We had black eyed peas (seasoned with chicken broth) on New Year’s Day, along with cabbage, smoked pork chops, rice, and cornbread. To make the cabbage more interesting, we adhered to our tradition of slipping a dime into the pot for some lucky person to find. Adults in my family know I’m going to put that dime in the cabbage. What they didn’t know was that this time, Charles placed a gold dollar in the cabbage. The gold dollar was welcomed by my granddaughter Amanda who, by the way, really loves steamed cabbage so it was no chore to eat a lot of it and feel the clink of that coin on her plate! Traditionally, these foods bring you peace from the peas, riches from the rice, joy from the “jowl” (this time chops), and just plain fun eating it all as a family.
Of course all that luck stuff is a game. We rely on the power of our living Lord, which is sure and immeasurable, and, year by year, constant. Jacob, in Genesis 31:49 gave us a word I like to pass along.”And Mizpah, for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” Far better than luck–a contract between relatives and blessed by the Lord!
Jacob had every reason to believe that his conniving uncle Laban might indeed wish him harm when he, Jacob, decided after twenty years to leave his wealthy uncle’s “ranch.” Laban had already tricked him into working seven years only to receive the wrong daughter as his bride, seven more to receive his beloved Rachel, then six more to receive his own herd. Of course Jacob had done his own trickery in animal husbandry, not to mention his trickery as a very young man when he stole his own brother’s birthright. To read more of these fascinating stories, open your Bible to the book of Genesis and soak in the mystery and intrigue, and to taste the wonder of God’s power revealed through faulty man.
So Jacob and Laban stood over a heap of rocks which served as witness to their promise to each other. “Mizpah” was the word sealing their mutual understanding that “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”
My Dad used to sign his letters to his “away” children with that Hebrew word “Miszpah,” meaning “God watch over you while we’re absent one from another.” Dad died when I was sixteen several years before I was an “away” child and I’ve known for years that I never received one of those letters, though I was there when he dictated them to Mamma, and that word did sink in.
Recently, while going through a box of correspondence, I came across a letter to me from my Dad. What a treasure! At the time of my Dad’s writing the letter, I was on a lengthy visit with my sister Jackie in Maryland. Now, so many years later, sitting in my attic, tears came to my eyes as I read this short but tender letter from my father signed by his shaky hand after his trademark “Mizpah.” “God watch over you while we are absent one from another.” I was more thrilled at the second receipt of the letter than I had been at the first. My Dad had actually sent me a “Mizpah.”
It’s such a good word, Mizpah. Wouldn’t it be a good one to apply when seeing your kids off to school (Aw, Mom!), saying goodby to an old friend (What’s that again?), or even kissing your spouse goodby in the mornings (Should I check you for a fever?)??? Maybe, seriously, you could Mizpah your family this very day. Past the surprise and curiosity might be a new appre-citation of your word skills–and your devotion.
To you, my friend, Mizpah, in 2016! Regardless of how well the black-eyed peas bring peace or the rice brings riches–Mizpah!
God, I pray You will watch over our families who are separated one from another, that You will bless each member, and make them into blessings for Your name’s sake. Amen.