Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

A Fall Birthday Party for Yeshua


The front of our 2014 Sukkah before all the people gathered in and before food filled the tables. It's a welcoming place for a young couple and their new little baby. Cellphone image by Crystal A Murray. CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The front of our 2014 Sukkah before all the people gathered in and before food filled the tables. We love this annual celebration and gathering. It’s enclosed and secure, and it could certainly be a welcoming place for a young couple (and soon a new little baby) after their long journey.
Cellphone image by Crystal A Murray. CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click the image to open a new tab/window for a Flickr search of other sukkah images.

You’ve seen the slogan, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It comes out every December to remind people that Christmas should not be focused on selfish things like gift-giving and wish lists. Still, because most of us have grown up with it being a holiday about gifts, decor, and Santa Claus, it can be difficult to put the focus on the birth of Christ. How much easier would it be if His birthday was actually at a different time that has not yet been so commercialized? Imagine this fictional but possible scenario…

It’s the first holiday of the new Jewish year where the men are called home for worship; the fall festival of Sukkot. Joseph will follow both the Jewish law and Caesar’s law to go to his home town even though his wife is ready to have a baby at any moment. As the couple arrives in Bethlehem, it’s bustling with activity. Caesar seemed to know that this time between two feasts, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, would draw a big enough crowd to make census-taking easier. Miriam (Mary) just admired the many booths built behind every home and business and longed for the day she would have her own home and a place for Joseph to build their sukkah.

“Oh, no, Joseph, I think the baby wants out,” cries Miriam as the donkey stumbles over another rough patch of road.

“Don’t worry, Honey, I’ll find us a place to rest soon,” says Joseph while trying to hide his own level of panic. He knows how important it is to take care of this pregnancy and delivery. The angel told him the baby was Emmanuel; God with Us, and Joseph does not take that lightly. But there doesn’t seem to be any place available for them to stop. Finally, at the last inn at the other end of town, the inn’s proprietor sees the pregnant girl and whispers something to his wife before letting the couple go on their way.

“Listen. We have our sukkah in back, and we were going to stay in there ourselves, so we know it’s suitable for you. Why don’t you just rest in there for the night. The basket is already stocked with bread, so you can eat something if you like,” says Mr. Innkeeper. Meanwhile, Mrs. Innkeeper is quite happy to agree since it means she will have a reason to sleep in her own bed instead of the floor of a tent.

Joseph and Miriam take their place in the booth as the labor begins. We don’t know if there was an available nurse or if the labor was difficult, but we do know that she soon delivered a bouncing baby boy. She knew who He was. Joseph knew who He was. Joseph extended the special blanket he retrieved from their bags. With the baby’s lineage from the tribe of Judah sewn into the fabric, Joseph wrapped the blanket around Yeshua to swaddle the newborn in warmth and comfort.

Weary from travel and delivery, the new family desperately needed rest. “Where will be put the baby?” asked Miriam.

“You know how I sleep, Dear. I’m afraid I might roll over on Him.”

“Joseph, the bread basket!” shouted Miriam as she quickly began to move the loaves to a small corner table. “This will make the perfect cradle for Him.” Joseph agreed. “Happy birthday, Lord,” Miriam whispered as she nestled the baby and His blankets snugly into the makeshift cradle before lying down to rest herself. Did she know, as she curled up to sleep in Joseph’s little town of Bethlehem (meaning “House of Bread”) that she had just placed the Bread of Life into a bread basket? How fitting, huh?

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Fiction, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Only the Best for God’s Kids


Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, CC License = Attribution

Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

We all want the best of everything in life, but those of us who truly care about others don’t want them to have the worst either. So, most of us either become highly competitive or totally non-competitive. The fact is, life is filled with bests and worsts. There are best-case and worst-case scenarios, there are best-in-show designations, and there are bests in our gardens. We have the best of the times and the worst of times, and we have ratings from best (five-star) to worst (one-star). The middle-of-the-road average is just not acceptable to most of us, so the idea that everyone can have the same thing in a world of bests and worsts is pure fantasy. So, since it won’t work that way, then we should see the value in following a God who wants His children to have only the best.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:13 through Deuteronomy 33:17, we will read Moses’ blessing to the tribe of Joseph. It includes a blessing for the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh–his children by non-Hebrew wives while he lived in Egypt. It’s short enough that I will go ahead and paste the Scripture here from The Complete Jewish Bible

Of Yosef he said:

“May Adonai bless his land
with the best from the sky, for the dew,
and for what comes from the deep beneath,
with the best of what the sun makes grow,
with the best of what comes up each month,
with the best from the mountains of old,
with the best from the eternal hills,
with the best from the earth and all that fills it,
and the favor of him who lived in the [burning] bush.
May blessing come on the head of Yosef,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
His firstborn bull — glory is his;
his horns are those of a wild ox;
With them he will gore the peoples,
all of them, to the ends of the earth.
These are the myriads of Efrayim;
these are the thousands of M’nasheh.”

Simply the best, and only the best, of everything from crops to gold to the favor of God. Now THAT is a blessing! If someone said these things to us these days, we’d be saying something like, “From your mouth to God’s ears,” and we’d hope for it all to come true. That said, I see this as a reason to bless our brothers and sisters in Yeshua as much as possible, and let the greatest blessing we offer be one of a deeper walk with our Creator.

If you’re like me, you might sometimes withhold blessing others with your lips for concern of sounding like you carry the apostate messages of our current generation. We don’t want to speak the blessings of God above the God of the blessings like so many “prosperity preachers,” but prosperity in the perfect will of God is not a sin. God says He gives us the ability to make wealth to bless others, so speaking blessings on our brethren for the sake of lifting the needy and spreading the gospel is a good thing. Speaking it only for selfish gain and benefits is what we must avoid.

Readers, I bless you now with the wisdom of Yahveh Almighty to know when to speak blessings and how to speak them–both toward others and toward yourselves. May you have only the best of what God has to offer in your lives that you may draw closer to Him as you walk through this life with Him. And, may you always remember that when all else seems to fail, if you have God in your life and heart, you have the best already.

P.S. Just for an off-the-path side note: If you grew up on Dukes of Hazzard, you probably remember “Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane” as one of the quirky characters. Well, the actor who played him, James Best, was born in Kentucky and raised in the cute little town of Corydon, Indiana, where I live now. I also remember him from a number of old episodic shows like Twilight Zone and Bat Masterson. Click here for his Wikipedia page just for the fun of it. 🙂

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

An Elephant Never Forgets


Elephant Self Portrait by Flickr User Cybjorg CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, No Derivatives

Elephant Self Portrait by Flickr User Cybjorg CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, No Derivatives
Click on the image to open the original in a new tab and to access this user’s full photo stream.

It is said that an elephant never forgets, and after many studies, men are pretty convinced of that. Well, Yahveh Almighty does not forget either. He remembers His promises to His children, and He remembers His plans for us. In today’s reading from Genesis 50:21 through Genesis 50:26 (the end of the chapter), we learn about Joseph’s last days and hours. In those times, Joseph comforts his brothers by promising to care for them and their offspring, is privileged to meet his great-grandchildren by Ephraim and his grandchildren by Manasseh and meets with all his brothers to give them an oath that God will always remember them.

After Joseph dies at 110 years old, they embalm him and place him in a coffin in Egypt. Though he asked his brothers to carry his bones up from there, the reading does not tell where they actually buried Joseph. I’m guessing because it’s not time, or it just wasn’t important for the portion which ends with the encouragement to Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. I think this is a great encouragement on which to end our week, and from which to wish you all Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace). May you trust in the promises God has given you, and may you remember that He loves you and will never forget you. Amen!

P.S. Here’s an interesting Wikipedia page I found on elephant cognition… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_cognition

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crossing Jordan


The River Jordan by Flickr User Cycling Man; CC License = Attribution, NonCommerical, No Derivatives

The River Jordan by Flickr User Cycling Man; CC License = Attribution, NonCommerical, No Derivatives
Click image to open original in new tab and access this user’s photo stream.

As you can see by the image, I’m not talking about the television show, but since I recognized the title, I at least looked it up. It looks like an interesting premise for a show, so if anyone has seen it and thinks I should check Netflix for it, let me know. 🙂

But I think I did learn from today’s reading of Genesis 49:27 through Genesis 50:20 why we associate death with crossing the Jordan River. Before I get to that part though, there were only 11 sons covered in the last two posts, so we do have one more son’s prophecy; the youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob’s words to him were that he was a ravenous wolf that would devour prey during the day and divide the spoils by night. After saying that, he concluded what Scripture calls blessings on his twelve sons. Well, honesty can be a blessing because it can make you aware when you’re heading down a dangerous path, but for it to truly be a blessing, the receiver will have to see it that way and determine how to use it as such. Like a wet paint sign that can keep you from getting stained by touching the stuff, once you see the truth, you must make a decision to use it for the best outcome.

When Jacob finished speaking, he gathered his legs underneath him and drew his last breath. Joseph ordered the physicians to embalm him, which took 40 days, and then the Egyptians mourned him for 70 days. When all was said and done, Joseph told Pharaoh of the promise he made to take his father to be buried in the cave with Abraham and others, so Pharaoh sent him, his family, and most of his servants to carry Jacob back to the land of Canaan beyond the Jordan river. That they were crossing Jordan to bury someone is what made me think that this is why we associate death with crossing the chilly Jordan, but I’m not sure, so it’s just my thought.

After they crossed into Canaan, the residents of the land saw that the Egyptians were weeping bitterly over the loss, so they named the place Abel-Mizrayim meaning “mourning of Egypt.” I know they had paid mourners and such back then, but it seems that this mourning was very real even though the Egyptians did not know Jacob that long. I’ve heard it said that the best way to live is to care so much about others that when you die, even the mortician is sad that you’re gone. I think Jacob lived that way.

Once the burial was done, they crossed back over Jordan, and Joseph and his brothers returned to live in the land of Goshen in Egypt. When they got back though, Joseph’s brothers started thinking that with their father gone, Joseph would surely try to make them pay for what they had done to him. They apparently did not believe what he said to them the first time, so he restated to them that even though they meant what they did for evil, God used it for good. He reminded them that he was not God, and it was not his place to take vengeance on them. Hopefully, then, they repented to God for their behaviors with the same trembling and humility with which they went to their brother. That’s a good thing to do before crossing Jordan in the spiritual sense.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Israel–Part II


12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez

12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez
Click the image to visit this user’s photo stream. He has interesting blogs and books on the Star of David and have even blogged on some of my 6 point kaleidoscope images.

As I’ve read these prophesies of Jacob to his sons, I’ve thought much about the power of words, but there’s more than words involved. Jacob may have had special feelings toward the children of Rachel, but these were all his sons, so I’m guessing that whatever he spoke to them was spoken with parental love. We are told in multiple Scriptures that God chastens those who He loves, so even the words that seem painful to the receivers are from a father’s heart. And so it is with those of us who call Yahveh our Father. Sometimes, He may give us words that promise futures we may not want to go through, but we know we never go through those futures alone, and we never go through them without promise that they will yield some type of fruit to the glory of God.

Four more sons are discussed in today’s reading from Genesis 49:19 through Genesis 49:26. The sons discussed in today’s reading are Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Joseph. When you read these verses, and yesterday’s verses, in the Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll notice that most of the brothers get their own paragraphs, so it’s easy to tell which ones Jacob spoke of more than others. Of these four brothers, the first three get very little prophesy, but Joseph gets a lot.

In brief, Jacob says that Gad will be attacked, but he will attack in return and be victorious. Asher will produce plenty of food, including that which is considered for royalty. Naphtali is a free-running deer that produces beautiful fawns. Also, it’s possible that the prophesy of Naphtali is that rather than fawns, he will produce great writings. Of course, I like that one for a prophecy. 🙂

The rest of the writing focuses on Joseph. It says he is a fruitful branch by a well whose leaves reach over the wall. I see this as a tree planted by the water, so that speaks of strength, and a bearing a lot of fruit if the branch would hang down over a wall. Since Ephraim is said to represent “the church,” this could be prophesy of those of us reading this who are believers and servants of God now. How cool is that?

It goes on to talk about Joseph being attacked unfairly but that he was separated from his brothers to become a prince among them. Jacob even speaks the blessings of The Lord upon Joseph as being greater blessings than those that were upon his forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Considering the later prophesy when Ephraim will be united with Judah, I’d say Jacob’s words were certainly true.

I will go back and add the details for yesterday’s brothers now, but I wanted to get this post done and added before midnight.

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

Raise Your Right Hand if You’re Sure


Raise Your Hand by Flickr User Viqi French CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial

Raise Your Hand by Flickr User Viqi French CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial
Click image to view original and access photo stream in a new tab.

We used to play a game where we would pass around a sheet of paper with a list of slogans and see how many each person could get. For example, It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. How many remember that slogan was for Timex watches? Now, do you remember the old commercials that sang out, “Raise your hands if you’re sure.”? If so, you know it was for “Sure” brand deodorant.

Today’s reading from Genesis 48:17 through Genesis 48:22 (the end of the chapter) goes back to Jacob laying his right hand on the head of the youngest son instead of the eldest. Joseph actually tells his father that he is doing things wrong. I’m guessing he thought it was a problem with either eyesight or senility. But Jacob assured Joseph that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that he was intentionally blessing the younger as if he were the older. He prophesied that in future blessings from the house of Israel, people would say, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” That would make Ephraim first as if he were the oldest.

After the blessing, Israel reminded Joseph that he was dying. He then comforted him by saying that God would stay with him and bring him back to the land of his ancestors. He also told him he gave him a bit of extra land above what he was giving his brothers. He willed to him the land that he had captured with his sword and bow from the Emorites.

Jacob was sure about what he was doing, from the son he blessed as the eldest to the extra land he bestowed upon Joseph. I also find it interesting to remember that Jacob, himself, was the one who had to fight for his share as firstborn because of the wrestling match in the womb that allowed Esau to be born first. I would have expected Jacob to be hyper-sensitive to any child who is a firstborn not being treated as such, but maybe his unique experience actually enabled him to see that blessings going to a firstborn just because they were born first didn’t always make sense. Jacob did need to have the blessings of the firstborn to become the nation of Israel that God created him to be. And somehow he also knew for sure that Ephraim would lead best with firstborn blessings.

And now, just for fun, how about a few more slogans only this time without answers:

  • Just do it.
  • Finger lickin’ good.
  • Have it your way.
  • Reach out and touch someone.
  • Snap, Crackle, Pop
  • It’s the real thing.
  • It keeps going and going and going…
  • Be all that you can be.
  • Sometimes you feel like a nut.
  • Once you pop, you can’t stop.
  • How do you spell relief?
  • Let your fingers do the walking.
  • The San Francisco Treat.
  • The best part of waking up is…
  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
  • Good to the last drop.
  • M’m! M’m! Good!
  • You deserve a break today.
  • Bring out the best.
  • Hey Mikey, he likes it.

 

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lord is My Own Personal Shepherd


Shepherd with Flock by Flickr User Will Humes CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial, Share Alike

Shepherd with Flock by Flickr User Will Humes CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial, Share Alike
Scripture from Isaiah 40:11 from Complete Jewish Bible
Click image to open new tab to the original image and access to photo stream.

I can share all kinds of stories and Bible words with you, but the thing that carries the most strength is what God means to me personally. The most established scholar cannot compete with the actual testimonies of my life with God. Of course, there must be balance in that my testimonies about God should be supported by His word to show that I am actually following Him and not just my own ideas. If I am following Him as my Shepherd, I will go where He goes and try to imitate what He does.

Today’s reading from Genesis 48:10 through Genesis 48:16 goes back to Jacob/Israel on his death bed as he prepares to bless the sons of Joseph. He was having trouble seeing, but Joseph brought his sons close enough to him that he could see and embrace them. He praised God for allowing him to not only see his son again but also to see his offspring.

Joseph guided his eldest, Manasseh, to Israel’s right hand and his youngest, Ephraim, to Israel’s left hand for their blessings. But Israel purposely crossed his arms and placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh. He began his prayer for them with a beautiful statement that Yahveh Almighty had always been his own Shepherd.

I love the personalization in that. He not only proclaimed Yahveh as God of all the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and himself, but by proclaiming Him as a shepherd, he declared himself to be a sheep that needed guidance. And, because he and his family were a family of shepherds, Jacob also connected to God in similarity of occupation. He knew God as both above him and with him in all things. As a matter of fact, there is a Scripture in Deuteronomy that I want to share now even though we will eventually get there in the studies. It’s from Deuteronomy 4:7, and in the Amplified Bible it says, “For what great nation is there who has a god so near to them as the Lord our God is to us in all things for which we call upon Him?”

There are many Scriptures that proclaim God as a shepherd, including the one on the above picture. The most famous, of course, is David’s Psalm 23. To personalize that Psalm, back in 2004, I wrote my own version of the psalm as attributed to myself as a writer. I’ll close this with that parody.

THE LORD IS MY EDITOR, I SHALL REWRITE
By Crystal A Murray
 
The Lord is My Editor, I shall rewrite.
He lays me down in green pastures
   – Of fresh ideas.
He leads me by the quiet torrents
   – Of conflict and resolution.
He develops my characters and subjects.
He leads me from beginnings to middles…
   – And from middles to endings…
            – For the plot’s sake.
Yea, though my protagonist walks
Through pages of shadows of death,
   – He fears not the antagonist,
            – For a good ending is promised.
God’s red pen and word-processor;
   – They correct me.
God prepares new writers’ books before me,
   – In the presence of my Amazon “wish list”.
He anoints my printer with ink,
   – My paper tray overflows.
Surely, acceptance and paychecks
   – Shall be offered me,
            – For every story I write.
And I shall dwell in my home office
   – As a freelancer…
             – All the days of my writing life.

December 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Poetry, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When I Get Carried Away


Carrying Away a Dead End by Flickr User "The Hamster Factor" CC License = Attribution, Non Commerical, No Derivatives

Carrying Away a Dead End by Flickr User “The Hamster Factor”
Click the image to open a new tab with the original image and access to photo stream.

I never know what I’m going to find when I do a Creative Commons search for an image that will match my title or subject. The above image just tickled my funny bone, so I had to include it. I know people aren’t supposed to deface public signage, but this one is just too cute, and it sort of lines up with the reading today from Genesis 47:28 through Genesis 48:9 as it talks about Jacob being carried away to his death, and the line could look a little like a coffin. 🙂

We actually begin a new portion today, so now we’re up to Parashah 12, Vayechi, meaning “He Lived” in Hebrew. We read in this section that Jacob has now lived in Egypt for 17 years which makes him 147 since he was 130 when they arrived. He calls in his son Joseph to advise him that he will soon pass away and to ask him for a promise. He wants Joseph to swear that he will not bury him in Egypt but rather carry him back to Canaan to be buried with his family, and Joseph agrees.

The next part is a little confusing to me in that he claims Joseph’s two children, Manasseh and Ephraim as his own children. He says they are equal with the rest of his children for the sake of inheritance, and they are numbered among the twelve tribes to this day even though Joseph is not. I know there is some prophecy about it later, so I know it was the right thing to do, but there’s no information at this point to explain exactly how Jacob knew to do it. I can only imagine it has something to do with his vision of Yahveh back in Luz near the time he was there with Joseph’s mother, Rachel. He retells this vision to Joseph, and he tells him that all his future children will be his, but not the two.

The section ends with Jacob suddenly noticing that Joseph’s sons are standing there in the room with them. I might have been embarrassed to realize that someone I was talking about was standing there all along, even if I was saying good things about the person. I remember asking for prayer for a young man I met at a bus stop, and finding out that he had accepted my invitation to attend a service when the pastor pointed out the guy a few rows back slinking down in his seat. Oh well, at least he knew I cared enough to ask the church to pray for him, right?

So that’s it for today, but just to stick with the theme, here’s a link for a video of a group singing the song When I Get Carried Away. I love the tune, and the lyrics to the chorus are…

I’m gonna let the glory roll when the roll is called in glory.
I’m gonna get beside myself when I get beside The King that day.
I’m gonna have the time of my life when the time of my life is over.
I’m gonna get carried away, when I get carried away.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3afLiU-jieM

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

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

When Egypt Thinks You’re Smelly


Image by Alkelda CC=Attirbution, Non Commercial, No Derivs

Shepherd and sheep dolls by Flickr user Alkelda.
Click on image to view original in a new tab and to access this user’s photo stream.

Sometimes, the negative opinions of others can play in our favor. In our reading today from Genesis 46:28 through Genesis 47:10, we see the family of Jacob arriving in the land of Goshen in Egypt. Judah went ahead as a guide, and Joseph loaded up his rig and went out to meet his father, Israel. They embraced and wept together for a long time, and Jacob declared that after seeing that Joseph was alive, he was now ready to die.

Joseph met with all his brothers and explained his plan to them. He said he would bring a few of them to Pharaoh, and that when they were asked what they did for a living, they should say that they were shepherds both now and from their ancestry. He explained that Egyptians consider shepherds disgusting, and that knowing they were a shepherding family would make certain they could stay in Goshen–I’m guessing away from the main part of town. So, Egypt’s abhorrence of shepherds would play in Israel’s favor to allow them to live from the fat of that land but away from the politics and prying eyes of the kingdom.

When the brothers and their father came before Pharaoh, everything went as planned. Pharaoh even declared that since they were professionals, they should be in charge of his flocks as well. With this, Jacob blessed Pharaoh and then he left.

I don’t know if I could make myself think of this story each time I deal with criticism, but it would be a good way to try to turn a negative into a positive. I’m always looking for the good thing that God will bring out of something because that is a way I comfort myself to make it through the hard times. To bring it out enough to bless one who may look down on me would take even more effort, but I’ll be taking this lesson to heart. As it says in Romans 8:28, All things work together for the good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose.

December 12, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

To Tell the Truth


Pink Fractalius Rose with Text, (C) All Rights Reserved, Crystal A Murray

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and Your Words are truth. Text of 2 Samuel 7:28a from the Amplified Bible. Image of Pink Fractalius Rose from my sister’s rose bush by Crystal A Murray.

My childhood memories include many associations with television. Maybe it was often a background sound, but a few things were more than background. Game shows fill that slot. I don’t remember much about To Tell the Truth, but as a trivia buff, I enjoyed the information I found on it at Wikipedia. Today’s reading is, of course, about telling the truth. The short passage runs from Genesis 44:31 through Genesis 45:7 and takes up with the last half of the sentence from yesterday where Judah is telling Joseph about how close his father is to his brother Benjamin.

Judah is desperate, and he tells Joseph that his father will die if he doesn’t bring Benjamin home. He explains how he guaranteed the father that nothing would happen to his little brother and that he will bear all responsibility if he doesn’t return him safely. He then begins to beg Joseph to keep him as a slave and let Benjamin go home to his father. He tops it off by saying he could not go home without the boy because he could not bear to see his father in such anguish.

Now, Joseph cannot take it anymore. He makes all the Egyptians go away from him, and he weeps so loud that everyone in the house can hear him. He finally tells his brother who he is and asks them if they’re telling the truth that their father is still alive. The brothers are so dumbfounded by Joseph’s announcement that they cannot even speak to answer his question. He asks them to come closer, and he tells them again who he is and that he is the brother whom they sold into slavery. But he also tells them not to be upset at themselves for their betrayal of him because he says it was all in God’s plan to take care of them through the famine so their family line could continue.

That’s where the story ends for today, but I can imagine how much relief filled everyone’s heart because of that one truth. Of course, it was a big truth, but never-the-less, holding back on the truth even for good reasons can be quite the burden. Have you ever given someone a Christmas or birthday gift early because you just couldn’t wait to see their reaction? Anticipation is it’s own wonderful gift, but sometimes it can get just a little too overwhelming. I love all that God did to ensure the survival of the tribes of Israel, but I also imagine that the waiting game got pretty hard to play sometimes. Actually, it’s still hard when God says to wait, but if we are walking in His perfect will, it will always be worth it in the end. And that’s the truth.

December 8, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boldly Before the Throne


Violin by Irena Romendik

Black and White Violin Image by Flickr User Irena Romendik aka “voidit”
Click image to see original and full photo stream.

Today begins Parashah (portion) number 11, and today’s reading is from Genesis 44:18 through Genesis 44:30. I will warn you, first, that the last verse is incomplete, so it’s kind of an odd reading, but if you click the link to read yourself, you can view the whole chapter and see where it goes from there.

Judah pulls Joseph aside and with all due respect, he asks to speak to him privately. He tells him he appreciates his position and that he knows he is as powerful as Pharaoh, but he has an important thing to say, so he becomes bold enough to approach. We read in Hebrews 4:16 that we ourselves can approach God’s throne of grace boldly and with confidence. Knowing that a king has power over life and death should make us approach with respect, which is why the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And then the rest of wisdom is when we learn to follow that respect with the confidence to accept the grace and mercy of Christ to deliver us from sin and into eternal life.

Well, Judah may not have been seeking eternal life for himself, but he was seeking mercy and grace on behalf of his father. He explained to Joseph how his father had two sons that mattered greatly to him and how one was gone, and the father thought torn to pieces never to be seen again. And then he explained how the father said that if he lost Benjamin as well, it would send him old and gray to his death. The verse that does not finish says, in effect, that Jacob and Benjamin’s souls are knitted together.

The message I see in this, beyond the coming boldly I mention above, is that we can also come boldly to the throne room on behalf of others we do not want to die in their sins. Before reading this, I was thinking a lot today about the poem, The Touch of The Master’s Hand by Myra Brooks Welch. In case you have not heard of it, I’ll paste it below. It is one of the most meaningful pieces of writing I have ever read, and it brings me to tears each time I read or recite it. When you read it, you’ll understand why going boldly to God’s throne on behalf of another would bring it to my mind. And you’ll also understand why I can sing with meaning the line from the song that says, “If you had known me, before I knew Him, you’d understand why I love Him.”

​​The Touch of the Masters Hand by Myra Brooks Welch (1921)

Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
thought it scarcely worth his while
to waste much time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars twice;
going for three…” But no,
from the room, far back, a gray-haired man
came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
and tightening the loose strings,
he played a melody pure and sweet
as a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
with a voice that was quiet and low,
said; “Now what am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice;
and going and gone,” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand,
what changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
“Twas the touch of a master’s hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune,
and battered and scarred with sin,
is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
much like the old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
a game – and he travels on.
He’s going once, and going twice,
He’s going and almost gone.
But The Master comes, and the foolish crowd
never can quite understand
the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
by the touch of The Master’s hand.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Poetry, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Before There Were Soap Operas


CC Attribution to Mike Licht of NotionsCapital

Soap Opera in the Kitchen by Flickr user Mike Licht of NotionsCapital dot com
Click image to visit his Flickr page.

Before daytime dramas on television, we had Bible stories. I know, that sounds kind of funny, but I think some writers might have a hard time competing with some of the family drama that has been recorded in The Word of God. Today’s reading from Genesis 43:30 through Genesis 44:17 has some pretty dramatic events and emotions.

We start out with Joseph running out of the room so his brothers will not see him cry. He goes to his room and weeps over seeing his youngest brother, and then he washes his face and returns to have dinner with everyone. And then we get into the divisions of people at the dinner table. Joseph, I’m guessing because of his position, eats by himself. The brothers eat at their own table. And the Egyptians that were part of the meal ate by themselves because they considered it an insult to sit at the same table with Hebrews. It was like a dinner from Westside Story with the gang members from The Jets at one table, The Sharks at another table, and the police chief sitting by himself.

Now, at the table of brothers, each was amazed at the food set before him, but Benjamin got five times the amount of food as anyone else. There’s no mention of what effect this had on the brothers or on Benjamin, but I know I would have been wondering what the deal was with that. Never-the-less, everyone ate, drank, and enjoyed themselves.

After dinner, Joseph did as before in sending the brothers away with their money and the grain they came to buy. This time, however, he also told his servant to place his silver goblet in Benjamin’s pack. After they were partly down the road, he sent the servant to question them about the missing goblet. They were so sure they did not take it that they said the thief could be put to death, and the rest of them would remain as slaves if it was found with any of them. When it was found with Benjamin, the other brothers tore their clothing as a sign of grief. And then they all loaded up their donkeys and returned to the city.

When they arrived back in Joseph’s presence, they fell on their faces, and he confronted them. He tried to tell them that he had mystical powers to reveal things, but they replied that God had revealed it that they should pay for their bad behaviors. Joseph told them it was not all of them that would have to stay, but only the one who actually took the goblet. He sent the rest of the brothers home to be with their father.

As sands through the hourglass, these are the days in the lives of Joseph and his brothers. We are ending the portion with this reading and we begin a new portion tomorrow. I don’t know how long this story will stretch out, but at least I know it won’t be as long as the usual soap opera story line. So, stay tuned and remember that the stories are real, the people are real, and the names have not been changed to protect the innocent. But in these stories, God will make a way and be glorified, and if we have more questions, we can ask the cast members all about it when we get together in our home in Heaven. Shabbat Shalom Y’all!

December 6, 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

Give to Get


Giving Blesses by Flickr User Pictoquotes

Giving Blesses Both the Giver and the Receiver by Flickr user Symphony of Love (aka pictoquotes)
Click the image to view the original and other images by this photographer.

At one time, I subscribed to a marketing newsletter all about the concept of what the author called “Give to Get” marketing. It talked of things like when banks would offer new toasters and blenders to get new customers. That type of marketing now might be a free e-book download to encourage the purchase of an author’s new release. People always seem more willing to buy if they first know that you are a giver.

For me, however, I read that marketing newsletter more in the interest of how it applied to real life than to sales. And from what I see in today’s reading from Genesis 42:19 through Genesis 43:15, Jacob was a fan of giving to get as well. in the story, Joseph has told the brothers to leave one of them in jail and let the others go back and get the youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove they are not spies. They discuss it amongst themselves, and they do not realize that Joseph can understand the Hebrew language they are speaking because they are using an interpreter. In verse 24, we read that Joseph had to turn away from them to hide his tears over their discussion of how they deserved the current situation because of what they did to their brother Joseph.

They leave Simeon and start the journey back home, but at camp they realize that all their money has been restored. They don’t know that Joseph requested it to be that way, so they think it is more punishment. By the time they get home, Jacob is truly scared that if he lets his sons return with Benjamin, he will then have lost three of his sons. But eventually, the famine is too great to fight anymore, and since Joseph had told them they would not see his face anymore unless their brother was with them, Jacob agrees to send him. Reuben and Judah both promise him they will give up their own sons in the promise of returning Benjamin safely.

As Jacob sends his sons back, he sends them with double the money to make sure they will pay for the first supplies in case it is an oversight. And then (this is what amazed and blessed me) he tells them to make sure to bring gifts with them. He tells them to bring spices, perfumes, oils, honey, almonds, pistachios, and whatever goods they have to bless the man in charge of the food. In other words, he wants to give something to the man in charge in order to have a better chance to get his son(s) returned to him. And today’s reading ends with all of them, their gifts, their double portions, and their youngest brother standing before Joseph.

The giving first idea is so much better than today’s idea of entitlement. It’s better than demanding. It’s better than playing on people’s sympathies. How much more are you willing to help someone who says he will mow your lawn for 5 or 10 bucks than someone who just comes to your door asking for money to feed his family? Even God is all about give to get. He made a world to put humans in. And when we did not deserve it, Scripture tells us that God FIRST loved us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If we are truly following a WWJD concept, we will also give first. Let’s see, how does the chorus of that Sunday School song go?

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me.

December 4, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Because I Reverence Yahveh


Torah Scroll image from wynnie at Flickr

Torah scroll partly rolled out. By Flickr user “Steel Wool”
Click on image to open a new tab and view the original image with requested rights.

In today’s reading from Genesis 41:53 through Genesis 42:18, the prophecy of the abundance and famine is in full swing and famine is upon the whole earth. Egypt has plenty of food stored up for the people, and Joseph is in charge of sales and distribution. At the same time, Israel and his sons are feeling the effects of the famine, so he tells them to go to Egypt and get food for the family. However, he only sends ten of them and keeps Benjamin at home because he is concerned something might happen to him. Of course, something could have happened to any of them, so his keeping Benjamin at home is likely due to the fact that he is the only other son from his beloved Rachel.

So the brothers show up in Egypt, but they do not recognize Joseph even though he recognizes them. He begins to talk harshly to them and accuses them of being spies. They try to explain that they are all children of the same man, and they tell him there are twelve sons but that one is at home, and the other is gone. He tells them they must prove themselves, and he says that without proof he will not believe them to be anything other than spies.

At the end of today’s reading, he locks them up for three days, but then he lets them go with an order for them to obey him to stay alive. He then adds, “For I fear God.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you understand a little something about the history of the scribes who wrote down the old Scriptures.

In brief: First, they were perfectionists. If they made a mistake while writing the words, they didn’t have White Out or a backspace key. The rule dictated that they must destroy the scroll and start over. They reverenced the name of Yahveh so highly that they would not write the name on the scroll for fear some mistake might cause the scroll to be destroyed and the name with it. So, instead of writing the actual name of God, they would often just leave a space knowing that people could insert “The Name” while they were reading the words aloud. Later, they would write the Hebrew word for “The Name” which is where we get people calling God Hashem. In addition, they would sometimes use the label “The Lord” or “God” but because those labels could also refer to false gods, they would omit the vowels and capitalize the first letters. That’s why it is important to me to capitalize the first letter of not only God and Lord, but also He, Him, Himself, etc., when speaking about God. Even C.S. Louis capitalized the “E” in “Enemy” in the book Screwtape Letters because the demons were speaking of The Creator. So, when you see “G-d” or “L-rd” instead of God or Lord, it is just an extra attempt to make sure there is a difference in referring to The Almighty as different from all other gods people may worship.

I said all the above simply to refer to what I believe Joseph was actually saying in that last verse. Because they were visiting a land where people worshiped gods other than The Almighty, I believe he was letting them know that he knew who God truly was. I mean, imagine going to a place filled with people who do not believe as you do but needing something from them and pushing yourself to go through with it. Then, imagine having one among them let you know that you are not alone as a believer in that place. I’m guessing they were quite relieved by that statement, and I believe he actually said to them, “Because I reverence Yahveh.”

December 3, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cream Always Rises to the Top


Yesterday, we read that Pharaoh remarked that he could find no one else like Joseph. Today, we read in Genesis 41:39 through Genesis 41:52 that Pharaoh puts Joseph in a leadership position so high up that he gives him his signet ring. He tells him that no one in Egypt will lift a hand or a foot without permission from Joseph. He even goes so far to declare that only when he is ruling from his throne will he, himself, rule over Joseph.

That position is a long way up for a boy who was unjustly thrown into a well and sold as a slave. And it’s a long way up from being unjustly accused and then forgotten and left in a dungeon. Through it all, Joseph gave credit and glory to Yahveh Almighty, and now it is His will to have him in a position where people praise him and bow before him. And the respect that people offered Joseph caused them to give freely of their produce, so it will save their lives in the long run.

In the last part of today’s reading, we find that Pharaoh also gives Joseph a wife. Through this wife, Joseph has two sons who eventually become that split 12th tribe of Israel. Joseph names the first son Manasseh which means “forgetting” and says it is because he can now forget the cruelty done to him by his family. He names his second son Ephraim which means “fruitful” and says it is because he is bearing fruit in the land of his affliction.

I notice that the two sons’ names point to Joseph’s past and future. He is able to forget his past where evil was done to him and hope for his future where he will bear much fruit. Forgetting the past and gaining hope in the future is significant of repentance and forgiveness. And since Egypt often represents sin when used in Scripture, there is a lot of depth for a son of Israel to represent repentance. In addition, we also have the prophecy from Ezekiel 37:16-28 where God tells the prophet to write on two sticks the names of Judah and Ephraim and then hold them in one hand until the sticks unite and become one, and they will have one King. That will be the ultimate fruit from Joseph’s sojourn into the land of Egypt.

December 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Goes the Leadership, So Goes the Nation


Today I was privileged to have my husband read to me while I drove back from taking one of my great-nieces back her mother. Sometimes, it seems like I hear much more by being read to than I do by reading to myself. Today’s reading is from Genesis 41:15 through Genesis 41:38, and it continues where we left with Pharaoh bringing in Joseph as a dream consultant.

The first thing I noticed here is how Joseph immediately turned things around when Pharaoh said he was told Joseph could interpret dreams. Joseph said, “It isn’t in me. God will give Pharaoh an answer that will set his mind at peace.” I love that. Here is Joseph’s chance to show off to someone who could really take him places politically, but Joseph stays humble and gives all the credit and glory to God.

So Pharaoh shares all the same information that we read yesterday about the two dreams with fat and skinny cows and with healthy and withered corn. After sharing it, Joseph tells Pharaoh that both dreams were the same dream but that God gave him two dreams because the thing was already settled and getting ready to happen shortly. He explained to him that the immediate future would bring seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of terrible famine that would completely devour everything brought forth during the years of abundance.

The next thing I noticed was how Joseph suggested that Pharaoh handle things. He advised that Pharaoh should take up a twenty percent tax during the years of plenty that would take care of the lack during the years of famine. That extra collection of produce would be stored up to keep people from starving and dying when the going got rough. Joseph also knew that taking in extra could lead to misuse, so he told them they needed someone both discreet and wise to take charge of the collection, storage, and distribution. Pharaoh and his advisors were impressed and said, “Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!

How I wish we could have governments in our world that would have this kind of wisdom. A government that would even listen to dreams and visions, or one that would seek someone who obviously has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, seems impossible now. I wonder if God gave a dream to someone in charge back before the great depression of 1929. I wonder if God has tried to give advice to our leaders about the various wars with which they have aligned themselves. If we would quit listening to human wisdom–that passionate side-taking about being for war or against it, for weapons or against them, etc., and listen for the direction of The One who sees and knows the future, how much more of a future might we have, and how much better might it be? And then I have to look at myself and ask, “Have I been praying enough for the leaders of our land (and the leadership around the world) that God would send them dreams and that they would heed them?” I confess I have not prayed as I should, but I intend to change that. I hope there will be others to join me in this.

December 1, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Dream the Possible Dream


Neon Starburst Dream Mandala by Crystal A Murray

Neon Starburst Dream Mandala by Crystal A Murray
This image is manipulated from an image from inside an actual oil-based kaleidoscope. After running the image through a variety of photo editors and adding the text in the middle, it represents something similar to a woven dream catcher.

As we begin a new week, we also begin a new portion. Believe it or not, we’re already up to Parashah 10, Mikketz which means “at the end.” Being at Portion 10 also means I’ve been at this for 9 weeks now. For me, that’s a record as far as dedication to a writing task goes, so I’m happy with my efforts even though some days I felt like I wrote a bit shallow due to difficulty in either the subject matter or my available time. At the same time, this is the first time I have attempted to do NaNoWriMo and participated without winning. That makes me feel kinda down, but I am happy that given the choice between sharing fiction and sharing my heart, I stayed faithful to sharing my heart by keeping up this blog even when I couldn’t work on my novel. Thank you to those who come to visit me faithfully and who understand the struggles of writing in spite of all else that life requires.

So, that brings us to today’s part of the portion. We’re reading Genesis 41:1 through Genesis 41:14 where the dreamer this time is Pharaoh. It’s about two years after the last part of Joseph’s story where he correctly interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer. Pharoah falls asleep and sees the Nile River and cows are coming up out of it. A total of seven cows come out of the river, and they are all fat and healthy. They walk out and begin to eat the grass on the shore. But then, another seven cows come up out of the river, and they are sickly and thin. They devour the seven healthy cows, and then Pharaoh wakes up. When Pharaoh falls back to sleep, he dreams again. This time, he sees seven full and ripe ears of corn grow from one stalk. After they grow, seven thin ears that look like they’ve been devastated by a storm grow from the same stalk and devour the seven good ears.

When Pharaoh wakes up fully from his sleep, his dreams have him feeling totally out of sorts. I’ve had those kinds of dreams and restless nights, and it makes you sort of feel like you go through your day with your head disconnected from your body. It’s an awful feeling for me, and I’m sure it was an awful feeling for Pharoah. Even with all that power, he couldn’t control that. What he could control was that he had dream-interpreters to consult, so he called every magician in the kingdom trying to get an understanding of his crazy dreams. But no one could help him.

Now the cupbearer realizes what he has forgotten and feels bad about it. He goes to Pharaoh and tells him about this young man in the prison who was able to correctly interpret the dreams of him and his bunk mate. Pharoah requests the man be brought to him to see if he can interpret his dreams. Scripture says that they brought Joseph quickly from the dungeon, and Joseph changes his clothes and shaved to prepare himself. This portion ends with them bringing Joseph before Pharaoh.

What amazes me in this story is God’s timing and Joseph’s faith. God knew exactly when to give the dreams to Pharaoh, and Joseph trusted this was something from God because he prepared himself to life outside the dungeon by changing into clean clothes and shaving. Joseph was still blessed in the midst of a dungeon, and he never gave up on God’s deliverance. So many of us would feel rejected and forgotten by God if we were in the same situation, and many of our Christian friends might even accuse us of sin or of lacking in faith because of what they see us going through. But all of that would be basing things on our timing and our own human understanding. But God’s thoughts and ways are above our own, and we are told that with Him, ALL things are possible. It doesn’t say that all things will LOOK possible, but that they ARE possible. That means they are possible when they look impossible. If only we could all look at the future instead of whatever dungeon life has us going through now. That should give us strength to make it through until God’s will leads us in a new direction in God’s time.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost (and Forgotten) in Translation


Forget-Me-Not by Flickr User dawnzy58, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Forget-Me-Not by Flickr User dawnzy58, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I don’t know if there are different colors of flowers in the “Forget Me Not” family, but I thought blue was an appropriate color to represent how it feels to be forgotten by someone you really wanted to remember you. There are times when being forgotten is just a thing of time and distance, but there are times when whatever transpired between you and someone else leaves a permanent etching on your heart, and you hope it has done the same for the other person. The rejection of finding out you have been forgotten can be heartbreaking.

Since this is the last section for this week’s portion, I bid you Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace), and may you find rest in God today and always. Our reading today is a whole chapter; Genesis 40:1 through Genesis 40:23, and in this reading, Joseph is still in prison, but now he has some new roommates. Pharoah’s chief baker and his chief cupbearer have both somehow offended Pharoah and are sentenced to time in the same prison as Joseph. Joseph is the one in charge of them.

When Joseph comes to get the men one morning, he finds both men looking rather sad. As it turns out, they have both had dreams that left them confused as to their meanings. Joseph tells the men that interpretations belong to God, and that if they’ll share what they have dreamt, he will interpret for them.

The cupbearer had dreams of vines that grew in three days and of pressing the juice into the Pharaoh’s cup, so Joseph tells him that he will be restored as the royal cupbearer. He then asks the man to not forget him when he is restored, but to let Pharaoh know that he is innocent of all charges and does not belong in prison. Then, because the interpretation for the cupbearer was good, the baker shared his dream about baskets of bread on his head and birds eating them. Joseph told him it meant he would be hanged and that birds would eat his flesh. Yikes! I’ll bet he was sorry he asked.

Both of Joseph’s interpretations from the Lord came true for the men, but the cupbearer was so lost in the happiness of being returned to his position instead of being hanged that he completely forgot about Joseph. And we will have to wait for the next portion to find out just what it takes to get Joseph out of the dungeon where he has been forgotten and abandoned once again.

The sad thing in this story is that Joseph experienced what Our Loving Creator and Savior has too often experienced. How many of us have made promises to Him about things we would do “if only” He would do some special thing for us. And then, when we have received what we so desperately wanted, we get so lost in the joy of the gift that we forget to go back to our promises to The Giver. It’s the reason God had to keep reminding Israel, “Forget me not for all my benefits.” I think we have all experienced this, so next time you feel forgotten as a giver, let it remind you to never forget that God is your ultimate provider and giver, and that it is an honor to praise and lift Him up for all His providence.

November 29, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sexual Harassment


First, before I get into today’s Torah commentary, let me pass along a blessing to you that your Thanksgiving providence will be with you throughout the next year, and that you will always know and trust Yahveh Almighty as your Creator and Provider. I had a wonderful day with friends and family (and food, of course) at Joe Huber Family Farm and Restaurant. I still feel stuffed, and I didn’t even eat any stuffing because I’m a potato person. Stovetop Stuffing never would have used me in their stuffing vs. potatoes commercials. Comment if you remember those though, and tell me how you would vote.

Okay, so on to today’s reading from Genesis 39:7 through Genesis 39:23–the end of the chapter. I actually think this should have included verse 6 where it talked about Joseph being a good-looking man since that’s where everything in today’s reading branches off from. Potiphar’s wife noticed him and asked him over and over to sleep with her. Now, I don’t know if it counts when it’s the boss’s wife, but this was most certainly a case of sexual harassment. It got so bad that Joseph did everything he could to stay away from her.

One day, none of the other employees were in the house, and Joseph had to go in to do his day’s work. But Mrs. Potiphar was there, and she set in after Joseph again. This time, however, she became hands-on with him. He told her that it would not only be a violation of the trust her husband placed in him, but it would also be a sin against God for him to sleep with her. Finally, to get away, he had to take off his robe and leave it in her hands. Unfortunately, this gave her the perfect tool for revenge against Joseph for his rejection of her.

Mrs. Potiphar set Joseph up by screaming until she got the attention of others and then telling the story that Joseph tried to rape her and that she took his robe when he ran away due to her screaming. Her husband believed her and had Joseph locked away where the king’s prisoners were kept. I’m guessing it was much like some of our minimum-security prisons now because the warden paid little attention to Joseph and pretty much let him have his freedom there. Eventually, even the warden saw that God was with the man and gave him reign over the other prisoners.

Yahveh was with Joseph even in his imprisonment, and His presence was noticeable even to others. I believe God knew the heart of Potiphar’s wife, and He used her predator personality to put Joseph in a situation where He could bring about a blessing that would change the world for Joseph and many others. Somehow, through it all, we are not reading that Joseph fought for his innocence, his personal rights, justice, or his desire to be treated fairly. Somehow, I’m guessing the presence of his God was enough for him, and maybe God was even comforting him by letting him know that all would work toward a good end. I wrestle with the need for balance, justice, and equity in my life, but Joseph found his in The Lord. I’ll file this in my lessons to take to heart. How about you?

P.S. Here’s another ApologetiX video that encapsulates the life of Joseph–including today’s story portion. It’s called “Somebody Sold Me” and it is a parody of the song “Somebody Told Me” by The Killers

November 28, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe Somebody


Today’s reading from Genesis 39:1 through Genesis 39:6 appears to be one of the shortest yet at only six verses. But it covers an important turn of events in the life of Joseph and in the future of the house of Israel. While Joseph’s brothers considered him long gone and forgotten, Yahveh was watching over their brother and making plans they could never have imagined might become quite important to them one day.

The Ishmaelites who had purchased Joseph from the brothers carried him to Egypt and re-sold him. The man who bought him, named Potiphar, was an officer of the Pharoah and captain of the guard. One translation says he was the chief in charge of executions. Okay, so that’s not a boss you want to make angry, right? But, of course, because of the blessings of God, Joseph not only did not make his new boss angry, he greatly impressed him. Potiphar did not take long to see that everything in his care prospered because of Joseph.

When Potiphar realized that God was with Joseph and caused all he did to be blessed, he put him in charge of all his possessions. The brother who was a nobody and sold as a slave was still a slave, but suddenly he was more than a slave. Joseph became a somebody in charge of all his master’s goods and all that was in his care. The text says that Potiphar never even had to worry about anything with Joseph in charge, so he thought nothing of any of his affairs except what he had to eat. The text ends with a simple statement about Joseph being handsome and well-built.

Now, imagine hiring an employee like a maid, secretary, cook, etc., and suddenly having your household increase and prosper. Most people put out ‘nanny-cams” to make sure those in their employ are not stealing from them or snooping in areas where they don’t belong. I don’t think there are many who find themselves becoming more prosperous for the sake of their employees, especially these days when it’s even hard to find someone who has the ethic to make an effort to work every minute for which they are paid. So, we would surely notice if everything around that new person increased abundantly.

I imagine most of us would be trying to figure what that person was doing right to bring all that good into his or her life. I also imagine that we would be following the person around and hoping that at least some of that might rub off on us. If we found that it was not luck but rather the blessings of The Creator of the Universe, I would hope we would all be seeking Him because of the example set before us. And for those of us who are the employees and servants of others, I hope we can bring visible blessings to those we serve that God would be glorified and uplifted by the blessings we share with others.

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cisterns and Brothers


Or maybe the title could be Cistern and Brethren. There were no sisters in today’s reading from Genesis 37:23 through Genesis 37:36–the end of the chapter. But there were plenty of brothers. There were many evil brothers, and there were brothers who each in their own way tried to stave off the evil of murder. If you’ll remember from yesterday, Reuben suggested dropping Joseph in the cistern instead of killing him. Today, Judah suggested that instead of killing him, they should sell him to a band of Ishmaelites headed to Egypt. He told them it wasn’t right to kill someone who was a brother, and they agreed.

But when Reuben came back to rescue Joseph, he found that Joseph was no longer in the cistern, and he tore his clothes. He returned to where his brothers were having dinner and said, “The boy isn’t there. Now where can I go?” I don’t know if this gave away that he was going to rescue him or not, but their solution was to dip the robe they tore off him (a definite sign of their jealousy of the relationship he had with their father) into goat’s blood and present it to their father. They asked the father to identify if the robe belonged to Joseph, and I’m guessing they knew it would lead to the conclusion he drew–that his son was torn to pieces and eaten by a wild animal.

I doubt the brothers even thought about the effect of their selfish act on their father. Scripture says he mourned so deeply that he refused to be comforted. It says all his children tried to comfort him, but he told them he would go to his grave in mourning. Getting him out of the way did not get them any closer to their father and may even have caused even more of a division as he pushed them away.

The way things went between the brothers and their father reminds me of the quote… Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours glow any brighter. When I first saw it, I was preparing a church bulletin, and I found it in a book of clip art. It was accompanied by a drawing of a person holding a candle behind his back while blowing on the candle of someone else. The idea that it would not glow any brighter behind his back, or in effect “under a bushel,” seemed to make it more impactful. We do not make ourselves look better by making someone else look worse, and it hides our true light under a bushel of deception and manipulation. I guess it’s too bad those brothers didn’t have a book of virtues, or clip art, or some little instruction book to look at, but at least their bad decisions were recorded for us to learn from.

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feeding Pearls to Pigs


Cute pig staring through fence. By Michael Loudon (thornypup) at Flickr

Cute pig staring through fence.
By Michael Loudon (thornypup) at Flickr

This is the beginning of another full portion for the week. As of Saturday as Sundown, we are in Parashah 9: Vayeshev (meaning “He continued Living”) and includes text from Genesis 37:1 through Genesis 40:23. Today’s portion comes from Genesis 37:1 through Genesis 37:11 and tells about Jacob/Israel in the land of Canaan and then goes right into the story of Joseph.

So Joseph seemed to have a penchant for making people angry with him. First of all, they already had reason to find fault with him out of jealousy because they knew their father loved him the most. The Scripture says it was because he was the son of his old age, but I’m pretty certain Jacob’s love for him was greater due to his Jacob’s greater love for Rachel. And if the love itself wasn’t enough to make all the other brothers jealous, then there was the infamous “coat of many colors.” In one text I read, their theory was that the coat was a prayer shawl with the family lineage sewn in, but I can’t be sure.

So then, at seventeen years old (which the Scripture says is still just a boy) Joseph was out in the field helping to care for the sheep. While there, he was working with his father’s servant girls, and he brought a bad report about them to his father. After that, and maybe because he was feeling so confident in his father’s love, he started this habit of telling his brothers about dreams that didn’t make them look so good. in the first of these dreams, he said they were all out in the field bundling wheat when his wheat stood up on its own, and their bundles bowed down before his. Of course they teased him with saying things like how great a king he would be while he bossed all of them around. He did a similar thing when he told them about a dream where even the sun, moon, and stars bowed down before him. Even his father didn’t like the idea of hearing how he might bow before his son, but at least he took it to heart.

So, a very good friend of mine once taught me well on the meaning behind casting our pearls before swine. Or, as I listed in the title, trying to feed pearls to pigs. She said that God gives us special treasures. Sometimes they are dreams and visions. Sometimes they are simple truths. Sometimes they are deep revelations and truths. But always, we should not share every single thing He shares with us just because we know it to be true. We must wait for God to direct us to share our treasure. If we don’t wait,  it can end up becoming a situation where whoever we share it with shows our treasure little to no value and, in a way, dirties or trashes what was once a special treasure.

See, pigs would see no value in pearls since they will basically eat anything. They would not look at pearls as pearls–if they ate them at all. They would not see anything as treasure but only more slop. If we want our special moments and revelations to remain special, we must be careful to reveal the treasures we hold in our hearts, especially the ones we have received from our Creator, only to those who God directs. Though Joseph had wonderful visions of the future, his brothers did not treasure his dreams and only devalued them by teasing and taunting him. What God reveals to us should never be hidden under a bushel, but it must be shown to the right people at the right time. As it says in Proverbs 25:11, a good word spoken in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lives Without Love


When I read more about Leah today, from Genesis 30:14 through Genesis 30:27, I feel heartbroken for her. She has had four children, she has had two in proxy through her servant girl, but she still feels unloved. When her son collects some mandrakes from the field (thought to be translated from Hebrew meaning “love plant”), Rachael asks Leah if she can have some to help with her infertility. Leah gets upset and accuses Rachael of trying to steal her son as she has done with her husband. So Rachael makes a deal with Leah to exchange some of the fruit for Leah to have her husband back in her bed with her.

After all is said and done, Leah conceives and bares three more children, two boys and girl. She gives Jacob Isaachar (hired/reward), Zebulun (dwelling) and Dinah. When she named Zebulun, she said, “Maybe now that I have given him six children, my husband will live with me.” Finally, after Leah had her three new babies, Rachael finally conceived and gave birth to Joseph meaning “may He add” and hoping this was the end of her infertility and disgrace.

Both of these women had so much pain. Leah was unloved and lonely, and Rachael was infertile and felt rejected by God. But they were sisters. They could have loved each other and been there for each other through everything they went through. Leah could have cared for her sister’s infertility and invited her to help raise her nephews and nieces, but she was so bitter about the fact that her husband really wanted to be with her sister (and had actually married her in ceremony) that she did not care for her sister’s pain. I wonder if she had drawn closer to her sister, would she have felt less lonely? And I wonder if Rachael had cared more for her sister’s inability to change how their husband felt about her, and her inability to change the looks she was born with, would Leah have tried to spend more time with her. It seems that bitterness and envy made both of them lonelier and restricted both of them to lives without love of one kind or other–be it without a husband in the dwelling or without a child to raise.

Hebrews 12:15 talks about the root of bitterness and the torment that comes with it. I think feeling like you are living a life without any love in it would certainly fall under the definition of torment. But since the chapter ends with Jacob finishing his work for Laban and asking to return to his homeland with all his wives and children, maybe there is hope that once they all live together, the sisters can find love for each other again.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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