Saturday, November 11, 2017

How One Recited Prayer has Made me a Better Mom.

My Synagogue does a liturgy each week consisting of several prayers recited together as a congregation in Hebrew and English.  When I first encountered this practice I thought of the vain repitions Yeshua warned against.  But I did feel directed to be there so I did it because I was there and it was what they do.  I continued to ponder about the teachings of Yeshua about prayer.  After a month or two of pondering I concluded that if I mean what I say every time I say it, it isn't vain repition.

One prayer in particular we call, "The Shamah" always stood out as being particularly important, maybe because we face East for it, maybe because kids could enter or leave during the other prayers but not this one, or maybe because it seemed more readily applicable to my life right now.  The prayer comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and part of it says, "And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you retire, and when you arise."  And in an effort to be sincere in my prayers and not use vain repetition, I would reflect on how well I'd lived this commandment to teach my children.  Most weeks we were in survival mode just getting through a week.  Breaking up fights, feeding, and puting to bed seemed to take all my time and energy.  I hardly did any teaching, if I did any at all.  I would commit to do better at teaching my children over the next coming week.  This went on for months week after week I'd do it all over again.  I'd pray the Shamah and realize I hadn't taught my children a thing and think I'd try to do better in the coming week.

All the while at church no one ever spoke in a condemning manner of me or my parenting or my kids.  They only spoke love and encouragment, while setting examples I could learn from.  There was never a guilt inducing tone in talks or comments.  After some time instead of vague commitments to teach my children I would think of a specific way I could fit in some teaching in the week, and I would make small improvments.  I thought of a scripture I thought would help teach my kids something they needed to learn, and we would recite it together and discuss it while driving to various destinations.

Now after a year of reciting this prayer every week I've helped my daughter memorize a scripture and we discussed what it means and how we apply it.  My boys didn't quite memorize it, but were familiar with it.  They all told this scripture to the our Rabbi after church last Friday.  On the way home during our conversation I came up with the next scripture I feel they should learn and apply, and  something I could do to add a method of teaching.  I wrote it out to put up on our wall so we could see it and learn while we sit in our house, as well as reciting in the car while we drive.  And I've seen changes in my children for the better, some is likely just natural maturing over growing one year older, but I am a better mother than I was a year ago.  And I can say the scriptures are being written in my heart and I am finally teaching them dilligently to my children, and seeing them start to be written in their hearts.  The Shamah has made me a better mother than I was a year ago by Yeshua's grace to strengthen my weaknesses.  Praise God!

What have you done to teach your children dilligently when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you retire, and when you arise?  Prehaps an exchange of ideas can help us all be more dilligent than we are now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My Mixed-Faith Marriage

I'm seeking to become a better person, and in some places I've gone to help me with my goals, I find myself trying to turn the problem to other people.  "Their obsession with heaven and hell and who goes to which is just to manipulate people" or "My husband isn't interested in Spiritual things" and the list likely goes on. I've just been thinking about why I keep turning outward instead of inward.  I love these people, but apparently I'm still in a victim mindset.  My problems are someone else's fault. 

Well, I'm wrong.  After reflecting on this all day, I had an "ah-ha" this evening.  I was reading something about relationship freedom.  A concept of loving without trying to fix each other (this part we've all heard) but it said we don't take responsibility for the other person's pains or failures OR their successes or joys.  It occurred to me that most my life I'd heard things like "behind every good preisthood leader is [something about the wife who made it possible or got him there or some such]" and I realized that I've thought my husband's spiritual success was my responsibility!  This is how I interpreted and internalized these kinds of statements. I thought my success as a wife is measured in my husband's accomplishments.  How messed up is that?!  I am not my husband.  I cannot control him and so I can't take credit or blame for his choices and accomplishments.  Much of this was thoroughly ingrained in the culture in which I grew up, that I'm apparently still trying to unlearn and leave behind.

I've let this belief hold me back for some time. The sooner I make peace with who my husband is whether that's Christian, agnostic, or athiest; the sooner we can work out a dynamic for our relationship that is reasonable and fair for where we are both at in our journeys. I'm responsible for no one's happiness but my own and no one else is responsible for my happiness but me. Mixed-faith is not the only thing that defines my marriage.  My happiness is my own and my husband's happiness is his.  My accomplishments are mine and his are his.  Most of all, I've been just as much of a problem in our marriage as he has.  And I'm the only half I need to fix.

If any of this was helpful in your journey as well, please leave a comment and let me know any "ah-ha's" you've had.  God bless you in your journeys.  Shalom.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Be the Change you Want to See in the World

For the last two years I've wanted more than anything to do something big to make a difference in this world for good.  To make it a better place than it is.  To make a real impact for good. I heard and read stories of families who did this together and children learned valuable lessons serving along side their parents.  I've been praying over this off and on for these two years and at every idea I've come up with and been inspired by, all my best efforts to approach the idea have come to nothing.  The demands of my children and family have prevented me from "being the change I want to see in the world".  I even came to hate my life situation (partly because of this desire to be and do more, and partly because there are many problems being as introverted as I am and having boys as loud as mine are, which leave me overwhelmed and empty before my day is over) wondering what better opportunities I might have had if I just stayed single (which feeling also filled me with guilt just for feeling it).  I've been reading, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and in it, while talking about how to figure out what profession you should persue as an introvert the author says (among other things) to, "pay attention to what you envy.  Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth.  You mostly envy those who have what you desire." (p. 218). At first I thought, "I don't envy anyone, I just hate my life how it is right now."  But actually while writing this post I realized I envy the people who travel to places where people really want the Gospel and they bring their family and serve God together and they make a real meaningful impact in people's lives.  But I'm a stay at home mom, and just don't have the means right now to do anything like that, and my kids aren't ages where I could trust them not to, for example, run off in the airport and get lost before we've even made it to Africa.

Well, praying over my calling or mission or role in God's work (whatever you wish to call it) one morning, God said, "Be the change you want to see in your home!"  I got up motivated and I wrote it on my mirror and made a sign for my kitchen, and then oddly enough the rest of my day ended up much like all the others.  Me perpetuating the things I don't like within my family culture just as much as my husband and children do.  I can't blame the kids they're just following the things they've learned from me and my husband.  But all of us seem to be stuck in a rutt unable to change the direction we are headed.  The inertia feels stronger than my ability to pull us in another direction.  I realized inertia this strong (ten years in the making) is going to take a lot of force to shift it in another direction.

The next day, praying now about how to follow this instruction, how to be the change I want to see in my home, I begged for grace to overcome my weaknesses, to make my weaknesses strengths, to get out of this damning rutt!  I felt like I need my home blessed and I wanted my Rabbi to do it.  I asked my husband and he approved.  I also asked if he would be willing to have Bible study in our home, and he said he would.  So I attended church and told my Rabbi and set up the blessing, and talked to the people I wanted to invite to this Bible study.

This will not only give me more motivation to study my Bible, it will do so much more.  It will motivate me to keep my home clean and organized, it will help me teach my children and be the example I should be and want to be and yet am not, it will help me learn more from the passages I study by discussing them with others, it will be the push I need to change my direction and get out of the deep rut I've carved together with my husband for the last ten years.  At least, these are the things it has the potential to do.  I'm not giving up on myself yet!

God bless you, and if you, like me just aren't in a position to be the change you want to see in the world, then first be the change you want to see in your home, then in your community, and on. When the time is right and you and your family are ready to take on the world more power to you!  And if you are already working to be the change you want to see in the world, then keep up the good work!  Shalom.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Feasting on the Words of Christ

For a long time I've had no interest in studying my sctiptures.  It has really been an off and on struggle ever since my mission.  I made excuses why I couldn't or didn't have time, but the honest truth was I just didn't like it.  I never really felt fed by my scripture study experience and it had become drudgery.  Stories of people reading and not wanting to sleep or eat were incomprehensible to me.

Now I think I finally get it!  Last week was a ladies' meeting at my synagogue.  The meeting itself was alright, but as the meeting wound down me and another lady got to talking about her trying to decide whether or not our synagogue was the place for her.  She told me a couple comments I had made in our new members class she had appreciated and we got to talking about what we're each looking for and whether or not we feel like we're getting it at our synagogue.  Then our discussion turned toward some scriptural teachings, and we decided to go to my house to continue it.  We sat at my kitchen table across from each other and read many scriptures together and I understood certain scriptures in greater depth than I had before.  We talked and read for a couple hours.  I truely felt fed.  It had been a while since I've felt that way.  When she left I made dinner for my kids and went through nightly routines and when I got them to bed I realized I hadn't eaten since lunch, but being so fed spiritually I didn't actually hunger physically, and I went to bed content.

I'm still not great at reading daily, but I've had a taste and I want more, and I will figure out how to feed myself spiritually on a more regular basis.  This was like a feast after a fast.  I really want continual daily growth.  This was so joyful, I know I would love my life more if I feasted more regularly.

How do you carve out time to feast on the words of Christ?  May you eat and be filled regularly.  God bless you.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pruning the Rosebush: A Parable

I've lived in this house for three years, and there's a group of rose bushes next to the carport.  These rose bushes weren't neatly pruned when we moved in and I only pruned back a branch here or there if it poked me getting in and out of my car.  Last year these bushes had many flowers.  With the coming of spring this year, as leaves and new buds started showing up, many dead branches sticking up above the new growth became obvious and ugly.  I knew I had to, at least, trim out all the old dead branches.  I had no idea how much that would entail after so many years of neglect, and after getting started it proved to be a much bigger job than I initially thought it would be.

I started with the ones up at the top of the bush and worked my way down, and the more dead branches I removed it seemed I just kept finding more dead branches deeper in the bush.  Some branches were dead all the way down to the bottom cane of the bush and were dried brittle thorny sticks and easy to remove aside from the thorns.  Trying to save the parts of the plants that were still alive while removing dead and withered canes from the middle of these overgrown bushes meant getting poked and scratched by the thorns many times.  Most these scratches didn't hurt much after the initial scratch, but one kept hurting with each movement of my finger, till I looked at it to find the thorn was still stuck in the scratch and I removed it. The thorns also made it harder to get a branch out of the bush after I'd clipped it.  The thorns of the live branches would catch on the thorns of the dead branch I was trying to pull out.  Often I would find where I wanted to cut a branch and I would then have to cut it in several places to get it untangled from the rest of the bush.  Other branches were only dead at the top.  Some canes looked greener than others, and when I followed some brown canes to their branches up higher they eventually did turn green and produce leaves and buds.  After two days of solid work on these bushes I could still see much more that needed work, but our trash bin was completely full of the dead branches I had already pruned away, and the thorns covering the branches prevented me from trying to smash them in tighter.  This forced me to take a break and give my wounded hands a rest.

The pruning of an overgrown rosebush is very difficult.  I decided to watch a video about pruning rosebushes, and it looked so easy, but the man in the video was working with a bush that had obviously been regularly pruned and maintained.  What a contrast it was from the painful experience I was having.

Churches claiming to belong to the scriptural Church of Christ have become overgrown with dead branches that do not serve true followers of Yeshua.  From pagan holidays and traditions of men to the judgments of others based on things that can't be understood without really experiencing it, there are many dead things that need to be pruned out of our hearts, to make room for the life giving unconditional love that needs to grow, if we are ever to become like Christ as his true disciples.  This can be a painful process.  We had a very fun Easter last year with our children, and this year we had a Christ centered Passover.  Passover was a beautiful and enlightening experience that brought me closer to Christ.  I worshiped with Davidic dance, and I fell short of being completely yeast free, but I did my best with a family that wasn't observing kosher rules with me.  It felt surreal walking through stores and seeing things that once made me excited for a coming holiday, which now instead, made me feel distinctly different from the people around me.  I found myself wondering why more people didn't educate themselves about these holidays and choose to replace them with God given Holy Days.  But I was one of them only last year.  My eyes have been opened, and I can't close them again.  Once a dead branch has been found and cut out, it can't come back to life again.  It is time to open our eyes and cut the dead traditions of men out from our hearts.  Make room to be filled with unconditional love, so it can have a place to bloom in your heart.

What you trim first is up to you, and between you and God.  I've been actively trimming false traditions and unbelief for a year and a half now, and would be lying if I said it hasn't been a painful process.  But the joy and beauty that can grow when the dead works are cleared away is well worth the painful process of clearing it out.  Just as Paul, I too have a thorn in my flesh that must be discovered and removed before full healing can occur.  Some traditions have become so entangled it might take multiple cuts to rid ourselves of one false tradition as we find deeper ways it was intertwined with truth and life.  It is a process, and a much longer one than we likely anticipate when we first take it on.  But the good news is that we don't take it on alone.  My children have eagerly helped me in little ways with trimming the dead out of my rosebushes, and likely the efforts of my children could be a parable for my efforts to get rid of unbelief and dead works, and there is an older more experienced gardener doing much of my pruning for me, working on my heart in ways I will only understand when I look back.  What are the dead works you need to prune from your life?  What is your thorn in your flesh?  Who is helping you tend your garden?  There is likely more than one helper.  Take some time to praise the gardeners of your heart today.  Shalom.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Reflections on Hanukkah

Since my post "A Woman Without a Religion" I've been attending both the Messianic synagogue, and a Christian church.  This December we Celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah, and I have to say our celebrations of Hanukkah were beautiful and brought me closer to Christ and my Messianic community.  I enjoyed Christmas and it was rather more low key and centered on Christ more than gifts and Santa, though there were gifts from relatives we are grateful for.  Hanukkah was centered on Christ as well.  It is the feast of dedication and the festival of lights.  We celebrated by dedicating our synagogue and grounds to God, our city, ourselves, and our community.  Each were separate events taking place over the course of the week of Hanukkah. 

We spent Christmas Eve at Havdalah and lighting the first candle of Hanukkah.  At Havdalah we read the story of Hanukkah to the children, about the miraculous military victory of the Maccabees over their oppressors who would not let them worship God and had desecrated their temple.  All through the story was the message, "Sometimes it only takes a few, who know what's right and do it too!"  After their victory they cleaned and rededicated the temple for eight days, and that was the first Hanukkah.  Then we drove home singing Christ centered Christmas carols and looking at Christmas lights.  It was an evening full of joyful anticipation of the coming week.

Christmas Day we opened presents and played, then headed over to rededicate the synagogue.  We marched around the perimeter of the property once then the synagogue six times while praying over it, each praying whatever God put in our hearts to pray. When we finished our march we all shouted together, "The Lord is our strength!" after playing the Shofar.  We went inside and the Rabbi invited a couple people to bare testimony, then we split into two groups and anointed each doorway with oil and prayed dedicating the room to it's purpose and praying for God to fill it with teachers and children ready to be taught, and for whatever difficulties the particular age that met in that room would face.  We gathered as a group again and the Rabbi anointed the adults present and prayed over us.  It was the most thorough dedication I'd ever experienced, the Rabbi had anointed every pew and doorway and the box that holds the Torah scroll, and other things used in the synagogue, the building as well as everything in it, was dedicated to God's service.  And while praying over each room with these other followers of Yeshua I felt more than ever that this was a community of believers God wanted me to be a part of.

Wednesday we drove around the city praying over it to cast out bad spirits relating to bad things that have happened here and inviting in the spirits of love, light, forgiveness, and life to fill the city so that the work of God could be free to move forward here.  The Rabbi taught us of the reality of spiritual warfare and the necessity it is to engage in it through prayer.  It was again a powerful, Spirit filled, meeting and event.

From Wednesday through Friday the Mikvah was open for any who wanted to privately rededicate themselves to God, and at the Friday evening service Rabbi explained the Mikvah and six of us, myself included publicly rededicated ourselves to Yeshua.  During Rabbi's sermon he talked about the change that we should expect when we go through the Mikvah, and the changes he'd seen in others as they go through immersion.  He talked about asking people questions before immersing them, and it made me a little nervous. I wondered if I could answer them honestly, I loved this community but my ultimate loyalty is to Christ.   I went through the Mikvah to rededicate myself to Yeshua, and the only questions the Rabbi asked was if I accept Yeshua as my Savior, and whether I desire to serve Him, and never turn back.  He asked nothing of my willingness to eat kosher, or pay tithes to his church, or whether I thought he was called of God to be my Rabbi.  My immersion in the waters of Mikvah only had to do with my personal commitment to Yeshua and whatever serving Him looks like for me, that I'm willing to do it.  I came out of the water filled with joy and healed of an ailment of a personal nature that had bothered me off and on for several months with every remedy I tried only bringing temporary relief.  I was then given the opportunity to bare testimony of why I'd chosen to go through the waters of Mikvah that day.  I shared my story of coming to Christ, and the things I've learned over the last year and recommitting myself to say to God that I've learned much and I'm still committed to you and I'm committed to acting on the new knowledge I've gained.  The meeting was long, but it was a meeting so filled with God that I didn't notice till getting into the car to leave, "Oh my goodness, it's late!"  It started at 7pm and went till after 10 but no one was falling asleep.  No one minded except maybe a child or two.  All were sustained by God's Spirit there in abundance.

The last night of Hanukkah was a party at Rabbi's house where we had Havdalah and also the lighting of all eight Hanukkah candles.  After dinner we also had a dedicating of us together collectively as a community to Christ by taking communion.  Rabbi Talked about building community being the purpose not just a passive congregation that sits in pews each week but doesn't actually do anything about what we are taught.  We covenanted to be a community of believers who are each in pursuit of building and contributing to that community as we are each directed by Christ.  I still don't know my role within this community God has led me to, but I know I am meant to be part of this community for my experience and learning.

My first Hanukkah was a week of holidays that brought me closer to Christ and my community of fellow believers than any holiday I had ever had before.  This week of dedications and rededications wasn't what all synagogues do, and we might not do all the same things next year even at this same synagogue, but it sure made for an amazing Christ centered Hanukkah that was just the experience I needed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Woman Without a Religion

About nine months ago I started wearing head coverings.  After a couple weeks of begging God for answers to a question He finally (instead of answering the question) instructed me to wear head coverings.  I did it every day for a few months, and I researched them (something I hadn't been doing about my question; I wanted the easy answer).  I grew to love them for multiple reasons.  I had a halo of frizzy regrowth after some postpartum hair loss that it conveniently hid, it kept my baby from pulling my hair, it kept my ears warm in the winter time, it kept the wind from blowing my hair in my face, and I felt pretty in them.  These were the practical and superficial reasons for it.  The biggest reason to wear it went much deeper.  I felt closer to God by obeying a direction that came personally to me, and my attention was drawn to Him more throughout the day as I had a physical reminder of something I was doing only for Him every day.

So now as I go about my days I've been asked a couple times by people I've met if I'm Muslim.  No, I'm not.  I've never read the Quran.  But how do I explain who I really am?  Mormons don't accept me as one of them because I don't believe in blindly following their modern prophet.  Christians, I've been afraid to admit to them that I still believe in the Book of Mormon, and I believe that bad things Joseph Smith is said to have done, are rumors spread by his enemies.  And for anyone who isn't Christian it brings to mind a variety of bad things Christians have done in the name of their religion that I don't agree with.  I feel no loyalty with the Remnant Movement started by Denver Snuffer.  I'm grateful for the stepping stone it was in my transition leaving the Mormon church, but don't quite agree with some things happening among their group either.  Messianic Jewish seems the best fit, but their services are at times difficult to attend.  And most people have no clue what that means, which is okay, I can explain it to some degree, but not very well since I haven't been attending with them very long and have much to learn myself.  So if they have any questions beyond my simple explanation I'm unable to answer them. Talking to my atheist/agnostic brother-in-law he said, "So you're agnostic. That's a start.  You can't go straight from Mormonism to atheist.  I was agnostic for years before I was atheist."  Almost as if I was on the way to atheism because I no longer believe in the men who lead a worldly cooperate institution.  So I explained that my relationship with God is stronger now than it ever was, and I still believe in a specific God so "agnostic" doesn't seem right either.  And talking with my husband, even he didn't understand my aversion to labels, saying, "We're just Christian."

Labels are a way of lumping people together and associating them with other similar people.  The problem is that most these labels end up misrepresenting parts of that group.  Some people lump together Muslims into one group, and even though the violent terrorists are the minority among them, all the rest are guilty by association.  Likewise with race labels.  People of one group label people of another group and consider the other group to be guilty of whatever the worst people among them have done.  Guilt by association.  This is the most divisive thing we as people do.  And we do it as much with religion as we do with race.  Dividing those who believe in one thing from those who believe in another.  Rather than loving each other regardless of what we each believe and building on common ground, and discussing with the purpose of understanding one another and realizing we both probably have truth to offer the other that we hadn't previously considered.  But instead we are often too caught up in trying to convince others of our ideas to stop and consider theirs.

Ultimately no label fits who I am.  My journey is more complex than that. When it comes down to it, nothing feels quite right except to say I am a lover of God, a lover of people, a humble follower of Christ, and a seeker of truth.