I spent several years of my life teaching young children, and one of the topics I got to teach was the Bible. The curriculum for my class covered Exodus through Judges, with readings from the New Testament scattered throughout the year. The children frequently laughed at the Children of Israels’ antics, wondering how they could keep disobeying the Lord and getting themselves into trouble when the Lord’s rules were so simple! And as an adult, I’d have my own private laugh because, of course, like the Children of Israel we make the same mistakes again and again…. Why don’t we learn? In revisiting a couple of my favorite OT passages a few months ago, I realized they were linked by the common thread of captivity, and I thought I’d briefly share my musings on the topic.
On the brink of entering the Land of Canaan after a 40-year “wander,” Moses gave a long final speech. Toward the end of that talk, he outlined the Lord’s law, and the choice between life and death: following the Lord’s law and living a blessed life, or turning away from Him, worshiping other gods, and living a cursed life, which he predicts will ultimately lead to captivity. But the story doesn’t end in captivity. Moses says that when the Children of Israel return to the Lord, He will gather them and bring them back to a fruitful, prosperous life in the Land of Canaan. Then comes my favorite part:
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“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Who doesn’t know the desire for a good meal, dished up with love and shared with good company? An acquaintance of mine recently did an informal poll on social media, asking if people minded eating alone. While a few conveyed enthusiasm, most said they preferred eating with friends or family. In my growing years, our dinner table was a sacred place where individual pursuits were put aside in favor of community bonding—thanking the Lord for our blessings, listening and talking, sharing ideas, debating, laughing, and enjoying each other—while savoring our meal. For many Americans, my present self included, life’s rapid pace means that eating is often mindless and solitary. It’s easy to forget that sharing physical nourishment with others has a way of nourishing the spirit as well as the body.
I’ve recently had a small, but persistent, digestive health issue that has made me change my diet and rethink my eating habits. I realized that I, a single lady with a busy housemate, was eating most of my meals alone. I didn’t take time from work to eat with my co-workers, since I don’t get a paid lunch period and didn’t want to make up the lost time. I sometimes go out to a late dinner with my tango group, or occasionally eat out with friends, but I realized that most of the time, eating had become a perfunctory action for me. Yes, I cooked nutritious food, but I ate it in a mindless way, usually as I prepared to run out the door to an evening activity. So I started making efforts to eat lunch with my coworkers. I organized a community potluck in the park. I sometimes call a family member while cooking or eating. Now, in addition to making more effort to connect with others over meals, I am more mindful about giving thanks, chewing well, breathing deeply, enjoying the flavor, and not overeating.
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Last week my women’s choir recommenced after its usual nine-month hiatus. Our director Emily is young, energetic, and somewhat silly (she usually directs children’s choirs). In spite of her light-hearted humor, she demands our best—not only as individuals, but as a cohesive group. Her choral warm-ups train our ears as well as our voices. With up to six voice parts, each woman’s voice has a unique range and quality, yet our aim is to train them so that each contributes to a harmonious sound—without overpowering the rest. What allows us to create the most pleasing, unified sound? Our director. We all look to her for tempo, volume, and expression. When each of us learns the music, listens to our neighbors, and follows Emily’s direction, we can enjoy the wonderful sensation of contributing to a beautiful whole greater than ourselves.
Continue reading Harmony of the Unique →
Have you ever had a moment when your life felt like a plane taking a nosedive? That nothing short of a miracle could save you from disaster? Perhaps you had a tough decision looming and couldn’t make up your mind; didn’t get the job opportunity or housing situation or scholarship that you had thought was the answer to your prayers; or felt that you messed up a relationship for good and life could never be the same.
Looking back on these moments in my life, I see that the crash never came – that oftentimes my life took a positive turn in a new, hitherto unimagined direction. It is hard to see this in the moment, though: uncertainty (i.e. lack of control) can be frightening. It can lead to hopelessness and apathy, or it can lead to a crippling effort to control the uncontrollable. When embraced in a healthy way, uncertainty does something entirely different: it enlivens and excites, and yes, it even offers a sense of freedom. Continue reading Embracing Uncertainty on Life’s Dance Floor →