Eagle, Mouse, and Ethics

All through the day today I thought about what I would write in my blog when I had the opportunity.

I thought about writing about JJ driving to his Boy Scout meeting last night. His friend called and asked if he’d pick him up for the meeting. He lives about….oh…ten minutes or so away. JJ knows to ask if his parents were ok with him riding with an inexperienced driver–some parents do mind–and the friend said it was ok, so it was proud moment for JJ to be able to drive his friend to Scouts. JJ was bursting with even more pride when he came home. He had advanced to Life Scout, which means he will start working on becoming an Eagle Scout. That is a BIG deal, and opens a lot of doors.

I thought about writing about the cats and the mouse last night. Timmy caught a mouse–I can always tell when a cat has caught a mouse because I hear growling. The cat with the mouse growls to keep the other cats away: “This is MY mouse. Keep away.” I am always glad when the cats catch a mouse because mice are cute ONLY in cartoons. In real life, they get into food and spread disease. However, I wish the cats would just kill the thing instead of “play” with it in a macabre game. We used to have a cat–Wynter–who would pounce on mice and immediately kill them. Sometimes we heard her crunching their bones under our bed in the middle of the night. However, these days one of our cats–usually Timmy–catches a mouse, carries it around in his mouth with the other cats following, drops it, bats it around, and then another cat picks it up and carries it around, drops it…I always keep track of where the cats and mouse is because I have a horror of a cat dropping it near me and it running up my body to escape. Shudder. Last night six cats sat in a circle and one put the battered mouse in the center and they all batted it around. It was gross. I would get the mouse and throw it outside, but the cats won’t let me near until it’s dead, and I have a horror of scooping up a live mouse because it might run up the handle of the dustpan or woodstove shovel and climb on me. Shudder. Whenever I have a twinge of pity for the mouse, I think of the scene in the movie Ratatouille where hundreds of rats fall from an old lady’s ceiling. I imagine mice multiplying in the walls. Shudder. Rodents multiply and carry diseases. Sometimes if the mouse gets in a place where the cats can’t reach–like behind a door or under the couch–I help them get access. Did I tell you that mice multiply and spread disease? Besides, a mouse that chooses to live in a house filled with cats deserves to die. Duh. Yesterday, though, the mouse escaped. This means that it will have learned to be extra careful (and multiply) or it will die somewhere in the house. Hopefully it won’t stink. Yuck. I wish the cats would just kill mice and be done with it.

I decided against writing about those things because tonight my thoughts are on Hebrew. I am learning a lot about how to live from the Hebrew language, from the Hebrew understanding of Scripture, and also from books related to the Hebrew language.

Last year, for example, I bought a book called “The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living.” JJ and I have been reading a portion from the book every day. I think the Jewish people have the highest standard of living EVER. We learn so much from the book that we have never even considered. For example, I know “thou shall not steal” but I have always thought of stealing as taking things that don’t belong to me. The Jewish Values book says that the Jewish people consider “stealing someone’s knowledge” to also be stealing. Stealing someone’s knowledge would be things like asking a  salesman all about a product  when you had no intention of buying from him. Many salesmen work on commission, and if he is spending time answering your questions, he is not spending time with someone who will buy his product, and so you are stealing his income. This has made me think, and has changed my behavior so that I will not steal someone’s knowledge. There are many other good things in this book.

Recently, we have been reading in The Book of Jewish Values things about honoring and respecting parents. We have read about what we owe our parents as well as what we don’t owe them. For example, we owe them respect, care, and attention.  There are also things that we don’t owe them. Parents have no right to order their children to do something against their conscience, things that are morally wrong, such as tell a lie. If a child is ordered to do something that is morally wrong, he has the right to disobey.

One thing I dislike about much teaching that I have received in churches is that it is all disconnected. Biblical stories and teachings are told in isolated segments with no connection to other stories and teachings. One week a Sunday school teacher or a pastor would preach on loving enemies and months later there would be a lesson on not associating with evil people. No one connects how a person loves enemies and yet has nothing to do with him. One week the pastor or teacher would preach about being generous with money and several years later there’d be a sermon or lesson about  being “wise stewards” of our money–with no connection between how to be generous AND wise with money. A pastor or teacher would preach about forgiving others, but never teach about whether we ought to forgive the abusive person, or how to forgive them. Everything is unconnected.

On the other hand, the Hebraic language and teachings is all about connections of Scriptural truth. Letters and words have meanings in the Hebrew language, and words with the same letters are connected, and the words and their connections tell a story that help us live our lives. For example, Chuck Missler tells a story of some of the meaning of names in Genesis. He goes into more detail on his site, but here is a brief glimpse of one Biblical connection–the connection of names. This is the meaning of the names of Adam and his son, and his grandson, and his great-grandson….down to Noah:

…Now let’s put it all together:

Hebrew = English
  • Adam = Man
  • Seth = Appointed
  • Enosh = Mortal
  • Kenan = Sorrow
  • Mahalalel = The Blessed God
  • Jared = Shall come down
  • Enoch = Teaching
  • Methuselah = His death shall bring
  • Lamech = The Despairing
  • Noah = Comfort (or Rest)

That’s rather remarkable:

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.”

Here is the “gospel” hidden within a genealogy in Genesis!

And not only to words have meaningful connections, but people and places in the Bible are not isolated stories, but they relate in sometimes surprising ways. I have learned so much about the Bible and truth and how to live by learning how Bible words, people, places, stories, names, and truths connect to each other. They are not isolated stories. There is a thread running through all the teachings of the Bible making it ONE story about a God who loves us and wants to draw us close.

The Jewish Book of Values stirred up one of the things I have struggled with over the years–how to honor a mother who has rejected me. The church says “Honor your father and mother,” but nothing about how to honor an abusive or dysfunctional family. Hebraic/Jewish wisdom teaches that there are things that a child owes his parents, but also things that he doesn’t owe his parents. It has helped me gain a connection and balance between two extremes.

Hebrew has helped me understand a lot of things about Scripture and how to live it. However, I am still in the process of understanding how to honor my Mom. In some ways I think that I have always done my best to reach out to her, and I have tried my best to do what is right and loving. However, I also know that I have make mistakes. I have not always known how to do things like set healthy boundaries. And learning about forgiveness and repentance and love and a multitude of other things has been a long process that has broken my heart.

Sometimes I have wished that I knew years ago what I knew now. I would have done some things differently. Maybe. I have wondered if I had only been able to set proper boundaries in the beginning, if I only had been able to love enough, or if I have only not withdrawn out of hurt, maybe I’d have a relationship with my Mom and family. About this, I think several thoughts, too many and complicated to described here, but I think I could not do what I didn’t know yet how to do, and I think I need to forgive myself for my mistakes, and I think I need to remember that others, also, make their choices about how they will live. I’m not responsible for others’ choices.

One thought that has been helpful to me is remembering when JJ was younger. He missed some words on a spelling test and was upset with himself. I asked him if he was BORN knowing how to spell words. When he said no, I told him that the purpose of school is to teach him things he doesn’t yet know. When he learns it, then he goes on to learn new things that he doesn’t know. He doesn’t learn things he already knows. I told him to be patient with himself as he learns new things. Then God spoke to my heart, because I was upset with myself for not knowing how to forgive, or love, or set healthy boundaries in a divine way. “Were you born knowing how to live a godly life?” I felt God asking. Well, no. “The purpose of My school is to teach you things you don’t yet know. It’s a process. Be patient as you learn things you don’t yet know….”

But still…sometimes I wish I had been born knowing how to live out the life of God. It’s difficult to know how to acknowledge and accept that God is at work in me, teaching me things I don’t yet know, with the fact that mistakes and failures can hurt others. It’s difficult understanding that boundaries are loving and healthy with what to do when someone disrespects and is angry about those boundaries. It is difficult to know how to relate to someone who refuses to forgive offenses. No one can live without failures and mistakes…how can we have relationships without forgiveness and repentance?  How do I reach someone who sees no good in me? How do I honestly share these struggles without shaming my family? These things I am struggling to learn.

I talked to my friend today. We were supposed to study Hebrew together, but instead I asked my friend how to honor a parent who hates me. She has been through similar experiences, but is so much farther beyond me in this matter so I can learn much from her. She basically told me to continue praying for my family and trusting the situation to God. She said that God might want me to separate from my family (as I have done). God can still work in the family–as He worked in hers.

But I guess I’m feeling a bit low tonight because my family is broken, and I love them, and I can’t fix it, no matter how hard I try. There is so much that I do not understand or know how to live out.

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