Quoting: Trust in G-d Brings Peace of Mind

What is “trust in G-d?” It is the realization that there are no accidents in the world, and that all aspects of a person’s life are guided by the Almighty. This includes life and death, food, clothing, children, job, house, and health. Trust in G-d requires that a person accept the will of G-d in all these areas since he knows that whatever the Almighty does is for his ultimate good. In this way, the person who trusts in G-d will constantly have peace of mind.

A person without trust in G-d, however, will tend to suffer even when things are going well – because of anxiety about the future. About such a person, King Solomon said in Proverbs: “All the days of those poor (in wisdom) are unhappy ones.”

Sources: see Chovos Halevovos 4:4,5; Chazon Ish – Emunah u’Bitochon 2:1; Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s Gateway to Happiness, p.81-2

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Why Captain America Reminds Me Never to Give Up

cat

Promotional image for the 2014 film “Captain America: Winter Solder.”

After all the you’re a racist if you don’t believe Colin Kaepernick gave up everything to be Nike’s “Just Do It” 30th anniversary spokesperson garbage a few days ago, I decided I needed to unwind and experience something to restore my spirit. So I again chose to dust off the DVD and watch the 2014 film Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Why, you ask?

I can’t find the quote online, but I recall that actor Chris Evans, who plays “Cap” in the Marvel movies, said something like “Captain America does good for the sake of doing good. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted to be as a man.”

That’s probably not exact, but I’m betting it’s pretty close.

In the film, he says stuff like:

I know I’m asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.

And…

Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

He didn’t act ashamed of America and, after all, the guy’s uniform is basically the American flag (I’d like to see someone try to stomp on or burn it while Rogers was wearing it). Steve Rogers is a living reminder why it’s okay to still believe that our nation is made up of people who do good and want to be even better.

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What’s Wrong with Putting Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories?

parallel universes

Found at numerous publications including TrendInTech.com – Not image credit available

I just finished reading a blog post called Of Permanent Things, Part II written by my friend and Holocaust educator Dan Hennessy. It reminded me of the importance of including religious and spiritual themes in fiction writing, including science (speculative) fiction and fantasy.

I’m in the process of producing first drafts of two novels. The first is about five children mysteriously transported into a fantasy world of dragons, demons, and elves having to undergo a heroic journey and facing danger and adventure at every turn. The second is about a fifteen-year-old African-American girl taking up her recently deceased Grandpa’s journey into a Steampunk world in order to help a younger version of her Grandpa stop a corrupt tycoon from destroying both of their universes.

While I don’t make it explicit in the fantasy novel, the five Davidson children are Jewish. No, they’re not observant, and aside from the occasional mention of praying (usually when the situation is very grim), I have, at best, cast them in the role of Reform Jews. Why I’ve made them Jewish as opposed to generic “white kids” will become apparent only in the latter portion of the third novel where their journey will be finally resolved.

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One Cold Saturday Morning

log sofa

© Fandango

He had to make a few trips from the house to the rough-hewn log bench his son had carved out for him. He took first his books and reference notes, then a pillow and warm blanket, and finally his large, steaming coffee mug.

He made himself comfortable in the center seat with his mug and books on the left, then took a sip of his coffee savoring the flavor.

Then he picked up his Chumash. He always studied alone both because he enjoyed solitude and because he had few if any like-minded companions. The older man found a greater appreciation of God sitting on the wood, beneath the trees and sky, feeling the chill of a winter’s morning. The world had grown cold, like the season, and only at home could he be free to acknowledge a Creator greater than humanity.

He opened the Chumash to where he left the bookmark and began. “Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines…”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 23, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

The “log sofa” actually looks pretty physically uncomfortable, particularly in winter, but it also looked “emotionally” comfortable.

When the weather is nice, on Saturday mornings, I take my Chumash, Tanakh, Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, and perhaps my NASB Bible and various study resources out onto the front porch to read and study. A cup of coffee also goes with me.

I don’t have log furniture, but I do have a wicker sofa and table I can use. It’s pleasant and warm in the morning sunshine.

Although my wife (who is Jewish) calls me a Christian, I study the Bible using the traditional annual Torah cycle and tend to interpret even what most people call the “New Testament” in a more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel perspective rather than what is preached in most churches every Sunday (which is just one of the many reasons I don’t attend formal worship services).

The Torah reading for this coming Shabbat is Beshalach from which I quoted the first sentence as found at BibleGateway.com (I used the NASB translation because the Stone Edition Chumash is not online).

My understanding is that Torah or Bible study is considered in Judaism as a form of worship and drawing nearer to God, so some of my Holiest moments occur on my front porch in the morning sunshine. I decided to create this sort of experience for my character as well, particularly given a world that indeed (my opinion) has gone cold to morality, decency, and devotion to the Almighty.

For those of you who have a different religious preference or who have none at all, what I’m presenting here is a personal perspective. I am not preaching or expecting to “evangelize” in any way. In the spirit of “inclusiveness,” if you don’t agree with my viewpoints, please allow me have them nonetheless, for as much evil as the mainstream media has blamed “religion” for, people of faith have also done a great deal of good. I’m not all that good, but having faith isn’t about being perfect. It’s about striving to become a better person toward other people by drawing closer to God.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Faith of Parents

flood

© A Mixed Bag 2013

“Thank God we stocked up on supplies before it got bad, Rick.”

“Must be the frustrated Boy Scout in me. Never want to get caught with my shorts down.”

Rick and Rachel Norman turned when they heard the giggling behind them. Their daughters, five-year-old Amie and her two-and-a-half-year-old sister Hannah were laughing. “Daddy’s shorts down,” Amie chuckled. The girls thought the idea was hilarious. As long as Mom and Dad were with them, they had nothing to worry about.

“You two squirts want breakfast?” Daddy pretended to chase the now squealing children while Mommy turned back to look out the window. The food wouldn’t last forever and the news said the devastating series of rainstorms assailing California had no end in sight. Years of drought and now this.

“No power, so it’s cereal again, kids.” Daddy served them with entertaining flourish getting the milk from the cooler. Like Rachel, he was worried too. They had to hold out until the rescuers came. News radio said Police and Firefighters were making sweeps of the different neighborhoods by boat, but they could only go so fast.

“Soon, God. Make it soon for the sake of our Babies,” he uttered his silent prayer.

Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction for September 10th 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200 even.

My wife is out of town and my son works weekends, so I spent all Saturday and Sunday with my two grandchildren. They can be a handful, especially my two-year-old granddaughter, but they are definitely worth it. Monday morning and back at work again. I won’t see them for at least another week, so of course they’re on my mind.

I know it would probably have made more sense to choose Houston, New Orleans, or any place in Florida as the scene of my disaster, but given the long-standing drought California has endured, I thought I’d “spread the wealth,” so to speak.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Cherry Blossoms Are Blooming

garden

© John Brand

I used to hate gardening, but that was before. Now I find it gives me a sense of peace. I remember that he liked gardening. He found it relaxing, even in the heat of the day, which used to drive me crazy.

I wear his old gardening hat. The brim shields my face and removes the glare from my eyes.

It’s springtime, the season of life. The cherry blossoms are in bloom. I have to clean them up of course, but now instead of just being work, it’s a duty and a privilege. I use his old wheelbarrow, the one that reminds me of the difference between belief and faith.

I hadn’t realized how deep his faith ran, while all I had to fall back on was belief and an intellectual’s arguments to defend it.

His death shook me in a way I hadn’t anticipated. It’s tremors disturbed my beliefs and threw me into the deep waters of faith. I drowned in that faith, and rose again like my Dad will someday in the resurrection, just like trees bloom again in the spring.

I wrote this as part of the Sunday Photo Fictioner challenge. The idea is to use the photo above as a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 183.

As some of you may know, my Dad died suddenly last Wednesday afternoon. My brother and I have been going through Dad’s things and our Dad never seemed to have thrown away anything. It’s been quite a chore.

But it has let us know our Dad in a way we never really did before. We discovered his passions, his habits, and how he saw his life. Unlike the story above, he wasn’t quite the avid gardener I’ve painted, but in viewing the green and growing things in my parent’s house, and now it’s my Mom’s house, I find hope for the future, a transition from belief to faith.

Oh, in the body of the story, I included a link to an essay I wrote based on a parable of a man who pushed a wheelbarrow across a tight rope. I think it is quite illuminating.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Why Don’t I Trust You?

trust“If you trust me, why are you so upset?”

“Are you out of your mind? Just look at what’s happening to me? How could you do this?”

They were sitting together on the edge of Mallorie’s bed in the dark. It was just after two in the morning but she couldn’t sleep. She barely ate. She hadn’t been to class in a week. She just stayed in her bedroom in an apartment she shared with two other girls, toggling between mind-numbing despair and panic.

“I never said bad things wouldn’t happen in your life, Mallorie. I just said I’d be here to help you deal with them.”

The young college student wiped tears from red, swollen eyes and tried to compose herself.

“I do trust you.” She started sobbing again, then forced herself to stop.

“I don’t know. Maybe I don’t. I mean if I did, why are my emotions so out of control? Please, please have mercy. I need to heal. My Daddy’s throat cancer need to heal and only you can help.”

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The Shadow Meeting

shadow

Image: Business Insider

From the Life and Curse of Sean Becker

“My name is Sean Becker and I’m a vampire. There, I said it out loud like I’m at some sort of Vampire’s Anonymous meeting. Satisfied?”

They met for the second time in a ground floor apartment in an abandoned tenement slated to be torn down. It was the first time he’d been to Pittsburgh, and from Sean’s point of view, the “pitts” part of this burgh fit perfectly.

Sean stared at the other and shuddered at the thought of the first time they met. This was the man, if you could call him that, who he hated more than anyone else on Earth. Sean wasn’t used to hating anyone. Before the change, he thought of himself as a pretty nice guy. Somewhere inside, he still was that guy, but the man who had tracked him down imposed something else on him, something horrible.

“I suppose you have a lot of questions.”

The other looked to be about fifty years old and spoke with a slight accent Sean couldn’t identify. He was totally bald, which in his case suited him. He dressed like what the kids call “Goth,” all in black, which also fit not only his appearance but his function.

“Starting with how you managed to find me. I thought I covered my tracks pretty well.” Sean had been running away from everything he’d ever known since he had died six months ago. Died that is, as far as his wife, kids, the rest of his family and friends all knew. Three days after death, in spite of being embalmed and buried, he rose again after sunset as one of the undead, a vampire.

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Ed Meets God in Church

church

Image: Clipart Panda

This is a continuation of the original short story First Encounter where Ed and Phil are introduced.

Ed Tillman crept into the worship hall like a thief.

He hated being greeted at the door of the church, he hated walking through the crowd of parishioners as they chit-chatted with each other while finishing off their coffee, and he hated the idea of sitting too close to other people in a pew.

So why was he going to Sunday services again?

Oh yeah, to have an encounter with God. It wasn’t going to be easy.

Ed was an introvert by nature and preferred to live alone. He got his wish when Cynthia, his ex, asked for a divorce. He missed his family, especially his two kids, but he didn’t mind being alone, strange as that might sound.

He found an empty place in one of the pews in back.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he could sit next to his friend Mark and his family, but they were on vacation visiting Mark’s in-laws. Ed hadn’t made any other friends at church so he was sitting in a large room with people who were pretty much strangers.

The rest of the church people were filtering in now. The service was supposed to begin in a minute or two. Ed didn’t look forward to the music, which he didn’t relate to. He definitely didn’t look forward to having to stand and pretend to be interested in shaking hands with his “neighbors”.

In fact, about the only thing he liked about going to church was the sermon. He always brought a pen along with his Bible so he could take notes. Maybe that was the closest he was ever going to come to meeting up with God at church.

“Hi there.”

A body dropped heavily into the pew right beside him.

“Phil?”

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First Encounter

liquor

Image: theguardian.pe.ca

Ed left church just as the service ended and headed to the nearest liquor store. He didn’t wait until the ushers came along to release people row by row. He didn’t wait until the Pastor was ready at the door to shake hands with each parishioner as they left. He just left. He needed a drink.

Ed Tillman, 44 years old, divorced, behind in his child support, absentee Daddy to 16-year-old Tiffany and 12-year-old Johnny. Yeah, his life was messy, really messy. One of the other Postal Carriers he worked with said he needed to find God. His friend Mark told him God could be found in church.

Ed was desperate enough and dumb enough to believe him.

As Ed pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall off of Meridian Road, he was still trying to figure out if God ever went to that church.

Oh, the people were polite, they were descent, they all got along. They went to the same picnics, attended the same Wednesday night Bible studies, and some even went on vacations together.

They were all so nice and squeaky clean. Ed wasn’t anything close to that. If God requires that you put on a suit, shake hands and introduce yourself to the people around you in your pew, and sing a bunch of really boring songs, then maybe God didn’t want Ed to find Him.

Standing in front of the display of the different brands of Vodka, Ed opened his wallet and checked how much cash he had left. Just barely enough. He’d memorized the price of a cheap 750 millimeter bottle including sales tax.

“How’s it going, buddy.” The guy behind the counter must have been about Ed’s age, maybe a little older. Long, dirty blond hair, ragged beard, tattoos on both forearms disappearing under his shirt sleeves, definitely not squeaky clean.

“Not bad.” Ed looked around. “Business is slow.”

“Yeah, no shit. You’re my first customer.”

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