Fear of God?

The Hebrew word יִרְאָה that is translated into English as “Fear of God” means something entirely different. It is spelled phonetically as “yirah” and pronounced as “Year-uh”.

“Fear” is an improper and misleading rendering, because God does not want us to be afraid. It is said that the phrase “Don’t be afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible – one for every day of the year. We are told repeatedly that “God is love”, so why should we be afraid of God?

According to Strong’s, the word actually means “reverence” or “piety”, not fear.

It is to indicate respect, to know before Whom you stand. To not take God for granted, but remember that God is your Creator. It is the same feeling you would have for a good parent or a wise teacher.

However, it is not the feeling that you would have for a friend. You must always remember that God is greater than you and existed long before and will exist long after you. You must remember that God created you and the rest of the universe. There must be some humility because of this.

But it isn’t fear.

Consider what other words that we have been told about God and Jesus that are not true, that were given to control us.

Rabid (what really scares me about Trump)

Trump doesn’t frighten me. His followers do. He is only one person. There are many thousands of them. The fact that he is popular means that they agree with his message.

Remove him from the election and these people will still feel what they feel.

They will still be afraid of anyone who isn’t them, and they all appear to be straight, white, and Christian.

Somehow they feel that the civil rights advances of others are threatening to them. For some reason they feel that allowing other people to live their lives differently means that their own choices are under attack.

They don’t get that allowing gay people to get married does not mean that straight people have to become homosexual. It does not take away straight people’s rights.

They don’t get that allowing people of other faith traditions to practice their religion does not mean that Christians cannot practice their own. It is important to remember that Jesus never said to attack another person’s way of life – in fact, he said the opposite. Judging other people (and making laws against them or discrimination against them is not what Jesus would do)

They don’t get that allowing immigrants into America does not mean that those who are here will lose their jobs or homes. And, lest we forget American history, the vast majority of Americans are immigrants or descended from them. Trump’s own father was an immigrant from Germany.

Trump frightens me because he is a center point to the rage and frustration that so many of them are feeling.

Saddam Hussein didn’t kill anyone. He just talked, and his followers did the deeds.

Hitler didn’t kill anyone. His followers did.

The leaders in the Rwandan genocide didn’t kill anyone. Their followers did.

Nobody has been killed by the people who follow Trump. Not yet. They’ve rioted. They’ve assaulted. It is a start.

I’m surprised that his hate speech hasn’t been called out for what it is. Is it because he is a presidential candidate that he is allowed to incite violence against people? Other citizens are called out for that. There are watchdog agencies that check for such activity. Why aren’t they speaking up? Or are they stunned into silence by his pomposity?

I’m concerned that all of the advances that have been made in the effort of unity and inclusion will be swept away in a tidal wave of fear and ignorance.

The leaders of hate are simply the voice to long unspoken feelings that have been bottled up, suppressed, whispered. The leaders of hate don’t do anything to get their hands dirty. Their followers are the ones who do the evil.

Is this what we want America to become? A nation where it isn’t safe to be gay, or black or an immigrant? Where it isn’t safe to challenge the status quo? Where it isn’t safe to be an intellectual? Where it isn’t safe, period?

Trump is a figurehead to a slow boiling pot filled with people who feel threatened. In making room for people who are “other” they feel pushed out, excluded, ignored. In a way, I understand this. America is a land where it is considered laudable to have gay pride, black pride, Latino pride. But “white pride”? It is seen as racist. They have been told that they cannot be proud of their roots.

You can’t fix discrimination by discriminating. This is true for everyone.

Care or codependency?

I recently posted a picture of an item I’d bought at Goodwill on my Facebook page. I’m going to use it as a prop for a story I’m writing, but in the meantime I wanted to know what it really was. Several helpful friends let me know that it was a kitchen timer. It looks more like a remote control than a timer, so that is what it will be in the story.

However, one person posted this picture and said “Don’t buy from Goodwill”.

Perhaps it is significant that this is a cousin, from my husband’s side. I’ve never even met him. Perhaps that alone is my problem. Perhaps I need to not “friend” people I don’t know, even if they are family. That is a topic I write about a lot. Boundary lines blur a bit with family.

Here’s my reply to his post (which you might notice didn’t answer my question at all) –

“Too late. I don’t buy from Goodwill with the thought that they will be donating to charity. I am the charity. I benefit because I get to buy something very inexpensive that I need, that I can’t afford to buy new. This is where I buy my clothes. In spite of the fact that the CEO makes lots of bucks – they do provide job training and opportunities to people who normally have a hard time getting a job (those with mental or physical disabilities, or those who are ex-cons). Plus, by their mere existence, they are encouraging people to recycle and reuse – the items don’t go into a garbage dump. Surely these points have to be of value to you. I’ve seen this image before – and I notice that yours does not include the one donation center that does donate a lot to charity and the CEO takes home under $25K a year – and that is the Salvation Army. I’m so tired of messages from people who mean well that say “DON’T do this” but then don’t tell you what is good to do. We cannot live our lives based on fear.”

I thought “How dare he tell me what to do! How dare he try to share his fear!”

His need to “correct” me is a sign of codependency. His way of thinking is the problem, not where I shop.

It reminds me of health book that said to drink lots of clean water – but not from a tap, and not to drink out of plastic water bottles. But what is there other than that? The author didn’t say. So how is that helpful? If all you share is what not to do, you are not helping anyone. In fact, you are making the situation worse. This is part of the current problem our society faces – too many “don’t” and not enough helpful information. We are being lead by fear of everything, with no let up. There is no relief – just more and more fear.

Here are some current fear-based modes of thinking that are going on:

The government is going to take away everything you have.
The government is putting chemicals in your food.
You are under constant surveillance.
Immigrants are going to steal your job and/or kill you.

These ideas are poison, because they don’t offer a cure. They contribute to un-ease, to dis-ease. They are all passive. They are things that are going to happen to you (so they say), rather than things you can do something about. They create fear and disorder.

We are being told we are in a cage and not given a key. The real problem is that we were fine before we were told these lies.

And then I thought more about his message. This was a chance to educate him on the rest of the story. So I shared this picture.

Half information is worse than no information. Whatever we share must be for the good of all. To share mis-information or terror-talk is to BE the problem. Also, it is important to consider before you share anything – are you trying to control the actions of someone else? If so, why? Is it perhaps that You are the one who needs to hear your message – not the other person? Thinking about why you feel the need to control someone else’s actions, even in the guise of caring for them, is a very useful meditation.

The erasure (short story)

They finally came. After months of broadcasts on all known media (radio, television, Internet, newspaper, shortwave, telegraph, TTY, dolphins, psychics) saying it was coming, that they were coming, it had finally happened.

Nobody knew who was sending the broadcasts, or where they were from. Agencies and detectives and amateur sleuths all over the world tried to answer those questions, to no avail. Séances were held. Runes were consulted. Wires were tapped. Still the messages came, and still no one knew the source or the author. Television anchors were told to say nothing that might frighten the public more than they already were. Talk show hosts were, as usual, under no authority or ethical standard, so they said whatever they felt, regardless of truth or concern for how their prattlings would harm.

The beings, or spirits, or aliens, or whatever they were had tried to communicate with our earth for far longer than people realized. They had subtly influenced moods and desires since before 2000, like a silent alarm, like an odorless poison. They were the reason for the Y2K panic. They were the reason preppers stocked up on ammunition and canned ham. They were the reason people began to mis-trust the authorities and began to take matters into their own hands. Urban farms, homeschooling, anti-vaccine? These were their doing. Layer by layer they had painted a picture of paranoia in our brains to divide us, keep us off balance.

Everyone was affected to some degree. It was only those who didn’t consume mass media that maintained some semblance of control over their actions. All those who watched TV or movies or listened to the radio got multiple doses of the message, and just like any poison it was cumulative. A single bee sting is annoying, but not fatal. A thousand stings is another matter.

When they finally came it was almost a relief.

It was a cool day in August, one of those days that was not too hot or humid, with a few clouds in the sky. The morning had gone peacefully for everyone for a change. The disturbing dreams have finally stopped. Even the news reports were calm for a change, with the latest plastic surgery of one celebrity being the lead instead of the usual threats of war from petty tyrants trying to get the world to notice them. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, until the skies scissored open with the dimension-melting sight/sound/smell of their ships at 11:11 AM.

People started to see sounds and hear colors.
Time ran backwards and sideways and stopped.
Everything suddenly made sense but there were no words anymore to explain it.

And then there was nothing. The silence was thicker than the darkest night, a crushing subterranean weight, more alienating than being trapped in the Marianas Trench in a powerless submarine.

Then, just as suddenly there was only now. The past wasn’t even a memory. It was just a word. All mistakes, all forgotten grocery lists, all insults, all arguments, gone in a blink of the eye. Gone too were first kisses. baby’s first laugh, that perfect day in October when the sky is the blue of watery dreams and crisp like a Gala apple.

All of it.
Gone.

Somehow they knew, whoever they were. They knew that what was holding us back was our near-pathological need to catalog the past into neat (and not so neat) piles, holding onto memories and snapshots and train tickets and receipts for ice skates and ice cream. Somehow they knew that our need to separate those piles into “good” and “bad” was our secret un-doing, our un-humaning, our un-being. Somehow they knew that our “bad” pile held us down, became a pattern for our future, made us think we would always be cheated, be robbed, be abandoned. Somehow too, they knew that our “good” pile equally enslaved us, making us feel that we could never feel that exhilarated or proud or delighted ever again.

Our past being erased was as great a blessing to us as a tornado or a house fire. It forced us to stop holding onto the dried husks of what it means to be truly alive. For too long we thought that the artificial joy of our memories was what made us human.

Overnight, the scrapbooking industry was rendered irrelevant. No one could even imagine why they had spent so much of their lives (and money) gluing memorabilia into organized books, accented with metallic rickrack and die-cut stickers. No one took photographs either, choosing to see their lives through their own eyes rather than through a viewfinder.

Why save the past anymore?
It was meaningless.
Only the present moment,
a moment eternally composed
of beginnings,
was valid.
In that moment
anything
could happen.

Broken dreams

Broken dreams2 011816

This speaks to obsessive, controlling “love” that is one-sided.
Brokenness, cover up of truth/self/other.
How even in the same language and culture two people are like other nations/languages. Miscommunication.
Washed out roads and bridges – driving in the fog.
Being lost even with a map.
The glitter represents the celebration of the crushed glass at a Jewish wedding ceremony, simultaneous with the broken glass and dishes in a “domestic disturbance” – how joy can turn into tragedy.
The two sides of a bad relationship – where one is completely clueless as to the terror of the other.
Relentless pursuit, feeling trapped.

(close up)
Broken dreams2 011816 close

Materials/techniques used –
Strathmore 9 x 12 visual journal
Bought ephemera – sheet music “I had a dream, dear” and Asian map
Matte medium
Scrapbooking scissors
Distress Ink – Rusty hinge, crushed olive, chipped sapphire
Acrylic paint – olive green + white + water, manganese blue
Fingernail to scratch out a section.
Paper towel to remove paint.
Gold “super gel” pen
Spray mount, “crushed glass” glitter
Tim Holtz “idea-ology” words

(Made over two days, from 1-17 to 1-18-16)

Poem – terrorist incident

How about we agree
that any time a person
willfully attacks
another person
it is an act of terror,
regardless of the color
of the people involved?
Regardless of politics or creeds,
regardless of belief,
regardless?

If a person attacks another person
with a gun,
a bomb,
a knife,
it is a terrorist act.
They are trying to terrify,
to instill terror,
plain and simple.

Thanksgiving thoughts

I saw this picture recently

pilgrim refugee

…with these words….
1) “Where would we be if the Wampanoag hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

2) “Where would the Wampanoag be if they hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

These are two different thoughts, and both worthy of consideration.

These are good things to think about right now in light of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their very lives from areas of war and oppression. These are good things to think about in the week before we in America celebrate a day dedicated to giving Thanks.

The Pilgrims left England because their way of worship wasn’t allowed. They wanted to worship God in a manner that differed from the official Church of England. The Church of England was, at the time, equivalent with the government of England – go against one, and you’ve gone against the other. The punishment was fines for lesser offenses, and execution for greater ones. They decided to leave rather than change their way of worship, knowing that where they were going to was completely alien to them.

The people who lived in the area the Pilgrims landed were known as the Wampanoag, and they made sure that the Pilgrims had shelter and food. If it weren’t for them, the Pilgrims would have died out in short order as they were not used to living off the land. This is where the first Thanksgiving came from. Two different groups having dinner together. Sharing. Peaceful. Even though they didn’t share the same language or culture, they lived together in harmony.

However, over the course of time, the Pilgrims expanded and pushed out the Wampanoag. The Pilgrims weren’t interested in sharing. They’d forgotten their debt to the Wampanoag. They’d forgotten the tenants of their faith. Their diseases killed off the natives as surely as their guns did. The Wampanoag didn’t have a chance.

Native Americans all over the USA are marginalized. They live in reservations, they have low-paying jobs, little education, and rampant alcoholism. They lived much better before the white people came and imposed their way of life on them in an effort to “help” them. They didn’t need help. They were fine. They only needed help after the Pilgrims (and other settlers) came with their diseases and an insatiable need for more and more land.

How does this relate to today’s issues? If we in America show compassion to people who are different from us, will that result in our being pushed out, in our being killed? Will this nation become a Muslim nation? Wouldn’t this be fair, after what our ancestors did to the natives who were here?

But – should we allow fear to rule our actions? Jesus tells us repeatedly to not be afraid. Jesus tells us repeatedly to love our enemies, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.

Is there another way to act, other than the way we always have? A middle ground?

There is a fabulous re-imagining of Europe meets the Native Americans in Orson Scott Card’s book “Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus” – where time travelers go back to the natives and secretly inoculate them against the diseases. They also strengthen the native’s opinions and actions so they won’t let the Europeans push them down. They are able to live in peace after this.

Our government says they are worried about Sharia Law – forgetting that their ancestors pushed their own version on to the natives. We need a whole new way of thinking – where people share ideas and work together, with nobody higher or lower.

This is an amazing chance for us to learn from the past and re-vision a new future. This is a time of testing, where we can welcome in the stranger and become stronger because of it.

Consider a garden – one with just one kind of flower is boring. Having many makes it look beautiful.

Consider an orchestra – one with just one kind of instrument is dull. Having many makes it sound beautiful.

Consider a soup – one with just one kind of seasoning makes it taste bland. Having a variety makes it taste wonderful.

This is America – the land of immigrants. The land of second chances. The place where we say we are “The melting pot”, where we say “E pluribus unum” – which means “Out of many, one”.

It is time to let love and compassion rule us rather than fear.
It is time to truly be the “Christian” nation we say we are and take in the stranger, the lost, the refugee. Not because they are Christian, but because we are. Not to turn them into Christians, but for us to prove it through our actions.

Jesus himself was a refugee.

Matthew 2:12-15, his adopted father Joseph gets a message from God in a dream to escape their home and flee to a foreign land, because Herod had ordered every child under the age of two to be slaughtered.

“13 After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (HCSB)

Jesus himself was homeless –

In Matthew 8:20, talking to a man who wants to be his disciple –
20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” (HCSB)

We must welcome the refugee. We must do this fearlessly. We must do it because Jesus would do this. As his disciples, we have to.

The life of following Jesus isn’t simply about everlasting life after we die. It isn’t a life where we say the words and get the prize. It is a life where we live, every day, a life of trust and hope and joy, right now, serving everyone as if they are Jesus, and serving everyone as Jesus would serve them.

This is a living faith. Let us act like it.