Running Where Jesus Walked – Day 2

The Dan Panorama Hotel certainly sets a good breakfast spread. Lots of fruit, yogurts, cheeses, eggs, and breads. My favorite part was fresh squeezed orange juice.

After breakfast on Monday, we went to Yaffo near Tel Aviv. Yaffo (also known as Yaffa, Jaffa, and Joppa) is one of the world’s oldest ports. We visited the museum there and saw a cool presentation about the history of Yaffo. And, yes, this is the same Yaffo (Joppa) that Jonah, of whale fame, was from. Rabbi re-told the story while we looked out over the Mediterranean.

 

 

Later we saw Simon the Tanner’s house, but we couldn’t go inside because it’s owned by Muslims. We also saw an ancient map of the world with Jerusalem at its center, as it says in Ezekiel 5:5 (CJB), Here is what Adonai Elohim says: “This is Yerushalayim! I have placed her in the middle of the nations; countries can be found all around her.”

Simon the Tanner’s house

Map of the World – Jerusalem is at the center

The Eretz Israel Museum had tons of cool artifacts including a Byzantine wine press (replica), numerous pagan statues (which were kinda creepy), death masks (also creepy), ossuary (strangely, not creepy), and glass bottles. Many of the glass jars and bottles were in remarkably good shape and gorgeous.

 

Ennion’s Blue Jug 1st Century C.E.

 

Group of ointment bottles typical of finds from a necropolis near Akko. 1st century C.E. (So the ointments used to anoint Jesus’ body may have been in bottles like these. Wow!

The Palmach Museum is dedicated to Israel’s war for independence. An interactive movie tells of the war by following a small band of fighters, men and women, who fought, were injured, and some died for freedom.

Carmel Market

We took a walk through Carmel Market on the way back to the hotel. During our walk, we witnessed a fight breaking out in the middle of the aisle. Bill’s hand gripped my arm and he went from condition yellow (a moderate level of situational awareness) to condition red. I noticed several other men doing the same thing. He later explained that a fight made a good cover for theft or other criminal activity. A few days after we got home, a terrorist attack occurred not far from that market. It was rather eerie to realize just how close we were. We had the afternoon free for swimming on the beach, but we couldn’t because of red flag warnings. That didn’t stop us from walking on the beach though.

Strawberries – Our First Fruits

We recently harvested the first strawberries of the season. Strawberries are really the only think I can grow very well. I think it’s because don’t need a lot of attention.

We planted a new strawberry pyramid this year. I like these because they’re compact and come with a sprinkler system. We’re pinching off any blossoms we get this year so that the plant will put all its resources into root production. Consequently, we won’t get any strawberries off of these plants until next year. That’s okay by me. We get lots off the 50 plants we already have.

In years past, we’ve had a bunch of difficulty with raccoons and birds eating our strawberries before they get ripe. Last year, out of sheer frustration, I designed and built (with Bill’s help…okay, I helped him…) this handy method of netting the strawberry pyramid.

 

I love it because I can, singlehandedly, remove it for harvesting, weeding, and repositioning the daughters. It does a great job of keeping the coons and other critters away.

Our supply list was:

½” PVC pipe

6 T-fittings, ½”

Cable ties

Netting

All-purpose cement (a solvent-based cement)

Regarding the building process, I think the pictures are pretty self-explanatory.

The amount of PVC pipe would depend on how big an area you need to cover. (Hey, geometry really is useful!) I think this idea could easily be modified for a rectangular bed. Not too big, or one person couldn’t move it. I plan to try it on our blueberry bushes which are covered with blueberries. (I recently started pruning them. What a difference!)

As soon as the harvest is over, I plan to fertilize the plants. I don’t think we’ve ever done that, and my soil tests show the plants could use a little help.

So, strawberry growers! Any tips and tricks for the Young Family Farm?

Running Where Jesus Walked – Day 1

I wept when I first saw it. The land of Israel.

Traveling to Israel has been on my always-wanted-to list since forever. After Bill got cancer in 2014, we realized we weren’t guaranteed 20 more years together. If we wanted to do some traveling together, we needed to make the time right now. The opportunity showed itself to us the next September. Through a random online search, I ran across a local Messianic Jewish congregation who had a tour going to Israel in May 2016. We jumped on it. Several setbacks threatened to get in the way, but by God’s mercy and grace, we persevered.

So, there we were. In Tel Aviv, ready for a sixteen-day whirlwind tour of nearly 99 sites. It’s been a year now, and I’m ready to get those notes back out and journal a few things. Facts, yes. But also feelings and lessons learned.

 

Day 1

We landed in Tel Aviv on Sunday, May 22. (We’ve never been good at selfies.)

Before we even left the airport, we had a mini adventure. This was my first time to travel internationally, so I was a little skittish. We went up to the @ and I had a conversation that went something like this:

“Lora Young?” The young man in the booth had dark hair, olive skin, and bushy eyebrows.

“Yes.”

“Reason for traveling to Israel?” Very matter-of-fact.

“Tourism.”

“What do you do for a living, Ms. Young?” Looking over my passport, checking my picture against my face.

“I’m an author.”

His eyebrows raised a fraction.

Uh-oh.

“What do you write?”

“Historical mysteries.”

Silence as he fiddles with something on his desk.

Great. Why didn’t I say ‘housewife’? Now they’re not going to let me in!

He looked up again. Holding his phone, he says, “Is this you?”

There, on his phone, was a picture of my first book, Malicious Mischief. He’d looked me up on Amazon! Hahaha! “Yes, that’s me!”

“Welcome to Israel.”

Whew! It’s a funny story now, but I seriously thought I’d blown my dream trip and that Bill would get to go without me.

A few minutes later, we were welcomed by our Orthodox Jewish guide with wine and matzah. I don’t think it was planned this way, but our first day in Israel was also Pesach Sheni, the second Passover. God made provision for those who were ritually unclean on the 14th of Nisan (Passover). He gave Pesach Sheni as a day when they could observe this important festival. Traditionally, even those who observed Passover on the 14th will eat unleavened bread on this day. So in a way, we got to observe Passover in Israel. Pretty cool, huh?

After this, we stopped at Independence Hall to watch a movie of Israel’s battle for freedom and recognition as a nation. We’d learn so much more about this in the coming two weeks.

Then went to the hotel, Dan Panorama Hotel, for a much-needed night of sleep. (It’s amazing how tiring it is to travel.) This was our view. The Mediterranean.

When Characters Won’t Cooperate

This gorgeous young woman is the face of a fictitious heroine. She’s Eleanor, the heroine of Book 3 of the Katy Railway Mysteries.*

Eleanor has given me troubles galore. I’ve had readers ask when Book 3 would finally be out. Well, I don’t know. And you can blame Eleanor for that.

Actually, that isn’t true. Poor Eleanor is simply reacting to the untenable situations I keep putting her in. Given her personality and the boxes I’ve placed her in, she has only two choices:

#1 Act in ways that make me not like her. (I.e. ways that are ungodly and completely out of character.)

#2 Walk out of the story entirely.

Well, I’m not a fan of choice #2. If she does that, I have no story. And I’m not a fan of choice #1 either. So, what’s an author to do?

It’s been said that in our story world, authors are like God. We create people and place them in situations, hoping they’ll choose the way of righteousness. In this particular instance, I’ve not been a very good creator.

Now you could say that my characters should be able to handle anything I can throw at them, and perhaps you’d be right. But I’d like to submit a different idea.

When God created me, he gave me a certain personality and placed me in a specific family. Those were decisions I had nothing to do with. That combination of personality and family life, in concert with events I had no control over either, made me the person I am today. They, along with conscious decisions on my part, shaped the way I think and the way I’ll react to any given set of circumstances. (This is the psychological argument of nature vs. nurture—which, in my opinion, isn’t an either/or proposition.)

Here’s the deal though: God, for whom all times are Now, will not place me in the predicament I’ve put Eleanor in. He wouldn’t give me only two choices—to act unrighteously or to walk out of the story. He knows me better than I know myself. If I rely on Him, He’ll give me whatever I need to make right choices. Strength. Peace. Trusting faithfulness. He always gives me a way of escape from any temptation.

I feel so bad for Eleanor. Think I’ll take a page out of God’s book (pun intended) and re-create Eleanor and her situations, so that she has a way to make the choices I want her to make—eventually. Like my God, I’ll choose to be a forgiving creator who gives the creation exactly what she needs and exactly when she needs it. And like I’m learning to trust my creator, I’ll hope Eleanor can trust me.

 

*At least, that’s the plan. The final decision will be up to the cover designer. (Who is amazing, btw.)

Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Gardeners

What’s the first gardening task for a warm, spring day?

Well, our first official garden workday got off to a stumbling start on Sunday afternoon. Son and daughter-in-law have already started tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli indoors. Sunday, the younger Young/Roberts ladies planted spinach and lettuce. Including the youngest two–the one whose little toes you can see peeping out of the stroller, and the other who is still invisible to our eyes, but not to God’s. The grandgirl cheered Mama and Aunt along (“Ba! Ba-ba! We’re not sure exactly what that means, but she’s very enthusiastic about it.)

We chose an area near the fencerow so the cool-weather plants would have adequate shade. (It also happens to be near our propane tank. Not very esthetically pleasing perhaps, but we hope it will be nutritionally pleasing.)

The Young/Roberts men focused their efforts on building a new raised bed. We had one last year and were impressed with its success. My only complaint was that it was crooked. The men measured and adjusted, making sure the new bed was exactly a rectangle. Unfortunately, when I complained of the old bed being crooked, I meant it wasn’t level. They did nothing to level the new bed, so it mimics the old one in this regard. Just goes to show—words matter.

I asked the son-in-law (pictured holding the fence posts) why he was moving all the gardening stuff away from the garden. His answer? “I don’t know. I just do what I’m told.” Hahaha! Love him. The answer would be so that we could mulch around the raised beds.

What did I do during all this hard manual labor? I tested the soil for our apple trees, blueberries, and strawberries. It was kinda fun. I felt like a real chemist—mixing solutions and shaking the test tubes.

(Hahaha! Anyone who knows me totally gets why that’s so funny.)

I discovered that our poor plants have been doing their best to survive in hostile environments. We will get the proper soil amendments to feed and nourish our plants, so they can feed and nourish us.

All in all, we had a productive and enjoyable day!

What are your first gardening tasks in the spring? Please help this reluctant gardener succeed!

Context is King!

 

Over years of Bible studies by Kay Arthur, I’ve had that phrase drummed into my brain. CONTEXT IS KING! And it’s true.

However, sometimes we have to dig deep to find that context. For example: the book of First Peter. 1 Peter 1:1 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen” (NASB) So we know four things:

#1 The letter is from Peter.

#2 Which Peter? The Peter who is an apostle of Jesus Christ.

#3 The letter is to those who reside as aliens in five different areas.

#4 They are chosen.

Of all those things we know about the letter called 1 Peter, I’d like to concentrate on who the letter is to: those who reside as aliens. According to the Strong’s Concordance, the word alien also could be translated sojourner or foreigner. That seems to indicate that Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia aren’t home towns. These people are from somewhere else. Where else? 1 Peter 2:11-12, gives us a clue. It says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles…” There’s that word again aliens. And Peter even clarifies by calling them strangers.

But look carefully at verse 12. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles. Hmm…so Peter’s audience isn’t the Gentiles. By process of elimination, that leaves the Jews. Peter’s entire letter was to the Jews living outside the area of ancient Israel, their “hometown.” (Granted, it wasn’t the nation of Israel at the time, since the Romans occupied the area, but you get my drift.)

Was Peter’s entire audience Jewish? Probably not, given the fact that first century Gentile believers met in synagogues with the Jewish community. So, to be even more accurate, his audience was a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers–probably more Jew than Gentile, given the way the letter is addressed.

Okay, so that’s established. But why is it important? Because whatever Peter says to this group of Jewish believers applies to Jewish believers. Not that the Gentiles were excluded. They just weren’t singled out for these words, the way Paul’s letters were. (Most of Paul’s letters were to a primarily Gentile audience with a  few Jews sprinkled in–exactly the opposite of Peter’s audience.)

I’m a Gentile. Does that mean I don’t need to read Peter’s epistles? Not at all. Since we’re grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel and into the covenants,  his words apply to us too. But it’s so wise to read his words within the context of understanding who his primary audience was. That will help us understand what he’s truly saying and what he’s not saying.

Thoughts? Come. Let us reason together…in the comments.

The Secret Sin

This week’s Torah portion starts Leviticus. <sigh> I always get bogged down right here, but I’ve asked the Lord to help me learn something new and applicable in every Torah portion.

Exodus finished with the Tabernacle being finished and God’s presence descending. His holiness was so palpable, even Moses (who had spent considerable time on Mount Sinai in the presence of God) couldn’t go in.

God’s holiness is so pure…so completely other, that sinful man can’t stand in His presence without being destroyed. (I always picture the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Belloq’s head explodes.) Consequently, the book of Leviticus starts with the details of various sacrifices. The burnt offering. The grain offering. The peace offering. The sin sacrifice. The guilt sacrifice. The need for sacrifices is clear. We can’t stand in God’s presence without them. Sacrifices, in part*, purify us from sin and allow us to be in the presence of God without exploding.

Three things struck me: First, not all the sacrifices had to do with sin. (More on that another time.)

Second, is that there is no such thing as secret sin. The Scripture uses a common refrain that goes something like, “If a person commits a sin inadvertently, when the sin becomes known to him, he shall offer this sacrifice.” (See Lev. 4: 3, 13, 22, and 27.) The sin may be in secret, but the recovery is pretty public. After all, the Tabernacle was a public place. The priests were involved. The sin sacrifices look different from the others. Any observant by-stander would be able to say, “Oh, that’s a sin sacrifice. That guy broke one of the commands.” Not that the by-stander would know details, but he’d know sin had been committed.

That struck me as not such a bad thing. How many times do we watch our language when someone is around, but cut loose in the car, all alone, when someone cuts us off? How many times do we sneak the candy or cookie when no one is looking? How many times is our behavior different at home than it is at church? Would we behave differently if we knew that we’d have to make a public acknowledgment of our sin? Hmm… Food for thought.

Third, the sacrifice came after confession to God and reparation to whomever they sinned against. Only then, did they bring the sacrifice to God to make reparation there and return to a state of purity. The sacrifice wasn’t the key to forgiveness. Confession and repentance was. Hmm…that sounds just like what we have today. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) puts it this way: “If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.” I like that translation because it uses the word purify, which is exactly what the sin sacrifice accomplished.

Of course, Yeshua’s death and resurrection is the sacrifice that we identify with in order to return to a state of purity after sin. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

 

*I’m learning more about the sacrifices and will probably do a post about what I learn soon.

Is the Church Really Pro-Life?

I’m pro-life. Staunchly pro-life. But I find myself using words and phrases I don’t really mean.

For example, mother-to-be. One who is a mother-to-be is one who isn’t pregnant yet, but that isn’t how we use the term. If there’s a baby already growing inside the mom, she’s a mother. Right at that instant of conception—even if she doesn’t know it. She’s definitely a mother when she begins to behave differently for the sake of her baby. When she gives up caffeine or meat with nitrates or starts doing yoga stretches to help with childbirth. Even when she starts reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting. That woman is a mother. And that man is a father.

Somehow, even in the church, we don’t mourn the loss of an unborn infant through miscarriage the way we would mourn a three-month-old who died of SIDS. We tend to dismiss women who’ve suffered the loss of a child as not-yet-mothers. “You’ll be a mom one day?” Why is that?

I believe it’s because we’ve been tainted by the world’s values for so long, we don’t even realize that we’ve not completely picked up God’s heart for children and for life.

Jeremiah 1:5 says that God knew us before we were in our mother’s wombs. If he knew us before we were conceived, He definitely knew us while He was forming our inward parts. Psalm 139:16  talks about planning our days before we were born.

Our God believes in LIFE! That’s what He’s all about.

Shabbat is about life.

The commandments about how to treat others is about life.

The sacrifices (oddly enough) are about life.

Jesus clarified God’s commitment to life when He reminded the Pharisees that if a life is at stake, it’s permissible (even God’s idea) to break a commandment.

So, how do we get that commitment to LIFE deep within our beings?

Perhaps we should begin to change our definitions. A pregnant woman and a woman who has lost a child she never got to hold—both of these women are mothers!

Perhaps, on Mother’s Day, we can honor mothers who don’t get to hold their children—mothers of children who have died.

Perhaps we can commit to mourning pregnancy loss as much as we do the deaths of children we can see.

Perhaps we can even talk to the babies inside the womb. (I’m sure the moms would rather we do that than to rub our hands all over their bellies. [One of my pet peeves. Sheesh! How rude!])

Perhaps we can get rid of the idea that babies have been born for millennia. No big deal. It is a big deal! Every single birth. Every single baby. It’s LIFE!

As believers in the God of Israel, the God who created us all, we should be living out what we believe in this area. We should be as excited about life as God is.

All those “perhaps we” statements above? I’m committing to them. It isn’t about avoiding offense. It’s about making sure our core values go deep. Anyone with me on this?