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A holiday celebration for single moms

Imagine entering a building. While it wasn’t too cold outside, it is a warm welcome as you enter. The stress of the workday slowly leaves your body and your shoulders relax. From the lobby you can hear music. A piano is being played and people are singing. It is a balm to your spirit to hear the holiday songs together with lyrics that proclaim the glory of our Lord. The air is filled with the sweet smells of the traditional holiday foods. A photographer offers to take a family photo. Your heart rejoices as you see so many of your friends gathered. In the main room there are comfortable chairs, a seat is saved for you.  But before you can sit down you are greeted with hugs from friends who have become like family. The holiday candles are lit, with prayers that the light of God will fill the earth.

Together you eat. There is more than enough. Your little kids are running around, excited to see their friends. After the food all the children hurry upstairs, there is a SuperBook movie for them and fun activities about miracles. Your teenager makes her way upstairs too. Tonight, she will be taught how to make wise financial decisions. You say a quick prayer that she will listen and hopefully not make some of the mistakes you made.

You sit with your friends. The room is a whole lot quieter now that the children are upstairs. Together you listen to an encouraging word; about the holiday, the importance of community, on the miracle of a changed life. Music is played again, and you enter into worship. The love of the Lord fills your heart and lifts you up. You form a smaller circle with the women next to you. Each of you shares her burdens and together you lift them up to the Lord. You pray for each other’s children. You encourage the woman next to you and she encourages you. You hug each other tightly, you both know how the other feels and what it is like.

You are a single mother, your family is small, it is just you and your children. Your husband isn’t in the picture anymore, for various reasons. Life is difficult, and every day is a struggle. You work hard to provide for your children & yourself. You face more challenges then you’d ever imagine possible. You feel alone, most of the time.

But tonight, on the 3rd night of Chanukah, as you gather your children to take the bus home, your heart is full. Every family got a gift card for the holiday, which is a huge blessing. But the biggest blessing of this evening was being together, being heard, being seen, being encouraged. And being reminded that you are never ever truly alone!

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Whatever you did for one of the least of these

My husband & I suddenly had a free Friday morning together. We debated going out for breakfast but decided to pick up some groceries instead and do a breakfast date at home. We parked at a supermarket we passed on the way. I decided that I wanted to get fresh juice, a pre-cut salad, cheese, and a nice loaf of whole wheat bread.

As soon as I walked in I realized that I wasn’t in ‘my’ supermarket. The bread counter was right in the entrance of the store. The bread offered was simple and the selection limited. They didn’t have any of the breads that I liked. I got some simple white rolls instead. I passed the meat counter and noticed that also there the selection was limited. I continued towards the vegetables. No pre-cut salads. And no ‘luxury’ fruit or veggies either. Simple and basic. I got some lettuces, cucumber and tomatoes to cut up and make my own salad. Fresh juices were not to be found. The dairy section was next and also there the selection was limited.

I was kind of bothered that I could not find the things I wanted. I almost regretted not going out for breakfast instead. But then I started to look around me, at the people in the store.

In ‘my’ supermarket people fill up their carts for the weekend but here people where buying very modest amounts. People compared prices. No one was buying snacks or soda. Only real food. And this was their Shabbat shopping. They were buying the basics. The items that the government subsidized. Payment was done in cash and more than once people put items back due to insignificant funds.

But is wasn’t just the items in their baskets or carts. Their coats & shoes were worn. Clothing was clean but dated. Haircuts were simple and hair color done at home. After the shopping groceries were not loaded into the car, but people walked home or took the bus.

Israel is a modern country, we are the startup nation. There is a lot of advancement. We are doing well. But minimum wage is low, so low that it doesn’t cover the cost of living. Even families with two incomes struggle to make ends meet. Many people work very hard but are only able to provide the bare minimum. The financial struggle is even greater for single parent families. They live paycheck to paycheck with nothing left for extra things.

It was uncomfortable to be confronted with how hard life is for so many people. But it was important for me to have this experience, took look outside of my bubble. Because this kind of living is the reality for the families that we help at CBN Israel. Hard working families and single moms who simply don’t have the funds to buy a new refrigerator when theirs breaks, or get winter coats for their children, or simply have some extra’s for the holidays.

We want to bless these families by helping them with their very real needs. We want them to know that we care and reassure them that they are not alone. But most of all, we hope that we get to show them the love of the Messiah.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 35-40

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Broken hearts & crushed spirits

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

  • Hannah* is the mother of four young children who she raises by herself. While divorced, he ex-husband continues to harass her & her children. They live in fear.
  • Shlomit* is a single mother of a seven-year-old daughter. Her ex-husband destroyed her self-esteem and she has very little self-worth.
  • Rita* left her husband because he abused her. Her children visit their father once a month and they report that he has started hurting them. The visits discontinued.
  • Miri* is a single mother of five children. Her ex-husband claimed to be a believer but treated her very badly. In the end he left her and her children Her heart is broken.

Over and over we meet single mothers with broken hearts & crushed spirits. It is not just the heartbreak of being left alone or needing to raise their children on their own. Many of the moms have suffered abuse. While physical abuse has left visible scars, many of the women have invisible scars too. They were beaten, but also abused mentally. Emotional & verbal violence did incredible damage to their souls. Their children have suffered greatly too; some by seeing their mom abused, others by being beaten or belittled themselves. These are experiences no child should have growing up.

Hurt of this magnitude leaves us feeling hopeless at times. Where do we even begin to heal a broken heart? How do you comfort a crushed spirit? The needs are too great, but we want to help. We want to show the Father’s love, because He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

This is where you can help too!

We ask you to stand with us in prayer.

The first thing we need is wisdom on what each person needs. The second thing needed is proper care & the right counselors. The third thing is funds, we need provision from the Lord for this great & ongoing need.

We want to do more than provide for the physical needs of the single moms & their children, who are like the widows & the orphans that the bible speaks off. Physical needs are important, but we want to take it a step further. We want to be there for them emotionally too. We want to show them the love of the Messiah. We want to show the children that the Lord God heals and doesn’t hurt them like their earthly father might have done. We don’t want them to stay victims, we want them to be conquers.

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 37-39

*Names are changed to protect the privacy of the women.

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A much needed hug

I don’t know how the mornings are in your house, but in my home, we are all in a rush. The kids need to get to school and kindergarten, the parents have to get to work. Everyone needs to eat breakfast. Mommy needs a cup of coffee. Lunchboxes need to be prepared. The laundry that was started the night before needs to be transferred to the dryer. Even on mornings where everything goes smooth, we are all moving nonstop.

On one of those busy mornings my three-year-old son suddenly turned to me for a hug. Like most three-year-old boys he is usually on the go. But on this particular morning put his arms around my legs and hugged me the way only a three-year-old can give hugs. If you have ever been giving a hug by a small child, you know what kind of hug I mean; full of trust, almost melting into you. And we just stood there, in the middle of the kitchen, during the busiest time of the day, hugging for what felt like forever. He needed a hug, and honestly, I needed it too.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8

Life is busy, a lot of times with good things. During a busy season it is easy to forget to take the time to just turn to the Lord, to connect with Him. It is not that we don’t want to, we simply are busy and on the go. But just as my little boy took a moment for a much-needed hug, I encourage you to turn to the Father and get a hug from our Abba. Especially when times are busy. I need it and so do you.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1

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Something to look forward to (VeYigash)

In this week’s Torah portion the story continues. Joseph falsely accused Benjamin of stealing his silver cup. Judah pleaded with Joseph and offered to take his place. Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers. He sent his brothers back to Canaan to bring his father Jacob and all the family to Egypt, so they would survive the famine. The family settled in Goshen, because they were shepherds. Jacob visited Pharaoh and blessed him. Our portion ends with the story of how Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for the Pharaoh and installed a 20% tax.

The haftara portion for this week is a very interesting one. We read from the book of Ezekiel, a prophet in the time of the Babylonian exile. The beginning chapters of the book speak of the judgement that the Lord will bring on Judah & Jerusalem and on the foreign nations. But somewhere past the middle of the book, the message changes to one of hope & salvation. The part we read from this week is from the later part.

I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.  I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.  Ezekiel 37: 21+22

Wow, a lot of the stories in the bible are ancient history but here we read verses that are recent history! Some of us were alive when this happened! The Lord gathered the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, Israel and he continues to do so.

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever. Ezekiel 37:24-28

As we continue reading we get to a part that isn’t history yet, we are still waiting to see these days. The days where all of Israel will follow the Lord. The days where there will be peace. The days where once again God will dwell among us, this time forever and ever.

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Dreams come true (Miketz)

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. “From the land of Canaan, “ they replied, “to buy food”. Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them. Genesis 42: 6-9

It had been more than twenty years since Joseph had seen his brothers, but he recognizes them immediately. The last time he saw them was when they’d taken the clothes his father had given him. They intended to kill him but instead tossed him into a cistern and sold him into slavery. Now they bow down before him; Joseph the mightiest man in all of Egypt, only outranked by the Pharaoh himself. And he remembers his dreams from long ago, the dreams that had made his brothers hate him and angered his father.

When we read the story of Joseph it is easy to forget the time line. We focus on the end. On how what was intended for evil was used for good. (Genesis 50:20) But Joseph was a real person with feelings & emotions. He had suffered greatly because of the jealousy of his brothers.

While faced with those who harmed him so many years ago and altered the course of his life, he quickly finds out that the events still hunt his brothers. And Joseph is overcome come with emotions. He turns away from his brothers and weeps. When he meets his brother Benjamin, son of his own mother, again he is deeply moved, hurries out to his private room and weeps.

The Lord has done great things in the life of Joseph. But he missed 20 years of his brother’s life. The Lord has poured out many blessings on Joseph, but there is still trauma from what his brothers had done to him. God has used everything he has been through, but it has left wounds that are still raw. And Joseph wept.

He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us;
he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.
Hosea 6:1

It hurt when we are torn to pieces and injured. It is hard to understand why the Lord allows pain & suffering. But we can trust that He will use what happened to us, just as He did in the life of Joseph. The Lord will bring healing. He will bind up our wounds. He will heal our broken hearts (Psalm 147:2)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelations 21:4

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The Lord sees our tears

Have you ever cried so many tears that you soaked your pillow?

I have, maybe you have too. If so we are in good company. King David knew what it was like to feel like you do. This is the same David who killed bears & lions. The same David who killed the giant Goliath. The same David who lead the army to victory over tens of thousands. The same David who was chosen by the Lord to be the King of Israel. The same David who was a man after God’s own heart. This man who had everything going for him, who is admired even today, he knew the kind of heartbreak that makes one weep all night.

He writes about it in Psalm 6: 3-6

My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.

King David was suffering, his soul was in deep anguish. He was worn out.
And in his despair he cried out to the Lord. He didn’t hold back. He told the Lord exactly how he was feeling. And asked the Lord to deliver him because of His unfailing love.

On the nights that we are feeling similarly to how King David felt, when our soul is in anguish and we are worn out, we too can cry out to the Lord. We don’t have to hold back. We can pour out our hearts to Him. We can ask Him to deliver us because His love for us is unfailing. The Lord sees our tears (Psalm 56:8)

And we can hold onto the promise we find in scripture. Because no matter what we face and how many tears we cried in the night, the Lord is faithful, and his compassions are new every morning.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

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The light of the world (chanukah)

One of my favorite things to do during Chanukah is taking a walk in the “older’ neighborhoods of Jerusalem. One of the customs is to put the Chanukah lights in a place where it is visible to those who pass by. Many people put their candles in the window sill. But when you go around the streets of Jerusalem you’ll see lots of little glass boxes with a menorah in it. The boxes are put on the low stone walls that surround the apartment buildings where many people live. Putting you lights outside makes them visible. The glass boxes prevent the wind from blowing out the lights. For eight nights the special menorah is lit. Each day another candle is added. Every day there is more light.

Scripture indicates that also the Lord Jesus celebrated this special holiday when we remember the provision of God after the temple was desecrated and rededicated.
Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. John 10:22-23

The miracle of Chanukah was that there was enough oil for a whole week, the time it took to prepare more oil. The menorah in the temple could stay lit. There was light. And light is what we are showing the world.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:14-15

We are also in the season of Advent. Each Sunday leading up to Christmas we add another candle. Each week there is more light. And also at Christmas we celebrate the provision of God. It is the miracle of Jesus, the Light of the World who came to set us free from all Darkness forever and ever.

And just as we put our Chanukah candles in a place where those around us can see the lights. The Lord Jesus encourages us to make His light be seen.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

How can you shine your light in this season and show the world that the Lord always, always provides? What are the good things in your life that glorify our Father in heaven? How do you celebrate this season of light?

“Father God, we thank you for your miracles. Thank you for always providing. We ask you that you show us how we can shine you light and see your name glorified. Thank you for the miracle of Chanukah.”

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His perfect gift

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

One of the things I gave up when I moved to Jerusalem was my bicycle. Shipping a bike would have been expensive. One of my neighbors had her bike stolen and was in real need for a replacement.  I gave my bike to her and was glad that I could bless her. I really felt the hand of the Lord bringing this all together. He arranged a good gift for my neighbor and allowed me to show her a little bit of His love.

This bike, however, wasn’t just a bike. It was the first new bike I had ever owned. All my other bikes had been second hand. This one was new, from the store. I even got to pick which color I had wanted; purple metallic. It really was the perfect bike and I loved it.

Since Jerusalem is a city of hills I didn’t replace my bike. I used the car, busses, trains, or simply walked for transportation. But my bike had not just been a means of transportation. Going out for a bike ride was something I enjoyed. Taking a ride in nature would lift my spirit on a difficult day. Even just 20 minutes of paddling would put me in better mood.

I had kind of forgotten about that benefit that having a bike gave me. The Lord, however, did not. A friend was leaving the country and she was planning to sell her electric bicycle. I had been saving up some money and had enough to buy it from her. I was excited about having a bike again. The electric gears help make the uphill parts a bit easier. I had been planning to use it to get to work.

I took the bike for spin to test it out. And suddenly remembered how much I loved riding my bike. My heart overflowed with thanksgiving. My Father in Heaven knew what I needed before I even asked him. (Matthew 6:8) I had been planning on buying a bike to use it to get to work, but the Lord was using it to bless my soul. The blessing of owning a bicycle again was His good and perfect gift for me.

I do use my bicycle to get to work, so it is a means of transportation. But at the same time, it is so much more. I am reminded of the Father’s love & care for me every single time I ride, and it makes my heart overflow.

What things has the Lord done in your life that remind you of His love for you?

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Dancing in the rain

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—  then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.  I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
Deuteronomy 11: 13-15

I was born and raised in a country that has rain all year round. We used to pray to God for it not to rain on days spent outside or during our vacation. I moved to Israel as an adult and it took me a bit of time to get used to the long dry summer. Israel is a dessert country and during the summer months it doesn’t rain at all. Months on end when it is dry. Rain is a blessing in Israel and when the first rains come in the fall, it is a cause for celebration. It took me some time to come to see the rains as a blessing.

A few years ago, we visited the Netherlands during our summer vacation. Our girls were five & three years old at the time. We stayed in a little wooden house at a small farm that rented out several of those to tourists. Now in the Netherlands it will rain all year, even in summer. On one of the evenings the sky turned dark and big heavy drops of rain started falling down. Our girls were already in bed but the noise of the rain on the roof woke them up. They ran out of their room and were ecstatic that there was rain, in the middle of summer. They asked us if they could go out. The girls were already in their night gowns, they just put on their shoes and rushed outside. The girls danced in the rain. It wasn’t too cold as it was summer and pretty soon the girls were soaked.

The people staying in the other houses were locals. Those two little girls dancing in the rain were a strange sight to them. But those little Israeli girls were seeing rain for what it really is, a blessing. And it helped me to see it too.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12: 2

My old pattern of thinking was to see rain as something negative. The Lord used my daughters and their joy in the rain to renew my mind. I learned to see rain for what it really is, a blessing from the Lord. And now, whenever it rains, we celebrate with hot cocoa.

“Father God, thank you for renewing our minds. Transform us to be more like You. Help us to see things from Your point of view. Thank you for your abundant blessings and Your provision for our lives. In Jesus name”

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