Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hanukkah: Fifth Candle

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given us holidays, customs, and times of happiness, to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our spiritual fathers in those days at this season.

As we light the fifth candle we remember that Messiah Jesus---Yeshua--- is the greatest light of all:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

(John 1: 4-5)

As Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem watching the illuminating (Hanukkah) lights, He declared:

I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8: 12)

Aged Simeon was promised by the Lord that he would not die until he saw Israel's Messiah. When Simeon finally saw Jesus as an infant in the Temple, he knew this One was the light of Israel and all the nations of the world.

Simeon then declared:

"My eyes have seen Your Salvation, (in Hebrew: YESHUA, in English: JESUS) which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a LIGHT of revelation to the gentiles, and the GLORY of Your people Israel." (Luke 2:30-32)

"For it is God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (II Corinthians 4:6)

Last night Bernie and I went for a walk around our neighborhood after we burned our Hanukkah candles in our window.

It was a warm evening, and we felt we needed to just take a bit of a stretch after our long day.

Our neighborhood is quite festive right now.

There are Christmas lights everywhere!

On our walk we saw the following things in lights:





Santa Claus

Wooden soldiers

Gingerbread houses


More trees

Gingerbread men

Micky and Minnie Mouse


Various stars



Dogs (Snoopy, a Dalmatian and Goofy specifically)

Snow men

Candy canes



Ice skaters

Choo choo trains

....and yes, several manger scenes, one of which had a unique breed of tiny camel present in the manger.

The camel was smaller than the baby Jesus.

I wondered if the small breed of camel would still be likely to spit.

Bernie and I imagined walking through our neighborhood with a child, perhaps a grandchild, or an adult from another culture; walking and admiring the pretty lights together.

Bernie and I marvelled at how much work, time and money went into creating these displays. We thought about the people, mostly factory workers in China, that created them for the American market.

The soft glow of our Hanukkah candles certainly were no match for these bright and showy exhibitions of....what?

What story were they telling?

Or perhaps what story did they drown out?

What message did they send?

What about them could possibly cause me to remember my Savior, and The Light of the World.

Did they speak of the Miracles of God?

Did they in any way build up a holy faith in God to deliver His Salvation to rescue us from evil, from the ruthless, from those who would seek my destruction because of my faith?

Today I thought about what it means to Bernie and me to light Hanukkah candles each night.

What it meant to us as a family to light candles each night for eight nights (and yes...we didn't always manage to light candles each night as life got busy...) while the children were growing.

One thing was certain though: It never took much work, time or money to light our simple candles. No fret, no fuss. We even took the tiniest of our three Hanankiahs with us when we traveled.

We lit Advent candles on Sunday night as well for awhile, but I gave up on that after noting that we "shared" in Advent candle lighting each Sunday morning; repeating it at home that evening seemed rather redundant to me.

Advent was/is a 24 day long thought/meditation about the coming of the Christ child.

Hanukkah was/is an eight day half hour break of simplicity and joy to meditate on God's provision from Creation to the New Creation, from the First Day until the Eighth Day, and how the Light of Salvation was there, is there, in all of it.

(By the way: I do think Christmas lights are pretty and fun. And we are looking forward to seeing this amazing Christmas light show again when we head up to Jeff's for Christmas. Newspapers and news shows the world over have covered it heavily.We think it is an electronic wonder. I just wonder how it can possibly be said to relate to the birth of Jesus? Since it calls itself "Christmas"?)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hanukkah: Fourth Candle

Blessed art Thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us holidays, customs and times of happiness to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.

Blessed art Thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our spiritual fathers in those days at this season.

Psalm 119:105 and Psalm 119:139 describe the light that comes from God's Word:
Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
The unfolding of Your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.

Oh how much I long to always understand.
I know many things, but there are only a few things that I truly understand.

That was how I felt when I began to study the politics and history of the time of the Re-Dedication of the temple. There is so much to know, and I felt like I was understanding less as I studied it historically.
You've probably heard the saying: The more I know, the less I understand?

That was me as I started reseaching

I decided to simplied as much as possible, to align myself with the scripture of "understanding to the simple":

An elderly priest named Matthais Maccabee killed a Jew who had been Hellenized, (had aligned himself with the Greek culture)who came to offer a sacrafice to a Greek idol in the temple in Maccabee's place.
Matthias Maccabee and his five sons fled to Judea afterwards.
Matthias died; his son Judah lead a revolt using gurilla warfare against the Greek based Seleucid Empire.
At first the revolt went badly; a thousand Jews were slaughtered after they began to wage war, yet refused to battle on the Sabbath.

Later there was success. Although the Jews were out numbered four to one, later the Jews were able to re-enter Jerusalem and cleansed the temple in the year 165.

I've researched (surprise!) and really liked this particular recitation of the facts as copied below.

(Of course if you have an Kings James Bible, you may also have the two books of The Maccabbees already at your finger tips. Yes, within the Word of God, up until 1885 the story of the Maccabees was part of the Bible, as part of the Appocrapha. The two books of Maccabee were removed when the Bible was re-translated and re-issued as The Revised
Standard Version. I am curious why they were deleted after all those years of being included. I wonder if a century from now additional books might be removed.)

I like this write up below because it provides a wider view of the events that lead to Hanukkah:

It was not just a war against the Greeks, it is also a civil war - Jews, who were loyal to Judaism, fighting other Jews, who had become Hellenized and who were siding with the Greeks.
The year is 167 BCE and the horrible persecution of Judaism by the Greeks is in full swing. The Greek troops show up in the town of Modi'in (a site west of Jerusalem which you can visit today off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway) and demand that the Jews there sacrifice a pig to the Greek gods. The elder of the town, Mattathias, who is a cohen, (that is of the priestly class), refuses.

One Hellenized Jew is willing to do what is unspeakable in Jewish eyes -- sacrifice a pig.
As he's about to sacrifice the pig, Mattathias stabs him, also killing the Greek official present.
He then turns to the crowd and announces: "Follow me, all of you who are for God's law and stand by the covenant." (1 Maccabees 2:27)

Those who join Mattathias and his five sons - named Judah, Elazar, Yohanan, Yonaton and Shimon - head for the hills, expecting that the Greeks are going to come back and wipe out the whole village as a reprisal. In the hills, they organize a guerilla army, led primarily by the oldest of the sons named Judah, nicknamed Maccabee, which means "the Hammer." Maccabee is also an acronym for mi komocho ba'alim Hashem, "who is like you among the powers O God," - the battle cry of the Jewish people.

We don't know exactly how large this Maccabee army was, but even the most optimistic estimates put the number at no more than 12,000 men. This tiny force takes on the fighting Greek army of up to 40,000 men.

It's not just a numerical superiority the Greeks have. The Greeks are professional soldiers - they have equipment, they have training, and they have a herd of war elephants, which were the tanks of the ancient world. The Jews are vastly outnumbered, poorly trained, and poorly equipped (not to mention, they have no elephants), but what they lack in training and equipment they make up in spirit.

Most of the battles take place in the foothills leading from the coastal plain area (Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem. The Greeks are trying to march their armies up the natural canyons that lead into the mountain areas, the stronghold of the Jewish army. There's only a few places where the Greeks can ascend and this is where the Maccabees choose to take them on.

Now when we read the story of the Maccabees it seems like it's something that takes place over a few weeks - the battles take place, the Jews win, and the Greeks go home. But, in fact, it takes 25 years of fighting and a great many casualties on both sides.

After the first three years, the Jews are able re-conquer Jerusalem. They find the Temple defiled and turned into a pagan sanctuary, where pigs are sacrificed on the altar.
When they re-enter the Temple, the first thing they do is try to light a make-shift menorah (as the real gold one had been melted down by the Greeks) but only one vial of pure lamp oil with the special seal is discovered. They use this vial to light the menorah and miraculously it stays lit for eight days, by which time fresh pure oil has been pressed and delivered to the Temple.
The Maccabees then purify the Temple and rededicate it on the 25th of Kislev, which is the date on the Hebrew calendar when we begin to celebrate the eight days of Chanukah. (The Hebrew word Chanukah means "dedication" or "inauguration.")

Chanukah - one of two holidays added to the Jewish calendar by the rabbis - celebrates two kinds of miracles: 1) the military victory of the vastly outnumbered Jews against the Greeks; and 2) the spiritual victory of Jewish values over those of the Greek. It is this spiritual victory which is symbolized by the lights of Chanukah.

The rededication of the Temple does not end the fight however. Unfortunately, some of the Hellenized Jews are not happy that the Maccabees took over Jerusalem, and they join forces with the Greeks and the fight continues.
It's not until 142 BCE, during the reign of Seleucid monarch Demitrius, that the Greeks finally have enough of the fighting and sign a peace treaty with Simon, the last survivor of the five sons of Mattathias.
In [that] year, Israel was released from the gentile yoke; the people began to write on their contracts and agreements: "In the first year of Simon, the great High Priest, general and leader of the Jews." (1 Maccabees 13:41-42)
Thus Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is officially restored.

THE REIGN OF THE HASMONEANS (Decendents of Matthias Maccabee)
As noted above, Mattathias was a cohen, and so it is not surprising that his son, Simon, should become High Priest. But Simon also takes on himself the title of nasi meaning "prince/president/leader." He did not call himself king because he knew full well that a Jewish king could only come from the line of David.
(The line of David - the line of kings - comes from the tribe of Judah, whereas the line of the cohanim, the priests, comes from the tribe of Levi, as per the blessing of Jacob on his twelve sons, the twelve tribes of Israel.)
The Hasmoneans should not have been kings in the first place and they became corrupted by power.
This is a bad choice on the part of Simon because his descendants do not respect this distinction. They start a new ruling dynasty in Israel - the Hasmonean dynasty - which lasts for 103 years and which is marked by a terrible moral and religious decline. They should not have been kings in the first place and then they became corrupted by their own power.
The next ruler is Yochanan Hyrcanus, and we can see from his name the Greek influence that is creeping in -- the Hasmoneans are becoming Hellenized. This is a terrible tragedy since their ancestors had given their lives to throw off the yoke of Hellenism.
Among his many errors, Yochanan Hyrcanus does a terrible anti-Jewish thing. As part of his effort to expand the borders of Israel, he forcibly converts the newly conquered peoples. This is something Judaism has never done before nor since -- Jews discourage converts rather than the other way around.
One of the peoples that are forcibly converted at this time are the Idumeans. And this error costs the Jews dearly.
One of the Idumean families that is forcibly converted will become very significant for its role in the drama some years later when the Romans invade. A descendant of this family - Herod - will be appointed Jewish king and he will be a schizophrenic ruler. He will murder the High Priest, 45 members of the Jewish Supreme Court as well as most of his own family, but he will also embark on a series of fantastic building projects that will include the city of Caesarea, the fortress at Masada, and a total re-building of the Temple. As we will see, Herod (who is only nominally Jewish) will have a very schizophrenic relationship with the Jews.
The son of Yochananon Hyracanus, Alexander Yanai, is a classic case of Hasmonean ruler gone totally off. He is completely Hellenized and siding with the Sadducees (the Jews who only follow the Written Torah, making up their own interpretations) against the Pharisees (the mainstream Jews).
When some of the Pharisees oppose him, he has 800 of them executed after first forcing them to watch the slaughter of their families. During the executions, Alexander Yannai hosts a Greek-style feast.
Alexander Yannai has 800 of his opponents executed after first slaughtering their families in front of them.
This is a classic case of one of the great tragic families starting off so illustriously and ending so disastrously, bringing the Jewish people to ruin.
The last two Hasmonean rulers are two brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobolus, both of whom are totally Hellenized. Hyrcanus is the weaker of the two but he has a strong advisor by the name of Antipater, a descendant of Idumean converts to Judaism (who just happens to have a baby boy named Herod).
The brothers are fighting with each other as to who should be king. The obvious answer is neither. But tell that to morally corrupt, power hungry men. They hit on the idea of asking Rome to mediate in their dispute.
Inviting the Romans in is not like inviting a multi-national peace-keeping force or international mediation team. We're talking about people with an incredible energy to conquer and gain all the territory they can.
The year is 63 BCE and the great Roman general Pompeii is cleaning up the last of the Greek Empire. He is more than happy to oblige and move his armies into Israel.


With this passage above, it is possible to understand more of the situation into which our Messiah Jesus was born.

Why Herod was who he was.

Why the Romans were in Israel.

At last I am understanding more of story of the birth of Jesus. And why so many political leaders are mentioned in the passages concerning His birth.

Hanukkah: Third Candle

Blessed art Thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us holidays, customs and times of happiness, to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.

Blessed art Thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season.

King David reminds us that God Himself is the source of our own individual light:

The Lord is my light and my Salvation (Yeshua: Jesus); whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? (Psalm 27:1)
For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness. (Psalm 18:28)

Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication; is primarily celebrated by candle lighting and prayer.
It is also, like many of the Jewish festivals, a mini re-enactment of a time in Jewish history.
A recounting of a time when the coming of Jesus was almost destroyed.

As I have mentioned before, Hanukkah celebrates a miracle.
To re-cap the setting of this particular miracle: During the Greek reign (during the 400 years between the writing of the Old and New Testaments), the Jewish people were forced to curtail their ways of worshipping God.

Reading God's Words, worshipping God, and praying to God were all outlawed.
The Scriptures were destroyed.
Jewish people were being slaughtered for being observant Jews.
Even keeping God's command to circumsize their baby boys resulted in the Greeks killing the baby and flaying, or skinning the parents to death.

The final blow came when the Greeks entered the Temple, looted it of its treasures and then desecrated it.
They brought in a sow, which the Bible said was unclean, and slaughtered it on the temple's alter.
Then the Greeks put up a statue of their god Zeus in the temple, and sprinkled it with the pig's blood.
They forced the Priest to drink the blood, and to eat the flesh of the unclean sow.
(Does "eat the flesh and drink the blood" remind Christian readers of anything?)

The Jewish people had tried to "blend in" and not raise a ruckus up to that point.
But after that, enough was enough.
The affronts were no longer to the Jews as individuals, or as a people.
The Greeks had now trashed God.

With an unclean and inaccessible temple, the Jews no longer had an alter upon which to offer their own sacrifices, pure and without blemish sacrificial lambs, among other sacrifices.

Without being able to offer sacrifices for their sins, they would have no way to reconcil with their God, according to the Laws of God that they carefully followed.

The Lamb of God, Jesus, had yet to be born at this time.

Had the Greeks been successful in wiping out the Jewish people, I would not have The Sacrifice needed to reconcil me to God either.

Here is why: The Greeks were not only making the temple's alter unaccessable, they were also systematically attempting to slaughter ALL the Jews.

Had they been successful, the lineage of Jesus would have been destroyed.

We would not have a Christmas to celebrate; without a pure blooded Jewish woman, the Messiah could never have been born, could never have been born and fulfilled the prophesy that HE would come from the lineage of David.

(I always shiver when I think of this: How Satan attempted all through the Bible to end the Jewish race, knowing the prophesy of Satan's ultimate defeat would come through Jewish blood. As I light the candles, I celebrate a victory over more than visual darkness; I celebrate a victory over spiritual darkness as well.)

As we light the third candle, we think about the three temples that the Bible speaks of.
How Daniel, and Jesus speak of them being destroyed.
How we watch for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, the third rebuilding, knowing with its rebuilding will come another destroyer, when the Anti-Christ will seat himself upon the throne there just before Jesus returns to earth.

Tomorrow I will explain more of how the battle was mounted against the Greeks by an old Jewish priest and his five sons and a bit more about the meaning of the lighted candles.
(I had a thought: If you wish to begin lighting candles in your own home, you shouldn't have to wait for me to post the progression. I am using a sedar or order of events, from this site. Feel free to light your own candles at your own timing if you wish.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

News from the front: The continuing battle against ignorance

Here's how my work day is going:

I show up at work at 3.
Ask my fellow librarian how many ways can Hanukkah be spelled, officially, in the English language.
(A good reference question, don't you think?)
Virginia snorts, and says 16.
O. says that's crazy, and that she can think of at least two ways, no wait, three ways.
So I say: Final answers?
O: 3
Virginia: 16

Correct answer: 17
(Hebrew has no vowels, so the English has to kind of guess at how it should be spelled.)

Virginia says she didn't even think about it, just took a number out of her head.
Yup, Virginia IS a really good reference librarian.

I head downstairs to see my Christmas Church mouse collection which is being loaned out and is now on displayed in a locked case.
Apparently the mice are a huge hit with everyone passing by.
O. informs me that when they set up the display they put the bride and groom mouse being "married" by a church mouse and the rabbi mouse, just like it was at our wedding.

I tell O. we weren't married by a rabbi.
She says she thought B. was Jewish.
I tell her no, he was raised Mormon.
Now she is totally confuse.
I explained we studied under a rabbi.
She says the display is still cute, and very ecumenical.
Yup, 'tis.

I report to the reference desk.
First question: "I need to write a paper about the writer's strike out in LA. I know there are not any books written about it yet, but I need to use two books about it to write my paper. Could you help me find two books about it?"

Me: (Trying to look friendly instead of totally in a state of disbelief) Well, as you noted, there aren't any books written about this, at least yet, so pretty much there aren't any books on the topic.

Guy: Oh.

Me: I could maybe help you find an article about it...but you said you need two books.

Guy: Yeah, I need two books.

Me: I could find books on 1. Screen play writing or 2. Strikes in history. Would that help you?
Which one would you prefer?

Guy: I don't understand.

Me: (Raising both hand up to my sides, and looking at my right hand first) Well, you could:
ONE either look at books about writing for television,
and then *maybe* you could figure something out from that book that you could use,
OR (waving second hand, thinking maybe the guy was a visual learner)
TWO you could read about historical strikes and maybe find a way to discuss how strikes have changed things historically.

Guy: Yeah maybe.

Me: Which one?

Guy: The writer one.

(We have a long conversation about the fact that these books WILL NOT be about the writer's strike. He informs me his paper has to be about a controversial topic. I tell him to think about something easier. He says maybe stem cells. I show him books. He looks puzzled. I tell him to think his topic over and get back to me. He leaves.)

Next I have to walk around the library and count how many people we have in the library.
As I head way back to the back corner, I find a student has moved a desk into a little area by the fire door, and he is stretched out on the floor, on his back, asleep in the sun streaming in through the window.

I wake him up and explain that I *have to* wake people sleeping on their back on our floor to make sure they are not dead, because if they are dead we have to bury them.
He informs me he is not dead, and closes his eyes again.

Works for me.

I head back to Reference desk. Inform fellow librarian K. about Mr. Nappy Time.

K. is worried that he is blocking the emergency fire door. The fire department would be unhappy about this.

I suggest we call the fire department.
(Cuz you guys...cute....always worth a look.)

K. tells me the fire department here is volunteer, and volunteer fire fighters aren't as cute as the real ones.

We decide it wouldn't be worth calling them.

Still at reference desk, I am informed my co-librarian Hope is out sick and I will be flying reference solo tonight. That is fine with me. I can do my usual research, spelled r-e-a-d-i-n-g b-l-o-g-s, and e-b-a-y to make the time go by.

I also have to buy several thousand dollars worth of DVD and videos.
Shopping for movies: that's what they pay me for.
Did you know you can buy Jane Eyre as a CLIFF'S NOTES dvd????

Next O. come up to me at the desk. She wants me to know there has been a guy on the second floor, with a mohawk under a hair net, who has been rather agitated, and trying to lure the staff to go places to find his papers, or cell phone or comb...and that they have called the police.

Mr. Mohawk Hairnet has either left or is still here. Hard to tell. Around age 40, maybe Hispanic. Has tattoos. Be aware.

Oh, and he has been added to the list of people to watch out for, along with the foot fetish guy that visited our library twice. And the guy who pats people too.

I am to feel free to call the police if I feel uncomfortable.
And Daniel is working downstairs, he will be watching as well.
(So is Daniel willing to take the guy out if he is a problem and the cops can't get here???)

OK that one.

Decide to call Bernie, maybe he would like to hang out in the library with me tonight.
He doesn't answer.
Go to the back to comb my hair, put on some more lipstick, and grab a piece of taffy.
I notice the huge kitchen knife that I brought to the library with me on Tuesday, along with a loaf of home made persimmon bread.
Bread is gone, the knife is clean and waiting.
Hmmm...should I take it out to ref desk?
Just in case?


At desk: Spin dreidel. Teach others how to play dreidel.
I have my little chanakiah here, and I brought jelly belly beans to play for.
The other librarian have poured the beans around the chanakiah, so now it looks like the Easter bunny has dropped by for Hanukkah.

Watch various Hanukkah videos on Youtube.
Really like this one.

So far so good. Two and a half hours to go.

(Last week a guy called wanting a book about how the United States has banned cell phones.
I told him that since the United States actually hasn't banned cell phone, there were not any books written on that subject.
He then explained that he actually needed two books about it.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hanukkah Candles: Second Night

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us holidays, customs and times of happiness, to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season.

Exodus 13:21-22 reveals that God is the source of Israel's light:

And the LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, not the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Tonight I was blessed; Bernie was able to catch an earlier flight home, so he was here with me to light the candles.
It felt good to be together, and just as he lit the candles Laura called. We put the cell phone on the table, and on speaker phone, and three of us talk and enjoyed being together.

As we read about the way God helped the Israelites as they traveled, providing light for them in day and night, I thought about my husband who travels a lot, on business and my daughter who travels to various cities as a nurse.
I am always thankful that I can call upon God to be with them and sustain them while they travel.
It isn't always easy for them. A lot of times Laura isn't sure where she is going to be assigned next; sometimes Bernie isn't sure what the flight schedules will be like.
I guess I can say we can relate a bit about needing to be lead as they travel.

While we talked with Laura, Bernie and I spun dreidles.
Those are the little tops beside the Chanakkiah (candle holder)
In case you don't know why driedels come into the Hanukkah story:
While the Jewish people lived amongst the Greeks, the Greeks insisted that they stop worshipping, studying Torah (God's Word) and praying together.
Jewish law requires that ten Jewish men (minyan) be gathered when certain prayers are to be present to God. Jewis
(I like this: Imagine how strong the fellowship of Christian men would be if they had to find nine other men every time prayer was needed. Imagine Christian men in airports and businesses calling out: Hey, we have a prayer need, I don't know you, but will you be willing to stop a minute and pray? The Jewish men still do this; you can sometimes see it happening in airports.)
Anyway, because the Greeks outlawed prayer, the Jewish men knew that the Greeks would accept the explanation of their gatherings as getting together to bet on spinning tops.
Gambling was a very acceptable past time.
A simple top could be kept in a pocket, if they were gathered to pray, and someone approached them, wham out would come a driedel top, and it would be spun, giving their pray time a cover.
The dreidels make me think: If I was not allowed to pray with my friends in public, what could I do to get around it?
Yes, I know I (we) could pray silently.
But why should we not pray aloud to our God when we are together?
I don't have much of an answer for this question. But I am thinking about it.

And spinning dreidels, enjoying light, and enjoying being with my family.
(And for the record: Hart had a blast with the dreidel too. He shot one way under the couch. I'm going to have to pull the couch out to get the dreidel back. That will requrie me to get down on my knees.
Hey, maybe that is the answer: We could all have cats, and when we are on our knees praying, and someone asks, we could pull out a dreidel and say the cat shot it under *whatever* and we were just getting it back!)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

First Candle

I think about light always wins over darkness.

A single candle can light a room, yet no amount of darkness can make the candle light invisible.

No amount of darkness in the world can ever blot out the one who declared "I am the light of the world."

This is a quote from an article in the local paper that I posted on my blog last year.
I still think it is interesting to think about:
"On the first day of Creation, God created light.
It's a special or "hidden" light that only lasted 36 hours.
During Hanukkah, every Jew has a way to tap into the hidden and special light.
At the end of the eight-day holiday, the candles have been lit 36 times."
That was the quote.
Bernie and I had to get out our Bible to figure this out.
At first we thought three days of creation before the sun and moon were made to make light as we know it.
But that added up to too many hours.
But then we re-read the story of Creation.
Indeed there was dark and light, evening and morning, so that would make the math right...three twelve hour portions of light that was present before the creation of the sun.
Interesting. I had never noticed that before!
The Light of the World was present even before the sun was created.
And in heaven, the Bible says, no sun will be needed any longer, for HE will be our light

First night

Right after sundown tonight I will be lighting two candles.
Before I begin, I will say a prayer:

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us holidays, customs and times of happiness, to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.

Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our spiritual fathers long ago in this season.

Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life and sustained us, and permitted us to reach this season again.

The first candle I light, the middle one, will be lit with a match.
It will become The Servant candle, and will be used to light the candle on the end of the candle holder.
As I light The Servant (The Shemash candle as it is said in Hebrew) I will recite the following:

Messiah Yeshua stated in Mark 10:44-45:

"Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many."

Then I will use The Servant candle to light the first candle of Hanukkah, saying:

Genesis 1: 3-4 describes the creation of the first light.

"God said: Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

With that, I will sit, and take pleasure in the light, not using the light to illuminate any work that I might do, but rather to enjoy and remember God and his marvelous creation.
While the candles are glowing, I will recall a time in history when God's people faced the desecration of all that they cherished: their ways and their worship of the One True God.
I will think about how at one time people of faith tried to bend to conform and fit in with the pagan's culture, right up to the moment when the godless (or actually, multi-pagan god worshippers) came into their Temple and tried to destroy it, and covered it with the filth of their pagan ways.

I will ponder and pray about my own time and my own people, all those who also call upon the name of Yeshua for salvation, those who worship the One True God.
I will ponder and pray that we all might be strengthened to stand against the evil of our days, and be willing to stand and fight against those who would seek to desecrate our ways of faith and worship.

For the next eight days I will be posting my thoughts and my prayers as I once again follow Jesus' example in John 10:22, where it was winter, and Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Dedication, which is the true name of Hanukkah. I'll be explaining about why Bernie and I light the candles, and why this time has meaning to us as Christians.

Feel welcome to join me if you wish. Or look into my cyberwindow to enjoy the candles; Jewish law suggests that the candles be lit and placed in a window so that all that pass by will see, and remember the deeds of our Mighty God Who Saves. I will be blessed knowing you saw my Hanukkah candles through this most modern of windows.

(PS: The name Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua, and Yeshua is how you say Salvation in Hebrew. For an added blessing, go look for the word Salvation in any Biblical concordance. Then read the Old Testament passages that are translated "salvation", only this time use the word Jesus instead. I think you will be blessed and have a whole new way of feeling every time you read the word salvation in scripture.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday Surprises, Songs, and a Kitty Savior.

So on Sunday morning I head into the sun room and WHAM....right out the window I saw this:

When did that Crepe Myrtle next door turn orange????

I mean, I go in the sun room EVERY day; how could it have turned color that fast?

I went outside to take a better look, and also to check out the bricks. Bernie had been out earlier, and had said it was so warm and humid outside that the bricks on the ground were sweating.

He was right, see for yourself. That ain't rain there folks, that is humidity.

75 degrees R (around 24 C), 79% humidity.

I thought if I had missed seeing that tree change, maybe I had better go for a walk around the neighborhood and see what else had changed.
Maybe even knock on a few neighbor's doors and sing Autumnal Carols.

It's beginning to look a lot like autumn
Everywhere I go...
The leaf that once was green
Is waiting to be seen,
It's turned a most lovely shade of orange....
Falling leave, falling leaves, falling all the way
Oh what fun it is to walk through the leafy mulch today-eh?
Dashing through the leaves
Seeing colors bright
Oh what fun I'm having here taking pictures left and right!

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves

It's still bright Autumn here in Texas

See them all

Watch them fall

Soon it will be time to rake.

Most of the houses on our street have at least one crepe myrtle tree out front.
The crepe myrtle are completely covered in either white, lavender, fuchsia or pink blossoms during the last summer.
But when their leaves turn color in fall, well, that's a pretty spectacular show too.
I don't know the name of this tree, but I love the pure yellow tones of the leaves.
This is a Chinese tallow tree. It turns every autumnal color possible.

While I'm walking around, I see this tow truck/Triple A service truck come around the corner, then it makes a U turn, clearly lost.

But check out the windshield....

How cool is this???
Of course I have to know what the story is.

The driver said he was on 45 this morning, (a SUPER busy freeway, major artery for Houston) when he saw this little cat. So he managed to stop and get her, and she's been riding around with him all day.

He's going to take her home to his kids, and let them name her.

I would have taken that little calico off his hands in a second, but it was clear they were already bonded.

Doesn't that story just make your day?
The forest on one side of the road where I talked with the service truck driver....

And the banana and palm tree forest on the other side of the street.

Even the banana tree is changing into fall colors.
(Yeah, I hear you people stuck in freezing weather and snow. Enjoy your winter! I still don't get why you got started on it so soon. How long will it be until you have spring again?)

The tropical trumpet flowers are gorgeous out front of one house.

And there are cardinals EVERYWHERE! I so want to get a zoom close up of them.
Instead I always just catch a little red spot in the middle of the green.

The cardinals sure do look pretty flying around the Bradford pear trees that are just starting to turn red.
At this point in the walk it started raining so I headed home. Home, by the way, is the double roof just past the yellow tree in the picture above.
I am so glad I took that little walk.
It made me feel happy the rest of the day.
Deck the lawns with piles of bright leaves
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Tis the season the snow bound get teased
Fa la la la la, lala lah la.
Don we now our shorts and tee shirts
Fa la la la, lalalala, la la la.
Tho' it's hot here, we don't miss long winters
Fa la la la la, la la la la la.
(Hey, put down that snow ball! I was just kidding! Really!)