Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Something to Really Celebrate

My girls love being artsy, especially Hope.

Chanukah (Hanukkah)is just a few days away and the kids and I are enjoying making some decorations. So I thought I would share a few pics.

If you have never read about what the feast or celebration of Hanukkah is, you should check it out here. This is a wonderful account of the history.

Here is my quick version;  way back in the time of Alexander the Great (about 200 BC), Alexander and his minions began to take over the world and every new territory they took they commanded those people to  speak, think and act like a Greek... or else.
 So, you can imagine how they felt about the Jews; those bacon-hating, Torah-adoring people who served only ONE God. They hated them.

There were some Jews who compromised, thought they ought to assimilate and become like these Greeks; bought into all the lies... but there were many who would not compromise.

About 175 BC, Antiochus IV declared himself "Epiphanes", which means "god manifest". He made statues of himself and demanded everyone worship him.

Justice loves the Star or Shield of David.
He brought a gymnasium into Jerusalem.
He slaughtered thousands of Jews and had the arrogent disregard to enter the Holy Temple, stealing the gold and silver, including the incense altar, the table, and the menorah. He turned the Temple in Jerusalem into a temple of Zeus and anyone living in the territories he had taken over had to worship him and his gods.

 How horrible this time must have been for the God-fearing people of Israel. If you were caught eating Kosher, circumsizing your sons or reading the Torah, you were killed.

But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Terrible affliction was upon Israel. (1 Maccabees 1:54–64)
But the people who know their God will display strength and take action.  (Don't you LOVE THIS?)
(Daniel 11:32)

An elderly man named Mattiyahu could take it no more and sent out word to all his fellow brothers, 
"Let everyone who is zealous for the Torah and who stands by the covenant follow after me!”  
       (1 Maccabees 2:27).
Grace painting her menorah painting and
Mercy's "God of Miracles" painting.
He, his family and other courageous brothers fled into the mountains and were soon followed by other brave, God-fearing men, where they formed a small army.
Mattiyahu was old and actually died in the mountains but his son Judah rose up and took charge of the army; "Engaging in guerilla warfare against the Syrian occupation force, Yehudah (Judah) and his freedom fighters came to be called 
Maccabees which means “Hammers.” Judah would forever after be known as Yehudah the Maccabee: Judah the Hammer." (FFOZ Hanukkah and the Disciples of Zion)

In a miraculous victory the small band of Maccabees clobbered the Greek army that came against them until they actually took Jerusalem back!

When the Maccabees found the Temple in such a horrific state, they immediately began to restore it, they tore down the altars to Zeus and returned the pure and precious - rededicating it to the Holy One.

They found some oil to burn in the menorah but it was only enough for one day, but they decided to light it and send someone to get more, thinking it would burn out after one day.
 But then another miracle happened, the light in the menorah kept burning and burned for EIGHT days!

Hanukkah is the Feast of Dedication; celebrating a God who performs miracles and gives light.

 I am so inspired by the intrepid courage these people had to fight for the Truth, to fight for Torah, for what is undefiled, pure and righteous. To not allow anyone to make them turn from God, His instructions and His name, even if it cost them their own lives and their children's lives. What a story. What a beautiful reason to celebrate and light our own menorah.

AND even Yeshua (Jesus) went all the way to Jerusalem to participate in the celebration as well. (See John 10:22-39).

Yeshua is the LIGHT of the world and He told us to be the light of the world too. 

And if you are curious as to why we are not celebrating Christmas.... well, here is a really fascinating video to explain that, just go here and watch "Truth or Tradition".

Why celebrate a holiday rooted deep in terrible pagan rituals when you can celebrate an amazing God-centered feast like Hanukkah - where even Yeshua Himself celebrated.

Heart-peace; Shalom to you all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The River

Walking wearily along this dry, dusty, empty road;
my life and all its lonely places.
 I reach a dark, cold and rocky place
where my feet cannot go but painfully slow,
 it's there that I hear a sound.
 A sound of rushing, gushing, charging and fullness.
 I'm drawn to turn away from my present place
to follow what I hear.
 I find myself so thirsty; my tongue is so dry,
but it's the depths of me that feel especially parched and desolate.

With every heavy step the louder the sound becomes,
it envelopes my hearing and deafens my thoughts.

And then I see it:
a mighty, tumultuous river of the deepest hues.

 Photo by Encouragement
Its fury is obvious by the sound yet the waves are gloriously radiant and compelling.

Oh, the sight makes my heart feel so desperate,
my soul so empty, my throat so tight.
The river is close.
The edge my feet are standing near is sharp and deep.

I know what I must do for I feel so dirty, so filthy, so dry, and exhausted.

My heart screams "JUMP!".
Yet my weary mind is terrified of the leap.
I must get in this River.

I'm so tired of this land I've been traveling
and bound to for so long.
The thought of going back to that road sickens me to the point of courage.
I do it.
I jump!

I feared it would be cold;
I thought it would take me away in a dark, frigid gulp.
But I feel so light, so nourished, so warm,
as though I'm being embraced by loving arms.
What is this place?
I cannot move for the current is too strong to fight,
I give in and let it take me where it wants.
My heart is overwhelmed!
The strong fluid rolls me and captures me,
washes and buries me deep.
Oh, I feel loved!

 I feel life coming in to my bones!
I'm in.
I'm found.
I belong.
I am in the submergence of Love.
I've been captivated, captured and covered by the thickest, purest, deepest Love.
The waves roll me in gentle hugs,
I feel the jagged edges of my soul wearing away.
All the weighty burdens that were attached to my being have melted away.
That thirst I felt for so long is quenched, yet
I feel completely addicted to this fresh Water of Life.
Inside. Hidden. Forgiven. Clean. Included. Received. Refreshed. Adored.
May my heart and soul jump into the deep Love of YHVH;
the One who always was, always is and always will be.
May I be so utterly intertwined and buried inside of HIM
that onlookers would be compelled to His character.
Flowing with Him. Used by Him. Carried by Him.
Alive in Him in an abundant, passionate, unstoppable union.
This is my nephew jumping in!

I wrote a similar allegory about 10 years ago and it keeps coming to memory and reminding me of my purpose: to jump into God and get lost in His love, His purity, His truth and His mercy.
 This is a song from Jeremy Riddle about the furious love I speak of. Soak it in.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fierce Momma

 Life charges on ahead even when we are digging our heels in and grasping for anything strong enough to hold onto to slow things down doesn't it? That's certainly how I feel lately.

 Over the last year there have been several epochs of God's chastisement to my character (or lack of), which ALWAYS, because God is who He is, brings me into that place where I am overwhelmed with disgust of my own humanity and overwhelmed by His love FOR my humanity. He's just like that, He made us human with human desires and weaknesses because He loves it when we humble ourselves, and run like an anguished child into His divinity. I think it's in that running to Him and in His embracing of us that we are changed and He gives us what we need of Himself to carry on and do the next, righteous thing.
We decided to take our kids out of public school this spring. Which has always been my desire, but with four young children and me thinking I had to be some kind of super-powered, organizational-wizard with the mind of Albert Einstein and the patience of Mother Theresa, felt duly underqualified to take on such a feat. Seriously.

But then stuff happened. Adonai began showing us things. Things like behaviors from our kids that were obviously NOT learned at home. Violent words were coming out of their mouths and where had their joy gone? I watched some home videos and saw the difference in my son's joyful personality BEFORE he started school! Uggh. That revelation feels a bit like getting socked in the stomach.
 From that, Adonai seemed to flip a switch on in me where I just knew there was no way I couldn't homeschool, I had to. And, like, duh. God would help me... He's sort of the ONE with the super-powers, He kind of organized the entire world, He put Albert Einstein's mind in his skull and filled Mother Theresa with patience. Ok, yeah, let's do this Father.

The other day I was reading a birthday card my dear friend had sent to me, and among the many lovely things she said about me, one thing she said was that I am "couragiously fierce". mmmm, what? Those words lept out at me as I read them, because, certainly I would LIKE to be couragiously fierce, but, I know myself pretty well and I would not put Couragiously Fierce under the definition of Stephenie Ward! Meek, timid, slightly odd with a splash of sweet but not Couragiously Fierce. However, my friend, who sees people how Adonai sees them wouldn't have written that if she didn't perceive it to be true.

  FIERCE: 1. Having a savage and violent nature; ferocious. (well, yes, when I find those creepy spiders) 2. Extremely severe or violent. (not so much) 3. Extremely intense or ardent. (I have my moments) 4. Strenuously active or resolute. (only when I can no longer stand the mess in the kitchen!) 5. vehement, intense, or strong. (it does take some intense strength and vehement courage to fish out the doody from the bath that some child left for me) ADJ. marked by extreme intensity of emotions or convictions; inclined to react violently; fervid; "fierce loyalty'....

HMMMMM. Wait a monute.... Ahh haa, I get it now. I got me some Fierce. Because if the Enemy of all that is rightousness and true, pure and innocent, lovely and joy-filled wants to wage battle aginst the fruit of MY loins; the precious treasures that Adonai has given me and my husband and draw them into his wiles and his deceptive plans, well then HERE is one couragiously fierce momma who plans on grasping one hand to the hand of her Beloved, and the other hand to the hearts of her children; pulling them into the divine protection and guidance of an even more fierce love.

The time we have with our kids is so small in comparison to the amount of time they will be "on their own", making their own decisions that will affect the rest of their lives and the lives whom they touch. We get one chance.

And if you homeschool, you ARE couragiously fierce. Because doesn't everyone and their sister start telling you exactly what they think of homeschooling when you tell them that's what you are doing? and dont they ALL say the same thing? "Aren't you worried about how they will be socialized?" "They need to be socialized."
It takes courageous resolution to do what society, peers and even family think is unacceptible.

  I personally don't think Adonai is covering His eyes, afraid to watch, biting His nails, worrying about how our children will assimilate themselves socially in this world. In fact, I think He and His troop of angels are standing behind our kids in an uproarious audience, shouting encouragement and life, joy and peace as the children pursue God's economy, intentions, destiny and truth.

 And frankly, I've seen what our society has to offer socially and I'm pretty sure we're not interested.

"Make me a worthy momma who will raise learned children who will dazzle the world with Torah and goodness". Part of our Shabbat Kiddush I pray every Sabbath.

And just in case there are those of you reading this and you are sending your kids to school, please know that I think you are very courageous too, especially if you believe that is what God is asking you to do. And I pray for Adonai to give your children everything they need to walk that destiny out with complete protection and mercy, unscathed by the plans of the Enemy and instead leave an impression of God on those around them.

 And I know many of you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other in the morning and the thought of homeschooling makes you want to burst into to tears, or perhaps you've already raised your children and they are now in adulthood and you wish you had done things differently. I understand that. These thoughts are my thoughts, and where me and my family are in life. I cannot speak for anyone else, other than to say that God is not going to fail you in your pursuit of Him. He is courageously fierce for you and your children. He loves to be given the opportunity to work in the "impossible".

Lets stay fierce,