Living with Intention in 5775: Week 35

This week, the Torah portion is on the rebellion of Korach. I have to wonder, if Korach had been considering all the blessings in his life, writing them down and looking at them daily, would he have still incited a rebellion against G-d’s anointed? So this week, we’re going to “count our blessings”. This will hopefully get us into the proper frame of mind for what I have in mind next week.

Get a notebook or journal, or a sheet of paper that you can add to every day and start with 5 things you are thankful for. If you can think of more write them down too; don’t limit yourself.

I’ll happily share my first five, to get us all inspired:

  1. I am thankful for the Torah. It has helped me flourish and grow within the safety of G-d’s boundaries.
  2. I am thankful for my husband, who is my anchor point. He helps me to remember keep the important things important, and let the rest go.
  3. I am thankful for my children, who are little mirrors of myself and my husband. These precious gifts from Hashem teach us about ourselves and our relationship with Him, and have helped so much in the refining of our souls.
  4. I am thankful for my parents and siblings, who have always shown me unconditional love and support. They’ve been there for me even when I was walking in rebellion to G-d. They loved me through those difficult times and I will forever be thankful for my family.
  5. I am thankful for friends, new and old, who have loved me as G-d made me, but have also encouraged me to be the best version of myself. I am so thankful for friends to hold me accountable to the Word and to Truth.

 

Shalom and blessings all!

S~

 

Prone to Wander

This week I had one of the most frightening experiences of my life. My children and I had had a wonderful morning picking strawberries with friends followed by coming back to have lunch and playtime in the backyard. When our friends left, we decided to go to the library.

When we got there my daughter and younger son immediately picked out a book, and I was assisting my oldest in finding a couple of chapter books. My daughter came up to me and asked if I would hold her book, as they all often ask, so I took her book and then went back to finding a book for my son. After finding the book, I looked and no daughter.

Now my dear daughter has always been prone to wander. When she was 15 months old, she got it in her head to walk across a football field to get to a playground with no thought of telling us where she was planning on going or grabbing one of us to accompany her. There she was just walking away without a care in the world.

So as I began to call out her name and walked toward the children’s play area, stopping short after calling her name again and receiving no answer, I started to panic.

I walked up to the librarian and asked her if she had seen a little girl with long brown curly hair leave the children’s section.  She shook her head and looked terrified as she got up to check with the other staff. I walked back toward the children’s play area, and there she was walking back toward the shelves she’d left me in. I grabbed her hand tightly and promptly told her and my sons it was time to go. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes, but it felt like an eternity.

I thanked the librarian who’d tried to help me, we checked out our books, and then I told my precious daughter to never do that again. I found myself uttering the words, “When you walk away from me, you put your life in danger. I can’t keep you safe, if you remove yourself from my covering of protection. It is so important that you stay near me, so that you won’t be hurt.”

And I heard Abba say, “Yes. You too, daughter.”

I realized that He was lovingly reminding me that all of us are prone to wander and can get so caught up in the things of this world, preoccupied with earthly matters, that we ignore our relationship with our Father. We don’t hear Him calling–and He is calling. If you hear His voice today, no matter how near or far you may be, come back to Him. Take the steps in His direction and place yourself under His covering and surrender to His care, for He cares so much for you.

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake

Strawberries are in season here in the Ohio River Valley, and this past week the kids and I went strawberry picking. This recipe makes the most moist, delicious pound cake with a classic crunchy top, and it is the perfect accompaniment to fresh strawberries. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter together.
  3. To the creamed sugar, add one egg at a time.
  4. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda.
  5. Add vanilla and lemon (or almond) extracts to the egg mixture.
  6. Begin to add Greek yogurt and dry ingredients alternating between the two, until fully incorporated.
  7. Grease and flour two 9-inch bread pans. Evenly fill pans with batter.
  8. Bake at for 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Remove from oven and place on cookie sheet until cool, then loosen and transfer to a platter to serve.

 

My Banner

The more time that goes by, and the farther I go in my journey with Hashem, the more I realize that I don’t want to stand under the banner of any particular religion or “movement” but, rather, the flag of surrender and banner of Love.

Hashem has set a standard in the earth; it’s been there since time immemorial; I simply have to stand under it. That is what He’s calling me to; it’s what I believe He’s calling all of us to, to stand under His banner. All it requires is for us to trust Him above any man/men or organization(s). And He doesn’t just want the parts of us we’re willing to put under His Banner; He wants all of us.

His Banner is unmarked, it’s not flashy or showy; real love needs no words, just action. His banner is white; His love is pure as washed wool, and white as freshly fallen snow. If we can bring ourselves to surrender to Him, He makes us pure vessels capable of holding His Love to overflowing, bubbling upward and outward to a dark and dying world that so desperately needs His Love, too.

He is my Banner. His Banner is Love. His Love is enough. He is enough.

Lyrics:
Maybe it’s bricks and mortar now, whether or not they run it down
I don’t want anything to shake that shape away
No one told us which way to come, nobody mapped oblivion
So I go growing roses in the disarray
Just like most, falling head in
‘Til my ghost fills the bed in

Chorus:
So lift it up like a banner
Hold it up over me
If this war is never ending
I’ll take this love down with me
Like a banner

I don’t need fate to give it time, it doesn’t take pain to change your mind
No weapon can sever the soul from me
Not the sorceress, not the money
All my cleverness, all my cunning

(Chorus)

Bridge:
It’s around me in my surroundings
It counts me when it starts the counting
In the chaos there is a standard
I’m carrying it like a banner

So lift it up like a banner
Hold it up over me
If this war is never ending
I’ll take this love down with me

Living With Intention in 5775: Week 34

Shalom all! Well, this week’s challenge comes via our dear sister Laurie L. I pray it blesses and encourages you. I am looking forward to digging into the Word this week!


Heavy on my heart lately is my father and my Father.  This week it will be 20 years ago that my father passed away.  So I am reminded every year at this time of the longest week of my life where my father went into the hospital on a Monday, we found out that he had cancer, and by the following Monday he left this world.  After he died, I prayed to my Father and said, “Father G-d, you took my earthly father away–I don’t have him anymore and you know how much he meant to me, so I need you to take over.  You are my heavenly Father, but I need you more than ever now.”  And that was the beginning of learning to seek Him more deeply than I ever had before.
As I have been thinking and remembering and assessing my life over these past 20 years of looking to Hashem as my Father, I am getting glimpses that there are things about His character that I know and understand and share with others and know it is true, but in my mind I don’t realize that it holds true for me as well.  How does He react to me in good times and in bad times?  I am less forgiving of myself than He is, and that is something that I would like to renew with truth in my mind.  I think if I have a better understanding of who my Father is, by taking the time to read and meditate on and renew my mind in these truths it will be such a blessing to Him and to myself and also everyone I interact with.
So for week 34, the challenge is to take time as you read through Torah, and as you read through and listen to Yeshua speak about Avinu (our Father) take time to listen, meditate, and really realize and know and see WHO Avinu is.  I’ve had Exodus 34:6-7 in my mind and I am starting there:

Then the L-RD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The L-RD, the L-RD G-d, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

My hope is to begin to grow even deeper in my walk with Him, to renew my mind, to take on His characteristics in a fresh new way and remember them as I live my daily life in successes and in my failures.

Blessings and a good week!

Sarah and Laurie L.

Living With Intention in 5775: Week 33

Last night, my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting a congregation full of ex-Amish Mennonites. The service was beautiful with hymns and Bible study, the Torah portion and haftarah portions being read, a message and then pray time.

The message was about family, and the emphasis of the message was on enjoying our children. So I thought, since family/home life has been something on my heart for a while that it would be a good challenge for the week.

We can get so wrapped up in our “duties” as parents that we miss out on the enjoyment that comes with raising our children. The goal for this week is to include our children more in our day to day and to give them our attention (when possible) when they want to show us something they’ve accomplished. Let’s seek ways to delight in our beautiful gifts from Hashem!

If you don’t have children, but are married, then look for ways to enjoy your spouse. Single? Then search for ways to enjoy and make your parents feel honored.

Keep the old adage in mind, “Love the ones your with.”

Shalom and blessings to you all for a good and fruitful week,
S~

Living with Intention in 5775: Week 32

Everyone gets stuck in the rut of daily living, both men and women will have primary concerns and different focuses for personal and familial enrichment. Men are typically more concerned with providing the physical needs of a household, and women with the spiritual needs. Men will typically be more focused on the doing and not take adequate quiet time for themselves to spend in the Word, or in prayer, and women will often be overly preoccupied with thoughts and feelings, whether true or not, while performing habitual tasks.

This week, I’m hoping to start finding some more balance in being physically and spiritually present. So I will personally be finding time everyday this week between 15-45 minutes to do a physical activity. Any men wanting to join in on the challenge should make time to connect with the Creator a priority.

I hope you’ll all join me in this week’s challenge. If you’re a pregnant woman, you might try doing some light exercise with breathing intentionally or meditation. Men may like to try to listen to Scripture or pray out loud from the heart on the way to work, or better yet sit in silence and just listen. Of course, if you find yourself being more preoccupied with physical exertion as a woman or more being more thoughtful as man, then reverse your focus to the opposite of what you tend toward.

I pray this week will bring clarity and strength to both body and soul.

Shalom and Blessings,
S~

Living with Intention in 5775: Week 31

This past Shabbat, our congregational leader spoke about the fire of Hashem. It was in conjunction with a series he’s been doing on the subject of hell. You can listen to the messages here entitled: Our Living God – The Savior of All

The one thing that really spoke to me was what he said about crawling up on the altar. We are called to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2), but how often to climb right back down? We are called to be continually surrendering to Hashem’s will, remaining on the altar.

Here’s some notes from the message that Laurie L. provided, to help us in this week’s challenge.

1.). The head of the sacrifice was laid on the altar-the priests did not eat this-you must immerse your head, your mind in who Hashem is.  Give your mind to him.  Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (see Romans 12:2). Be a living sacrifice and be transformed!
2.). The heat of the fire under the sacrifice makes the fire ascend–pain and pressure in our lives is meant to drive us upward-to Him.
3.). Matthew 16:25 says whoever saves his life will loose it, so instead we are called to:
        -give your life away
         -die to self
         -let go of your life for His sake
4.). Are you tired of life?  Crawl up on that altar, give your life-your soul to G-d completely, and let Him give you a new one.
     Yeshua said “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Hashem is looking for us to be transparent with Him, totally vulnerable, no ego separating us. The Torah and mitzvot are designed to help us start bringing our ego into subjection to our spirit man. The more we deny ourselves, the closer we draw near to our Creator.
Shavua tov and may you be blessed with shalom,
S~

 

The Cycle of Repentance

Image courtesy of lkunl at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of lkunl at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Real teshuva or repentance is not the “one and done” act of saying a single prayer by which we confess our sins and profess our belief in a Saviour, and then go about business as usual. It is a continual process of elimination, the work of turning inward, turning back to the mirror of self, seeing who we are and who G-d has ultimately designed us to be. In order to become our true selves, we must constantly be self-evaluating, humbling ourselves, listening to the wise counsel of those who are closest to us and love us, and asking Hashem for the strength to overcome. When we overcome, we feel the great joy of our Father toward us, much as our earthly parents may cheer us on when we accomplish a difficult task, but there are always more hurdles to jump, more walls to scale, more doors to open.

The path to true repentance, as I have experienced it thus far, is found in the observance of mitzvot found within the pages of the Torah. Mitzvah is a special word that comes from the root tzavta, which means “to connect, or to bond.” It is through the denial of self, our own desires, and the doing of that which the Higher Power has said is pleasing to Him, that we learn to connect with our true potential and with our Beloved.

Hashem, described in the Bible as our Beloved Bridegroom, knows us inside and out. He is intimately aware of all that we are and all that we can be. We sadly, don’t know Him as well, but when we, as His Betrothed, undertake the observance of mitzvot with intention, we begin to encounter our Beloved more and more, because the Torah and all her commandments are the heart of our Beloved. As we begin to draw closer to Him in intimacy through the keeping of His commandments, we will, at the same time, be transforming into who we were always meant to be.

The cycle of repentance is both painful and beautiful; it is deep, deep valleys and glorious mountaintops. The process will prepare us, stretch us, and mold us for the most amazing encounter of our lives–to see our Beloved face to face–no veil between us blocking out the reality of our oneness with Him.

May we be found worthy of the calling with which we have been called.