Tag Archives: blogging

26 Days: Are You Waiting For Me to Leave?

leavingHow many days you have left, and how many more article can you milk from the dry turnip?

-A comment to me on one of my recent blog posts

A person who is serious about self-improvement will be grateful to anyone who points out his faults! (Whereas a person who does not have a strong desire for self-improvement will deny that he has any faults – even those which are blatant.)

Utilize the criticism of others as an opportunity for introspection.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #1123, Accepting Criticism”
Aish.com

It’s just amazing how people will address you when the Internet stands between the two of you. I’ve written before about how rude people tend to be when communicating on the web, and how (in all likelihood) they’d be a tad bit more civil if they had to talk with you face-to-face.

I started the “Days” series in part because of my internal response to Internet “crankiness.” After all, who wants to put up with a collection of people who continually complain at you (me) because you won’t fully endorse their opinions on a topic you have in common? Not me. Of course, there are some folks who say that it’s not “crankiness” or complaining that motivates them, but rather the use of “challenging discourse” as a method of learning. I set aside that particular excuse for rudeness awhile ago.

But my critic hit the nail on the head. I have 26 days left in my self-imposed countdown. Do I disappear then to avoid the “challenges” of “crankiness” on the Internet?

On the one hand, life would be a little more calm without the continual “noise” of social networking, but amid the noise, there’s occasional “signal” that is beneficial. Should I put up with those who have a particularly low signal to noise ratio because I benefit from others who possess a much higher ratio? Is it worth it?

On the other hand, I don’t like being pushed around and I don’t like bullies. If someone doesn’t like the content I generate, they don’t have to visit my blog. I’ve stopped visiting the blogs and websites of nudniks because it was foolish of me to engage people who would only talk at me and never listen. Disagreement is fine and I can certainly live with it. Hostility for its own sake I can live without.

There are people who do gracefully criticize me when I get things wrong, and as stinging as it can be, I actually appreciate it. On the other hand, these are people who can bring such matters to my attention without behaving as if my error or ignorance has personally insulted them. I’m finding that’s a rare and special gift among human beings.

If someone is critical of you in a harsh tone of voice, try telling them the following:

“I appreciate your strong feelings about the matter, but I would appreciate the comments more if they were expressed more pleasantly.”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #304, Soften Criticism”
Aish.com

I don’t like to “call out” individuals on my blog. It’s happened to me on numerous occasions on more than one blog and I find it ungracious and offensive. On the other hand, I couldn’t illustrate my point without quoting what one of my critics said to me earlier, so to my critic, I apologize if I caused you embarrassment. I really do just want to point out that if your criticism of me is out of a sincere desire to help me become a better person, there are more constructive ways to go about it.

I have to consider that there are some people out there who can’t just leave my blog alone and who really do want me to give up and pull the plug at the end of the month. Frankly, if I bother some folks that much then I suspect they may need to get another hobby or maybe even a life, since I’m not that significant in either the blogosphere or the human race.

But if there are people who want me to leave, that’s probably a good reason for me to stay. Remember, I don’t like bullies. If you don’t like me, don’t read my blog. I don’t read your blogs and I certainly don’t comment on them. I don’t need to hang around people who suck the joy out of life and living just because they can.

If you have a suggestion on how I can be better that is motivated by a sincere desire to help and you can express it without hostility, please let me know, either in a blog comment or via email. If you are complaining about me just because you can, I invite you to go elsewhere.

Thank you.

61 Days: Stars

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

What is crooked cannot be made straight,and what is lacking cannot be counted.

I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18 (ESV)

The Voyager 1 spacecraft’s 35th anniversary is proving to be unexpectedly exciting, as scientists gathered this week to examine new hints that the spacecraft is on the verge of leaving our solar system.

Voyager 1 is now more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. It blasted off in September 1977, on a mission to Jupiter and Saturn. But it also carried a Golden Record filled with music and the sounds of our planet, in case it encountered intelligent life as it moved out toward the stars.

Scientists have been eagerly waiting for Voyager 1 to become the first human-made object to leave the solar system. And in recent weeks, the spacecraft has sent back intriguing signs that it might be getting close, to the delight of researchers who have been working on it for decades.

-Nell Greenfieldboyce
“After 35 Years, Voyager Nears Edge of Solar System” (Sept. 5, 2012)
NPR.org

Most weekday mornings, I get up early enough to leave home by five, pick up my son who lives nearby, and then go to the gym to workout together. This time of year especially, it’s still dark when I open the garage door. Usually, I step outside for a minute and look up at the sky. The front of my house faces south, so if the sky is clear, I can see a fair number of stars, including the constellation Orion.

I don’t know why I look for it, except I can remember different times in my life, different “eras” in decades gone by, when I would look up at the night sky and recognize that constellation. I suppose it gives me some sense of continuity across my personal history.

It also reminds me of how incredibly small I am.

I intellectually understand how far away the planets and stars are, (I once, very briefly, considered a career in Astronomy) from millions of miles to untold light years, but to actually, experientially grasp the distances, even for a moment, is a staggering feat. I know we have robots on the surface of Mars, and Mars is relatively close to Earth, but if I had to walk such a distance; if I have to travel across the emptiness of interplanetary space, how lonely and isolated I would feel. Imagine yourself somehow traveling with Voyager 1 as it prepares to exit the official confines of our solar system and, setting aside the fiction of Star Trek or Star Wars for a moment, try to comprehend just how far away you would be from everything you know and love…

…except God.

I was thinking all these thoughts this morning as I lay awake in bed around 3 o’clock. I don’t know what brought it to mind. I had a bit of a headache, which is unusual for me, particularly in the morning. Perhaps it was something I had dreamed that disturbed me in some way.

My blog and blog comments periodically come to the attention of a few Internet trolls and, in their self-importance, they find it necessary to be disagreeable (only excusing their rudeness and hostility by calling it “debating” or even some form of “loving”). It’s certainly unsettling to be treated badly by those who also claim the cause of Christ (such as being openly maligned by name on their blogs without so much as a “by your leave”) and I won’t pretend it doesn’t bother me, but then, I stop and realize that it doesn’t really matter.

Oh, of course people matter. I don’t want to suggest that I don’t care about others and their well-being, but what I realize is that there are a few unhappy, or grumpy, or insecure people out there who have to try to suck joy out of the lives of others in a quixotic quest for significance in the blogosphere. It’s their behavior that inspired my Days series where I have been examining the idea of abandoning this blog and perhaps all Internet social media by the end of the calendar year.

So far (and I haven’t made a final decision yet), I’m deciding against giving up. First of all, my trollish critics are few in number, even though they can occasionally make a loud “noise” (like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal). Secondly, far more people have been encouraging of me, both publicly and “backchannel,” than these two or three “curmudgeons” have been discouraging of me (though they aren’t curmudgeons in terms of years, merely in attitude).

I had thought about making this particular “meditation” today’s morning meditation, but passed it off as random thoughts of the night, deciding that Re-entry was a more worthy topic. But since the trolls have been active today, I decided I’d write this to clear my head of them and to realize that, in our human smallness, what happens from day-to-day in a small collection of blogs among a minority expression of Christianity doesn’t really matter. It’s certainly not worth my peace of mind.

As I said, I’m currently leaning toward continuing this “morning meditation” blog past January 1st, but I also think I’ll institute a tighter set of controls for comments. There haven’t been any really rude comments here for a while, but I anticipate they may return. In the past, in the interests of being fair, I’ve allowed a significant amount of abuse (in the guise of “debate” or being “loving”) in the comments people have posted on my blog, but that is likely to change. Free speech doesn’t mean “free to abuse” and a blog owner is more of a “benign dictator” than a moderator of democratic speech.

No, I won’t immediately flip over into draconian mode and if I think someone has crossed the line, I’ll serve fair warning first, but beyond that, I feel perfectly content to remove specific comments if they cross the line I set for proper decorum. And on occasion, I will close comments on a specific blog post if things get too heated (I’ve done both in the past). Repeat offenders who are not willing to “take a hint,” or those to engage in severe personal attacks or who use obscenities will be immediately banned.

Consider this my version of putting a wall around the roof of my home so that the safety of my “guests,” (and my own safety) who I consider anyone visiting my blog, (and most visitors don’t post comments) can be ensured.

But as I also said, I haven’t made up my mind yet. I can still pull the plug on life support and consign “morning meditations” to a peaceful, dignified demise. Better that than allowing the trolls to abuse what started out as such a peaceful and uplifting vision to begin each day.

When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and meditate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness.

There are those who insist in living in darkness and they are not satisfied unless they pull others down into their realm with them. I prefer to soar and glide in the heights, letting the light illuminate my mind, my emotions, and my spirit, like the light of the sun gracefully reflects off of the wings of a dove.

The best response to harsh people is how Buddha responded; with a smile, accepting what was good and uplifting around him and not accepting anything else. I can’t even aspire to be Buddha, let alone Jesus, but I am supposed to emulate my Master so far as it depends on me by “living peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)

Infinite darknessAngry and dissatisfied people are not helpful and are not healthy, for themselves or anyone exposed to them, even over the Internet. To repeat a lesson I continually need to learn…

Today I shall…

…try to improve my response to other people so that I only accept and give gifts of kindness, and not of anger.

Everything that we fuss and feud and argue about won’t really matter in the end. Jesus isn’t going to judge us on who won this blogosphere argument or that, no matter how important we may think they are at the time. They don’t really matter. They aren’t significant. Most of what we do isn’t significant. Staring up at the stars at five o’ clock on a clear autumn morning in Idaho, I realize that against all that vastness, against the stars, the space between me and them, and whatever is beyond, I’m not significant at all…

…except to God.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 (ESV)

68 Days: Encouragement

I really, really needed this post today. Sent it to my husband and daughters. The story about Rabbi Schneur Zalman was wonderful. Thank you for writing. You are indeed a benefit to the body.

Blessings!

-Linda in a comment on
one of my blog posts

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (ESV)

Sometimes when I’m physically tired and haven’t had enough sleep, I irrationally become discouraged and “bluesy.” I was feeling that way last night, especially after reading some of the more recent and “cranky” responses on Gene Shlomovich’s blog. (Gene’s blog is fine and most of the respondents are too, but not all of them, alas.) This goes along very well with my “Days” series and my countdown to renewal or (virtual) oblivion.

But I’ve been receiving some encouragement. A lot of it is “behind the scenes” but some of it comes in the form of blog comments, such as the one I quoted above. I suppose it’s sort of ironic that I should be encouraged by someone telling me that I’m encouraging them. But isn’t that the point? One of the things I find greatly discouraging is all this bickering on the web between (supposed) brothers in Christ Jesus over who is right and who is wrong, as if this is some sort of twisted form of the recent Presidential debates, and God is the moderator who will decide who wins and who loses.

Really, if God is going to judge us on our actions, I seriously don’t think it will have much to do with our “debates” on all our blogs:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV)

I know in the church, we believe that we are saved, not through what we do, but by our faith in Jesus Christ. However, we see that self-same Jesus Christ judging by what we do or fail to do for our fellow human being (and ultimately, for him). I suppose there’s no contradiction here, since if our faith and trust is true and we are actual and authentic disciples of our Master, then our actions following that faith and trust should be almost automatic. We should naturally be found feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving, extending hospitality to the homeless and lost, and much, much more.

I don’t think we’ll win the race (2 Timothy 4:7) by “winning” a blogosphere argument (and let’s face it, nobody ever changed their minds on the web because of someone else’s devastating argument or piercing witticisms).

So, in writing about what I always write about, that is, whatever’s on my mind and heart at the time, I managed, through God’s grace, to encourage another believer traveling her own path of faith. Fingers pressing keys on a keyboard, and electrons zipping across the Internet managed to communicate the will and kindness of God from one human being to another. How could I not feel honored that my small “service” has been accepted as it was intended?

But I truly believe that those who really have “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith” probably don’t even know how to create a blog, let alone have the time to write on one. They’re too busy feeding the poor, clothing the naked, making sure the homeless have shelter, opening their homes to the needy, and doing a thousand other things that serve God and provide His generosity to the very least of His servants.

I’m glad, in the middle of my own meager efforts, that I was able to encourage one human being. Thank you Linda, and everyone else who has commented kindly to me, for continuing to encourage me as well. For that’s what our Master, and Paul, his Apostle to the nations, have commanded us to do.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

The Gift

Buddha was walking into the city market one day and near the city entrance an old bitter man was sitting on a box glaring at Buddha, who carried a bright smile on his face. At the sight of him this old man started cursing Buddha up and down, left right and center, telling him how pretentious he was, how much better he thought he was and how he did nothing worthy of the air he breathed in this world. But Buddha simply smiled and kept on walking to the market to get what he needed.

The next day Buddha returned to the market and once again that old man was there, this time his cursing intensified, screaming and yelling at Buddha as he walked by, cursing his mother, cursing his father and everyone else in his life.

This went on for the rest of the week and finally as the Buddha was leaving the market the man came up to him, as his curiosity had simply gotten the best of him. “Buddha, every day you come here smiling and every day I curse your name, I curse your family and everything you believe in” the old man says ” but every day you enter this city with a smile knowing that I await you with my harsh tongue, and everyday you leave through the same entrance with that same smile. I know by speaking to you now that you are not deaf, why do you keep on smiling while I do nothing but scream the worst things I can think of to your face?”

Buddha, with the same smile still on his face looks at the old man and asks “If I were to bring you a gift tomorrow morning all wrapped up in a beautiful box would you accept it?” to which the old man replies “Absolutely not, I would take nothing from the likes of you!”. “Ah ha” the Buddha replies “Well if I were to offer you this gift and you were to refuse then who would this gift belong to?”. “It would still belong to you of course” answers the old man. “And so the same goes with your anger, when I choose not to accept your gift of anger , does it not then remain your own?”

I don’t know the original source for this, (I saw it on Facebook) but a quick Google search revealed a variant of this story posted on the a raft blog. But how does a story about Buddha relate at all to a Christian?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV)

Not exactly the same lesson, but we see that we don’t have to accept anger and hostility as they are intended, but as we choose for them to be. And as I recall, I was just talking about being perfect very recently. Perfection is somehow the marriage between our experience with God and our behavior toward people. What we do and how we do it depends a great deal on what we believe, not just about God, but about others and about ourselves. It appears this is not just a Christian attitude, either.

Regardless of where a person actually is physically, he is really where his thoughts are. A person constantly has a choice to think elevated and uplifting thoughts – or negative, self-destructive thoughts. How old you feel is greatly dependent on your attitude about yourself. Elderly people can increase their vitality and vigor by considering themselves young.

We constantly talk to ourselves. We can choose to be our own best friend by telling ourselves positive thoughts, or our own worst enemy by repeating negative thoughts.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #616”
Aish.com

I didn’t think I was going to write an “extra meditation” today, but some of the angry responses in the comments section of one of Gene Shlomovich’s recent blog posts made it seem necessary.

I can hardly say that I always take the moral high road in these conversations. All things being equal, I can go off half-cocked as quickly as the next guy. But I still know it’s wrong to do so, even when provoked, and that in accepting the anger of someone else, I’m making it my anger. If I choose to refuse the “gift,” then the “giver” retains their anger and hostility and I am left with whatever I receive from God.

Admittedly, this is a goal I will always strive for but probably never quite attain. Buddha was an extraordinary human being and the Messiah, of course, is the Messiah, the font of all wisdom and peace. Me? I’m just a human being, like so many others, and I’m trying to make my way through life in the world.

It is a bitter thing when supposed brothers in the Messiah contend for the sake of “being right.” To try to follow the intent of Rabbi Abraham Twerski’s Growing Each Day commentaries…

Today I shall…

…try to improve my response to other people so that I only accept and give gifts of kindness, and not of anger.

78 Days: Peace and War

Boaz says that you are like the heretic Korach if you question the Mosaic authority of the Rabbis…

This is how he scared those former One Law guys into reverting to racially-classed M.J. He tells the gentiles they are heretics on par with Korach if they go against the Rabbis. So they got scared and gave in. Good ol’ scare tactics.

But guess what, folks? If you believe Yeshua is G-d then you’ve already gone against the “Mosaic” authority of the Rabbis. You want you should be a more acceptable heretic to them? A more pleasing apostate?

-from a comment on Gene Shlomovich’s blog

…their view in simple terms is not only a form of apartheid, it is demonstrably anti-biblical. Folks like some of those in UMJC and in leadership at FFOZ may try, but they simply cannot smother the Torah lifestyle movement among HaShem’s elect. How sad for them.

-from a comment on Judah Himango’s blog

I’m tired. My daughter had to be at work at five this (Sunday) morning so I had to get up at about a quarter to four so I’d be available to drive her. So as I write this (between 6:30 and 8 a.m.), I’m tired. Coffee doesn’t seem to be helping and I’ve got a full day ahead of me between watching my grandson, doing the lawn, including winterizing the trees, and hopefully being able to get to the gym.

But that’s not the only reason I’m tired. I’m tired of all the fighting in my little corner of the religious blogosphere. I’m tired of the backbiting, the demanding attitudes, the self-righteous attitudes, the “I have my rights” attitudes, and those people who think Jews are being racist because they feel that Gentiles (including Christians) aren’t Jewish.

So much for the united and loving body of Christ. So much for John 13:34 and 1 Corinthians 13. If we are supposed to be loving because God so loved the world, then obviously, we’ve failed miserably.

Regardless of whatever branch or variant of Christianity to which you find yourself attached, there always seems to be those people who can’t stand other Christians in different types of churches, who can’t stand people in their own congregations who disagree with them personally, and who barely can stand to live inside their own skin. It goes without saying that they can barely stand Jewish people or can’t stand them at all. And yet Paul said that Christianity is grafted into (in some manner or fashion) Judaism (see Romans 11:11-24).

In spite of that, I see (One Law) Christians calling Jews racist, which brings them frighteningly close to the old, lamented, historical church and its vitriolic supersessionism and anti-Jewish rhetoric that I hoped was rapidly fading from our ranks.

Boy was I wrong.

Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev was known for his love and good will toward his fellow Jews always trying to assess the good in people rather than expose the bad.

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

That’s where we should be. Sadly, I find few of my fellow Gentile Christians who even aspire to be like Rav Levi Yitzchok.

I recently read another One Law Christian’s commentary (I don’t dignify the source by linking to it) who accused the Chabad of “brainwashing” someone (probably a Jewish someone) into rejecting Jesus. From a Christian point of view, that’s probably what it looks like and how it seems functionally, but from the Chabad’s point of view, they are “evangelizing” to the secular and apostate Jewish population (from their point of view) in a manner similar to how Christians see their mission to offer Christ’s salvation to the world.

I’m reasonably sure this is what convinced my wife to accept a more standard Jewish theology and what caused her to believe that Jesus couldn’t be the Jewish Messiah. I’m not happy about this turn of events because it places a wedge between how my wife and I see and understand God, but I can’t deny her the choice of understanding and accepting her Judaism on her own terms. I certainly don’t think she’s any more “brainwashed” as a Jew than I am as a Christian. I don’t see her as a racist because she believes that the Torah is for her and not for me. It’s not always an easy peace I’ve come to as far as this dynamic in my marriage is concerned, but it is a peace.

But every time I visit the blogosphere, I don’t find peace at all, but war.

Long has my soul dwelt with those who hate peace. I am peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

Psalm 120:6-7 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

I’ve been debating within myself about what I should do, if anything, in response. More and more, the topics on my “meditations” have been in reply to this “war” I see happening within the confines of the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots sphere of communication. I understand that the larger Christian community is not a peaceful one (in spite of John 13:34) but this is ridiculous.

While I’ve been trying to decide, in recent weeks, whether or not to return to a traditional Christian church to foster a sense of fellowship with other believers, I’ve come to the conclusion that going back to church won’t make things better at home or in me. I left my previous religious community because (in part) of the negative impact it caused on my wife and the embarrassment my being “One Law” caused her as a Jew. I had hoped that my departure would ease things enough so that I could participate with her in synagogue life, but I recently learned this was a vain hope. I have chosen to proceed hopefully forward anyway for the sake of cherishing her yiddisher neshamah, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to my decisions.

My original intent for this blog was to record my transition in theology and to learn to find my faith in a more traditional Jewish setting. But the anticipated outcome never happened, and now I realize, it never will. I’ve mentioned before that I will need to chart a new course, but while in an ultimate sense, Jesus is still the goal, the path to reach him, from where I’m standing, has become increasingly indistinct. It’s like realizing that I’m stranded in a forested valley and completely shrouded by a dense fog. I can’t see well enough to even tell which direction the trail leads. I can’t see how to climb out at all.

But in the dark all around me, I hear the sounds of battle, fighting, growling, and hostility. That would be the people who are backbiting, the “believers” with demanding attitudes, self-righteous attitudes, “I have my rights” attitudes, and those people who think Jews are being racist because they feel that Gentiles (including Christians) aren’t Jewish.

Is this all I’ve got to look forward to by continuing to participate in this online community? If so, where the heck can I find the Jewish Messiah in it? Among people who say they love Israel but who (seemingly) hate Jews; who accuse Jews of racism and brainwashing?

This blog was never intended to be an endless stream of my thoughts and feelings without a goal or destination in mind. It was intended to be a chronicle of my journey of faith, not a “war journal” describing battle after meaningless battle between people who supposedly all share the same Messiah and the same God.

Maybe I’m just tired and maybe I’ll see this all differently if I manage to get some rest, but these thoughts have been plaguing me for some time now.

I found a site that uses a simple bit of JavaScript to display a countdown from the present date and time to New Year’s Day 2013. 78 days seems as good as any time limit to give this journey of mine to reach a conclusion. I’m giving myself (I guess I can’t really give it to anyone else) 78 days from today, Sunday, October 14, 2012, to either find a way to come to terms with the baloney I’ve been describing or to pull the plug on this blog and possibly any public participation in Christian faith. I’m really tired of the fighting and I’m not Running out of timegoing to contend with any sort of anti-Jewish Christian (whether you call yourselves “One Law,” “One Torah,” “Two House” or anything else) “baloney” (imagine I’m using a much stronger term) for much longer.

Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or the morning of December 31st (a Monday), and feel that I can go on writing meditations regardless of the fog or the clanging of sword and shield resounding in the mist surrounding me. Maybe I’ll wake up and find the fog has lifted and the din has ceased or at least traveled a good distance from me…or I’ll discover that the weapons of hostility and war simply don’t affect me anymore, and everyone else can just knock themselves out in their need to fight, while I can pass safely among them.

And maybe not.

There are infinite worlds beyond ours and beyond the worlds of the angels, all full of divine light, beauty and oneness.

But know also that all this was brought into being with a single purpose: G‑d desires to be at home within your mundane world.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Purpose”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

This is what I’m looking for or close to it.

Anyway, I’m giving myself 78 days to find it or to figure it out. I’ll continue writing “meditations” as I always have during that time period, but I’ll also continue to contribute to this “time-limited series” as a commentary on this branch of my journey of discovery. Where will I end up when January 1, 2013 rolls around? Stick around and see. I don’t even know the answer yet myself.

Freedom

Seven days shall you dwell in boothsLeviticus 23:42

… and you shall only be rejoicingDeuteronomy 16:15

Succos is the festival designated as the season of our gladness. Yet the commentaries state that one of the symbolisms of the succah, a temporary hut, is that we dwell in it for seven days to symbolize man’s temporary sojourn on earth for his average life span of seven decades (Psalms 90:10).

Human mortality is a rather sobering thought; it is hardly conducive to rejoicing. Most often we do not think about our mortality, and when circumstances force us to face it, we quickly dismiss it from our minds and go on acting as though we will live forever.

How different Torah values are from secular values! The Torah teaches us that there is an eternal life, a wholly spiritual life, whose bliss is far greater than the human mind can imagine. We are placed on this planet for our ephemeral earthly existence only to give us an opportunity to prepare for the eternal life.

The Torah teaches us to enjoy life, and if it restricts some pleasures, it is because we should enjoy life in a manner that befits a human being. Furthermore, our joy of living should not be diminished by the awareness of our mortality, nor need we deny it. The succah – the symbol of our temporary stay on earth – is beautifully decorated, and we enjoy our festive meals therein. Even our temporary existence can be beautiful and happy, and our faith in the eternal life should enhance that happiness.

Today I shall…

try to enjoy life as befits a spiritual person, knowing that the true life of man is not the fleeting one, but that of eternity.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tishrei 15”
Aish.com

Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.

-Will Smith, American actor

I probably take myself too seriously. Sometimes my wife tells me that. I know it’s certainly true of me in my “online persona.” I guess that comes from being a professional writer. Writing is what I do, so it’s important to me. It’s pretty much my first, best expression of who I am. Not that I’m perfect at it of course. But I don’t paint, and I don’t play music, and I’m not that good a public speaker, and I don’t dance worth anything, so I’ve got to have one way of expressing myself that’s better than all the others.

For me, that is writing. I’ve said before that writing this blog has a therapeutic aspect to it. It helps for me to pound out my thoughts and feelings, to “wear my heart on my sleeve,” so to speak. I can better describe how I feel and think about God, Jesus, Christianity, Judaism, and lots of other things when I write. Not that everyone will agree with me, but then, not everybody has to agree with me.

In this season of joy, during Sukkot, I need to be reminded about the difference between what’s real and important and what’s more or less beside the point. A lot of what happens online is beside the point. No, it’s not that I don’t take my writing seriously, and it’s not that I don’t take the people who I interact with online seriously, but beyond a certain point, I have to let things go.

Some people steal joy, as if joy were something you have and they don’t. As if joy were something they’ll never have and they can’t stand that you have some. They steal it, even if they can’t use it themselves, just so you can’t use it, either.

No one can do that to you unless you let them. In real life, it’s harder to combat, especially if the person stealing your joy is important to you, especially if it’s someone you love. While I get hurt by people I love sometimes, no one I love steals my joy. I’d probably let them if they wanted to, because I love them, but they don’t do it because they love me and they know that stealing joy is wrong.

Online, there are no end of people who steal joy. They may not think of it in those terms, but that’s the net result of their interaction with others. It’s easier to try to steal someone else’s joy online because you can’t see them and they can’t see you. You are depersonalized. They can’t see that they’re hurting you, and so, if they have no empathy, compassion, or grace, they don’t have to care if they’re hurting you. They can verbally harangue you, insult you, make fun of you, and feel well justified in doing so, because you aren’t even human to them. You’re just an anonymous “thing” that they can attack and defeat. I guess that’s what it takes to make themselves feel better.

You’d think that it would be easy to let go of someone like that online. All you have to do is pull the plug on whatever communication conduit they use to connect to you. Stop visiting their blog. Ignore or delete their comments on your blog or even block their IP address. But it’s not that easy. It’s like slamming the door in someone’s face. Even when they’re hostile, and even when they’re abusive, if you’re a decent human being, it still feels rude to (metaphorically) slam the door in their face.

Most hostile and abusive people are usually victims of some kind. Most bullies and trolls online have a history of being bullied themselves. I guess that’s why I put up with some folks as long as I do. I realize that even when they’re in your face, making demands of you, telling you what to do, that it’s really their defense against how hurt they are inside. They’ve never dealt with their pain and never resolved their conflicts. The only way they know how to live inside their own skin is to project all of their “stuff” onto others.

So I was dumb, and I was foolish. I (mentally) cut someone loose but let them back in because I thought maybe there was hope that, though we’d always disagree, we could disagree with a sense of mutual respect. I was taking a risk, but you have to do that sometimes. Sometimes it’s worth it. This time it wasn’t.

You can’t really hate a victim because in many ways, they just can’t help themselves. In order to feel powerful, they have to be hostile. These sorts of people, especially guys, mistake anger and aggressiveness for power, not realizing that true power isn’t hostile or aggressive at all. True power is love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, graciousness, and tenderness. Some people think the only power is intelligence, education, superiority, winning the argument, devastating twists of irrefutable logic, how well they halalachally perform a mitzvot. That’s the stuff they push in your face to show you that they’re not a victim, that they’re “winning,” that they’re better than you. Then they can feel better about themselves.

But they’ve missed the point. Paul was extremely clear about which gifts are more important. In fact, there’s one gift, one attribute that we can all possess and exercise if we choose to, that trumps all the rest.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)

Really. Read that again. What is Paul saying? He’s not saying that “winning” in some Charlie Sheen fashion is the whole point. He’s saying that, even if you’re fabulous in speaking tongues, are an amazing prophet, even if you have faith that literally can move mountains, but you don’t have love, you have nothing.

GardeningLove is like a small, fragile, budding plant you nurture inside of you. If you don’t take care of it, the love will wither, and you will wither along with it. Love takes a lot of special attention but if you don’t care for the love inside of you, you’ll never be able to show it to others, especially those who really need to be loved. It almost seems paradoxical to say that in order to preserve your love, there are some people you have to let go. But those are the people who suck joy directly from your soul, murdering your love, blackening your heart, and damaging, not only you, but everyone around you who needs and depends on you.

Author C. JoyBell C. said, “You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” Sometimes toxic people are the weights that hold us down. And even if it feels like giving up on another human being, it’s better to let go of the weight so that you can rebound and fly, than to keep hanging onto it and letting it; letting that person drag you down into hostility, hopelessness, and despair along with them.

I hope and pray that my “toxic person” finds his way and learns to let go of his own unneeded weights, but he’ll have to learn love, the kind of love Paul was talking about, first. That’s something you can’t teach someone, especially against their will and especially if they equate humility, compassion, forgiveness, and love with being humiliated and being weak.

This is the season of joy. This is the time to rediscover love, love of your fellow person and love of God. To soar up to the source of our flame, we have to unburden ourselves sometimes. In order to fly, you have to break free from the people and things that hold you down.

“Woe to him who does not feel that this life and the next are but one!”

-Nikos Kazantzakis from his novel
“Zorba the Greek”