Wednesday, October 21, 2009

While Away the Toys will Play

"For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." Psalm 84:10

I interrupt the regularly scheduled Jewish Project for a story of another kind.

Each October, my family treks down to Orlando to spend time in the most Magical Place on Earth: Disney World.

This is a big to-do in our house and we start gearing up for it months in advance. Having made this trip for many years, we have come to expect a certain level of Disney magic that makes all vacations perfect and grand. However, this trip was much different. We had to fight for each moment of happiness.

For example, here’s what happened this past Saturday.

Obstacle number 1)….we spent the day at Hollywood Studios. Most of the attractions at this theme park are shows, so we had to schedule our day in regards to show times. This set us up for a very long day with two preschoolers…..but we were aware of this and had a pre-established grace flowing.

Obstacle 2) My husband and I had made reservations to have lunch at Mama Melrose’s inside the park. A restaurant I love. However, since we switched to a gluten-free diet this past summer, we had to order gluten-free food, which this restaurant does have available. And so my family dined on Tapioca rolls and gluten-free flatbread pizzas. Really….do I have to explain? Yep. I wanted a do-over.

Obstacle 3) The night before was our son’s birthday and all his unwrapped but unopened gifts were back in our cabin. Let’s see…you’re six and you can either walk around in a park all day or go back and play with your brand new toys. Uh-huh.

Obstacle 4) Finally, after a long day in the park, we took Disney transportation back to the “hub” of our resort – Fort Wilderness. Since it was late, we decided to get take out from the restaurant that was there. We ordered and waited….and waited…..and waited…..and waited. They forgot our food. But, we finally got it and off we went to catch the bus that would take us to the “sleeve” of where our cabin was located.

And, Obstacle 5) We boarded the bus that said “Settlement Orange”….the bus we needed. However, as we boarded the bus, the driver changed the sign to Wilderness Lodge. Yeah….we got on the wrong bus! But, in true Disney fashion, the driver was extremely nice and took a detour to take us home.

So, here we are. Off the bus and walking down the road towards our cabin, so very ready to sit down and relax. As we walked up our steps, we noticed that we forgot to put out the “do not disturb” sign.

Opening the door to our cabin we found this:

And this

(If you look close, Ferb is holding the TV remote and the TV which was right in front of him was turned on to the Disney channel)

And this

(This was Squeaker's bottom bunk where she found her brand new Simba plush toy nice and tucked in.)

And this

(Bug's upper bunk where Phineas is hanging out with Piglet)

And this

(Now this picture was taken in the bathroom and the elephant towels were hanging above the toilet. The irony of the scene was lost on the kids however, I'm very much aware that elephants are heffalumps in Disney's Pooh bear series and Pooh is very afraid of Heffalumps.)

And this

(Teddy sitting on the table coloring)

We laughed so hard we cried. All day long we fought for happiness, intent that we would not let little distractions or setbacks destroy our family vacation. In the end, we discovered the Lord had a surprise for us. A personalized comedy show right in our own room.

After finding puppy playing in the trash, we grabbed the camera and went on a treasure hunt to find out what the rest of the toys were doing while we were gone. Each “scene” was met with uproarious laughter that healed a portion of our day.

In the end, my husband and I had tears in our eyes as the scripture listed above came to life in both our hearts.

Why? Because a woman, who does not hold a glamorous job by any means, performed her work as if she was holding the “door open in the house of the Lord”.

The next day, we were checking out of the resort and uncharisterically decided to hang out in the cabin for the last few hours instead of going to another park. Because of this, we were in the cabin when the cleaning lady came to call.

So grateful to meet her, we took the time to thank her for the wonderful scenes she had left in our room and how much joy it brought us.

You will never guess her response….

She explained to us that she likes to create one scene per day in all the rooms she cleans. However, since we had the “do not disturb” on the day before, she didn’t get to make one for us and therefore decided to make up for lost time. Then, she reached in her bag and pulled out two more gifts. She handed our princess a tube of princess bubbles, and our little prince a toy airplane.

She did not expect to meet us. She did not expect gratitude. And yet, in a random moment of her tedious day, she was prepared to be a gift-giver.

Isn’t that all The Lord asks of us?


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Mezuzah and the Lightning

The Jewish Project

Tishrei 26, 5770

(On Monday, my post reflected the story of how the Lord instructed us to mark our house with a Mezuzah. Here is our testimony of what happened afterwards.)

It was raining.

Upstairs, we could hear the thud of footsteps as the kids ran back and forth playing tag. We sat at the table talking and picking at the crumbs left on our dinner plates.

Outside, the storm raged. Staring through the back window, I remember being amazed by the amount of lightning this particular storm had when a bolt hit the top of our house. The noise was so loud that my simultaneous scream could not be heard. The kids flew down the steps and were standing next to us before I stopped screaming. Half the house was dark while the other half was life as usual.

Checking the breaker box, my husband found half the circuits flipped. He turned them back on and the house hummed.

In the after math, our cable modem was fried and our security system panel sputtered and spat until it choked and died. The only electronic item not on a surge protector was a lone DVD player and it also met its maker, but other than that, the house was intact. We could find no other damage.

The storms continued throughout the week and two days after the lightning strike, I found a wet spot on the upstairs ceiling. Certain this was from the strike; I called the insurance company and filed a claim. But, that evening, we determined the wet spot was due to the horizontal rain earlier that day that had blown into the roof vent. And so, I closed the claim.

Five days after the lightning strike, the rain paused long enough for us to do some yard work. Within minutes of each other, I found a shingle in the back yard while my husband found one in the front. The next morning, I reopened the claim.

Seven days after the strike, a roofer came to give us an estimate. After climbing on the roof and inspecting the damage, he knocked on my door and said, “Ma’am, are you sure you don’t have any damage inside?”

“No.” I said.

“Well ma’am, are you sure there isn’t water upstairs or ceiling falling down up there?”

Again I replied “No” all the while thinking I would know if my roof was caving in so why do you keep asking.

Then, the roofer literally scratched his head and said, “Well, I don’t understand it, but you shouldn’t have a ceiling inside and in fact, I’m not sure why your house didn’t burn down.”

The next day, the roofer came with his team and fixed the roof. Once again, he rang the doorbell. This time he had two pieces of plywood in his hand.

“Ma’am” he said, “This is where the lightning entered the house.”

“This is where it exited.”

“I still don’t understand why you have a house.” Then this roofer, who is not a Christian, said this, “The only way I can explain it is G-d”

To which I replied, “Yes sir, G-d’s favor, prayer and His blood. Our house is marked for Him”

The logistics of the hit: there were two large holes in the top of the roof. The house did not catch fire. Not only that, but it rained for six days after the holes were there. No rain came through our roof (except for the roof vent which caused no damage). The roofer even crawled into the attic space and inspected the insulation. Nothing was wet.

On a major road near our home, on the same night our house was hit by lightning, two businesses were also hit. Both of them burned to the ground.

G-d instructed me to mark our house with His word. He led me to the discovery of the Mezuzah. We obeyed and He honored His covenant with us.

Until next time…Shalom!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Upon the Doorpost

If this is your first time visiting, please click the link above to find out about the project. And, welcome!

Tishrei 24, 5770

“…And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” Deut 6:9

I did not understand.

The burden you placed upon my heart was heavy, but my head knowledge was not yet such so that I knew how to obey.

Mark your house with my word…

The command was simple enough and yet the execution lacked the holiness that you so deserve, my Lord. I considered taping index cards with scripture inside my closet and beneath the beds. But, tape fails and the cards fall leaving your word discarded in forgotten corners covered in layers of unseen dust. There were other ideas as well. I could take a pen and write on the house, but ink fades and the words melt into a background of familiarity; once again forgotten.

No, your word deserved more. My Lord, how do I obey?

I called upon your name, Adonai El Elyon – The Lord Most High. I reach my hands to heaven, knowing my answer is on your tongue. Blessed Lord, look down upon me and know my heart is to respect the living, written word which you have bestowed upon us. How would you like me to fulfill your command?

The Mezuzah

The answer came not once but three times. Reading a website of a favorite minister, I found a Mezuzah in his store. Intrigued I researched it and discovered it to be an ancient Jewish tradition of marking ones house with the word of G-d.

The answer came again just a few weeks later while reading a fiction book by one of my favorite authors. One of the characters was a Jewish man whose occupation was to transcribe the scrolls for the inside of the Mezuzah.

The answer came a third time when a friend started a random discussion with me on how she was looking for a Mezuzah for her home.

I sought you and you answered. Not once, but many times. I have obeyed. I’ve marked my doorpost with the word of the Lord. I see it when I enter, and I see it when I leave. Your word is forever before my eyes and upon my heart.

This is my “letter” to the Lord regarding marking our house with His word. In future posts, I’ll write more letters on how marking our house with His word has made a significant difference in our home. As always, feel free to leave comments or questions.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Lighting the Candles Part 3

The Jewish Project

Tishrei 21, 5770

On Monday, I discussed what we set on our table to prepare for Shabbat:

And, on Wednesday, I detailed our ceremony.

But, today, I’d like to share with you why we as a family light the candles. Many traditional Jewish families follow a legalistic approach to Shabbat that does not allow them to do any kind of work during this 24-hour period. Included in this is no TV, no driving, no working in the house, having all meals prepared ahead of time and some even fast for the Sabbath.

However, like I said earlier, we are a Messianic household. We believe Yeshua(Jesus) came and redeemed us from the curse of the law. He is our light and we follow Him. Therefore, we keep Shabbat as we feel Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leads us too.

We gather together and Light the candles, showing through action that Yeshua is the light that we follow in the darkness of the world. We speak the blessing over our house and family and rededicate ourselves to Him. We partake of Holy Communion, meditate on His word and pray together as a family.

And then, for the next 24 hours we celebrate.

In our household, Shabbat is family day and whatever we do during those 24 hours, we do it as a family. Some of our favorite activities are:

· Popcorn and movie night
· Game night
· Going out for a treat after dinner AND the kid’s get the treat whether they eat dinner or not (this is their favorite)
· Zoo day

Or, we just do regularly scheduled activities together. We take this time to reset as a family, reconnect with each other and build memories. It’s my favorite time of week and it sets the pace for the week to come.

So, this is a peek into our Shabbat. Like I said, it only scratches the surface of what Shabbat really is, but I think it’s a great start.

Until Monday, I leave you with this scripture.

“And G-d blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” Gen 2:3


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lighting the Candles Part 2

The Jewish Project

Tishrei 19, 5770

Side Note: Sukkot started on Oct 3 and I do plan to post on this Feast of the Lord but it will probably be next week.

I must say that the more I research and learn about His feasts and Jewish customs, the more I realize 1) how much I do not know and 2) how awesome it is to discover the mysteries that I’d missed all these years in the Bible.

So, again, I must reiterate that my family has only scratched the surface when it comes to studying out Shabbat. But, I promise to post what I discover!

I left off Monday’s post with the items that are on the table for our “lighting of the candles”. Another item we use is prayer shawls.

Recently, my grandmother hand crocheted a prayer shawl for myself and my daughter.

Although these shawls do not look like a typical ornate prayer shawl worn by Jewish women during blessing/prayer ceremonies, it is very special to me and an heirloom that I can pass down. (Thank you Grandma!)

Here is our daughter wearing the prayer shawl.

And, wearing the shawls, it is now time to start the ceremony. I, as the eldest woman in the house, light the candles. I wave my hands over the flame three times to welcome in the Sabbath. Then, placing my hands over my eyes so that I’m not looking directly at the candles, I say the blessing.

First in Hebrew as follows:

Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam,
Asher kideshanu bemitzvotav ve-tsivanu lehiyot or
Le-goyim v’natan-lanu et Yeshua Meshicheinu or ha-olam

And then I repeat it again in English:

Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe,
Who sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us to be a light
to the nations and who gave to us Jesus our Messiah the light of the world.

After saying the blessing, Daddy prays over each child for the coming week. We then have a devotional regarding communion followed by the partaking of the elements.

We conclude the ceremony with the kids giving any prayer requests they may have, and then corporately offering the requests to the Lord in prayer.
In the future, I would like to add reading the weekly Torah portion to our ceremony as I just learned that technically you are supposed to that.
For Friday’s post, I’ll sum up our family’s “lighting of the candles” and share how we celebrate Shabbat.

Remember to leave a comment with any questions so we can chat about it.

Until Friday, Shalom!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lighting the Candles

The Jewish Project

Tishrei 17, 5770

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Ex 20:8

“Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy G-d hath commanded thee.” Deut 5:12

Every Friday at Sundown is the start of Shabbat. In many Jewish and Christian homes, Shabbat is welcomed in through the ceremonial lighting of the candles.

As I thought about how to arrange this post, I realized that it had the potential of being very long. So, I’ve decided to break it up over the next three posts.

Knowing this ceremony differs from family to family, I can only base this off how Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) has guided our family in this ceremony. And, as our family grows in the study of our Hebraic roots, I’m sure the depth of which we light the candles will as well. But, here it is for now.

The lighting of the candles is supposed to take place prior to sundown and, traditionally, no later than 18 minutes before sundown. I would love to know the premise behind the 18 minute rule but have yet to find that answer. I will continue to research that.

So, the first thing I do is prepare the table.

The two candles in the front represent the two ways the Lord told the Israelites to keep the Sabbath in the Torah. It is based on Ex 20:8 and Deut 5:12 (listed above). In Ex, the Hebrew word for “remember” is Zakhor and in Deut, the Hebrew word for “sanctify” is Shamor (which actually translates “keep” or “guard”).

Therefore, the two candles are to Zakhor and Shamor Shabbat or remember and sanctify the Sabbath.

Many families also light an additional candle for each child in the home. The two candles in the back represent our two children.

As a side note, when we started lighting the candles earlier this summer, I went on a mad search to find just the right Shabbat candle holders. I was unsuccessful to say the least. I did find a set online that I loved; however I was informed by the seller that they were on back order. And at this point, they must be on back order for all of eternity since I have yet to hear back from them.

But, I started going through an old box in our garage and discovered a hidden treasure of crystal items that were given to us as presents at our wedding. We had packed them away because in our first house, there was no where to put them. After that, the box was forgotten about. Well, in the midst of this treasure was a pair of crystal Star of David candle holders.

Let’s just say, I wore a smile on my face and heart for the remainder of that day.

As a Messianic family (believing that Yeshua or Jesus is the Messiah) we also take communion as part of our candle ceremony and of course the last item on the table is the word of G-d…..

More to come on Wednesday. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment with any questions. The more questions I have, the more I know what to research.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Jewish Calendar

The Jewish Project

Tishrei 14, 5770

Today’s post is in response to two bloggy friends who raised a question regarding the Jewish calendar. I had originally intended to answer the question and continue on with what I had planned for my post however, once I began researching the calendar, I was blown away by its Biblical complexity. Therefore, I decided to dedicate today’s post to the Jewish calendar.

As a point of reference, I’ll start with our calendar. We use the internationally accepted civil Gregorian calendar, established on February 24, 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. It is an arithmetical solar calendar and uses the Anno Domini counting system for our year. As in, October 2, 2009 years since the birth of Christ.

The Jewish Calendar is a lunisolar calendar. It’s based on 12 Lunar months, each consisting of 29 or 30 days and each beginning with a New Moon.

Because of the time differences between a lunar and solar calendar, the Gregorian calendar is ahead of the Jewish calendar by 11 days. Therefore, when enough years go by that the accumulated days are approx 30, an intercalated month is added to the Jewish calendar. (this information is for the highly scholastic individuals. I, for one, have already forgotten it now that’s it been typed on paper.) J

Here’s the fascinating part (to me anyway). G-d dictated this calendar to Moses. It may have changed some over the millennia or perhaps not. I suppose only G-d has that answer. But, by any means, it is G-d’s calendar and is perfect in its formation. The lunar calendar is devised in such a way that the lunar events are used to determine feast cycles, agricultural cycles as they pertain to dry/rainy, harvest/sewing times. It is also used to determine which Torah portions are read publicly, which is fascinating when you begin to study the correlation between Torah readings and world events that take place at the same time. And, it also determines Shabbat days, seasons and years.

The first month of the calendar is found in Exodus 12:2, 13:4 and Deut 16:1. Depending on your translation it is called Nisan, Nissan, Abib or Aviv. It all translates Spring. (Side note – it was very neat to discover my name in Hebrew is Aviv.)

The weekly cycle is a mirroring of the seven day creation story in the Book of Genesis (specifically Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 23, 31 and 2:2), with a day gauged from sunset to sunset. It translates as follows:

Yom Rishon – first day – Sunday
Yom Sheni – second day – Monday
Yom Shlish – third day – Tuesday
Yom Revi – fourth day – Wednesday
Yom Chamishi – fifth day – Thursday
Yom Shishi – sixth day – Friday
Yom Shabbat – seventh day – Saturday

This was great information for me since now I can answer the question “Why do Jews celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday?” (Remember, I’m starting from s-c-r-a-t-c-h)

And, the answer to the question posed by my bloggy friends. The Jewish calendar uses the Anno Mundi numbering system. Latin for “the year of the world”, this numbering system dates the years from the epoch of one year prior to creation as determined by Rabbinical reckoning.

If I may borrow a quote….how they determined the year of creation is a topic that’s above my pay grade.

The dichotomy between the Anno Mundi and Anno Domini numbering systems brings up many questions that I could ramble on about, but it is late and this post is long, so I will stop.

In light of learning (the very basics) about the calendar, at sunset today Shabbat will begin. My family will be lighting the candles and celebrating with a family night. How that goes should make for an interesting post.

And, I have discovered that Sukkot is the feast of Tabernacles which begins Tishrei 15 or Oct 3rd. I still have not figured out how our family will be celebrating, but I will definitely keep you posted.

Until Monday…Shalom!