Tag Archives: Shechem


And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and they removed from Shittim, and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and they lodged there before they passed over.

Joshua 3:1

I try to read at least one verse of the Old Testament in Hebrew each morning. At least one. Sometimes I can’t stop. But at least I’m not racing to complete a chapter. Or two. Or three. It’s the discipline of chewing slowly. Ent-ish eating. I read hoping for something to pop, some word to stand out. This usually requires not looking deep but simply seeing what is right there before my face.

Today’s verse – and I stopped at one, temptation successfully resisted – presented a bit of challenge at first chew.

And Joshua rose up early in the morning.


Guilt trip about not getting up earlier? Reminder of that age-old spiritual discipline of rising early to seek the Face?

Just look at the word. The Hebrew verb “rose up early” is the trilateral root SŸKŸM. It’s the root of Shechem. Shechem means “shoulder.” Quick dictionary check.

Yes. Shoulder. Because loads are placed on the shoulder, and that’s where they’re placed on beasts of burden first thing in the morning as one gets the day started. At least in that culture.

some days...

some days…

To arise early (or late, for that matter) is to shoulder the burden of the day. And how we wish at times there were a beast of burden to carry it for us!

Shouldering a burden is not something to rush into – depending on the nature of the burden, I suppose. If we wish to avoid strained backs we need to take the time to size up the load, square our shoulders, squat down carefully and then let our legs do the lifting. And sometimes as we size up the burden we’ll have to shoulder, we realize we’ll need someone else’s shoulder to help. It all depends on the burden.

We don’t know what a day will bring, what burdens we’ll have to shoulder. Perhaps here is the wisdom of rising a bit more intentionally – it’s just giving ourselves some space to square our shoulders for the load.

Because we may like Joshua have to remove from Shittim. Or we might be moving into it. We might be headed into the Jordan rift. Jordan. Literally the “plunge.” Yes, today may be taking a plunge God knows where – and then lodging there for God knows how long.

So I will stand before a cloudy horizon, take in this cool air breath.

And square these shoulders.

Boise morning

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in haverings, Old Testament


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I believe that the only thing a writer can do is write. And he has to persevere at this task. If he starts the day Writer__s_Blockthinking about getting published, about landing that six figure deal, or just finding an agent, if he writes with the thought of having to write something brilliant, because anything short of brilliant won’t impress the agents, he’s just putting unnecessary pressure on his shoulders.

Love this from Cristian Mihai’s blog – the final paragraph in a post about “famous rejection letters” (love the one for Kipling – the youngest writer ever to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature: “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”).

I am struck by how my brain freezes, by the paralysis that seizes my fingers, when I think I must write something fabulous. Imaginative. Eye-catching. Okay, maybe I’m not looking to land a six figure deal, but producing something brilliant and unique would be nice.

And so the keyboard sits idle, waiting for me to hit upon some great idea, rather than just, well, getting on with it and writing something, and finding the joy of expression in that something.

And the same applies to living.

If the only thing a writer can do is write, the only thing a human being can do is live.

How many of us are waiting for that grand contribution, that great defining moment when we finally, truly make a difference, earning heaven’s laurels and earth’s applause because we did something truly magnificent?

No pressure.

Chinese symbols for insignificant, tiny, vague, vast. Insignificant and vast. Interesting...

Chinese symbols for insignificant, tiny, vague, vast. Insignificant and vast. Interesting…

The wonderful irony is that the most significant thing we will accomplish today is probably the thing we least noticed and most quickly will forget. A casual remark, a passing glance, an impromptu act of service perhaps reluctantly or thoughtlessly given as we scanned the looming horizon for something of greater import. Lennon said it – life is what happens when we’re making other plans.

Takes me back to the man who encountered Joseph in the field in Genesis 37.

Joseph is sent to find his brothers and ends up wandering in the fields looking with no leads (meandering!) when an unnamed man crosses paths with him.

Who was the man? Where was he going? What were his plans? What were his big hairy audacious goals? No clue. Did he wake up with the prophetic intuition that “Today, you will have a conversation that will change the course of history, a conversation through which countless lives will be saved, and the course of civilization as we know it will be altered?” Probably not. I imagine he woke with a yawn.

But he saw Joseph, and Joseph looked lost.

Most people have to ask for directions – how often do we even observe others closely enough to see that they are lost?

“What are you looking for?” he asks Joseph.

“My brothers,” Joseph replies. “Any idea where they might have taken our family flocks?”

“Funny, I overhead them earlier saying they were heading to Dothan.”

“Great. Thanks.”insignicant

And that’s it.

Nobody twittered.
Nobody tweeted.
Nobody posted.
No shout outs.
No headlines.
No blurbs.

In the grand scheme of the history of redemption and salvation (at least as far as the written record of the Bible is concerned) this was the unnamed man’s moment, and he probably forgot all about it when he laid his head on the pillow that night.

Lawrence Kushner observes:

This odd scene has not been for nothing. Indeed were it not for the man who “happened” to find Joseph wandering in the fields, he would have returned home. Never been sold into slavery. Never brought his family down to Egypt. The Jewish people would have never become slaves. And there could have been no Jewish people at all. We are all only ‘ish,’ someone. No more and no less than the unnamed stranger of the empty pastures of Shechem, without whose one line, “I heard them say, ‘let us go to Dothan…’” the Holy One’s intention could not be realized.

Yeah, that’s it.

One odd scene, seemingly out of place, seemingly random and insignificant.
Keep moving, people,
nothing to see here.

No trumpets, no fanfare. And in the credits he will only appear as “unnamed man in the field.” That is, if he even makes the credits. I wonder, did the camera even catch his face – or do we only hear his voice?


He was there in that field.
He saw a young man who looked like he was lost.
He walked up to him.
He asked his question.
He delivered his line.

And everything changed even though nothing seemed different.

Yeah. I can do that. I can be an ish, a someone. I can write my throwaway post and say my throwaway line.

Because that throwaway line or post
may be


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Posted by on April 29, 2013 in musings


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