Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for September, 2013

The Last Day of Sukkot

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On the eighth day of Sukkot (The Feast of Booths/ Tabernacles) God commands all the Jews in Israel to hold a sacred assembly (get together in Jerusalem, do no work and eat).

On this day the Jewish custom is to pour water on the altar as an offering to God. It is also on this day that the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read.

It was on this day that Jesus said ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink..’ (John 7:37-39) implying that He was the source of living water (God).

So how would a Christian home celebrate this day?

Some suggestions include:

-Reading Deuteronomy 28- the blessings and curse- explaining to your children the benefits and disadvantages of following God’s Word. (This is not the final chapter. The final chapter of Deuteronomy involves Moses’ death and Joshua’s commission.)

-Pouring out water (onto the ground) as a reminder that God provides the water of life.

-If your climate co-operates water activities for the children or the young-at-heart may be part of the celebration. Slip and slides, sprinklers, pools and water guns are always fun, as is a trip to the water park. If your climate does not co-operate, you may wish to include snow cones, dry ice concoctions, bubbles, water colors, or fishing may be fun.

-A happy birthday Jesus party. Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in the fall, and many believe that it may have been on the last day of Sukkot, since Sukkot commemorates the time when God ‘tabernacled’ or lived among the Israelites in the desert. (FYI: The Jewish people at this time did not typically celebrate birthdays. Instead they tended to remember death days…)

-Since the last day of Sukkot was the day the Jewish people finished reading the Torah in the synagogue, (the readings would begin again with Genesis 1:1), they frequently passed out candy at this time (honey treats). As a reminder that God’s Word is ‘sweet’ (pleasant to follow) the candy would be distributed among the children. A piñata, or throwing of candy during the reading of the blessings in Deuteronomy may help reinforce this concept.

-During this time Jewish children often paraded by with flags they had made symbolizing what they had learned. Adults would toss candy for the children to catch. Making flags that represent your thanks for what God has blessed you with may also be a fun activity. (Instead of flags, you may make other items such as collages.)

-Food ideas: Create a menu that includes food from the sacrifices at the temple: beef, lamb, goat, unleavened bread, and wine (grape juice for the kids). You may also wish to include citrus fruits, since the lulav is to have citrus associated with it. A Happy Birthday Jesus cake may also be fun. (FYI: There is no prohibition against eating leaven at this time. Unleavened bread is typically offered at the Temple.)

-The final waving of the luval, a bundle of four types of branches: citrus, palm, myrtle and willow. (Lev. 23:40)

Ideas for the day after Sukkot

Since Sukkot represents the end of the harvest season, ideally the end of fall, this is a good time to get ready for winter. The day after Sukkot may include:

– Getting the yard ready for winter (putting away lawn chairs, the grill or anything else that will not be used in the coming months). Play praise music and make it fun, thanking God for the seasons, and the fact that summer yard work has come to an end!

– Winter clothes shopping. Hats, boots, gloves etc will soon be needed. The day after Sukkot is a nice time for this event. Since it is a planned outing, and not a rushed trip when the first snow hits, this should be a relaxing, fun time away from the house. Plan a nice meal out as well to make it a relaxing, fun day for all.

– The first cup of hot cocoa, or pumpkin pie may also be a nice treat, indicating that fall is finally here.

You may stretch these activities out instead of doing them all in one day, since this is not an official holiday. Just remember, it is easier on a family to do these activities as relaxed, fun, planned events, rather than rushing around at the last minute to get everything done. Sukkot gives us a date that reminds us the time to do these things is near.

Sukkot: The Feast of Booths

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The Feast of Booths

aka The Feast (Festival) of Tabernacles

aka Sukkot (Sue-coat)

The Feast of Booths is a time of joyous celebration, when everyone is to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the end of the harvest season. It is basically a week-long camping trip for all believers.

During Sukkot a family would travel to Jerusalem. There they would build a shelter using wood and intertwining vines and flowers so that the stars could be seen through the roof at night. It is here that the family will reside for the week.

The Jewish people celebrated Sukkot to remind them of their time of wandering in the desert. It was also a time to bring in their tithes and offerings, and thank God for the harvest. The Jewish people also poured out water at the Temple and thanked God for the rain that occurred during the proper season at this time.

Sukkot is also a time for people to get together. God requires each family to gather and wave four different types of branches. This bundle of branches is known as a lulav and it consists of citrus, palm, willow and myrtle branches. Since these branches grow best in different areas it can be assumed that God wished for the people to interact with people from all areas of the land. This wish for the people to interact is further exemplified by God’s command for the people to leave the city from the gate opposite to the one from which they entered. (Ez. 46:9). God wants us to know and interact with other believers from all over.

It is believed that it was at Sukkot that Jesus proclaimed that He was the Water of Life. It is also believed to have been Sukkot when Peter wished to build booths for Moses and Elijah when Jesus transformed on the top of the mountain and was seen speaking to these men. It is also believed that Sukkot is the only Old Testament feast we will be celebrating when Jesus rules and reigns on earth, likely as a reminder of the time when His presence was not here. (Zec. 14:19)

So how may we honor this feast today?

While a week off of work would be nice, it is not practical for many families. And, since the weather in northern climates is harsh and/or rainy during this time, living in a booth is also not practical. Many families choose to celebrate this holiday instead by building a simple shelter and eating dinner in it for the week, with perhaps one night set aside for star-gazing and/or outdoor sleeping.

By the way, Jeroboam changed the time for celebrating Sukkot to one month later in order to discourage people from wanting to celebrate it in Jerusalem (outside of the kingdom he ruled) where it would now be too cold for comfort. (1 Kings 12:32)

For more information check out http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm (Judaism 101), Leviticus 23, and Deuteronomy 16.

A Real Man (Ruth 3-4)

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Here is Boaz, he has eaten and drunk and his heart is merry (likely a euphemism for having had at least a little alcohol). He gets into bed and a woman crawls in with him.

Now Ruth is young, beautiful, loyal, hard-working, and a Moabite (a people group the Jewish people at this time have little respect for). She is everything a man could ask for, and she is of a class of people no one cares about. Further she has only an elderly mother-in-law to look out for her. She is incredibly vulnerable, and she is lying at his feet, in his bed, at night.

Boaz could very easily take advantage of her, and then claim he mistook her for one of the prostitutes who often hung out around the fields at harvest time when they knew the men did not go home, even though he knew she did this with the hope of marriage.

But he doesn’t.

He protects her.

Instead of immediately kicking her out of his bed, he allows her to stay with him until morning, because he knows she is safe in bed with him. (This is true purity.)

He then protects her reputation. He wakes up early, or perhaps does not sleep, to make sure she is on her way home before too many people realize what she has done. He also warns his men not to let anyone know that there was a woman there.

Before she leaves, he provides her with grain. He knows she has not had a good night sleep and will likely not be in the best condition to glean, so he takes care of her needs.

He praises her. He assumes the best. He does not berate her for doing this, but instead looks at the situation through a positive lens. She could have gone after younger men, and there is the unspoken assumption she could have become a prostitute, or loose woman. Instead she turns to a man she believes is the one who is right for her, who will be her kinsman-redeemer. He does not assume she is a gold-digger or someone trying to trap him into marriage. He assumes the best.

He takes care of her problem immediately. It is the middle of the harvest, a time that is so busy that the men sleep on the threshing room floor instead of going home, but he puts his needs aside to make sure that she is cared for.

He obviously wants her, but he goes about things the right way. There is another relative who has a claim on her. He approaches this man and makes sure that he has permission to pursue her.

He knows that marrying her comes with obligations, and he is willing to accept those responsibilities. He will have to buy back her father-in-law’s fields and care for them for a son who will bear another man’s name. His first son will not be known as his, even though he will be the father who raises him, and he must hope for a second son to inherit and care for the lands he has loved and worked hard to make prosperous. He will have to train two sons as heirs, splitting the time between the needs of each estate. He will be a busy man until these boys reach manhood, and he is already an older man, but he takes on these responsibilities with pleasure and allows his first son to be laid on Naomi’s lap when the child is born, indicating that legally he is hers, to inherit all that her husband had.

Boaz is a real man. He does not give into his lusts, and takes care of his responsibilities without complaint. Let us train our children to know that this is what a real man looks like, and to eschew any teaching that implies the contrary.

Yom Kippur/ The Day of Atonement (Lev 16)

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Today (9/13/13 beginning at sunset) the Jewish people, and many Messianic Jews, celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Like most Jewish feasts the traditions of today are not the same as they were in Biblical times due to the absence of the Temple, but there is rich meaning in the events that were to occur on this day.

The Day of Atonement is the only ‘sad’ feast, and the only one that requires a 24 hour (from sunset to sunset) fast. Why is this feast different from the others? Because this is a day of repentance for all of Israel, and there are sacrifices prescribed for the priests, the leaders and the people. No one is without sin, and those who hold a position of respect are required to do more to repent.

This is the day when the high priest, who has washed and remained awake all night so that he may not sin accidentally, goes behind the curtain of the Temple and sprinkles the blood of bulls and goats (guilt offerings for the priests and people) behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, and it is hoped that God would give him a message for the people. In the year that Jesus was crucified, God did just that, and the message that Caiaphas received was that it was better for one man to die for all the people. (John 11:50-51) (He, of course, misunderstood what was being said exactly, but that is another story…)

On the Day of Atonement two goats are brought to the Temple. Lots are drawn and one goat is sacrificed while the other becomes the scapegoat. A bull is also sacrificed for the sins of the priests. These sacrifices are unique because although the blood of the animals is sprinkled seven times on the altar, as well as in the Temple, the entire animal is burned outside the camp, rather than on the altar itself. This imagery fits with Jesus, who is our lasting atonement, being sacrificed outside of Jerusalem as well.

The other goat, known as the scapegoat, has a red ribbon tied to its horns. The Talmud reports that a portion of the ribbon was then cut off and placed on the Temple gate. By morning it would turn white indicating that God had accepted their sacrifices. (After Jesus’ death the ribbon ceased turning white.) The scapegoat is then taken outside the camp and let go to signify that the people of Israel wish to have their sins taken as far away from them as possible. Since the goat occasionally wandered back into the city, it became customary to drive it off a cliff to prevent its return. But Biblically, it is to go free.

Now the Day of Atonement only removed one’s debts to God. Fixing relationships with others continues to this day to be something that requires getting up from the altar and going to another for forgiveness. This is why, when we come to Christ and our sins are forgiven, we may go to heaven (since our relationship with God is fully restored) but there are still consequences and relationships that need to be rebuilt here on earth. The sacrificial system at the Temple, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which replaced it, are for repairing a relationship with our Creator. Our debts to others require paying the debt, or asking for forgiveness from others. And God believes fixing relationships with others is so important that He tells us to leave our gifts (offerings) at the altar and deal with the people we have hurt before doing anything extra for Him. (Matthew 5:24)

Today the Day of Atonement is a day of reflection and asking forgiveness. Since there is no Temple, and since Jesus’ sacrifice makes the need for additional sacrifices obsolete, the blood of bulls and goats is no longer necessary. Examining your relationship with God and others however is always a good idea, so if you wish, put aside time on this day, and fast from sunset to sunset, and allow God to show you how you need to change.

Scapegoat references: http://www.calvaryoxnard.org/studies/nt/Mark/The%20Torn%20Veil.htm

http://www3.telus.net/public/kstam/en/temple/details/evidence.htm

I Remember… 9/11

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I remember 9/11. My husband called to say something had happened and we should turn on the news. We connected an outside antennae to the television and friends joined us to watch. The children were scared and we assured them that even if somehow some force were to take our cities, no one was going to take our hill- there were too many guns, and too few people who knew the woods like the backs of their hands. We calmed them with word pictures describing unknown others trying to find hunters whose presence in the woods was never noticed until they wanted it to be, while watching in somber disbelief as more and more reports came in.

The churches called people together to pray, and we gathered.

When reports of flight 93 came in we were proud, because this is America, and when the threat was known, the passengers behaved like Americans, using what little they had to save countless lives, and almost saving their own.

When we were called to war, many in our small town signed up to go, because we are America and we believed in our country.

When my son in boot camp was asked where he learned to jump and kick, he replied ‘his mother,’ because in our America unexpected people have unexpected skills and we share them with others.

When the drill instructor tried to tear my son down by making fun of his mother, he did not know that the mother did not resemble the son, because in America when a child needs a mother many answer the call regardless of what the child looks like or has been through. Because while there is still a long way to go, we are learning and overcoming and trying to be everything a person should be, because this is America.

While in countries torn by war our soldiers came back with pictures of cute kids and dogs, because even though they were fighting an enemy, they understood that not everyone and everything in a foreign land is evil, and they showed love to both when they were able, because they are Americans and this is how they were taught.

When the soldiers came back they were welcomed, because we learned from our mistakes and would not do what had been done in the past, because this is America.

When our country was again attacked, and our embassy fell, we demanded answers and remembered the victims, because this is America and our people do not die without reason, without answers.

This is still America. Twelve years later millions of bikers are riding to remember those we lost. Millions of people are setting aside time for prayer and remembering. Millions of people, many of whom knew no one personally, are still deeply affected by the events of years ago, because we are Americans. We are people who care, and we are a people committed to God and country. We are the people who run into danger to get someone else out.

So, while the media and those in power may wish to believe that what a young girl does to embarrass herself on TV means more to us than what a leader does to affect our lives we know that the America we know still exists, is still strong and is ready to be heard.

America, the land of the brave, the land where people fight terrorists on planes with coffee pots when needed….

America, the home of the free, the land where our children sign up to fight because we still have a country they wish to believe in…

America, the country who remembers her roots, her principles and her constitution even when those who rule seem to forget, we are the people who stand up and force them to remember…

Continue to pray for our country today. Pray that God strengthens us where we are weak so that we might change, gives us wisdom so that we might know the better ways to go, and the courage to stand up to those who would lead us astray. And then thank God that we are still a nation where the people, we the people, help when crisis hits and remind us that we still have the power over the few who would like to be king.

Repenting Like a King (of Nineveh)

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In Jonah 3 we see an excellent example of how to repent and escape an almost certain judgment.

Nineveh was a city known for its cruelty. No matter what you have done in your life, you have likely not done as much as these people had. Killing brutally was a way of life, and Jonah had a reason to be scared.

And God sent an imperfect prophet, one who had run from the assignment, and one who had been recently spit from a fish onto their shores. He was likely not as clean as one would like (there is no mention of his baggage being spit out too), and if questioned he would likely reveal his weaknesses as a leader. There was every reason for the people not to listen to this man, yet they did.

And the king listened as well. He arose from his throne (took action). He humbled himself (laid aside his royal robes). He put on sackcloth and sat in ashes (performed deeds that at that time showed he was sorry). Then he issued a proclamation (He explained to the people under his authority why it was good to do what they were already doing. He encouraged them in their repentance.)

The question is: Do we repent in this manner?

Or do we instead:

-Make excuses as to why the person bringing this to our attention is not worthy to be listened to. Or worse, begin to criticize and harass them publically to all who will listen.

-Refuse to change and find excuses to believe we are fine the way we are.

– Refuse to humble ourselves because of our position, or because we do not want to look weak. Other people may apologize, but what would it look like if the pastor, elder, parent etc did so.

– Refuse to do things that demonstrate our repentance. We may say we are sorry, but often we forget that actions speak louder than words. When there are no acts of repentance (doing nice things for the person you hurt etc), it is often hard to believe that someone is truly sorry. Words are easy, it is your actions that tell who you truly are.

– Neglect to encourage the people under our authority to follow our example. Leaders are examples to those under them whether they do what is good, or what is bad. For this reason it is important to allow those under you to see you are repentant, to know that you are acknowledging that what was done was wrong even if it was done by the leadership and to explain your motivation for repentance. A leader who fails to do this will often have followers (or children) who begin to repent, but then return to evil because they do not see why it is truly important to change, since their leadership does not seem to be getting on board.

Repentance is hard, especially when one is in leadership (even if that leadership is just parental). But, if you do not wish for those under you to follow in your bad example, you must show them, and explain to them, what repentance is and why it is important to do it when we realize we have messed up.

Let’s Pretend…With Our Children’s Education

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Let’s pretend that Common Core won’t cause teachers to pretend that students who do not learn the skills assigned to that grade are actually proficient. Nor will it cause students who are able to go ahead, to be held back, because those skills are not a part of the core curriculum for their year.

No Child Left Behind led to a rash of teacher cheating, and good grades being given to those who did not deserve them. I know because my children were part of this failed experiment. They also learned strategies to test taking and essay writing that allowed them to demonstrate knowledge without actually having any.

Did you know that if you pick out the biggest word in a question, then find that word in a paragraph and write the sentence you found the word in down you will most likely get the question right?

Did you know that the trick to writing a good summary is to pick the longest sentence in each paragraph, write them down and then change a few words here and there to make it your own work?

Did you know that you can get up to 75% in math by writing the numbers given in the problem as an addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problem in the space provided even if none of your answers are right because somewhere on the paper you demonstrated the right process for solving the problem? (3 points for showing your work/ one point for the right answer. The students who do the math in their heads but get all the right answers receive a 25%…)

Did you also know that a child who does not know all of her letter sounds, and is still counting beans in math at the end of the third grade, in a regular classroom, can receive straight As on her report card because her emotional handicap somehow means she needs to see those grades in order to achieve? (She was pulled out of a regular classroom twice a day for thirty minutes for math and reading taught in a 15:1 setting… And this is what the social worker called being ‘grade level’ and ‘doing fine in school.’)

Instead of standardizing education (because we know that every kid fits the standard) why don’t we encourage teachers to find what works for their students and let the parents be the judge of whether, or not, the child is getting what they need. School choice and more parental involvement is a better option than any one-size-fits-all program (even to the point of the local parents being able to get rid of teachers who do not meet their children’s needs- after all, the parents do pay the teachers’ salaries in the form of taxes…).

I took my children (who were adopted when they were older) out of this system and home schooled them. All of my special ed kids graduated high school. One served in the Marines, and now works in Kuwait. Another is in hotel management and is a high school soccer coach, and the third, who was to live in a group home for the rest of her life, is now a mother of two who works part time at a hotel. If I can do this without a teaching degree, just think of what our schools could do if we pushed them to try!

Let’s stop pretending and make real changes that really work. Implementing programs that are sure to fail and paying more into a system that has not produced results is just plain nuts.

A Tale of Two Moms

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The other day I was talking with two mothers. We were all home schooling, and both mothers were new to it. As I recounted my life and experiences I noticed that each mother was reacting differently to everything I said. At the end of the conversation one mother exclaimed, ‘I know who I’m coming to with any questions!’ The other shrank away from my presence.

I’ve seen this reaction before. Moms who are not secure in what they are doing, and who dislike hearing that anyone is in a better place then they are. The irony is that years ago I was in the same place they were, and their results are likely to be just as good as mine are! I am just a little further down the road, and a lot more comfortable with what I am doing, because I have been there, done that, and seen the fruit of some of my work blossom into blessings for the children I taught- and they have not had that experience yet.

The problem is that we are trained, for the most part, by society to see life as a competition, and with that perspective we have trouble asking for help, or even utilizing the people God puts into our lives who are good for instructing others. The older cannot teach the younger if the younger are threatened and offended by the offer.

The woman who loved hearing that I had all of this experience is rare. And the irony is that I would love to help in any way I can, and now that mine are grown, and leaving the house at a rapid rate, I have the time (and energy- no more midnight feedings etc) to do so. I love this stage of my life, but it will all go to waste if the younger generation continues to belittle each other and make each other fear looking weak, or less than in comparison- especially when that comparison is the equivalent of comparing apples (an older mom) to oranges (someone still fresh and cheeky and ready to take on the world). And the irony is, in general, women love to talk, and especially reminisce about their children’s younger years!

I am the mom I am today thanks to a remarkable generation of older women. I went to their houses as a home care physical therapist, and gained mountains of insight and advice as we engaged in small talk about my children. Did I do everything they recommended? No. But I did learn a lot, and it is time for my generation to return the favor. Young moms, ask yourselves: Who you are allowing into your life to provide wisdom and insight that will make your life easier and more enjoyable in the end? (Pick some good ones!)

So What Is Rosh Hashana?

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   Rosh Hashana is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. Before coming out of Egypt the Jewish people, like those around them, began their calendar year in the fall. God instructs Moses to change this practice, and the Jewish year changes to begin in the spring, just before Passover. But, like many of us commonly do, the Jewish people compromise with God, and begin using two calendars, a religious calendar, which began in the spring and a civil calendar, which began in the fall. Later kings were officially put into office at the beginning of the civil new year, in the fall, which explains why some kings seem to be king, and then are being put into office a wee bit later in the Bible. (Though there are sometimes other reasons for this as well, such as a region, but not the whole nation, accepting the person as king up until this point.)

Rosh Hashana falls on the same day as the Feast of Trumpets. During the Feast of Trumpets the shofar  (a ram’s horn) is blown throughout the day. It is a day of assembly (where the Jewish people come together for food and fellowship) when no work is to be done (a day off). (Num. 29:1)

The Feast of Trumpets is a unique holiday since it is the only one that occurs at the beginning of the month. Since the Jewish month began with the first confirmed sighting of the sliver of the moon, this is the only holiday that leaves people guessing which day it will actually occur on. For this reason many believe it to be the foreshadowing of the rapture.

The Jewish people also believe that, on this holiday, a person’s name is placed into one of three categories. He (or she) is either written into the Book of Life for the upcoming year, is exempt from the book of life, or finds themselves in an in between state. Those who are ‘on the fence’ so to speak, have ten days, until the Day of Atonement, to repent and get their name added to the Book of Life. For this reason Rosh Hashana is a day to reflect and examine your past deeds and motivations, and if necessary, repent wholeheartedly. (Remember: This is not Biblical, but instead belief that has arisen surrounding this holiday.)

Many traditions have also arisen to help celebrate this holiday. One is to visit a stream, or river and empty your pocket lint into it, indicating that you wish to start the new year ‘clean.’ Small children will fill their pockets with pebbles along the way, and they will skip or throw them into the stream for entertainment.

Another tradition is the eating of apples with honey, signifying a wish to have a sweet new year.

Many Biblical events are also said to have happened on this day. They include:

-The first day of creation

-The (almost) sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham

-The giving of the Law from God to Moses at Mount Sinai

-The day the daily offerings resumed at the Temple during the time of Ezra

-The day the heads of the households gathered to study the Torah in Nehemiah

So how is a Christian to celebrate this holiday?

Any way you want to! (with reverence, of course)

Most Christians do not celebrate the Jewish holidays at all, since they were unique to the country of Israel, and cannot be celebrated as the Bible ordains without a working Temple. (This is why the Jewish people today celebrate Rosh Hashana and not the Feast of Trumpets on this day. They are technically not the same.)

Some Christians do celebrate the Jewish holidays, and there are many web pages (both Jewish, Messianic and Christian) filled with ideas about how to incorporate teachings about this holiday into your life.

Here are some things to remember:

Each holiday begins at sundown. Why? Because during the creation account in Genesis a day is described as being from evening to morning, so the Jewish people begin their days at sundown. (Meaning that any day of fasting ends at sundown and does not involve you going to bed starving!)

Like most holidays Rosh Hashana includes food and fellowship. Apples and honey are the traditional foods for this holiday, but there are many other tasty recipes you may wish to try as well.

Setting aside a time to reflect on your behavior, and what motivates that behavior is also an important part of this holiday. Pray to God and ask Him to show you where you could improve this year. You may wish to write down what you wish to change in a journal, and read it next year, or burn it as an indication that you are done with this type of behavior. If the behavior is significant, this may be the time to discuss it with people close to you and ask them to hold you accountable when you fall into patterns of behavior you wish to change. Pray for God to give you the wisdom and the strength to make these necessary changes as well.

You may also wish to take a walk to a stream and empty your pockets of lint as a reminder that, as of today, you wish to make a fresh start. A picnic by the stream, with the children skipping rocks in the stiller areas may also be enjoyable.

But whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. This is a time to reflect and remember that God forgives us when we repent.

I hope this helps you to understand this wonderful holiday!

Shalom! (Peace),

Judy Barrett

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