Friday, December 26, 2014

Thankful Thursday - Little Birdie Blessings

In the mornings, I sit on my back porch in my wicker rocking chair to commune with the Father.  This is what I many little things to be thankful for.  The birds, my pond, bird feeders and baths.  Because we live in Florida, there is still much green.  But I am thankful for the little bit of color we get in December.  The gold and red make me happy.  Here's a little bit more in our neighborhood:

As I was sitting on the porch one day this week, I was thinking about the beauty all around me and thanking the Father.  I started thinking about Painted Buntings.  They come here every year and I've usually already seen some by this time.  I was thinking maybe I should pray to see some, but then I thought, "That would be such a silly, selfish prayer."  At that very moment, a beautiful male Painted Bunting flew on to one of the feeders.  Isn't he glorious?

My heart filled with praise and I remembered that my Father delights in giving me the desires of my heart.  Yes, He loves me (and you) like that.   Here are a few more things He gave me this week:

A beautiful male cardinal doing a little mixed bathing with the sparrows.

He just makes my heart sing with joy.

We took a little drive out to the Indian River Lagoon this week, and received this blessing:

Black Skimmer Terns
So many blessings!

What are you thankful for this week?

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - DAy 8

This post is part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the eighth day of Chanukah, so we light all eight candles.

I love the beauty of all of the candles blazing
 on all of our menorahs. 

Chanukah comes to an end tonight, but the lessons remain for us.  We remember that just as the tiny amount of oil burned in the Temple for eight days, our light as believers will continue to burn also.  The light is His presence in our lives -- His Holy Spirit.

Yeshua said in John 8:12   “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.”(Complete Jewish Bible)

Each week, when I light the Shabbat candles at the synagogue, I say this prayer:

Blessed are you oh L-rd, our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments;Who has given us the way of salvation in Messiah Yeshua, and commanded us to be lights to the world. Amain.

So, the lesson of Chanukah continues every week.  I am to let my light shine into a dark world.  How do I do this?  By the way I live my life, and by the words I speak. 

Am I obeying His commandments?  Do people see me following Him and His ways, or some worldly, pagan program?

Am I loving my neighbor as myself?  Am I helping my husband, my family, my neighbors, my country?  Or am I selfishly doing my own thing?

Is my light shining by telling people what G-d's Word says?  Or am I hiding my light under a bushel, afraid to say some things are wrong in our society.  What good is truth if it is not shared?  If the light does not shine, the world lives in darkness. 

Is my light shining by leading wayward believers back to G-d's ways?  Or am I content to just let it go and call it tolerance or not being judgmental?

When the great Temple menorah was lit, the light could be seen for miles around.  Imagine it...a huge menorah sitting on the highest hill in Jerusalem.  It must have been a sight to see.  

We are to be lights in the same way.  G-d has set us up high as His royal children...high above the darkness and perversion around us. He has commanded us to shine our light into the lives that are mired in sin.  His ways are light and they are LIFE, and His light drives out the darkness. 

I'm linking up today with:

Monday, December 22, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - Day 7

This post is a part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the seventh night of Chanukah, and so we light the seventh candle of the menorah.

Yesterday, I said I would share how I decorate my home for Chanukah.  Each night, we light electric menorahs in the windows of our home.

This sign is by the front door.

Of course, we have the menorah that we light each night, pictured above, but we also have several other menorahs that we light on the eighth night.  I will share a photo of them in all of their blazing glory in tomorrow's post.

 These are some of favorite items for Chanukah.

This sweet, little music box plays the Dreidel Song.

These boxes are made of glass, and came filled with candy.  I love them and keep them out all year around.
Rabbi's prayer book, our Messianic Bible, my favorite Chanukah card and fresh flowers

Our favorite Chanukah mugs (for hot chocolate and tea)

Our Chanukah wine glasses, with egg nog.  I bought these at the Dollar Tree, and wish I'd bought more.

Tomorrow, I'll share the spiritual lessons of Chanukah.


I'm linking up today with:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - Day 6

This post is a part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the sixth night of Chanukah, and so we light the sixth candle of the menorah.
Food is big part of most Jewish holidays.  One of the things I love to make is my menorah dip, which has evolved over the years.  This is great on crackers, but also makes a great sandwich spread, especially on rye bread.

Here's my recipe:

2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
2 cans of water-packed tuna, drained (you could also use one large can of salmon)
2 tsp smoke flavoring (this makes the tuna taste like smoked salmon...and it's cheaper, too)

1 small bag frozen asparagus, steamed
1 jar of pimientos
1 small yellow pepper
1 jar of large olives
1/2 bag of sliced almonds

Combine the first three ingredients till smooth.  Spread the mixture into a circle shape on a plate  

Sprinkle the almonds over the circle and press them in with your hands.  Surround the circle with olives.

I used frozen asparagus to make the menorah.  I steamed it in the microwave till slightly soft.  Don't cook it too long or it will lose the bright green color. 

The flames are made from the pimientos in a jar.  I cut one in strips about 1/4 inch wide and then in 2 inch pieces to make the flame shape.  For the yellow part, I took a fresh yellow pepper and cut  a piece in 1/4 inch wide strips and then in 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. 

This is easy, and a real crowd pleaser, both in taste and in the "wow" factor.  Everybody is always impressed!  

Tomorrow, I'll share how we decorate for Chanukah.

I'm linking up today with:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - Day 5

This post is a part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the fifth night of Chanukah, so we light the fifth candle.

Last night our synagogue family combined our Shabbat service with our Chanukah party.  First, we held a short service with praise and worship, the Scripture readings and liturgy.  During the blessing of the children, my grandson, Jonathan, was making the sign of the Hebrew letter "shin". He always takes his shoes off, first thing...Naomi, too.  It's because they feel so at home...

After the service, we lit the candles.  Each family brought a menorah, so we had quite a light show. 

My grandson, lighting the menorah with the help of his dad.
The children enjoyed the candle-lighting, from the oldest...
to the youngest

Last night, we went ahead and lit all of the candles, just to see the glorious beauty of all the flaming menorahs.  Believe me, all of those candles really warmed up the room.

After the candle-lighting, we ate latkes and jelly donuts....and lots of other yummy stuff.  I wish I'd taken pictures of the latkes.  We had three different kinds and all were delicious.

Rabbi Jem led the children playing dreidel.  It was quite an exciting game, and everyone went home with lots of gelt (chocolate coins) and other goodies.

Tomorrow, I'll share my favorite Chanukah recipe and another game we played at the party. 

I'm linking up today with:

Friday, December 19, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - Day 4

This post is a part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the fourth night of Chanukah, and so we light the fourth candle of the menorah.  

We have a family tradition of making cookies together at Chanukah.  These will go to the Chanukah party at the synagogue tonight.  Jonathan loves to cook, and we had great fun.  I must confess, we all ate too many.  

He enjoyed using the cookie cutters, but (sad face) the dough didn't cooperate, and we had to just do circles. (Pillsbury dough, by the way) I don't consider myself a baker, so I didn't fight it....just went with the flow.  He liked rolling the balls.

My little taster, with his Chanukah cup full of milk.  How many five year olds do you know who can read this? He could -- all by himself.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - Day 3

This post is a part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the third night of Chanukah, and so we light the third candle of the menorah. 

Thursday is play day with our grandson, so tonight we lit the candles with him.  He just turned five years old in October, and read the prayers with his Paw-Paw.  We were amazed that he could read words like "universe" by himself. (A big hats off to his parents who are home-schooling him.)

We sang songs as we watched the candles burn low.

I noticed him holding his hand up and then realized he was making the sign of the Hebrew letter "shin", which is the sign Rabbi Jem uses when he gives the blessings at the synagogue.  Here's a double blessing for y'all.

We told him the story of the how "a great miracle happened here". He enjoyed putting together Chanukah puzzles and playing dreidel.  

I'll share more of our Chanukah celebrations in tomorrow's post.  

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - Day 2

This post is a part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the second night of Chanukah, and we light the second candle of the menorah. 

Each year, we're reminded of G-d's miracle working power by reading the story of the Maccabees.  The festival of Hanukkah began in 165 BC.  The events behind this holiday are recorded in First and second Maccabees, books of the Apocrypha written between the Old and New Testaments.  You won't find this in your King James Bible (the one I used for most of my life) because it was not included by the Protestant Church. It is a fascinating tale of how a small number of Jews triumphed over a wicked tyrant and freed Jerusalem and the Temple, preparing the way for the Messiah, Yeshua.

When the Assyrian-Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes came to power over Israel, he tried to Hellenize the Jews, to make them like Greeks.  He made laws that no Jewish practices could be observed, and he put Greek idols in the marketplaces and Temple.  He even commanded that pigs, unkosher animals, be sacrificed in the Temple, and poured their blood over the scrolls and on the altar.  This was absolutely abhorrent to the Jews.

In the town of Modin, Mattathias, a man of priestly descent, refused to obey the new laws and led a rebellion.  Judah, one of his sons, became the leader after his father’s death.  He was called Maccabee, which means “hammer”, and his followers were called  Maccabees.

Depiction of the Maccabees returning the menorah to the Temple (source unknown)
After three years of fighting, the Macabbes finally defeated the enemy and drove them out of Jerusalem.  The Jews then cleansed the Temple and built a new altar.  On the 25th of Kislev, they rededicated the Temple to Adonai with a celebration that lasted eight days.

A Great Miracle Happened Here!

Among the traditions surrounding this festival is the story of the miracle of the oil.  The Talmud says that when the Maccabees cleaned the temple, they found only enough oil to light the Ner Tamid (eternal light) for one day.  But to their surprise, the oil lasted eight days until a new supply could be obtained.  The saying, "A great miracle happened here" came from this event.


As I think about the persecution of the Jews back then, and around the world today, I ask myself, "Am I willing to take a stand the way they did?"  Am I willing to obey G-d no matter what people or the government says?  These are serious questions.  

While I cannot compare my experience to being beaten or murdered for my faith,  I have faced persecution for my beliefs.  I've been shunned by family and friends over because I stood firm on what G-d's Word says.  I 've lost jobs and professional reputation because I obeyed G-d's Word and took a stand for ethics, honesty and integrity. 

I may have lost some things dear to me, but G-d has been faithful.  I've gained so much more by obeying G-d's ways, and I have no regrets.  G-d has blessed me for my obedience in every case. As the Scriptures say: He causes everything to work together for my good.

I write this having just read an article in a well-known Christian magazine that discussed the merit of using the phrase "G-d's Word says" from the pulpit.  I am shocked that this would even be a topic of debate.  Some ministers said it was not a good idea because it could alienate people.  Yes, I am serious.

If we are not led by G-d's Holy Word, what are we guided by?  A religion?  A denomination?  A man?  I decided long ago that I wanted His Wisdom more than any of those things.  He has been faithful to lead me, teach me, protect me and bless me.


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