Thursday, February 28, 2008

"And he assembled"...Vayak'hel

Exodus 35:1-38:20

This week's portion starts out with the reiteration of the commandment to make the Sabbath holy, to set it apart. Now we know that God's Word is not written haphazardly; on the contrary, every word, and even the placement of that word, carries great significance. In other words, there is a bigger picture here than as first meets the eye.
Why did God feel the need to yet again stress the importance of the Sabbath to His people? I believe the answer lies in the rest of the portion. This was an exciting time for the people of God. They were preparing to build the tabernacle - the place where the Shekinah, the presence of God, would come down and dwell among them. I can imagine what a flurry of activity, what a spark of expectation was buzzing throughout the camp! Men were helping to bring gold, silver and bronze, along with skins and hides and olive oil; the women were consumed with spinning colorful yarns, in blue, purple and scarlet, along with fine linen to beautify the sanctuary. Not only did they do all of this, but the Scripture says that they performed all these activities with their "whole hearts" (35:21) and "willingly" (35:29). This was not the forced labor of Egypt, but a freewill offering of praise to their Redeemer.
But in the midst of all the excitement and worshipful activity, there is a tug at their hearts. It's almost time for the Sabbath! They might have ignored it and continued working - after all, weren't they doing something good? They wanted to see this tabernacle completed, in all its glory - with the Shekinah abiding with them.
Our gracious Father knew this would happen. That's why He lovingly reminded them about His special "date" with them before they began the work. He was saying, "No matter how important this work you are doing unto me seems, nothing is as important as meeting with me - not even the building of My tabernacle!"
Wow. How much does this apply to us today? We often become so involved with "religious" activities - prayer meetings, Bible studies, discipleship groups, mentorships, conferences, conventions, youth groups, breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, worship practices (the list goes on and on) - that we forget to STOP and just enjoy the work that He has already completed. I am hugely guilty of this. I enjoy all of those activities; they are fun and I feel good as I am "building up" the Kingdom. But in those times that I find myself becoming too busy with the "things of God" rather than with God Himself, I need something to remind me to STOP. He gave us that reminder - the Sabbath!
What was the purpose of the tabernacle? Again, as stated in my commentary on last week’s portion, it was a physical reminder to us about something spiritual. God knows that we are spirits, but we live in these physical bodies with which, at times, we become preoccupied. However, the tabernacle was to remind God’s people that He, unlike the “gods” of the nations, desired to come down and dwell in their midst. It is also a picture of what was (and is!) to come – Messiah Yeshua. Consider these verses as we study this context:

John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (“tabernacled”) among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Philippians 2:6-7 “…Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Colossians 2:9 “For in Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…”
Colossians 2:17 “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah.”

What about the future? Will God again come and dwell in a physical sense with His people? Now consider these prophetic verses concerning the Messianic era:

Zechariah 8
3 This is what the Lord says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain." 4 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there." 6 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" declares the Lord Almighty. 7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God."
Revelation 21
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

This portion speaks volumes to me, and I'm glad for yet another reminder of how much our Heavenly Abba just longs for us to dwell in His Presence. Yes, building up His Kingdom is pleasing to Him, but we must do so only after we've STOPPED, both physically and spiritually. Shabbat Shalom (Have a peaceful, restful Sabbath)!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Review: The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis

This charming piece of fiction is a delightful picture of life in a sleepy Southern Orthodox Jewish community, namely, Memphis, Tennessee. At first glance I knew I had to read it - who ever heard of fried chicken and black-eyed peas for Shabbos dinner? The author gives a colorful display of characters set in this close-knit community that thrives on tradition. However, their homeostasis is thrown into tumult when Batsheva, a free-thinking convert moves into town. Her character even challenged my own thinking of why we do what we do, and getting into the spirit of the commandments. The only thing negative I have to say about this book is that one could get the idea that tradition and rules are "bad" and rebellion and "new" ideas are better than being "old-fashioned." However, I do not believe that this is the direction that the author was trying to take the story, and honestly, I gained much from this easy-to-read book. I rarely read fiction any more, but this was well worth it. I recommend this book to anyone that has any curiousity about what a Jewish community in the South looks like. In the words of Levar Burton, "But you don't have to take my word for it!"

Watchmen on the Walls Wednesday

My hope for my posts on Wednesdays is to be devoted to writing about Israel - the land, the Spirit, and the people. Whether we recognize it or not, both our past and our future is bound up in this land. Not America, though we may enjoy the present situations in which we currently live, not Europe or Africa, though many of our ancestors came from these places; no, the very heart of who we are and where we are going is directly related to this tiny spot of land, barely the size of the state of Rhode Island. Amazing, isn't it?

This weekly post takes its name from Isaiah 62:6-7,

"I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.
You who call upon the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of all the earth."

I want to point out that this is still in effect. Some might want to say that these verses have "been done away with" or "fulfilled." But look at the context. Reading on to verses 8-9:

"The LORD has sworn by His right hand and by His mighty arm: Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies, and never again will foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled; but those who harvest it will eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather the grapes will drink it in the courtyards of My sanctuary."

Yes, He did bring the people back to the Land and establish the modern state of Israel, fulfilling some prophecies in 1948. However, it has not all been completed yet.
As Paul Wilbur on his album The Watchman says, " Soon, and not yet, is the word that the watchman give as he strains his eyes through the night mist..."
Therefore, since this still applies today, are we not all called to be watchmen on the walls? Some people have told me that it is a "special calling", that not all believers are called to this. However, that is not what the Scripture states. It clearly says, "You who call on the LORD..." So basically, everyone that prays is "called" to pray for Jerusalem; actually, it says, "give Him no rest" until He hears you! We should continually be seeking God on behalf of Jerusalem and the whole Land of Israel.
"Why Jerusalem?", you may ask. "What is so special about that place?"
It is interesting to note that in the whole Torah (the Five Books of Moses - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) that the name Jerusalem, or Yerushalayim in Hebrew, is not mentioned, even once; however, it is referred to by another name. And what name is it called by in the Torah? "The place on which I will put my Name" (Deut 12:5, among others). Wow, that's a pretty powerful name for a city, if you ask me. The place where the Holiest of Holies, the King of Kings, the Alef and the Tav (Alpha and Omega), I AM that I AM, would put HIS NAME!
Well, I don't want to write "too much" in this first post, but I will close with a challenge. My challenge to you (and myself) is to remember Jerusalem everytime you pray for the next week. See what God does, and see how your heart will start (or continue) to break for that city, the city (and the whole land) of our past and our future. I will close with the prayer that Daniel prayed for Jerusalem in Daniel 9:15-19:
"Now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for Yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all Your righteous acts, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from Jerusalem, Your city, Your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and Your people an object of scorn to all those around us. Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of Your servant. For Your sake, O Lord, look with favor on Your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open Your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears Your Name. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For Your sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people bear Your Name."
Sha'alu Shalom Yerushalayim (Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem)!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tea for Tuesday!

If you LOVE Celestial Seasonings tea like I do, there is a great deal available at Walgreen's this week.

They are on sale for 2/$3.

There is a coupon in the Easy Saver Catalog (which I finally figured out where it the front of the store right by the weekly ads - looks like a little red booklet) for $1 OFF 2.

Also, sometimes you can get $0.45 -$0.55 off coupons inside the box on the cardboard flaps. So basically I did this yesterday and bought 4 boxes for the price of 1 (regular price)!
So that makes them under $1 each! Wow!
Good deal, especially since we are drinking tons of this due to cold/flu season!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

CVS Advisor Panel and Deals

I'm so excited about the new CVS Advisor Panel. I signed up about two weeks ago, and I have already done two surveys. After doing the surveys (which took me about 10 minutes to do each), I was promised to receive $10 ECB's each for the surveys. Wow! So basically in 20 minutes of my time, I have made $20! If you are into saving money and have a CVS card, I definitely recommend signing up for the advisor panel. I can't wait to get my ECB's! One is supposed to print after February 29th on my receipt, and the other one after March 14th.

As for CVS in general this past week, I did go twice, but it wasn't amazing (to me anyway). Here's what I got:
Deal #1:
Glucose Monitor for $19.99 (No, I don't have diabetes, but it is FREE this month after ECB's, so I think it is an awesome thing to donate)
1 box of Celestial Seasonings Tea
Used $4/$20 coupon (I just updated my e-mail address on the website)
Used all of the ECB's I had, and paid about $2 out of pocket.
Made $20.99 in ECB's.

Deal #2 (dear hubby is sick, so I needed some more medicines!):
1 CVS Tussin CF Cough Syrup
1 CVS Nasal Decongestant - 18 count
1 CVS Facial Scrub (was all out)
1 Sambucol
Used $3/$10 CVS brand coupon (printed on the scanner when I entered the store)
Used my ECB's and paid $1.97 out of pocket.
Made $10 in ECB's.

Not the best week, but I did get some things we really did need. I'm looking forward to March's monthly deals. I've already maxed out on most of the February deals!

One exciting thing - I noticed my year-to-date savings so far is already at $175.67!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Looks like this may be the topic of the day...

I read this today and I had to post it. These words are beautiful...

Marriage is a microcosm of the soul's descent into this world:
If you are here looking for what you can get out of this world, then the world and all its trappings will only drag you down.
But if you are looking for what you can give, then you, your part of the world, and your soul, all are uplifted and filled with light.
So too, when you enter a marriage:Look for what you can give, and reap harmony and love.

-Tzvi Freeman

Musings on this week's portion

Exodus 30:11 - 34:35

One of my first thoughts when I began reading this portion (something that also relates to the web address of this blog) was that Israel was being prepared, as a bride for her husband. When God used the language "I will take her to myself" as He led them out of Egypt, He was using language that would have been known to be from a marriage contract (ketubah) of that day.

Can you imagine showing up at your wedding without taking a shower?
One of the first things that He tells Moses is that when the priests would go before Him in the Tent of Meeting, they would need to wash their hands and feet. This reminds me of something my mother taught me, that is actually a part of Jewish tradition as well. My mother taught me that before reading the Bible you should wash your hands. I remember her quoting the verse from Psalm 24 that says, "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart..." Another thing that reminds me of this is how my parents always made me "dress up" to go to congregation. Sometimes when all my friends would be wearing jeans, I would feel silly wearing a dress. But, again, it was a physical act of something that was meant for my heart.
Now I know some of you may be thinking, "Wow, how legalistic!" But here's the thing - First of all, I am not saying that the act of washing your hands before you meet with the Lord is going to save you or make you any more precious in His eyes. But (and look at the end of the Psalm 24 verse), it really is the heart behind it. We as humans are spiritual beings. However, we live in a physical world. When I do something physically, it also strikes a chord with me on the inside. In other words, as I wash my hands before I have my quiet time in the morning or I wear special clothes to congregation, it reminds me about the awesomeness and the holiness of the One that I am going to be with. No, I don't always remember to do it, but when I do it, it is a helpful reminder. The fear (as in honor, respect) of the Lord is something that I can continually strive for.

Our Spiritual Wedding Ring
In the next chapter of this portion, the Lord gives Israel her wedding ring, the Sabbath. He says, "This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy." How is the Sabbath a reminder of the Groom's holiness? First of all, it reminds us that He is the Creator, and that all creation is subject to Him. Secondly, to me, it's kind of like "date night" with my husband. Yeah, we live with each other and see each other every day. However, date night (or day) is special. It's a reminder of who we are and what we mean to each other. If I need that with my earthly husband, how much more do I need that with my unseen Heavenly Groom! Now some of you may be thinking, "Well, that's all well and good for Israel, but what about me?" Remember into whom you are GRAFTED in (Romans 11:13 -21). It's in the Ten Commandments, and it includes those who are not born of Israel, but who are joined with Israel (Exodus 20:10).

Application for Today
Today is the day of preparation for the Shabbat (in more ways than one!). We are preparing for the weekly Shabbat (it's Friday!), but we are also preparing for the Yom Shekulo Shabbat, the eternal Shabbat, in which Messiah will rule and reign (Revelation 21). I encourage you today to begin to add a little more of Shabbat into your life. Do something different in preparation for time with your Heavenly Groom. Put on a special dress or cook (or order) something different. Get some fresh flowers or put on a fresh tablecloth. Light some candles or listen to peaceful music. This is a physical reminder of who you are to Him (the Sabbath was made for man). You are His bride. You are special. He loves you with an everlasting love!

Messiah is coming soon, and we are preparing for the marriage feast. Let's all have our wedding clothes on when He comes! Even so, come Lord Yeshua!

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was giver her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"
Revelation 19:7-8

Thursday, February 21, 2008

...but JOY comes in the morning!

"She rises while it is still dark; she provides food for her family..."
~ Proverbs 31:15

Those of you that know me well know that up until recently I have not been a "morning person". I was the kind of girl that read Proverbs 31, and thought, "Yeah, all that stuff is great, except for verse 15." However, a few weeks ago I was challenged by a blog I read that encouraged women to take a week and make yourself get up 30 minutes earlier. I was not prepared for what was going to happen.
Like the blog suggested I made myself turn off the TV an hour earlier the evening before the much-anticipated event. I found that once I did that, I suddenly felt so ready to head off to sleepy land. When the alarm clock went off, I pushed myself out into the darkness and made sure that once I got the bedroom door closed (I didn't want to wake up dear hubby at that odd hour!) I turned on the brightest light in my living room. Well, that was the day that history was made in my household. I can't tell you how hard it was to actually do, but let me tell you, the rewards are way worth it! It is seriously odd how an extra 30 minutes can add a seemingly large amount of time to your day. I get so so much more done now, and I am starting to think about getting up another 30 minutes earlier than before!
If you are crazy enough to try this, here are my suggestions. Of course, do what works for you and your family (I'm not a mom yet, so I know that moms may need to tweak my suggestions to fit their situation).
1. Start your bedtime routine an hour earlier. I used to start winding down around 10 pm, which would put me going to sleep around 10:30 or 11 pm. Now, I make sure that TV (or music or computer) is in the OFF position by 9 pm, which forces me to actually get off to sleep by 9:30 or 10 pm.
2. When alarm clock sounds, DO NOT push snooze. This will not help you get up earlier, but when you actuallly do get up you are certain to be in a bad mood. Take this one SERIOUSLY.
3. First things first. Take time to read your Bible and pray first. The amount of time you spend on this is up to you, but you won't believe how clear your mind is in the early morning. I get so much more out of my quiet time when I have it early in the morning rather than at lunchtime or at night. I like to snuggle up on my couch with a mug of hot tea (or coffee if you prefer) and have intimate time with my Heavenly Abba. Also, added bonus for you that are married or have children, this really gives you great time to feel like you are really "alone" with Him. If you are not a believer, and you still would like to get the most benefit from your early morning, I suggest taking time to journal your thoughts and just sit. I think there is definitely not enough time that we actually spend with our media off in this day and age. You won't believe how intelligent you actually can be when you've had a good night's sleep.
4. Exercise. I personally like to walk/jog around my neighborhood, even if it is only once around the block. Do whatever you like to do! This also can be a continuation of number 3, as I like to pray for my community as I walk around.
5. Plan your day. If you work outside the home like me, this is fairly simple, but also consider mealtimes. What are you going to do for lunch? Maybe you should pack something (and save about $10). What about dinner? I like to prepare (or at least plan the meal) one thing that I otherwise would have had to make when I get home from work.
There are many more things that you can do with your time in the morning. I'm still a rookie at this, but I absolutely love it. If you are daring and you want to try this, let me know how it goes! Or if you already do this, let me know if you have any advice about time management and rising early.

Here is an old poem that I heard almost every week as a little girl. I found it again on the Internet, and I hope it blesses you as it has blessed me.

"I met God in the morning"
I met God in the morning when the day was at its best,
And His Presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.
All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O'er a very troubled sea.
Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them,
Brought to me a peace and rest.
Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings,
With the presence left behind.
So, I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day!
~ Ralph Cushman