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Monthly Archives: November, 2014

One Personal Thanks to Give

November 26th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

I try to be grateful every day, but Thanksgiving offers the opportunity to take a step back and focus on some things that are worth a second ‘thank you.’ Last April, my husband and I moved from the house where we lived for twenty-two years and into a new geographic location and home. The impetus for the move was being closer to our children and while we won’t have everyone with us around the Thanksgiving table, we joyously expect sixteen family members with no one having to set foot in an airport.

Deciding to make a huge move, as we did, is daunting. There were many reasons to maintain the status quo, among them good friends, a gorgeous neighborhood and thousands of books that would need culling. As it turned out, God’s Hand became so evident that we never actually decided to move; somehow, we were just doing it.

One guided step along the way took place when we began exploring what to do with the over three decades of married acquisitions.  Added to that was mountains of stuff accumulated during the years we raised and homeschooled seven children. While most of our belongings were well loved and not so gently used, we hoped to sell some of them with the rest forming donation and garbage piles. For this task, we placed an ad to see if we could find someone to take charge of that process for us.

After our first interviewee bailed, in walked a young man whose knowledge of furniture and electronics belied his youthful appearance. For two hours, I showed Justin around the house while he took copious notes. As we were saying goodbye, for some reason that I can’t explain, I remembered a piece of art that we had received as a wedding gift and that had remained in a closet since that time.

“Do you by any chance know anything about art work?” I asked.

“Actually, I do. My grandfather, William Cassius Goodloe, was an artist and I learned a great deal from him.”

At that point, I literally started shaking. William Cassius Goodloe, who passed away years ago, was indeed an artist. However, he was better known as a Washington State Supreme Court Justice. In our house, he was best known as one of my husband’s closest friends and as a deeply beloved poetry and art mentor to our young brood.

I quickly ran and retrieved an item I hadn’t shown the young man because I wouldn’t dream of selling it. It was Justice Goodloe’s leather art bag, with his hand painted Northwest scene on the side.  He had given it to our children for their supplies. When Justin saw it, he became visibly emotional.

A few minutes later, Justin was the proud recipient of his grandfather’s bag (the next week he reciprocated, presenting us with one of the Judge’s paintings) and we not only placed the disposal of our unwanted belongings in his hands but he also organized our entire move, loading, driving the truck and unloading with his own crew.

This serendipitous meeting was only one in a string of “coincidences” that led to our move, making it a truly blessed one. This year, it is one of the many kindnesses for which we give thanks.

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Action Man

November 25th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Have you noticed how many men seem allergic to something broken?  Often a man acquires a new car and the first thing he does is lift the hood to see if anything needs doing.  Perhaps he installs a police-radar detector or buys safety valve stem caps for his tires.  Here’s the secret: for men, engagement means action and action means engagement.  For men, connecting with someone or something usually involves action.

For a man to be happy at work, he needs to be recognized for solving problems.  The uniformed services attract men partially because they are action oriented. Men meeting one another shake hands, fist bump, slap one another’s shoulders or hug boisterously.  Women connect just as powerfully but a delicate kiss precedes the important, non-physical, animated conversation.  For women engagement often means talking.

If you still remain in any doubt on this male female distinction, just watch how much more actively and physically little boys play with their peers than little girls with theirs.  Or notice how women in marriage seek more conversation while men would like more physical interaction. Both want to engage with their spouses; each gender goes about it a little differently.

Young men who are perhaps insufficiently active in their business lives sometimes undergo dramatic change upon marriage.  God created males in such a way that it is impossible to enjoy ultimate connection with a wife without action on the part of the male.  This reality can spread benefit to every part of their lives, particularly financial.

Isaac, the first born Jew, appears in the opening verses of Genesis 21.  Strangely, for the longest time, we don’t see him doing anything or even saying anything.  Finally, when he is in his thirties, comes the seminal binding of Isaac upon the sacrificial altar. At the age of 37 for the very first time he speaks, asking, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” (Genesis 22:7)  Immediately after this comes Sarah’s death and burial.  There is a greater obligation upon a child to mourn and bury a parent than upon a man to bury his wife, yet Isaac is missing in action.

Next come selecting a wife for Isaac and, once again, the man of the moment is nowhere to be seen.  Abraham arranges all with Eliezer who subsequently finds Rebecca and brings her back (Genesis 24:1-61).

Finally, Isaac returns from a journey and goes out to the field to pray (Genesis 24:62-63).  He sees Rebecca and springs into action.

And Isaac took (Rebecca) into the tent of his mother, Sara, and he married her and she became his wife and he loved her…
 (Genesis 24: 67)

Isaac then becomes active, burying his father, Abraham, just as we’d expect.  He prays for his wife and they have two sons Jacob and Esau.  He relocates his family to Gerar, digs wells, and initiates a special blessing to his sons fifty-seven years before his death.  He sends Jacob away to Rebecca’s family and lives until 180, whereupon his two sons bury him.

What suddenly caused Isaac to become so active cementing his place as the second of the three forefathers of Israel?  The process of becoming a husband and a father changed him.  Indeed, Abraham sought out a wife for him but Isaac alone embraced Rebecca, brought her into the tent of his late mother, loved her and fathered her two sons.

I have often discussed how God built our bodies to reflect our spiritual realities.  I have explained about eyes and ears, and taught on the internal asymmetry and external symmetry of our bodies. Now, I will point out how God made human males sexually distinct from virtually all other male mammals.

Reproduction is made possible in almost every mammal male— including gorillas and baboons— by means of a rigid bone, called a baculum, which facilitates the mating process.  However, for human males no such material aid exists. Mating depends entirely upon the spiritual desire the man feels for his wife.  God wanted human male/female connections to be so much more than biological.  If reproduction is the only goal, a rigid bone coming into play is immensely useful.  However, if God’s main goal is for authentic connection on every level to take place between a man and woman, then a baculum would detract from the relationship, making it merely physical.

God’s design of the human male without a baculum ensures that the man is fully invested in the connection.  His mind can’t be elsewhere; if it is, there will be no connection.  He cannot be distracted or uninterested; if he is, there will be no connection.  Connection and engagement are linked to action.  That action only become possible if authentic connection exists. (In the case of rape or a prostitute or hook-ups, the sinful connection may be one of anger, scorn or selfishness, but it still takes the man’s total and complete attention.)

This connection between action and marriage that helps pinpoint Isaac’s becoming active, also explains the remarkable correlation between men, their marital status, and the amount of money they make.  In the United States, single men of every background are the poorest demographic in society.  Married men tend to be active and engaged and few things are better indicators of wealth creation.

Many more astounding connections in our amazing world are found in ancient Jewish wisdom.

Three Degrees of Separation

November 20th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

I don’t know if there is factual proof for the idea of “six degrees of separation,” stating that everyone on the planet can be connected to anyone else by no more than six contacts. Certainly, it seems reasonable to think that it would be more true within one country than, for instance, my being able to link to someone in the Mongolian Desert. However, when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people, I have to think that a maximum of three degrees of separation is quite likely.

We are, numerically, a very small people. A favorite sport at weddings, summer camp and other gatherings is ‘Jewish geography.’ Rarely, even on line at a kosher bakery, have I ever met anyone with whom I cannot find a connection. At summer camp one year, the girls in our daughter’s bunk took only one evening to find ways that all fifteen girls were related.

This means that when a terrorist attack takes place in the Jewish community, whether in Israel or around the world, it is personal. We know the neighbors and relatives of the men murdered and injured in Jerusalem this week. The 26-year-old girl assaulted and knifed to death at a bus stop last week was the cousin of close friends. The mohel who performed our grandson’s circumcision a few years ago was the father of a boy killed at school in 2008.

I’m not telling you this as a plea for pity. I am telling it to you, because like most Jews I grew up with the reality that in every generation there are people who want to kill Jews. Despite living in a blessed country at a wonderful time, I never took for granted putting my children to sleep with the relative assurance of a peaceful night. 

Yet, today’s twin enemies, radical Islam and radical secularism, are not only the enemies of the Jews. They are Christianity’s enemies as well. While clearly not every Moslem or secularist is radicalized, only those living in a bubble can pretend that terrorism is equally distributed among all religions. Only those who choose blindness can think that media bias, exemplified by CNN’s headlines after the synagogue massacre, was an innocent or atypical piece of propaganda.

I appreciate the heartwarming words of support and sympathy that we get when Jews are murdered. What I don’t think everyone has yet internalized is that the target is being drawn on us all. Not everyone has experienced being hated for his or her beliefs. Had Hitler succeeded in dominating the world, his well-documented hatred for Catholics and Protestants would have been unleashed. As it happened, he only got around to the Jews.

In the past, Catholics and Protestants have killed each other. Both have hated and persecuted the Jews. The past is not the present. There is a threat today that has already deeply infiltrated Europe and that is growing in America. When a massacre happens in a synagogue in Jerusalem, it is part and parcel of the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting, of 9/11, and even of what is going on in Ferguson, MO right now. Sharing in grief is a start, but we must move on to connecting the dots and taking appropriate and forceful action.

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When Noah and Abraham Met

November 18th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I know a lawyer who really wishes that he was a rabbi.  I also know a rabbi who really wishes he was a doctor.  Have you met the plumber who really wishes he was a poet or the bookkeeper who really wishes she was a ballerina?  The lawyer is doing nothing to change his profession and neither is the rabbi. The plumber only dreams of writing and the bookkeeper only dreams of dancing.

Do I hear you say, “No harm in fantasy”?  Wrong! Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that fantasizing makes us less happy with our reality.  Remember that lawyer harboring secret rabbinic dreams? Well, he’s less effective at his work.  That rabbi daydreaming of replacing his dark suit with green scrubs has no passion for his profession.  Deep down that plumber is dissatisfied with fixing faucets and as for that want-to-be ballerina, her clients get less of her enthusiasm than that faded old tutu in her closet.

Lingering thoughts of roads not traveled infiltrate all our minds, so how do we generate focused passion for what we actually are doing?

Let’s become flies on the wall for what must have been one of history’s most extraordinary meetings. First, we need a little Genesis arithmetic. Let’s say Adam was created at the beginning of year 1 and died in year 930.  (Genesis 5:5)

Ten generations later, Noah was born in the year 1056 and died in the year 2006 at the age of 950 years-old.  (Genesis 9:29)  Meanwhile, in the year 1948, Abraham was born, which means that at the time of Noah’s death, Abraham was 58 years-old.

Do you think it feasible that Abraham, a spiritual seeker, would not have sought out the elderly Noah?  It is impossible to fathom Abraham not seeking a meeting with the man whom God had directly instructed to build the ark and who was the living ancestor of everyone on earth.

What did they discuss?  They might have commiserated about their wayward sons, Ham and Yishmael.  That is merely conjecture, but they certainly must have discussed how and if they share their intimate relationship with God with other people.  Noah, presumably, would have argued against trying to influence others to recognize God.  When God warned of the impending destruction of humanity, Noah neglected the opportunity to attempt to persuade the population away from their wicked ways.  He merely built an ark and saved himself and his family.

Abraham, by contrast, chose another path. As his future unfolds, we see that he never missed an opportunity to talk to people about God.  He regularly invited strangers into his tent for a meal during which he shared his faith.  Unlike Noah who silently accepted God’s decree on humanity, Abraham argued with God in an attempt to save the inhabitants of the doomed city of Sodom.  Noah kept his relationship with God to himself.  Abraham went in a different direction.

Which man was more successful?  To be sure, Noah saved his family but Abraham launched a movement of God fearing and Bible believing people numbering in the millions, that even after the passage of thousands of years, endures to this day.

Talking enthusiastically about your work not only signals your passion but it also serves to augment the passion and professionalism you feel. Along with sharing what you do, here are nine more ways to increase your pride, passion and professionalism.

1.    seize responsibility and accept accountability for your work
2.    be punctual and reliable in all your work commitments
3.    be consistently pleasant and polite in all work encounters regardless of your mood
4.    speak and write like an educated adult
5.    be sufficiently serious as frivolity is not professional unless you’re a paid comedian
6.    dress with dignity
7.    expand your skills and improve them constantly
8.    never yield to your anger
9.    deliver more than expected

So banish those daydreams and enjoy whatever it is you do by becoming ever more professional about it.  Of course if you really mean to make a major life change, then don’t just dream of doing it; do it.  But if you are retaining your current occupation, you’ll discover unsuspected delights by embracing professionalism.  These delights will far exceed anything available through fantasies and daydreams.

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Language, Language, Language

November 13th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

Just as the first three rules of real estate are said to be, “location, location, location,” the first three rules of the new Republican Congress should be, “language, language, language.” Have you noticed that the opposition to the pro-life movement doesn’t call itself, “anti-life”? Instead, they speak of being pro-choice. Could it be because “anti-life” is a losing phrase?

Republicans on the other hand, don’t bother with language. They are against the minimum wage, they oppose equal marriage laws (gay rights), and they reject universal healthcare. When they support something, it is couched in neutral language. Republicans promote voter I.D. laws instead of “fair voting laws.” No matter what the content of bills the new Republican congress offers, the name of the bill just may matter more. Have you noticed that the pro-life movement did not roll over and adopt the language of anti-choice? They stuck to their principles and they insisted on framing the debate around life, not choice. The pro-life arguments are more popular now than they were two decades ago. Do you think that would have happened if it were the “anti-choice” movement?

It is vital that we insist on using our chosen name even when the opposition and the media don’t use it. The New York Times, The View and most of Hollywood and mainstream media do not want to make conservatives sound good or even reasonable. Letting them set the agenda is a losing battle. All Republican legislators need guidance on how to express their ideas. I once heard an illustrative story from the chair of a large state’s Republican Party. At a national meeting of the fifty state chairmen, she suggested that national Republican headquarters issue talking points. This would insure that certain phrases were carefully crafted and used universally. The terrifying response of someone extremely high up in the national party was, “What are talking points?”

Ideas only matter if people listen to them. Liberals promise utopia – better health care for more people at a lower price. Who could be against that? Obviously, only evil and selfish people. Before the average citizen, whose political views are formed by late night comedians, can even be slightly exposed to real-life facts, he needs to be willing to listen. Someone against raising the minimum wage is a greedy businessman, certainly not anyone who should be given the chance to make an argument. However, if instead of being against the minimum wage, Republicans have a counter suggestion, perhaps the “leg up opportunity” bill, more ears will pay attention.

Ted Cruz movingly tells of his father coming to this country as an immigrant who didn’t speak English. He got a job as a dishwasher and certainly didn’t earn enough to support a family. However, because his pay was so low, the restaurant owner kept him on rather than replacing him with a machine. That allowed him to prove himself as honest, responsible and eager to learn, someone worth advancement and more money. The job gave him time to hone his English skills. He did not stay at minimum wage for long. Before we can tell stories like Senator Cruz’ as indicative of why increasing the minimum wage might be harmful, we need to accustom people to listening. We can do that by being for opportunity, not by being against a living wage.

The election has provided Republicans with a slight opening to speak to the American people. They need to enlarge that crack and take advantage of it by speaking every single day in language that appeals to ordinary citizens. They need to do so through voices that appeal as well, which means that Mitch McConnell, John McCain and most other senior members should work hard in the background and let younger, more attractive legislators speak.  Let’s hope the Republicans do so. Otherwise, they will have squandered the chance to deserve a hearing in a national, presidential election two years from now.

Let Me Go, smallerOne place where language is meticulously constructed is the Bible (in Hebrew, naturally). Each word of Scripture matters and the story of leaving Egypt is full of strategies for dealing with our own struggles. If you haven’t heard Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt yet, get it by mail or instant download.

 

 

 

Power of Purpose

November 12th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

The international accounting giant, Deloitte, recently spent over $300 million educating its 50,000 American employees about its purpose.  This sounds a little touchy-feely for the world’s largest audit, tax and consulting firm.  They spent so much money in this way because they determined that companies that instill a strong sense of purpose in their people enjoy greater long-term success.  Deloitte felt confident that instilling a sense of purpose in their own people would better position them to do the same for their clients.

In Deloitte’s own words:

“What companies do for clients, people, communities, and society are all interconnected. A culture of purpose ensures that management and employees alike see each as a reason to go to work every day.”

When paraphrased for families, wouldn’t it be equally true?

“What a family does for its members, neighbors, community, and society are all interconnected. A culture of purpose ensures that parents and children alike see each as a reason to contribute to the family every day.”

But how exactly does one go about infusing businesses or families with a sense of purpose?  One of history’s most profitable and enduring enterprises is surely the people of Israel.  Lessons can be learned from its launch.

…thus said the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. (Exodus 9:1)

And Pharaoh’s servants said to him…Let the men go, so they may serve the Lord their God; don’t you realize yet that Egypt is destroyed?
(Exodus 10:7)

…Pharaoh…said to them, Go, serve the Lord your God, but who exactly is going? (Exodus 10:8)

And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds
(Exodus 10:9)

[Pharaoh said]…go now only you who are men and serve the Lord; because that is what you wanted to do…
(Exodus 10:11)

And Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, Go, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds stay…
(Exodus 10:24)

God planned to take the entire people of Israel out of Egypt—the young, the old and the middle-aged along with their material wealth in the form of livestock.  Pharaoh’s courtiers advised him to placate the God of the Hebrews by releasing part of the people, the men, males between twenty and sixty.

Considering that advice, Pharaoh asked Moses to clarify exactly who would go.  Moses answered unequivocally that it would be everyone as well as their possessions.  Pharaoh tried to limit the group to the men by arguing that only they are needed to worship God.  Moses rejected that offer and inflicted more torment upon Egypt.  At this point, Pharaoh made one last attempt to prevent an intact people launching their destiny by trying to restrict their economic freedom through retaining their livestock.  This offer was also rejected and after the final plague, an Israel left Egypt with all its population and all its possessions.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Pharaoh knew that Egypt was finished. His goal was to prevent Israel from becoming a powerful nation that would dim the luster of his legacy.  The best way to do that would be by depriving this incipient nation of its past (the elderly), of its future (the young), and of its economic vitality (the animals).  Pharaoh correctly knew that a bunch of people whose focus was only on today would soon be gone and forgotten.

This is manifestly true for a family which gains its sense of purpose from its past and from its future.  A home filled with the rambunctious noise of little children while also possessing the seasoned presence of wise grandparents automatically is fueled forward with a sense of purpose.

Likewise, a business is propelled forward by a sense of purpose gained by making its past and its future just as important as its present. Expanding its employees’ vision to encompass everything from its founding to its tomorrow makes their work today more satisfying and successful.

Few sections of Scripture are as well-known and underappreciated as the Exodus. These chapters are not only the story of Israel’s redemption thousands of years ago, but they also hold many keys to our individual redemption from difficult, stressful and trying times. We recorded Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt so that we could share these strategies, providing hope and direction. Available by mail or instant download, we pray it will bless your life.

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Breaking Trust

November 4th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

I hesitate to say this and hope it is not misunderstood or taken out of context, but there are times I don’t trust my husband. This has nothing to do with anything he says or does. It happens when a respected male community member turns out to be a pervert or when an esteemed pastor is caught in an act of lewdness or a revered rabbi is discovered to have a hoard of pornography. It happens when a neighbor, relative or friend betrays his wife and has an affair. Simply based on a shared gender with the scoundrels above, my confidence in my spouse gets shaky.

Does my husband likewise not trust me? The statistics for vulgar, sinful (and often illegal) behavior aren’t gender neutral. On the rare occasion that an abused wife kills her husband, I honestly don’t think my husband lies in the dark trembling. There is no equivalence with our marriage or me. The only similar concern would be if a female we love and cherish was discovered having an affair, and that hasn’t happened. Unfortunately, the reverse has.

My husband has never given me any reason to doubt his loyalty, fidelity or honor. Still, it shakes my trust when I hear a woman sobbing as she says about her spouse, “I can’t believe he would do this. I had no idea.” It makes me question if I am stupid or blind, even though I rationally know that her experience bears no relationship to mine.

In his oft-quoted poem, “No Man Is an Island,” English poet John Donne said, “… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” He could as well have said, “…any man’s sin diminishes me.”

Just as physical diseases are often contagious, spiritual diseases are as well. In the camp of the ancient Israelites, certain sinners were isolated so that they would not affect others. They were threatening society’s bonds and as such needed to be sent away. It is untrue that what one does in the privacy of his home or what consenting adults do is their own business. Second hand smoke may or may not be a danger. Second hand immorality most certainly is. This is not only because of the danger of contagion, but also because it causes good people to look at one another warily.

In a world that is exceedingly judgmental about the type of light bulbs we use or the car we drive, the shattering of traditional moral values seem to be the one thing people aren’t allowed to condemn. It is completely unfair for my husband to suffer from “guilt by association” with 50% of the world’s inhabitants or for a young woman to approach my son with suspicion for the same reason. Yet, that is the reality. They swim against the tide to be trusted. Not only must their own behavior be faultless but they must hold the men in their circles to a high standard as well. In today’s sad world, like Caesar’s wife, they must not only be honorable, they must also be above suspicion.

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