Sunday, February 28, 2010

my new neighborhood- brooklyn

praying for warmth, relationships, and ministry

Thursday, February 25, 2010

for such a time as this...

In a couple days, my family and I will be celebrating the Biblical feast of Purim (its origins are in the Book of Esther). We are looking forward to reading the story of Queen Esther once again, eating hamantashen, giving gifts to the children, and dressing up our little girl in her 'princess' costume... among other things. Although Purim is known for being lots of fun and a time to dress up and act silly, it is also a time when we recall G-d's miraculous protection over His people and their deliverance from the hands of the Persians.

For me, Purim will always have a special place in my heart. It was in a Purim play where I played the part of Queen Esther and first held hands with King Achashverosh, the man who would become my husband just two years later (our wedding ceremony was during Purim, also!). So when Purim comes around, we know our anniversary is not far behind. Therefore, we cannot only remember G-d's miracles in Persia, but also how He worked miracles in our lives and brought us together.

I hope your celebration of Purim is also meaningful and fun! Let us rejoice in
G-d's miraculous protection and deliverance. Hag Sameach! Happy Purim!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the guest- part two

In my first post of this series, I wrote about thinking about Shabbat in terms of having a special guest come to visit your home. (If you haven't already, you may want to read that post before moving on to this one.) I have been thinking a lot lately about how to celebrate Shabbat, and I am certain that this will be a continual learning process for the rest of my spiritual life ... until I sit down to the Shabbat table with my Rabbi Yeshua.

I am often confounded by the fact that the Scriptures have so little to say about how to celebrate something so dear to the heart of G-d, the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath). How do I know that it is dear to the heart of G-d? Well, I don't think it is a mere coincidence that, in so many individuals lives that are coming to a messianic understanding and lifestyle, one of the first areas of conviction concerns keeping the Shabbat. I have countless stories of this happening, and it happened to me as well. Furthermore, the Scriptures attest to the importance of keeping Shabbat, especially in the life of a non-Hebrew.

My favorite example is seen in Isaiah 56:1-7, which states: "Thus says the L-RD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation [is] about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed [is] the man [who] does this, And the son of man [who] lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil. Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the L-RD speak, saying, "The L-RD has utterly separated me from His people"; Nor let the eunuch say, "Here I am, a dry tree". For thus says the L-RD: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the L-RD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the
L-RD, to be His servants-- Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant-- Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [will be] accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." This is a beautiful exhortation to those of us who are messianic believers, but are not Hebrew by birth, to keep the Shabbat, His Shabbat.

I was deeply touched and encouraged yesterday by stumbling upon a blog by an 18 year old young woman who is growing in her own messianic lifestyle while living with her non-messianic parents. One of her recent posts ( was about her efforts to keep the Shabbat. I am very grateful to now be the woman of my own house, married to a godly man, mother to a beautiful little girl, and daughter to a mother who lovingly accepts and embraces my messianic, Shabbat-keeping lifestyle (and even my husband's family understands that there are things we don't do on Shabbat). Hearing of another's struggle only reminds me of how blessed I am, and I am confident that this faithful young woman will one day become the queen of her own house as well.

Concerning how to keep Shabbat, I will be referencing Scriptural verses and also commenting on how they may be applied in [brackets], trusting that you will prayerfully have to come to your own conclusions, keeping in mind that G-d's Word is authoritative above everything else that I write here. The ministry called "First Fruits of Zion" has published a helpful booklet on 'Guarding Shabbat'. In it are listed "The 10 Commandments of Shabbat" and I will be quoting them:

1. Remember and observe Shabbat. (Exodus 20:8, 31:13, Deuteronomy 5:12) [using the traditional way of bringing in the Shabbat using candlelight, wine or grape juice, and challah bread is a beautiful way to welcome Shabbat and set it apart as holy.]

2. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 5:15) [read and re-read the story of Israel's slavery in Egypt (and tell it to your children), which will only make us more grateful to be free in Yeshua to enjoy His Shabbat]

3. Gather together for a holy convocation. (Leviticus 23:3) [whether that means walking or driving to a local congregation (or not-so-local), gathering in a home, or using the internet, Shabbat was not meant to be 24 hours spent all alone]

4. Call Shabbat a delight and honorable. (Isaiah 58:13-14) [Shabbat should be a day that is joyously anticipated, not dreaded. Spend time with family, sing special songs, do special activities, read together, etc. Shabbat should not be a 'boring' day for children, and I plan to write more in a separate entry about celebrating Shabbat with children]

5. Do not pursue your own desires on Shabbat. (Exodus 20:9-10) [Although some time on Shabbat should be spent on introspection, I don't think it is a 'me' day to be spent doing hobbies all day or going to the spa! However, I also don't think that Shabbat is a day on which we neglect to bathe or groom ourselves, because if we are congregating with others, these are not selfish acts! Our first focus should be on resting in HaShem and enjoying His presence]

6. Do not work on Shabbat. (Exodus 20: 9-10) [Anything that we get paid to do is work, and in my estimation, anything that stresses us out (besides caring for children of course!), takes our focus away from resting in G-d, or makes Shabbat just another day is also work. I try to refrain from writing blog entries on Shabbat because I hope to publish a book (and get paid for it) one day, but I am guilty of 'writing' in my mind when I am supposed to be taking my Shabbat nap! Also, I refrain from intensive cleaning (definitely work, and even the servants got to rest on Shabbat)... notice I said intensive cleaning, because sometimes we have to do some clean-up on Shabbat, especially when there are little ones around. I rarely wash dishes on Shabbat, because Shabbat should be about not doing those things that we do every other day of the week.

7. Do not cook on Shabbat. (Exodus 16:23) [Well, I am certainly guilty of breaking this one! I try to prepare extra food on Fridays, or we eat leftovers on Shabbat. I am working on being more diligent to prepare special meals ahead of time to enjoy on Shabbat.]

8. Do not kindle a fire on Shabbat. (Exodus 35:3) [In many ways, I am still uncertain of how to apply this mitzvah. It has a lot to do with the previous command to not cook, but I do not believe that it restricts us from turning on light switches or starting a car]

9. Do not participate in commerce on Shabbat. (Nehemiah 10:31; Jeremiah 17:21-22) [My family and I keep this command by not shopping or going out to eat on Shabbat, and striving not to buy anything on Shabbat, unless of course, it's inevitable. Two Erev Shabbats ago, however, we had to purchase a Metro card to ride the subway in order to get to a Shabbat gathering at someone's house, so we made the purchase. Also, if something is needed for the baby or for our health's sake, we feel it is permissible to buy it.]

10. Do good on Shabbat. (Matthew 12:12) [So many ways to apply this! If someone needs help, help them! If someone needs you, be there for them! Don't use Shabbat observance as an excuse to be reclusive or unavailable. Remember that Shabbat was made for us, and not the other way around.]

Learning to observe and guard Shabbat is a process, and I am still learning myself. By putting Scripture first and allowing the Spirit of G-d to speak to us about the importance of this special day, we can begin this process. I feel the most important aspect of keeping Shabbat is regarding it as holy, set apart.... different. Do whatever it takes in your life to make it different from all the other days, because G-d intended it to be that way. Just as He intends us to be holy, set apart.... different.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

real SCRAPbooking

I firmly believe that G-d is interested in every aspect of our lives.... how we raise our children, spend our time, spend our money, etc. Frugality has been important to me for years, but now that I am living in one of the most expensive states in the country, my family has one income and a child, it has become that much more important! In moving into this Brooklyn apartment, we are spending as little as possible to settle in, which actually works out well because we have no extra storage space like we were used to, and we are prodded to utilize everything we brought with us in creative ways in order to gain more space and reduce clutter.

You've heard the saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Well, it's true! Because I am unable to just go out and buy everything that I think we need (shopping is not even easy here, and we shop in New Jersey to save money), I have become more creative in making things (like my daughter's diaper-box-bookcase wrapped in leftover wall border), keeping my toddler occupied (this morning she played with a plastic 'sandbox' full of dry oats from the pantry), and making memories (real SCRAPbooking!)

I have always enjoyed the idea of scrapbooking, but never really followed through with creating actual scrapbooks. Let's be honest, the hobby known as 'scrapbooking' today has become a million dollar industry, and when you go to the scrapbooking section of your local craft store, there are no scraps to be found! Those papers, embellishments, stickers, and scrapbooks are fancy and expensive! So in the interest of frugality, I have begun to make "real SCRAPbooks" for my family..... using magazine and newspaper clippings, photographs, wrapping paper, greeting cards, and (surprisingly) paper scraps!! It's fun, frugal, forces you to be creative, and it's also a great way to reuse items that you would otherwise either throw out or allow to clutter your home. It will also be great fun for Elisheva when she is older and can help make her own books (right now she just tries to destroy my work!) and preserve memories of special times in her life. For now, I am using blank board books that I ordered from Oriental Trading Company with intentions of writing some books for my children. They are pretty durable for toddlers. As she gets older, we will graduate to paper books.

Discovering this form of SCRAPbooking has given me so much joy. It's a great way to preserve family memories and keeps me occupied with something creative to do at home. The SCRAPbooks would make great, meaningful gifts, and they allow me to use all of the 'stuff' that I have saved because I knew that I would be able to use it somehow. I find it funny when people tell me how creative I am, because I am merely working with what I already have to stimulate myself, my daughter, and the mind that G-d has given me (and you). I enjoy sharing the simple ways in which G-d blesses me. Allow Him to bless you with simplicity.... because He loves to remind us that money cannot buy happiness, but He provides us with everything we need to be content in Him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

childish gifts

"Every good act of giving and every perfect gift is from above..."
Ya'akov (James) 1:17

As I brushed blue paint onto my 15 month old daughter's tiny palm this morning to make a handprint, I realized something very profound. I know that I have read or heard someone mention this before, but it's one thing to hear something from someone else, and a whole other thing for G-d to reveal it to you in the moment and bring you to tears. Having a child of my own has opened up so many more opportunities for those 'teachable moments' that G-d works into daily life.

My daughter is not yet old enough to color me a picture or build me something out of popsicle sticks, but I know that time is coming soon! Nevertheless, I have begun personalizing gifts/cards to others with her handprint, which is the only signature she is capable of right now. I look forward to receiving that first handmade gift from Elisheva, whether it's a few scribbles on a wadded up piece of construction paper or a gluey mess of pasta and cotton balls doesn't matter. Having the pleasure of babysitting and working with little ones, I have seen many children present these "gifts" to their parents, and it is a thrilling experience for them (and their parents are good at pretending it is for them, too!) The parents' usual exclamations are something along the lines of "Wow, you made this for me?" or "This is beautiful!" Not once have I heard a parent say, "Whoa, that is ugly. What is it supposed to be?" or "Is this what I'm paying hundreds of dollars a week for, for you to paste some garbage on a 5 cent piece of paper?" Have you?

The next time your child hands you a wrinkled piece of paper that weighs 2 pounds because it contains half a bottle of the glue that you paid for, tissue paper from your birthday gift, and the tri-color pasta from your pantry, think about this: We offer the same gifts to our G-d. As our heavenly Father, is He a worse parent than any of us? When we come to Him with our dirty, little hands open wide to offer Him something we bought with His money, something we created with His inspiration, something we accomplished with the talent that He gave us, is He going to take one look and say, "That is one ugly piece of junk!"? Certainly not! He will surely treasure it as any parent treasures the artwork and crafts made by their children.

I am certainly grateful to be reminded of this today, and grateful for all the people in my life that G-d has taught me this lesson through, most recently, my little girl. Perhaps you needed to be reminded of this as well. G-d has graciously given us all gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Don't be afraid to offer them back to Him unashamedly and with your whole heart. He won't throw it away or reject it, and there's always room on His refrigerator for one more....