Category Archives: Christianity

The Tree of Life.

Just about every child in the United States now over the age of 30 has heard the story of Adam and Eve.

For many Americans, and scores of others across the globe, this was the beginning of life as many had been taught to believe it.

And, for every patriarchal society wallowing in male dominance, the first woman and her original sin became the bane of all who walked in her shadow.

But, whether man or woman what many may not know is that this story is shared by both Christians and Jews. The Torah, the sacred Hebrew book, predates the Biblical canon by a swath of time and contains the first five books of what would later become the Christian Old Testament.

And so, both Jewish children and Christian children were raised by the story of the Garden of Eden, as told in the book of Genesis.

Now, when we read those early chapters in Genesis, we find that Jehovah Elohim, after creating everything else, including Man, put not one but many trees in Eden. And, then we are told that he singled out not one, but two trees: a.) The Tree of Life, in the midst of the garden, and b.) The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And, then Jehovah commanded Adam. He told him he could freely eat of the fruit of every tree in Eden, except that of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest he surely die.

Then, God created Eve.

The story continued, painting Eve as both approachable and easily confused. The serpent tempted Eve, by challenging the words of Jehovah and putting a question in her mind. But, beguiling her, he made reference not to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but to the tree in the midst of the garden. This was the Tree of Life.

(So, which was it? From which tree was she permitted to eat? And, whose fruit would bring certain death?)

We all remember what happened. Eve partook of the fruit of the tree to which the serpent had led her. Sharing with Adam, they knew their nakedness, were ashamed, and tried to hide from Jehovah. And, Jehovah banished them from the Garden of Eden.

But….the Tree of Life. In the midst of the Garden. 

I have pondered this wonder, for most of my own life.

Perhaps the Jewish children know the secret.

Of note is that, whether male or female, the Jews as a people are equally thoughtful, equally respected. Equally forgiving. Equal.

They still worship in the midst of the Garden. They still honor the Tree of Life. Regardless of our faith or the absence thereof, let us all offer up a prayer for those who will meet at the synagogue which bears its name, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, again this Saturday. Perhaps there is one reaching out to us in spirit, from among those whose lives were taken. Whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, let us clasp hands and sit under the Tree of Life, together.

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© 10/28/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     Thank you for respecting the beliefs of all people, and the words of Genesis.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Destined To Be Lost.

It was cold, again.
The chapel was often cold.
Not because of its grand hewn stone or stained glass, the height of its vaulted ceiling, or its inlaid flooring.
The chapel was cold because the door facing south was open – permitting access to the front by those unable (or, unwilling) to use the main entrance at the back of the church.
This open side door allowed the south westerly wind direction to thrust the front of the sanctuary into what, for my small frame and unprotected heart, were temperatures beyond chilly. And, those of us hired to play string quartet with added winds for the baccalaureate mass at the local university were very concerned. Not for our bodies, though they shivered, but for our valued instruments – collectively worth several thousand dollars, and not designed to withstand protracted cold drafts.
This was commencement week. Matriculating college seniors, being sent into the world to preach their own gospels by the administrators of the catholic institution granting their academic degrees, their presiding priest had chosen from among his readings passages intended to encourage all the young graduates in attendance. Wrapping my legs around the belly of my cello and crossing my arms over my heart I sat, listening keenly to the one from John’s Gospel, chapter 17:
“Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which thou hast given me, that they be one…Those thou hast given me I have kept, and none of them is lost.”
My attention was captured by the single clause which followed that affirmation. Yes; Jesus had kept all those God had given him, and not one of them had perished – “ except he who was destined to be lost, that the scriptures might be fulfilled.”
Destined.
To be lost.
The mass ended, I hurried home – to get warm, and to do some digging.
My research brought me through several Biblical translations, finally discovering the International Standard Version. The King James, and those directly following ( including J.N.Darby’s, which I hold personally ) all maintained Judas to be “the son of perdition”; but, the International Standard referenced destiny in his characterization. Apparently, it was now considered archaic to think of the one who betrayed Jesus for a bag of silver as merely the “son of perdition”. Judas had been born to damnation, because it was his destiny.
Several months ago, I watched as something I held precious was snatched from me. Helpless to hold on to it, I could only hope that those determined to be capable of its rescue would step forward. But, due to the collective interests of everyone else involved, this was not to be. What I held dear had been unprotected; what I lost could not be saved.
Many argue that everything happens for a reason. In spite of the failings and fortitude of mere humans, the scripture of our lives will be fulfilled. For some, this means playing any number of roles, from savior to scapegoat. All for the greater good.
When one door opens, God closes another and opens a window. We choose both our entry, and our escape.
I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out why it has to be so damned cold.
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© 5/13/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Uncle George O’Keefe.

Some men just stand alone.

George O’Keefe was an instantly recognizable American Irish. He’d been born in Erie, PA but never spent hardly a day in any run of the mill fashion. Devout, one might say precociously, as a young boy, while other kids rode bikes or played army this kid stood on the steps and played church, preaching to his sisters’ dolls.

Amen.

And, lest one think him a shirker, George had perfect attendance at public school. For 12, solid years.

Mum met him when he took up with her sister, Frances.

As a very young man, he’d prove traits like constancy. Our grandfather, Pappy, loved to tell the story. George would always reappear, at the door, no matter the misunderstanding or disagreement. See, George was hooked – on God, his Savior Jesus, and Fran Sweet – and, he never looked back. Not once.

Defying virtually all other Irish, not a drop of alcohol could be found at his table, unless he had just poured out the wine for Communion. Then, it was the sacred blood of the Lord. He knew this, like he knew his own reflection in the mirror.

George would marry Frances, and move to Spartansburg PA and then to Clendenin, WV. His bright bell tenor rang out everywhere he went – whether founding Bible study classes or camps, or playing outside with his children no matter the season. Becky, the eldest, said he was up at dawn every day, making breakfast for the whole family and packing each lunch for school. And, even into his late 70s, still water skiing, fishing, and hitting the racquetball courts.

Beyond all this, his influence extended into the lives of countless others. One of these was my father.

Dad had met mum on a train, during R & R from the US Army. The week he decided to travel to Erie, to check out her digs, George and Frances were on hand.

Calling the Bible a comic book, Dad had no use for the obvious brand of Christianity he would confront as he stepped foot into the home of Henry and Mae Sweet on 29th Street. Mammy, the first to hand Dad a small New Testament, set about praying for his conversion; Pappy, the hardliner, was sure this WOP was a lost cause, gruffly declaring:  “He’ll never be saved”.

But, George O’Keefe was also in the room.

And, the day Dad decided to propose marriage to Mum, he’d set his shrewd little ducks in a row; praying the “sinner’s prayer” aloud, he managed to convince Pastor George O’Keefe that he meant business.  And, George, filled with the kind of faith that gave even the hardest sinner the benefit of the doubt, was more than ready to believe it. In fact, he rejoiced; when Mum and Dad got hitched, George O’Keefe “married” them.

Two years in, Mum was pregnant and Dad’s cover was blown. He’d admitted to one of his customahs in the bahbuh shahp that he was “tired of the charade.” When Mum found out, he had no choice but to divorce her.

Ten years into that chapter, God finally made His move. Drawing Dad into the church of a family friend, Pastor LeBeau, the Almighty spoke the Gospel to him one more time. So convicted was Dad of his sins that he walked out of that service and drove to Cleveland, in search of a Burlesque show to distract his heart.

That lasted about twelve minutes.

Back to Erie, into his small one room apartment, Dad dug out his New Testament and read all the verses which Mammy had underlined for him. This time, he prayed in earnest, and repented, and accepted Jesus as his Savior. And, then he told Mum.

George O’Keefe, almost as happy as she was, rejoiced once more. And, George married them all over again, the second time – performing this ceremony in the living room of the new house they would call home for the next 50 years.

In 1995, Mum was stricken, for the second time – with cancer. This time, the disease was in her brain, and terminal. After a mere five and a half weeks, she lay in a hospice bed in the room I had always called mine growing up – mute, the tumor having taken her speech entirely.

Those closest to Mum had come to visit, if they could. Among them, her youngest sister, ending an estrangement that had lasted for years. Then, early one evening, Frances and George drove in from their cottage on Lake Chautauqua.

Mum’s face had taken on the shape of the tumor’s affect. Her mouth, drooped to one side. Her eye, nearly closed. George and Frances walked into the room, and George leaned down close to her ear.

In his bright, bell tenor, with that ever present, big broad grin, George told Mum a joke about a horse. The joke, and its punchline, would be lost to the ether but Mum, as soon as she heard it, burst out laughing – the laugh of recognition, indeed of comprehension, in a rush of affirmation. And, her number ten smile flashed across her face, obliterating completely any sign of palsy or paralysis.

Then, her eyes closed and she went to sleep, never to wake again. By morning, the sun streaming in through the windows, Mum had released her spirit and was gone from the earth.

But, Uncle George had brought the gift of his presence into the room. He’d provided us one more glimpse of our mother, before death came to take her body.

This past Sunday, Uncle George passed away. He was 98 years old. And, he left with that same broad smile on his face.

Thank you, Uncle George. Thank you for being such an important part of our family and the far more inclusive family of God. When the voice of the archangel heralds the trump of God, we’ll be ready to rejoice with you for all eternity.

 

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   4/11/18

littlebarefeetblog.com