REMEMBERANCE

It’s been a very long time, but here I am again at the Eastmanville Farm, in the cemetery enjoying the solitude. Maybe it’s better said that I am appreciating the solitude in such a location as this cemetery.  While my wife is busy painting the view overlooking the farm, I am again pondering the men and women; the residents and the keepers; and the boys and the girls who lived here. But especially those who died here and were buried here. The first time that I was here left an impression on me that has never left. I have this sadness for all those dead and forgotten by mankind. Untold multitudes in marked graves, but forgotten; those in unmarked earthen graves and forgotten; those in the watery graves of the oceans with their forgotten! So is the fate of most of mankind.

So here I sit on a bench in this restored resting ground, overlooking all the one foot tall concrete pylons which now mark the known graves. There are only four gravestones here, originals from the time of the burials. Four known people in the midst of many unknowns, whose existence is marked with a pylon. There is a memorial plaque with sixty-four names on it. A record of those known to have been buried here at the “POOR FARM”. At the bottom of these names is the sad observation that “others may be buried here”.

According to a beautiful and ancient Jewish custom, I put a small stone on each pylon and gravestone here. I also put a larger stone on the big memorial on behalf of all who were buried here…the known and the unknown.

Though I never knew any of you, today I remember all of you.IMG_0008IMG_0013

Advertisements

THE POOR FARM

It is early morning in mid-August at a new found painting location where my wife is practicing her craft. She is a “plein air” painter and hard at it recording the scene with oil paints and palette knife. I sit on my folding chair with my folding table next to me, covered with my daypack, Bible, magazines, paper, colored pencils, camera, binoculars, my Psalm of the week work-sheets and even my laptop.
We’ve driven by this place many times not knowing what a treasure this locale was. Eastmanville Farm is this treasure that I speak of. It was for many years the Ottawa County Poor Farm (created in 1866 and it eventually morphed into Community Haven in 1978) before being closed in 2000. Now a county park, the living quarters are gone but the barn, silo and a couple of out-buildings still remain.
Poor farms were at one time the norm in the United States, before social and sit on your ass welfare programs were instituted in the early 1930’s. This farm became home to the poor, the destitute, the old, the in-firm, the mentally disabled and those unable to live independently. Here they had a roof over their heads, were fed, and given chores around the farm as their abilities allowed.
Where I sit today, in the rolly landscape behind the barn, is peaceful and beautiful, full of birds and their singing with multitudes of crickets adding to the symphony that only God can write and direct. I look across a little dip in the land to the farm road which leads to the cornfields. Trees line this road and two trees in particular fascinate me. Two different apple trees, side by side, one loaded with yellow apples and the other with red.
I am awestruck with the idea that the farm residents ate apples from those very same trees, probably made apple pies in the kitchen, and then ate them with the other residents at mealtime. Here I am, in 2014, and able to partake in eating apples from those long-lived trees. I am able to share in the history of this place with a snack from a tree! My taste buds can experience the same joy that unknown numbers of residents, over the course of decade after decade, were able to enjoy. Here at the Poor Farm, among a beautiful, rolling landscape, I touch history…or better yet…become a continuing part of history with my apple, walking where the residents walked, among the hills where the cows and sheep roamed.

IMG_4091

IMG_3302

SYNCRETISM

Syncretism is a very troubling problem that has plagued Christianity since the earliest days

of the Jesus Movement. It seems that syncretism is a human condition that goes all the

way back to Adam and Eve! As we have studied and focused on the peoples, cultures and

nations that make up our history as it is recorded in the Bible, maybe we should take an

assessment of who we are and the job that we have done here in these modern times. It is

impossible to study the “Old Testament” or the “Tanakh” as it is called in Judaism without

seeing all the failings of those who have preceded us. God wants us to see and to learn

from our lineage; not to condemn or to belittle the Chosen of history (and of all Eternity).

Those precious words, our Holy Scriptures, are there for us to see and recognize that we

also are all too often just as weak. How would we appear, in the eyes of the whole universe,

if we were compared with King Jehu of the Northern Kingdom of Israel? He was the king

who destroyed the dynasty that brought pure Baal worship to the people. He was the king

who brought back the God of Israel to the people. But, he was the king who didn’t go far

enough.He brought back worship of God with the ways of Baal!

Where are we today as a movement? Where are we as representatives of the One True

God? Is our religious observance as pure as what is required? That is a question for you

as an individual as well as a member of the larger movement. As for me, this Christian

shall continue observing the appointed times of the Lord. Passover starts this afternoon

and the Feast of Unleaven Bread begins at sundown. I shall observe the Early First Fruits

on the third day.

Where are the Levites?

WHERE ARE THE LEVITES?
As I’ve been studying out the city of Shechem these past few days, I came
up with a horrifying insight, one very troubling and applicable for today within the Community of God. Where are the Levites? Strange as that question may sound, they are nowhere to be found in a place they’re supposed to be. In the Torah, God commanded that the Levites be given forty-eight cities among the children of Israel. Of those, six were to be cities of refuge and Shechem was one. Except for the stirring episodes of the Covenant renewal ceremonies of Joshua 8 and 24, Priests and Levites are absent at all other times. These men, chosen by God to represent Him,ones’ whose duty was to teach the people the ways of God through words and deeds. Absent.
This absence of the Word of God and of the men of God left an opening for something other than what is good and right. After the death of his father Gideon, Abimelech decided he wanted to be king of all Israel. The kingship had been offered to Gideon and his descendents by the men of Israel years before, but Gideon wisely declined by stating that neither he nor his sons after him will rule over Israel but that the LORD shall rule over them all. Yet Abimelech elevated himself to where he wasn’t meant to be. And he persuaded his mother’s father’s family and they persuaded the leaders of Shechem and they the people. Thus Abimelech became king over Israel for three years and brought about judgment by God on all those involved who rejected God as King. Many, many people died and Shechem was leveled as a result of covetous desires and foolish choices. If only the teachers of the Word of God had been in Shechem, the people might have responded differently. How about where you live? Are there teachers there? Are you the teacher? By words and deeds? Or will your city end up someday as rock and stone ruins in an archaeological park surrounded by a fence? Will your city become like Shechem?

The Mural at Beni Hasan

THE MURAL AT BENI HASAN
A rare visual insight was left to us from the time of the 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Sesostris II (ca.1892 BC). Found in a tomb is a mural that is both painted and inscribed with the highlights of an ancient provincial Governor. One highlight is a visit from the “Aamu” or “Asiatics” of Syro-Canaan . The mural records life as the Egyptians saw it. The Egyptians distinguished themselves from non-Egyptians by the color that they painted the skin. Red is for Egyptians, Nubians have a darker skin and yellow is strictly for the Mediterranean world foreigners. Clothing is distinct with the Egyptians wearing the traditional white linen kilt and the Asiatics mostly clothed with very colorful and intricately patterned robes and kilts. The Asiatics were known for regularly crossing the Sinai from Canaan into Egypt and the mural shows travel by donkey and foot. The inscription records thirty-seven people in this group and that they brought stibium with them. Stibium is a black cosmetic prized by the Egyptians for use as eye paint. The donkeys appear to be carrying carpets or rolls of colored cloth and metal working tools. Perhaps this is an extended family of traders and travelling metal workers. Egyptians were usually clean shaven on both the face and the head, but depicted here wearing wigs, which were for special occasions, as well as having the “royal” goatee. The Asiatics have full heads of hair and full beards without mustaches. This Egyptian mural illuminates the people and histories to be found in the Bible. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob crossed the Sinai into Egypt. They were welcomed, but still foreigners. They were wealthy like traders would be. The mural sheds light on Joseph’s coat of many colors. His clean shaven face and head while wearing a wig, a royal goatee and black eye paint reveal why his brothers couldn’t recognize him. The murals large group is reminiscent of Jacob and family coming to Egypt. This Egyptian mural is a testimony of the cultural and historical truths of their day. On how they saw the Asiatics –the contemporaries of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Patriarchs of our faith.

Bibliography
Byers, G (2009). The Beni Hasan Asiatics and the Biblical Patriarchs, Bible & Spade.

Honey or Sting?

The Sages say, in Sefer Rabasi, that Moshe began with eileh ha’davarim  (these are the words) because the Torah is compared to a bee, whose honey is sweet and whose sting is poisonous to man. The Torah likewise is an elixir of life to those who heed, and a deadly poison to those who do not.

                    Tz’enah Ur’enah on Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1:1