God Doesn’t Make Junk…..

(Dedicated to a close and dear friend of mine who I aspire to be when I grow up!! She is full of wisdom and grace….)

Genesis 2:7 Then ADONAI, God, formed a person [Hebrew: adam] from the dust of the ground [Hebrew: adamah] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living being. (The Complete Jewish Bible)

That one line says a ton. The Bible is full of one liners that speak volumes. Those who dare are challenged to dig deeper and find the gold in the one liners! Ahhh…..and I love a challenge!

Back to the subject at hand: God doesn’t make junk. It’s cliche, trite, and we have all heard it when we have been down, depressed, feeling worthless, and without hope. When people say it I don’t doubt that the spoken phrase comes from a heart reaching out to offer hope and a helping hand off the proverbial ledge, nonetheless, its use has made it ring hollow in many an ear. At the same time, it is truth….thus Genesis 2:7.

You see, God makes spirits and clothes them in the flesh of humanity. The first human’s name was derived from the earth, the dust from which he was clothed. Once formed from the earth God breathed the breath of life into the dust, and the dust became the person of Adam. Without the breath of life, God’s breath, the dust would have remained just that; dust. The spirit of man; that which makes us alive is the breath of God, living, alive, capable, and at the point of the creation of man, perfect. Adam’s choice to eat of the ill fated fruit doomed him to strive to return to that perfection, which of course is not possible during our earthly life, yet still remains the pursuit.

Humanity. It is two fold; we are spirit, therefore, God breathed, and we are dust, and destined to return to the earth from which we came. Although God used dust to clothe His creation, there is hope. Yes, due to sin man was relegated to working the earth to eek out an existence, but the earth also brings forth fruit, therefore, this new creation had the possibility of bringing forth good fruit or not-so-good fruit depending upon the choices he made. And so it is with us.

The spirit, the God breathed part of us is unique, one of a kind, and there will never be another. It is what makes us who we are. Without it the body is just a body, devoid of life.

Adam represents the best and worst of God’s creation. Adam had the potential to be all that God had envisioned him to be, and the potential to succumb to his earthly, base nature, born of the dust, and live out his carnal nature; free will at its finest. Adam paved the way for each one of us. Adam – his name is made up of two letters. “Alef” means to teach, or to lead, to be the tribal head. The letters making up the “dam” of Adam refers to blood, the base nature of man, the loss of control, hot tempered. The “alef” is to take the lead and exert control over the blood. Said another way “Adam” also alludes to “adameh” or “I will liken myself” an indication that man is able to emulate God and His goodness.

Unfortunately, and there’s always an ‘unfortunately’, isn’t there? The two sides of ‘Adam’ are locked in a power struggle of sorts, and the free will stands between them. Look up and draw close to God and we emulate Him; look down and we connect with the earth, our base nature.

So how does all this garble-de-goop apply to the phrase ‘God doesn’t make junk’? The spirit of man, the God breathed part of each of us is a jewel in God’s treasure trove, a creation unique in all the world. It’s not junk! WE aren’t junk! And, like Adam, the first man, we are free to exert control over our base nature and emulate God. Even when we screw up, fail, fall flat on our faces, we still have the ability to stand up and look up, to give emulating God’s nature another shot! We are refined by those screw ups, polished, rolled around in God’s rock tumbler one more time. Junk??? I think not!

Shine like the beautiful jewel you are!! Here’s how King David put it, “14 I thank you because I am awesomely made, wonderfully; your works are wonders -I know this very well.15 My bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes could see me as an embryo, but in your book all my days were already written; my days had been shaped before any of them existed” (Psalm 139 Complete Jewish Bible). YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made…..

Judge not…..

We’ve all read it, heard it, said it to someone, or had someone say it to us. Maybe you’ve even been curious enough to research the passage and its interpretation. The Complete Jewish Bible Matthew 7: 1&2 says, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you”. If you read the whole chapter Yeshua (Jesus) says a whole lot more and the chapter is a lot to digest, but for our purposes we will start with these two verses for now.

The passage seems rather straightforward. Not too much to discuss…..don’t judge others and you won’t be either. Judged by whom? God. He is the ultimate judge after all, right? And that is where many people get tripped up because the meat of the statement is that we needn’t judge others and we won’t be the recipient of the measurement of judgment we dished out. I believe that has earthly and spiritual consequences. “Karma” if you will!

Let’s face it. Humans make horrible judges. We judge others a whole lot more harshly than we judge ourselves and if you were to continue reading in Matthew 7 Yeshua addresses that as well. Judging another doesn’t usually stop there; Judgment’s” sister “Gossip” is usually in the vicinity and the hole we dig for ourselves gets that much deeper. So from this day forward you are hereby absolved of your responsibility to judge others! Do you feel lighter now?? Hope so!!

Zooming in a little closer Yeshua’s admonition to abstain from judgment is because we are not God…not even close. We only see any person or any situation in part. The statement has to do with judging the heart of man, his/her motives for the decision or situation that person is in. Can we, in all reality, truly know the heart of another?? No we cannot. No matter how well we may think we know others, we cannot know their hearts. That being said I dare to venture many of us have been “judged” by others, and some of us rather harshly. It doesn’t feel good does it? I have heard it taught in churches I have attended that it is our responsibility to judge others in the church. What a lot of people miss is that we are NOT to judge the person…that is God’s job, not ours. If we are to “judge” anything it would be the actions of others and then offer our help whether that be in the form of prayer, counsel, or in whatever way would be most helpful. Paul addresses that very thing in another book of the Bible.

Where many church people mess up is in the judging of others. “tsk tsk tsk did you hear that Billy Jean and Rob Roy are getting a divorce??” or “I heard that Jesse James is frequenting the liquor stores and bars and possibly even smoking and yet he is front and center in church every Sunday!!” or “did you see that tattoo on that woman’s arm? Obviously SHE needs prayer!” That, my lovelies, is judgment with a heavy dose of gossip….every bit a “sin” if ever I saw one! What is that you say?? You were merely telling another so that you could join in prayer for that dear misguided soul?? Bull poo poo!! I don’t buy it for a second! And that is why Yeshua said that we would be next in line for judgment and it would be measured out with exactly the amount of compassion we used to judge. Who among us can resist a juicy tidbit of gossip that we cannot wait to share with our best pew buddy even if we promise “to bring it before the Lord in prayer”?! Gossip all by itself is never helpful in any situation. It destroys, but that is a story for another day.

Every person on the face of the earth is on a journey with God whether we choose to acknowledge Him or not. He knows each of us full well. He knows the number of hairs on our head…..and He knows every desire, secret, struggle, hope, loss, fear, and motive we have every moment of every day of our lives. He KNOWS us intimately and the most beautiful part is He loves us anyway! And on that journey we are all at different places with Him; learning and discovering things about Him and ourselves at different times than others on their journey. Not only do we have no idea of the motives of another’s heart, we do not know where that person is on their journey…..what God has taught or revealed to that person so it makes no sense to judge the person.

So what of the actions or words of another? How are we to judge them? That’s risky ground in my book but it can be said that God has laid out what “sin” is as far as He is concerned. The Bible says that God hates sin…that He cannot be in the presence of sin. Ok I get that and because He cannot be in the presence of sin He gave us Yeshua to stand in our stead. Yeshua is God’s bridge for us to approach Him. The Old Testament folks didn’t have that advantage. We do. He also gave us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks to our spirit and we can choose to hear or ignore Him. When we choose to hear Him He can speak to us about areas that need change. Some call those areas sin. Whatever word you choose to use is not the point….the point is are we going to listen and respond or not. That to me is the journey.

I can only speak for myself but I have lived long enough and have been through enough in my life that I now do my best to accept each person as they are and where they are and pray that God will speak to that person on their journey, and then I leave the work and judgement up to God. At times people have asked me for my opinion on a matter that may be considered “sin” and I will answer. Be forewarned though, I always say, “don’t ask unless you really want to know what I think!” At other times I have felt compelled to talk with a person that I see is headed for hard times, about to make a decision that will dramatically impact that person’s life as well as many others and sometimes that conversation is tough and isn’t always received well, but that’s the risk. The conversation, however, is held in private and not shared with anyone else so that we can “pray about it”. That my lovelies would be treading the path of gossip and quite truthfully having been the subject of gossip at times I don’t care to put another in that position.
If you think that it would be important to pull another into the conversation to give further wisdom or guidance ask for permission to share the situation first, but be certain it is a trustworthy person with tight lips! Offer guidance, counsel, prayer and then leave the work up to the Holy Spirit. Trust me He doesn’t need your help!

In the end we are all a work in progress and none of us has risen so far above another that we have the right or responsibility to judge another person. We may not always accept the actions or words of others or believe the actions or words are in line with the Bible, but that does not mean that we cannot accept the person as a unique creation of God and love him/her. We are called to love one another plain and simple.

Yea Tho I Walk Thru the Valley of the Shadow of Death……..

Have you ever been stressed, overwhelmed? Dumb question, right? We all have been whether we are willing to admit it or not. I have known people that have told me that they do not stress over anything because “God is in control”. While I believe the first part of that statement is true, I do not and cannot believe that some people do not stress or become overwhelmed with issues in life.

Frequently people share their struggles, their overwhelming situations with me, and my response is often the same: don’t borrow trouble, let’s take it one moment at a time, we learn more in the valley than on the mountaintop. All of that is true and I firmly believe each of those statements. And now it’s my turn.

God IS in control….IF we hand Him the stressors in our lives. Stressful situations with family, work, health, are a part of everyday living. How we handle those stressors is determined, in part, by our belief system and mindset.

The Bible never says that we won’t have struggles, trials and overwhelming stress in life. We live in an imperfect world with people who all have a free will, and are free to exercise that right, well, freely. Sometimes another’s free will invades my life and creates stress for me. The most difficult stress pill we are asked to swallow, in my opinion, is administered to us by a loved one.

I am in that situation at the moment, and quite frankly, I am struggling. I want to do what is right, I want the situation resolved now, I fear the loss of a close relationship, or any relationship with this loved one, my heart is heavy, and I am suffering. This situation is affecting my life – the whole of my life. Looking at the words I am writing at the moment I see keywords; I, struggle, now, fear, and heavy. None of those words are “Biblical”. As a believer I am to have faith and trust. Period.

The Bible says, “not my will, but yours be done”. (Luke 22:42 The Complete Jewish Bible) And there are plenty others in the same vain. God knows the whole picture; we only see a part of it. He sees the beginning, the middle, and the resolution; we see today, this moment.
Logically, it only makes sense that I would trust that God has any situation in any of our lives in His hand. For me, the more difficult the situation, the more at stake, the bigger the investment in the situation, or in my case, the relationship, the harder it is for me to trust and not feel stressed and overwhelmed. Maybe it’s the same for you.

Songs and books are written about letting go and letting God be in control, pastors preach on handling stress, trusting God, because it is unavoidable; there is no way around that mountain, we are forced to go thru whether we like it or not. Most of us familiar with scripture at all know Psalm 23; “yea tho I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (King James Version) The word picture David creates for those times when circumstances surround and overwhelm us is accurate; it feels like walking through a dark, lonely valley with death lurking about waiting to overtake the ones passing to the other side. Fear whispers doom in our ear, the heart becomes heavy and every step is a struggle. We feel alone, afraid, there is no light breaking thru the darkness giving us hope.

Trusting God with the situations in our lives that stress and overwhelm us is not easy. Trust is intangible; we can’t see or feel it. Trust can be a roller coaster of sorts. At some times I am sure that God is working out all the details, I need only wait for the situation to resolve. At other times I find myself in the pit of despair, reminding myself to trust with every step I take, and not at all sure anything will be ok ever again. One would think that the next time we had to rely only on trusting God and not our own intelligence, resources or whatever, that the trusting would be easier. For me, at least, it isn’t.

I have prayed, cried, and prayed some more. I want to look up and see it written in the sky, “don’t be sad, I’ve got this, everything will be fine – Love God” but I doubt that will happen. For now my heart is heavy, and there are times I feel like it is being ripped out of my chest. For now I am left to pray, to trust, to continue my journey thru the valley, and know, that one day the light will appear on the horizon…..

I am woman……..

Genesis 1:27 “So God created humankind in his own image; in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.” (The Complete Jewish Bible”). The verse reads pretty much the same in whichever version you choose. In chapter 3 woman is created from the rib of man……and in many wedding ceremonies one is likely to hear that womI am woman…..
an was not created from the head of man to be superior to him, nor from his feet to be beneath him; woman was created from the rib to walk beside him.
Enter the serpent and the story takes a dark turn. The serpent, so the story goes, tempts the woman to eat of the tree of good and evil. Woman tells the man to eat of the fruit as well. Paradise turns into hell on earth, and man blames the woman when God shows up asking what those He created in His image had done. Punishments are handed out and the rest is history. Man will toil by the sweat of his brow and will “rule” over his wife; the woman will bear children in pain for the remainder of humankind’s existence.

For thousands of years history has shown that women have been considered lesser than men in nearly every society in the world. And so it was when Yeshua (Jesus) began His ministry on the earth. Historical and Biblical evidence agree that Yeshua treating women with respect was a point of controversy. Apparently, that didn’t bother Yeshua since He had many women followers, and after Yeshua’s death and resurrection, many women became important in the formation of the new “religion”. In short, Yeshua elevated the status of women. Some historical accounts reveal that Mary Magdalene was a close confidant of Yeshua to the degree that His disciples complained. So when did that change?

I don’t mean to rag on the “church” – okay maybe I do, but in any case, let’s face it, the early church leaders were all men; consequently, orthodoxy, as we know it today, was a creation of men. I’m not a “man hater” – really I’m not! I have a husband, male children, male family and friends, and I love them. But, the reality still exists that in our society, and in others around the world, as well as in the church, women still struggle for equality. We struggle to be taken seriously, we have had to fight for the “right” to be considered as good as any man, and that is wrong. I lived through the days of “Women’s Lib”, and in 2016 we are still struggling for legitimacy. We, as a society, applaud any woman who has fought her way to the top; and unfortunately those same women are scrutinized and criticised far more harshly than any man in the same position. Our female presidential candidate touts equal pay for men and women. Seriously?? Are we STILL talking about that? Women have been chipping away at the “glass ceiling” for years. Really?

So what does this have to do with the “church”? In my humble opinion, the pervasive mindset established by the early church leaders continues to be the undercurrent for society at large, regardless of how far many stray from church life. Women are considered lesser in society, in the workplace, and in the church.

Many churches still subscribe to, and wholeheartedly teach, that the woman is to be submissive to the husband; and trust me whatever the “interpretation” of submissive may be, submission has been misused and abused in church doctrine and teaching. Many churches do not allow women to be in positions of authority, don’t allow them to lead or even teach. Often women are relegated to leading children’s church, manage the nursery, take part in the music ministry but not lead it, and organize women’s bible studies or fellowship gatherings. There is nothing wrong with any of these positions, I have done several over the years; but mention putting a woman in a position of authority and the battle begins. Yes, there are churches out there who have women pastors, but not many. There are women teachers and leaders who have made it to the top, but again, not many, and often their leading is in the arena of being a Christ-like wife, mother and homemaker. Why are there so few tackling the bigger issues, leading the major churches?

In Genesis humankind was created to be opposite sides of the same human coin; equal in every way. Enter the serpent. Ahhhh…..and here is where I differ from the traditional church teaching. Historically speaking, what we know as the Bible was originally oral history handed down from one generation to the next. At some point it was recorded, and man massaged and inserted his own interpretations and ideas along the way. The message has remained the same; God carefully watches over His Word, however man has greatly influenced what we know as the “Bible” today; the ancillary stuff that churches fight over all the time – dancing, alcohol, smoking, tattoos, tongues, baptism sprinkle vs immersion, women in positions of authority, etc. The history of orthodoxy proves it. Men decided what recorded teachings would be included in the “Bible”, how the “church” was to be organized, the spin that would be put on scriptures to keep the masses in line, and so on. Historical documents that conflicted with these early leaders ideas were conveniently left out. Not out of evil intention necessarily; born rather from the human fallible desire to control.

I am bothered by all of this. Why? Because women have valuable contributions to make in all aspects of society and in the church. Yeshua saw women as valuable. He spoke to them with respect when the culture of the day did not allow it. He healed women, He touched them, He had compassion for them.

In Yeshua’s eyes I have value. You have value. He died for the sins of all humankind and therefore we are all equal in the eyes of God. Take a good look at the church you attend if you choose to attend a church. Rise up and affect change if needed, and should the message fall on deaf ears….leave. You are worth more to God than all the gold and silver in the world. I am woman….hear me roar!