Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Miriam, a Prophetess and Leader of Women



Ex. 2:4–8; 15:20–21
Num. 12:1–1520:1; 26:59
Deut. 24:9
Micah 6:4

Her Story:

Miriam was born in Egypt during the time that the Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians and the Egyptians, fearful or the Hebrew's numbers, were systematically killing all newborn Hebrew boys. Miriam was from the tribe of Levi and was the daughter of Amram (see Numbers 26:59) and Jochebed, who was the daughter of Levi (see Exodus 6:20; Numb 26:59).

When her mother Jochebed had a baby, Moses, they hid the baby for three months from the Egyptian guards. When they could no longer keep Moses hidden and they "took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therin" (Exodus 2:3) and then Jochebed put the ark in the reeds by the river's edge. Then Miriam "stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him" (Exodus 2:4). Eventually, the daughter of Pharaoh came to wash herself in the river and found baby Moses in the reeds. She recognized him as Hebrew baby (he would have been circumcised) but she "had compassion on him" and decided to keep him as her own. At this point Miriam came forward and asked, "Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?" (Exodus 2:7) Pharaoh's daughter told her yes and Miriam went and brought Jochebed back to the princess. Pharaoh's daughter told Jochebed "Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages." (Exodus 2:9). Jochebed was then able to take Moses back to her home and nurse him until he was weaned.

The next time we meet Miriam she was among the children of Israel as they left Egypt and fled the pursuit of the Egyptian chariots. After they miraculously passed through the Red Sea on dry ground, and the " the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea" (Exodus 14:27), the children of Israel celebrated and praised God through singing and dancing. Moses took the lead in these songs singing, "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him" (see Exodus 15: 1-19). In addition Miriam, who is called  "the prophetess", took a timbrel and all the women of Israel , "went out after her with timbrels and with dances." (Exodus 15:20). She led them singing, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." 



Next we see Miriam in Numbers 12 when she and her brother Aaron "spake against Moses" because he had married and Ethiopian woman. Both Aaron and Miriam disapproved of Moses' actions and protested saying, " Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?" (Numb. 12:2). The Lord heard their protests and spoke to Moses, Miriam and Aaron in the tabernacle explaining to them that He had only called one Prophet and that, "...With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold." (Numb. 12:6-8) After this encounter with the Lord Miriam was stricken with leprosy. Aaron and Moses both plead to the Lord on her behalf. The Lord granted their petition but before she was healed Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days before returning to travel with them. The last we hear of her is her death (Numbers 20:1) where she was buried.

Speculations About Her:



In the Book of Jasher it says that Miriam is the reason that Moses was born because,
"... the spirit of God was upon Miriam the daughter of Amram the sister of Aaron, and she went forth and prophesied about the house, saying, Behold a son will be born unto us from my father and mother this time, and he will save Israel from the hands of Egypt. And when Amram heard the words of his daughter, he went and took his wife back to the house, after he had driven her away at the time when Pharaoh ordered every male child of the house of Jacob to be thrown into the water. So Amram took Jochebed his wife, three years after he had driven her away, and he came to her and she conceived." (Chapter 68:1-3)

The Book of Jasher also gives more insight into what may have happened between Miriam and Pharaoh's Daughter. It says,
"And God sent forth at that time a terrible heat in the land of Egypt, which burned up the flesh of man like the sun in his circuit, and it greatly oppressed the Egyptians. And all the Egyptians went down to bathe in the river, on account of the consuming heat which burned up their flesh. And Bathia, the daughter of Pharaoh, went also to bathe in the river, owing to the consuming heat, and her maidens walked at the river side, and all the women of Egypt as well. And Bathia lifted up her eyes to the river, and she saw the ark upon the water, and sent her maid to fetch it. And she opened it and saw the child, and behold the babe wept, and she had compassion on him, and she said, This is one of the Hebrew children.
 And all the women of Egypt walking on the river side desired to give him suck, but he would not suck, for this thing was from the Lord, in order to restore him to his mother's breast. And Miriam his sister was at that time amongst the Egyptian women at the river side, and she saw this thing and she said to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and fetch a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?"  (Chapter 68: 15-21)
Miriam's presence "among the Egyptian women" at the river, and her bold conversation with Pharaoh's daughter make me suspect that she may have been among the Hebrew slaves employed in and around the Pharaoh's household. Also we know that Jochebed didn't  haphazardly send her son down the river, Exodus says that she laid the ark in some reeds. It makes me wonder if perhaps Miriam and Jochebed, being acquainted with the princesses's heart,  didn't strategically placed the ark somewhere where she'd be likely to find him.

Also, later in Miriam's life she would be called "the prophetess" a title indicating that she was possessed with the gift of prophecy. It is amazing to me that, if the Book of Jasher is correct, Miriam seems to have possessed the gift of prophecy from a very young age. It was her ability to be aligned with the will and mind of God that prompted and encouraged her parents to have the faith and courage to have another child. It was because of her righteousness that Moses was born, and thus that Israel was delivered. By small and simple things great things are really brought to pass.

My Thoughts:


Miriam is a fascinating character in the Old Testament. Not only does she play a central role in preserving Moses' life but she also is a prominent figure in his ministry, leading, teaching, and prophesying to the children of Israel. She is an incredible female role model and it is easy to see why in New Testament times the most popular name for Jewish girls was "Mary", the Greek form of "Miriam."

It is evident by the way in which Miriam leads the women of Israel, and her title as a prophetess, that she held some important religious position among the children of Israel. Tradition has it that Miriam was the leader of the Israelite women, while Moses and Aaron were the leaders of the men. In fact, Miriam's leadership position among the congregation was so solid that the prophet Micah,  in reminding his people about their deliverance from Egypt, listed Moses, Aaron and Miriam as Israel's leaders.  He wrote:
"For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam." (Micah 6:4)
Miriam's inclusion in the this list is fascinating to me. We can easily understand the leadership roles of Moses and Aaron-- Moses was the Prophet and Aaron was his counselor and spokesman. Yet, Miriam's leadership role is a bit more ambiguous. Her leadership of the women during the song suggests that she had  position specific to women. Also, her confrontation with Moses about the right to receive prophecy (in Numbers 12) and her title as a "prophetess" (for more on prophetesses see "Huldah") indicates that she had a leadership role where she received revelation and direction from the Lord. 

In fact, to me her role sounds much like what the General Relief Society president is today. We know, through the Prophet Joseph Smith,  that God's priesthood organization for women (what we today call the Relief Society) is an ancient organization that has existed in past dispensations. President Eliza R. Snow, the second president of the Relief Society, taught this about Relief Society, “Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the church anciently.” (Eliza R. Snow, “Female Relief Society,” Deseret News, Apr. 22, 1868, 1; punctuation standardized.) 

Also, President Lorenzo Snow, in speaking to a group of Relief Society sisters, said, “You have ever been found at the side of the Priesthood, ready to strengthen their hands and to do your part in helping to advance the interests of the Kingdom of God.” (Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society. pg. 7)

Knowing that an ancient organization for women, led by women, may have existed anciently in the time of Moses can shed some light on the leadership role Miriam had among the children of Israel. Her role prophesying and leading, specifically leading the women, is similar to what modern women do in their capacity as Relief Society presidents and counselors. Understanding this can also help us better appreciate the leadership roles that women have today with the LDS church. They are not "token"  or  "fluff" roles to keep the women busy while the men do their priesthood responsibilities, they are positions of real spiritual power and authority. Women have the same ability to prophesy, lead, teach, bless, heal, and work miracles as men. They are men's spiritual equals... in everything.

It is also especially fascinating to remember that all three of them-- Moses, Aaron and Miriam-- were Levites, the tribe given the responsibility to hold the priesthood and administer the ordinances of the Tabernacle. This is interesting because it seems that God was organizing His church, and priesthood authority,  through them. We might make a chart that looks like this: 

Moses-  Melchizedek Priesthood Authority
Aaron-- Aaronic Priesthood Authority
Miriam-- Relief Society/Sisterhood/Priestess Authority

Moses led the children of Israel as the Prophet, the high priest of the church who held the keys of  the Melchizedek Priesthood. Because of their wickedness the Children of Israel did not get to hold this priesthood but instead the tribe of Levi was designated to hold and administer the Aaronic (or lesser) priesthood, which is what Aaron and his sons did when they were washed and anointed (see Exodus 29). While we don't have any specifics about what Miriam was called to do it seems likely to me that she was the leader of God's ancient organization for women, a position in which she truly would have been "the prophetess" leading, teaching, and guiding  not only the women but also all the Children of Israel. Miriam is evidence that the organization of God's church, and the organization of His priesthood, is never complete until the women are also organized. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, "I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” (From Eliza R. Snow's Relief Society Minute Book

An organization that women are still participating, leading, and prophesying in today! 


There is more to Miriam's story! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post. 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Forgiveness is Complicated by Leslie G. Nelson


Forgiveness is complicated. As a survivor of severe childhood abuse, it is a topic I have spent much time considering. Forgiveness is beautiful, but it is often not easy to understand or apply to our lives. Part of the problem is that when people discuss forgiveness, they have different definitions in mind. To one it may mean reconciliation, while another might not see reconciliation as necessary. Some counsel “forgive and forget,” unaware that this quote comes from Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” and not from the Bible. An oft repeated message is to forgive in order to have peace. But what does that mean? To some it means to not seek retribution. But is that always appropriate? Should we not seek to put offenders in jail?

I struggled for a long time to figure out my own definition of forgiveness. The dictionary says it means to absolve from guilt. Does that mean telling my abuser that what he did is okay? I could never do that. It’s not okay, and it never will be. After discussing it with others, I had an epiphany. Forgiving someone does not mean saying, “It’s okay that you did this.” It means “Your offense can’t hurt me anymore.” That is an enormous difference.

The path to getting there may vary depending on the offense. Forgiveness is not a one-size-fits-all principle. To more fully understand this let’s begin with a story from the Old Testament. In Numbers chapter 21 we read the trials of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites were afflicted by “fiery serpents,” and many died. Scholars have different opinions about what those fiery serpents may have been, from symbolic to different sorts of actual creatures. To me, serpent means snake, so for our purposes we will view them as snakes.

Imagine for a moment that we are those Israelites, and we have been bitten. Brigham Young said, “There are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt the follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.”[i]

Notice what he said about getting the venom out. That is a crucial step in healing. To understand how this compares to emotional healing and forgiveness we need to understand a little more about snake bites and venom.

A bite can range from a minor wound to a life-threatening emergency. Some snake bites leave no venom at all. This could be compared to when someone cuts you off in traffic, it is annoying, but the frustration is minor and temporary. When the snakes do have venom, there are three different types cytotoxic, hemotoxic and neurotoxic. Some snakes (and emotional wounds) have a combination of toxins, making their venom more deadly.


Cytotoxic venom affects the local area cells, tissues and muscles. In this category, I place things such as the disagreements and quarrels we have with our family members or friends. Although these conflicts have the potential to cause harm, like cytotoxins the effects stay local and are fairly easy to remedy.

Hemotoxic venom attacks the heart and cardiovascular system. It affects the blood’s clotting ability and is deadly if not treated. This is comparable to those things that cause us tremendous grief (heart pain). An example of this is the tragic Amish story from 2007. A man stormed into a one-room schoolhouse and shot ten young girls, killing five of them. He then turned the gun on himself. Another example is Chris Williams, who lost three children and his pregnant wife in a car accident with a drunk driver. This damage is serious and the results long lasting.

Neurotoxins affect the brain and nervous system, results in paralysis, seizures, incoherence, respiratory failure and eventually death if not treated. In this category I place trauma (whether natural from disasters or man-made as in war) and all forms of abuse because these may cause psychological damage. These survivors often suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, self-harm, dissociative disorders, suicidal ideation. The damage is wide-spread and long lasting.

Just as snakebites can have a combination of venoms, sometimes our wounds have a combination effect also. A hemotoxic emotional wound can also cause PTSD. A neurotoxic wound also causes grief.

We can begin to see why forgiveness is so complicated, because our pain is complicated. The Amish community stunned the nation by forgiving the man who robbed them of their children. Chris Williams forgave the teenage boy responsible for his accident. In both cases, the act of forgiveness is both beautiful and admirable. However, people sometimes share these stories with the implicit message: If they can forgive, so can you.

That message can be damaging. All wounds are different. The healing is different, too. Letting go and forgiving immediately can be the right answer for some situations. It can rid people of the venom so their heart can begin to heal. That is powerful. However, in the case of neurotoxic wounds, asking a survivor to forgive prematurely may leave them full of damaging venom that needs to first be cleansed in order for them to truly have peace. Wendy Ulrich, PhD was referring to this when she said, “To forgive prematurely can close doors to the important realities that pain can open.”[ii]

We cannot rush the process of emotional healing. Just as we cannot will a broken leg to mend, or cancer to leave our bodies, we can’t just say, “I forgive” and expect that PTSD or other emotional neurotoxins will go away. Still there is hope. With the Lord there is always hope. Christ who gave blind men sight, and caused the lame to walk, can help us to be healed as well.

Now let’s return for a moment to the story of Moses and the fiery serpents. Remember that after many people had been bitten and died, the people cried for help. Moses was instructed to wrap a snake around a brass pole and raise it into the air. All that would look up at it would live. This was symbolic of the Savior being lifted up on the cross, and all who would look to Him would live.

This has special meaning for all of us who have been bitten by snakes. It is a reminder that we don’t have to first forgive to be accepted by the Savior, as if He is standing on the sidelines waiting for us to get our act together. He is willing to take every step of the journey through the wilderness with us. He is ready to help us be rid of the venom so that we can be healed and then forgive (not be in pain anymore). By looking to Him, we can find a new life. If you aren’t ready to look to Him yet, it’s okay; He understands. He will wait until we are ready.

[i] As reported in Marion D. Hanks, “Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love
[ii] Forgiving Ourselves, Wendy Ulrich PhD, Deseret Book


Leslie G. Nelson enjoyed a close personal relationship with the Savior that helped her through many difficult personal trials, but when memories of childhood sexual abuse surfaced, she found herself ashamed to approach Him. In Touching His Robe, she shares the insights gained on her journey with the sensitivity and clear communication she acquired during years of teaching women and youth at church and while working in a halfway house, juvenile detention, and a group home for abused children and teens.


I'd highly recommend her book! She has some beautiful insights and, while I couldn't relate to all her experiences it gave me insight into how to empathize and help those I know who have suffered from abuse. And I LOVED her application of the story of the woman with an issue of blood... it is POWERFUL.  You can buy "Touching His Robe: Reaching Past the Shame and Anger of Abuse" on Amazon. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five Things for Friday, Super Busy Summer Edition

--1--

I promise that I am not dead or missing in action. 

This summer has been wild and busy. I've had ideas and posts buzzing around in my head all month but hardly a moment to sit down and write. Mostly it is because I've been in the final stages of getting my book Walking with the Women of the New Testament completed and sent off to press. It has been a whirlwind month as I've worked with the editors and designers at Cedar Fort to get the book ready for its publishing deadline... but we did it! 

Jon snapped a shot of me stewing over a final draft of the book
This week the final draft was sent off to the printing house. In a few weeks we should have the first "proof" to look over and then it will be sent off for its first printing and should be in stores (and online) by Thanksgiving!

The reality of this book still  hasn't hit me yet. I don't know if it will until I have a real copy in my hands.

Then I might cry.

Because really.... this book is amazing. I know I am biased... but really it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. A few days ago, when I finally stopped searching for all the errors, I just sat back and marveled at what the book was.

Let me just give you a taste.



And there is 300 pages of this,  with over 80 women included! But don't worry there are LOTS of pictures, so it doesn't feel that long.

It is beautiful, powerful book and I can't help but feel that it might be life changing for some women. To open this book and meet all these New Testament women-- women whose lives bear testimony to the divinity of womanhood and of God's love for ALL women. Looking in their eyes, reading their stories, imagining their lives, and relating them to yours is a powerful journey and one I am SO excited for more people to take.

So thank you for hanging in there with me as I've neglected my blog to work on this project.

It was worth it... trust me.

--2--

Finishing up the book this last month has been harder because we've been on vacation for the last few weeks. We took a long trip to visit my family in Idaho and Jon's family in Utah. It has been so wonderful to spend time with some many people that I love. I also got to meet my first (and only) nephew for the first time, and "gooshed" his fat little cheeks to my hearts content.

Cousin attack! 

Blessing day! I love his little Marine hair style. 

 I feel like my "love bucket" is getting filled to overflowing. Which is good because I need to store it up. I love Iowa-- and I know that is where God wants us-- but it has been SO HARD to be away from family. 














We are headed home this weekend and it is kind of bitter sweet. Bitter because as soon as I get home I know I will miss my family again, but Sweet because we will be headed HOME. And the one thing I've realized this trip is that Iowa really is our home. I love Utah and Idaho, but we aren't suppose to be there right now. Iowa is where we are suppose to be and there are so many things I love about it. When I think about our beautiful home, our wonderful ward, and our amazing friends there I really feel so blessed.  It will be nice to get home and back to my garden, which hopefully is overflowing with zucchini and cucumbers right about now!

--3--

Look what Tabitha learned to do on our trip!

video

She took her first steps for my Mom about a week and half ago and made her Grandma so proud. She has quickly been getting much better and is cruising all over the house. She is 10 months old, the youngest of my children to walk. Which in my opinion is much too young to be mobile. 

Life gets harder the more they can move!


--4--

A friend introduced to me to Dressing your Truth a few weeks ago ( if you aren't familiar with it this link might help you make a bit more sense out of the rest of my post). At first I was skeptical. I signed up for her emails and watched the energy profiling videos she sent, but wasn't really convinced. I had a hard time figuring out which one I was, and actually thought I had to be unique and be a mix of all of them (if you know the system, you can probably guess which type I am by now :). After watching the videos I was talking with my friend about them and told her how I didn't know which type I was.

She told me she thought I was a Type 1, to which I despairingly blurted out, "I know! But I don't want to be a  Type 1." In my mind I had judged Type 1 energy as ditsy, childlike and silly. I judged Type 1 women to be everything that I didn't want to be.

We went through my closet and I realized that I mostly had black (which is a Type 4 color). I didn't realize I owned so many black things! In Carol Tuttle's book she talks about how many Type 1 people start wearing more black as they get older because they want to me taken more seriously. Seeing my closet  full of black was a powerful realization that what I saw as my weaknesses-- my enthusiasm, my excitement, my random nature and even my inability to get through a church meeting without commenting more than once-- were really my strengths. In my desire to be taken seriously-- to convince people that what I had to say was important-- I was trying to suppress my light and was holding back the love and joy that wanted to bubble out of me. When I realized that I didn't have to hold that back, I bawled. Maybe it sounds silly, but it was powerful for me.

My friend challenged me to just try dressing my truth for a few days and see how I felt. I gave it a try and found that when I got dressed in bright colors, with dangly jewelry I felt REALLY good. I looked in the mirror and just smiled, and smiled, and smiled. I felt like I could conquer the world. I also felt so cute and I noticed that people were giving ME compliments, not my clothes. Instead of, "oh that is cute shirt" I got, "wow, you just look so cute" and " you look so good today." Over the next few days I  felt parts of me surface that I hadn't allowed to come out for years and it felt incredible. After a few days I took all my Type 2, 3 and 4 clothes down the basement. Then I went to the Goodwill and for $65 got a whole new bright, happy wardrobe.

Just as an example. Here is me the week before I started the Dressing Your Truth. I look nice and happy, and felt good about myself. But as you can see I was wearing dark colors (which would look awesome on a Type 4) and this is what most of my wardrobe consisted of.



But here is me two weeks later (with my friend Lani) after doing Dressing Your Truth. I don't know if you can see it, but I can see a huge change. There is joy, energy and light in me that wasn't being expressed before. 


Realizing that is is okay to be me-- and it will always be okay to be light, happy and fun no matter how old I get-- has really be a life changing realization for me. If you aren't familiar with Dressing Your Truth I'd highly recommend it. I don't know that everyone needs it-- or is ready for it-- but I know for me it has been incredible. It is like someone took down the wall around my heart and gave me permission to be myself... and I am a bright, animated, optimistic woman; full of sunshine and joy that bubbles out of my heart.

And it feels so wonderful to be me.

--5--

I have been wanting to write a post about our homeschool year in review, but it hasn't happened. Maybe sometime I will get around to telling you about all the things that went well for us this year... and the things that didn't. Mostly though, I just want to share with you that our first year of homeschool went REALLY well. It wasn't perfect, and there were days (lots of days) I wanted to quit and send the kids on the bus-- or to Timbuktu forever-- but overall we had a lot of fun.

We really had some wonderful times together and every once in awhile we would have a stellar learning experience. Like the time when, right in the middle of a lesson on birds, we looked out the window and saw a Cooper hawk sitting in our driveway--- which had caught and was in the process of eating Rose's favorite Bantam chicken. After the tears stopped, it  was a lesson on predators and birds the kids will never forget. Or the the day we read "The Secret Cave", all about boys who discover pre-historic cave paintings in France, and made a cave under our dinning room table and spent the whole morning taping cave drawings to the underside of the table. Or the day when Asher realized he could read and write words and spent a whole week writing the words "fat bat" on everything, only to end up in tears later when he wanted to write his Dad a birthday card but only knew how to write "the fat bat sat" and nothing else.

Those are moments I wouldn't pass up for anything.

So even though I don't think we'd pass for the model homeschool family, I think we are going to keep at it. It has been so good for my kids, for me and for our family. It is a life style that works well for us, and brings a lot of joy into our home... most of the time.

I have some new plans and ideas buzzing around in my head for this next year... and I am starting to get really excited about starting school back up in a few weeks for both Asher and Rose (first grade and Kindergarten). I feel more experienced already and am okay knowing that at least half of what I plan will be a total flop... but that it is totally fine.

I am starting to trust the process much more and trust them... they really have inquisitive little souls and I am finding all I have to do is provide the wood and the tinder and they can get a fire going fairly easily. Keeping that fire going can be a challenge... but I hope that I will get better at that part as we go along.

Love you all and I hope you have a most a wonderful weekend!

I am including a linky list this time because I have REALLY missed making new blog friends through my Five Things for Friday posts. So, if you'd like to write your own Five Things for Friday (or even Saturday, Sunday or Monday) PLEASE link up below. I love reading your posts.