

I’ve heard that we are grieving right now as we social distance. Perhaps we can apply the stages of grief to Jesus’ profession of carpentry from his perspective.

Denial. Why should this sacrifice for others be up to me?

Anger. I have to endure such pain for others? That doesn’t seem fair. Why shouldn’t others have to account for their wrongdoings?

Bargaining. Perhaps there is another way. If I’m allowed to stay with my mother and just teach the people, heal the people, turn the people back to You, Father…Take this cup from me. (I think Jesus thought this more than once.)

Depression. Those first 40 days in the desert, wandering, not eating, contemplating, praying. Do I have the strength to see this through?

Acceptance. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by ever word that comes from the mouth of God.” My Father will see me through this.

Go back to the wood—entering the wood shop of your daily trade and being reminded of your demise....

Picking up the tools to begin work. Confronting it silently and daily next to your human father. And next to your Father (for our Heavenly Father never leaves us, it’s us that walk away from Him time to time). You do this daily task for years. And Years. Your foster father gently guides your hands and you learn through the hands of love. And your Heavenly Father guides you through the pains in your heart with Love. And it comes to you.

Love. Love is what motivates you. Love for your earthly father, your Heavenly Father, your mother who will see you through your trials til the end, and those around you who you created in union with Your Father. Love drives you. And you begin to look forward to working with the wood, bending it and shaping it, making it into beautiful and helpful articles to be used in daily life. Perhaps even accepting the pain of the slivers, all because you know your destiny—because the cross ahead is temporary. Its societal shame becomes the ultimate Glory. All those you love with be with you at the last.

There’s another stage of grief in my mind. Maybe it’s not a stage, maybe it’s more like when you emerge from grief.


When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened up and His Father said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Don’t we ache for that last part? To hear those we love, those we sacrifice for, say that they are well please with us? What a grace that would be!

Perhaps right now, in this waiting and suffering, this our investment because we desire to hear those words of grace later…well pleased.

Right now we are facing fear in disease and death—facing our reality alone cooped up in our homes. Facing that we are not enough, that we are not in control.

Oh that we would let The Carpenter shape us! How much happier would we be if we could let Jesus shape us into what He sees for us instead of we what see as ourselves? We could become the useful chair or table for others to lean on, or the beacon by using beautiful words and actions that give relief to others. What would it take for us to let The Carpenter shape us?

Suffering our cross. Letting the gentle hands of Our Father and His Son guide us through this time filled with slivers. Letting the Holy Spirit fill us with hope instead of dread.

Take this time to go through the stages of grief while we endure this waiting. And know that deliverance will come…that time when we hear Our Father say, “This is my child, with whom I am well pleased!”

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Three Letters, So Much Meaning

You all know my passion with regard to water.

(For those of you new to my blog, you can simply use the search at the top of my blog to find other posts on the subject.)

Image result for images of waterIn short, I see the three atoms of a single molecule of water as a symbol of the Christian Trinity. There are so many attributes of these three atoms that reflect God and I’m constantly in awe of finding more. But I am also fascinated with the idea that in Genesis 1:2 says: The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. Does this mean that water existed before God created the earth?

The premise I’d like to follow in is post is that the word water in Hebrew shows yet another piece of Trinitarian philosophy.  

Judaism believes there is much wisdom in each letter of their 22 letter alphabet, hence one of my favorite books is The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk (I’ll refer to it as WHA in this post.)

The word for water in Hebrew is mayim, which contains three Hebrew letters, two mem’s (even though below they look different) and one yud. (Here’s the Google piece that I found that shows the letters—remember that Hebrew goes from right to left.)
Image result for image of the hebrew word water 

Mem can be written closed or open, representing both the revealed and concealed. Study the picture included here.  

Image result for image of the hebrew word water 

The first mem is open in the word, mayim. According to WHA, “The open mem points to the obvious, openly revealed glory of God’s actions.”

Then WHA goes on to explain, “The closed (final) mem alludes to that part of the Celestial rule which is concealed from man and to which man submits instinctively and with perfect, innocent faith. I take this to mean that God is the First Causality from which all creation flows and that we are not privy to everything related to how and why He created this reality.

“Taken together, the open mem and closed mem harmoniously glorify the Kingdom of the Almighty with the words of King David: Your kingdom is a kingdom spanning all eternities, and Your dominion is throughout every generation (Psalm 145:13).”

The other letter in water is the yud. It is the smallest and most humble letter according to WHA. Also, WHA says, “…is barely larger than a dot and cannot be divided into component parts. It alludes to Hashem who is One and Indivisible…” (Hashem meaning “the name” which is to the Jewish people, the name of God since they do not say the name of God or even write it.)

The yud is smallest letter of the Hebrew Alphabet as well, representing humility (which Christ humbled himself for us), but it also represents the metaphysical according WHA. It goes on to say, “In smallness lies essence…which is devoid of such physical ballast as space, time or matter…this implies that greatness is achieved through humility.”

Go back now to the word mayim:

Two of the same letters with the smallest letter in between. Three letters, great and small.

Two hydrogen atoms, one oxygen atom – three atoms all together. Water binds with all other substances but never forces a bond—like God. 

Water came before any other Divine utterance in Genesis. Why might this be important? How is water important to us? It sustains life—all life. It washes us. We are made up of 2/3 water. And these are just a few of the outward symbols. Is God trying to tell us that He sustains us? Are we even listening?

More to come next time with atomic numbers of these three atoms that make up water…

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Same God

Inouye Solar Telescope sun

This latest picture from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope or DKIST is of our own star, the sun. MIT Technology Review describes the picture above:

“The image shows a surface that’s divided up into discrete, Texas-size cells, like cracked sections in the desert soil. You can see plasma oozing off the surface, rising into the air before sinking back into darker lanes.”

Tons of these plasma surfaces, all Texas sized. Makes me stop and think.

Everyone I’ve shared this picture with stare in awe—atheists and theists alike. We hold our breath lost in wonder at the sheer size and energy of this star. It sustains the earth, it keeps us alive.

I believe in a Higher Being. I intellectually comprehend that this is the same God who made the earth and its inhabitants.

And then I take my thoughts to the next step. This IS the same Being that wants to have a personal relationship with me. Every day. The Greatest Being desires a relationship with all of us—not from afar, but deep and intimate and everlasting.

I don’t believe God sits up on some golden throne watching but not engaging. He is active in each and every one of us. He tugs at our hearts to do the right thing, He turns our hearts to mush when we see something beautiful. He is there in the everyday suffering and joys alike.

As humans, we are drawn to beauty and power. We see successful people and we want to get to know them. We idolize Hollywood stars and powerful business moguls. And we think if we could just get to know them or ask them their secrets, we could be beautiful and powerful too.

But how often do we stop and ask God all those same questions we would ask the people we idolize?

The same Creative Power that created the hug sun with all its Texas-sized plasma cells is waiting. 

My guess? He’s got better answers than those we look to on earth.  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Original Lie

There isn’t a single person I know who didn’t have some sort of self-image struggle growing up. Whether it was strife at home, a missing parent, bullies at school, or worse situations, everyone at some time has had questions about their worth as a person.

I remember running home from school, tears streaming down, internalizing some comment from another kid at school. My mother’s first question would always be, “Who told you that?”

It was invariably someone who most likely had issues of their own, but I never saw it that way. The words hurt and I didn’t understand why others would say such things.

The one hurt that stuck with me through the years was the repeated phrase, “You’re ugly.” Every time I let it fester inside, and every time my mother would ask, “Who told you that you were ugly?” She always tried her best to wipe away the pain, but after a while I learned to believe the “ugly” mantra about myself.

Once I started believing it, I acted differently. My self-confidence plummeted, my attitude towards life changed and I began to seek ways to make myself prettier…at least in my own eyes. That began the life-long struggle concerning my self-image.

Of course, last autumn, losing my hair certainly didn’t help. All the old “ugly” feelings came back. All the pain filled my head, swarming my insides as well.

While reading the Tanach, the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, I was suddenly struck by what happened with Adam and Eve after they ate the apple. I loved the book’s commentary about how God called to the man and woman in the garden. God already knew exactly where they were, but He called out in order to enter into conversation with Adam and invite him to repentance.

But what hit me hard was God’s next question, “Who told you that you are naked?” (Tanach 3:11, also the same verse in the Christian version.)

The same words I had heard from my mother, “Who told you…,” came back smacking me in the face. I had never recognized these same words were uttered by God.

And both times they meant the same thing.

The serpent was determined to tell Adam and Eve that they were not enough—that they needed to eat the forbidden fruit to be more like God. They didn’t recognize that they had been made in the image and likeness of God. Nor did they recognize the serpent’s jealousy of them. They needed to be more…

So original sin came from the original lie.

In that moment I was able to see the truth. My mom would tell me that perhaps someone was jealous of me (I couldn’t imagine why), or that they were struggling at home and therefore lashed out at school. Even as an adult, rejection triggered those whispers that it was happening because I was ugly.

Now I see the truth.

Time to let go of the lie I’ve held so close to my heart for most of my life. Time to remember that God made me in His image and that the serpent who has whispered the lie of ugliness to me my entire life is wrong.

No longer shall I believe the original lie.

Whatever your lie is?

No longer should you believe it either.

Monday, January 16, 2017

In the Beginning

I had a mentor. His name was Dr. William Elefant. He was a strong Jewish man, vehemently dedicated to the writings of the Torah. We met unassumingly enough, though now I see how auspicious the event truly was.

We would meet in a library in the middle of Denver, a sort of central point for both of us. When he walked into the room, his gait revealed many things about him, but two really stick in my mind. The first was that he would not be encumbered by his age. Though late into his 70’s he walked with purpose and joyfulness. The second was that one would never know he was in pain with each step. 

While he taught me many things about the Jewish faith, he also revealed many things about my own Christian journey, and to this day I am grateful to God (and Thomas Smith) for introducing us. He taught me about Gematria, the Jewish way of using letters and numbers. He introduced me to the book, The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet (by Rabbi Michael Munk), which opened up a whole new world for me. 

I’ll never forget the day he said, “Today, I wish to show you something special.” We had been talking about my research on science and faith and how the topics intersected in so many ways. So now we made our way over to the other side of the library, Dr. Elefant’s feet shuffling while mine striding, a side effect of our ages. 

“There,” he said as we reached a massive book displayed on a special wooden slab. “You need this gem.”

The book was called the Tanach and I have mentioned it before. What I have not described is the intensity in which this man loved this book. He tenderly laid hands upon it and shook his head as if he was not worthy of it. “This is truth,” Dr. Elefant said, “and you will not be able to finish your work without it.”

I took copious notes of the things Dr. Elefant taught me, but I’ve never forgotten those particular words. He knew I was working on a manuscript that wove science and faith together and he adamantly encouraged me.

After he died in the fall of 2011, I set my research aside. It was too difficult to continue at the moment and life seemed to be getting more demanding at home as well. 

This last autumn, my heart seemed drawn to the Tanach. I ventured back to the library in the middle of Denver in the hopes of checking out a smaller version of the glorious book that I remembered. But it was not to be right then. My heart continued to tug at me and finally just before Christmas I tried again. This time I was able to check out The Tanach. 
I know that Dr. Elefant is most likely chuckling at the timing. It’s been five years since he passed away and since I set my research down. The timing of the tugging at my heart has meaning. 

In the Hebrew alphabet, the fifth letter is Hei. The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet described the letter Hei in the following manner: “The sound of Hei is a mere exhalation of breath, hei; it requires little effort, no movement of the lip, tongue, or mouth. This effortless enunciation symbolized the effortless creation of the world—as the Psalmist testifies…By the word of HASHEM the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts (Psalms 33:6).

My heart is on fire with the desire to share with you the wisdom of the Tanach interwoven with what nature (and therefore science) has to share with us. For this week, though, I will leave you with the Tanach’s version of Genesis 1:1.

“In the beginning of God’s creating…”

Notice the tense. Creating. God continues to create. This so specifically speaks to what I want to share with you. Science and faith are not at odds. They weave a beautiful story that we on Earth have forgotten. 

It’s time to remember.