Tag Archives: Religion

Book Review: It Couldn’t Just Happen

I think it was the teacher in me that first was attracted to this book, but it was a “future parent” in me that appreciated it the most.  Because it tackles various topics (dinosaurs, planets, creation, evolution etc.) this book is a great supplement for parents of all higher-elementary/middle school students.  Knowing what is taught in public (and even Christian) schools today, there leaves a lot to be questioned.  This book addresses some of the topics kids (and lets face it, us adults too) are curious about…. {I’m still a huge dinosaur debater!}

Just a few cool additions the author adds:

1. At the end of each “chapter” there are 5 exercises you can do with your children to enhance each topic.

2. The inclusion of verses from the Bible throughout the book are great.  People want to separate science and religion, but these verses tie them together quite nicely.

3. It is definitely a evangelistic tool.  The last section of the book dives into what the Bible says about all the topics, what Jesus taught, and some great comparisons between our modern day knowledge and the past wisdom.

The illustrations and pictures are beautiful and breathtaking, and I think it’s a great tool for parents to have…. after all, there will come a day when your children will have questions, and it’s probably a good thing to have a little back up 🙂

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Mediterranean Monday: Praying toward Jerusalem

dscf0834There is one thing that all Orthodox Jews have in common, no matter where they live in the word…..they pray facing Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter if its east from the US or south from Russia, it is always facing toward Jerusalem.  

I remember my first encounter with this was in the airport on my way to Israel, the first time.  The flight was soon after the 3rd prayer call (yes, there are 3 times a day for prayer), and all the Orthodox men were in one area, reading from their prayer books and facing……yep, EAST!  At the time I had no idea what that was about, but now I do.  

Even though there is currently no temple in Jerusalem (it was destroyed the 2nd time by the Roman Empire), a prayer for the construction of the 3rd temple is part of the daily prayers.  The temple acts as a figurative dwelling of God’s presence in the physical world, and since there is no physical temple, they pray toward the direction it was/will be. Those already in Jerusalem pray facing the Temple Mount.

What is also interesting is that all Bet Knesset’s (synagogues) also face toward Jerusalem.  The bet knesset is a type of substitute temple, which reminds the Jewish people of the incompleteness resulting in the destruction of The Temple. In each Bet Knesset there is an ark, with the Torah inside.  Even the ark must be situated in the direction of Jerusalem.

I could go on with more detailed information, but I think you got the jist of it.  One thing is for sure….the Orthodox better be good with directions!


Mediterranean Monday: Mezuzah

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Outside my front door

The mezuzah (doorpost in Hebrew) is a small case with Hebrew writing on it that you will find on every door post, hallway, or even in closets in Israel (on the upper right hand side).  The cases are inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, which state the Jewish prayer, Shema Yisrael.  It begins with the phrase, ‘Listen Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.’   Inside the mezuzah, if you open it up, is a tiny scroll which contains the verses.  

The custom is to touch the mezuzah then kiss the fingers that touched it when you enter or leave the room.  This is to be a reminder of love and respect for God.  

The other day I was in the apartment, and I heard a loud noise.  When I came out to see what it was, I noticed my bedroom mezuzah on the floor!  It had fallen and opened up…but what was more disturbing was the missing blessing scroll on the inside!  Someone before me had obviously taken it out, probably after it had fallen for them too.  Shame!  I want my blessing back!!! 🙂

Here is my (fallen) mezuzah:

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Yom Kippur

Although I am not Jewish, I am preparing for my return to Israel by observing today’s Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.  Every country I have been in I have celebrated/observed the holiday’s and traditions of that culture (within reason).  I think its important to dive into the culture, modeled after Hudson Taylor with his ministry in China.  So, today I am joining my Jewish friends in the observing of Yom Kippur.

A little background on the holiday.  Yom Kippur is known to us as the Day of Atonement, a day set aside to atone for all your sins from the past year.  It is traditionally the last day to show repentance and change your ways before the new year begins.  

Most non-practicing Jews observe Yom Kippur and even attend synagogue (sorta like many Christians who attend church on Christmas or Easter service).  Yom Kippur is a Sabbath… no working at all.  It is a day of complete fasting, eating and also drinking (water too).  Hard-core traditions do not allow washing and bathing as well (don’t worry….I won’t take it that far).

Now that you are caught up a bit you know what I will and will not be doing today.  I think the hardest will be abstaining from drinking anything at all, I mean come on…no coffee???

I will end on this note…  Thanks to Jesus, we can have Yom Kippur every minute of everyday (with the eating, drinking, and bathing too).  I am so grateful I can talk to my God whenever I need to 🙂 Have a wonderful Yom Kippur!!!


Reaching the next generation

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at my aunts church in Minnesota about Botswana.  While speaking at churches is a regular occurance for a missionary during furlough, its usually done speaking to adults in the main service.  Now, from a missionary perspective, this is practical in many ways.  

1. Its the adults who support you financially and spiritually.

2. The adults can grasp the “big picture” of what your ministry is trying to accomplish.

3. Its just what you do.

….but sometimes we need to put practical aside and reach out beyond “practical”.

Sooooo, being that my aunt is the children’s pastor for her church, she also asked me to come back and give a presentation to the kids.  I have to say, I was more excited about the prospect of speaking with children than adults (thats probably my teaching background coming out).  I put together a slide show, I brought fun show-n-tell items for them to see, and we put together a “what they eat” segment where I actually cooked fried cabbage in front of them and they could taste it.  (Most of them weren’t too thrilled about the fried cabbage, but they LOVED the fat cakes we made.)  I also shared the differences between being a kid in the US verses being a kid in Botswana.

Overall, it was awesome!  They loved the pictures, the food, the stories, and all the animals they saw.  As I was leaving I realized how important it is to bring awareness to children about other cultures and areas of the world and how we can help them.  If we are going to try to make an impact on our world, we need to start not only reaching out to those who can help us now, but also to those who will be out there doing the work in the next generation. Adults are important to reach, but lets not forget the children! As Whitney says, “I believe the children are our future.”  hehehe


Desperation

My home church, Res LIfe, is hosting the youth conference, Desperation, this weekend.  My mom works at the church, and she asked me if I wanted to come help and volunteer. How could I say no to that?  Today I was able to sit in on some of the worship time (which was awesome, I might add.)  Jared Anderson, who is one of the leaders of the band, is amazing. Its one thing to rock out to his CD’s driving to a village in the middle of nowhere in Botswana, but its a whole other ball game to hear them live.  Its one of the things I soooo missed in Africa…live worship! Needless to say, I was really blessed being able to enjoy some of the day and night listening and participating in the music.  

Seeing the youth jumping around, singing, and dancing reminded me of our youth group, Fire by Night, in Botswana.  We would sing and dance to music (CD’s) during our Friday night services.  It made me realize how blessed America is to have these huge conferences, concerts, speakers etc. available pretty much everywhere.  But, it also reminded me that God is the same everywhere we go.  Whether its in a huge youth conference or under a tent in the Kalahari Desert, His presence is wherever we are and call upon Him.  All the strobe lights, amps, musical instruments, stages, and sound effects are nice (don’t get me wrong; I love all that); but they’re not necessary.  Thats what’s so incredible!  You can experience God’s love through a loud, booming concert or the gentle whisper of the wind.  Awesome!


The Shack

I recently finished reading the book, The Shack, by William P. Young.  A friend of mine had met William and wrote about it, and then, coincidentally, my mom read it and sent the book to me.  

Let me start out by saying, WOW!  I don’t even know where to begin in describing how this book impacted me.  I think I cried through much of it, and highlighted the rest.  Living in a world that is anything but simple, it made me re-visit my idealistic views about Christianity and took me back to the “roots.”

Without going into too much details and ruining the plot of the story, I will mention a few nuggets I gleamed from the book (even though I got lots of them)

1.” As well-intended as it might be, religious machineries can chew up people, and spit them out.”

2. “Instead of trying to begin revolutions that will overthrow anything, why don’t we try the quiet daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, then everything matters.

3.  “What God wants from us is to trust Him with what we can, and grow in loving people around us with the same love He shares with us.  It’s not our job to change them, or convince them…just to love them.”

4. “God’s purposes are always and only an expression of love.”

5. “God is not a noun, He is a verb.  He is alive, active, moving, and doing.”  Why do we put Him in a box as a noun then?

Ok, so I could go on and on, but I will stop with those 5 things.  I am reminded by this book that we must go back to the basics.  We must love and serve others…simply put!  All the rules, systems, institutions etc. are put in place to tell us how to do it, but through our human perspective.  Its a way for us to justify our actions by “playing God.”  Life is about relationships, not “religion.”

I will end by encouraging you to read this book.  It will totally change the way you look at God, or maybe just encourage you to continue looking at Him in that way.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

For more information on the book or author check out:

www.theshackbook.com


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