Friday, August 31, 2018

Sabbath Music - The Hound of Heaven

Greetings and Shabbat Shalom to you, Gail-Friends.  I must start off with an apology.  Lately, I'd noticed I was not getting any comments here on the blog but I was busy and just shrugged it off.  Yesterday, I got an email from Blogger asking me if I wanted to continue to get notifications about new comments.   Well, of course, I do!  I don't know what happened to make them stop, but I should be getting those notifications going forward.  I've gone back through and answered the comments made ever since June to catch up, and I sincerely apologize for not acknowledging and responding to your comments.  I appreciate and always respond when someone takes the time to stop in and leave a message, especially the kind ones.

I have a song for you today that always makes me tear up.  The Lighthouse is a song that gives me chills and fills my heart with gratitude because, as the song says, I don't know where I'd be without Yeshua in my life.  He saved me and set me on the right path.

This is a good meditation for Shabbat -- just sit and think where your life would be if you didn't have Him and His Word.  I often wonder how people cope with life without The Good Shepherd's tender love, voice, and guiding hand.  Well, actually, I do know -- because I lived without Him for many years and was pretty much a mess.  Oh, I went to church but didn't truly follow His Word or His Ways.  I'm so grateful for the "Hound of Heaven" that chased me down and brought me to my knees in repentance, where I learned of a whole new world.  Here's the first stanza of that epic poem by Francis Thompson:

The Hound Of Heaven

By Francis Thompson (1890)

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’

Have you had experience with the Hound of Heaven?

I hope you have learned that that hound turned out to be the loving, tender Good Shepherd.

Blessings and Ahava (love) to you all.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thankful Thursday - Creative People

I love and am so thankful for creative people.  We have so many of them in our synagogue.  Here are a few examples from our family member, Lavonne Craft.  I call her the Queen of Creativity:

LaVonne has made three beautiful ark* curtains for our synagogue.  The first one was created in 2015.  and it says, "Sh'ma Israel."

The second ark curtain was made in 2016, and says, "Ma'gen Da'vid" and means "Shield of David."  It's also the name of our synagogue.

LaVonne and her husband, David.

All of this lovely embroidery and beadwork is done by hand.  All of these ark curtains are her own designs.

The ark curtain below is her most recent embroidery creation.  The Hebrew is translated:

The Torah is a Tree of Life 
to those who take hold of it.

 What a wonderful and powerful reminder of the joys and blessings of Torah observance.

This picture doesn't do it justice.  Some of the beads are iridescent, and others are sparkly.  I love how the background behind the tree looks like water.  It reminds us that Yeshua is not only the Living Word but also the Living Water.  Beautiful and amazingly creative, right?

She's not just handy with a needle, either.  She surprised us last week with this amazing shofar stand.  LaVonne said she was inspired to build it because those she found were wall-hung, and she wanted a free-standing one that would hold several shofars.  She designed it, cut the wood, sanded, and shellacked it by herself.  I told you she was creative!

LaVonne is a good and creative cook and has written a wonderful cookbook with the family recipes she used while rearing her five children.  It's filled not only with recipes, but family history, photos, and her own poems.

She wrote this poem for Rabbi and me on our tenth wedding anniversary.  She also planned and pulled off a grand surprise party for us at the synagogue.  She's a creative hostess with the mostest!

LaVonne is a fiction writer, too, and has published two novels under her pen name, L. G. Craft.  Here are her latest book and her darling granddaughter, Tala.  You should hear Tala sing the Hebrew during the liturgy.  LaVonne designed the cover for her books, too.  The third book in the series is coming soon, and you can find the books at this link

She's a talented fine artist, too, with beautiful works in varied mediums.  I love this painting done with chalk pastels.

I could go on and on about her creativity and talents because there's much more to tell.  LaVonne has inspired my own creativity and was a tremendous help in publishing my book, Golden Moments.  I'm so thankful to have her in my life as a friend, and also as a member of our Ma'gen Da'vid family.

* The ark holds our Torah scroll.

You can see more of LaVonne's creativity at our Golden Rule Party.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Sabbath Music - Clouds

I've mentioned before how much I love the harp, and I have some absolutely lovely harp music for you today.  This week, I discovered the duo called Luminescent, which consists of a harpist and a hand pan.  The name of the song is Nuages, which is French for clouds.

I can't think of anything lovelier to do on Shabbat than to lie on a blanket and watch clouds.  We did that as children, right?  Do you remember trying to find shapes in the clouds?  Like a horse, or a face, or a heart?  Have you done it lately?

Well, I  must admit I haven't; but I do sit on my porch on Shabbat and look at the trees, the sky, and the clouds. This Shabbat, I think I'll lie in the grass, on a soft, cloud-like blanket, and just look at the clouds . . . just think about their beauty . . .  and worship The One Who Makes Them.  I think I'd like that, and I think He would, too.   It would be rest-full, and worship-full . . . and that's what Shabbat is all about, right? A wonder-full thing that happens is this:

When I am still,

He speaks

Shabbat shalom, Gail-Friends, and I pray we'll all be listening.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thankful Thursday - Art in Unexpected Places

I love finding art in unexpected places, don't you?  Here's an example in our local shopping area:

Doesn't this little doggie look happy frolicking in the daisy patch?

I saw this fun flower pot at our local Walmart.  It's just so appropriate for Florida.  We love our flip-flops around here.  As a matter of fact, I rarely wear anything else, even in winter.  Sometimes I even wear socks with them.  It's a Florida thing!

I love this idea of putting hubcaps on the ceiling.  I saw this at an Orlando restaurant that has a vintage automobile theme.

Just look at this creative use of tail-lights.  There's one in the photo above, too.

The same restaurant had these prayers on the package that holds the silverware.  I love this idea.

 These were at a Trader Joe's grocery store in Jacksonville Beach, Florida and depict scenes around the big city and the beaches.  I usually visit the Trader Joe's in Orlando, and I've never noticed murals there.  I'll check to see if they have them on my next trip.
The downtown River Walk right there among all the veggies. Did you notice the blender and the carrot?  Don't you love it?
Loving this beach scene with direction signs
Notice the asparagus in the bottom left-hand corner.  Such creativity!
You can see more of these fun murals in a past blog post HERE.

Here's an unexpected bit of creativity for you . . . a sofa made from a coffin.  Not my cup of tea, but I do appreciate the imagination of the creator.  Don't you wonder about the story behind it?  Fodder for books . . .

Our Heavenly Father is the Great Creator and I'm thankful for the gift of creativity He gives to those who pay attention to those ideas He drops into their minds and hearts.

Do you love finding art in unexpected places?  If you have some, I'd love for you to share them with me.  You can attach a photo in your comments below.

Have a blessed week, Gail-Friends, and remember to be thankful.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sabbath Music - Be Thou My Vision

Today's Sabbath song is an old Irish hymn:  Be Thou My Vision sung by Allison Krauss.  The lyrics of this song are a great meditation for the Sabbath:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart 
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art 
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night 
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
 Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word 
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord 
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son 
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one 
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise 
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always 
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart 
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art 
High King of Heaven, my victory won 
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
 Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
 Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all 

I love the phrase, "my Treasure Thou art", don't you?  What a treasure He is in my life.  Knowing Him, and having His Word and Spirit, are my greatest gifts in this life.  I am rich, Gail-Friends, just filthy rich!

Let's spend our Sabbath praising Him for this glorious, unspeakable gift.

graphic used by permission from Garden of Bright Images on Facebook

Thursday, August 16, 2018

#MAGA - Our Holy Responsibility

Voting is a holy responsibility, and I pray for all who are voting in the primaries ahead.  Our state votes next week, and we are praying for an outcome that will support President Trump's agenda.

This year's election is just as impactful as the presidential election in 2016.  We elected a man who has worked tirelessly to turn our country around.  His motto is Make America Great Again, and he has made huge strides to make that happen.

This primary election determines who will be voted for in November, so take it very seriously.  Don't stay home, please.  Your vote is needed to keep conservative voices in Congress.

Conservative Republicans (not RINOs) support:
  • strong borders
  • spending for a strong military
  • free-market capitalism 
  • nationalism and patriotism 
  • the pro-life position -- are against baby murder (aka abortion)

Democrats are pushing for:
  • baby murder (I can't soft-pedal this anymore, friends.)
  • socialism
  • open borders, the abolition of ICE
  • globalism
  • a weak military - more of a social experiment, really
  • bigger government  --  much, much more government control of our lives. 

If you only listen to the major news networks, you will think President Trump has accomplished very little.  Don't be deceived, friends.  The list of positives is long, and you can see some of them right HERE.  That list hasn't been updated since April so you can add to that a few more successes:
  • His success in the economy. The stock market continues to soar, jobs are coming back because corporations are coming back to the USA.  Joblessness is at an all-time low, including women, blacks, and Hispanics.
  • He's been effective on tariffs to rectify the horrible deals made by past presidents.  
  • He's been successful in talks with North Korea for nuclear disarmament.  
  • He's gotten us out of the Iran deal, which still makes me scratch my head.  Cash money stacked up in huge piles and sent by plane.  The truth will come out about that soon.
  • He's making NATO pay up for all the favors we've done for decades.  They now will have to pay their share. 
  • He's obliterated ISIS.  Heard anything about them lately?
  • He's made it possible for veterans to get private medical care without having to go through the VA. (This means a lot to us since my husband is a veteran.) 
  • He's working to clean up the FBI and several other agencies.  These have become corrupt and his efforts are what he calls "Draining the Swamp".  Believe me, there are some nasty creatures in the DC swamp, and I'm praying for them all to be removed quickly.   
  • He's working to make social media a level playing field.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and others are not playing fair with conservatives. 
I could keep going with this list because it is much longer.  If you don't follow President Trump on Twitter, you must.  He tells you what the Main Stream Media (CNN, ABC, NBC. CBS) won't talk about.  The MSM hates his tweeting because they can't twist his words.  I'm very thankful to read them daily.

He's keeping his campaign promises, too.  You can see them at this link,   PROMISES KEPT.
President Trump has upheld conservative ideals with fervor and complete dedication.  I'm very glad he was elected, and I want to do everything I can to elect people to Congress who will support his agenda for the next two years.

How can I/we/you do that?

  • Vet the candidates.  Don't believe the commercials you see about them.  Check the facts for yourself,  And don't trust your local news outlet to tell you the truth either.  Look up their voting record.  Do a search engine investigation of them and see what you find. 
  • Vote.
  • Stand outside the perimeter of your voting place and hold a sign saying, "Keep America Great - vote for Conservatives."  It's a lot of fun to wave signs.  Yes, you will get some hand gestures and mean words, but put on your big-girl panties and deal with it by smiling and waving back. 
  •  Talk about politics.  I know this might be scary for you because you've been taught not to talk about politics and/or religion.  Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!  We must join in the conversation by talking about politics AND religion in person and on social media.  We must stop "putting our LIGHT under a bushel," as the Bible says, because "The entrance of His Word (Truth) brings light."  We also are to love those in darkness because we were there once ourselves. We're all on a journey, Gail-friends.

God really laid this blog post on my heart today when I read this Scripture passage this morning:

 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
– Ephesians 6:10-18

The forces of evil are raging. We have to use our spiritual weapons in this fight for America. We also, have to use our rights and duties as citizens to fight against these forces - voting, vetting the candidates, contacting our representatives about our concerns, and holding their feet to the fire, and most of all -- speaking out for the things that made America great:  
  • The Judeo-Christian beliefs of the Bible
  • Free-market capitalism
  • Nationalism - not Globalism 
  • Patriotism - pride in and love for our country, our flag, our language, and our culture
  • Respect and protection for our Constitution
  • Obedience to law and order
  • Strong borders and legal immigration
  • A strong military
  • Respect for our military and law enforcement officers
  • Respect for self and others. We were even taught this in public schools in the America I grew up in.  We were spanked!!!  At school and at home!!! (That's fodder for another blog post...)
These are some of the things I grew up with in America.  I pray for them to return and to be preserved for future generations.  It's our holy responsibility.

While I do not agree with everything listed, this website has a valuable tool for residents of our state: Voter Guides & Candidate Endorsements

Friday, August 10, 2018

Sabbath Music - Baruch Haba Medley for Shabbat


Baruch Haba is Hebrew for, "Blessed Is He Who Comes."  This is a medly of songs we sing on Shabbat in our synagogue.  Jonathan Settel has a wonderful voice, and I hope you enjoy his singing in the Hebrew language.  He also speaks in this medley to explain meanings.  I hope you enjoy it during your special time with Adonai on His special day for you.  And maybe you'll even dance as you listen. :)

Baruch Haba Medley by Jonathan Settel

Blessings and Shabbat Shalom to you all, Gail-Friends.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thankful Thursday - Birthday Blessings Galore

Last week, we celebrated Jem's birthday.  We had a party for him with our mishpocha (family).  Thank you to David for taking these photos.

Carrot cake!!! And sugar-free pudding!

The congregation gifted him with a very nice flagpole for the front yard, a heavy-duty, super-duper nice American flag, and an American flag box to store all of his many flags.  Oh . . .and a beautiful bottle of Merlot, (which he pronounces like, "Thanks a LOT!")

One of Rabbi Jem's dreams has always been to attend the running of the bulls in Spain.  Well, one of our creative synagogue members made it happen:

Everybody roared, especially Rabbi Jem.  LaVonne is the queen of .creativity.  (I'll be doing another blog post about her beautiful creations soon.)

We also had a little at-home dinner party with family.  Rabbi Jem wanted a German chocolate cake. Since I don't eat sugar, and our daughter, Amanda, doesn't either, I made a sugar-free dessert for us. So Good!!!

We decided 72 candles would be tough to blow out, so we used numbers.  Jona-FUN had fun putting them on.

He did it!!!

There is no blessing like family, and I'm so thankful for both kinds.  We are abundantly blessed for sure!

What are you thankful for this week, Gail-Friends?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Sabbath Music - Peace Like A River

 "The sound of the harp joins heaven and earth."

This quote is so true, and I love listening to harp music on Shabbat. 

On my first visit to the Holy Land in 1996, I visited the Harrari House of Harps in Jerusalem.  I was over the moon with JOY when I was invited to play one of their beautiful instruments.  After that JOY-filled experience, I prayed to be able to have my own harp, and God answered that prayer a few years back when I was given one.  I haven't taken lessons yet, but that is a goal!  Right now, I'm still learning the dulcimer.

I ran across some beautiful harp music over the past week and have enjoyed it immensely.  I've always been fascinated with the harp, and when I found this artist, Steve Rees, I was thrilled to see his videos made in Israel.

His rendition of  Peace Like A River is so very appropriate for Shabbat.  I love sitting by the river near my home, especially on Shabbat.  There's nothing that restores my soul like being by the water.  I remember singing this song in the little Baptist church of my childhood.  These are the lyrics:

When Peace Like A River

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

You may recognize this song as, "It Is Well."  They are one and the same, written by Horatio Spafford in 1873 after a horrible tragedy.  The story of how this hymn was written is very inspiring.  Spafford was well acquainted with grief, yet held to his faith in G-d through all of his hardships.  You can find the story HERE.  It's also interesting that he and his family became Messianics.  :)

I hope you have a worship-full, peace-full, and rest-full Sabbath, Gail-Friends.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Thankful Thursday - Bird Friends


Have you ever thought of birds as friends?  I do because they visit me every day and bring m.e JOY!  As I watch them, I'm always reminded that Yeshua said, "Consider the birds. . ."  I consider them by watching them and in doing so, I've learned many lessons.  I call them "bird blessings", and they are the subject of my next book, which I'm working on currently. 


I also remember that He provides and cares for the birds and He cares for me.  If I ever get burdened with cares, all I have to do is spend time watching my feathered friends.  They never fail to lift the doldrums. 

Golden Cottage Garden has had an abundance of cardinals this summer.  Look at this gorgeous fellow giving me the eye. 

There were several at the feeders on this cloudy day.  All of them were young . . . still developing their color

Feeding time for baby

I think this is a female with a young one

This cardinal couple visited the feeders together one morning

They looked back at each other and then . . .

She seemed to scold Dad.  I imagined her saying, "Where's Junior?"

We've had a couple of new birds visit this summer.  I think this is a nut-hatch, but not sure.

This little one has me stumped.  I think it might be a young Carolina wren, but again I'm not sure.

Same bird, but he's soaking wet from the rain.

I saw this one at the feeder right outside my kitchen window.  Light brown in color.  A cardinal maybe?  But he doesn't have all the right attributes.

Then I saw him out back by the pond and got a better photo.  Still not sure.

We have hummingbirds visit the garden, but I've never caught one in a photo.  Jem tried, but the photos were too blurry.  He did get a good photo of his shadow, though!

It was a sad, sad day when I found this in our front yard.  We have several neighborhood cats that hang around Golden Cottage, and I think this is all that was left of a red-bellied woodpecker.  It made me sad, but that's the way cats are.  You can't change their basic nature, right.

I'm so thankful for my little birdie friends and for the JOY they give me here at Golden Cottage.  

What are you thankful for this week, Gail-Friends?