The Heart of the Shema

It has been a very rough week. I’ve been fighting some internal and external battles.  I was tempted to skip Shabbat services but I knew that I couldn’t because going always lifts my spirits and puts me in a much better mood; no matter what has gone on the previous week and it helps me get mentally prepared for the next week ahead.

You know how it is. Every congregation has a few members who are ecstatic about G-d and sing as loud as they please but, unfortunately, being in the right key signature is something that is a minor thing for them to keep in mind.

When it is time to chant the Shema, traditionally entire congregation faces east (the direction of Israel), and sings the prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4-7). The basics of the Shema is 1) Love G-d and 2) Love people. It does not matter what synagogue you attend, there is always that ONE person who sings the prayer loudly but pitch wise is just a tad off. At Shabbat, it made me think about those who do this. Just like how there is something missing for those who are not on pitch when singing, sometimes we get into the motions of the Christian life, but forget about Yeshua. Almost all of G-d’s followers are guilty of this at some time or another. It can be easy to attend church, listen to Christian radio stations, feed the hungry, and teach Shabbat school without remembering the real reason why you do it. When you do this it’s just like being the one person who sings the Shema using completely different notes. We are doing the right things to be a good Christian, but without having a personal relationship with Christ.

I encourage all to put a Mezuzah on the doorpost of their house, the way it instructs us to in the prayer. Traditionally, a Mezuzah has the Shema in it and is to be touched every time you pass it, to remind you to love G-d and love people. Having one on the door post of your house is wonderful reminder

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to go and do just that.

Shabbat Shalom. Love G-d and love people but don’t just live through the motions.

Life is About Collecting Memories, Not Collecting Things

Blessed one word to describe my life. Yes, I have had hard times, times of trials, and times of hardship, but those whom G-d has placed in my life has always been a blessing to me. Because my parents chose to home school me in elementary school I have had hundreds of experiences that my peers now have never had the opportunity to do. Lots of art classes, attending jazz concerts during the typical lunch hour, dissecting a shark, cows heart, fetal pig, and part of a cat just to name a few memories that I have made.

I am in denial that I am approaching the last season of high school; over the past several days I have reflected on some of the good memories. The more I reflect on some of the best memories I have are the memories that were made when I was experiencing new things, not sitting at home and watching T.V. (or the mind sucking box as I call it). The days of volunteering with HUMANA, harvesting grapes at the local winery, and cleaning the building at a local dog show are what I will cherish throughout my life times.

As a culture, especially around Chanukah or Christmas, most in America are consumed with not necessarily the “reason for the season” but with “getting” gifts.” Yes, it is cool to get the latest iPad, but when you are on your death-bed what will you want to remember – all of the fun things you did or days spent on ending playing on your iPad? Just a few thoughts for your Tuesday.

I encourage you to think about this and ways in your personal life you have focused more on items that can be broken, rather than memories that can never leave the heart.

Be Somebody Who Makes Everybody Feel Like a Somebody

Realationships with others is one of several things that keeps me going. There are few things that I love more than meeting new people and getting to know their story. Often times I embarrass my older sister because I tend to start conversations with others that I have never talked to when I am in the most random places (the mall, Starbucks, farmer’s market, art shows, etc.).

My natural inclination towards others is the following, “If I see someone who looks lonely or down, I want to go talk to them so they aren’t sitting alone anymore!” — or at least something like that.
Just last week I was at a book store a few hours after the Sabbath ended and there was a Jewish male (I could tell immediately because he was wearing a kippah and tallits) and I desperately wanted to strike a conversation with him and ask him if he goes to a synagogue and if he didn’t I wanted to politely invite him to my family’s *messianic* synagogue. But I didn’t want to scare him off so this time I let the poor man peacefully shop at the book store…this time.

If you read the title of this article, you know where I am going with this. Someone who is very special in my life is the one who inspired this blog post. A elderly man in my life is a perfect example of making everybody he meets feel like a somebody.

I watch him interact with those who go to his church. He cannot hear the sermon when the paster is preaching; some would say just to stay at home and watch a sermon on television and turn it up so that he can hear it but he still goes to church mainly to interact with his congregation.

I have never attended a Sunday church for longer than a couple of weeks at a time but I have found that many churches have a brief social time between Sunday school and the worship service. Usually during this time they serve coffee or refreshments. At this time, the elderly man whom I look up to and love dearly uses it to minister to others by making them feel special. He knows almost everyone by first name and gives many of them a genuine hug. At least when I’ve visited he’s usually one of the last to walk into the sanctuary because he is busy building relationships with those in his church. This gentleman makes many feel like he is their grandfather or child because he is amazing at making others around him feel special. Everyone at the church knows him, and knows him by his genuine love for others.

I strive to emulate this characteristic but often times I fail. G-d is still working on me in this way, but I encourage all to try to emulate this characteristic as well. I say this because others will not always remember you for having the coolest car, wearing the latest style, the trophies you brought home, or the promotion you got last week at work. Those around you will remember you by the personality you have. If you are snobby to others and are only concerned about youself that’s how they will remember you. If you love others, the way G-d has commanded all who follow Him to do, you will make a greater impact on their lives than you could even imagine.

Everyone around you is looking for a place to belong — help them find that place. I love you so much, Grandpa.

Beauty is Not Defined By Size; Young Girls Need To Be Taught This

Eight – the age she became obsessed with everything that she ate.

Nine – her friends were playing with yo-yo toys, but she was messing with yo-yo diets.

Ten – all she wants is to fit in; she used a combination of diet pills with exercise drills.

Eleven – all she sees is her so-called bigger built for that is why she puts on extra guilt.

Twelve – she puts herself under a spell.

Thirteen – boys are starting to look at her friends like crazy. She weighs 110; she tells herself if she “gets thin” she will get the boys and she will win.

Fourteen – her body fat is finally becoming the minority, but her eating disorder is slowly taking over as seniority. She starves herself for days; her parents see it only as a phase.

Fifteen – her E.D. is finally king; she channels her pain this way because her emotions have gone away.

Sixteen – was the last birthday she would ever see. Now, her self-hatred became king. She no longer had the chance to put on a wedding ring or fly free.

Because shortly after she turned sixteen…

She left a note on her bed telling them that she is drowning.

Drowning in the tub for she suffered from lack of self-worth and seeing G-ds eternal love.

~Lama Leah

This poem turned out darker than I thought that it would go when I started writing it. When I wrote it, it was eight in the morning I hadn’t slept at all that night. The sun was rising and I was still laying in bed and G-d put the first stanza in my head. I pulled out my beloved poetry notebook and started writing. I didn’t know how it was going to end, but the L-rd placed all of the rhythms and rhymes in my head to for me to put in a poem.

Personally, I am scared for this generation of young women. Girls who are already small in size are worried about having a thigh gap or a flat stomach or whatever it is because the media is constantly showing ladies what the “ideal woman” looks like through social media, television, movies, and magazines.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I have heard devotionals or older Christian women tell me something that goes like, “Beauty is in the heart…” yes it is. I have personally found out that the most beautiful women are precious ladies because of what is their heart, but when young girls are told this, in a way, the issue is being ignored about women who struggle seeing themselves in a positive matter because of their size whether they are a size two or a size twelve.

In this day and age the pretty girls have to be tall, skinny, and beautiful because they wear makeup that makes them look naturally beautiful. This is a lie because women come in all shapes and sizes and in many cases — this is impossible! In my poem, the girl thinks that she is bigger boned because she weighs 110 pounds. I made a point to put this in there because women themselves are their own worse enemy. Young girls need to be taught that beauty is not defined by size because every women’s body is different and one size/bone structure cannot be deemed more valuable than another. It is important that older women tell the younger ones this because just like the girl in my poem she saw herself as not having a good enough body type from a young age and it developed into a serious eating disorder as the years passed. Many young women have similar stories and I won’t let the generation behind me follow that thought pattern.

Story Time by Lama-Leah. “The Rose Among Wildflowers”

There once was a bouquet of flowers. The bouquet mostly had purple wild flowers in it and were arranged in a mason jar. Though most of the flowers were wild flowers it had one red rose in the arrangement. The purple flowers made fun of the rose for being different. They didn’t see any value in the rose and continuously told her that she didn’t belong. The rose started believing everything that the wild flowers told her, “You’re so different from us.” “You don’t belong!” “You will never be one of us!” “Why don’t you just die?”

One day the rose had it. She walked into the sun and waited for her beautiful petals to wilt away.
When the wild flowers found out what the rose was doing they laughed. They did not care about the rose one bit and were happy she would finally be gone making the bouquet “perfect.”

While the rose was waiting to wilt away, a flower gardener walked by and discovered the wilting rose.
“What a shame! This valuable rose is wilting away! If I put it in water right now, I might be able to make its life a further for good!”, the gardener said.

The rose was furious. What does this man know about flowers she wondered? The wild flowers told me I have no value, I believe them before a flower gardener, she thought.

After the gardener put the rose in water, the gardener took her to his flower garden. The rose was amazed by the beauty that she saw. She was dozens of types of flowers–daisies, petunias, sunflowers, and best of all, red roses! She had never seen other roses before in her life!

The gardener placed the special rose in a flower bouquet of other red roses just like her. She had never been happier before in her life.

For the first time, another flower loved her and saw value and beauty in her. She never had a sense of belonging until that day.

The rose was happy and very grateful that the flower gardener found her and did not let her wilt away in the sun.

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Potential, Oppisite, Views, (POV)

Every story has *at least* two sides, but what happends if we only learn about just one side? When my parents put me in a traditional school I was in a culture shock because I had never been around those who live in the country/small small towns with conservative values for a consideral amount of time.

Students in my school think that I am crazy, coocoo, weird, stupid, ect ect because I truly belive that what you put in your body affects your health. Personally, based on what I have personally seen in aqutences, read in books,and learned about in documenterys, I belive that cancer can be cured without chemo theropy but with eating a nutritious *raw* diet.

Other opinions that the general public has about heath. Is that you can survive eating a sorta healthy diet and exercise. But when you get sick theirs a pill for that and before you get sick theirs a vaccine for the common cold, chicken pox, messels, ect ect ect. This march I decided to persue eating a healther diet by cutting down on animal products. I started doing my resurch on the meat and dairy/egg industry and I was appoled of what I found out. What my research told me was that the food industry has a side to it that is not protraid to the public.

I mention this particular example because schools tend to only teach only from one point of view. I am not just pointing out private school, I can also point out public school and homeschool. Some parents even choose what school their kids will go to based on what the P.O.V. that they will be taught by. A flaw that happeneds when students are only taught one side of the story  is the risk of not willing to look at a different side after graduation because in life they will have to look at things from different point of views even if it is not the one that they are taught.

My first example of why we need to be open to different POVs happened thirteen years ago when my family was invited to attend a Chanikah service. To my parents, attending a synogog was NOT what they were taught to do by their parents/family but as soon as my mother walked in she had a since of shalom and she knew that this was the congregation that we where suppose to attend. She was never exposed to the messianic way of worshiping, but my parents had an open mind to this and later on that year they went through a membership class and became members of the new synogog.

Some of my family and friends however did not keep a open mind about the new synogog. They have intentially served pork, asked about xmas trees, and we have been told several times by a few people that we attend a cult and our congregation is unbiblical. In the words of Taylor swift, “I’m just gunna shake shake shake shake it off..”

I am extremely blessed to have parents who has exposed me to many types of people and cultures. One thing that these experiances have taught me is that sterotypes play a enormuse roll of how we see the world and others. One Woman who I admire because she see’s others from different P.O.V.s and respects them even if it is different then hers is a 4-H mother named Lena. Lena has several passions but one of her passions is feeding the homeless. On a weekly basis she ignors the common stereotype of homeless and goes on the streets and feeds and clothes them. Lena does not just see life from her own POV she focuses on others respects others view point.

If the schools today taught to see life the way Lena sees life we would have more in the world who would see past stereo types we would be able to embrasse life a little easier.

A Space for Grieving

Recently my family suffered the loss of a family member. This person lived a long and meaningful life and passed away of “old age.” The following Sunday I attended the church that she had been a member of for almost 60 years. Multiple people came to me and said, “You know she’s not in pain anymore.” “She’s in heaven.” “Be joyful she’s in heaven!” “She’s in a better place.”

Every time a church member said that to me I gave a fake smile and acted like those words were actually helping. There is a time for grieving and there’s a time for rejoicing. This was a time that my family was still grieving and will continue to grieve for a long period of time.

Yes, my family knows that she is in a better place, and that the pain she was in will not hinder her anymore. But in this moment, when not even a week has passed since saying goodbye, respectfully, how you are trying to comfort us is not going to work.

I know many were trying to help. Respectfully, let us grief for the amount of time that we need. Everyone grieves differently and takes a different amount of time for each individual. From personal experience, it can be hard to know what to say, but sometimes not saying anything is the key to helping. Sometimes all a family member needs is your presence, a hug, or a sympathy card.

The grieving process does not end after the funeral. One time someone told me that it takes five years to completely stop grieving if the individual passes away from natural causes, and ten years if they die from suicide.

It’s okay to deny it at first, be guilty, angry, and sad. But it is not okay to pretend it doesn’t hurt.

What Every Teacher Needs to Hear About Students Who “Just Don’t Get It”

Teacher, “I have your tests graded”

My heart sinks. I start getting consumed with the worry of crying in front of my peers because I know I will never be as smart or valuable in their eyes.

Teacher, “I was really impressed by how you guys did. Your class had a few low scores but most of you did well and scored high.”

I know those words all too well. Everyone else in the room did great but I am the one who got the low score. I stayed up late studying and nothing I do to prepare for the test well help me get a passing grade.

The teacher proceeds to pass out the tests. Students start shouting out the following, “YES! 95%! I didn’t even study!”

I finally get the courage to turn my test over to look at my test grade. My heart sinks to a place that it hadn’t been today yet. All of the words that others have told me come to my head, “You’re so stupid, you’re not value is nothing, you should try harder…” I got a 40% on that test. If I am not book smart, then what am I? I won’t have any tribute to society, I know that; only the smart people do.

I look at that worthless piece of paper and want to run out of the room and cry. I dream of tearing up the piece of paper and wish it had never existed; that I had never put any answers on it because I am always wrong. At that moment I want a hug and I want my mom. The test is filled with red ink. I hate the color red because it is a reminder of how stupid I truly am. The teacher puts a note on the bottom of the page saying, “See me after class.”

After class I go up to the teacher and say, “You asked to see me.” The teacher asks me if I studied and how I studied. I explain that I studied for several hours at home and during my study halls. I felt confident about it but my confidence lies when it comes to test taking and school work in general.

I go through this cycle several times a week and it is devastating every time. All a dyslexic student wants is to have results that match up with the effort that they put into school. My entire school career has been based off of finding my value based off of test scores and homework papers consumed with red ink. Teachers, whether you have taught me or not, teach in a public school or home school, please recognize that in most to all cases of students who have learning “difficulties” they are not faking it. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been questioned about my learning disabilities because my scores do not match up with the amount of effort I put in it. At the age of four I started being told to stop “faking” not being able to understand what the teacher was trying to teach me because clearly I was just doing this to get attention. I promise you that students like me don’t try to fail everything they turn in to get attention. They would rather be “normal” than get attention for being the student who “just doesn’t get it.” They are not looking lost in class because they are an actor and are simply practicing on the teacher. Yeah, they may mess around during class but socially it’s better to be the “class clown” than to be the stupid kid.

If you are a teacher, parent, friend, or acquaintance of someone who has a learning disability, I beg you to please show them that they are valuable. That their value is not based on standardized test scores, the ACT, and yesterday’s biology quiz. I have often times hated myself for being the “dumb kid” because I was convinced that was all I was going to be in life. If you are a teacher, please remind your students who struggle academically that there is more to life than getting a passing grade on a test because they are not hearing that message by their peers. Get to know them, ask them what they are passionate about and remind them about it after giving a test back. Encourage them to keep trying and working hard because most likely they are the ones who prepared the longest for the test and yet received the lowest grade.

In the words of a dyslexic scientist…

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Einstein.