Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Over the past three years, I have been asked to write this post at least a few dozen times. I’m sitting down to write it, now, but I still don’t know what to say. The question is usually worded like, “This Torah thing…how’d that happen?” or “Can you explain this change that has happened in your life?” And I can’t completely explain it except to say that I took the red pill.
It’s no longer present in mine, but if you pick up a brand new Bible there’s a page between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and that’s the only page in the Bible (unless you have a version with commentary) that was not inspired by the Holy Spirit. That page of separation between the beginning of God’s book and the end of the same God’s [same] book was inspired by a man named Marcion. Look him up; you might find his ideas a little interesting.
As I type it’s starting to come back to me. It seems like so long ago. The kids and I had just moved into our very own single-wide trailer. Most of the stories in Little Children. Big God. happened in that tiny home of ours.
There were two things I’d decided to institute upon moving into a home of my own. First of all, I would bring back Sabbath. We’d been Sabbath keepers (on some level) before, but somewhere along the line I’d let life and [earthly] obligations get in the way. I desperately missed that day of rest, and we were going to keep Sabbath if it killed me (and, as it turns out, it didn’t).
Second of all, I’d decided to eat biblically clean. This one is a little trickier to explain because I literally cannot remember what my reasoning was in the beginning. I was a gentile’s gentile. All of my favorite meals involved a good measure of unclean meat. I still have a bone to pick with the Father over His even creating the crab and the scallop. I had just begun to closely examine my diet, however, due to some long-term health issues. I had a few friends who didn’t eat pork or shellfish (for health reasons), so I guess the initial thought came from there.
While all of this was going on I was reading through and editing the most important book to ever enter my life (apart from the Word of God). As I read Renee Stein’s Everything Old is New Again: A Jewish Midwife’s Look into Pregnancy and the Feasts of Israel, little gears began to snap into place. She talked about the law of God as if it were a good thing, as if it were a freeing thing. I nodded along as I read her praise of Sabbath and the Feasts of the Lord. She wasn’t writing to me as an outsider; she was writing to the people of God (to all twelve tribes of Israel and the strangers grafted in). Still, I’d read and nod, nod and read, and then I stop and say (out-loud in my living room at midnight), “Why do I agree with this? I don’t live like this?”
It was October, and as I read about the Feasts I knew I wanted to celebrate one. I didn’t know when they were, so I turned to my good friend, Google. As it turned out, Sukkot (Tabernacles, Tents) was just beginning, and I was overwhelmed with a joy I cannot even begin to explain. It’s the season of joy, Sukkot, but I didn’t know that yet. Happy tears streamed down my face as I transformed the kids’ room into an indoor tent (because it was too cold to camp outside). I published these pictures on my blog.
One month later, after spending a few months working on our own Sabbath traditions, I also published this post.
That’s when I received the following e-mail where a former “lurker,” now close personal friend, absolutely called me on the carpet (in the nicest possible way).
I searched for the above e-mail because I could have sworn she’d said, “Do you believe this or are you just playing games?” Turns out she was sweet and gentle. The Holy Spirit, (who’d interpreted her words in the way I needed to hear them), not so gentle.
I wrote back with some stuff I no longer believe (and some stuff I still do).
And then she really got tough.
I wrote back a short and sweet e-mail because, whoa, I knew I had a lot of studying to do.
I did get to my reading. Over the next year I spent so much time studying and learning that bad habits dropped from my life without any effort on my part (though I still have a very long way to go); there wasn’t time for anything but Him. At some point during the year it finally hit me how far-reaching and vastly impacting this all was; that’s when I wrote this post. And when the year was over, I published this post.
I guess that’s a pretty good overview, or as best as I can piece it all together. I’m also including the following video because it was so helpful to me in the beginning. Of course, if you want, feel free to come out of lurkdom and send me an e-mail. A girl can never have too many friends.
Last night I was thinking (yes, I still think lots of thoughts, I just don’t always share them) about the Azazel goat (first mentioned in the current Torah portion—Leviticus 16). The sin of the Israelites was symbolically placed on the head of the Azazel goat, and then that goat was forcibly driven from the camp.
Because Yeshua is our High Priest in the Heavenly Tabernacle, and because we have received atonement through His sacrifice, we are no longer intimately familiar with the Yom Kippur rituals and the casting out of the Azazel goat. This, our forgiveness through Yeshua, is a beautiful thing that should never be taken lightly. But because we are not familiar with the yearly physical ritual, the picture, the earthly shadow cast by the spiritual reality, because we can’t see it leaving, we sometimes open the gate and let that damned goat right back in.
I’m the kind of person who can tangibly feel her sins following her around. I often hear goats bleating in the middle of the night. It’s fairly easy for me to forgive other people; the Father has been gracious to teach me. I’ll admit, though I’ve grown in this area over recent years, I still struggle when it comes to forgiving myself.
Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t fully make the connection between what I just wrote and what I am about to write:
I never get away with anything.
Some people get away with murder.
But I never get away with anything.
Case in point, I can still remember that terrible day when I showed up to my private high school in faintly pinstriped pants (almost the required “solid color,” but not quite). Would my rebellion go unchecked? Nope. Why?
Because I never get away with anything!
For a long time I have lived with the consequences of my sins as though my sins were not yet forgiven. But does forgiveness mean a lack of consequences? Does consequence mean that the goat has come back, or is discipline simply another matter? If I ground my daughter for playing games when she was supposed to be taking a test, is she forgiven when she says she’s sorry (and I say that I forgive her) or when her grounding is over?
Of course, I forgive her as soon as she asks. And sometimes, sometimes, I will cancel the consequence because I’m Mom and I do what I want. But what if I did that every time? Would that be in her best interest?
Genesis chapter fifteen is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. Right smack in there though is a curious little verse, verse sixteen, that used to cross my eyes:
“Only in the fourth generation will your descendants come back here, because only then will the Emori be ripe for punishment.” (CBJ)
“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (KJV)
“In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (NIV)
In II Maccabees, chapter two, the writer details the horrible defilement that happened to the Temple and the Jewish people around 167 BC. It’s hard to read, especially if you love God’s law. And no, Maccabees is not included in the Protestant cannon of Scripture, but it is historically important (in my opinion).
After the writer speaks of the persecution of his people, he says something I find to be extremely profound, especially in light of Genesis 15:16.
He says this:
“Now I urge those who read this book not to be disheartened by these misfortunes, but to consider that these punishments were meant not for the ruin but for the correction of our nation. It is, in fact, a sign of great kindness to punish the impious promptly instead of letting them go for long. Thus, in dealing with other nations, the Sovereign Lord patiently waits until they reach the full measure of their sins before punishing them; but with us he has decided to deal differently, in order that he may not have to punish us later, when our sins have reached their fullness. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with misfortunes, he does not abandon his own people.”
In other words, God’s people never get away with anything. And this is good. Someday His fist will come down and He will say “Enough is enough!” He waits for the wicked to reach the full measure of their sin; someday He will destroy them completely. Thank God He does not deal with His own people this way.
If you’re living in a season of discipline, as I often feel I am, do not misconstrue His chastisement as a sign of wrath or unforgiveness. The goat is long gone; let it die in the wilderness where it belongs. But be thankful for His mercy that often comes in the form of discipline, because He loves us too much to leave us as we are.
The weekend before last my parents took us out of town to see the kids’ cousins. We all had an amazing time. It was exactly the kind of weekend I used to carefully document in photo-filled blog posts.
For me, the highlight of the trip was probably the zoo. Of course, we also had a great time just lounging around the hotel and visiting Focus on the Family, but the zoo isn’t free…which makes my adult mind say, “This, kids, this is the highlight of our trip!”
Kids, on the other hand, they like hotel fish. And the boxes the presents come in.
The last time we took pictures at the Colorado Springs zoo, Miss C bonded with the monkeys. As you can see, not much has changed.
It was a weekend of sugary breakfast eating, happy hour hanging, game room playing, elevator riding, crowded pool swimming, slide sliding, ice cream eating, birthday partying, zoo hiking, mall walking fun. We might just have to do it all again!
I don’t blog like I used to, and I’m truly grateful to those of you who still humor my occasional tirades and gabfests by stopping in from time-to-time. Some of you may not know it, but in its heyday this blog was decently well-read. My inbox was filled to the brim. I don’t think I ever caught up (I just wrote a book). We–my handsome husband and I–were called to the front of our local church to pray for hurting marriages. If you wanted to encourage an on-the-brink couple, you–the evangelical internet–might have directed the wife to my blog. Thousands of you did, ’cause we had a testimony. And in case you’re not familiar with the lingo, testimony means, “Something really bad happened, and then something wonderful happened to make all the bad seem worth it.”
For the past few weeks I’ve been looking again at Abraham’s story. I love Abraham. And I mean him no disrespect, but I love how intrinsically flawed he was. He wasn’t like Noah. The dark splotch on Noah’s record is a night of I-am-literally-alone, loneliness induced drunkenness. Are you gonna say you blame him? But Abraham, Abraham was a witness at his own wife’s wedding–twice–just to save his own skin. That’s pretty hard to live down. And the way I read it, Abraham prayed the way for the Ammonites and the Moabites. He begat a family feud (though we can blame that one on his wife). These are immensely consequential bad days. Though, of course, God had a plan for all of the bad days. Despite what might look like a marred record, Abe lived a life of unimaginable faith.
Abraham died without seeing the fulfillment of all that God had promised, but he died still knowing he would see it one day. Faith, not miraculous blessing, is what Abraham’s legacy boasts. Abraham’s testimony is faith for the journey; it is not the destination. If I ever get the chance to really sit down and talk with Abraham, I don’t want to hear about the day Isaac was born–not right away. And it’s not that I don’t hold tight to the pertaining promise, but there are other things I want to know before I ask about the ram in the thicket.
I want to hear about that long, grueling walk to the top of Mount Moriah. I want to hear about the day he told the king of Sodom to take a hike. I want to know what was going through his mind as he readied servants to fight kings. I want to hear about the years he spent waiting for Isaac. I want to hear about Ishmael; I want to know all about Ishmael. And I want to hear about the day he sent Ishmael to wander away.
So please, stop. Stop telling me that God is good because of how He’s said yes to your prayers. It makes a great story: how He saved you from the fiery furnace. What makes it a true, lasting testimony is that He strengthened you to stand in the flames. Yes, God gives us good things, and of course we should tell people about them; but the goodness of God is not defined by what He gives us. Judging God by His blessings is like judging an earthly parent by the birthday presents they give. Good parenting is made in moments of disciplining, teaching, training, and late-night heart-to-heart talking. Presents are just a bonus.
So if you’re one of the few still stumbling upon my old posts and gleaning encouragement from my testimony, please glean encouragement from this: I still believe every word. I’m still standing (usually smiling) and trusting. God is good–all the time–in sunshine and in rain.
We got a head start on the “Tents up! Tents down!” project from this Shabbat’s lesson. Enjoy! And make sure to take pictures of your version of Abraham’s journey. We can’t wait to see them!
God, YHVH, divorced His own Bride, Israel (though He also made a way to bring her back). Instead of reiterating the fact in every point of this post, I’ve decided to get it out of the way right now: There are valid reasons for divorce. I’d argue that the following are the invalid ones.
Feeling unappreciated, whether in big ways or small ways, isn’t fun. It’s easy to imagine a life where your alternate-universe husband comes home from work and sweeps you into his arms. He praises the dinner–whether left-overs, take-out, or gourmet. He marvels over the state of the house–whether immaculate or cluttered. He goes on and on about the cleanliness, and overall cuteness, of your children and the fact that you look even more beautiful than you did the day before. If you work outside the home, he asks you about your job. He remembers the inside-the-home drama and the outside-the-home drama, and he deeply cares about every detail.
Would that be nice? Of course! That would be incredibly nice. It’s not happening in your marriage, so you have to imagine it–leading you to dwell on the fact that all of your Facebook friends are happily married to handsome Prince Charmings while you are stuck with Shrek.
Since you understand the deep, wounding pain of being taken for granted day in and day out, I’m going to assume you greet your husband with the gratitude and understanding you wish he lavished upon you. Being the sainted woman you are, you probably run to the door when you hear his brakes squealing or his car pulling into the garage. After all, who doesn’t love being greeted with a smile? You understand this even if he doesn’t, so you throw your arms around him and tell him how great he smells after a hard day of work. You thank him, every day and profusely, for working so hard to provide for his family. You express your gratitude over the fact that he came home at all, and you applaud his consistent fidelity.
I once sat with my husband in a counselor’s office. While I listened, the counselor explained to my husband the concept of a “love bank.” He said, “A wife expects her husband to come home, to provide, and to be faithful. If you are doing those three things, you can get points for the extra things. If you are not doing those things, you will not get points for anything you do beyond them. You will never actually earn points for doing those three things, however; they are simply what is expected.”
That last part seemed incredibly unfair to me, and I wondered what my three things were. What was I not getting credit for? The housework? Meals? Sex? It seemed to me that since all human beings enjoy getting credit for the expected things that we should give credit for the expected things as well. Makes sense, right? At the very least, it’s worth trying out on the man that you promised to cherish. Sow and reap, baby.
Based on the experiences of about 95% of the husbands I’ve talked to, many men shy away from parenting simply because they’re afraid of doing it wrong. Where does this silly fear come from? Well, it comes from their perfect wives. Moms read parenting books and parenting blogs; we spend twelve hours a day studying the personalities of our young children. Actually, we had a forty-week head start on the whole thing. So, when stranger dad dares to discipline wrong or teach wrong or diaper wrong or feed wrong…basically parent wrong, resident mom has the tendency to let him know it. Now, no, most moms don’t actually say, “You’re wrong, stranger.” But few of us are opposed to a well-placed sigh, a delicate eye-roll, or a feminine smirk. Killing him softly? You betcha. Expecting our husbands to man up may require us to woman down. And since it’s probably going to be at least equally as hard to watch a step-dad doing things wrong, I wouldn’t count on lush pastures in this pursuit of happiness, either.
Maybe it’s the times we live in. For whatever reason, I know quite a few godly women who are living with less than righteous husbands. These are not villainous men, mind you, it’s just that they don’t crack their Bibles. They rarely, if ever, lead their families in prayer. They’re simply not the spiritual leaders of their homes.
At least, that’s what I hear from their tired wives.
In Genesis chapter two, God told Adam that he was in need of a helper. To fulfill this need, God created Chava (whom we call Eve). The word for helper is the Hebrew word ezer (which comes from the root word azar). The word azar has military connotations. It means helper, yes, but more accurately it means protector. It’s a fierce word, and it implies continual, unyielding, encircling protection. I picture a woman dressed for battle. Her sword is drawn, and her countenance is serious as she continually guards her family. She makes a circle around them. Safely inside that circle, her husband is free from the distractions of the enemy and is able to lead his family and his community into relationship with the Creator. In a traditional Hebrew wedding, the bride circles her groom seven times. Perhaps a deeper understanding of the role a wife fills is the real reason behind this ritual.
Is it possible for a wife to be faithful to her post while her husband sits protected–and does nothing? Of course, and this is where wives tend to take over. The problem is, though, that in dropping her sword to pick up his scepter, the family is left vulnerable to attack. So keep (or start) studying the Word, keep (or start) teaching your children, and keep (or start) encircling your family in prayer for their protection. But if you’re tired of leading your husband, maybe it’s because you’re not meant to lead your husband. Your role was forged in the Garden of Eden, and the grass has never been greener.
This is the short story of four orphaned boys. Their lineages vary from unimportant to scandalous, but at early ages they were all adopted by loving and affluent families. The way these boys responded to their adoptions is the reason I’m telling their story. This is not a true story, mind you…or is it? I’ll let you decide for yourself.
The first boy fell in love with his parents from his very first glance of them. He was excited to meet his new brothers and sisters and to find his place in the family. He wore his new name like a crown upon his head, and he spent rainy afternoons doodling his name in a notebook. He’d never owned anything of value before, and his new name was a thing of beauty that no one could take away. More than the riches of the household, he valued his home and family. He would never be an orphan again.
He’d had the same diet and done the same chores for his eleven years in the orphanage. His family’s rules were different to him, but he dedicated himself to knowing and doing those things that would please his parents. He loved his brothers and sisters, and he was careful to be generous, loving, and grateful, but it was his parents he endeavored to please. Within a few short months he had found his place. He no longer referred to himself as “adopted,” though his history left him with a gratitude that his siblings couldn’t quite understand. He was simply his father’s son, now. His adoption had been a success.
The second boy’s reaction was different. Of course he was grateful for his adoption, and he expressed that gratitude often. He did not think himself worthy of full adoption, however. He did not accept his new name. He tip-toed around his new siblings, always afraid of what they might think. Did they think he was overstepping? Was he trying to be more than his birth would allow? He did his chores dutifully; he participated in family activities, and he tried to be very good. But until the day he died he never stopped referring to himself as his father’s adopted son.
The third boy’s reaction was similar to the second’s. He also felt unworthy of his adoption and of his new family’s name. He was inwardly jealous of his siblings because he thought they were loved more than he was. Though his parents accepted him unconditionally, he maintained an attitude of second-class. He wore a badge of poverty in the wealthiest of households, and he refused to eat at the same table or to participate in family activities that seemed to be traditions unique to his family. He thought he was acting humbly as he maintained his orphan identity. He wanted sincerely to please his parents and siblings, but he often felt far from them. He insisted on the chores and diet that he’d grown accustomed to in the orphanage. He lived his whole life as an orphan, though he was offered his father’s house.
The last boy’s reaction may shock you; it seems unlikely, though I’ve seen it happen. He entered his new home with excitement, but in that excitement he quickly usurped the place of his parents’ natural born children. He demanded the best room in the house. He gave little thought to the chores or rules that guided his siblings’ lives. He’d heard that one cannot disown an adopted child like they can a natural born; his parents had promised to love him forever, and he felt confident in their promise. That confidence did not produce a heart of service, however, but an attitude of entitlement. He felt as much right, more right, to the family name as the children who had been born in the house. He felt strongly that his adoption also afforded him special privileges. “Freedom” was the banner he carried; he was free from his family’s archaic ideas. He served his parents as he pleased, and he enjoyed the unconditional wealth of his father.
If you’ve been adopted into the family of God, you may see yourself in these boys’ stories. I see my past in the third and fourth. I grew up as an adopted orphan. I would never just be “His child”. The rules and discipline for me were different; I was adopted, not a real child. That lie alone left me outside when I so desperately wanted to be included, but I also enjoyed what I thought of as “freedom.” I was free from the rules of His house, though that freedom left me wanting.
Today, I see myself in the first boy’s reaction. I am my Father’s child. My Father’s rules apply to me because He’s given me His name. I doodle my name on paper. I wear my name like a crown. There is no difference between me and the children who were born in His house. There is no difference in our rules. There is no difference in our food. There is no difference in our traditions. I do not serve Him to earn His love; I serve Him because He loves me. I’m not His adopted child; I’m Sarah of the family of Israel. I will walk as Israel walks. Everything He has is mine, and I will inherit what Israel inherits. If your adoption has been different than this, it’s not too late to change your mind.
Ephesians 2:11-13 (KJV)
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
My kids and I love reading through the Torah Portion each week; it’s our favorite part of the school day. If the term “Torah Portion” is unfamiliar to you, a better explanation might be “Portions of the Pentateuch”. The Torah (the first five books of the Bible) are divided into fifty-four sections that are to be read throughout the year. The new cycle begins immediately after the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Starting with the new Torah cycle, we’ll be sharing our lessons with you! We’d we honored if you would use these simple lessons in your congregations and in your homes. Hard work and many hours will go into making the lessons accessible, and your one-time or monthly donations will be very much appreciated.
Each new week’s Torah lesson will be posted shortly after the close of Shabbat. They’ll be available through the “Torah Portions” link at the top of this page. Take a sneak-peek at the first lesson below! If you plan to read through the Torah alongside us, please e-mail me and let me know. We’d love a headcount before we get started, and we may organize an online group for sharing additional resources and ideas. See you after Sukkot!