Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Photo Fun–A Gift for My Sister


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Welcome to my Friday blog post where, sticking with my pattern of daily alliteration in my titles, it is time for Fun and Flourishing Friday. Since I’m planning on Fridays being posts of fun, photography, family, etc., this one lines up perfectly with edits done to a picture of my sister and her husband. Plus, the fancy frame even allows for the definition of flourish.

I had a great day where I got a bit more exercise and activity according to my Samsung SHealth app. As part of that activity, I took a bunch of pictures in my front yard, and while I was working on some creative edits, I changed my mind midstream. I’m kinda known for doing things like that. It’s a woman thing and an Adult ADD thing, so…oh, look, another idea popping in.  🙂 Not really, but really. My mind is always racing with new ideas and running down a variety of rabbit trails.

Anyway, I remembered I had a picture from my little sister’s recent vow renewal ceremony out in Arizona. She and her husband celebrated their 33rd year of marriage, and since I couldn’t be there for the event, I asked for a lot of pictures.

Well, Candie is normally the photographer for her church, but as the subject of the photos, she couldn’t be the one to take them. I don’t know how many people she passed the camera to, but she ended her day with a variety of nice pictures. Unfortunately, only a few were of just her and her hubby Steve together. The best one also had half a word and some wall decor behind them. That’s the first image in the slideshow above.

I cut the image to a size that would print for an 8 x 10 landscape, but I had not yet been successful in removing the letters and design. I’m not practiced in using the cutting tools to cut and paste an image yet, but the new Photoshop Elements 14 has a “refine selection” tool that makes a big difference, so I hope to use that method in the future. For this one, I simply copied and pasted plain wall portions over the decorated wall. I use the free software from Irfanview for simple editing, so shadowing and colors aren’t perfectly even, but a little work with the cloning tool took the square lines out. From there, I opened the image up in my KVADPhoto+ Pro desktop app from the Microsoft Store. (Note: links are for ease of reference only unless they link to Amazon where they include my affiliate info.)

Image two in the slideshow reveals the heart bokeh I placed over the walls to soften the background and add some color. That took two different effect filters, and half the fun is seeing what an image looks like with the different filters until I find one or two that seem perfect. For this, white hearts and then colored hearts worked well together. In addition to that, I added a simple frame to make the picture printable as an 8 x 10 for my family that doesn’t use the Internet. The frame is perfect because it includes some dainty lace, and my little sister loves all things lacey and Victorian.

The last image was the simplest, though I went through a variety of frames to get to it. For that one, I surrounded the previously edited and framed image in another Photo+ frame that I thought would look good for when my sister wants to share her pic online. We’ll see which one she likes best, and feel free to comment on the one you like best too.

Shabbat Shalom to all my readers, and may this fun and flourishing Friday finish your week in peace and joy.

August 5, 2016 Posted by | Creativity, Fun & Flourishing Friday, Nonfiction, Photography | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memory of My Mother


Mom image in stardust frame.

Mom in a stardust frame. May she be even more beautiful now in the presence of her Lord and Savior.

It’s hard to believe it’s already January 25th, and this is my first post for 2015. When I said I’d be traveling to care for my mom, I don’t think I realized how much her diagnosis would change my world. Her loss on January 13th turned it upside-down.

I have some news to share related to her last days, but I will share that at a later date, probably when I’m back home and ready to start updating again more frequently. For today, I want to share the information I put together for her memorial service. I found the above picture in her belongings, and I believe it’s from her late teens.

From the memorial brochure…

Page 1, with the picture: “Tell the people, I am happy. Be happy for me too.”

Page 2:

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)
(Paraphrased)
7. As for Catherine, she has fought
the good fight, she has finished the
race, and she has remained faithful.
8. And now the prize awaits her—the
crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous Judge, will give
her on the day of His return. And the
prize is not just for her but for all
who eagerly look forward to His
appearing.

Page 3:

In Loving Memory of
Catherine Anne Jensen

Born on September 8th, 1944
in Concord, California

Went peacefully to her eternity with
her Savior, Jesus, on
January 13th, 2015

Memorial at her home church,
First Assembly of God, Benson, AZ
Sunday, January 18th, 2015 @ 1pm

Potluck reception to follow service.

Page 4:

Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)
8. And now, dear brothers and sisters,
one final thing. Fix your thoughts on
what is true, and honorable, and right,
and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent
and worthy of praise.
9. Keep putting into practice all you
learned and received from me—
everything you heard from me and saw
me doing. Then the God of peace will
be with you.

Click Mom Memorial Flyer for a PDF copy of the brochure if you’d like to print it out.

Many blessings to all my readers for your caring and concern as I walk through this unexpected valley of change in my family. Before she left us. the advent of technology allowed some wonderful last moments for Mom with her older sister, Shirley, and her younger brother, Dale, as we gathered on a Google hangout from three different homes. She was able to say good-bye to siblings, daughters, sons-in-law, a nephew, and friends on the Thursday evening before she began sleeping through her last days. On Saturday and Sunday, she awoke for brief moments for good-byes with her church friends in Benson. A little after 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, January 13th, Mom took her last breaths while looking up and appearing to say “yes” to someone above her. We believe it was an answer to the question, “Are you ready to go?.” She left peacefully and without enduring the extreme pain normally associated with pancreatic and liver cancer. The grace of God has sustained us and will continue to sustain us in the coming days.

May God sustain all of you today and always,

~Crystal

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Current Events, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2014 in review


2014 is almost over, and I’ve slowed down a bit as the year winds down. I guess we all need to take a bit of a break now and then, and mine came in with some physical issues that wore me out for a few weeks. Now, I wonder if my body was preparing for the emotional hit I received just two days ago when I found out my mother has inoperable late-stage pancreatic cancer. Prayer gives me amazing comfort, and I can’t imagine walking through a time like this without the grace of God and the strength of praying friends. When we’re out of control, there’s so much comfort in knowing that God is on His throne and that He cares.

With planning and upcoming travel, I don’t know how often I’ll be posting, but I promise I won’t forget about the blog or about my precious and valued readers. Thank you for every day, and every lesson, you have walked (and will walk) with me in this wisp of life here on earth. Now, here’s a 2014 review prepared for me by WordPress…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Current Events, Nonfiction, Prayer, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grandma Tickles and Grandfather Clauses


Welcome Baby Leona by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

Welcome Baby Leona (with Daddy James, Mommy Autumn, and Little Elie)…by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved
Click on the image to open a new tab/window to the see full size original , and all other images, in my Flickr photo stream.

It was just over four years ago when I took a trip out to Arizona to attend the birth of my first great-niece. The oldest of our nephews, James, was excited to welcome his first daughter into the world. Sadly, his mother said she didn’t want to have anything to do with the new little one and that no one better call her “Grandma.” I countered with the offer to be the grandmother if they wanted since I had raised James for 5 years of his childhood and felt like a mother to him anyway. And then I hopped aboard an Amtrak train and headed west.

The baby’s mother, Autumn, already had one beautiful daughter, Elie Mable. And yes, Mable is spelled right since Autumn wanted it to be an acronym for…Mothers Always Bring Love Everywhere. How precious is that? I got to spend a lot of time with Elie and mommy and James (now called Daddy and taking the role of a most-wonderful daddy at that) got ready for the hospital.

Everyone had agreed on calling me “Grandma Crystal,” and Elie tried her best, but her three-year-old vocabulary just wouldn’t form my name, so she affectionately named me “Grandma Tickles.” The name stuck, and the meaning behind it stuck, so now all three little ones (we’ve now added little miss Wiley Love) have to run and dodge the tickle monster. Plus, I get the privilege of also being a tickle monster to Josh’s beautiful daughter Sinniah. Here’s a panorama of two pictures of my hubby (Uncle Santa) first with Elie, Leona, and Sinniah, and then with Wiley Love…

Uncle Santa David with Elie, Leona, Sinniah, and then with Wiley Love, Images by Candiece Nelson, All Rights Reserved

Uncle Santa David with Elie, Leona, Sinniah, and then with Wiley Love, Images by Candiece Nelson, All Rights Reserved
Click the image to open a new tab/window to see Candie’s full photo stream at Flickr.

So, with this above image, I’m guessing you think my reference to Grandfather Clauses has something to do with hubby, but it doesn’t. That would be “Grandfather Claus.” My reference is about leaning on promises from the past to get us through our present and our future. Right now, I’m not playing Grandma Tickles but rather LCW President. In my writer’s group, the location where we meet has changed policies and challenged an event we have for this coming Saturday, October 11th. We’ve advertised abundantly, so all of us on the planning committee have been a bit stressed since last Friday.

Our friend, Mark, made a statement as we left the home he shares with my spiritual sister, Debbie, after sunset on Yom Kippur, Saturday night. He said something to the effect of, “Maybe they’ll be willing to grandfather you in for just this event if you promise not to do it again.” I think the words were straight from God. When I called administration today, I used that request, and it seemed to make a difference. The woman I talked to wasn’t the decision-maker, but she did say she would take the request to “grandfather us in” to the president of the administration. Now we just wait for favor. Please join us in our prayer.

If there was ever anyone who knew about grandfather clauses, I’d say it’s our Lord God. The setup for blood sacrifice for the salvation of mankind goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The perfect blood that makes it possible for men–even today–to receive deliverance from the wages of our sin was shed over 2000 years ago.

Yeshua told the Jewish disciples to spread the gospel (good news) beginning at Jerusalem. Paul says in Romans 1:16 that the message is “to the Jew first.” However, because it is not God’s will for any to be lost, the original gospel message opened the door, so the rest of us could be also be saved. It’s still just as effective today, so if you have not yet repented and submitted to the saving power of the blood of Christ, do it now while there’s still time. I guarantee you can still be “grandfathered-in.”

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Learn Some Deuteronomy


We’ve now traveled all the way from Genesis 1:1 through Numbers 36:13. we’ve learned about God’s creation of all things, the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, an earth gone wild, and an earth destroyed by water leaving only Noah and his family. From there, we’ve met Abraham as the father of righteousness, Isaac as Abraham’s son of promise, and Jacob who became Israel. And from these leaders and patriarchs, we have seen Israel become a people in bondage, Moses become their reluctant deliverer, the leadership of Egypt destroyed for their sin, Israel delivered from their bondage in Egypt, Israel forced to wander because of their unbelief, and God use Moses to lead multiple generations of Israel from victory to victory. Now we begin a new book in their lives; the book of Deuteronomy which means “a copy of the words” in Hebrew.

Before we get into the reading, here’s a cool video (with lyrics) from my favorite Christian parody band, ApologetiX, called Learn Some Deuteronomy, which is a parody of Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard…

Now, in today’s reading from Deuteronomy 1:1 through Deuteronomy 1:11, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Today, we start Parashah 44, Hebrew D’varim meaning “words” in English. We begin with the words that Moses spoke to all Israel from the far side of the Jordan River, on the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year. The reading says that Moses took it upon himself to expound the Torah of everything God had told him to speak to them. In other words, he wanted to leave them with a summation of what he felt was important about their time together–the words from The Creator to His children.

Moses begins with reminding Israel that God was the One who spoke to them in Horeb and told them they had stayed long enough on that mountain and that it was time to move on. God told them to turn and take their journey up to the hill country of the Amorites and all their neighbors in the Arabah. God then directed them to the lowland, the south (the Negev), the coast, the land of the Canaanites, and then to Lebanon as far as “The Great River,” the Euphrates.

Moses continued to speak to the people who were now at the entrance to their promise, telling them that God said (in verse 8, Amplified Bible), “Behold, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them.” He went on to bless them with the reminder that God had multiplied them, and that their numbers had grown, so they were now like the stars of Heaven for multitude. He added (verse 11 AMP), “May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you as He has promised you!

I don’t know about you, but I can hear the love as Moses speaks to this people he’s been leading for so long. He is like a proud parent who has watched his children grow, bear children of their own, make mistakes, repent, mature, and finally get to that place where he could close his eyes and entrust them fully to the hands of God. All Moses wants for this nation now is for them to continue to grow and be blessed from now through eternity.

What Moses wants for these people, and the fact that Moses spoke face to face with God, tells us that Moses bore the heart of God toward these people. God also wanted nothing more than to bless them, make them grow, and bless them some more from then through eternity. That He made them blind for a time, so He could build another flock of the Gentiles, does not mean that God has changed His desires for His children. He still wants them blessed for eternity, and this is why the two flocks will become one when He grafts Israel back into their own root. He is using those of us not born into the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel to continue to multiply Israel. We have a bigger family than we can ever imagine.

And now, I will share one more ApologetiX video with you since it is another one about Deuteronomy. This one is called Ronomy, and it is a parody of Del Shannon’s Runaway. It doesn’t have lyrics, and they’re short, so I’ll start with those…

As they walked along they numbered two million strong
With all of their wives and all their young
And as Israel walked out of Egypt some things went wrong in the desert
That’s why they took so long
In the book where it began, Israel found itself in Egypt’s land
Bid adieu in Exodus, straight through Leviticus and Numbers
They wa-wa-wa-wa-wandered
While, while, while, while, while they went astray
And they wound up their desert stay in Deuteronomy
A-ron-ron-ron-ron-ronomy

July 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All In The Family


It used to be that naming shows from a specific era was a clear give-away to someone’s age. But now, with the advent of cable and satellite, and stations dedicated to classic television from days gone by, lots of people have the pleasure of enjoying television and movie entertainment from the past. Of course, the older I get, the more I change what I consider to be entertainment, but I do enjoy the stuff from the era when joking about a miniskirt was considered risqué instead of the out and out sexuality that’s pushed out of Hollywood now.

In today’s reading from Numbers 36:1 through Numbers 36:13 (the entire chapter), we complete another weekly portion, and we finish the book of Numbers. And Moses is finishing up his ministry as the leader of Israel by taking care of a few loose ends. In this case, a clan member from the tribe of Joseph has just realized that an earlier ruling requested by the five daughters of Zelophehad could turn out to create an imbalance in the inheritance of the tribes. The ruling was simply that if a man had no sons, his daughters would receive the inheritance from their father as if they were sons.

The problem, as pointed out by the clansman, is that if these girls marry into another tribe, they would take their inheritance with them, taking away part of what rightfully belonged to one tribe and giving it to another. In addition, they would then have a new inheritance with their husband’s family. At the year of Jubilee, when all properties return to their original owners, the tribes these daughters married into would have more than their fair share, and the tribe from which they came would be short some of its inheritance.

Moses decreed a new law that stated these daughters, and any daughters in the same position, would be required to marry within their own tribe to prevent any imbalance in the portions of inheritance. The tribes and the daughters seemed receptive to the law, and in obedience, the girls married from the sons of the brothers of their father. (In other words, they married their cousins.) In doing this, they fulfilled the command that no inheritance would be shared tribe to tribe, and each person would cling to the inheritance that belonged to the tribe of his or her ancestors.

I know there are lots of jokes about intrafamily marriage relationships and inbreeding, but I’m certain God wouldn’t have told them to do something like that if it was actually considered incest and would cause problems like birth defects. I’m happier that we consider that off-limits now, at least in the U.S., but for the purposes of keeping the purity in the tribes, it made sense for their situation. At the same time, I have a feeling that those tribal lines did eventually get blurred, and they may have led to some pretty heated conflicts in the future of Israel. Maybe they still do.

Now, I wonder how God sees the tribes and His family as it is scattered all over the world. Wouldn’t it be funny to find out that by way of ancestral bloodline, your next-door neighbor is actually related to you? Or, what if you found out that you and your cousin had ancestry from Israel but from different tribes? Thankfully, God does have it all sorted out, and He knows who is who right down to the DNA in each strand of hair. And we can be even more thankful that no matter how many families are on the face of the earth now, God has a plan to turn the multiple flocks into one flock under One Shepherd, and we will spend eternity worshiping the One Father we all share equally. Those will be the days.

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Saints Go Marchin’


What makes a saint? It depends on who you ask. Some will say a person can only achieve sainthood by doing great works, and then the church leadership votes them to that exalted position. Others will declare that all who serve God are saints. The classic jazz song above refers to all those who get to walk in when Heaven’s gates swing open wide. By the definition that those who serve God can be called His saints, all the believers in the community of Israel would qualify since the Scriptures keep repeating how they did everything just as God asked them.

In today’s reading from the entire second chapter of the book of Numbers, Numbers 2:1 through 2:34, we read of the division of people into tribes, clans, and families as they prepare to travel wherever God directs them. The people are set up by camps on the east, south, north and west sides of the camp, and each man is to travel under a banner with his clan’s symbol on it. The campers are to surround the Tent of Meeting but at a distance (except for the Levites).

When these saints go marching, they will march according to the direction of the leaders assigned to them, and those leaders march according to the directions they receive from Moses who gets them directly from Yahveh. That is why, even though each man does not hear from God for himself, when they follow these directions, the Scriptures are able to say that they did everything as God directed.

It takes a lot of faith to trust that these men are following the directions of a man who is hearing directly from God, so I’m thankful that God saw fit to include His Holy Spirit in our lives to give us personal direction these days. Of course, the children of Israel had the pillars of cloud and fire, and they were able to see certain evidences of when God was pleased and not. I wonder, though, if we could go back and ask them if they’d rather live in our day and age, would they choose the personal directing of God’s Spirit over the trusting of men?

It’s funny, though. I know there are some people who would rather have the Bible read to them on Sunday mornings, and maybe a few other times if they attend weekly studies, and that’s pretty much the end of their thinking about it. Then there are others who would rather search the Scriptures and study for themselves. The Scriptures tell us to study and to rightly divide (analyze) the word of truth, so I think that covers self-study and group study. I enjoy both. I love to study for myself, and I love to hear and read the perspectives of others. I tend to enjoy discussion more than lecture though because I retain conversations better, and my mind doesn’t wander as much.

Whatever way you learn best, just keep learning. God’s Word is alive, and it can change lives from the page or from the pulpit. We know from our readings, and from history, that God’s ultimate goal is to march ALL His saints into a place of eternity with Him, so whatever camp we march from, let us keep our destination and goal in mind. Let us, as Paul said, press toward the mark that is the high calling in Christ, and be numbered with the saints who will one day march through those heavenly gates.

May 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Down on the Family Farm


Family Fun by Flickr User Sam Salt, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Family Fun by Flickr User Sam Salt, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to vieworiginal image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I was raised in the city, so I can’t tell you much about family farms, but I did hear some stories from my grandparents. Most of what I heard about getting up before sunrise, and getting kicked by cows because of trying to milk them with cold hands didn’t sound like much fun to me. But in those days when I slept under trees or lived out of my car, I think those not-so-fun tasks would have been worth it to have a real roof over my head if we still lived in the days when farms got passed along from generation to generation.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:25 through Leviticus 25:28, we have just a few verses, but they’re on an important topic. God provides for us even when circumstances make life difficult. This reading says that if someone becomes poor, and has to sell the family farm to survive, the next of kin must be given the right to buy it back. If that can’t happen, and the seller should become rich enough to buy back his own property, the new owner must sell it back minus the years it was under new ownership and giving profit to the new tenant.

Imagine if all of us who came from families that had farms at one time or other were able to have the promise that one day, we could come back to our land. As we continue our reading today, we see how that could be possible even if the poor farmer never finds a way to get enough money to redeem his family’s land. At the year of jubilee, the land will be returned to him no matter what.

I can see these promises as something that lines up with the biblical prophecies that Israel will be grafted back into her own root and redeemed to her land. Where Paul talks of this in Romans 11, (I recommend reading the whole chapter for inspiration) he says in verse 15 that when Israel comes back, it will be as life from the dead. What is the definition of revival? It can be defined as “bringing back to life something that has died.” It certainly will be a year of jubilee when God brings Israel back to their own “family farm.” Verses 26-27 of Romans 11 sum it up perfectly…

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

I’ll close with a video of some awesome Messianic worship songs. The first one, that even includes some of the words from the above verse, is called Awake O Israel and runs to 1:15 in the video. The other songs are The Zeal of God and I Lay in Zion. All the songs include lyrics. Enjoy!

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Heard It Through the Desert Grapevine


Heard it Through the Grapevine by Flickr User Sonny Lazzeri, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Heard it Through the Grapevine by Flickr User Sonny Lazzeri, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Word spreads fast these days with all the different ways we can communicate at the speed of fiber-optic light. But what about the “old” days? I mean, I thought we were pretty clever when we were kids and could talk through cups or cans with strings attached. (Or at least we thought we could.) When hubby and I watch one of our favorite older shows, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, I’m always amazed at how fast the bad guys hear about the payroll coming through on a Wells Fargo stage or rolling in on a train car. I was enthralled by the episode where they tracked a coming tornado/cyclone just by using telegraph.

But in today’s reading from Exodus 18:1 through Exodus 18:12, I don’t know how word spread as well as it did. Somehow, though, the word of what happened with Pharaoh and his armies spread across the desert to Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. There was plenty of wine, so I’m sure there were grapevines, but I don’t think that’s how the word was carried. 😉 Still, the word spreading to Jethro is important enough that our full portion for the week, Parashah 17, is titled Yitro and is Hebrew for “Jethro.”

So Jethro hears about how God has delivered Israel and all He has done through Moses since Moses sent his wife, Zipporah, and his two sons back home to Jethro. He brings the family to see Moses in the desert where he was camped at the mountain of God. He had already sent word to Moses saying, “I, Jethro, am coming to see you with your wife and two sons.”

Moses goes out to meet Jethro and prostrates himself before him then kisses him. After checking on each other’s welfare, they enter the tent, and Moses tells his father-in-law everything God has done for him and for Israel in delivering them from Pharaoh and from slavery in Egypt. In verses 10-11, Jethro says, “Blessed be Adonai, who has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, who has rescued the people from the harsh hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that Adonai is greater than all other gods, because he rescued those who were treated so arrogantly.” And then Jethro brings a burnt offering and sacrifices to God, and Aaron comes with the leaders of Israel to share the meal with Moses and Jethro.

I’m not absolutely certain what type of priest Jethro was since he said the “now I know” part. I’m thinking that if he was already a priest of Yahveh, he already would have known that Yahveh is greater than all other gods. Never-the-less, God has always been big on wanting His good news to be spread, and I rejoice that Jethro learned and declared the truth. I believe God wants His truth carried to others by any means possible; cups, cans, telegraph, telephone, and–mostly–“tell a friend.” That’s where you and I come in with our testimonies. God’s Word says in Acts 6:7 (NLT), “So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.”

Now, I’d love to see some comments telling me what kind of grapevine you heard the good news through. Also feel free to share your favorite way to minister God’s word to others. I’ll share mine in comments as well.

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I’m My Own…Cousin? Uncle? Grandpa?


Okay, so today we get a bit more genealogy, and I’ve said since the beginning that those would be the days when I might have a little trouble coming up with witty or spiritually deep commentary. This reading from Exodus 6:14 through Exodus 6:28 covers some of the grandchildren of Israel and leads us on the path to Aaron and Moshe who would be used for God’s purposes to set His people free. A paraphrase of verses 27 & 28 might even say, “Yes, THAT Moses and Aaron.”

And that’s about all that is here except the part in verse 20 where the father of Moses and Aaron married his own father’s sister, aka their aunt. I tried to piece it together using my own cousins and their children to see what the relationships might have been, and I think the boys would’ve been their own cousins but maybe each other’s uncles too. I had trouble imagining my family members marrying each other, so I’ll let you, dear readers, figure this one out for me. 🙂

In the meantime, just to make this a little fun, take a listen to this cute video by one of my favorite comedians, Ray Stevens. It’s called I’m My Own Grandpa, and it’s fun, but it can be kind of difficult to follow, so I found one with a diagram on it that makes it a little easier. Enjoy!

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Will Work as a Slave for Food


Signs by Flickr User Technosailor CC License = Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike

Will Work for Food signs by Flickr User Aaron Brazell aka Technosailor
Click image to view original & access photo stream in new tab.

While I never held a sign by the side of the road, I have been both homeless and hungry. In those days, it was a treat to find clean food at the top of a McDonald’s trash can, though now the smell of ketchup in the garbage is hard for me to deal with. Maybe it’s old vinegar, or maybe it’s old memories, but I’m thankful I survived those times without becoming a permanent slave to anyone.  And I’ve been homeless more than once, even during a time when I was working and sleeping in my car in the company parking lot. I’m thankful God has delivered me from all those times, but I’m also grateful I went through them.

As this week’s portion comes to an end, we find Israel living in the best part of the land Egypt. Our reading from Genesis 47:11 through Genesis 47:27 finds the family living in Ra’amses as Pharaoh promised. Joseph feeds and cares for his father and brothers and his entire family to the youngest of them.

And then we read why the above is so important. The famine in the land had become so severe that people could not even provide money to purchase food or grain any longer. Joseph tells the people to give their cattle and flocks to Pharaoh in exchange for food. Because they didn’t want to starve, they gave up all their animals. The next year, they found the same issue, only this time the only thing they had left was their land and their own bodies. They promised their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food and for grain to plant on their property to grow more food.

Eventually, Joseph acquired all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. As for people, they were reduced to slaves city by city. The only ones who did not have to sell their land or become slaves were the priests. They had always been provided for by Pharaoh, so it remained that way. But everyone else was so grateful for their lives that they gladly gave their all to Pharaoh and even promised twenty percent of their future prosperity to him forever.

I still hurt for anyone who is hungry and/or cold, and I know that while some things in our economy improve, others get tougher–like needing two forms of identification to get a job. You can lose a lot of financial ground while you’re trying to get the money together to order a birth certificate, wait for its arrival, and then get the money and time to go get an ID (and a social security card if you don’t have one). It’s harder still if you can’t prove an address to put on the ID. Sadly, however, I also know that there are people who make upwards of $3000 per day just by holding one of those signs, and I’ve tried to give food and work to some who have rejected it because they actually only wanted money.

I’d love to hear from readers who have experienced either side of homelessness or hunger. Do you have an inspiring story about someone who climbed up with a little help from strangers? I can tell you some amazing stories of provision from both men and from God, and I’ll be glad to share with anyone who asks. In the meantime, I’m thankful that I am able to sit here in a warm home and write this to you. It’s a huge leap from a patch of grass and using newspapers for blankets.

December 13, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jacob’s Bucket List


Image: What's on your bucket list? By Teresa Alexander-Arab

What’s on your bucket list?
Image by Flickr User Teresa Alexander-Arab
Click image to view original and access photo stream.

 

In the first verse of today’s reading from Genesis 45:28 through Genesis 46:27, Jacob is ready to go with the rest of his family to Egypt. He is excited and filled with life again, but he knows it’s short, so he tells them they must hurry up and go because he wants to see his son Joseph before he dies.

When Jacob goes to sleep that night, he has a vision of God calling out to him. God tells him that He is the God of his father, Isaac, and that He is still with him. God then tells Jacob not to be afraid to go to Egypt because it is there that He will make a great nation of him. And then God promises that after Joseph closes Jacob’s eyes for the last time, he will return to his homeland.

So Jacob and all his descendants; sons, son’s wives, daughters, and grandchildren, head to Egypt with all their possessions. Verses 8 through 25 list the genealogies of those making the journey, and the reading ends with giving us the number seventy as the total number of Jacob’s descendants moving to Egypt.

I love that Jacob was ready to go without a vision of promise from God, even though a vision is an important thing if someone wants to know where the finish line is at. But my guess is that no matter what was on Jacob’s bucket list before, once he found out his son was alive, everything else was scratched off and replaced with the desire to see Joseph. I laugh with people about things i should put on my bucket list, but I’ve never actually made one. Part of me thinks I’d be putting too much stock into human things instead of just trying to seek God’s will for my life. But if I were in Jacob’s position, seeing a child I thought was dead and have now found to be alive would definitely be worth making a list. Beyond that, I do have some things I’d like to accomplish, but I’m still seeking for a clear vision and focus in the midst of all my desires. What about you?

Share some things on your bucket list, and maybe I’ll share some of my heartfelt desires that could qualify for bucket list items.

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weeping May Endure for a Fortnight


Sunrise by Sean MacEntee CC License = Attribution

Sunrise by Flickr user Sean MacEntee.
Click image to view original and to access this photographer’s full photostream.

For those who love trivia like I do, here’s an FYI for you. A fortnight is two weeks. So, weeping may endure for two weeks, or for two years, or for two generations, but since a thousand years is as a day with God, the important thing to remember is that whenever morning comes, joy will come with it. (See Psalm 30:5 for the exact Scripture.)

For Joseph and his brothers and their father, the weeping went on for a long time. In today’s reading from Genesis 45:19 through Genesis 45:27, Joseph is telling his brothers to load up their carts and donkeys with an abundance of provision for their journey back to Canaan. He also says he wants to make sure that there will be enough provision for their father to have bread as he makes the return journey with them. Of course, while he also gave each of his brothers a new set of clothing, he gave Benjamin seven sets of new clothing and even more provisions. I think he was happy to be reunited with his brother, don’t you? And finally, when he sent them on their way, he reminded them not to quarrel on their way back home. They were brothers after all.

When they arrived back home, the first thing they did was to tell their father that Joseph was alive. Obviously, he was reluctant to believe such good news. He had become accustomed to living in the grief of his son’s death. They told him Joseph was not only alive, but that he was also a ruler in Egypt. Even when they told him all that had transpired during their visit there, Jacob was afraid to believe such good news. The last verse says that it was only when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him back to Egypt that Jacob’s spirit began to revive.

God knows just how much good news means to His children. There is an abundance of Scripture that talks about things of hope and good news. Even the word for spreading the truth of God’s love for us and salvation through Yahshua, gospel, means “Good News.” Since we are in the season of celebration of Christ’s birth, may we remember that the purpose of that birth was to bring the hope (and good news) of salvation to the whole world; to whoever would desire it and seek it. And while weeping of earthly measure may last for a night or longer, we have the hope that joy will come in the morning, and someday, it will last for eternity.

December 10, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Children Go Where I Send Thee


Maze of Bushes by Daniel Kuperman

Maze of Bushes at Getty Museum by Flickr User Daniel Kuperman.
Click on the image to visit this user’s Flickr photostream.

If you haven’t heard it, look up the lyrics for the song with today’s title. It’s fun to sing. Anyway, today’s reading is from Genesis 45:8 through Genesis 45:18, and it brings us into the conversation with Joseph and his brothers. It begins with Joseph reminding his brothers that they are not responsible for his arrival in Egypt, but that it was in fact God who sent him there. He then tells them to go home to their father and tell him how much honor and favor he has been given there in Egypt. He lets them know that since there are still five years of famine left that all of them should move there to Goshen and allow Joseph to support them during the hard times. Then, after a few more episodes of he and Benjamin weeping on each other’s shoulders, he sits down with his brothers just to talk with them.

After Joseph makes the offer to bring his father, Pharaoh hears about it, and Scripture says he and his servants are pleased. Pharaoh tells Joseph to tell his brothers to load up their animals, return to Canaan, pick up their father and all their families and belongings, and then return to Egypt to live off the fat of the land.

I am amazed at how a group of people who find it offensive to eat at the same table with Hebrews would be pleased with the idea of filling their land with a whole family of them. This has to be from the obedient and honest spirit of Joseph. Because Joseph went where God sent him (even if it was initially done against his human will), and then the brothers went where Joseph sent them, the family line was provided for and continued all the way to our Messiah Yahshua.

P.S. In case you wonder why I would use a maze for the image to go with this post, I had once heard that mazes represented the journey of Israel through the wilderness. I could not find any information for that, but I did find some pretty cool info on the Wikipedia page about mazes. Enjoy.

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family Dinner Fit for a King


Dining Room CC Copyright = Attribution/Share Alike

Dining Room by Flickr User Christopher Lancaster
CC Copyright = Attribution/Share Alike
Click on image to view original and others by this photographer

In today’s reading from Genesis 43:16 through Genesis 43:29, eleven brothers–including the youngest brother Benjamin, have returned to Egypt. As soon as Joseph sees that Ben is with them, he orders his household manager to prepare a meal and instructs him that all the brothers will dine with him at noon.

Once the brothers are taken into the house, they are certain it is because they have been found out for having the money from the original purchase, and they are scared. They confess everything to the house manager and tell him they have brought it all back along with the money for the new purchases they need to make. The manager then tells them that it was a gift, and it was he who put the money back into their packs. He then brings them their other brother, Simeon, from the prison.

The manager gives them water, washes their feet, and feeds their animals, so they are ready to meet Joseph. When Joseph comes in to join them, they bow down before him, and he begins to ask them about their father. While still prostrated before him, they answer his inquiries and tell him their father is well and is still alive. He then asks about Benjamin and blesses him by saying, “May God be good to you, my son.” And that is where the story ends for today, but I know the best part of the story is yet to come.

Because I am a visual thinker, I cannot really read this story without imagining myself there. I may not always imagine myself as one of the guests or something–maybe just an invisible guest in the room. But I can anticipate the emotions these guys must have gone through with not knowing who Joseph really was or why they were invited to a royal dinner. I’m certain they had mixed emotions between fear and excitement. I know I used to make believe that I would be in school, and someone would come in with a note for the teacher that I had a truck waiting outside the school gate filled with beautiful clothes and the truth that I was actually a princess instead of just a short kid who got bullied and called “teacher’s pet” because I got good grades. I was certain that if people could know who I really was, they would never make fun of me again. As it turns out, I am a princess. I am the daughter of The King of The Universe. So, I guess I can say dreams really do come true, and one day I, and all those who have given their hearts to Christ will have the chance to dine with our King.

December 5, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brothers United


Today we get to see what Jacob will do differently after meeting God face to face. It’s a short reading from Genesis 32:31 through Genesis 33:5, and it starts out with Jacob naming the place of his wrestling Peniel meaning “The Face of God.” He so named it because he had met Yahveh Almighty face to face and lived to tell about it.

But something more than Jacob’s name changed during his encounter; something even more than the limp he walked away with from the touch to his hip muscle. As we continue in the reading, we find Jacob setting out again toward his brother, Esau, knowing that he was still going to meet both him and the 400 men he had with him. But where Jacob was previously hiding behind all the other groups, now we see Jacob pushing his wives and slave girls and children behind him and racing in front of them despite the possibility of dangerous consequences. Jacob had somehow gained confidence, and it would seem he trusted God to answer his prayer to be reunited with his brother as family instead of as an enemy.

When Jacob saw Esau, he fell on the ground and bowed before him. When Esau saw Jacob, he ran to him and hugged him and wept on his neck. They were more than reunited, they were united like they had never been since birth, and maybe even since growing together in Rebekah’s womb. And when Esau asked about the women and children who were walking behind his brother, Jacob humbly acknowledged that they were gifts of God. In the Complete Jewish Bible, Jacob answered, “The children God has graciously given to your servant.” Jacob was truly no longer a supplanter, but was happy to see Esau as not only his brother, but as his older brother to whom he owed respect.

P.S. NaNo has been slow going of late, but I am at 24,319. Also, I just remembered today about a video by ApologetiX that uses the song “Takin’ Care of Business” and turns it into “Jacob’s Name is Israel.” I’ll be adding it to yesterday’s blog after I post today’s.

November 18, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kissing Cousins


We know from the past few days that Jacob was on his way to live with Abraham’s family to find a new life away from Esau, and that he made one little detour to talk to God and worship Him. Now, in today’s reading from Genesis 29:1 through Genesis 29:17, he has arrived in his family’s homeland. The first thing he finds is a group of shepherds gathering around a well with a rock covering it up. He asks them why they are not watering the sheep they have with them. They tell him that they are waiting for all the rest of the sheep from all the pastures because the rock is too heavy to move back and forth more than once.

Jacob asked the men what family they were from, and when they told him they were from Haran, he asked them about Laban and was happy to realize he had found his mother’s family. About that time, Rachael showed up with a bunch of sheep to be watered. Jacob got so excited that he kissed her and then rolled away the stone and watered her sheep for her. She took him home to Laban, and all the relatives hugged and kissed each other and were very happy to be united with their own flesh and blood.

Jacob was so excited that he began working for Laban without requesting any kind of pay. Laban let him do so for about a month and then told him that it didn’t seem right to make a relative work that way, so he asked Jacob what his price might be. The chapter doesn’t end with saying what Jacob’s price was, but it does tell us about Laban’s two daughters. It says Leah, the oldest had weak eyes, but Rachael had beautiful features. Guess which kissing cousin Jacob was going to choose?

We are so used to all the ways in which we can communicate these days–be it from landlines, cell phones, computers, letters, or one day plane trips, that many of us at least virtually see our relatives far more often than they did in Bible days. But even with having so many years between family reunions, and being so excited about meeting Jacob, did you notice how easy it was for Laban to start him working and forget that he was a relative and deserved better than that? I guess it’s part of the human condition, and it reminds me of the time when God Himself had to remind his people to not forget Him for all the benefits He showered on them. Since it is the season when many will be gathering with family and friends for various holidays, I pray we will all be thinking of the value each of those people has in our lives, and that we will not forget these values just shortly after our welcoming kisses and hugs.

And that’s the best I could come up with today because my mind is actually on preparations for an upcoming writer’s retreat and then a whole lot of company. If I reread those Scriptures and God gives me something more, I’ll be sure to come back to share. In the meantime, I did get over 2000 words written for my NaNo novel today, so my total stands at 20,830 words.

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Battle in Clay


I know some things may seem to just be things, but I am one of those who believes that everything and everyone has a purpose. In today’s reading from Genesis 14, verses 1 through 20, we find a battle among kings. Five kings to four kings to be exact. And if you want to read all their names and such, just click the link since The Complete Jewish Bible has them listed mostly phonetically. Anyway, in this battle of kings, they are fighting in a valley filled with clay pits where many fall in.

When I read of clay in the Scriptures, I always think of the flesh. So, here are a bunch of kings (people with authority–some to do good and some to do evil) fighting not to fall into clay pits (flesh). And I don’t think it’s just chance that this valley is near the Dead Sea. The evil kings have kidnapped Lot, the nephew of Abram who we introduced in yesterday’s reading. Abram calls on those born and trained in his own household to go out to battle with him and rescue that which belongs to him (Lot) who is likely in the valley of pits himself. They succeed and bring back Lot, his possessions, and all the women and children that were taken with him.

Not only is this a battle with which most who serve God and reject the flesh are acquainted, it ends with the kind of victory most of us seek. They get help from like-minded soldiers, and they take back what the enemy has stolen. When it is all said and done, Abram goes to meet the King of Salem (later called Jerusalem), aka King of Peace, and the King, Melchizedek, blesses him. When we get victories over the flesh, we praise God for His mercy and deliverance, and since Melchizedek was a high priest for God, it was a similar action. As part of their meeting, they shared bread and wine, and at the close, Abram gave the first recorded tithe (tenth) I’ve read about.

So next time you feel like you are in a valley of pits, gather some prayer warriors and fight to win. Scripture tells us that we have more who stand on our side than we have who stand against us. It also says that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world. We can win in our battles if we open our eyes and take care not to fall into the pits of flesh. Oh, and when we win, we can offer our praises to Christ our King of Peace.

And here’s a nice chorus about the subject from the song, He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay

He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!

Also, if you’d like to read some interesting information about the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus, check out an article from Hebrew for Christians where you can also find more commentary on this Torah portion.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thanks A “Lot”


Maybe my title should actually be “Thanks Á la Lot” since the story, from Genesis 13:5 through 13:18 is the story of Abram and his nephew Lot, but I just couldn’t pass up the pun. 🙂

In today’s part of Torah portion three, Lot and Abram were both so abundantly blessed that they began to overrun each other. Their servants even started fighting with each other. So Abram, ever a fan of peace and family, decided that it would be best of they put some space between them. Because Abram was the one with the blessing, and because he was the elder, he could have chosen the land he wanted and given Lot the leftovers. Instead, he told Lot to choose whatever he wanted, and he would be the one to take what was left.

Lot decided to take for himself the land that looked the best. The well-watered plains of what we now called Jordan. He did not seem concerned about the inhabitants who already lived there–in Sodom and Gomorrah, and we will see in later chapters how that should have been a top concern for him. Still, because Lot took Jordan, Abram took Canaan.

Starting with verse 14, we find Yahveh talking with Abram and making him some more promises. Now, in addition to the promise of making a name for him, God tells Abram to look around him and see if he can count the grains of sand because his family of descendants will be just as innumerable as the sand. With that, the Lord also tells him to look around at all his eyes can take in and to walk the length and breadth of it. Yahveh promises Abram it will all belong to him.

So, because Abram put love, peace, and family first, God added to his blessings. And Abram knew these things were gifts from the Almighty and built an altar of thanksgiving. To those who are the type to count their losses, having to give up land to Lot may have seemed like a sacrifice too great to pay. But because Abram knew where his blessings originated, he willingly did what was needed and was rewarded for a heart that counted blessings instead of troubles. And what was left for Abram to do after God rewarded him? Offer a sacrifice of praise for God’s abundant blessings on his life in spite of any loss–and he lost “a Lot.” (Sorry, I can’t help it. But laughter is good for us, so I hope my silliness makes someone smile.)

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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