Live through the down times and remember the up times

Have you heard the term “Selective Memory” used when referring to someone who only seems to be able to recall those events that he or she wants to recall? Usually, it is used derisively to indicate the person is using it as an excuse for not doing something.

Usually, that is the case.

However, I know people who choose to remember only those things that continue to generate frustration and anger, and by doing so don’t even allow themselves to relive the pleasant times in their life.

For instance, in my previous life, from 1984 to 1992 I was married to a woman, we had two children (whom she has successfully turned against me) and for the last 6 or 7 years of our marriage all we did was argue. Yet, I recall many enjoyable moments, before and during the bad times; I know what was bad in that marriage, yet I choose to remember the good times and allow the bad times to remain in the background. This form of selective memory, recalling the pleasant times we had together, allows me to experience joy when I recall them. She, on the other hand, not only had chosen to recall all the bad times, but greatly embellished some of them over the years so that all she felt was pain and anger regarding me. So much so that even a normal, civil conversation was not possible for her. Once my son was old enough to take a train from their house in Queens (NY) and meet me in Manhattan (my daughter had already cut me off), I was able to disconnect from my “ex”, totally. That was a number of years ago, yet I still pray for her because I don’t know anyone who needs the love of the Lord as much as that poor, pitiful and unforgiving woman who causes herself continual pain by her selective memory.

The reason I told you about this is not to complain about her, or appear to put myself in a position of “holier-than-her”, but only as a personal example of how much better it is to selectively remember only the best parts of a relationship. And let me confess this now: I have not done this well. It took me many, many years (as my wife will confirm) just to be able to not talk about it all the time, and even today I am still fighting to not dwell on the loss of my children. I have prayer and God to help, and I am relieved to say I am getting better at not dwelling on it.

If you have had someone hurt you, and have forgiven them (as we are commanded to do), you should be able to remember the good aspects of that relationship without having to refuel the fires of hurtfulness that the sin against you caused. And, if you haven’t forgiven them, it’s about time you got with the program!

Forgiving is not forgetting, as much as it is letting go of the pain and anger. Because I have forgiven I can remember many fun times with my “ex”; our honeymoon was absolutely wonderful, we had some road trips that were great, the times we spent in the Pocono’s at a timeshare were relaxing and so much fun. I also remember there was that one vacation straight from hell, and many times during the marriage I wanted to leave. There were even times I wanted to commit suicide instead of going home. Really- it was that bad. But I now choose to leave those memories alone, and try to recall only the happy times because, well… why dwell on bad times and relive the hurt when you can remember happy times and feel good?

BTW: if you choose to relive the hurt someone caused you, it is not their fault that you are in pain. Yes, they may have struck the “first blow”, but if you choose to relive that event, over and over, now the pain you feel when reliving it is your own fault.

Of course, if someone is unforgiving, for them to relive only the happy times is probably not going to be possible. No one who is unforgiving will want to let go of their pain and sorrow, so they rip the scab off the cut every time it starts to heal. If you ask me, that’s a horrible way to live. It is so much better to remember happy times- don’t you agree?

Look- we all have bad times, and we all will remember them, but the idea is to live through the bad times and then put them behind you so you can recall only the happy times and let them fill you with joy. When loved ones pass away, we should celebrate their lives and recall all the joy they brought us; when we have marriage problems we cannot solve, we should part as people recalling that once we were able to share a love and to allow that to be the start of a new relationship. Once divorced, the marriage is dead, so we are free to begin a new relationship based on what first brought us together. And if the relationship is so damaged that it cannot continue, for whatever reason, then individually relive the happy times and remember only that what you had was a blessing while it was good. All things change, but all people do not change together.

Selective memory should not be used as an excuse for irresponsibility, but should be a means of recalling the joy we found in relationships that are no longer able to be that way. If you can recall only the happy times, you will be a happier person.

Do you purr for God?

I have two cats, Shadow and Bowtie. Both males, both fixed (why do we say they are “fixed” when what we did is to make sure it doesn’t work anymore?), and both with different personalities. Shadow is an nudge, always crawling on the newspaper when we are reading it, always moaning at 0330 in the morning (it’s a miracle he is still alive!),  and Bowtie is the one who is the “good son”.

The other day I was petting Shadow and he started to purr. I did the same with Bowtie later in the day, and realized how often I do this. Yes, obviously they have me well trained, but here’s the interesting part: when I pet them and do good things for them, their purr tells me they appreciate what I am doing for them, and I start to purr. Not audibly, but in my heart. I like hearing them tell me how much they like what I do for them.

Then it struck me- God must also feel good when we tell and show Him how much we appreciate what He does for us.

I am not saying that God sees us as pets, but what He does for us is wonderful, and when we show that appreciation I just have to believe that he feels as good as I do, if not better, then when I hear Bowtie or Shadow purring as I do good things to them.

We don’t sacrifice lambs or bulls to show God our appreciation anymore because the Temple is gone, but we can sacrifice in other ways to show how thankful we are. We can sacrifice our time to help others through volunteering; we can sacrifice our income through charitable contributions to those organizations we know are really doing God’s work (so many charities seem to be doing good when you see their TV ads, but you need to be as wise as the Sages of old when giving to charities- make sure it is legit); we can also sacrifice our work time to be with family more often.

Yeshua told us that whatever we do to our brothers, we do to Him. And I don’t think He meant just fellow Believers; I think Yeshua and God want us to be kind and compassionate to anyone and everyone, whether they are a Believer or not.

So, nu? Do you purr for God? Do you show Him how much you appreciate all He has done, is doing, and has planned to do for you? It is all for your good, trust Him, and even when He throws you into the fire, it is to designed to make you (come out) more purified than before.

I challenge you all to think of one way you can “purr for God” today. Do something that you know will please the Lord- it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be honest and heartfelt and thankful. God loves a cheerful giver, and He is pleased when we do what is right, so go out there and purr loud and strong for God today.

Parashah Kedoshim (Holy) Leviticus 19 – 20

Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord thy God, am holy”

Powerful words, and the first words of this week’s Torah reading (parashah.) It is not a command to be as holy as God is, but to be holy because God is our God and He is holy.

To be holy doesn’t mean to be better, as a better person or a better Believer, but to be separated. To not do what others do, which may end up making us better, in a way. Better at being kind, better at being forgiving, better at being compassionate. Those are things which we should be ‘better’ at doing than others, and as such, we will be separated from the world.

The world is a cursed place, and those that live in it cannot avoid it. Just like walking through a field of sheep- no matter how carefully you step, eventually you will step into something. Living in the world, and having the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) from birth, we will step in more than just one something during our lifetime. We will wallow in it, at one time or another. That’s part of living, and even though we may be covered in dirt, we don’t have to be dirty. We can have dirt on our bodies but not be thinking dirty thoughts; we can carry the smell of the world on us but not be of the world.

It’s a tough balancing act, and we have God’s word and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as our balancing pole to keep us on that high wire.

This parashah is all about being holy- it is the User’s Manual for holiness. Leviticus 19:18 is what Yeshua based His entire ministry on: love your neighbor as you love yourself. Yeshua said that on this commandment, and also on the commandment to love God, pivot all the rest of the commandments and the lessons from the Prophets. If we truly love God, then we have no choice but to love each other, and when you love someone you do whatever you can to make them happy, to not hurt them (although we end up doing that anyway, don’t we?) and to forgive them.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. You’ve heard that, and I’m sure often, but did you ever think about how biblically accurate it is? It is, in essence, what we learn from the Torah- we are sinners who are sinful, but we also have the ability to rise above our nature and be more like God than like other people.

These chapters instruct us in moral laws, ritual laws, duties towards others, consideration for the needy, and prohibitions against hatred and violence towards each other.

Even the Christians who teach that ‘Jews have Torah and Christians have the Blood of Christ’ (who, by the way, taught everyone to obey the Torah) can agree that the laws in this part of Leviticus are still valid for everyone.

If you haven’t read these last chapters of Leviticus, please do so! Start in 18 and go to the end. It isn’t that hard to do, and if you have to miss one of your TV shows, tape the show or let it go. This IS more important.

The parashot from here to the end of this book tell us how to treat each other and how to act as God acts, which is all He wants from us. As Moshe said, it isn’t too hard to do, it isn’t so far away we can’t get to it or need to send someone to bring it to us; it is right here, within reach.

God’s hand is always stretched out to meet our hand when we stretch our hand out to Him, and the means to reach God is to read and honor His Torah. When I say to honor the Torah, I don’t mean to just recognize it as a wonderful thing;  when I say to honor the Torah, I mean you must obey it to the best of your ability. No!- not to the best of your ability, beyond your best! Too often saying ,”To the best of my ability” is already admitting failure. You need to live beyond what you are able to do: that is why we have been given the Ruach HaKodesh.

Humanly it is impossible to live beyond what we are, but with God, all things are possible. The Ruach is from and of God, and it lives in you, in me, and in all those who profess Yeshua is the Messiah and accept Him as their Savior. That is the only way to get past the flesh, and it is only available to those that do T’shuvah (turning from sin) and ask for it with a broken spirit and a contrite heart.

Everything you need to be happy is here, in the Torah, and especially (I believe) in these few chapters, which form the very foundation of Yeshua’s ministry. If you want to be happy, these chapters tell you how.


Where is God?

I saw an advertisement in the newspaper this morning that was titled, “Find Your Happy Place. It’s not that far away.” The ad was for locating activities in the area using the newspaper, but I thought about it in a spiritual way.

Where is our “happy place” in this world? Is there really is a happy place for Believers in this world? Shaul says that although we live in the world, we are not of the world. We are of God, so then shouldn’t our happy place be where God is?

Well, DUH!! Imagine- heaven is a happy place! Who wuddah thunk it?

For me, my happy place is where God is, and isn’t God everywhere? We know He’s omniscient, we understand that He is omnipotent, but I think we often forget that He’s omnipresent, too. His works and wonders are everywhere: in the sunset, in the fact that there is a sunrise, when we breathe, when we eat and get nourishment, when we pray and feel His spirit within us- you know, that “tingly” feeling that feels like a chill, but you aren’t cold? I know when I feel His presence because I cry. Not the loud, bawling type of cry. It’s the type of cry you get when there is a happy ending, when you feel a rush of endorphins, when the good guy gets the girl ( or vice-versa).

I feel like I have been washed clean, inside, and I am emotionally and spiritually relaxed like no hot tub or massage can ever make me feel.

Our happy place should be anywhere we are because God is everywhere.  In Biblical times people thought that the gods of the nations were geographically restricted. The gods of the Arabs were in their temples and their territories, the gods of the Babylonians were in Babylon, the god of the Israelites was in Israel, and so forth. Na’aman, the general we read about whose tzaraat was cured when he washed in the Jordan River, took dirt from Israel back to his country so he could worship the God of the Jews. Ezra and Nehemiah were allowed to rebuild Yerushalayim to appease their God by repairing His house. The people saw their gods as their property, assigned and restricted to the local areas.

The true God, Adonai, whose name is Y-H-V-H, is everywhere. He is not just everywhere physically, but everywhere in time, too. He was before the beginning of time, and will be after time is done.

It used to be we thought time was eternal and infinite, but with Einstein we now know time is relative. If time is not absolute, then we really can say, actually and not metaphorically, that God was before time, and that He will be after time is done. We will be there when time is no longer a factor of our existence. After all, when we are living in eternity, in infiniteness, without a beginnig and an end, time cannot be measured, ergo: there is no time.

But there will be God.

Peter Pan had to find his happy thought to fly; many people who meditate find a happy place, in their mind, to relax; we who worship God don’t have to look for a happy place or a happy time because it is here, it is now, and it is all around us. Our happy everything is God, and when we live, think, and breathe God we will always be in our happy place.

Oy! If only it were that easy, right? I think everyone reading this will agree with me up to this point, and we all (yes, me too)  have just one question: why don’t I feel the “happy” I should be feeling if God is all around me? Why am I sad, why do I get angry and frustrated, why can’t I be happy like that other person who always seems to have a joyful and happy disposition? What am I doing wrong?

Want the answer? ….so do I!

I don’t know why I allow my worldly feelings to control me. I ask God to show me how to call on His Ruach so I am happy all the time, so I always talk and act in a Godly manner, so that (as David asked) the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart will always be acceptable to God. I should be like Ebenezer Scrooge when he wakes up on Christmas Day and can’t contain his joy. We should all be like that, everyday of our lives, every minute. All we need to do when the darkness starts to enfold us is remember the light, remember that throughout Eternity we will be basking in God’s glory, His presence shining all around us, His Shekinah warming the very cockles of our heart, always, forever, never ending. Oy!! What a wonderful picture I just painted.

Then reality steps in.

You know, I am pretty much sick and tired of reality. I want “God-ality” instead of “real-ality” and I am going to start to live in God-ality more and more, until I am done with this world, altogether. Maybe you can join me?  Truthfully, it will be nearly impossible for me to do this- I hope and pray you have an easier time of it. I know that there are two things to remember: with God all things are possible, and when I am weak, that is when I am strongest. I will lean more and more on the Ruach, and call out to God for help and strength more and more often. I will try to be aware of my feelings, and those of others, to keep an eye out for the warning signs of real-ality creeping in. These are all things I will start to do right now.

I’m scared of this revelation and my determination to make it a part of my life: it will be hard. It means I can never let my guard down, never just “let it all hang out.” I will have more troubles and strife because when I ask God to strengthen my spiritual muscles, He does- He works them to death! I suddenly have all these problems and things go wrong. God pushes my buttons so that I learn to let go of what my nature wants to do and lean on His spirit within me for strength and to tell me what to do. Asking God to strengthen your spirit is asking for trouble, literally. That’s the only way to strengthen your spirit- you need to use it. It’s like a muscle that has to be developed. A muscle has to be strained past the breaking point, actually destroyed a little, so that it rebuilds itself stronger. That’s how body-builders get such big muscles: the muscle is worked so hard some of it actually dies. The body then rebuilds that muscle, and adds more to it. Result: small, weak muscles become bigger, stronger muscles.

So, to get to my happy place and stay there all the time means I will have more problems and strife in my life. The problems and strife will increase as my ability to remain in my happy place increases, until, eventually, no amount of tsouris will be able to overwhelm me. I will be in my happy place all the time, even when things aren’t going well.

Hmmmm….what the heck am I getting myself into here? I don’t know, but I think I am heading in the right direction. What do you think? I guess the only thing to do from now on is try, pray for help, and do as the Patriarchs did- go forth in faith. I don’t where I will end up with this, and I don’t know what I will have to pass through or undergo, but I am on my way. Pray for me, and pray for my wife, too. Sweetheart- I am afraid you will be dragged along on this trip, so get ready. Being with you is my favorite happy place in this world, and we will both be happier together with God.

A final word about “happy place” that comes from one of my favorite shows, “Harvey”. Jimmy Stewart is Elwood P. Dowd, a man who is friendly and happy and totally unfazed by the world. Humble and gracious, he hates no one and invites total strangers to dinner. Oh, yes- his best friend is a 6-foot tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey.  The part I like best is when he is talking to a young woman and tells her that when he was young, his mother said that in this world you have to be either very, very smart or very, very nice. He said for a long time he was very smart, and he recommends nice.

With God’s help I am on my way to a constantly happy place here on Earth. C’mon along.