Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reflections on Elul

At sundown on th'day, (August 8th) the moon will re-appear over Israel thus marking the beginning of the 6th month of the Scriptural year, Elul. In rabbinic thought, Elul is an acronym for the Hebrew of "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." Elul starts the 40 days that lead up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for Israel as a nation. These 40 days are marked by introspection and repentance. During this time, we connect with those we may have offended during the past year and ask forgiveness.  We also freely forgive those who have taken a pin to our ego's balloon. 
In the Disciples' Prayer (Matthew 6) we recite, "and forgive us our trespasses *AS* we forgive those who trespass against us." We, each and every one of us, must forgive in order to be forgiven. That is a tall order. Think about it: In our own sense of righteousness, we tend to hold on to those hurts and pains that we believe others have caused. The Truth is, every emotion is a choice. -- Love is a choice; anger is a choice. -- We need to be delivered from that Spirit of Offense because it is holding us back from us climbing higher and and having a deeper, more meaningful relationships with YHVH/Y'shua and family, friends, and humankind in general. Our unforgiveness (self-righteously holding onto our pain) blocks our spiritual growth. We get 'stuck' at that pain (be it real or imagined) and can go no farther in our growth as a Believer. 
The first step in any healing process is to realize that there is a problem.  From that point, we then have the ability to make choices. Without realizing that there is a problem, we are STUCK in place -- as if you are trying to run a race on this emotional or situational treadmill. And this spirit of offense can come between families, friends, lovers and spouses until one day, there is nothing left but resentment.  Resentment is a poison that can fester in our spirits for years! That is not Y'shua's way! Even from the execution stake, He cried out, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!"  He had to go through that Door - make that transition from life to death - unburdened by offense and resentment.
May it be our Father's will to deliver us from this spirit of offense and resentment and in doing so gather us more closely to Himself. Oh, Father, our spirit is indeed willing, but our flesh is so weak! We want to be everything You designed us to be, Father, yet we keep getting in the way of that glorious new creation that You desired and You designed.  Help us, O Yah, to be the salt of the earth and the light to the nations You called us to be. Give us the strength to face this challenge with grace and dignity.  Help us to divest ourselves of pride and the spirit of offense - and in love - forgive and be reconciled one to the other, b'shem Y'shua!
Shalom b'shem Sar Shalom / Peace in the Name of the Prince of Peace --

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Full Heart, Full Hands

I haven't been writing so much lately. “Life” is in full swing and it has been difficult to get a block of quiet time. I thought about sharing my weekly schedule with you, but then I thought of my beautiful daughter-in-law who spends her days on the road, delivering and collecting children from different schools and varying extra-curricular events and I thought to myself, “Quit whining! You're not the only one who ever tried to fit 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag ... YOU, Princess, can do all things through Messiah who strengthens you! Get with the program.”

So, here I sit, staring at the electronic 'empty sheet of paper' before me and wondering what words will appear on the screen.

Quite frankly, an event a couple of weeks ago has left me feeling empty and faded from technicolor to shades of gray. Yes, I have prayed. Yes, I have given it to my Father. (OK, I may have taken it back a time or two.) I have trusted Him for guidance, I have trusted Him for healing, but still the peace hasn't come. And now, now that I want the luxury of brooding time, it just ain't happening. Maybe that's the Father's way of lopping off some dead wood.

Y'shua faced many such obstacles. There were times when He was not believed by His own family. Times when His best friends betrayed Him. Times when the very ones who were looking for Him rejected Him. Times when His mission and His humanity were at odds with each other. The Word says He was tempted in all ways, just as we are; yet, He did not sin. This is how He gained victory over sin, death and the grave. He had to have wrangled over every sin that faces us, otherwise He could not claim victory over it and provide us an avenue of healing.

So, I will keep believing for my spiritual and emotional healing. I'll keep trusting the One who created me that what I am going through has a purpose. I'll keep believing that the refiner's fire is burning away the dross in me. I'll keep choosing to love and choosing to forgive, because my own salvation depends on it. I'll keep praying for wisdom and guidance, strength and stability.

And I WILL have peace, because He has put His Name on me (see Numbers 6:24-27) and He will fill me with shalom, because He is the Sar Shalom (the Prince of Peace) and I live for Him.

Shalom b'shem Sar Shalom / Peace in the Name of the Prince of Peace,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gila, al fresca

My little dog, Gila, apparently enjoys dining 'al fresca' – outside. Tonight, my lovable 18 month old bundle of mischief toted a carrot from the house all the way to the back corner of our 3 acre property, laid down in the sand and, under the ¾ moon and the twinkling stars, to the hoots of a nearby owl, calmly enjoyed her carrot while our 2 cats (Guido and Gracie) and Jett (our terrier mix) and I looked on. When she had eaten at least half of it, she got up, grabbed the remnants of her carrot and trotted back to the house, at one point pausing to sniff the air as if enjoying the aroma from the field of black-eyed Susie wildflowers.

Once inside, a noisy commotion erupted from the bedroom. Gila repeatedly leaped onto the bed on one side, ran across it, jumped down to the floor on the other side and continued this acrobatic circle while barking in a wild frenzy of excitement. Why? How should I know? I don't speak Havanese bark!

Jett, bless his pea-pickin' little heart, taught Gila how to bark.  Gila and Jett are best buddies. Jett looks like a cross between a Scottish Terrier and Pumbaa the warthog in the “Lion King” movie. Something in the way he walks. Anyway, they are quite a pair, wrestling in the living room over their favorite toys, running the local squirrels ragged, and competing for their favorite treat, salmon jerky. Can you tell I love my fur-babies?

So what has this got to do with spirituality or prayer?

I just find myself thinking about our Heavenly Father. I imagine Him looking down from His throne and watching us frantically bustling around or wrestling with some concept or .... just maybe ... pausing to reflect on the beauty of His creation with a grateful heart. How great and wonderful He is and how very compassionate to all His creation!

And so, this week's prayer is one of thanksgiving.

I give You thanks, my Father and King, for simple joys: the scent of wildflowers, the glow of moonlight, the symphony of crickets and the hoot of the owl. Thank You, my Father, for my little fur-babies who rival circus clowns in their antics and make me smile when I get too serious for my own good. Thank You for my mishpokha, the family of the heart, who have bound themselves in love to You and thus to me. Thank You for the health, happiness and prosperity You have given me to enjoy. Thank you for the freedom to worship You in spirit and in truth. Thank You for removing the scales from my eyes so that I could see You more clearly. Thank You for Messiah who paid a debt I could never possibly pay. How I pray I will one day hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Keep me from all things that would derail that aspiration!  Thank You for the encouraging words of scripture that tell me (when it seems all the rest of the world says otherwise) that I "can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me." Thank You, Father – just, thank You for who You are. How great is Your glory, Your strength and Your power! and yet, You are mindful of me. I praise You with all that I am, with all that I hope to be. HalleluYah! Amein!

Shalom b'shem Sar Shalom - Peace in the name of the Prince of Peace,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Every Prayer Is Necessary

As those who know me personally know, I was born to cook. I never met a recipe I didn't like .... or an eclair either, for that matter, but that is a subject for another time. So, it comes as no surprise that I do a lot of cooking ... for Yah's feasts, for Shabbat and most recently for the soup kitchen in town.

The soup kitchen here is run on some funding, but mostly, on love. Various area churches take turns preparing and distributing the food. Our congregation handles the second and fourth w'days. Plans are in the works for there to be a second location to feed the homeless on the west side of town. Those that work with me on soup kitchen days are service to the kingdom in action. For us, w'day is the extension of Shabbat. On Shabbat we learn Torah, on w'days we DO Torah. We not only prepare, package and deliver food to the homeless of Lake City, we also fellowship with those that come for a meal. Sometimes, we can only share a smile, other times, it is a full fledged conversation. We also have a brief prayer of thanksgiving with them before the lunch boxes are served. And yes, we do Torah the other days of the week too, but somehow, w'days are special.

I have often said that if YHVH has appointed a task, He will anoint us for the task. That is certainly the case with our cooking for the homeless. No fingers have been cut, no backs have been wrenched, no hands burned while working for our King. He is more than gracious and we praise His name!

Especially since today could have been so different.

As it has been our habit, we pray before we package the meals. This is the gist of what we say: “Our Father our King, we thank you that You have called us to this service of feeding Your lambs. Thank You for keeping us safe as we have prepared the food, and now we ask that You keep us safe as we deliver the food to the people. Help us to share Y'shua's love to all that we meet. We pray that you bless this food to their bodies and our actions and words to the benefit of their souls, b'shem Y'shua. Amein.”

We bustled around filling the boxes with food; toting the boxes to waiting pick-up trucks to bring the food downtown to the waiting people. We were anxious about running late. The last batch of tater tots were due out of the oven at 11:30 and we were usually fully packed and down the driveway by then! Our delivery crew left the kitchen around 11:50. While those that stayed behind at the kitchen cleaned and straightened, the delivery crew made its way across town ... and then came to a full halt. There had been an accident and on its approach, one of our trucks almost slammed into a stopped vehicle. But YHVH is gracious and not only did they escape injury but they were routed past the stopped vehicles and made their way downtown with no further incident. It seems that had we left on time, we might have been part of the original accident! We are ever so grateful to our King! Had there been a collision, not only would there have been injuries, but it would have effected dozens and dozens of needy souls waiting for our arrival.

We praise our Father and King for His love and mercy. And we thank the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of Elohim) for inspiring the words of the prayer and for hearing and responding to it.

And we're glad the tater tots were late.

Shalom b'shem Sar Shalom / Peace in the Name of the Prince of Peace --
Blessings and hugs -- yocheved

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

And When You Have Eaten

Deu 8:6 So obey the mitzvot of YHVH your Elohim, living as He directs and fearing Him. 7 For YHVH your Elohim is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams, springs and water welling up from the depths in valleys and on hillsides. 8 It is a land of wheat and barley, grapevines, fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you will eat food in abundance and lack nothing in it; a land where the stones contain iron and the hills can be mined for copper. 10 So you will eat and be satisfied, and you will bless YHVH your Elohim for the good land He has given you.

For the health of it, I'm trying to eat raw foods. You know the scene: too many good, rich foods at Pesach / Passover ... and beyond. I've got to regain some semblance of control. And now, somehow, cooked food keeps showing up on my plate. It's aggravating! But you know, I am privileged to have the choice! In so many places, people have rice; rice and beans; beans and rice; rice and rice; rice and fish heads. Today, I had fresh bananas, and later a smoothie made with pineapple, berries, dates, coconut water and kale. Somehow, spaghetti showed up on my plate for lunch (a group of us cooked meals for the homeless and later together had lunch from the leftovers ); and because I was in writing mode tonight, the salad I planned for dinner became heating up some frozen spanakopita instead. (spinach pies with feta cheese. Major YUM) The point is although I am by no means wealthy (my car is 14 years old, my house 25 years old and I have some articles of clothing to match!) I am affluent enough to have a choice.

Startling when you think of it in those terms, isn't it?

Our Heavenly Father has promised to supply all our needs, which is reason enough to be grateful. Who are we, that the Creator of the Universe and everything in it commits to His creation –- obligates Himself to it -- that He will supply us with all our needs – we will lack nothing? It is amazing to me that He should do so! I have a closet full of linen clothes that I can't get around to ironing. My husband's slacks still wait for their new hem.  Sometimes, my dogs have to remind me what time it is ... their dinner is late again. But YHVH has been gracious -- and faithful to His graciousness as well. I am in awe of His benevolence! It is right to thank Him!

So I'll promise myself to do better with my eating habits tomorrow. I'll mark my penance with a kale salad – yeah, that will show me! And afterward, I'll sing:

And when you have eaten, and when you're satisfied, praise YHVH all you children, praise YHVH. And when you have eaten and when you're satisfied, praise YHVH all you children for the Land He's given you. Praise YHVH all you children for the Land He's given you! 

Shalom b'shem Sar Shalom / Peace in the Name of the Prince of Peace --

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Praying For My Children

At the tender age of 60+ I have come to the realization that I have wasted a lot of time. There were days – years, even – that I did not pray. I did not know how and I was so busy wrangling with life that I didn't even know how to approach the Master and Giver of Life. Even the past 28 years of being a committed Believer have not been perfect. But then, whose life is? No one is perfect, except the One who gave us life and for Whom we now live. I cannot flip my life into 'Rewind' and have a do-over. But, I can pray for my sons, my daughters-in-law and my grandchildren so that they won't need a do-over. I can pray for the members of my congregation whom I've come to see as family: the brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren of the heart.

So many needs .... so little time!

Psalm 127:3
I praise YHVH that He has seen fit to reward me with these children, both of the flesh and the heart. Who am I that the Sovereign of the universe has taken notice of me?!

Exodus 20:12, Colossians 3:20, Ephesians 6:2
I praise YHVH that they honor me with their respect and compliance – not for my sake – but for the blessings it imparts to their own lives.

Ephesians 5:2, Galatians 5:22
I pray that they continue to live lives filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control for these are good spiritual fruits and will fill their lives with peace and blessing.

Psalm 25:21
May they be kept in integrity and righteousness; let their hope always be in YHVH my Rock and my Redeemer.

1 Thessalonians 5:6
O Abba YHVH, let my children walk in the light, not the darkness; and may they have alert and sober spirits all their days.

Psalm 19:10
Father, help my children to love Your Word and find it sweet and precious all their days.

Psalm 11:7, Micah 6:8
Dearest Sovereign, we know that You are righteous and that You love righteousness; fill my children's hearts with the desire and strength to love grace, act justly and walk in humility before You.

Luke 6:36
Help my children to always and everywhere show the compassion that comes from You.

Ephesians 2:10
Father we know that You created us to be in union with Messiah Y'shua and help us to faithfully complete the things that You have prepared for us to do.

Proverbs 3:3
I pray that grace and truth never leave my children; that they hold fast to them as if they were engraved on their hearts.

Psalm 63:8
Father, let their hearts cling to You; help them to know the Right Hand that supports them.

Galatians 6:5
Help them to be - and continue to be - responsible. Help them to understand how to carry their own load.

1 Timothy 6:18-19
Father, please help each one to DO good, to BE good and to be generous in their sharing. Help them to know that this life is not all there is and that they are storing up good things for the future – the TRUE reality.

Romans 14:19
Help them to pursue shalom / peace and help them seek to build others up rather than tearing down to build up self.

Romans 15:13
No matter what they see happening around them, may my children be filled with joy and shalom that comes from You, dear Father; and by the power of Your Set-apart Spirit, may they have hope that overflows.

Hebrews 12:1
Help my beloved children to run life's race and not be burdened by sin, rather help them to put sin aside and kick it out of their lives so they can endure to the end.

Ephesians 6:18
Father, in Your mercy, hear the prayers they cry out to You – both for themselves and others.

Philippians 4:12-13
Grant them contentedness with their lives whether they have abundance or not; help them to know that You are the Giver of every good gift and that no matter what the circumstance they can overcome because You are with them.

Luke 17:5-6, Hebrews 11:1-40
Please, Father, help their faith in You to grow. Help them to recall the challenges our ancestors had and how You upheld each one and granted the ultimate victory.

Ephesians 6:7
Help them Father to do all that You set before them with their whole strength, for they are not doing this for men, but for the Sovereign of the universe.

Psalm 51:10
Create in us all, clean hearts, hearts that are resolutely set on doing righteousness.

Proverbs 1:3
Help us have an intelligently disciplined life enabling us to do what is just, right and fair.

Psalm 96:3
Be with us so that we can be living testimonies of Your Glory among the nations and demonstrate Your wonders among the peoples.

1 Thessalonians 1:6
Help us, dear Father to become imitators of Messiah Y'shua so that no matter what troubles come our way, we are steadfast and filled with the joy given by Your Ruach

Deuteronomy 31:6
Help us all, Abba YHVH, to be bold and courageous no matter what comes our way because You are going with us and will never fail us or abandon us. Help us to be faithful. 

Hear our voice, YHVH our El, pity and be compassionate to us, and accept – with compassion and favor – our prayer – for the Elohim Who hears prayers and supplications are You. From before Yourself, O our Sovereign, turn us not away empty-handed, for You Hear the prayer of Your people Israel with compassion. Blessed are You YHVH Who hears prayer!

Shalom B'shem Sar Shalom / Peace in the Name of the Prince of Peace,


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Week in Review

What an incredible week this has been!!

Meteors zipped across the skies over Mexico, Chile, Scotland, Ireland, England, Cuba, USA, China and in Russia where one hurt over 1000 people.

The Carnival cruise ship “Triumph” had a fire on board and subsequently drifted without power, running water or hygienic services for over a week. Several passengers literally kissed the earth when they finally made landfall.

For the first time in six centuries the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict, resigned. At first we heard stories of his heart condition and blindness. Then we heard stories of EU nations wanting to arrest him for the child molestation scandals during his time as Pope.

Women praying at the Kotel, also known as the Wailing Wall which is considered to be a remnant of the Second Temple, have been arrested for praying in tallitot (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries).

Horse meat DNA has been found in European Burger King Whoppers and in butcher shops in Great Britain.

North Korean officials have claimed a successful atomic bomb development and detonation. The Iranians, who are close allies of North Korea, went there for a look-see. I imagine there was ice cream and cake afterwards.

Over thirty earthquakes over magnitude 5 have hit this week; Russia, the Phillipines and New Zealand being the hardest hit with magnitudes over 6.1.

Approximately 315 murders were committed in the US.

American leadership continues to play the blame-game amongst themselves while hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen go without necessities. Let's hear it for those $20 million dollar vacations with golf lessons by Tiger Woods. and let's not forget the salary increases for the same group of people ... who will continue to get their salaries for the rest of their lives. No, I'm not kidding.

And that is all in this past week.

Taken individually, any one of these things is a mere blip on the radar screen of life. Taken together, and in such close proximity, now we're talking about the need for being alert. Like labor pains increasing in frequency, duration and magnitude, things are starting to 'heat up'. Unfortunately, there is no epidural for life. We have to go through it all: Good times, not so good times and horrible times are all part of the mix. Like an old friend who passed away about 20 years ago used to say, “It takes the bitter to appreciate the sweet.”

King David, who penned a majority of the Psalms, had seen quite a bit in his 70 years.  The Psalms recount his days of triumph and his times of grinding defeat. But he always had hope for tomorrow. He always asked YHVH for and trusted YHVH for better days ahead, days when he would look in triumph at his enemies. King David had confidence in his King, YHVH ... and so must we.

The very same things could be written about Moshe. He too, experienced the soaring victories and the crushing defeats. He saw the Creator of all face-to-face, yet never lived in the promised land. During his time as leader of the Israelites, he experienced victory over the Amalakites, he saw Aharon's rod bud and send forth flowers and ripe almonds in a single night; he saw the ground open up to swallow Korach and his followers; he saw water gush forth from a rock and bring life giving water to two million people. And yet, with all he saw and accomplished, he was humble enough to pray and intercede for those who made his life a misery.

So where am I going with this news recap and mini-biographies of David and Moshe? Right here, to Psalm 91.

Psa 91:1 You who live in the shelter of `Elyon, who spend your nights in the shadow of Shaddai,
2 who say to YHVH, "My refuge! My fortress! My God, in whom I trust!" -
3 he will rescue you from the trap of the hunter and from the plague of calamities;
4 he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his truth is a shield and protection.
5 You will not fear the terrors of night or the arrow that flies by day,
6 or the plague that roams in the dark, or the scourge that wreaks havoc at noon.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it won't come near you.
8 Only keep your eyes open, and you will see how the wicked are punished.
9 For you have made YHVH, the Most High, who is my refuge, your dwelling-place.
10 No disaster will happen to you, no calamity will come near your tent;
11 for he will order his angels to care for you and guard you wherever you go.
12 They will carry you in their hands, so that you won't trip on a stone.
13 You will tread down lions and snakes, young lions and serpents you will trample underfoot.
14 "Because he loves me, I will rescue him; because he knows my name, I will protect him.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him. I will be with him when he is in trouble. I will extricate him and bring him honor.
16 I will satisfy him with long life and show him my salvation."

For the rest of our days, be they long or short, we will see terrors that fly by night and arrows that fly by day. We will see plagues; we will see those we know, dropping – either physically or spiritually; we will see ourselves rescued, protected and extricated from calamities. We will see long lives, blessed with honor. We will see Yah's salvation, if only we would live in His shelter (in Hebrew makhaseh [Strong's H4268] an extension of khasah [H2620] a place one flees to for protection; a place of hope, refuge and trust). Go there. Stay there.

And give no thought to tomorrow. Today has trouble enough already.

Shalom b'shem Sar Shalom / Peace in the Name of the Prince of Peace,