Gold as God? Good as Gold?

Many of us are familiar with the story of the golden calf. This is what some of the Israelites had talked Moses’ brother Aaron, the high priest, into making for them to worship. A lot of time had passed from when Moses went up Mt. Sinai to get the tablets from God, and they wanted something to worship.

But notice what happens when Moses comes down from the mountain. He doesn’t just get angry and smash the tablets.

Exodus 32:19-20 (HCSB)
19 As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became enraged and threw the tablets out of his hands, smashing them at the base of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf they had made, burned it up, and ground it to powder. He scattered the powder over the surface of the water and forced the Israelites to drink the water.

He made them drink the gold. It became part of them. How long does that last? Does it pass on, from generation to generation? What does it mean to have this reminder of not having faith in God as part of you, in your body?

In what other ways have people in Biblical times not trusted in God?

What God says is going to happen always happens – but it rarely happens quickly. God’s timetable is not the same as ours. God told Abraham that he was going to be a father in his old age, and Abraham believed him for a while. Time passed, and still Sarah wasn’t pregnant. She gave him her handmaiden as a surrogate, and he got her pregnant. They took matters into their own hands, and trouble resulted. They didn’t have faith that God was going to do what God said. It was over 12 years later that Sarah got pregnant by Abraham and had Isaac.

King Saul didn’t wait for the prophet Samuel to make the proper offering, and did it himself. This caused God to get very angry and remove the mantle of kingship from him.

What ways do we not wait and trust in God? Is the gold in us? Is taking matters into our own hands just hardwired into our DNA?

This is a test. This is something we can overcome, but not on our own. If we give it to God and ask for the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome our basic tendency to rush things and do things on our own. We can overcome if we yoke ourselves to God.

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My way or the High Way

Remember the phrase “My way or the highway?” What if the “highway” is really the High Way – the way of God? Let us consider these words from King Solomon’s book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 19:21
Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the Lord’s decree will prevail.

Proverbs 20:22
Don’t say, “I will avenge this evil!”
Wait on the Lord, and He will rescue you.

Proverbs 21:31
A horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but victory comes from the Lord.

It isn’t what we want, it isn’t what we do. God is in charge. We can plan and prepare, but it is the Lord who delivers.

Blessing for everything

“To ‘bless’ does not mean the same thing as ‘to thank’. …it is too much to expect most people to actually thank God for the bad things that happen to them. Barukh, the Hebrew word for ‘bless’, comes from the same root as the word for knee, berekh. Many scholars see a connection: To bless God is to kneel or bow before the Divine (either literally or symbolically), acknowledging God as greater and more powerful, and the Source of all – both good and bad – that happens.”
– from “Swimming in the Sea of Talmud” by Michael Katz and Gershon Schwartz

To bless God for everything is to acknowledge that God is making everything happen. If we truly believe that God is One, that God made everything and everything is from and of God, then we have to believe that everything that is and everything that happens is from God.

Perhaps we never left the Garden. Perhaps when we ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, we saw with new eyes. Our eyes had seen only things as they are, not differentiating between Good and Evil. Things just were what they were, with no judgment.

When we divide events and people and things into Good and Evil, we have left Paradise, but only mentally. Physically, we are still there.

When we decide to withhold judgment and just see events and people and things as they are, not deciding that they are Good or Evil, then we reenter Paradise.

Nothing is absolute – events that seemed bad at the time turned out to redirect us towards a healthier path. People that seemed bad at the time turned out to have problems that we didn’t know about – we “cut them some slack” and our relationships improve. That food that we didn’t like as children? Years later it is our favorite snack. Things change. Our experiences expand us. We don’t have “the big picture.” Time gives us perspective.

Hold on. Trust. God is in charge. We don’t have to fix it all, and that is a great mercy.

The sages say that the things we perceive as “bad” come from the first two letters of God’s name, the “yud” and the “hey”, while the things we perceive as “good” come from the second two letters, the “vav” and the (second) “hey”. Both are from God. They are neither Good or Evil, deep down.

They just are. No judgment. No definition.

Start blessing God for everything, acknowledging that God is God, and God is good. Ask God for new eyes to see the beauty in everything, and for patience to trust that God is working out God’s plan.

Life change cake

Yesterday was the icing on the cake. I don’t know where the cherry is. And if yesterday was the icing, then I don’t know if that means the cherry is good or bad.

The cake is a multi layer cake.

One layer is made up of a car dying and having to buy new car. I’d paid it off and become very fond of it. It was cute and familiar. I wasn’t planning on buying a new car. For a while we had two car payments, and I was grateful to not have any. I was using the extra money to pay off the mortgage sooner. But I have to have a reliable car, and one that won’t start isn’t acceptable, especially when the dealership can’t even tell me what was causing the problem. Since they didn’t know, they couldn’t fix it. They got it running, for another day, and then it wouldn’t start. I’m grateful that it failed to start while I was at home – so I wasn’t stranded doing errands or at work.

Another layer is finding out that I’m being transferred to another branch a week later. I’ve worked at the same place for almost 15 years. That’s a third of my life. I created the order and routine of the branch I came from. It’s a huge loss to have to go somewhere else. I’m grateful it is close to my home and in a safe neighborhood.

Another layer is the loss of my normal schedule. Because this other library is on an opposite schedule of opening and closing I can’t go to my exercise class like I used to. All the people that I knew at work and at working out are gone to me.

I might as well have moved to another country for the amount of loss that I am experiencing. It would’ve helped if the other branch had even welcomed me. But there was no welcoming note, no welcoming words, not even my desk was cleaned off. It was like it was a catchall for debris. I hate being the only person who is sensitive to other people’s feelings who thinks about how hard things are and is considerate so that they feel welcome and included. I hate feeling so deeply.

Adding to that is that I’m at a place that has three people, and only two do the work. The manager sits in his office and types at his computer, only coming out of his office to go to lunch or yell at the kids when they are loud. I’d love to have a job where I could get paid, yet do my own work (like write books) for 8 hours a day, like he has. But then I’d feel that I’d feel guilty about it, because I know that I’m not doing my real job.

I was reading Proverbs this morning and came across some parts that are applicable. (All translations are HCSB)

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding;”
To me, this means that I don’t need to worry about this. To rely upon my own understanding is to say that I’m wiser than God. Ultimately it would mean that I’m setting myself up as an idol. The height of idolatry is to worship yourself. Sadly, a lot of today’s new religious leaders are saying just that. I’ll go further into that another day.

Proverbs 3:31 “Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways;”
I’m taking this to mean more than just violent. I’m taking it to mean someone who shirks his responsibility. I should do my job and not follow the way of someone who isn’t doing his, as I know it to be bad. However, I won’t do extra or wipe myself out to get it all done, either. If I do more than my share, it will not be obvious that he’s not doing his. Upper management knows what is happening but they aren’t doing anything about it. I don’t know why, but I have to trust that God is in charge.

And then I read this, and it confirmed my feelings.
Proverbs 3:35 “The wise will inherit honor, but He holds up fools to dishonor.”

It doesn’t make it a lot easier. I still have to figure out how to live with this situation. I’ve spent a lot of my life with similar bosses.

Jesus teaches us that the best boss is also a worker. When he washed the feet of his disciples, he was teaching them that they needed to lower themselves from thinking they were above everybody. He was teaching them that they had to see themselves as equals. Everybody has to do “the dirty work”.

Sadly, many managers, even ones that are Christian, don’t seem to get this. It draws resentment upon them. Even if they are paid more, they aren’t respected more. I knew a lady who retired after 40 years of “work” and not one of her employees attended her retirement party. There were a lot of people there, but they were her friends – nobody she had worked with or “managed”. Sure, she got paid more than her employees, but she was overdrawn in the respect department.

I’d rather be paid in respect. I’d rather be paid in knowing that I did my best, rather than cheating the system. I’d rather know that the money I make I made honestly.

On not setting up idols of other people and events.

I feel there’s a lot more behind this work transfer than I’m being told. I feel that it’s being done to keep someone else happy. I feel that it is being done to get me out of the way. While I would appreciate honesty, I’m not letting this get to me anymore because I believe that God is in charge of everything.

God uses people, even faithful people, to advance the kingdom. Even to say that the four layers of managers above me are in charge of my future is to give them more power than God. It is to set them up as idols. No, I’m not worshiping them. But to think they are truly in charge fundamentally ignores and negates the fact that God is in charge.

The same is true of a disease or an accident or a disaster. To say it controls your life is to say that it is your god. Yes, you are affected. You are forced to react, to change position and place. But if you truly believe that God is in charge, you know that everything is from God and that it is happening for reason, and that the reason is good because it is from God.

This does not mean that everything will be awesome and wonderful for you. This does not mean that because you are a follower of God that you will have everything go well, you’ll be healed of your sickness, you’ll have the best things. Your will is not the point. God’s will is. You are a player on the stage, a pawn, a puppet. But with God pulling the strings and directing the play, everything will come out exactly as it should.

These lines from Psalm 119 speak to me right now
ט Tet
65 LORD, You have treated Your servant well,
just as You promised.
66 Teach me good judgment and discernment,
for I rely on Your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep Your word.
68 You are good, and You do what is good;
teach me Your statutes.
69 The arrogant have smeared me with lies,
but I obey Your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are hard and insensitive,
but I delight in Your instruction.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I could learn Your statutes.
72 Instruction from Your lips is better for me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Addiction and trusting in God

I wrestle with addiction. Thankfully I’m no longer enslaved to pot. I also used to smoke clove cigarettes. But addiction can take many forms. Addiction is any time that we feel helpless to control our actions. It’s as if we are puppets being controlled by an outside source.

There are a few things that you can do to defeat addiction. One is just do something. Wash the dishes. Sort your sock drawer. Write a letter. Go for a walk. Doodle. Make sure it is something where you are being active, even a little. Watching TV and reading don’t count. Those are passive activities and won’t help in this situation.

There is a method of education called the Waldorf method. One of the things that they hold to be true is that the environment reflects the inner nature of the child. If the child is being disorganized and chaotic in play, then the way to fix that is to tidy up the area around the child. Sometimes we have to re-parent ourselves. So in this instance, if you are feeling scattered or sluggish, then what you need to do is start picking up your area. Start moving and tidying up. You don’t have to do your whole house, and in fact I suggest that you not even try all it right then. Balance is important. But rather thanbeing afraid of doing too much it’s also bad to not do anything at all. Get started. Have small goals. That way you can see progress.

I like to think about Judas. He didn’t want to betray Jesus. He was one of Jesus’ followers, disciples, and friends. When Judas realized what he had done, he hung himself. But earlier on in the text we read that Judas didn’t even do it. It wasn’t intentional. An evil spirit entered him and made him do what had to be done. I’ve written about this extensively in a previous post so I’m not going into all of that here. But where I’m going with this is that sometimes despite our best efforts things don’t go the way we want or plan or expect. Sometimes we mean to do well and yet we do the exact opposite. It’s entirely possible that we are being controlled by God, and there is another part of the plan we aren’t aware of.

Now that may sound backwards in light of what I just said about Judas. Remember how I said that he was controlled by evil spirit? If we truly believe that there is only one God and that God made everything, we also then have to understand that there is no such thing as an evil spirit. It is simply an agent of the Lord acting in a way that to our eyes seems backwards and not correct.

How did this does not mean that we are off the hook from trying to do our best? We should always try to do everything we can in our power to do the right thing and to improve ourselves and the world. But part of what I’m saying is if you have tried your best and yet you still fail don’t beat yourself up. Don’t be Judas and kill yourself. We kill ourselves all the time by making fun of ourselves or attacking ourselves with disparaging words.

Think of Balaam and the donkey. Balaam wanted to go forward and yet the donkey he was riding on saw an angel standing in the path in front of them. The angel meant to kill Balaam if he went any further. The donkey stopped and Balaam got really angry with the donkey and started to beat him. Then the donkey talked to him and said “Why are you beating me?” Balaam then saw the angel who was going to kill him if he had continued on that road.

Maybe if we keep trying to go forward and we are blocked perhaps it is best to trust that God is in charge. That maybe there is an angel standing in our way preventing us from getting hurt or doing something wrong.

The cure for anxiety

Because of this I’m telling you – don’t worry about anything about your life or regarding your body. Don’t worry about what you will have to eat or drink or wear. Life is about much more than food or clothing. Think about the ravens – they don’t sow or reap or store up their food, and yet God provides for them. Don’t you know you are more valuable than them? Can anyone add even a minute to his life by worrying? If worry can’t change the little things, then why worry about the big things?

Why worry about what you’re going to wear? Think about the wildflowers – they don’t earn money for clothing or make thread, yet they are more beautifully clothed than King Solomon ever was! If that is how God adorns grass, which is temporary and insubstantial, won’t he do much more for you – you who don’t believe?

So don’t be anxious about what you are going to eat or drink or wear – those are the kinds of things that people who don’t believe in God focus on. Your Father in heaven knows of your needs.

Instead of striving for those things, strive for the kingdom of God, and then everything you need will be provided for you. Don’t be anxious, because your heavenly Father gets great pleasure in giving you the kingdom. Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own to deal with.

MT 6:25-34, LK 12:22-32