This is not a political statement of any kind. It is not intended to be political in any way. It is a God statement. Period.
Several years ago, Yahweh put the burden on my heart to teach women His truth. He blessed us to create Torah For Women ministry where we discuss and teach principles based on the bible. NOT on what mankind has taught about the scriptural writings for 2000 years. Often I find myself having to cover modern day issues from a biblical perspective because, let’s face it, not every micro detail in our modern society is covered in the scriptures. BUT the principles from scripture can be applied in our lives.
Last year, Yahweh placed another burden on my heart to re-focus Torah for Women to encourage women in avoiding false doctrines and teachings while seeking after Spiritual gifts. I also felt impressed upon to teach that they need to teach their children rightly to be able to defend the faith as they grow older. In all this, Yahweh kept leading me to the verse in 2 Timothy 3:6 -7 “For some of these are people who creep into houses, and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Repeatedly, Yahweh has pushed that verse in front of me as a warning of what will, and is, happening amongst the women of faith.
A few months ago, He placed another burden on my heart for our youth and to pray diligently for our children. Children ages 8 to 30 have been led astray by so many influences in their lives, which is why women need to be strong, faithful teachers. From school teachers, club leaders, college professors, friend’s parents, friends and more, our young people have been influenced to forsake their morals, upbringing, righteousness, and faith in the name of “let’s all get along” and “we need to love everybody.” In the midst of all this, they have even been fooled into thinking that we need to give up our basic rights in an effort to “make everyone happy” and avoid “offending anyone.”
None of these principles are biblical. Not one. They all go against what the bible teaches, and although I could spend hours focusing on that topic alone it is not why I am here today writing this message. In fact, I did not expect to be writing this message at all. I did not want to speak about this, and I certainly did not want it to be a part of our ministry, but it must be. I must say what is on my heart – because this week during my personal prayer time Yahweh impressed upon me to speak up against what I see and hear happening with the youth who have been touched by this horrific shooting in Parkdale FL. Again, as I said, this is NOT a political message. It is a GOD message. Plain and simple.
On February 14, 2018 something terrible happened in Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkdale, FL. Something that changed thousands of lives forever. We all know the details, we all know the accusations and the stories coming out, so there is no need for me to go into details here, especially as they are still unfolding. What I will talk about today is simple: those children and adults whose hearts are so broken by what has happened that they have yelled out that they don’t want our prayers and sympathies. They don’t want our love and kindness. These people are calling out, “Where was God during all this?!” and “Why didn’t God stop this from happening?!”
Well, here is MY answer to those thoughts and questions:
I am sorry that you do not want my prayers. It breaks my heart that you do not want me to pray for your comfort, courage and strength. But, I am going to pray anyway. I will pray for solace in your grief, peace in your heart and in your community, for strength to get through, for love to prevail as people struggle with the trauma. I will pray for protection over each and every person touched by this and may there be no residual deaths from this incident. Suicide following such a traumatic event is a reality sometimes. I do NOT want that to be the case in your community.
Your anger, your hurt and bitterness, your pain and anguish, your heartsick words – all of that is perfectly understandable at this time, and it all only strikes a chord in me even deeper than before. It tells me that you, your families, friends, children, loved ones, all need our prayers so much more than we ever knew or imagined. You need deep, heartfelt intercessory prayers and prayers for supplication. I wish this never happened to you and your community. I can’t take it away, but I can still pray for you going forward and I will.
"As soon as I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4-6
I do not know your pain, I cannot imagine what you are going through, and I won’t pretend that I do. What I do hear, though, in those words and tears is that people don’t understand how this could happen if we have a loving God. I hear hearts crying out “why” and calling to be filled with understanding yet aren’t finding it. I don’t know that my words here today will bring understanding to anyone. But my hopes and prayers are that you will see God did not abandon you.
God WAS there that day in Parkland FL. God has been there for over a year. God was there when the first concerned teacher tried to get help for the young man. God was there when the first student felt impressed to report his odd behavior. God was there when he impressed upon so many people to report every incident with this young man. Students, teachers, administration, leaders, friends all reported different things that could have brought his problems to light and could have prevented this shooting from happening.
“MAN” was not there for this school and community – for at least a year prior to the shooting, and even on that very day. “Man” failed these children, teachers, and families, not God. “Man” did not listen to all the voices telling them what was happening. We cannot blame God for what man refused to do.
God was there on February 14th during the shooting, and he tried to clean up the mess that “Man” made when they didn’t listen. Just look at the selfless people, people of great character, He had in place that day:
~ The Geography teacher, Scott Beigel, who died after unlocking a door for students and getting them inside to protect them.
~ The coach, Aaron Feis, who ran toward the shooting and shielded students from bullets.
~ The young JROTC student who died holding the door so other students could run out to safety.
~ The two JROTC students who escorted several students back into a classroom and covered them with Kevlar panels, blockaded a door, and stood ready to take out the shooter if he attempted to enter the room.
~ The librarian whose friend had been through Sandy Hook and survived by helping people hide. Because of her friend’s story of survival, she knew just what to do, ushered kids inside, into a small area, hid them and turned off the lights.
~ The miraculous healing of those who were critically injured.
There are countless other stories that will come out over time of heroes and heroines who were willing to do whatever necessary that day for those around them. Where did these people get the courage, strength, selfless nature that they have inside them if not from how He created them? Each one was in the right place at the right time to help to care for those in need and to help minimize what could have been horrifically much worse because that young man was determined that day to kill.
God was there that day, in so many ways, and I will continue to pray to Him for all those involved. I will continue to pray that somehow, someway Yahweh can touch the hearts of those in the community to come to know Him even more than before. I will continue to pray that in spite of the political noise, all will learn to focus on everything Yahweh was able to do during the the tragedy, all he has done since, and all that He will keep doing.
You have our love and our prayers.
Shalom. . .
I would like to share a little bit of my heart with you today. A sister was feeling a bit confused recently, a bit melancholy over things from her past. After seeing something from her old church, it brought back happy memories which made her “pine” for the way things “used to be.” She even felt concerned about whether or not her Torah path was the right one. Two of her thoughts have stuck with me:
~ Seeing these things from the past “Makes me wish for a spiritual life without all this opposition.”
~ How can I know if my new path is right?
Have you ever felt that way? Felt as if everything you do meets great opposition from friends and family which makes you question deeply if you have made the right decision.
In this Torah walk, it seems like we are hit from all sides sometimes with people’s opinions of our choice to live more biblically centered, not just following man-made traditions. We can be told it is everything from wrong to stupid, or anything in between. Sometimes people are not kind, not by any means. We can try to be as gentle and loving in our new choices as Yeshua would have been, but some people just don’t like what we do, our strong faith, or who we have become.
Two of the roughest times of the year, in my opinion, are Christmas and Easter. America is SO used to celebrating these holidays as mega-events with gifts and parties, dinners and events. If you choose not to attend any of these events, you often are accused of not being “normal.” Have you ever had that moment at a family get together where everyone starts talking about their last big family holiday dinner together? Everyone is remembering that time when so-and-so said this, or such-and-such did that, laughing and joking, then someone looks at you, gets sullen faced and blurts out, “Oh, yeah. YOU weren’t there because YOU don’t celebrate Easter (or Christmas).” Then suddenly it seems the nature of the conversation has changed because “the weird one” is there. Does any of that seem or feel familiar?
It is difficult when we leave our old churches or former belief systems. Many of us feel that we have to give up EVERYTHING that is Godly from them, even the truths that we learned, just to cut ourselves off from the false doctrines. When we leave behind false teachings like Christmas and Easter, many often also toss out everything that was comfortable and often these are things we found joyful at one point in our lives. Then when we discover our love for the feast days and Sabbath, we feel happy yet also out of place. We want to share it with all our old friends and our family, and yet often they will not be a part of what we now know.
For me growing up, Christmas was THE holiday in my family. We did it big - Dad took us out into the woods, we picked and cut a tree, he put the lights on, we all sang carols and decorated it while we had cocoa and cookies. He lit a HUGE yule log in the old fireplace. Even when we moved to Tucson when I was a teen, he HAD to have a house with a fire place so he could light his yule log. Oh, my goodness! Some winters he lit that log, and we opened all the windows and turned on fans because it was so doggone hot! Dad loved Christmas traditions.
We baked cookies with mom for a month, delivered them to friends and relatives, and then between Christmas and New Years we had parties galore. Then there were the visits to every aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend of the family. It was a BIG deal, and a huge part of my memory.
When I had kids of my own, I started the same traditions, and then added our own. Every year we baked and decorated gingerbread houses and delivered them to friends. The season was SO packed full of activities – caroling, watching Christmas programs on TV, we even drove around the neighborhoods and looked at all the houses decorated with all the lights. I have SO many memories as a child, teen and mother with my own kids.
When we “gave up Christmas”, the first year was actually easiest for me. Family and friends just thought we were weird, going through a “phase.” The second one, not so much. By this time, some friends and family had become aggressive in their opinions and began pressuring us to celebrate Christmas, one even demanding that we be present at their event. The third year, it seemed the emotional manipulations really got hard and heavy. It felt as though some people were trying to say, “GEEZ! Aren’t you done with that phase now? Let’s get back to Christmas!” Now here we are years later, and this last two have been very hard.
I know that using the term “emotional manipulations” might set some people off, but that is exactly what happens. Some will pull out all the stops, using your memories from your childhood, your elderly Aunt Ethel, or any number of other strings to pull at your emotions with the hope of pressuring you into doing what they want from you. The good-old-fashioned guilt-trip.
At first, I thought maybe these last two holiday seasons were rougher because we moved away by ourselves, out of state. Yet that isn’t really it. It occurred to me that our moving didn’t affect how we look at Christmas, but it did affect how others look at us during the Christmas season. These last two years we have gotten an exorbitant amount of pressure to come “home” for the holiday. Even though we don’t celebrate it, the pressure seems to say, “This is what is easiest for all of us back here. We all think you need to come here to us because it is convenient for us.”
Sadly, this last Christmas, we even had a hurtful moment happen where a promise was made to us because family was all going to be together for a big family dinner. They were going to call so we could talk to everyone all at once. We waited and waited. Hours past, finally we called to ask if dinner was done yet. Only to learn that everyone had left hours earlier and when we questioned about the promise, we very sadly were told it shouldn’t matter because “YOU don’t celebrate Christmas.” It wasn’t Christmas that we wanted. It was to talk with everyone who was going to be there for dinner because that was the only time all year that everyone was together.
Suddenly it was as if we were being told that unless we follow everyone else in the family, we will be punished, ostracized, shunned. At that moment, I really started to question if we are right in our feelings about the holiday. Maybe we SHOULD just go back to celebrating it. Just Christmas. I found myself feeling just as my friend does – couldn’t we make it just family time together and it would be without all the opposition. . .I even asked myself, How could so much opposition be the right thing?
The more I prayed about it, the more it felt WRONG to celebrate Christmas. I was so very confused. I do miss all the smells, the songs, the fun with the kids, I miss going to historical towns and seeing the homes decorated, all the sights and sounds and smells. I miss it all so much sometimes I physically ACHE inside for those memories to be real again. Yet, even though I still miss it so very much, I can't bring myself to do it. Yahweh told us to not celebrate pagan things IN HIS NAME. And of all the American celebrations that we have, Easter and Christmas are the most pagan of them all and THEY ARE DONE IN HIS NAME. I can’t celebrate them. No matter how deep the emotions and memories run, I cannot do them.
It is SO ingrained in us, such a part of our memories, and we can all recall some truly blessed times wrapped up in that neat little package we call Christmas or Easter. But it all boils down to one question: is the doctrine correct? What is true? It isn't easy on our hearts sometimes to stay the line and follow the straight and narrow path but is it wrong or is it RIGHT to stay in Torah. THAT is the question you have to ask yourself.
Some days it will be difficult, other days it will hurt like heck, but I know deep in my spirit that following a Torah Observant lifestyle IS right.
Torah observance isn't the reason we follow Torah. In other words, we don’t follow Torah as a score-card, the legalistic way, putting every check mark in every box on our Feast Day check list. We don’t follow Torah because it is easy or for salvation. Yeshua is the reason we follow Torah. When we accept him, that is supposed to work a true and righteous change in our heart. That change is supposed to make us want to live like Yeshua - always loving, sometimes stern, sometimes heavy handed, but always kind. We don’t follow Torah to be better than someone else, or more righteous than another. We don't follow Torah to BE righteous. Once we accept Yeshua, we follow Torah BECAUSE we are righteous. It is a change of heart.
Would I be tempted to go back to Christmas again? Probably at some point. And as my friend feels pulled to return to her old church lifestyle, I asked myself if I would want to return, too, if I felt those same pulls that she does? Yes, I probably would. But would I go?
Timothy 1:4 WEB “…neither to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes, rather than God's stewardship, which is in faith—”
Titus 3:9 WEB “…but shun foolish questionings, genealogies, strife, and disputes about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”
The apostle Paul was very concerned over the churches during his final years alive. He wrote several letters which were read to the assemblies, and in them he repeatedly stated many things that the membership was to avoid in their faith walk. 1 Timothy 1:4 and Titus 3:9 both talk of something we have seen happening over the last few years in modern religions – focus on endless genealogies.
In early times in the church, it seemed the focus was on the "endless genealogies" of Judaism, similar to those recorded in Genesis 4, 5 and 11. These are the chapters where we can read the genealogy of the ancient prophets, kings, and some that may lead to the lineage of Yeshua. Today, this warning from Paul has taken on a whole new meaning.
Right now there are preachers and teachers claiming a long list of those who are “more righteous” than others based on their genealogy. What do I mean by this? Search online or sit down and talk to anyone you know who is involved in a church, and you will find that many Christians believe they are more right with God based on their belief that the New Testament was written for them, and the Jews are the lesser of God’s people. You will find that Jews believe that they are the chosen ones because they were chosen in ancient times.
There will be religions who preach they are chosen because they are of the remnant of Ephraim and Manasseh, or those who believe they are Levite or Nazarite. What about the churches who preach they are the only ones righteous enough to get to Heaven, and if you aren’t in their membership lineage you will not be saved? We see people arguing over two house doctrines, and others who claim all modern religion is based on false teachings and deception.
Could this have been something Paul saw not only in the churches Timothy and Titus led, but also in the latter days? He did speak of the churches and the sins people would become involved in – 2 Timothy 3:1 talks of perilous times that will come in the last days, and of all the wickedness men and women will give in to. This includes the warning in 2 Timothy 3:6 which warns of women letting teachers into their homes, which will lead them astray with false teachings.
Paul’s warnings to Timothy and Titus included consequences for those who follow fables and endless genealogies: these people will cause much strife amongst Yahweh's people, and create disputes about everything - including the law. He then reminds us that these are unprofitable and vain.
Wow! Paul was very accurate about the issue of genealogies - as in the past, many today continue to fight for their privilege, authority, or “special designation” based on their lineage. This fascination with lineage causes conflict and battles to the point it turns people against each other. People who were friends for some time, or family members, will turn on those they care about just to argue over who is from what house, tribe, or nationality.
We have even heard of people who are trying to prove their lineage through DNA tests to show they are of a particular lineage for religious purposes. This was something I recently studied for a paper I was writing about Paul’s warnings to the churches of the last days. Many believe their genealogy is valuable proof and evidence to prove to others where they have come from – Again for religious purposes.
One example of this is within the Mormon church who believe you must discover as many relatives as possible so that you can “do their temple work” for them to help get them into what Mormon’s believe to be God’s highest kingdom in Heaven. They have dedicated entire caves to store microfiche copies of old records such as birth, marriage, and death records going back hundreds of years. Entire businesses have been built on searching your genealogical records or family history, and although it can be truly fun discovering where your ancestors might have came from, we should not preach that salvation is based on whether your genealogy “lines up” appropriately with a desired group of people from the past.
In recent years, we have seen more and more debates crop up about genealogies and ensuring your lineage is attached to a particular group of ancient people. As Paul predicted, these debates and conversations end in controversial speculations about who is more worthy of salvation, or who has more “right” to a position in Heaven. These arguments stop any possibility of “advancing God’s work,” because the focus becomes solely on heredity and “special position,” or status with God. As people expend their energy searching genealogical records. Instead of wasting their time on this pursuit, their time and energy should be directed toward getting to know their Saviour more deeply. They should be spending their time on learning to let the Spirit make changes on the inside with their character, thinking, emotions, attitude, love, flesh, desires, and relationships.
This abrupt halt in spiritual progression happens not just with the people who are debating geneologies, but also with those who witness the arguments and become confused about God’s intentions for his people. Many times, it appears that both sides of the debate may be scholarly, and yet, if they truly are well-versed, how can they have such differing views as to who is the “rightful” follower of Christ? How can both be right about “who gets into Heaven or who goes to Hell?” How can they read the scriptures and proclaim one race of people is more loved by God, or more righteous than others?
You see, people are often found chasing after their personal “lineage” as if it makes them more righteous or more “entitled” to salvation or God’s blessings fall on one race of people more than race. These and other arguments are heated discussions often found in the the Two House Theory, and lost tribes discussions – as in which “tribe” you rightfully come from, whether a lineage is of the family of Ephraim or Manassah, or do you identify with being a Nazarite or a Levite, or are you just a descendant of pagans. To many people, this information will decide whether you are a part of the wild olive tree, or the natural olive tree, forgetting that both are grafted together, or that one branch may be cut off just as easily as another if the fruit is bad. Some will claim only Jews are saved while others will believe only Gentiles, so people will spend countless hours trying to prove they are or are not something out of fear for their salvation, or out of fear of losing their salvation.
This world has become so scattered since the Tower of Babel that it is often difficult to confirm with great certainty exactly what lineage a person comes from. As debates heat up, so does the market for DNA or genealogical “proof.” As of this writing there are at least 3 companies who claim to currently provide the most “accurate” DNA test available on the open market. Yet these tests are far from perfect. One example of this would be the test results of the Dahm Triplets that was publicized early in 2017.
With modern DNA tests, unless you are willing to pay a lot of money for a high-tech study, accuracy of the results may be questionable. Let’s take a closer look at the Dahm family example:
The Dahm Triplets are identical triplets. Initial results showed them to be 100% identical, just as expected. Yet when the genealogical breakdown came in, the test results were less identical:
Erica showed 16% Irish/English; 22.3% French/German; 7.4% Scandinavian
Nicole showed 18% Irish/English; 11% French/German; 11.4% Scandinavian
Jaclyn was did not show Irish/English lineage like the others, but instead showed she was 18% French/German; and 7.4% Scandinavian
As you can see, they “lost” much of their “identical” nature as soon as the test was broken down to actual genetic history. How could this be possible when their initial DNA results said they were almost 100% identical? It simply shows that we currently cannot put perfect faith on this scientific testing to show what genealogy we come from. How much trust should you put in your own test results showing you are or are not from a certain lineage of people?
What about studying out your family history through records research and then coupling this with your DNA tests for more “proof?” For those who have studied their lineage out by searching through piles of records in old archives or through one of the online ancestry services, even this is not a perfect method of demonstrating one’s genealogy or lineage. Personal examples of these are within our own families.
Years ago, I input my mother’s family history to one of these online services. After a time, someone else had gone into my Grandfather’s records and changed all the information on his parents and siblings, because this other person claimed he had come from a completely different family, with completely different siblings. Although the parent’s names were almost identical, the children were not at all the same. Upon closer examination, the difference was noticed also with the middle names of the parents. BOTH father and mother had different middle names from my grandfather’s parents.
The problem we ran into was, when this other person tied their family line to mine, it added and deleted names and places from my grandfather’s lineage. Yet this was information for which I had documentation and proof from my extensive research that validated my original entries. Although this other family had similar first and last names of their relatives, they mistakenly thought they had found a connection, but their changes to my family records online made the genealogical connections between our families connected. Their mistake impacted my mother’s family records and it now showed my mother’s family came from a completely different place than they originally came from.
Sadly this was not the only example. My husband’s genealogical records were altered as well, with a similar thing happening to my father’s grandparents line. These are just three examples within our family. To top it off, trying to prove our original entries were valid with documents was futile, nothing was able to be changed back to the accurate information on the genealogical records. Should any of our children search their family history out, they will discover information that may appear true, and yet the information is completely false.
Paul said, “…Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work…” and he was spot on with this statement. If we spend all our time testing out these family lines, we might find we are related to the tribe of Judah, perhaps, or maybe the lineage of Moses. Maybe we can go back as far as Noah – whom we are all related to! Or maybe we will be orphans somewhere along the line with no proof of anything going back anywhere. It’s all futile!
If we spend all our time worrying about what lineage we are, where we come from by using this faulty process of DNA testing, and genealogical research, where will it get you in the end? Why would you do all this? Do you really think all this effort and research is going to make yourself “more worthy” in the eyes of God? How much time have you wasted on documentation, research, and testing just to prove something that means nothing at all concerning salvation? Instead, you could have spent your time teaching truth, preaching the Gospel message, and sharing God’s love with family members, neighbors, and the world who are still wandering around spiritually lost. This effort would have accomplished something of worth for the Kingdom of God. Will it matter to people what tribe you, or they come from in the end, or will it matter more if you show them the truth of God’s word and his plan of salvation in the Gospel?
If we invest our time on God’s word rather than man’s vain theories about genealogical status, or the false teaching of lineage-based salvation, how much more could we accomplish for his kingdom doing the things we were called to do?
Blessings and Shalom. . .
Rosen, Jeff & Bomin Lindsey “How well do home DNA kits really work? See identical triplets try three of them” The Today Show, December 1, 2017 www.today.com/health/are-home-dna-kits-accurate-identical-triplets-try-3-them-t119472; Accessed: January 4, 2018
I am always grateful for the blessed people Yahweh places in my life to reinforce scriptural lessons. This spring was another one of those humble moments.
It was a lovely morning in spring-time where I had every intention of just taking time for myself to re-focus - outside in the warm sunshine & fresh mountain air. After so many days of clouds and rain, the sun was a welcome change. I fixed my coffee, grabbed both my nature journal and my prayer journal then sat out on the front steps. I had a few days that week where I wasn’t feeling quite so connected to Yahweh as I normally feel, and all my personal plans were to just sit and listen for His impressions to rain down on me.
The neighbor down the way was out mowing his lawn, but other than that, the world was miraculously quiet. Even his mower sounded oddly softer that morning than most mornings. And that was okay with me. I couldn’t seem to concentrate much on prayer time, but finally a wonderful relaxing song came on my tablet, and I closed my eyes. The next thing I knew, there was that mower sound, getting closer and closer and closer. I opened my eyes, and don’t you know it!!! There was the neighbor, mowing OUR lawn for us! He has done this several times for us since we moved in, and in fact, he had mowed our lawn all last summer and into the fall last year. He knew we were waiting on mower parts to arrive, which they did - finally - right before the snow hit late last fall! A little late, but we tucked them away and just had not taken the time in the spring yet to put the mower together.
Our lawn is not a small 1/4 acre city lot, but is over 3/4 an acre, with probably about 2/3 of that all out front. And the grass grows very quickly and thick here. This was no small feat he was undertaking as it had been over two weeks since his last service to us because of all the rain we have had. Knowing that we had not had time yet to repair our own mower, I was actually quite grateful for the sound of his during prayer time.
I watched as he mowed right across the front of the lawn, up the side, then pulled up right out front of the porch to stop and talk with me a bit. He surprised me when the first thing he said was the most heartfelt apology for disturbing my devotional time! I was so taken aback - first, because he recognized why I am often out front sitting in the sunshine, and second, because here he was doing us a service yet he was apologizing to ME! I could not thank him enough for the mowing, and he remarked how he was pleased with just a simple thank you. We got to talking for a bit, and he asked several questions just to catch up on things: if we had found a church or assembly to attend, where we were going if we had, how the ministry is doing, etc. All topics we had not been able to discuss over the cold winter months.
I had the opportunity to explain that we hadn’t found a church here yet, and I felt impressed to share with him how difficult it is for us to “fit in” with a particular denomination. I told him we are Torah observant, and he asked me to explain that. I talked about the Feast days, the Sabbath, the Torah. He asked what exactly the “Torah” was, so I explained the first five books of the Old Testament, and then about how we seem to fit along the lines of Torah Observant, Pentecostal, Word of Faith believers in Yahweh. He laughed then said, “Yup - ya’ll won’t fit in anywhere ‘round here!!! Not at all!” I laughed. He understood completely as we are in an area heavy with religions that are set in their ways, and who wouldn’t quite understand our Torah observance. They are lovely, kind and beautiful people, but a very heavy “The law is dead” community.
He did say, though, that he didn’t realize how much he and his wife seem to share similar beliefs as what my husband and I have. Things like the Old Testament is the foundation and the rest is built upon that; that the modern holidays have gotten away from what God would have us honor, as well as several other basic beliefs. He brought up again how they are still looking for a new place to worship because they just haven’t found where they feel ‘right’ either. This was something he had also mentioned when we first moved in almost 2 years ago.
We then talked about some of the blessings Yahweh has been working in his life. He talked of things he has been led to do, dreams that helped their family get through different challenges, impressions he gets while he prays and even answers to prayers he has gotten while riding his mower! He said how much he appreciates having the extra lawn to mow because it gives him extra quiet time to spend with God. I asked him if he writes any of those dreams and impressions down, along with the results that happen. Does he make a record for himself and family. He mentioned he used to, so I took the chance to share with him about my prayer journals. I encouraged him to write them down - record every one he can because one day they may come in handy for him, his wife, or the children.
After he started mowing again, I couldn’t help but think of how Yahweh blessed us both that day. How I needed to be encouraged by his visit and to see that there ARE people here who are seeking a more biblically centered life, and how our neighbor needed to be encouraged by the same things. I absolutely love when Abba moves in our lives like that. Some days it’s the littlest things that show how much He loves us.
Blessings and Shalom.
This is a lengthy one, but it is a question that was brought to us a while ago by an active member of the US military. We wanted to do all that we could to cover as much as possible to help make their journey with Yahweh as peaceful as possible while fulfilling their responsibilities and commitment to their job.
Becoming Torah observant and committing to following the Sabbaths and Feast days can be complicated in our modern age, especially for those who work outside of the home. Rearranging a job or business can be very complicated for some. One group who is particularly challenged are Yahweh’s followers who hold a military position. Certain schedules are required by regulation and immovable depending on rank or duty assignment. What can you do to make life easier for yourself, so that you can better follow Yahweh’s commandments, the Sabbaths, and especially the feast days?
To be honest, the first thing you should address is your personal belief on the subject of calendaring. Calendaring amongst Torah observant individuals is a seriously hot topic as many people have their own opinions and thoughts on the matter. Yet, what is right and just from the perspective of the Word?
Our first suggestion would be to have you read and study our free book on calendaring. No matter what calendar you are currently following, you may not know this perspective on the subject which addresses it from solely a biblical perspective. We cover exactly who has the right to decide which calendar to follow. This free e-book gives a different and clear scriptural perspective that others don’t often take into consideration.
At Shofar Productions (The main ministry) and Torah For Women we follow the Hebrew calendar. This decision was based on the information discovered during our studies before publishing our free ebook on calendars.
For those in the military, following the Hebrew calendar will likely have many blessings that you may not have thought of before. The dates for Holy Days will be the traditional ones used by most Torah Observant people, as well as businesses, and even school systems for the biblical holidays. The US Military uses this calendar as well to establish the Hebrew Holy Days which many of the Torah observant staff will follow.
For example, although your immediate supervisor and/or commander may not be willing or able to give you all the Feast days off, following the Hebrew calendar MAY make it easier for you to arrange for leave on at least SOME of the Feast days because they will coincide with the standard calendar dates used by your unit.
A plus is that since these will also likely be the same dates that other TO individuals on base will follow, you may find some common ground. You may find it easier to identify families with home assemblies or some on base religious services for Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah for Jews), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and for the beginning of Sukkot. You may also discover that with Sukkot, a space may be set up somewhere on base or at base housing where families are meeting in Sukkahs.
How difficult it is to actually get this time off, may depend upon whether your commander is willing to respect your individual religious views. It may also be dependent upon how many Torah observant people are in your unit, or in your job position. It may also be dependent upon how critical your job is. Security or law enforcment duties as well as medical may be critical positions which may not be easily replaced. Especially if you are new at your duty station. There may be others who will be given leave ahead of your request based on seniority. If leave is not an option, there may be a way to work some of your schedule around so that you have off on at least some of the Holy days.
What Do I Do If I HAVE To Be On Duty During High Holy Days?
You do the best you can to follow Yahweh’s commandments and the biblical teachings.
I have learned over the years that there are times when we make things more stressful for ourselves by believing that we have to make every Feast day and Shabbat absolutely perfect. It is still my dream (Or maybe my fantasy!!!) that we will one day enjoy just ONE YEAR where every single Feast Day goes HALF-perfect!!! There are times, though, when something like an ox in the mire just happens to pop up at the wrong time.
Our experiences have always been memorable, and many we look back on now and laugh. There was the year we put up the Sukkah only to receive a hurricane warning!!! Thank goodness it down graded to a tropical storm, but my poor husband was awake around 3 AM one night and heard strange sounds outside. He ended up chasing the Sukkah across the yard in horrible winds while trying to roll up the fabric sides, and trying to tie it back down again!!! There was the year it was stormy every night and bitter cold the whole week which prevented us from using the Sukkah at all. Then last year when we were in our new home, on the mountain, in the woods in a new state. When neighbors warned us of having seen a bear in the area, we just looked at each other asking, “Do we WANT to put up the Sukkah and eat every night with a bear????” We set up a make-shift Sukkah inside. . . .We have the same look on our faces this year as we learned that the copperheads come out in the evening and eat the cicadas and locusts between now and Sukkot!!!! If the two bugs are not gone by then, do we want to set up the Sukkah and run that risk of dining with venomous snakes???
Experiences like these have helped me to study deeper and become much more focused on the meaning of EACH Feast Day. And to also study what we can accomplish in the diaspora. You see, we can spend so much time trying to follow the Feast Days to perfection that we forget to understand the reasons for them, the meaning in them, and the lesson Yahweh would have us learn through them. We also run the risk of over-burdening ourselves to the point of not finding Shalom in these blessed times. Because of this, we might need to take a step back and relax for a bit. Then, to help with this, ask yourself, from the scriptures, “what exactly is required of me for EACH Feast, and what are those things that cannot be fulfilled because we do not have a Temple?”
Those things that are required that you CAN fulfill are the things that you should do your best to accomplish. Make your list and explore ways that you can accomplish these to the best of your ability while still working your duty position.
The biggest detail for Feast days is that there are times when we are commanded not to work. Then there are a couple where we are to do “no servile work". Examples of the differences would be that on the Day of Atonement, for example, we are not supposed to work at all. Yet the First and Eighth days of Sukkot are Sabbaths on which we are allowed to cook.
If you end up having to work/be on duty during High Holy Days, you will just do the best that you can to honor those dates.
The first thing to do would be to pray for those times to be quiet times at work. Next, here are some Ideas to remove as much work as possible from your Shabbat and Feast routines:
-- prepare for foods early for these blessed dates. If you have a place to keep canned or prepackaged meals, grab foods that you can keep easily for the 24 hour Holy Day. If you normally eat at a cafeteria, grab foods that you can store easily for the amount of time you will have for the Holy days. Remember, there may be a couple of them coming up that go right from Holy Day into weekly Shabbat - so for these you may need to stock up for two full days!
If you have a refrigerator that you can use, whether in your dorm or in the duty station, this is a BIG plus and will help with meals. You can easily put pre-made sandwiches into the refrigerator for you Sabbaths, or even “plates” for reheating throughout the holy times.
-- Shine boots, prep uniforms, wash laundry, do everything that you can in advance of Sundown on the Holy day. Weekly Shabbat is a great time to practice this and get yourself into the habit so that you don’t do unnecessary work during the Feast times. The more preparation done in advance, the more free time you have with Yahweh during that day. If you have to work, you may find an extra 30 minutes or more in the morning to read, study or pray before reporting for work.
-- Include as much prayer and study time as you can on those days. Do you have a small set of scriptures for your pocket? Or an APP on your phone that has the scriptures? How about a small pocket notebook and pen or pencil? Set aside a small section of this notebook, pick a subject that has to do with your becoming closer to Yahweh, something you have been meaning to study for a long time, or that is directly related to the particular Feast Day, study that and take notes in your notebook.
-- Prayer time doesn’t need to be in a closet, or on your knees if that is impossible. Have dead time while on duty? Close your eyes, focus on something prayerful, and spend that time with Yahweh. If someone asks, just explain to them you are doing the best, while on duty, to honor your religious Holy Day of (Whatever day it is). This might surprise you - they may ask for more information.
Remember that little notebook you brought with you? Before you leave your quarters, why not write down a list of people you know are in need of prayer that day? Social media, online groups, your home assembly all will have people who are in need of prayer warriors. This quiet time would be a great time to bring out your little book and pray for those on your list.
-- Try not to shop, or visit any businesses for personal things on those days. Make sure you did everything humanly possible prior to the Shabbat or Feast day by running errands, shopping, banking, etc before the day is upon you. You may run into that rare occasion where the officer in charge at work wants you to run to the store for something. Is it a real necessity? Is there a way they can ask someone else? For this one, you may find yourself in a personal dilemma - you don’t want someone else to break the Sabbath or Holy Day, but you know you don’t want to either. Weigh your options and do everything you can to avoid having anyone run the errand that day.
-- When working, do your job the best you can and think of it this way: preservation of life is key. Is your career field one that is required for the preservation of life? Security forces, law enforcement, doctors, nurses, EMTs, Fire, they aren’t exempt from honoring the High Holy Days, but often on a High Holy Day do have to fulfill the need of preservation of life. This tends to fall into the “ox in the mire” category. If you feel impressed after working, kneel before Yahweh and ask him to forgive you for anything that you may have done that He might find offensive, and ask him to guide you to ideas to make it better next Sabbath or Feast Day.
Some military personnel who have written to us and others we have read have stated that they tend to use some of the following as guidelines in their decision making as well:
Mission critical - you may not be able to have off or to honor the day because you and your unit may have a specific mission. Especially in cases of deployment. In this case, explore ways that you can do the best you can in that situation.
The Greater Good - remember that your responsibility is for the greater good. Think of times in the scriptures where Yahweh’s people needed to be protected. Were there soldiers positioned at key points to ensure that protection? Did they take “time off”? One example to study out would be 2 Kings 11:5-9.
You are protecting the nation AND family - part of the responsibility of the military forces is to be there to protect and defend against enemies foreign and domestic. You are honoring your contract and obligation to do this.
-- I often wonder if, while being in the military, eating clean may be one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish if you are required to eat at the (cafeteria) or other on-base facilities. You may be able to see that some items served are obviously unclean. Bacon, pork chops and such are clearly not clean, but what is hidden in the ingredients may not be as obvious. You will need to do your best to follow your biblical diet by avoiding those products.
In the end, are there some who decide that getting out of the military is their only option? Yes, some have chosen to do this. It is a personal decision based on your conviction and conscience. Something that you will need to weigh after careful study and prayer on the matter. If you choose to continue to serve, you at least have ideas and options to explore to help you keep your Holy days, while also fulfilling your duty.
From Torah For Women, we wish you well, and may Yahweh bless you with the safety and protection you need to continue to serve. Our prayers are with you. Blessings and shalom.
Do you have more ideas that you would add to these? Message us and let us know!
“You shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God seven days.”
Leviticus 23:40 WEB
As Sukkot approaches, it saddens me to see so many people who are on extremely tight budgets that would love to decorate yet haven’t the extra money to spend. Many of us are in the similar situations, where other things are higher on the priority list right now. Maybe this is the year that many may need to take a step back and ask themselves:
“What would Gramma do?”
In days of old, would Gramma or Great-gramma run to Target, Hobby Lobby or Wal-mart and grab things that were already made? How did they decorate before silk flowers and straw wreaths, potted mums and mini-hay bales? They used what they had.
Well, I thought I would share what happened to me the other night. It was another moment when Yahweh was so very good to us, even with the little things. Another lesson learned!
First let me say that I fully understand decorations do not make Sukkot one of Yahweh’s feast days. Yet it does bring us pleasure to have some beautiful harvest items to brighten the Sukkah and house, and it also creates an atmosphere of celebration. No matter how the weather has been, what decorations we have had up, or whether we have had visitors to feast with, Sukkot has been special, enjoyable, and a truly blessed time with my husband every single year. Yahweh has always provided for us, both physically and spiritually during this Feast as well as during all other Feast days.
That being said, I do truly enjoy decorating for fall and for Sukkot because autumn is one of the most colourful times of the year. Last year I loved the meme that said, “My favorite colour is October!" It fit so perfectly. As we go to the stores, I see all these lovely things for hanging or just setting around the house and Sukkah. So many bright colours - yellows, oranges, reds, burgundy, green!!! I enjoy looking at all the new creations and found myself wishing we could get just a few things this year. There just isn’t any extra for spending on new autumn decorations. Even our garden did not help with squash or pumpkins to set around. These just did not grow in our new garden this year.
Instead of the excitement I normally feel, this year I was feeling a bit surly because I just kept dwelling on the negatives - how we were going to have to just settle with what we already own. As I was getting ready for bed one night, I half hearted said in my mind, “I wish we could do some nice, new decorations like wreaths, sprays, and stuff.” Siiiiigh.
Suddenly I remembered all the acorns that are falling this year. I was wondering what I might be able to make from them. As I searched online, more and more ideas came to me using things that we have around our yard and woods! My mind flooded with ideas for grapevine wreaths, acorn wreaths, candle holders, and even sprays to hang up outside!
Suddenly I was excited again about autumn decorating. I was excited that we are going to have plenty of new things to put around the house, outside and in the Sukkah. I could hardly wait for morning to come so that I could run outside and find those grapevines I had cut in the spring, and get started. I wrote myself a note with all the cool ideas Yahweh inspired me to write, plus I saved photos from websites onto my tablet to use as reference for making our new decorations. I even wrote down that I was hoping to make four large wreaths and one small one from the grapevines.
I went outside and started gathering vines and whipped together the first wreath. It went together SO easily, much more than I recall doing it years ago. I gathered more and more vines from the wood pile, and sat down to drink my coffee and work some more. When I was done, I was truly blessed to have enough vines to make FIVE wreaths for our Sukkah. The funny part was that I had completely forgotten about what I had written the night before about wanting 4 large and one small wreath. Later, when I looked at my note to cross off finished tasks, I was astonished to read what I had written the night before was EXACTLY what I had been blessed with from our trimmings.
While outside, I also found some decorative grasses growing in a ditch. I am hoping to use those to add to at least one or two of the wreaths to decorate them nicely. I gathered goldenrod, rose hips, and branches from other bushes growing around the yard. I hung bunches of dried herbs, too, that will add a bit of texture and colour to the wreaths.
In addition, I have several sprays of silk autumn leaves and flowers that I can include to brighten them up, too. Next week I also will be trimming and drying more wildflowers I have found growing around the edges of the woods, around the street and in the field. Between all these ideas, we will be filling our Sukkah not only with beautiful decorations, but each will be a true testimony of how Yahweh is our provider, AND of how beautiful the harvest is all around us. Yahweh’s creations are so beautiful to look at and enjoy, if we just open our eyes and look.
Thank you, Yahweh, for even the LITTLE things in life.
I don’t normally do crafty items as a blog article, but this year so many we know are on tight budgets. I thought I would share some of my ideas to help you decorate for autumn and Sukkot.
For years I have been making fabric stuffed pumpkins to set around for decoration. Normally I run out to the store and buy fabric, bring it home to wash, dry, cut and sew. This year, I have been trying to do all that I can as inexpensively as possible.
I went through all of my old fabric scraps and found several pieces that are large enough to use to make pumpkins from. So many colours and patterns! And so very simple to make. For stems and tendrils I used an old brown paper bag and pipe cleaners. So far I have 18 pumpkins, with at least 3 more to finish before Sukkot! I may make more, depending on how much time I have to complete them AND how much stuffing I have to fill them all. To think, I just discovered an old curtain panel in autumn shades hidden in a box that would make two nice pumpkins if I cut it just right!
I thought I would share this idea with everyone along with a photograph of our “pumpkin patch,” to help encourage you to use items you may have laying around. You can easily create some great decorations that can be packed away and reused year after year.
A quick note about ours, though: although there may be ways that these can be created to be safe for outdoor use, ours are not. I will be watching the weather during Sukkot to make sure they are not damaged should bad weather creep in. I will need to bring them indoors at night, as well, because the dew has started collecting as the nighttime temperatures have gone down a bit.
It is nice to know that, with these little additions and our new grapevine wreaths and woodland sprays, the Sukkah will be all set for the feast. Yahweh has shown us once again that there is no need to spend a lot of money, and in fact, you may not have to spend ANY money to create a festive atmosphere for the Fall Feast days.
We would love to hear what fabulous ideas YOU came up with to decorate YOUR Tabernacle for the Feast?
Directions for The Stuffed Fabric Pumpkins
Skill level: Easy
All you will need is:
Fabric –you can buy remnants, or use scraps. Old shirts, jeans, sheets and even t-shirts can work
Stuffing – Polyester fiberfill, or if you want to recycle, use old shredded paper!
Brown paper – lunch bags, old grocery bags, or brown craft paper for stems
Pipe cleaners or paper ribbon for spirals
The common fabric sizes:
16 by 21 inches for tall, thin pumpkins
5 by 12 inches for TINY pumpkins
8 by 16 inches for small pumpkins
14 by 25 inches for a large pumpkins
14 by 32 inches for even larger pumpkins
Cut the fabric to size, leaving clean edges for sewing.
Step 1: For a short, plump pumpkin, match the short, cut edges together, with the RIGHT side of fabric on the inside, and pin. For the tall, thin pumpkin, match the long, cut edges, right side of fabric together, and pin. The wrong side, or inside of the fabric should be facing you.
Step 2: Stitch a 3/8 inch seam, along your pinned edge, forming a tube. Iron the seam flat and turn the tube right side out. There is no need to sew finished edges on the top and bottom unless the fabric frays easily.
Step 3: Gather the bottom edge with needle and thread, then pull closed and tie off tightly. Partially gather the top edge in the same way, but do not pull tightly. Loosely gather and leave a large enough hole to stuff the pumpkin.
Step 4: Stuff your pumpkin loosely, making sure that it is fully stuffed, but not over-stuffed.
Step 5: Pull the top threads tight to finish the gathering the same as the bottom then tie it shut.
Step 6: To create the pumpkin sections like a real pumpkin, you will need thick thread (embroidery or upholstery thread), or yarn. Thread a long needle with a long piece of thread, tie a knot in thread end. Run your needle through a small piece of the gathered fabric at the center of the bottom of the pumpkin, anchoring the knot. Wrapping the thread around the top of the pumpkin, go all the way around the pumpkin, meeting the thread again at the bottom, dividing it in half. Pull a little tight so that you have an impression in the pumpkin where the thread has sectioned it. Tie a quick knot around at the bottom to hold the thread in place. Turn the pumpkin ¼ to the right to create another section. Take the thread around the top, meeting again at the bottom, tie the thread again. This divides it into quarters. Turn the pumpkin to the right again about 1/8 of a turn, to the next section and repeat the process two more times, creating a total of eight sections when finished. Remember to tie at the bottom each time around to anchor the thread and help keep sections taut.
Step 7: For the stem, cut a small piece of brown paper - crumple it nicely to look rustic. Then roll it up to look like a stem, glue the edges together, and glue it to the top at the center. I use a warm glue gun for this. For added effect, pipe cleaners can be used to make spirals, which are glued where the stem meets the pumpkin.
A quick note: there may be ways that these can be created to be safe for leaving outdoors all the time, but we don’t. We bring ours in every night to avoid damage from dew or passing night-time showers. Treat your pumpkins accordingly. And ENJOY!
Another note about stuffing - Don’t have the extra money for a big bag or box of polyester fiber fill? How about a couple of old pillows that you were thinking of throwing out? Is the filling still good enough to use? OR - Remember your paper shredder - I discovered this wehn I ran out of stuffing and needed to finish filling some pumpkins and found that the shredder was packed full. It wasn’t as easy to shape as the polyester fiber fill but it worked!
“Sometimes I wonder if what I say to people about God reaches them. I get frustrated that I can't help them see and hear the messages from Yahweh. I don’t want to see them tossed aside, but I feel like I can’t ‘save’ them all. . .”
Have you ever felt this way about your friends and loved ones? On your journey, have you ever wondered why you can’t bring all the berries in from the harvest? I did too. I don’t anymore. I realized some time ago that I am not able to reach everyone. . .
Let me share another lesson from the blackberry patch.
Picking blackberries a couple weeks ago, I tried to reach excessively far to grab 5 or 6 huge, juicy, plump berries in the woods that were about 5 feet away from the edge of our fence. My arms are not even 3 feet long from shoulder to tip of the finger, so you can imagine stretching 5 feet was. . . .A HUGE STRETCH.
As I extended my body out as far as I could over the fence to grab them, balancing on one foot, I got prickled, poked and scratched all over my arm and stomach. Then suddenly, the fence bent a bit too much, almost gave way, and I nearly fell face first into who-knows-what at the base of the berry bushes just the other side of the fence. I am sure I would have found a lot more prickers on my way down to the ground had I not caught myself. I might have also snagged all those thorns the size of tiger claws on the locust trees that have started growing there. I don’t know if we have enough bandaids in the first aid kit for what could have happened. Thank Yahweh I was able to balance myself at the last moment and did not tumble into the briars.
Dejected yet determined (and yes, maybe a bit stubborn, too), I moved my way down the fence line a little bit, picked the berries I could easily reach, and then stretched again to try for a few that were just out of reach. I pulled and grabbed as much as I could but they were still just a few inches out of my grasp. Finally, I lunged just enough to grab the tip of the branch that held the berries I was after. I attempted to grab them, only to have them fall to the ground and disappear out of sight.
I hadn’t learned my lesson yet, so again I moved my way a little FURTHER down the fence, only to try the same thing with similar results: as I lunged toward the berries, I bumped a bigger branch which hit the branch I sought, sending all the ripe berries into the air. I tried to catch a couple in the berry bowl, missed horribly, and they fell to the ground beyond view and very much beyond reach. Thank Yahweh I did not lose the ones I had already harvested in this mêlée.
By this time, I was finally getting a bit wiser, and realized that I have to accept that I just will not get them all. I had to admit that there are just going to be times when, no matter how hard we try, we just will not be able to reach some of the berries on the vine. We can work, stretch, grab, pull, and even lunge, but some berries just don’t seem to want to end up in the berry bowl. No matter what.
There often comes a time when we have to recognize that there is only so much we can do, and that we might need to step back, and allow someone else to have those berries that are out of reach or that fall to the ground. There may be a different purpose for those berries for now. One that we can’t see because of our hope for what we want to come to pass.
You see, although YOU may not be able to reach them all, those berries that fall to the ground will land on soil. As in the parable of the sower, some will land on good ground, some bad. Some in fertile soil, some not. And although it may not be the perfect situation in your own eyes, some of the newly planted seeds from your adventure may sprout anew. In a couple of years, you may be able to pick berries from lovely new bushes that came from those seeds you helped plant. In the end, the berry patch will spread, grow, and reproduce even more sweet fruit to be plucked up by the gardener. It may take time, patience, and cultivation once you see the seeds sprouting, but for now it may also be time to walk away and let Yahweh do the work.
Will I still stretch, and try to reach those who are just out of reach? Yes, I will, yet I have also learned a broader lesson. That is to assess the circumstances and what may happen if I push too hard, stretch too far, or do something that risks sending all the seeds flying in different directions! At some point, I may have to weigh the options and see that there may be consequences to myself, to those close to me, or to those I am trying to bring in from the harvest. Consequences I may not be fully aware of initially. Then again, there are also just some berries that aren’t for me to harvest because I am not able reach them.
Blessings and Shalom.
Matthew 13:3b-8 WEB
"Behold, a farmer went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell by the roadside, and the birds came and devoured them. Others fell on rocky ground, where they didn't have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of earth. When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among thorns. The thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on good soil, and yielded fruit: some one hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty.”
Luke 6:46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and don't do the things which I say?"
The other day, a friend said to me that sometimes we fail to see what’s right in front of us. What she didn’t know is that she summed up perfectly the lesson I learned recently from our blackberry patch.
I have been praying all season for at least 8 cups of juicy blackberries to come from our patch. I have watched as they grew, blossomed, and attracted bumble bees. Little by little the blossoms turned to berries, they started to plump up, and then they started to ripen. I watched in anticipation as they started to darken, yet it always seemed that the biggest, juiciest, ripest berries were always just out of my reach on the other side of our fence. We own the woods on the other side, so it isn’t that I couldn’t go back there if I wanted to. It IS our property, but it is also where the “wild things” are!
We have been warned since moving in about rattle snakes being seen up this way, so we are very cautious about stepping into the woodsy zone unprotected, unprepared. Every day, though, those juicier, darker berries would tempt me, and every day I would say to myself, “Tomorrow I am going into the woods to get those!” In the mean time, I picked what I could easily find, finally ending up with about 4 cups which was just enough to make a batch of syrup for French toast and two servings of blackberry sorbet.
Sadly, I watched so many berries farther away fall to the ground, over-ripe, rotting as every day I said the same thing, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow." Finally one day I decided THIS IS THE DAY I am going into the woodsy zone. I was even going to dress for success with jeans, hat, long sleeves, herbal spray, boots, the works.
It didn’t take long, though, to change my mind and say, “FORGET IT! Not going.” Two things happened. First, my husband said that even if I picked them, he would not eat them because I went against his wishes and advice by going in the dangerous area where I should not have gone. He then reminded me of all the snakes that had been seen recently by neighbors. Then second: I had a friend post that she had found a timber rattler in her yard where she had never even seen ANY kind of snake before, let alone a venomous one. Reasons enough for me to finally admit it is not worth a couple of cups of blackberries to take such a chance.
Now, let me back track for just a moment to about several weeks ago: I got the impression that I should trim back the wild vines growing in the fence, and cut more of the overhanging tree branches, as well. I had trimmed a few that were obviously in the way earlier in spring, but not as much as I should have. For weeks I kept getting the impression to trim more. Yet I ignored it. Over and over again I ignored it, all the while complaining about my meager harvest and how I couldn’t reach the “best berries.”
Finally, the other day, I broke a branch off one bush that was in the way when I realized it was tangled in some grapevines that had worked their way through the fence in dozens of places. For me to finish the job I would need to trim A LOT of the fence area, on BOTH sides. The best part is that I could easily reach everything that needed trimming from a safe spot in the vegetable garden and not enter the woodsy zone. It was finally time to get to work.
As I cut and cut, you cannot imagine the feeling of repentance that washed over me, and the need inside of me to ask forgiveness for my ignorance and disobedience. You see, as I trimmed, I discovered that there were countless blackberry bushes hiding under all that nonsense, right in front of us.
You could clearly see that at one point, those bushes had been FILLED with blackberries. The obviously once-loaded stems were now hanging there, dried and empty of any juicy blackberries. Those had now rotted and fallen to the ground, wasted, instead of into our pantry as jelly and syrup for fall. It was very clear that had I paid attention to the impressions earlier in the season to trim away the old weeds, cut back on the “nonsense,” we would have had much more than the 8 cups we needed for one batch of jelly. We might have had more than enough for so much more.
Sometimes life is like that, too. We don’t listen to the directions from Yahweh, we don’t trim the weeds and over growth of negative things. We refuse to pay attention to the blessings that are right under our noses. Now Yahweh is busy trying his hardest to make up for my request of 8 cups of berries by showing me previously undiscovered small bushes with a few berries here or there left to add to the bag I have in the freezer. Whatever we do pick is a true blessing.
It is my prayer that we get enough for a full batch, but either way, it is clearly my own fault if we do not. Lesson learned. Moving forward, and praising Yahweh for what we DO have.
Blessings and shalom.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
We often get questions from sisters in faith who are struggling with a particular dilemma and don’t know how to handle it from a biblical perspective. One question we prayerfully answered a while back is a problematic scene that arises in this day and age with separated, divorced, split or estranged families. The question: how do you handle a funeral if there is someone who is a “difficult” loved one, or who is not welcome at the funeral or memorial?
Losing a loved one can be such a painful time for families and friends. Having so many different emotions with losing someone they hold dear, tempers may sometimes flair without intention. Most people will feel that powerfully strong need to say a “final farewell,” and yet it can be complicated by emotions of individuals or by past difficulties that have yet to be worked out.
Sadly, the loss of a loved often reminds us that life here on earth is short, and that Yahweh’s teachings should become more a part of our lives. This is often the time where many suddenly recognize they want to find ways to “let bygones be bygones.” It may become a time for some to earnestly try to put the past behind them. There are some families, though, struggling with moving on and it is just not possible to settle things because some are not ready to let go of past offenses. There are other times when it is just that the memorial or funeral is not the optimal place to address the problem because one or more of the parties involved is not ready yet to let go of hurt, anger or bitterness.
Whatever the reason, how do you accommodate as many people as possible in the mourning process, while attempting to keep the peace?
We have a simple suggestion from personal experience that may help.
My own family struggled with this when we lost a loved one who had a falling out decades before with one of his sisters. When he passed away, this estranged sister was devastated that they had never forgiven each other. She so wanted just a few moments to say goodbye to her brother, and to ask forgiveness of those who were willing to listen. Sadly, most of the family was too bitter and angry, hanging onto the past “sins” and offenses, and was unwilling to listen to her plea.
She was elderly, and I had offered, as did my oldest children, to go to the funeral home the day before the memorial to allow her private time to say her goodbyes. I have to say, she and I had not seen each other in decades and had no relationship. Plus, socially, we had different personalities, and we traveled in different circles. If we were to meet somewhere and strike up conversation, she is not someone I would have chosen to draw into my personal circle of friends. Yet she was family, and to me, God’s principles were more important here. Forgiveness needed to be allowed.
What I did not intend to happen played out angrily, though, as my attempts to do what was right caused so much drama with other family members. My suggestions of allowing her to have some personal time before the large memorial were not well received, there was some screaming and yelling, and it was forbidden for me to allow her to say her goodbyes. I was taken aback, because I believed it had been long enough and forgiveness was needed - on all sides. She actually seemed to be the only one willing to move forward, the only one willing to ask for forgiveness.
She was a great example to me, and I willingly forgave her on behalf of my family, even though they are still angry to this day. In the end, being forbidden to see her brother to say goodbye it caused her so very much unnecessary pain for years to come. She died years later, still hurting that she had never been granted forgiveness by the rest of family here on earth.
Death is so complicated for some, which is sad because life is challenging enough. It is troublesome when people allow death to bring out such bitterness from within us when we have the capability of being so much better than that. I sometimes wonder how her heart would have healed had she been given that moment to say goodbye and that simple act of loving kindness.
When faced with a similar situation, I pray you may recall some of our experience and that it will help you. Being that you are the believer in Yeshua, and the follower of His teachings, may you remember to ask yourself what you can do to facilitate the best possible situation for the most people.
Is there a way that those who do not get along may be allowed to visit the funeral home BEFORE the rest of the family and friends? Maybe you could reach out to those involved and talk about what might be best for THE ENTIRE FAMILY. For the estranged family member(s), schedule a time when others will not be there. Involve the funeral director in this process - they have worked through things like this before. They may even have more suggestions to help smooth things over in the family. They can also help should a situation of drama crop up, which may honestly happen. If necessary, the employees at the funeral home can have people cordoned off to an office area or even removed, if necessary.
During the process of mourning, we could all take heart to listen to the words in Colossians 3:1-15.
Blessings and Shalom.
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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