God Has a Tattoo…….!! I’m Serious!

One of my favorite scriptures is from Isaiah 49:16 “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”. I wear a Star of David necklace with this scripture on it as well, that’s how much this scripture means to me; I don’t take it off unless absolutely necessary.

As I have said many times before, scripture is a living document; it has meaning on many levels as well as personal meaning. Sometimes a scripture just speaks to our spirits.

So, what does this scripture mean, anyway? Engraving is a type of tattooing. What?? Tattooing?? Isn’t that expressly forbidden, a sin of astronomical proportion?? Not exactly. God is saying He has engraved us on the palms of His hands. Of course this is metaphorical, however, as with many things in the Bible, God teaches us with familiar images and concepts so that we have a reference point. But, doesn’t the Bible forbid tattooing in the Torah? Historically, man has been tattooing practically since the beginning of time. When the edict forbidding tattoos in the Torah was given, the Hebrews had just been released from Egyptian captivity. God did not want His people mimicking the pagan practices of the Egyptians; His people were to be set apart.

And then along comes Isaiah 49:16 referring to tattooing. The ancient Hebrews were known to use charcoal to imprint an image on the palms of their hands, apply ink, and with two needles tied together, puncture the skin to tattoo the image into the palm. When the image was finished the palm was washed with wine. The images were often of the Temple or walls of Jerusalem. The entirety of Isaiah 49:16 reads, “ I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me.”; a reference to the image “engraved” on their palms. God used what His people were familiar with to tell them how much He loved them; enough to engrave His beloved on the palms of His hands.

Isaiah 49:16 would appear to be a contradiction of the original ban on tattoos. Not so. What is important to remember is that God is most concerned with the attitude or condition of our hearts. When the Hebrews came from captivity in Egypt their hearts were still with their Egyptian captors so tattooing was part of a pagan religious practice; by the time of Isaiah, God’s people were tattooing the Temple on their palms. Attitude change. And so it is with us in everything that we do. The condition of our heart is what matters to God; our motivation for words, thoughts and actions.

The bigger message here is that God loves us to the point that He was willing to tattoo us on His palms. It was true for the ancient Hebrews and it is true for us today. The image of God tattooing His beloved on His palms was a foreshadow of Yeshua hanging on the cross. The palms are among the most sensitive of the body parts, full of nerve endings, so to pierce the palms is a painful process at best, reserved only for the most dedicated willing to endure the pain.

Technically, Yeshua was pierced between the bones of His wrists since the palms would not have been able to hold the weight, but the word picture is there nonetheless; Yeshua, God incarnate, clothed Himself in the flesh of man, lived without sinning, then willingly absorbed the sin of man, His final act to hang on a symbol of shame, His wrists (palms) pierced/engraved with each one of us who would ever draw breath on the face of the earth. Purity of love experienced and expressed.

The totality of Isaiah 49:16 is a picture of love; God engraving His beloved on the palms of His hands to have our names ever before Him so that we are on His mind every moment of every day of our lives and for all eternity. Tattoos are a polarizing subject within the church; people are passionate about their views on tattoos. Whether you like or approve of them or not, God has a tattoo of you on His palm…..

What will your takeaway be of this scripture? That tattooing is not the sinful act it is believed to be? Tattooing is ok and don’t let anyone tell you differently, as long as your motivation is not intended to curse God, or display vulgarity or offense. Those who seek to desecrate the holy find a way to make vulgar that which is meant for holiness. Why were the Jews tattooed during WWII? The tattoos the Jews endured was a purposeful and willful perversion of the ancient practice of engraving the Temple or walls of Jerusalem on their palms to have their beloved, YHVH (the sacred name of God), ever before them.

I would that whatever your view on tattoos may be, that your takeaway is how very much God loves you and me; love to the point of a permanent mark on His palm. God LOVES you, no matter what you have done, no matter what roads life has taken you down, no matter the “sins” you have committed or are actively involved in at this moment, no matter what – GOD LOVES YOU……..

Hindsight……a Biblical Truth

“For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (The Complete Jewish Bible Jeremiah 29:11)

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, often quoted to those suffering trial and tribulation, and to those whose future is wide open; those looking for direction in life. The Bible, I believe, is a living document. It is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago; relevant on a personal and corporate level. Even though I have made it perfectly clear that the entire Bible, in my opinion, is not God-breathed since it was written and interpreted by man, I still believe gold can be mined from the historical accounts and allegory found within its pages. God still speaks.

Jeremiah 29 was a letter written to those living in exile in Babylon for 70 years. God tells His people to settle in, marry, have children, and trust Him with their future. Think about that for a moment. What would your reaction be to someone telling you to settle into captivity trusting that your future was well in hand?  Huh? “So, God, let me get this straight, I’m supposed to settle into a land of enemies and carry on as if life is going great and be content with this for the next 70 years?” Most would live out the rest of their lives in captivity with the nebulous promise the next generation would enjoy the promised hope of a future. I would wager most of us would have issues with that concept!

Many of the different translations use the words “plans” instead of “thoughts”, and “prosper” instead of “peace”. The Jewish Bible uses the words “thoughts” and “peace” and I prefer those words over the typical interpretation; they are closer to the original text. Too many Christians, and churches today tend to focus on the word “prosper” and preach money. There was a point in my life when I was part of several churches who preached the prosperity message. Trust me, it’s very easy to get caught up in that mindset, but that mindset relegates God to little more than an ATM in the sky. Western Christianity strikes again as that mindset preys on our greedy nature.

There is plenty of gold to be mined from Jeremiah 29:11 that has nothing to do with our own accumulation of wealth. God is telling His people, telling us in the midst of our exile, whatever that may be, that He is thinking about those He loves. We, as well as those who found themselves in exile, are constantly on His mind, and His thoughts are for our good; thoughts of peace and all that encompasses. To interpret “peace” as “prosperity”cheapens the message. Peace is eternal and permeates the whole of our existence, both personally and within the circumstances of our lives whereas prosperity is temporal and our focus turns to earthly wealth versus focusing on God. The interesting thing about wealth, or the accumulation of things is that one never seems to have enough, and the pursuit continues.

God assures the exiled that His thoughts are not for evil. Given the fact that His people were in a foreign land for the next 70 years living among their captors, for some it would be difficult to believe, but what else did they have? Faith only; a belief that God had this and in the end He had their backs. God offers hope and a future, the same He offers us today when we find ourselves in a foreign land; uncertain futures plagued by illness, the struggle to keep our heads above water financially, concern for our loved ones, you name it.

The nugget of gold here is a deeper understanding of the word “thoughts” and “future”. Our future always belongs to God, does it not? We cannot see it; we can hope life will take us in a certain direction, but we have no assurances that it will. Picture yourself in a boat moving forward with your back to the bow (front of the boat), and your only view is where you have been. As we travel through our lives toward our future the only view we have is of our past, in other words, hindsight. The saying is, “hindsight is 20/20”, right? Why is that? If we are paying attention, if we are focused on the lessons gleaned from our past, the future will, in part, be determined by the lessons learned and the direction changes we make to choose not to repeat our mistakes, our screw-ups of the past. The learned lessons and the course changes bring us closer to the promise of peace. A part of peace is resting in God, trusting that He has our back and our future firmly in hand, that we are ever in His thoughts. And, I believe, He offers peace in the midst of trial, struggle, turmoil.

So we are left with hindsight. We cannot see our future, only the past. Our task is to analyze where we have come from, figure out what the take-away is from each experience; correct the wrong turns, straighten the path, internalize the lessons learned. In this way our path is aligning itself with the thoughts God has for our future. We have free will so we have the option of choosing not to correct the crooked paths, to ignore the lessons, thereby choosing to repeat our past mistakes and peace will prove elusive. The choice belongs to us. God knows the thoughts He has for us, for our future, and His thoughts are for peace………

 

We don’t say I love you enough…..

Seems like a simple enough thing to do; tell others we love them. But the reality is, we don’t do it. We don’t do it enough, or at all, in some cases. Why is that, do you suppose?

Let’s face it, we are too busy, too preoccupied with the inane, with making a living, with the kids, too busy watching sports, or checking our Facebook, emails, Snaps, or any myriad of electronic communications. I’m as guilty as anyone else. Recently I have been making an effort to be “present” when other people are around; to attend to the task at hand instead of multi-tasking. And let’s call it what it is; scrolling through a phone while attempting to have a conversation with another is just plain rude.

I was sitting in my chiropractor’s office the other day and looked around the waiting room; everyone except for me was scrolling through their Facebook or emails, or both and that is typical. Check it out the next time you are in the company of others.

The art of meaningful conversation is in the throes of death, too. We don’t talk enough; I mean really talk and connect with other human beings. When was the last time you had an intimate conversation with your spouse, a close friend, your kids? A conversation that involved depth, a vulnerable conversation that brought feelings to the surface, and not just an exchange of information? A conversation without one or both of you scrolling through Facebook? We have become “ok” with knowing people on a very superficial level, and that’s not really “ok”. How can we truly care for another human being if we don’t “know” them; know what makes them happy, sad, what makes them cry, what causes fear, anxiety, what their hopes, dreams and goals hidden in the depth of their soul may be? News flash; knowing another human being is more than a compilation of Facebook posts and meme’s. Electronic communication has robbed us of our “humanness”, of caring, really caring, for others.

I have thought about this a lot, and I have concluded the two are very  much related. It is my belief that the more “electronic” we get, the less human we become. We are no longer concerned that we may hurt the feelings of others, or that we “connect” with others at all, for that matter. Texts and emails are so impersonal, a brief exchange of pertinent information; no more, no less. When we are upset we often communicate in a far more harsh tone than if we were delivering the same message in person. Ever been mad about something or at someone and decided to fire off an email or text? Was it full of capital letters and exclamation points? Anger or frustration expressed in capital letters. It’s kind of dumb, actually, but it gets the point across! Text and email screaming and fist-shaking!

What if electronic communication had been invented and widely used in Yeshua’s (Jesus) day? Can you imagine the Sermon on the Mount, or perhaps the Last Supper with those present scrolling through their Facebook accounts while Yeshua taught the principles of life and love, or was attempting to give direction to His disciples for the days following the crucifixion?

My husband and I got married a year ago. At our wedding one of our best friends gave a toast that ended with, “we don’t say I love you enough”. I was blubbering by that time, and I like to pretend I’m real badass and tough as nails; I’m not. Keep that between you and me! His dad had taught him that very simple, yet profound truth; the best kind of truth. Since that day I have thought a lot about that statement and how it affected me. I am trying to remember, making a conscious effort to say, “I love you” as often as I can to family, friends, those who are special and close to my heart; not as a trite phrase uttered as absent-mindedly as we do “how are you”, or “keep in touch” but to truly communicate the love I have for those people. I have purposed in my heart to speak those three important words more often because we never know when those we love, or we, may breathe our last. We assume those we love will be with us forever; never thinking about the day we will lose that special person(s) in our lives. Those people who have cared for us, nurtured us, prayed for us, comforted us, those who have encouraged us, offered wisdom at just the right moment, or whose simple presence made us feel safe.

Too often, the very words “I love you” have become little more than a spoken “hello”, “good-bye”, or hastily sent emoticon, instead of a powerful statement of unconditional, steadfast solidarity. When did that happen? Marriages, families, and friends relationships end every day, often over issues that could be resolved if the parties involved would talk to each other and share the hurts in their hearts that led to the break-ups. And I often wonder when  I say, “I love you” to those I love if they really internalize all that phrase means; I don’t say it nonchalantly, and we shouldn’t. When I have heard “I love you” or seen it in text from others and then a bump in the road ends the relationship I question the other’s depth of “love”; wonder if those three words were just that: words. Electronic communication has trivialized the importance of three of the most powerful words in the human language.

A crazy thing happened on the way to reestablishing my “humanness”; my heart has softened. I now make a conscious effort to think before I speak, send an email, or text so that I monitor the words I use, my tone of voice, and use of capital letters and punctuation. I am more cognizant of the impact my words may have on others. I am less demanding that others attain perfection in my eyes and allow them to be human and all that means. I have a long way to go, but as with changing any behavior, recognizing the problem is the first step.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son……… God loved us so much that He spoke His love for each one of us in the person of Yeshua (Jesus); God incarnate who clothed His love in human flesh. We truly don’t say, “I love you” enough…..

More Than We Can Bear……

Ever had anyone say to you, “God will never give you more than you can bear”, or some variation on that statement? Have you ever really thought about that statement?How many people do you know that have buckled, lost it, crumbled, or worse under a burden no one should be expected to “bear”? I have known a few, and I wager you have, too.

On the heels of those who cannot “bear” whatever trial they are enduring are usually “good Christians” tsk, tsking, making judgments, gossiping, or avoiding the “bearers”. It’s easy to sit back and be an armchair Christian, isn’t it? Too easy for some, I have found. The “bearers” are weak, haven’t prayed enough through their trial, don’t have enough faith, haven’t drawn close enough to God, or the like according to those climbing atop their pedestal of superiority. Maybe you have been the “bearer”, and to add insult to the trial you are already enduring, a well-meaning “Christian” comes along with a trite explanation for your plight. Been there, too. Just keep adding more stones to an already excruciating burden there, Junior Jesus.

Very often the scriptures are twisted, turned, and flipped upside down to make them fit a situation, or explain what cannot be understood with the limited human mind. The casualty is the one already suffering. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t those of us professing “Christianity” supposed to uphold, edify, and comfort those who are  suffering?

I admit my diatribe is leaning toward the harsh, but we need to understand what the scriptures say, and do not say, and realize some of what is in the Bible is man’s opinion and we shouldn’t wield it at others as if it were the inerrant Word of God. There is a difference.

The scripture that is usually tossed around to “comfort” those suffering beyond explanation is 1 Corinthians 10:13 which reads, “No temptation has seized you beyond what people normally experience, and God can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide the way out, so that you will be able to endure.” (The Complete Jewish Bible)

Read that again. Does it say that we will not be “given” more than we can bear? No, it does not. It says we will not be “tempted” beyond what we can bear. Vastly different, in my opinion. The Hebrew word “tempted” can be translated to mean “tested”. Does God “test” us? I believe He does in some cases; testing reveals to us our strength, stretches us, but it should not devastate us. It also says, “beyond what people normally experience”. Suffering doesn’t qualify as “normal” in many cases.

I once knew a family who lost 7 of their 9 children in a house fire. Tell me that was “normal”. It wasn’t. What could God possibly have been “testing” in this family? He wasn’t. A young husband or wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness, a mother watches her child dying by inches, someone so devastated by depression takes his/her life; these are not examples of “normal” experiences. God doesn’t need to “test” us by attempting to destroy us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

The above horrors occur in the lives of people every day, people suffer beyond their ability to cope and many of these same people have faith. Yeshu (Jesus) said we only needed faith the size of a mustard seed; mustard seeds are tiny, so we need only gather enough to equal a mustard seed.

I don’t claim to know why some people experience suffering beyond what they can bear. I don’t buy the explanation that God is glorified in our suffering, and I don’t think we learn much in those times, either. The bottom line is that we do suffer, unbearably so sometimes, but we live in a fallen world, full of evil and mishap, and circumstance.

The next time you have a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker that is experiencing devastating circumstances, illness, or suffering beyond the tolerable take a moment and check your words and understanding of scripture before adding to their burden. Does God GIVE us more than we can bear? No, I don’t believe He does. I do believe He knows about it, knew about it before we did, in fact, and is there to comfort us during every moment of the trial, even when the burden IS more than we can bear……