June 11, 2012
You guys!!! It’s me! Look! Here I am! I’m an Israeli now, you know.
Remember in the days of yesteryear when I used to be a blogger? Those were good days. I’m sorry for not blogging more while I was in Israel. The Internet connection was a bit slow, and pictures took about eighty years to load. That, combined with my impatience and my exhaustion each night after climbing every hill in Israel meant lonely times for the bloggy.
So, I’ve been back from Israel for a week now. I’m still not sure what happened or what time it is. I don’t even know how to organize my thoughts so that I can share all the awesomeness of Israel with you. It’s kind of overwhelming. So, I won’t try to do it all at once. If it’s OK with you, I’ll just share bit by bit as I remember and process.
Here are the main things I’ve been telling people when they ask about the trip:
1. Israel is so tiny. You can tell that it’s small when you look on the map, but seriously it is small. I think it’s about the size of New Jersey. From Jerusalem, you can look to the east and clearly see the hills of the country of Jordan. You can also see the valley that dips down and leads to the Dead Sea. Bethlehem is a 15-minute drive from Jerusalem. Jericho is 45 minutes east. Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea — 50 minute drive from Jerusalem.
2. Although it is small, there is so much variety in the land. It is full of hills and valleys and mountains. Mount Hermon is in the north of Israel and we saw tons of snow on it when we were there. About three to four hours south of there is the Dead Sea — the lowest point on earth — and complete scorching desert. In some areas there’s tons of vegetation — rolling meadows, flowers, grape vines, almond and fig trees, wheat and olives. In other areas, there is desert — brown and red sands where nothing is growing. It is humid in the north and dry in the south. You can drive 45 minutes in any direction from Jerusalem and the topography of the land changes completely.
3. Cucumbers and tomatoes. Always. Every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m so over cucumbers. Jeff had warned me about this, but I didn’t believe him. He was right.
4. I have never been to a more international place. Jerusalem is filled with every language, every look, every nation. People want to visit the Holy Land — they want to see this ancient place that was promised so long ago.
5. Lots of hills. Lots of stairs. Up and down.
Anyway, there’s obviously more, but I have jet lag. (How long can I use that excuse? I’m thinking not much longer, but I will keep trying. Yes, I will. I will still be jet lagged in September.)
So now that I’m back, I’m trying to motivate myself to go to school to start studying for comps and working on my thesis. So far, I am still on the couch. For the next month I am here in Denver, working and “studying” and on the lookout for new freelance jobs (if you hear of anything let me know!). Also, if you want to come hang out, call me! Then in July, I will be heading to Guatemala for a two-week Old Testament class, and then a quick swing through Belize. (Isn’t my summer the worst?) Then when I get back, Sean, Andrew and I are going to have some awesome adventures.
Basically, I am blessed!
So, how are you? What’s going on? How’s your summer? Fill me in!
Glad to be friends again! Talk to you soon.
April 25, 2012
Sometimes you have an entire semester to get your class reading done. And sometimes your semester is suddenly almost over and you have to sign off on all that reading you seem to have forgotten to do. Sometimes this is when skimming becomes a good plan.
I would update you on all the fascinating happenings of my life except that I just literally live at Denver Seminary in their blazing hot student center. And Diana and I stress about all the things we have to do. And Andy tells us to calm down. And we throw things at him.
I feel like I post too many animal pictures on my bloggy lately, especially since I don’t even like animals in real life. So, I’m going to try to give it a rest. Right after I show you this tiny elephant who likes to perch on a log.
I’ve liked this song for so long now, but I just can’t get over it. You should have a listen.
We had to write a big exegetical paper on Joshua 23 for my Hebrew class this week. Joshua is nearing the end of his life, so he gathers the leaders of Israel together and gives them a final speech. He reminds them of all God has done, how he was the one who fought for them and brought them into the land, dispossessing the people around them. He tells them that they must stay close to Yahweh, and that theycannotstart worshiping other gods. If they do, they’ll have broken their covenant with God and he will kick them out of the land.
Joshua uses the Hebrew word “davak” twice in his speech. It is often translated “cling” in our English Bibles. Israel was to cling tightly to Yahweh, rejecting the gods of the Canaanite nations. The use of “davak” in Joshua 23:8 is significant because it invokes a sense of desperate dependence on God. It refers to soldering together (it is the basis for Modern Hebrew’s word for “glue”), and shows the extreme closeness that people were to have with their God.
The root “davak” always includes the idea of clinging, sticking or cleaving. It is often used to refer to relationships between people — the first use of the root is in Genesis 2:24, when a man leaves his family to “cleave to” his wife. It is also often used in Deuteronomy to express Israel’s relationship with Yahweh. It is therefore something Israel must choose to do. Because this clinging is a choice, Joshua reminds Israel that they must not cling (same Hebrew word) to other nations or intermarry with them (Joshua 23:12), because they will lead Israel astray. If Israel allies itself or “glues itself” to other nations, they will break their covenant and fail the Lord who has been faithful to them.
So, there. You’re welcome.
I best be going because it’s Wednesday, and as we all know, I cannot get enough of Wednesdays. We’ll chat tomorrow. Cling tightly to the Lord today.
April 18, 2012
Wednesday, you guys. Am. I. Right?
I still haven’t really gone to the grocery store, although I did get some popcorn and apples and cheese. And I got some Skittles because people came over for Lost last night and I figured they at least deserved a Skittle since I didn’t have anything else to serve them.
The other night I cleaned my apartment because I was tired of living in filth. I found no less than 9,000 bobby pins on my bedroom carpet.
I remembered the pipe arm yesterday. Good times.
Aren’t you glad I’m blogging today?
So yesterday’s picture of the day was supposed to be “something you don’t like.” How do I choose?! Just kidding. I chose “bats” because I am so scared of them. I’m apparently going spelunking in Guatemala this summer and my throat is already closing off at the thought of possibly being in a cave full of bats. Anyhoo, I searched bats on Pinterest and this came up. I gasped and died.
I can’t even take it. Look at those nasty claw feet things! I’m gagging. Bats are rodents that fly at your head and try to kill you. Why would you hold one in your hand and allow its devil eyes to be captured on film? ALSO, if you are afraid of bats, I do not recommend the bat section of the Omaha Zoo. You walk through a display that feels like you are in a literal cave and the bats are behind glass, but you can barely tell. And they had a bat there that was at least the size of an eagle. Let’s move on.
I do love Batman, though. I’m excited for the third movie to come out. Bruce Wayne is scared of bats too.
Ok, let’s actually move on.
Yesterday I had to write a little devotional for Hebrew, and I wrote it based on a verse in the book of Habakkuk. I blogged about it before, but I was just reminded of how Habakkuk was frightened about the judgment that was coming to Judah. Although he had been complaining about how evil the Israelites were, he was upset that God would send the Babylonians (who were way more evil) to bring judgment. But God said it would happen, and Habakkuk knew it was true. So in chapter 3, he starts listing all the things he remembers about God’s awesomeness. He remembers God’s fame, the great things he’s done, and finally he says, “I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk chose to trust God. He chose to praise the Lord, even though he was unsure of the future. So hard to do. But so good.
OK. As usual, I have an Aramaic quiz to bomb today. Be good. I’ll see you tomorrow!
April 10, 2012
Sometimes you’re at school so long that people know to come search for you at a certain table by the fireplace. “Oh, that’s Denise’s spot,” they say. “She is pathetic and always in that spot. Whining and typing and feeling sorry for herself because she’s in school. If you want to feel better about yourself, go visit Denise’s spot. She might share some of her Skittles with you.”
Sometimes that happens.
Also, I forgot to take any pictures yesterday. I’m so bad at this photo challenge, you guys. Oh, wait. I just looked it up. I was supposed to put up a picture of a “younger me.” Luckily Facebook and scanners and Auntie Faye exist. Tada!
I liked short skirts.
My mom and I had a motto: “Bangs. The taller, the better.”
Here is my post for Boundless this week. It’s about old friends.
My thesis proposal is pretty much done. Except it needs editing. And probably someone to rewrite it. But other than that, it’s done. So basically I’ve decided to write my thesis on the idea of faith as belief and action in the Bible. The very opening words of Scripture reveal a God who is active and dynamic — “In the beginning God created.” (In fact, in the Hebrew, the verb — the action — comes first.)
From the very beginning, a variety of Hebrew action verbs let us know that God creates, speaks, calls, makes, builds, blesses, gives and sees. Immediately he involves himself in the physical world — walking with humanity, speaking to those he created, asking questions, fashioning garments. God questions Cain, calls Abraham, argues with Moses, covenants with David. Over and over throughout the Old Testament, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness because of what he has done. And ultimately, the activity of God is incarnated, fleshed out, a living, breathing example. God becomes a man and lives out divinity, reveals what it looks like to be active completely and fully.
The revelation of God is dynamic and active, not linear or systematic. So, through my thesis, I want to understand theology — understand God — as defined by action. I will do this by studying the acts of God, the response of individuals Scripture remembers as faithful, the community’s response demonstrated through law, festivals and liturgy, and the Hebrew language itself, which expresses the story of God in a uniquely active way.
I want to form an argument for a biblical theology that truly understands faith through action rather than just mental assent to a particular set of beliefs. Active faith is not relegated to the preferences of the God of the Old Testament, or even to the particular worldview of the Hebrew mind. Faith in action is core to who God is, which is clearly shown throughout the Bible. It is not antithetical to grace. Action does not equal legalism. It is in the very nature of God — it is how he shows his love to us and how he asks us to show love to him.
So, that’s what I’m working on. We’ll see.
Have a fun times day, friends!
April 5, 2012
I am hungry for a taco. Or some ice cream. Or just to be able to taste something.
Yesterday’s photo challenge was to take a picture of someone who makes you happy. But I was at school and then at the grocery store, and the checkout clerk did not make me extra happy. So here is a picture of My Special. He makes me happy.
Also, the lady at the Judaica store knows me. We’re friends. I went in yesterday and she asked how I was and I told her I was sick with a cold. She told me about their new Passover products. She probably wondered why this crazy Gentile black girl keeps coming into her store to buy stuff for Jewish holidays.
So my small group is doing a Passover Seder tonight. Passover is actually tomorrow, but we are under grace, OK?! Like I mentioned yesterday, God asked his people to remember the Exodus every year by eating lamb and bitter herbs and unleavened bread. So each year, people use a Haggadah, which is the liturgy of Passover to go through the Seder meal. The liturgy includes a reading of the story of the Exodus — all the plagues and how God finally brought the people out from slavery. When you participate in the Passover meal, you do it as though you were one of the people God rescued from slavery in Egypt. Although the first Passover was spent in traveling clothes and eaten quickly, now people lounge and take their time because we have been set free.
You also eat elements from the Seder plate at the meal. You dip parsley in salt water to remember the tears of bondage. You eat a bitter herb — usually radish — to remember the bitterness of slavery. And you eat an apple mixture to remind you of the mortar used in building for Pharaoh’s kingdom.
One of my favorite parts of the Passover Seder is when we recount all the things God has done for us. It’s called “Dayenu” which means “it would have been enough for us” in Hebrew. You say things like, “If God had only brought us out of slavery, but not brought us to the Red Sea, Dayenu.” “If God had only brought us to the Red Sea, but not parted it for us, Dayenu.” “If God had only parted the Red Sea, but not drowned Pharaoh’s army, Dayenu.” And on and on. I love it. It would have been enough — but God continued to act, he continued to provide, he continued to do so much more. He is good to us.
Jesus celebrated Passover. I believe that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, which is cool because we see Jesus using the elements of the meal in order to institute communion. The cup he takes after supper, the cup of the covenant cut in his blood, is known as the cup of redemption in the Seder meal. It is related to God’s promise in Exodus to redeem his people. God did it through the Exodus, and here Jesus showed that he was doing it again, this time for the whole world to set us free from our sin.
It’s really cool, you guys. It’s awesome to remember how God has set us free, to notice the elements of Passover that Jesus used when instituting communion, to eat a meal with friends in grateful praise for all the Lord has done. It is good.
OK, I best be off. Hope you have a lovely day!
April 4, 2012
It snowed all day yesterday.
And my sinuses hurt.
And I have to teach a class today at school that I am woefully unprepared for.
And I like to whine.
Yesterday’s photo of the day was “mail.” My mail was pretty boring, so I took a picture of a cute, old mailbox that I keep in my room. It’s called creativity, you guys.
Also, retraction. Apparently Diana did not win the bracket, but Matthew did. (Clearly I didn’t actually look at the bracket before pronouncing it on my blog. I’m not good with the fact checking. Apparently you shouldn’t believe much you read here.) Anyway, congrats, Matthew! Your gift basket of Toby Mac CDs and broccoli is in the mail!
So, Passover is on Friday. It’s the first holiday God commanded his people to celebrate in Exodus 12. It is the night of the final plague in Egypt and the Israelites are finally going to be set free from the yoke of the Egyptians. Pharaoh has hardened his heart numerous times, but this last plague will leave him devastated and he will finally allow the Israelites to leave. Moses has warned Pharaoh of what is about to happen, and God has given instructions for the meal Israel is supposed to eat as they prepare to leave. They are to dress in traveling clothes, eat a lamb, eat bitter herbs, and avoid leaven. Most importantly, they must take hyssop and spread the blood of the lamb over their doors. The Lord is about to pass over Egypt, and he will smite the firstborn of anyone who does not have the blood of the lamb upon their doorposts.
The Lord provided a way for people to be saved from the destroyer—it was a monumental night in the history of Israel, and he wanted them to remember what he had done forever. God gave them tangible ways to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt — lamb, herbs, unleavened bread. This meal would forever remind the Israelites that God passed over them and brought them freedom. It is also important to note that the Israelites had a task to do. In order to be saved, they had to put the blood of the slaughtered lamb over the doorpost.
God told them to celebrate the Passover — to remember the Exodus — every year on the 14th day of the first month. So, they did. Sometimes they sinned and didn’t do it. But then they would remember again. Jesus celebrated it — it is where communion was first instituted.
Tomorrow we’ll chat more about the details of the Passover seder. It’s pretty awesome.
Have a good day, friendsies!
April 3, 2012
Sometimes when the temperature changes 40 degrees in one day, my allergies act up. Miserable.
That was a boring NCAA championship basketball game. Dummy Kentucky looked so good the entire tournament that I figured they would pretty much kill it. And our very own Diana “she knows how to pick ‘em” Jones moved from last place into first place in our bracket because she picked Kentucky to win it all. Congrats, Diana! Your gift basket of tomatoes and Eminem CDs and a gift card to go dancing is in the mail!
So the second picture in the April photo challenge is “color.” Which is perfect because yesterday I received brand new Fiestaware dishes from my mom! She sent them to me as a Passover/Resurrection Day present because she’s the bestest mommykins. Aren’t they pretty and colorful? I am most excited about those beautiful latte mugs.
I met with my adviser about changes to my thesis proposal yesterday, and it went really well. I’m hoping to have the proposal done by the end of the week — woo hoo!
Here’s something my friend Andy and I were discussing yesterday — in Acts 15, there is something called the Jerusalem Council in which the apostles decided if the Gentiles needed to adhere to the Jewish law through circumcision and stuff. They decide that no the Gentiles did not need to get circumcised or follow the law. However, the Gentiles did need to do four things: abstain from sexual immorality, abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, abstain from meat that was strangled, and abstain from blood.
So, if those four things are the only things Gentiles believers needed to follow, then Andy and I were just wondering why we don’t worry about that stuff (except sexual immorality) anymore. I haven’t studied it, so I don’t know why we quit caring if we were eating meat that had been strangled, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a spiritual concern of ours anymore. Has anyone heard or read anything about this topic? If I find some time (in the midst of my whining and procrastinating) I’m going to try to look into it.
OK, I’m going to be done blogging now. Tomorrow I think we’ll chat a little bit about Passover!
March 27, 2012
If you came here looking for hilariousness, you are in the wrong place today, my friends.
Today I feel sad and disheartened and sickened. I am tired of what sin does to us — how it divides and breeds hatred, fear and accusations. I am disappointed with how I contribute to this evil through my thoughts, words and actions. I am frustrated with the lack of compassion in my life and in the lives of others — we are so slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry. We hurt one another, and in a desire to protect ourselves and our own interests, we allow ourselves to spew hatred and fester in bitterness.
Non-Christians do it.
Christians do it.
We all do it.
In this past week I’ve heard and read and seen things that make my heart ache. The topic really isn’t that important because the source is all the same.
We are ruined by sin.
It overtakes and lies and controls.
What is most painful in my own life, and what is the most disheartening when I see it in other believers is that we so often allow sin to devour. We see the enemy, prowling, waiting for a chance to pounce, and we call him over with glee. Instead of rejoicing that Jesus has freed us from sin, we snuggle up with heavy chains, shackling ourselves back into a life of slavery. The things we know we shouldn’t do, we do. The things that we know we should do, we reject.
We are just like our ancestors. We always resist the Holy Spirit.
What wretched people we are.
Liars, thieves, murderers, accusers, idolators. We are prideful, judgmental, arrogant, condescending, rude. We justify, complain, defend. We are bitter, angry, hurt, frightened, abusive, dangerous.
But by the grace of God. But by the grace of God.
We have been washed, sanctified and justified — so let’s live like it. The Spirit of the Living God — the God who raised Jesus from the dead — is at work in us.
The God who raised Jesus from the dead.
You guys. Let’s not grieve Him. Not with unwholesome talk, not with bitterness, rage, anger, slander or malice.
We are children of the Most High. Adopted, bought, heirs. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify. Let’s share the shalom of our God. Let us hear together:
Yes, I am disheartened and saddened by myself, by others. But even in the midst of this, my heart skips a beat.
He will make all things new.
He will restore and heal and bind up. He will redeem what we have broken. He will invite believers in Yeshua to dwell with Him. We will be His people, and He will be our God. Every inclination of our heart will be to worship Him in purity.
And we will no longer be ruined by sin.
Because He was ruined for us.
And until then, sanctify us. Teach us to obey. Soften our hearts.
Help us to love you, Lord God, with all that we are. And to love our neighbors as ourselves.
March 22, 2012
…a match made in heaven.
How was your Wednesday? Mine was incredibly long as usual. But now it is over.
You guys, it’s supposed to be 78 degrees here on Saturday! What?! You know that’s right.
Happy birthday, Alecia-poo! Don’t worry, I’m on my way down to the Springs to celebrate your very special day!
I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace in Aramaic yesterday. That’s something I never thought I’d say. Also, did you know that the fiery furnace story was written in Aramaic and not Hebrew? Me neither. Why don’t they teach you these things in Sunday School? (They probably do in Rio’s Sunday School curriculum. It was written by people who think they are Jewish.)
This was Heather’s drawing of a zombie yesterday. Even when I know what the word is, I wait until she’s done because it’s fascinating to watch her be the best artist ever.
The other night I dreamed that I was moving into a house with the very same layout as the first one I ever lived in on Dupont in Minneapolis. It was a huge Victorian, and I was going to get to decorate it. I was so very happy in this dream. These are apparently the secret wishes of my subconscious — arranging furniture and picking out paint colors.
Why is this blog post still going on? Anyone?
Yesterday my friend Rebekah and I were going over edits on some curriculum lessons I wrote awhile back. We looked at the story of Moses and the burning bush — God had long ago made a promise to Abraham, but now over 400 years have passed, and Abraham’s descendents are slaves in a faraway land. They cry out and God hears them — he remembers his promise. So he calls to Moses out of a bush, and the plan of the Exodus is put into motion. It’s so cool. And it reminded me that God’s timing is not our own. It was a long time (for us) in between God’s promise to Abraham and the Exodus. But God knew. He remembered. He was faithful. He always is.
OK. Until we meet again!