Return, not repent

I frequently drive by this train trestle on my way to centering prayer. I finally decided to take the time to stop and photograph it. This required that I drive past it and park at the entrance to a neighborhood and walk back.  There is no shoulder to the bridge I stood on so I had to be very mindful of traffic, and pray they would notice me.  I had not planned to do this so I wasn’t wearing bright clothing.  Army green is a neutral in my world.

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I admire the effort required to write this, and I love the colors and font. The word on it – repent – is problematic. The English word “Repent” has such weight. The original Hebrew word is “tshuvah”, which means “to return”. It isn’t about “paying for your sins” but turning away from them and walking towards life. Every moment of every day we have a choice – to choose life or choose death. And every time we make an unhealthy choice, we get the opportunity once again to turn around and get going in the right direction again. It isn’t about penance at all.

Consider when the Psalmist says in Psalm 103:12 –

“As far as the east is from the west / So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

– that the distance from east and west is simply a matter of direction, instead of distance.  If you are walking east, all you have to do to walk west is turn around.

God doesn’t care how far you are along the path of life – just as long as you are walking along it.  God cares which direction you are pointed.

When you notice that you’ve gotten turned around and are headed in the wrong direction (this is part of being human and happens to all of us) then all you have to do is turn back around towards Light and Life and the Lord.

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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.

In the beginning.

I feel like I am a free diver when I go on a day retreat. Free divers hold their breath and dive down for pearls in semi-shallow waters. When I go on a day retreat, just 6 hours, I have just enough time to dip in, grab something beautiful, and then surface to the “real” world to look at and share what I found. There are so many beautiful things to be gotten on retreat, so many beautiful jewels. Can I see them? How do I choose which one to take? How do I prepare myself to go under the water/ truly enter the retreat?

This time I took a week to mentally prepare. I wanted to get the most out of it. I never know what supplies I should bring, and I always try to pare down to make sure I’m not over-thinking it. Jesus and Moses didn’t take anything with them when they went away, and they were gone for 40 days. I’m only going to be “away” for 6 hours. There are art supplies there, and things to read and eat. How will God contact me this time? How will I want to be with God? Going on retreat is like going on a play-date with God.

This time I took a notebook that I’ve used for the past several retreats. I also brought a folder in case I had any art projects I wanted to take home, some watercolor pencils, and a very brief amount of Hebrew homework. While I saw a lot of jewels, here is the one I’m going to share with you right now.

There is a podcast I listen to where the speaker really gets into the first word of the Bible. It is one word – Breyshit is how it is pronounced (Bet, Resh, Aleph, Shin, Yud, Taf) is how it is spelled in Hebrew. That one word is usually translated as “In the beginning”. Yet he says if you translate it another way, it can also mean “with beginnings”. He also said that it is common to take the letters of a Hebrew word and mix them up to see what else the word spells, and it says “The song of the alphabet” – that God sang the world into existence using the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

If moving the letters around is acceptable practice, then I decided to do it too. I used my very limited Hebrew lexicon that I brought with me and wrote down all the words that have just those letters (Bet, Resh, Aleph, Shin, Yud, Taf) in any order. I then picked the combinations of words that didn’t duplicate any of the letters, yet used up all of the letters.

I got some pretty amazing stuff. I’ll admit that my interpretation is a little poetic at times, but it goes with the meanings of the individual words.

That one word can be broken up and rearranged to mean any of these things –

“Singing together” or “Together in song”
“This is the home of the best”
“The life-giving river of the Sabbath”
“Honor the Sabbath”
“God gathers us in with Him and claims us as His own”
And finally “True daughter of God”

Moses and the Messiah

Moses (Mosheh) משה Messiah (Mashiach) מָשִׁ֫יחַ

What is the same – the Mem מ and the Shin ש

What is different? The Yud י is added, and the Hey ה is a Chet חַ

What do the same letters mean? These are the qualities that Moses and the Messiah share.

Mem means water – a large amount, overflowing – waves, flood. Water with no boundaries. Chaos, overpowering. The letter Mem also turns a verb into a noun. It is actuality. Reality is made through chaos.

Shin means tooth, a sharp rock, cliff, crag. Consume, destroy. Shin turns a verb into the person doing it. (Who has done this thing..)

Both are active, both involve chaos and change of an overwhelming kind. Both involve a change from the normal to a totally different way of life. Both involve transformation from action to actuality.

What do the different ones mean?

Yod represents a closed hand, the right hand, to strike or pierce, a blow. Deed, work, to make, responsibility.

Hey – as a prefix this letter serves as the definite particle, the. It also means Lo, see, behold, (therefore) a lattice or window for that purpose. It is a frame that reveals.

Chet means to fence in, destroy. Private, to separate. Create anew, an enclosure, fenced in, ark, refuge.

They Hey in Moses’ name was pointing the way, saying look at what is coming. They Hey is a marker, a sign, saying look for something like this to come, but more and bigger.

Through the hand of power, of strong action, a new creation is made.

Both Moses and the Messiah are to lead people out of slavery and bondage – one from physical slavery, the other from mental slavery.

What “altar” really means.

The Hebrew word for altar is
מזבח

Mem, Vav, Vet, Chet. (read right to left)

Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a meaning, and if you string those meanings together, you can understand what the word truly means.

Mem means – water with no boundaries, chaos.
Vav means – “and”, hook, nail
Vet (also Bet) – means tent, house, enclosure
Chet means – fence, separate, a new beginning or new creation.

Together, this can be taken to mean “From the waters of chaos I have rescued you and brought you into a new life.”

It refers to the waters from the beginning of time – when “God moved over the waters” to create the world. It refers to the waters of the Red Sea, through which God sent Israel to escape from slavery in Egypt. It refers to the waters of the womb, where God creates us by dividing us, dividing the cells into their individual roles – an eye here, a stomach there…

God separates us, divides us to form us, to make us unique. God “hooks” us, grabs us, takes us into the tent, the house of God. The tent can be seen as the tabernacle, the same temporary house of Sukkot, the temporary dwelling of our bodies.