Monday, November 19, 2012

Winter Comes Swiftly In The North

ROAR!!  Okay, okay, I know that my roar needs a little work, but get a load of my hair!  

Ariela here with a little update on my life here in the wilds of Alaska.

Winter is here.  I've been trying to ignore, avoid, and pretend that it's not happening, but today I've come to the conclusion that being in denial is unhealthy.  So.............I've decided to indulge in a little fantasy.  

Maybe, as a lion, I can get my "sheeples" to let me out to play in the snow.  I've learned to say the word, "OUT!!" by stretching my mouth open as far as it will go and groaning.  It's just not having the effect I'm really looking for.  While I'm looking to go OUT, my "mom" is looking at me and laughing her head off and my "dad" is telling me to go lie down.  NOT WORKING!!

It's not that I'm really all that keen about snow.  I just like to get outside and see what the rabbits have been up to out there.  I can spend hours just running around and around chasing down rabbit trails.  Sadly, I've yet to actually ever see a rabbit.  They just never seem to turn up at the end of these "trails".  

Once my "mom" was standing at the end of a trail watching me running back and forth across the pathway in crazed pursuit of a rabbit scent.  I was having a grand ole time running in circles.  As I disappeared off into the woods on the left, she sees a rabbit calmly hop out from the right side, take a leisurely look around, eat some moss and then hop back out of sight just before I make my hasty return.  It didn't give her much confidence that I actually have any real hunting skills.  I keep trying to tell her that I just need more practice!  

Oh, well, time for another nap!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Building a Sukka?

"How lovely are your uh, dwelling places....."
As part of our Sukkot celebration, we're instructed to build a "sukka" otherwise known as a "temporary dwelling".  Since we already live in what is considered by many to be "a temporary dwelling" or AKA, an RV, a tent seems like a step in the direction of being somewhat more of a temporary dwelling.  We already have a small tent suitable for backpacking/hiking that is quick and easy to set up.  

However, in light of considering the "Greater Exodus" and the time of the Great Tribulation which is prophesied to last for 3 1/2 years, living in a small tent doesn't seem like truly being prepared.  With that in mind, we set our thoughts to purchasing a larger, more substantial tent that might stand up to 3 1/2 years of life in the "wilderness of man".  That task alone took several months and a lot of money to accomplish.

After exploring a multitude of websites devoted to camping, outdoor living and the "wilderness experience", I turned in my frustration back to the basics of army tents.  Soldiers represent the true experts at spending long periods of time living in tents and no amount of camping can ever really replicate the challenges of actually living in a tent for an extended period of time.  Combining that thought with the very real dangers of trying to survive during an Alaskan winter, led us to purchase a very large (or so it seemed) Arctic 10-man tent.

While our intent was not really in the direction of trying to shelter 10 men, but more in the direction of providing for some actual "living space", this tent seemed to fit the task.  The tent, liner and pole combine in weight to something close to about 90 pounds.  Combine the weight with the very real frustration of trying to put up the tent properly and we found ourselves with a Herculean task divided between two physically challenged adults that are not well-attuned to working together.  

Needless to say there were plenty of "AFHV"*-worthy moments and the end results (as the picture clearly shows) were far from "livable".  My favorite moment was DannyLee's attempt to crawl under the canvas to put the pole in place and raise the 90+ pounds of tent.  As the weight of the canvas and the darkness overwhelmed him, his struggles drove me to an insane combination of laughter and tears as I tried to figure out how to free him from the mess.  (He still doesn't think that this was at all funny so I write about it here with a bit of trepidation.)  After three hours of wrestling canvas, ropes, stakes and each other, as the temperatures started to drop below bearable, we finally gave up and collapsed our "sukka" back into it's "jacket" and retreated to our much more comfortable RV.  

We know that the day may come sooner, rather than later when we are once again faced with trying to put our shelter back up in much less than optimal conditions.  Our prayer is that on that day, we are surrounded by a small company of "experts" that are willing to pitch in and help us to pitch it.  Until then, we just might have to fall back on our simple little Kelty if the need for a more temporary dwelling arises.  At least, I'm confident that I do know how to put that one up all by myself!

* "America's Funniest Home Videos"

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's "Torah-Time" Again!

"And He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There shall be hot weather,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know to discern the face of the heaven and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?" Luke 12:54-56

Yeshua's words here speak volumes about discerning the times we are in and how we have all the knowledge that we need to be able to know what is and even to a point, what is coming our way.  In our current day, we find that many people are concerned about these matters of the end-times.  We are no different and yet, even as we look ahead at what's coming, we must find a way to live out our daily lives.  While HIS words admonish us to be ready for HIS return, this must be balanced with a life devoted to working out our purposes for every day.  

One key element of understanding the Scriptures is to grasp the role of "cycles" illustrated again and again throughout them.  YHVH Elohim's people have been tied throughout history to the cycles of life and death, destruction and restoration and many other cycles too numerous to list.  One of the simplest cycles is found in the courses of time.  We can begin with the 24 hours of day.  This expands to the cycles of weeks, months, seasons and years until we reach the measures of generations, ages and even eons.  

I chose this picture to illustrate this post because for me it illustrates two of the more predominant cycles in my life.  Because we chose to live according to the lunar calendar, the full moon clearly represents for us the day of Shabbat.  We need no paper calendars or internet presence to clearly discern which day of the week it is; we only need to look up.  Any child is able to learn and walk according to the simple course of the waxing and waning moon.  

The next cycle that has been very important in my Alaskan sojourn is the cycle of the seasons.  Woe to those that ignore the short season of summer here and forgo the preparations needed to survive a long, harsh winter.  Snow upon the surrounding mountains is a clear sign that winter is hastening to tighten it's grip on all of us.  

However, that snow is also a sign of something else - something wonderful!  It is a sign for us that it is a time for a new beginning.  What is it that begins here with the start of the fall and the fast approach of winter?  


In light of that, it's "Torah-Time" again and DannyLee and I have once again picked up the gauntlet of trying to continue with our Torah commentary.  Although we have not been able to write our thoughts and post them on this blog every week the way that we originally intended, our study of Torah has never faltered.  Our love of Torah and our Torah study has continued to be the foundation of our faith in Messiah Yeshua and our YHVH Elohim.  

As we enter into what could very well be our last Torah cycle that brings us to the days of the Great Tribulation, we find our studies of Torah to be even more significant than ever.  We believe that through our studies, and spiritual growth, we are gaining the necessary "oil" for our "lamps" that will serve to guide us through the ever-deepening darkness that threatens daily to overwhelm us.  We find ourselves clinging ever more desperately to HIS words - "I will NEVER leave nor forsake you" as we face the challenges of our present day.  For as a friend just recently reminded me in the words of Yeshua:

“It is necessary for Me to work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day – night is coming, when no one is able to work." John 9:4  

We believe that we've come full circle in an even greater cycle.  The words "as in the days of Noach" come to mind again and again.  Woe to those that don't know or care what lies ahead.  Not preparing for winter can be deadly to your flesh.  Not preparing for the return of our Messiah and King will be far more deadly - maybe even to the destruction of your soul.  Are you living among the "wise" or the "foolish virgins"?  Only you can know the answer to that question.  Our prayers are that each and every person will seek out THE TRUTH before the darkness overwhelms us all.  

"יהושע said to him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."   
John 14:6  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Yom Teruah 2012

In 2010, DannyLee and I were blessed with an opportunity to travel to Israel together.  This would be his first time to travel outside of North America and we were both very excited.  Many of our travel stories are recorded here on our “Tsiyon Bound” blog.  One story that didn’t get told is about the acquisition of his shofar.  What better time to share that story than in our time of celebrating Yom Teruah! 

DannyLee’s birth Torah portion is:   Parshat Ha'Azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52). 
This is translated as the “Song of Moshe”.  With his anointing as a singer of many songs that praise YHVH Elohim, and his birth Torah portion in mind, we headed off to Y’israel with the hope of finding the right shofar for him.  We had no idea what a challenge we were going to face.  After all, tourism is a big part of Y’israel’s economy and shofars are a part of their cultural history, right? 

As our days in Y’israel flew by, DannyLee started to grow anxious about buying a shofar.  Every shop we checked either had none or they just had small toy-like shofars that did nothing to inspire us.  We quickly realized that this was not going to be as easy as we thought it would be.  As I tried to still his anxiety, I was praying for both wisdom and guidance as to where and when we would find “the one”. 

The last days of our trip were spent in Y’erushalyem with plenty of time given over for shopping.  On about the third to the last day, we were welcomed at a shop buried in the Jewish quarter of the Old City.  The owner of that shop didn’t have any shofars, but he directed us to a nearby shop.

There we found a small, black ram’s horn shofar.  The color black seemed appropriate to my “Johnny Cash”, but the size in his hands seemed small.  As we were concerned that we were running out of time to find something better, we made the purchase.  Still, there was a sense in my spirit that things weren’t exactly right and I knew that we had to keep looking just in case there was something that we had missed. 

On our last day, we found ourselves wandering through the shops on Ben Yehuda Street.  Our funds were low and we were trying to use up all of our small change before it was time to head back home.  We bought some date honey and a few small tourist items at a couple of shops. 

Then we saw a shop that we knew we just had to go into called  “Danny Boy”!  If we were looking for a “sign”, there couldn’t be anything better than this.  Fans of DannyLee’s music know that “Danny Boy” is one of the first songs he recorded on his “Humble Beginnings” CD and that he recorded it because it was the song that inspired his mother to name him Daniel. 

We went into the shop and walked right up to a beautiful display of SHOFARS!  As we admired the various ram’s horn shofars on display, DannyLee kept reminding me that we’d already bought a shofar for him.  I just remained quiet and focused as I waited for “the one” to appear.  The owner noted our interest and came over to help us out.  We told him that because of DannyLee’s birth Torah portion, we felt that a ram’s horn shofar was the most appropriate for him.

(The ram’s horn shofars are traditionally associated more with the time of Moshe.  My shofar is a Yemenite shofar from a different time period.  The various histories of shofars are available on the internet for anyone interested in doing further studies.)

He showed us all of the ram’s horn shofars that were on display, but nothing was all that different from the one we’d already purchased.  Then, he pulled another shofar from a cabinet and handed it to DannyLee.  As I saw it in his hands, I knew.  This was the one that was meant to be “his shofar”. 

As we wrestled with the thought that we’d already spent a great deal of money on the first shofar and didn’t really feel confident that we could afford to spend the money on another shofar, we also knew that this was the shofar that we were supposed to buy.  Well, sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do.  We’d made a mistake in trying to hurry up and do something and now we had to make it right.  So, we bought another shofar. 

Now, as a two-shofar family, we’re confident that come Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and any other time of celebration, we’re ready to “SOUND THE SHOFARS!!”    

“Lashana Tova Tikatevu!” 

("May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for 

a good year”)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Shofars Will Sound in Tsiyon!


(This story is a continuation of the previous day's post.)  My time in Israel coincided with Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The small group of us that had come to Yerushalyem after the prayer tour was all headed off in different directions.  Three of us were blessed with an opportunity to celebrate Pesach with a local family.  Then we were all scattered and I headed up to Tiberius for what was supposed to be a week.  Things didn’t work out so I hopped on a bus to Tel Aviv and planned to spend my last week in Israel there.

When I arrived at the bus terminal in Tel Aviv, I was trying to find a place where I could book a hotel room.  I was directed and then, redirected to several locations in the terminal.  I went from the first floor to the fourth and then back to the second using elevators, escalators and stairs.  I found myself, a seasoned traveler lost in the bus terminal/mall and frustrated as I struggled just to find an exit.  When I asked for help, I was sent hither and yon or even rudely rebuffed. 

I was quite befuddled with this situation as I routinely traveled in Asian countries without any language skills and had never gotten so turned around.  As my frustration grew, I found myself getting into another elevator and none of the buttons seemed to work.  Finally, I thought, I just need some divine guidance and I had been told that angels like the sound of the shofar and could be summoned in this way. 

So, once again I lifted my shofar to my lips in the elevator and blew a short blast.  I had no sense of anything happening, but when the elevator door opened I saw an exit at the street level.  I made my way to the exit and to a row of taxicabs waiting outside.  I went up to the first cab at the stand and told him that I was trying to find a hotel in Tel Aviv.  He brushed me off with a wave as if dismissing my request.

I went to the second cab feeling quite confused.  I didn’t feel that I had asked for something unreasonable so I wasn’t sure what to ask the next guy.  I made the same request to him and he told me that there were several hotels along the beach of the Mediterranean Sea.  He said that he could take me there and I could find the hotel of my choice easily.  I agreed that this was a fine plan and got into his cab. 

He proceeded to do a u-turn to head down to the beach and just as we passed the bus terminal again, there was a loud blast of a nearby explosion.  The explosion was so loud and so close that we felt the reverberations inside the cab even though all but one of the windows was closed.  He turned and looked at me as he said, “That was a bomb.”  There was a brief moment of silence and then the sound of sirens coming towards us.  I didn’t know what to say or do or even think.  I tried not to think the thought that in that moment someone or someones' somewhere nearby had just died or were dying.  It was too horrible to think of this all at once.  We drove to the beach in silence.

I spent a week in Tel Aviv in a tiny little hotel just off of the beach.  My time there was marred with the news reports of a terrorist that had blown himself up near the bus terminal in a busy restaurant.  The hotel staff was kind and careful to steer me away from the TV when I would start to cry.  No one in my family actually knew that I was in Tel Aviv and I hoped that this was enough to keep them from worrying.  I should have known better.  My mom has her own way of knowing things about my travels and when I called her later on in that week, she not only knew that I was in Tel Aviv, she already knew that I was safe.  As a mom myself, I should have realized that moms just know things and left it at that. 

My time in Israel came to an end and it was time to go home.  I was ready.  I headed to the airport with a quick prayer for a safe and uneventful trip home to Thailand.  My shofar didn’t fit into my suitcase, nor did I trust it to make such a trip there so I was carrying it wrapped around my arm against my side.  It fit me well and blended into my silhouette so that most people weren’t even aware of it.  I was facing a ten hour layover in Istanbul that I would be forced to wait out in the airport.  I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy trip.

When I got on the plane in Israel, I found myself sandwiched in a four-person row between three very large, hostile men.  I had a sudden lesson in what it means to be a non-entity and I made myself as small as possible.  I was able to squeeze my shofar down alongside my leg, but my seatmates were up and down and I feared for my shofar’s safety.  I didn’t want it to be kicked or stepped on. 

Finally, I grabbed a flight attendant and asked if there was a space available in an overhead bin where my shofar would be safe.  The looks on the faces of my seatmates when I pulled it from the blanket over my lap would have been funny if I had been in a laughing mood.  It was clear that they were quite surprised.  It rode out the rest of the tense flight in far more comfort than I. 

My time in Istanbul was uneventful and as I waited it out, I was able to watch the Turkish people around me.  Most of them simply ignored me and my time there passed slowly.  Finally, the time came to go to the boarding gate for my flight home.  The gate area was down a long ramp and enclosed on all side with tall glass windows.  There was another security station to pass through before we could board and I was waiting in the line at the scanner. 

Suddenly, this Turkish female security guard spots me and starts yelling at me in Turkish from across the room.  She storms towards me yelling the whole time.  Everyone in the room has frozen into place and turned to see what’s going on and I have no idea what has set her off.  I hold up my passport facing her and tell her that I don’t know what she’s talking about.  She continues to yell at me and as she gets to me, she reaches out to grab my shofar from me, still yelling.  I do a quick look UP and a silent prayer putting all responsibility for this situation in the Hands of ONE better equipped to know what’s going on.

At the security station behind me, the guards there are just looking at her in amazement.  They don’t seem to know what she’s yelling about either.  She hands the shofar to the man running the x-ray machine still yelling.  He x-rays the shofar and then hands it back to me with a shrug and a small look of apology.  At that point, I had turned to keep my eyes on the shofar and had taken my eyes off the female guard. 

I then turned back around to see where she was and if she was satisfied with the x-ray results.  She was gone.  I scanned the entire room to see where she had gone, but I couldn’t see her anywhere and I never did see her again.  I got on my flight home without any further ado.  My arrival in Bangkok was routine and my shofar has long since become a powerful part of my testimony.  There are many more stories that could be told but those will have to wait.  My thoughts are now turning to DannyLee’s shofar (to be continued)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Time is Coming to Sound the Trumpets!

In honor of Yom Teruah, or Feast of Trumpets, I thought it would be fun to share the story of how I got my shofar.  Owning a shofar has been an interesting part of my spiritual walk.  It has opened my eyes beyond the prayer realm that I knew and showed me a whole new dimension of spiritual warfare.  It has been an honor to be entrusted with such a powerful weapon.  The story of how I came to possess my own shofar is a small miracle worth recounting as I consider how far Elohim has brought me in my life. 

In 2006, the thought of having a shofar seemed to be one of those vague ideas that were never really intended to come true.  There were plenty of reasons not to have a shofar at that time in my life.  I lived a nomadic life that involved lots of countries and airport traveling.  I have long struggled with breathing challenges that would make blowing a shofar very difficult, if not impossible.  And finally, I had failed miserably at learning to play a clarinet with any proficiency.  How was I ever going to learn how to blow a shofar in a way that would sound beautiful or dare I say, “spiritual”?

I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to Israel in the Spring of 2006.  This was an organized prayer tour that would start out near Yerushalyem and move around the entire country ending up in Haifa.  I would be coming from Thailand with a connecting flight through Turkey.  As I prepared to head out for my first trip to the Promised Land, the thought came that it would be wonderful to get a shofar.  I brought up the idea to some of my friends in Israel and there were some tentative plans made to help me make this happen. 

Unfortunately, even the best of plans can fall apart in unexpected ways.  These early plans fell apart as fast as they were made and I was left wondering if anything was going to happen until the very end of the prayer tour.  It seems that Elohim had HIS own plans from the very beginning and I was in the right place at the right time to watch it unfold.

The person that was supposed to hook me up with a shofar had run into an unexpected snag with the shofar factory.  They were closed at that time due to the Pesach (Passover) holiday and he was not able to get a shofar for me.  He told another person about this glitch and this person said that they had a shofar that they would be happy to sell me.  I waited for this shofar to materialize until the very last day of the prayer tour.  I had about given up any hope of seeing this happen. 

Then, on the last day of the tour, I walked into the final meeting.  There on the table lay the largest shofar I had ever seen.  It was actually longer than my arm.  As I was walking in, I heard someone ask if they could buy the shofar and they were told, “No, this shofar is for SueJean.”  “If she doesn’t want it, then it’s for sale.”  At that point I was overwhelmed with all kinds of doubts and arguments against trying to even have a shofar and my face must have reflected my concerns. 

As I walked up to the table, I eyed the shofar warily wondering just how I would know that this was the right shofar for me.  I had been told that each shofar is unique and there can be a kind of unity between a person and their shofar.  It’s similar to the relationship between a man and his trusty sword or maybe, his staff.  Somehow, it would just feel right.

I gingerly reached out to pick up the shofar.  I didn’t want to be careless or disrespectful with it.  After all, this was a special gift from Elohim to me and I wanted to reflect on that even as I received it.  I was quite awed by its natural beauty and its size.  I hardly felt worthy to receive such a thing.  As my doubts showed, I was assured that if I didn’t want it, there were other people that did.  This wasn’t helping me feel better. 

As other people came around to look at the shofar, a couple of people asked to blow it.  People were impressed with the six notes they were able to produce.  I dared not even try as I was quite sure that I would only look silly.  As I wrestled with my doubts, one thought grew stronger inside of me.  Blowing this shofar over the land of Thailand, my then-current home would definitely have an impact on the place.  My confidence in this thought soon caused all of my doubts to be pushed aside and I settled the deal for my very own shofar. 

As I sat down to prepare for the meeting, a man that I hadn’t seen before came up to me.  He started telling me about shofars and how they were a part of Biblical history and many more things that I had never heard before.  He spoke to me in a quiet voice and all that he told me reaffirmed that I was meant to have this shofar by my side in all of my future spiritual battles.  I started to grow excited about my gift.  He spoke to me for several minutes and then disappeared into the crowd as the meeting started.  I never saw him again. 

I waited until later back in my hotel room to try and blow it for myself.  As I expected, I wasn’t able to produce any kind of sound.  The man who had sold it to me told me that he had taken a while to learn how to blow a shofar.  He said that he had gone out on a lonely mountaintop and sat there for several hours learning to make the sounds that a shofar is supposed to make.  His words gave me encouragement just to wait and pray. 

The next day was the end of the prayer tour.  I had booked several more days in Israel to use in my own explorations.  I was traveling back to Yerushalyem with a few other people from the group.  We were going to stay in the Old City of David for the next few days.  Our tour hosts had found us rooms in a hostel that was nearly at the center of the city.  We would enter the City at the Lion’s Gate and walk down the Via Del la Rosa

Sadly, we were one day after the various Christians had come through in their celebration of their spring holiday and it was not the best day to be coming into the City.  The Arabs had their own tradition of walking those same streets the day after the Christians and shouting out their curses and hatred towards God.  They walked in mobs of raging teenagers hemmed in by grown men that filled the streets from wall to wall. 

It was our challenge to have to pass through the midst of all this rage and hatred.  To say that this was unnerving, if not frightening would not be a stretch.  We found ourselves pressed against the walls and there was no place to go.  One man in our group was desperate to go to the bathroom, but upon entering a public toilet, he was warned to get out or risk serious harm.  He quickly determined that he would wait until we got to the hostel. 

We made our way down the street in a grim and determined mood to get to our rooms and get off the streets as fast as we could.  In the midst of all of this, a very old woman came up to me and grabbed a hold of my shofar.  She was attempting to pull it from my hands to examine it, but I refused to let it go.  In all of the confusion, I didn’t want to have to fight to get it back.  She finally let go of it and passed on her way.  I was relieved to go on my way. 

We had to work our way through a group of hostile looking teenagers that had taken up a perch on the steps of the hostel.  As we got through them to the door, we were buzzed into the first heavy door of the outer wall.  We were warned over a speaker to carefully close the door behind us before we were then buzzed through the next security door.  It was clear that tensions were high on this day and we were getting a bit weary after our trip.  All of us were looking forward to getting to our rooms.

The hostel where we were staying had been built long ago as a hospital.  The walls were thick and the sounds of the City were muted almost to nothing.  I was assigned to a large room that had two single beds and a window overlooking the main intersecting streets outside.  The atmosphere inside the room was as tense and unwelcoming as the streets outside and I was overwhelmed with a sense of foreboding.  Here I was alone and I was quite worn out from the demands of the prayer tour.  It was clear that I was facing an unexpected struggle if I was going to have any peace in this place. 

As I wondered what I was going to be able to do to about my situation, my eyes fell on my shofar.  I had laid it down on the first bed when I came in and tossed my other belongings on the other bed.  I was drawn to pick it up and it came to me that if I could blow the shofar, things just might change.  I had been told that angels love the sound of a shofar and demons hate the sound.  It seems that the time had come to test this out. 

Standing with my back to the door, I carefully lifted the shofar to my lips.  I said a quick prayer for assistance and then I blew.  Lo and behold, this beautiful blast came out of the shofar loud and clear and in my spirit, I heard a sound almost like a “whoosh”.  Every sense of oppression and evil and discouragement and any other negative spirit that had been in the room left within the space of the sound of that single blast and I immediately found myself in a “clean” and peaceful room. 

I was impressed.  I was used to spiritual warfare, but this was a whole new level.  All of my previous battles involved lots of prayer and Scripture quoting and prayer, and the victories always came slowly.  My enthusiasm to hear the sound of a shofar blowing over my home in Thailand was at an all time high.  I couldn’t wait to get home………… (to be continued)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sukkot - 2012

Sukkot Near The Sea?
I'm sure that most people wouldn't consider Alaska as a prime location to celebrate Sukkot.  However, since there are people that are deeply devoted to keeping the commanded feasts of YHVH Elohim living in Alaska (namely, I'm speaking for us, as we know of no other "like-minded brethren"  within 500 miles), there should be someplace for all of us to go.  

With the dates for this year's Sukkot of October 1-8, the weather and travel conditions are definitely a factor that determines how far anyone dares to go.  This is especially true for those living in the interior or anyone pulling a rig or travel trailer.  Snow and ice do happen!  

Fortunately, we live in the so-called "banana republic" part of Alaska where winter's grip takes a little bit longer to take hold and lock us into a smaller area.  On that note, we're posting this as a "take notice" that there is a place to go for anyone moved by the Ruach Ha'Kodesh to join with their "like-minded" brethren.

This will be a "winter camping" experience.  Don't be fooled into thinking otherwise.  The weather here in Homer changes swiftly and sometimes in surprising ways.  Yesterday afternoon, we had warm sunshine that had us out and about without jackets.  Today, we're watching a heavy cloud cover and experiencing the rocking motion of our rig in heavy winds and blowing rain from the east.  A few more degrees drop and we'll be seeing some early snow flurries, or so DannyLee says as he grits his teeth to take Ariela out for her walk.  

We won't have any "big name" speakers or teachers or musicians.  This will be a gathering of the "faceless, nameless ones" that truly love HIM enough to keep HIS commandments.  Our focus during this Sukkot will be to share knowledge and experience on preparing our sukkas for the future events even as we work out how to walk this out for right now.  We expect to come together to share meals, midrash over whatever Torah teachings are of concern to anyone and to have times of praise and worship as this is to be both a feast and a celebration.

Anyone interested in joining with us should contact us as soon as possible to secure a camping spot.  Whether we have just "us" or a gathering of many, it is our prayer that this will be our best Sukkot ever.

Blessings in the NAME of YESHUA, our MESSIAH and soon-coming KING!

Home Sweet Homer
August 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shavuot 2012

low tide - Kachemak Bay
With the completion of the counting of the omer on Tuesday, we came to the end of the Spring feasts and the celebration of Shavuot, or the day of Pentecost.  This year's counting had us more than a week behind many others and their celebrations, but we've learned to live with such inequities.  It does bring up one question, however.  How will we ever manage to join together "in one accord"?  That question has to be left  to some future date for now.  Our focus has been reduced to living life one day at a time per the lessons of our journeys.

Alone here in the "wilderness", our celebration is simple and devoid of much in the way of festivities.  We marked the day with a walk down on the beach with our shofars and banner in hand.  As we only know of one other public celebration of Shavuot and that involves a large picnic gathering and "mikvahs" along with public declarations of our faith, we are forced to improvise.  We had to laugh in consideration of "mikvahs" as it would take a great deal more coercion than we have available here to get either of us to stick any more than a toe in the waters of the bay.  While we have actually seen people do that here, let's just say that "older and wiser" has some benefits.  

The end of the Spring feasts brings into focus the preparations that must be done for the Fall feasts.  Sukkot stands before us in a way as never before as this could well be our last "practice run" before the Great Tribulation.  Our failure to find any committed "like-minded" people to join with us here in Alaska has left us wondering as to our purpose and HIS plans in all of this.  We've been left to celebrate Sukkot alone since 2009 and celebrating Sukkot alone this year is a frightening thought, but we're getting somewhat used to facing frightening things as it's getting to be our "new norm".

When we first came to Homer, we were very frightened by the prospect of having to endure an Alaskan winter in our rig.  Little did we suspect that we would not only endure winter, but we would end up enduring one of the worst winters in recorded "weather history".  I'm sure if that little "factoid" had been on our radar screens, our hearts would have surely failed us and we might have tucked tail and headed south.  

Heading south, however, wasn't an option as we sought to do HIS Will (or at least our understanding of HIS Will) and we can now look back at the worst winter in Alaskan history and say, "Hmmm, that wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be."  You might wonder how and why our perspective in looking back is so much brighter than it was looking forward.  If I gave you the list of all the things that went wrong, you'd be even more astounded, but I'll spare you the details here.  The bottom line is that life lived one day at time is all that HE asks of us and HIS grace is sufficient unto that day.  

We didn't survive a winter.  We survived a day, and then, another day and another until we were finally able to look back and say, "Well, that's over for now."  This is the lesson that we will take with us into the time of the Great Tribulation.  In the Book of Daniel, we are given the count of the number of days that we must endure.  That number is 1,335 days.  Some like to think of it in terms of 3 1/2 years, but the truth is we live one day at a time and with a finite number of days, no matter how large the number appears from this side, with HIS help, we intend to set our hearts to make it through to the end to see the return of our King Yashua.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Counting the Omer 2012

Counting the Omer
Each year we find ourselves re-visiting the issue of counting the omer.  As I've related in past posts in this blog, our method of counting is a bit different.  Not only is our understanding of when to count the omer based on our understanding of when the Scriptures say to begin and the keeping of the lunar Shabbat, but our method of counting may be rather unique.  

While the end goal of the time of the counting of the omer is the Feast of Shavuot, we've yet to see a year when any of the groups that do the counting have somehow come into sync.  This is always a bit troublesome to our thinking as we relate it to the gathering of believers in the upper room and the outpouring of the Ruach Ha'Chodesh upon the talmidin or disciples.  The Scriptures says of the talmidin "that they were all of one accord", or one mind.  Whereas, believers today find little to agree on it seems.  

Lest, someone should think that such discrepancies are the invention of modern Messianics, rabbinical Jews, or any other believers that chose to follow and live by Torah, check out the history of this Biblical command and you will find that even in the lifetime of our Messiah Yeshua, there was plenty of controversy ongoing over when to begin the count.  We've finally reached the point where we've simply determined to keep the commandment as best as we can and we just do it.

Back in 2009, when we first determined to count the omer, DannyLee and I decided that we would count dimes in a little glass dish as we had no idea what it meant in reality to "count omer".  To our amazement and ongoing amusement, during our first count, dimes would appear in DannyLee's path throughout the time of the counting.  As we added each one to our little dish, it was as if each dime had a story of it's finding, though those stories have blurred over the years.  

The appearance of dimes continued throughout 2010 and 2011 and we slowly became "used" to this annual event.  Each year as we prepare ourselves for Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the counting of the omer slowly rises to the surface of our consciousness and we wonder if there will be dimes once again to be found.  In some ways, this has become our own personal little miracle or something like a private joke between us and our LORD.  

This year has been no different though our mental states have been challenged by some long and difficult circumstances and our enthusiasm has been somewhat lagging.  As we faced the ongoing concern and re-visited our understanding of the Scriptures through our Torah studies, we found nothing new to cause us to reconsider what we have been doing all along.  DannyLee determined the date that we would begin and then it slipped from our minds.  

Last Monday, we were once again given a gentle reminder that it was our time to be counting the omer.  I'm not sure what the frequency of finding dimes  is versus that of finding pennies, nickels, or quarters.  I wouldn't be surprised by an internet search to see some kind of study done of the chances of this.  Simply put, in my daily experience, finding pennies is pretty much the norm and anything else is a small cause for excitement.  Not because I put any great value in money, but because long ago, the stories of "Pippi Longstocking" gave me a love for the art of "thing-finding".  (You'd have to be a fan of her books to know what I'm talking about here!)  I love finding "things" and that "love" extends to shells, interesting rocks and all the other stuff that falls from pockets or gets tossed about in the wind.  

Anyway, back to my point!  I was away for the day on Monday and came home about 4 in the afternoon.  As I walked from the truck to the door, I was focused on the quickly receding snow in our little "yard".  We have a small boardwalk that we salvaged from a construction site nearby that keeps us up out of the muddy sand and a small grassy area with a small fire pit and a picnic table.  All of this has been buried to the top of the picnic table and beyond for months in snow.  Now it is almost all but gone.

Just as I reached the door, I stopped dead in my tracks and just stared at the dime that lay there before me. Now it's a safe bet that that dime had fallen out of DannyLee's pocket as he pulled out his keys to come in after walking Ariela.  I'm not going to try to blow smoke or dress this up as some kind of "divine intervention".  What makes it more than that for us, however, is the timing and the fact that it was a dime.  I could tell you that it's rare for DannyLee to drop anything out of his pockets and even rarer for him to be carrying coins in them as we keep a jar for spare change readily at hand to prevent that, but I'm not in the business of trying to convince anyone of anything.  For us, it is what it is.........a reminder that it is the time of the counting of the omer ...............and so we count!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Pesach to Remember!

My first Pesach (Passover) celebration was in Jerusalem in 2006.  It was my first trip to the Land of Israel and the timing was not something that I was considering at all.  It all just worked out in ways that I couldn't even begin to ask for or imagine and I know WHO to thank for that.  The circumstances that led to me finding myself as a guest at the table of strangers could only have been orchestrated by the Hand of ONE much greater than I.  The memories of that night remain etched in my mind in great detail.  

In the following years, I have found myself slowly moving from being a participant to becoming the hostess.  This has changed my perspective and understanding of Pesach in ways that far exceeded the blessings of just being a participant.  The planning and thought and considerations that must be made from the viewpoint of hosting Pesach are enormous in comparison to just having to show up on time.  

Each year, we are deeply concerned with the timing of this event as it sets up the flow of the next four Biblical feasts.  Each year, we are bemused and confounded by the varying dates that are argued by all those that are out here trying to "get it right".  As always, we check and re-check our lunar websites and keep a watchful eye on the moon as it dutifully waxes into it's glorious fullness.  Cloudy skies add an edge of concern as we draw closer to this special night.  

This year, we once again found ourselves preparing for a quiet meal as there was no one around with an interest in joining with us.  No matter, as our current level of busy-ness didn't leave us with a lot of time to prepare much more than we'd already done.  We were able to get the "yeast" out of the house and that literally went down to the wire as DannyLee finished off the last of the loaf of bread for his afternoon meal.  

On Monday, we'd ordered a 5-pound leg of lamb from the local butcher and went with a bit of fear and trepidation to pick it up.  I still had no idea what this was going to look like as my internet searches on lamb recipes had showed a wide variety of cuts and presentations.  When we arrived at the store, we were presented with a string-wrapped portion similar to a large roast beef.  We both breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of it.  It not only would easily fit into our refrigerator, but it would fit into our tiny freezer.  

I asked the butcher if we would be able to slow roast this cut and he expressed his doubts that lamb would do well under such cooking methods.  Our grill is still buried in ice and snow and it's still cold enough to make cooking outside impractical so it was back to the internet for recipe ideas.  The Scriptures say that we're not to boil the lamb in water which is what I had resorted to last year after reading several recipes.  I did a quick search on "slow roasted lamb".

HOORAY!!  My search turned up a simple recipe for roasting a 5-pound leg of lamb (boneless roast) in the oven.  The temperature was set at 250 degrees and the meat actually cooked for 7 hours.  I used a large roasting/cooking bag meant for a turkey without any water.  I put a layer of dried rosemary, garlic chips and kosher salt over the top of the roast and then I sprayed it all down with garlic juice.  

My next search was for a simple Seder booklet.  I didn't want to use the same Seder that I had used last year.  There were too many things in that one that we found confusing or even frustrating to follow.  So I did a quick search on "simple Seder" and once again, my search was rewarded with a wonderful Seder booklet that I was able to print out and follow through the meal without confusion.  

Our one goal for this year's Pesach was to observe this as a "night watch" as our Messiah did during HIS time.  We didn't make the whole night as I was getting quite fuzzy by 3 a.m.  I'd been up and about 21 hours by that point and I admit that 24 hours without sleep just isn't as easy as it used to be.  By 3:30 a.m., we felt that we had made a brave effort to keep watch and it was now time for us to give it up and hit the hay.  

Our Pesach celebration was especially joyful for us this year as we truly felt that we had somehow arrived at a much fuller understanding of this special feast.  We've finally reached the point where we have a sense of peace with our efforts.  In the past, there have been so many times where we've felt overwhelmed with thoughts that we didn't "do it right" or we made too many concessions because of circumstances that we can't control.  This year, all of those things seemed to fall away and in the end, we are happy to say that we kept this very special "night watch".

P.S.  The lamb recipe turned out to be the best lamb that either of us had ever eaten!  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When It's "Springtime" in Alaska..............

As we were doing research for fun facts about Johnny Cash to present during our tribute shows, we learned that Johnny Horton was a very dear friend.  Performing in Alaska for international crowds, we often have people requesting Johnny Horton's famous song, "North to Alaska".  

A lesser known song (at least to us) that became a part of DannyLee's repertoire last summer is "When It's Springtime in Alaska".  This is also a crowd favorite and singing it through the winter was kind of a joke for us ------until we actually got to springtime and found out that springtime in Alaska isn't like springtime as we hoped it would be.  

Oh, it's warmer, much warmer than the "40-below" of Johnny's song, but as we see the images of spring training on the TV screens at the restaurant and listen to people talk about flowers blooming and high temps from Chicago to Denver, spring still seems far from us.  We have the dates and the "spring-ahead" time change that say it's spring, but the huge drifts and piles of snow that still surround us say otherwise to our winter weary brains.  

There have been a few changes that portend the slow arrival of spring with the appearance of the edge of our picnic table and the steady dripping of melting snow.  We also were somewhat forced to remove the tire chains from our truck although this has been a bit worrisome.  The main roads are clear of ice and snow.  

However, our RV park is still thick with ice and our parking spot is literally a pool of water that refreezes each night to glare ice.  We've been parking sideways to avoid getting stuck in place without the tire chains to help us get out.  Having a tire chain come partially off while driving in town forced that decision in order to avoid an even more dangerous situation with the dry roads.  

The temperatures during the day are creeping up above freezing and going down on the beach at low tide is a favorite activity here.  With the sun beating down and the waves gently rolling up on the black sand beach, it's easy to think "warm thoughts" and forget the ice and snow that had to be traversed just to get down there.  It's a wonderful place to get away from it all and just wander among the tidal pools and rocks.  

Ari loves to go down on the beach to smell all the interesting smells and see all of the other dogs.  Her favorite beach thing is to get out on the clear sand and run in circles as fast as she can go.  The last time we were down there, four eagles came to do slow, lazy circles right over our heads.  My first thought was that I hoped that they weren't considering her as some kind of "prey".  My second thought was even sillier as I wondered at how nasty it would be to be "torpedoed" with eagle poop.  YUCK!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pre-Planning for Pesach (Passover)

In spite of appearances, spring is here calendar-wise and the first consideration to be made at this point in time is Pesach.  It's coming and there's a lot of thought, prayer, planning and preparation to be done before it gets here.  We actually started thinking about it months ago as keeping this feast in particular defines for us how things will go for the rest of the Hebrew year.  

It is said, and I'm sure I've said it in this blog before, if you keep Pesach, there's a good chance that you will follow through and keep the rest of the feasts in the year also.  While in reality, I've seen that this doesn't actually hold true more often than not, at least it's a way to get off to a good start.

Our first consideration is, as always, with our gypsy-lifestyle, where will we be celebrating it and who can we invite to join with us.  The first question is  pretty much settled by our complete lack of fellowship here in our area and the second basically follows along with that.  While that makes us feel very sad, it never serves as an excuse or reason not to observe this very important feast so our plans must be completed.  

Last year, we hosted our first Pesach celebration in our rig with a group that we believe was gathered by FATHER's hand.  With that in mind, we try to make our plans with the consideration that there may be others joining with us that we do not yet see.  We're very much aware of and concerned by the instruction that Pesach is NOT to be used as an outreach to non-believers and should not be eaten in an unworthy manner.  Thus, prayer is a big part of our preparations that HE will guide us in all things concerning this feast.  

An important lesson that we've learned from last year's event is about the food that we feel is to be a part of this meal.  In our earlier Pesach's, lamb was very much the focus that caused me to worry.  We read and re-read the instructions given through Moses in trying to prepare for this feast.  The lamb (or goat) carries the bulk of the instructions and in past years, I've agonized over where to get a lamb (or goat) and how to prepare this according to the instructions given.  

This concern has been so overwhelming to me that it has caused me to completely lose the whole point of Pesach.  I could see this matter becoming so complicated that it would be easier not to host Pesach at all or to even just consider skipping it.  

Fortunately, the lessons of last year's Pesach have put this into a different perspective for me.  Last year, we "jumped through hoops" just trying to find lamb for Pesach in the backwoods of Georgia.  Then, once we had found a place to get lamb, our order ended up being completely changed and instead of a leg of lamb, we ended up with a shoulder (or something like that).  Our plan was to slow roast it on a grill, but that plan got waylaid without access to a proper grill and I ended up having to boil the thing in water before grilling it so it would be edible and this completely goes against "instructions".  

After all that angst and frustration, in the midst of our celebration, it became very clear that the food was not the focus at all.  It was all about coming together to remember and celebrate what YHVH Elohim had done for us in delivering us from "Egypt".  It was interesting to eat lamb and bitter herbs (horseradish and parsley) and unleavened bread.  It was special to read the Scriptures and the Haggadah (Passover script) and to be joined together with our ancestors all the way back to Moses and beyond.  But the very best part of it all, was the joy of coming together with other brethren that had a heart to join in and celebrate HIS appointed feast.  

The food is not the focus and should not be a deterrent to celebrating Pesach.  Some people don't eat lamb or goat for various reasons and the Jewish people prefer to celebrate by eating fish.  Obviously, I wouldn't put bread or leavened cakes on the table since unleavened bread can and should be provided even if it's only through crackers.   I did look at buying a case of matzo bread on the internet, but the cost is very high and shipping things to Alaska could find us eating something more along the lines of matzo "crumbs".  

I did find a meat packer that we can order some lamb from here in our little town so we will try to have that.  I'm not sure that our grill will reappear from it's snowy enclosure in time so cooking it may be difficult, but we'll see how it goes.  We will also have bitter herbs for this year's feast and our simple grape juice along with various vegetables to round out our meal.  

With the food somewhat sorted out, the next concern is to get all of the leaven out of the house and to do our "spring cleaning".  This is always complicated by my bread making.  I try to plan to get to the bottom of a jar of yeast before Pesach comes around, but my best-made plans don't always work out for the best.  With the high cost of such things up here, I hate to throw anything away, especially yeast, but it's important to us to at least try to follow the instructions that Moses gave us.  

We also like to sort through our movies and make sure that there isn't anything in there that our LORD would not want to see.  It's not that we have a real problem in this area, but it's the one thing that we do buy every now and then.  Although, we generally stay within the PG and PG-13 ratings, that doesn't seem to be enough anymore to keep the "junk" out of our house so it's an area we like to keep an eye on.  

We don't have books or magazines anymore so there's nothing to check in that area.  Life is definitely easier when you live in a very small space.  

This year, our attention has been directed to Yeshua's observance of Pesach that is recorded in the Gospel accounts.  After HE and HIS talmidin ate the Passover meal, they moved to the Garden to keep watch and pray.  Yeshua was dismayed with HIS disciples' inability to stay awake and keep watch with HIM.  HE asked for them to stay awake and pray for at least an hour and as they fell asleep, HE continued to keep watch alone.  

We are prayerfully considering this year's observance from that perspective and we are planning to make this an all night prayer watch.  If there are others that will be joining with us on this night, it is our hope that they will be willing to enter into that commitment also.  If not, we will try to do our best to stand alone with HIM for HIS Word says "where two or more are gathered, I will be with you".  May our flesh be willing!  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Drip, Drip, Driiiippp........

Hmmm..................what's that strange sound?  Could it be??  

The sound of melting snow!!  

Hooray!!  It appears that winter is finally loosing it's frigid grasp upon us and spring is on it's way!!  

Of course, here in Alaska, there's little incentive to grasp at such straws with the snow still piled up above the windows, but the human spirit is often too easily moved by such things after a long, seemingly endless time of snowfall upon snow mounds, ice and freezing temps that shook us to the core.  

Yet, here we are, still very much alive and unscathed by the frosty months behind us (not counting a few bruises here and there).  Looking forward, our first winter in Alaska appeared impossible.  Looking back, it seems like a miracle that we made it through.  It wasn't easy, but using the lessons we learned coming up here to take life one day at a time, it was doable.