Thursday, August 29, 2019

40 Days

A stronghold is a place of defense, protecting what is inside from attack. It is a place of security, of refuge. A place to hide in times of trouble. A quick internet search displays castles and old walled cities. It made me reminisce of my time in Israel, which I still need to finish writing about, but I digress, strolling through Jerusalem my eyes beheld walls that once upon a time fortified the city. In passing on the roads, I saw caves, similar to what David hid in when Saul was chasing him. The Bible tells us in several verses that G-d is our fortress, our refuge. G-d is to be our stronghold.

The enemy, however, has taken this truth and twisted it. He has purposely used circumstances, feelings, activities, lies, and other things to keep us enveloped in a false sense of safety and protection. We have made choices that have led us to taking refuge in all the wrong places or things, believing the lie that our refuge is found here. Sometimes, we don't even realize we are in a wrong stronghold. We look to this feeling, activity, or person to meet our needs. We stay trapped inside the walls of this flawed, fabricated shelter, unable to walk in the freedom we were made for.

I have known the difference in these two strongholds, but in the last few weeks, it occurred to me, I was stuck in a distorted one and if I continued the path, I would be leading my girls into one as well. Not that they won't have them anyway, because I am no perfect mom, but this one I could change.

Food.

I have dieted or taken time off from dieting since 5th grade. That is approximaltely 33 years. Always on the search for the next plan that will help me be healthy or eating all the food out of frustration of restriction, emotions, or lack of progress. I have not taught my kids well. They see this distorted cycle. They reap the consequences of it. I see it in their actions and hear it in their words.

I have worked super hard at getting healthy over the last few years. I thought I had overcome most of my issues with emotional eating, only to realize theres more. I found "healthier" plans to help me with goals and worked out consistently.  But, I was still in the cycle.  Personal struggles and physical struggles have led me to gain weight yet again and yet again searching for the next plan. I have not been able to consistently workout due to physical issues and an unexpected surgery and exercise helps me with nutrition, by decreasing emotional eating. I found myself in the same place, I said I would never be in again.

A few weeks ago when I was seeing the stress regarding food in the faces of my beautiful girls, I was convicted of being stuck in this dieting stronghold. I was convicted of teaching my girls to have a diet mindset, but not teaching them to be healthy. I dislike cooking, it is never fun trying to make a meal conform to the latest diet. I never really brought my kids into the kitchen for this reason. In the midst of this discontent, I had a thought....

What if I quit dieting?  What if I cooked something and made it as healthy as I could?  What if I didn't track a single thing?  What if I taught my kids moderation?  What if dieting is keeping me from true health and lasting weight loss? What if I involved G-d in the process more?  What if I took a break from all the diet voices in my head? What if I did not stress about it?  What if I gave my kids freedom from their Mom's bad habits?

I recently went on a Quest with, Fellowship of the Sword. We had homework before it began and after that recently ended.  It was suggested we move forward studying the book of James. I had been considering not dieting for 30 days, but in my workbook we were asked to consider repeating James for 40 days. I knew this is what I should do.

I began Tuesday on a 40 day journey of James and not dieting. In the past few days, I learned that nothing bad happens if I don't track and follow a plan. I have eaten, dare I say normal. I have eaten food that G-d made and food that is processed. I have had a conversation with my kids, telling them I haven't taught them well, asking them to forgive me. I am making Chinese food for dinner tomorrow, including tons of veggies. I can't wait to invite my girls to help. I have spent time in the Word.  I did workout yesterday with modifications, but due to pain did not go today. I have felt no guilt. I have tasted some freedom.

I am not sure what will happen at the end of these 40 days. I didn't set up many rules for it or after it. I have ideas of things I might do in the journey of the 40 days, including fasting.  On my Quest, I fasted for the time and it was an incredible day. But mainly, I am just taking one day at a time and following the Lord's cue that dieting and food has been a stronghold and it's time to break free.




Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Travel Day, A Year Later

A year ago today a 40 year old woman, who never had a passport, who dislikes flying, made the journey to Israel. That was only possible, because G-d called her to go and made a way.

I had hoped to finish writing about my trip before this date approached, but things are still left to be said.

I was a bundle of nerves waiting to board the first leg of our flight. I was filled with anxiety, excitement, and anticipation. I had not flown in about 15 years. I had never been out of the country.  

 Despite my dislike of being in large objects in the sky, I love the views. My fear comes from take off, turbulence, unknown noises, and wondering if I am really gonna get from point A to point B. Thankfully, the desire to be obedient and step out in faith outweighed my fear. And thankfully, I did not embark on this journey alone.

My pastor and friend was leading our crazy crew on this adventure and was well aware of my fear. He graciously and patiently distracted me on our first leg. He brought out a map of Israel and began teaching me. And guess what, we made it to Canada!




 I loved this structure at the airport in Canada.



















This picture shows part of our group awaiting to board the plane that would take us all 12 hours to Israel.




 Our flight crew was amazing. I walked around the plane often and enjoyed seeing how things work. Praise G-d my seat was an aisle seat, so I could get up frequently. The flight was surprisingly pleasant.





















 I loved getting to watch movies on this screen, but getting to see where we were and how far we had to go was awesome. I think I watched it more than movies.



 Upon arriving in Israel, I saw this hot air balloon. I love balloons.




 And I was welcomed. During that first day, I spoke with a friend and said I was speechless and in tears. The reply was welcome home. 








I have so much more to share about my time, but on the departure date of April 20, 2018, as I rode in a van to the Ben Gurion Airport tears rolled down my cheeks. I wasn't ready to leave and as my pastor promised, began asking myself when I could go back.  It did feel like home. I left a piece of my heart there and some new friends.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Hebrew and Purim

 I have fallen wildly in love with the Hebrew language. It is not just learning a new set of letters, it is so much more. Hebrew is an active and mysterious language. It is powerful, life changing, and reveals amazing insights. The utterance of our Creator, spoken in Hebrew, formed the world.  The original words of the Bible were written in Hebrew. As I have just scratched beneath the surface to this inspiring language, I am left in awe. 

 The day we arrived in Jerusalem, we stood first on Mt. Scopus. I gazed out before me and could see the Hebrew letter shin in the topography of the land.

This picture is a model of the land and depicts what I beheld. This shin is made up of three narrow valleys that run north and south through Jerusalem, all connecting  at the southern edge. Many verses tell us that G-d put His name in Jerusalem.


We stood at this place a few hours before the start of Shabbat, the 7th day of the week. A day of rest, prayer, attending synagogue, food, family, and much more. Our group of Christians had the blessing of participating in Shabbat and quickly checked into our hotel to prepare.

I listened to a song by Joshua Aaron, titled "Shalom", all about Shabbat, as I finished getting ready for synagogue. Attending synagogue was a great experience. I loved listening to the Hebrew spoken and at moments recognizing a word. My favorite part was observing to individuals with disabilities worship without abandon. I don't care what language you worship in, when you witness these individuals worship they are authentic and inspiring.

We divided into groups to walk to the homes of our various hosts for the Shabbat meal. I was with my friends Gidon and Devra and we were hosted by Mrs. & Mr. Samson. The food was amazing, the conversation engaging, and the people delightful. It was the perfect home for a student. Rabbi David Samson was a scribe. His knowledge was incredible and his willingness to teach made the evening memorable. I became more enthralled with Hebrew as I listened. He brought out a scroll he had completed, stating it was the Megillah, and I knew immediately it was the book of Esther, one of my favorite books. It brought tears to my eyes. He graciously allowed me to take a photograph and gave me permission to share it.





Today my Jewish friends are celebrating Purim. It is a celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from the evil schemes of Haman. It is a celebration of their lives both then and now.  The book of Esther tells us the story of Purim and my friends will be reading the Megiallah, the scroll I had the blessing of seeing on this Shabbat evening.

Today may we all celebrate the lives of our Jewish friends, the language of the Bible, and the G-d we all serve.

Purim Sameach

Sunday, February 10, 2019

My Word for 2019

When both of my kids were born I would not commit to their names until I touched them, held them, and saw them. Those names were prayed about and picked out long before they were born, but I could not fully give their names until they were in my arms. One took only a little time to confirm, I was able to hold her immediately.  One took over 4 hours, because it took that long for me to hold her.

I feel that way with my word for 2019. I normally have my one word confirmed and wrote about way before the end of January, but I began the New Year sick. I felt behind, but I also felt like I hadn't held it, touched it, and had it validated.

And now that it is February, I hesitate to use the word that I know is now mine for 2019. February seems so late in the game. Despite not penning, typing it on my blog I have spent some time with it, even if I don't feel like I have, there are facts to back it up.

This is my 6th year spending a year with a word, in all the years it has never taken this much time to write about it. Never. However, there are a lot of days left in 2019, and I know the Lord wants me to spend time with this word.

My past words have been:

Chase
Be
Transform
Courage
Trust

Deep down, I knew what word the Lord was leading me to, but again with being sick and other things going on, I just never felt confirmation. Like my babies, I just needed to hold it and sit with it. I did get validation while at church on January 13, 2019, but have only spoken that to one person, my pastor. His message verified my word and I told him that day. Yet, until I could write this post, I just could not bring myself to utter it, post it, or hashtag it.

Jesus has finally given me the mental, emotional, and physical strength to form my words and give voice to my one word for 2019.

I think it took so long, because the weariness of some burdens, both health and personal, were making it hard to feel like the word fit into my year. I had so much going on that I wasn't getting stuff done. I am one that takes some time getting use to new routines and schedules. In August, I quit a job, thought I would start a new job in September, but did not start till October. I started a business, and was attempting to keep up my study pace, reading pace, home, kids, workouts, and learning a new nutrition coaching program, on top of the health stuff and personal stuff. I was also helping a friend with his ministry. And lets not forget the holidays. For an OCD woman, this getting use to new routines and schedules kinda shook me. It all felt a little chaotic. I felt because of lack of progress and time or the appearance thereof, that I was being slightly hypocritical in declaring that diligent would be my word.

I think when your weary you realize just how diligent you have been. 

Rather the tiredness is from the exertion of a good workout, positive things, or the result of some storms, one must be diligent to get through. 

Diligent  , according to my friend Merriam-Webster is characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort:painstaking.

If I look at reality and not just my feelings, I am not being untrue to this word. I just need the reminder of what this word encompasses to help me in 2019.

On that day in church, when this word was confirmed, the verses my pastor used were:

"The lazy person wants but doesn't have; the diligent get their desires filled."  (Proverbs 13:4 CJB)


"I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me."  (Proverbs 8:17 ESV)





Not only will diligent by my word, but these verses will be the biblical back up as I walk it out in 2019.

I have numerous ambitions and it is by focusing on this word for 2019 and these verses that I will be more equipped to walk the adventurous path toward those goals, toward any new opportunities, and even walk away from others.

One Word

One Year

Diligent

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Simchat Torah

Yesterday, in Israel, and today in the US, my Jewish friends celebrated and are celebrating Simchat Torah.  A holiday that marks the conclusion of  the annual cycle of public Torah reading, and the start of the new cycle.   In English it is called Rejoicing with the Torah.  The main celebrations take place in a synagogue. During evening and morning services, when the ark, which holds the Torah scrolls is opened, the people dance and sing with the scrolls.

As I scanned through social media yesterday, my eyes beheld pictures of this worship.  Such joyous observance of the Word of G-d.

Today in a small town somewhere in the US, me, a follow of Jesus, who has been enlightened about Israel, Judaism, and Hebrew over the last year and half completed reading the Torah as well.  Not only did I finish the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, I also completed the Nevi'm or in English, the Prophets, and the Ketuvim or Writings.  These books complete the full Hebrew Bible, known as Tanach. Tanach is an abbreviation for the three parts of the Bible.  I was taught that the Prophets and Writings are referred to as Nach.  I also read all the books of the New Testament.

In other words, I have spent the last year reading both the Old Testament and the New Testament. I did not sing and dance as I closed my journal that guided me in my readings this morning, but I wrote in it, words from Joshua 1, "Be strong, be bold".  I scribbled Todah Rabah, which means thank you very much.


I don't share this with you to pat myself on the back, it is only G-d.  I share this to encourage you to read your Bible with different eyes. Along with reading each portion, I listened every week to the Lone Star Podcast.  This podcast brought together a Rabbi and a Pastor, who studied the portion each week. This time spent in the Word and listening to this podcast has blessed me in numerous ways.

I have completed this reading before, however, I would get sleepy eyed as I read through the Old Testament, not grasping the significance of the words nor gaining insight to who G-d is.  I had a lack of understanding. As I grew in my faith, I grew to appreciate the Old Testament more, but never like I have this year.

Learning to grasp the Jewish roots of my faith, has opened up the beauty and truth of the different portions of the Old Testament.  Learning Hebrew has increased my desire to read the language and increased my knowledge and excitement. Understanding the language of the Bible is life changing.  I have learned to study the Bible better by listening to the podcast mentioned.  And in all of this I have learned more about the character and heart of G-d.  

I remember finishing the book of Leviticus this year and asking Rabbi Dov Lipman the following question, do you every get sad when the reading of a book of the Torah is over?  We spent so much time in each book, it was bittersweet for me, sad to be done with one book yet excited to read the next.  His response was, "No. I don't get sad. We continue to the next one."  This appreciation of each book, only stems from G-d and Him allowing me to understand the Jewish roots of my faith.

Thank you so much to all my friends, acquaintances, and future friends who have helped and will help me grow in my faith by allowing me into yours.

Thank you to the Lone Star Podcast for to teaching me so much this year as I read along.

And todah rabah Hashem for Your Word. 




Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Truth About Israel

I have not planned out all my posts about my trip to Israel, but I had some forethought as to how I might write them.  Today's post was not in my plans, it was inspired after observation from afar.  So on one hand this post isn't about my trip, yet on the other it is.  If I had not gone on that trip, making the friends that I have made and learning all that I have,  I may not have had the words to write this.

Yesterday, in Israel a man who lived as a hero, died as one. I did not have the blessing of knowing this man, but I have had the blessing of knowing and being in contact with many who did.  Some of these contacts, I am blessed to call friends.  Some of them acquaintances.  All of them graciously allow me to ask a million questions and glean from them about Israel, Judaism, and Hebrew.  But, I digress.

This man was stabbed by a terrorist and after being critically wounded was able to run after the terrorist and shoot him, stopping him from causing further harm.  That terrorist did not die, he was treated at the scene by Jews and taken to an Israeli hospital. After inflicting injury on a Jew, he was tended to by Jews.

Last week I wrote a post titled, Is Israel Safe, I still stand by my words, with a resounding yes, Israel is safe.
 
Since social media blew up about this terror attack, I have seen my friends and acquaintances hurting. I watched a live video that displayed the vast amount of people attending the funeral.  I saw the live feed of the funeral.  I saw the family's hurt. I cried with them.

Today I have read numerous articles, listened to interviews, and have seen many posts about this hero. 

In all of this, I see the beauty of unity amidst the storm of pain.

I also see the need for truth.  As I have learned more about this hero, Ari Fuld, I know that he wanted others to see truth regarding Israel too.

G-d began growing in me a love for the Jews, Judaism, Israel, and Hebrew a year and a half ago.  Basically, that means I have a lot to learn and understand, but it does not mean I can't share truth.

The truth is, Israel is the promised land. The truth is, the Jews are G-d's chosen people. The truth is,  learning from my friends about Judaism has expanded my faith.  The truth is, the Hebrew language is amazing.  The truth is, understanding these things will help you know the heart of G-d.  The truth is, we are seeing promises regarding this land and this people being fulfilled.

The truth is, this land is surrounded by enemies.  The truth is, not every person who is not a Jew in Israel or elsewhere is an enemy.  The truth is, there are people out there that do not like the Jewish people. The truth is, news stations twist the truth and often times don't even report what is occurring in Israel.

The truth is, a Jewish man was killed for being a Jew.

And therefore, the truth is we need to stand with Israel, join our Jewish friends in unity, and support them in truth.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Is Israel Safe?

Is Israel safe?  I asked this exact question before I knew I would ever go to Israel.  The answer I received from Rabbi Dov Lipman was, "Israel is more safe than the USA. We live very free lives without fear. It's an incredible feeling."  I could barely wrap my head around this statement.  How is Israel safe?  Israel is surrounded by people that hate the country and hate the Jewish people.  Yet, he is telling me it is safe.  Not only did I pose this question, I have heard it asked many times and the answer is always yes, Israel is safe.

When the Lord laid it on my heart to say yes to going, I sought out the answer to this question again from Rabbi Dov Lipman and he stated, "Israel is more safe than any place".  I emailed my friend Josh Hasten as well, his response, "I honestly feel safer here than in any major US city. 100%."  I also frequently asked my pastor Trey Graham this question and his response was yes every time. 

Since traveling to Israel, I am now the one being asked, is Israel safe? 

I left for Israel on April 9, 2018 and returned to the USA on April 20, 2018. During that time the following events occurred in the US:

  • On April 9, 2018 in Gloversville, New York a student shot another student several times with a BB gun.  
  • On April 12, 2018 a man was shot in the stomach in the parking lot of a middle school during a track meet.
  • On April 15, 2018 a freshman at Binghamton University in New York was stabbed to death.
  • On April 15, 2018 in New Orleans three men sexually assaulted two women.
  • On April 20, 2018 a student in Florida was shot in the ankle.
I researched news in Israel during the time frame I was there and found nothing notable.  Yet, in my own country at least 5 crimes took place. 

Now yes, Israel was dealing with and continues to deal with issues with those surrounding her borders, but inside those borders it is safe.


In the evenings after a long, incredible day of
touring my pastor would say "you wanna take a walk?" Whoever said yes would then proceed to walk from our hotel to the Western Wall, which was 2.5 miles.  The first evening I took a walk, we took a different route and it was much longer than 2.5 miles. It was beautiful. We observed the normalcy of Israel and not the sensationalized news of Israel we see in the US news. We saw a pizza delivery driver, a gorgeous park with people spending time together, and we walked through an outdoor mall.



These pictures show the Western Wall. It is an amazing place. The bottom picture depicts a street we walked down on our way back to our hotel. On this very street Trey Graham stated "This is the scary place your friends and family warned you about." In fact it was so scary, I was blessed with a free water and a free juice from two different Arab store owners.





The picture and video seen here was on another walk to the wall.  We stopped at a movie that was playing and witnessed a group of young people blasting music, dancing, and being together in the streets of Jerusalem.






My friend, Rabbi Dov Lipman said Israel was safe. My friend Josh Hasten said Israel was safe.  My pastor and friend, Trey Graham said it was safe.  But then, I experienced Israel for myself.
Is Israel safe?  My answer is a resounding yes!