Whispers from our first Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

If you aren't familiar with the Feast of Tabernacles, can I whisper a suggestion to consider reading my last post, written as we prepared to celebrate?

I stall miserably in taking down our Sukkah. I watched through the back window as my husband disassembled the last of our beautiful 'tabernacle' this evening. The back deck is eerily solemn and empty now without the curtains and lights and flowers and banners and all the beauty we created for our celebration of The Feast of Tabernacles. So many memories were made in that tent out the sliding door. But by day 9 our pumpkin lanterns were sagging and the table cloth was spattered with the remains of countless outdoor meals shared together.

The candles have burnt down to merely wick but all the glory and wonder of that hallowed place still beckons me to remember.

The Sumac here is bright red and our Black Walnut trees are raining down golding showers. Harvest season is the reaping and the thanksgiving, the feasting, and the praising. The knowing and embracing how every single solitary things comes from Heaven and every breath and every heartbeat is willed to take place by the One who holds the stars in space. Abba God, Yahweh, the Truth whose very name makes the sound of breathing.

 And He is my breath, my very life line.

 I gaze out at the sunflowers, still blazing yellow and blooming bright after our week of celebrations. I remember gathering around those flowers the eve of the Feast and I remember placing them carefully on the table as the wind howled all around us. Yes, the day we started with a bare back deck and saw it transformed into a breath-taking tabernacle that filled our children with awe.  It is blazed in my memory - us decorating our first outdoor Sukkah, and the kids all starry-eyed in wonder.

And if some one had of told me a year ago that I'd be building a Sukkah and embracing this biblical feast I would have looked at them funny and given my goofy nervous giggle/snort.  I mean, really?  That's kind of, um, weird.

So as those wind gusts tormented us, so my own spirit gave in to torment.   I stood and smiled but deep inside, the question lingered... should we really be doing this?  We would hang a decoration and the wind would gust up and blow a table ten inches to the side. The curtains were flapping wildly as Simon desperately tried to tie them down- a nine-year-old boy on a mighty mission.  I laughed but I really wanted to cry.  All this struggle, and to the world - this is just plain odd.  Ok, Lord... is this your will, Lord?

Suddenly, three chairs crashed over onto the glass table. The children were frightened by the fierce wind and I was instantly reminded of God's glory and His power.  He is the very wind and these gusts don't even compare to His true power. Still, my heart was slowly sinking as I fought the blasts and tried desperately to continue preparations for our outdoor supper and celebration of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Wind or no wind, we would build our Sukkah. 

Dear friends joined us late in the afternoon and embraced the fun and joy of preparations. As we chatted, laughed, and hung banners, ornaments, and lights, the wind still rippled around the outside of the tent.  At times, it was as if the walls were sails on a ship, billowing and bowing and rippling wild.

Any one who has ever tried to do anything outdoors in wild wind can understand why we would have felt disheartened.  Why this first time Mama might have been questioning and sinfully wondering if the Lord had truly asked of us to embrace this celebration.  I dared not speak it to anyone, but deep inside, I had twinges of doubt.

But, as we stood together under the tent's cover - we prayed. We prayed hard that the Lord would stop the wind. We prayed, 'Lord, you say to make your requests known - so we are asking, praying, that you would stop the wind Lord, please. We build this Sukkah and we embrace this holy day for your honor, so we place this before you... you have the power to do all things and surely, to calm the wind so we can celebrate Your feast day in peaceful weather..."

And we left it at His feet.  As so often we are called to do as followers of Christ.

We cooked and I watched as the Hallah was made and then I braided the dough and we laid out place settings and goblets and lit the candles.  All the while, the wind was dying down.  Slowly, so slowly that we didn't really notice.

Then, when all was prepared and we entered the tent for dinner together - the air was so still, not a single side of the tent so much as rippled.  There wasn't even a hint of a breeze.  The torrents of wild wind had been shushed to absolutely nothing. The children cheered, the Mamas teared up, and God was glorified.  

And me?  I was humbled.  Again and again I am humbled and I am reminded of who is God and how He works and how faithful He is.  How faithful and how true.  And complete peace overtook me in that sparkling little tent.

We shared and read and even blew the Shofar.  We broke bread and passed the 'wine' cup and remembered Christ broken for us.  Yes, Christ broken for broken me.  We feasted and praised and reflected on Christ Jesus - the very Emmanuel, God with us, who tabernacled among His people.  The very Christ child who grew up, died, rose, and sent His Spirit to dwell with us even now.  Even in this very moment.  We sat in awe at the softness of the evening, the crickets chirping, the moonlight, and the awesome presence of God Almighty right there in that little tent all warm and cozy and filled with light.

Praise God.  He is faithful and He answers prayers and He calms storms.

And He meets with us.  Even when we doubt He will.  Or we doubt His whispers.  Or we just plain doubt.  Maybe because something isn't conventional - we long to fit the mold but we know we're being asked to step right on out of it.  To embrace His truth and His wonder, not the world's.

The lights glitter and the candles dance at nearly midnight after our friends have long gone home and the kids are tucked into bed.  My stomach is full of soup and bread and too much pie - but my soul, my soul is so full it could burst.  Joy spills over as a I stand and gaze silently at the remaining pieces of a night of The Feast.  I'm overwhelmed with Christ Jesus' presence in that quiet place of worship.

The next morning, I sneak outside wrapped in blankets before sunrise.  Something, no - someOne beckons me to come and sit in that sacred tent.  I open the Word, the very breathing of God and sip hot spice tea in the dim light of candles.  This light.  This flickering light, right here in front of my sleepy eyes - the light.  And He is the light of the word.  And Christ Jesus, Yeshua Immanuel, spoke the words about being water and light during this very Feast when all the other people still waited for a Messiah.  They waited and yet, He walked among them.  But they did not know Him.

How I long to know Him.  I mean, really, really know Him.  To walk His path and hear His whispers and see flickers of His light in everything.  To know what it truly means to answer His beckoning of "Follow Me".  To find Him here in His dwelling place and also in every place because the whole wide world is His tabernacle, really.  He is everywhere at all times and no one can comprehend it - they can only grasp on in faith.  And in faith, be moved to the very core of who we are and how we worship.

For seven days we kept our Sukkah and we gathered under this tent for meals and quiet times.  It is life-shaking when we listen and obey the Lord, even when what He leads us to is something completely unexpected.  I never thought I would be decorating and creating a 'tabernacle' for the Lord, but I now can testify of the power of His ways and His festivals and His appointed times.  Friends, there is so much beauty and depth in His Feasts!

We do not put up these tent walls and decorate with lights and candles and all things beautiful because of a religious rule - we do this because we love God and strive to honor Him.  

We create this visual tabernacle as an outward symbol of what we long for on the inside.  

We long to be with the Lord.  To experience Him.  To know Him more.  To have Him truly dwell with us and among us and to feel His very breath and hear His very words.  We do this because He has whispered how to honor Him and we long to love Him the ways that truly magnify His name.

Because worship isn't about us.  It's about God and how He asks us to worship Him.  And how He puts the desires of His heart in our very hearts when we ask Him to do it.

And His feasts bring us to Him in powerful ways I could never have imagined.  Oh, the depth, the richness of His truths.  The whole of a Messianic Sukkot is to remind us God is our Shelter and our Refuge, Christ is Emmanuel - God with us, Christ is the light and the eternal fountain of life.  His Holy and Everlasting waters wash us white.  We remember this too, that we have a permanent home, and it isn't here on earth.  Our stay here is as temporary as that temporary tent on the back deck.

And yes, it is our time to celebrate the birth of Christ.  He who came, born in a simple Sukkah, a humble stable.  He who descended and tabernacled with His people.  It's like the precious old hymn says:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel...
Hail, the heaven born Prince of Peace
Hail, the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth...

Born so that we may live.  And I mean, truly, fully live.  "For I came that they may have life and life abundantly..."  And the only full life is the full-of-Christ-life.  Because He is the very One who fills the otherwise forever hole in every single human heart.  Sukkot beckons us to set aside the things of this world and embrace the set-apart, intentional worship of the King of Kings.  To enter in and dwell intentionally in His presence.  To still the world and Hear the Word.  To humble our hearts and listen.

Among the Autumn breeze, the crickets, the gentle clucks of the hens, the passing of a car, there - in a still small voice, He whispers.  But first, we must quiet ourselves and be desperate to hear.

His voice wasn't in the roaring of the wind - 

but in the stillness thereafter.

From Psalm 27 
"One thing I have desired of the Lord
That I will seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He hall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock...
I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle..."

John 7:37-38
"On the last day, that great day of the feast (of Tabernacles), Jesus stood and cried our, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the scriptures have said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

John 8:12
"The Jesus spoke to them again saying, 'I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.'"

"Jesus Christ is  the Tabernacle or dwelling place of God.  In Him dwelled the fulness of God and God dwells in our midst because of Jesus."

The Mission of Motherhood - Chapter 1

Monday, October 13, 2014

“I always wanted to be a hero--to sacrifice my life in a big way one time--and yet, God has required my sacrifice to be thousands of days, over many years, with one more kiss, one more story, one more meal.” -Sally Clarkson

I'm pasting leaves to mason jars and flipping 'fake' grilled cheese sandwiches at noon.  The laundry is piled in the living room and there's chicken poop on Alex's feet.  The Legos, oh, the Legos - they're in every inch of spare space in this house.  Have you ever stepped on a Lego...?  Every single one of my tupperware containers has Lego in it.  Not chopped fruit or leftovers, nope - Lego.

The map of Canada is peeling off the kitchen wall, our school binders and books are toppling over on the country hutch.  It's a messy, beautiful life.

But it's a quiet life.

Motherhood, I mean.

Not quiet, as in silent.  Now, that's just plain suspicious around here.  Quiet, as in, no one really sees me.  I go about my daily life mostly, in silence from the outside world.  As with so many mothers who stay home with their children, it is a silent surrender of self.  

Can you relate, Mamas out there?

And it's not to say we're whining or we are not blessed and do not enjoy being with our children.  We do.  We cherish it.  But we can still cherish that which is unbearably hard some days.  When we are cleaning and cooking and cleaning again and cooking again, it feels like the whole world is one big domestic hamster wheel.

Then, it comes: "What do you do?"

Ah, the million dollar question.  Don't we all, somewhere deep inside, want to have a fancy and impressive answer? What do I do?  Well... let me tell you all the amazing things I do and all the meaningful things I've accomplished in my life!  Or, the Christian version: Let me tell you all the amazing ways "God is using me/God has called me".  (Come on, let's be real...)

But, what if what we are called to do as Moms is incredibly simple?

What if what we are called to do in this season of life is raise a family.

I know, earth shattering, right?  But -only for the last 60 or so years.  Since we were, well, liberated.

Over the past few decades, haven't women learned that being a Mom is not enough?  That choosing to stay home with our children and raise them wholeheartedly is not enough?  We are haunted with those pestering questions that imply: when will you get a real job?  You know, and contribute something to society.  As if serving our husbands and raising up human beings isn't contributing something.

In chapter one of The Mission of Motherhood, Sally talks about her experience as a woman finding her way: "...I had been taught to embrace a very different model of woman-hood.  Friends and teachers encouraged me to do something 'important' with my life, which meant choosing a career and a type of work that would make the best ouse of my talents and personality.  I could marry and have children if I wanted, but not at the expense of 'fulfilling my potential'."

How many women, I wonder, have believed this same message?  I know I have.  But the truth is, as Sally later writes, embracing loving motherhood is fulfilling my potential.  If I'm blessed with children, God calls me to raise them with all my heart, as if unto the Lord.  If we believe what the Word of God says - children are a blessing.  If you have been blessed with children, you have a profound responsibility to raise them up.

Welcome to whole-hearted Motherhood. There is no ladder to climb our way to success.  Only a stool to stoop and wash the feet of our children.  To quietly serve our families.  To build strong and lasting relationships with our children and shepherd their hearts.  To invest in creating a family legacy and a spiritual richness to the home.  To humbly and genuinely raise up.

You know, to do the unseen.  To lay down our own desires for the needs of our children and families.  Maybe to pray that God might change our desires to His desires.  There is no higher calling then to serve.  Isn't this Christ's very message?  The complete upside down world-view?  Love God, love others - become a servant, just as He served- so shall we.  But it's not easy.  It takes heart changes.  For me, it took a complete open-soul-surgery.  News Flash!  Life isn't all about me anymore.  These babies are telling me so.

It took me a while to truly understand that this wasn't a blip in life, this was a calling - a divine calling.  Children are not an interruption to my true purpose, the Lord's purposes are accomplished as I walk faithfully as a Mom.

I love this:

"We mothers have the opportunity to influence eternity by building a spiritual legacy in the lives of our children... The real ability of a mother to secure such a spiritual legacy is based on the strength of her relationship with her child." 

So, there's no formula.  There is no checklist.  There are no "40 steps to great kids".

It's all about my relationship with my child.  I read this, I know this, I believe this, I've seen this.  And can I share something with you?  My ability to relate to my children in the way I desperately want hinges on my relationship with my Lord.  I've heard it said before - the strength of the Mother relies on the strength of the mother's relationship with her Father.  Her Heavenly Father. Christ in me is the only way.  On my own, I fail.  But through His love, I can.  I can serve, and I can build these trusting, loving, authentic relationships.

I can respond in love.  True agape, deep love and tenderness to every situation.

Because some days, it really doesn't feel like we doing anything earth shattering.

When they are babies, we rock and walk and wrap and nurse until all hours of the night.  We wake and watch and worry when they are sick.  We wipe noses and all those parts that always seem to need wiping.   We let go of what we might have wanted for what we know is needed.  As they grow we teach them, lead them, read to them, we go for nature walks and climb trees and teach them to ride a bike and visit chicken friends and chat late into the night.  We patiently embrace them when they are grouchy and trust that they will have grace when we're grumpy.

In some seasons (and I know some of you are right smack in the middle of it) the days seem never-ending.  I remember all too well the counting of the minutes until my husband came home so I could pass the baby and the toddler and the preschooler and start trying to scrape something together for dinner.  I remember falling into bed exhausted only to be woken up within minutes.

Oh, it's hard.  There's no doubt, it's hard.  But everything worthwhile in this precious and short life is hard.  And raising children?  It's worth it.  There is no higher calling - and please, Mama, don't forget it.

Be encouraged this week as you serve your family, you may feel invisible some days.  You may feel like your work is in vain.  Like there are no tangible results for your daily sacrifice, no matter how much you love your days or struggle through them.

God sees.  God the Father who is the ultimate example of a parent who loves unconditionally, served us with the sacrifice of death.  Who Tabernacles with us and Shepherds our very days.

Parenting is no 'fast results' calling.  It is counter-cultural in so many ways.  It requires the long haul, the long hours, the commitment to the straight-and-narrow.  It requires a deeper vision and a higher understanding of the briefness of this season.  Invest all we have in our children now, reap the rewards later.  Raise up children who love God, love others, and they too, by God's grace, will serve their children, and we will watch the generations grow stronger and go deeper.

Build up our children and disciple them with our very souls.  Build those rock-solid relationships with them and be the example we want them to emulate.  Show them how to live, how to walk, how to trust in the very One who gives breath.

Commit to this calling of 'Mom' with everything in us, and honour the Lord, no matter what society says or sees.  After all, are we not here for an audience of One?

Whispers for the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It poured rain this morning at the same time the sun was shining bright.  Our country windows were glistening tiny sparkles of cleansing rain.  She called to me from the back room, "Mama!!!  A rainbow!"

There it was, stretched across the autumn sky - the rainbow that always brings me to tears.  God's love and promise painted in the midst of water and light.  Water and Light.  I stood and stared, snapping photos in between thoughts.

Wait a minute.  Water and Light.  Both these things Christ Jesus claimed for Himself.

He is the Light of the World.

He is the Water of Life.  The very Wellspring that feeds our thirsty souls.

And there it was right across the sky and painted on my heart, God's promise of forever love comes when light reflects off water.  I stop and tremble at this truth and humble myself before a Heavenly Father who whispers in these unexpected ways.

Beauty fills my being as it floods me:

We need Water and Light to see God's Love and Promises.

We need Christ Jesus to see the Truth.

And truth is what we desperately seek as worship songs flood our home today.  The ones about the manger and the baby and all the beauty of Christ coming to earth.  Some would say it's Christmas music, but really, it's the Saviour's Birth Music.  And that's what we are embracing this week - our Saviour, His birth, His light, His living water.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!  It feels strange and beautiful to sing these words amidst colourful leaves and gourds and pumpkins.  But, this, friends, is the biblical time of Christ's birth.  He came and He dwelt among us during the Feast of Tabernacles or, in Hebrew- Sukkot.  (Sukkot is the Hebrew word for tent or shelter.)  There is something deeply reverent about celebrating the birth of the King at the time appointed by our Lord.  My heart feels ablaze as we cozily prepare for this harvest time feast.

We walk in crisp leaves, pick sunflowers, munch roasted pumpkin seeds and paint mason jars with dripping glue.  We read truth from God's word and have long chats about why now and not Christmas and why this and how beautiful is the revelation of God's heart.

We snuggle up together with candlelight and sing it softly:  "Oh, night divine, when Christ was born...  And in His name, all oppression shall cease..."  if only the world who sings these words could truly feel them and understand the depth of them.

"Christ is the Lord, Oh, praise His name forever."  We sing it, but do we mean it?

Yes, that Holy Night when Christ was born - in a stable.  In a Sukkah - the King of all Kings was born.  In these painfully simple surroundings He came to us a vulnerable babe.  This Holy God in unbearably humble rags.  This is our God, overwhelmingly Holy yet graciously humble.

The whole world shook and all the heavenly beings announced His arrival yet He exhaled that first breath in a lowly stable.

And so, together as a family, we too will create a Sukkah - a temporary shelter to celebrate this beautiful holiday and remember what He has done and is doing and will do.

As we put up walls and prepare our tent, we remember God is our shelter.

We remember the Holy King, Christ Immanuel who came and Tabernacled among us.

We remember how temporary our stay on earth truly is.  How every place we dwell is really only a temporary shelter.  All things here are to be viewed as 'for only a little while'.  The earthly possessions pass away but God's love endures forever.  What are we Seeking First?  His Kingdom?

We remember Christ the Living Water.

We remember Christ as the Light of the World.

We remember that with the Light and the Water we see God's Promises and Miracles.

We remember how we too are His humble, undeserving tabernacles and He dwells in us through His Spirit.

As we paint and decorate and bake and prepare, we remember together why we call ourselves Followers of this Light and we welcome Truth into our hearts.  Even if that truth means a total change, a stepping 'outside' the world's box.  Even if that truth means a whole lot of traditions need to be shaken and stirred and tested against the Word.  Because what He has for us is always better, always deeper, always richer, always worth embracing.

And He is the great Embrace, the Wonderful Shelter.  And He waits to hide us under His wings.

We excitedly anticipate and prepare 

for the start of this week-long 'Great Feast'...

In a few days I plan, Lord willing, to share more about our journey this week with the Feast of Tabernacles and write more about what God is revealing, what we are learning, and how our hearts about being changed and renewed, only by Christ's grace and love.  (hug)

A little note:

I am not, by any means, an expert on the Feast of Tabernacles or any other biblical feast.  My sharing here comes to you from a place of complete and total humbleness of spirit.  I write these thoughts because I believe wholeheartedly in working towards embracing a biblical worldview and being open to God's truth as He reveals it to us.  This was the posture my husband and I took before Christ, and this is what we feel has been shown to us.  We need to really look hard at what God says about His holidays and festivals and what He says about following culture's traditions.

And what God's word says about His feasts (holidays) has profoundly affected me in such a wonderful way!  My desire is that through my messy expression of this excitement, you may also feel a stirring within you.  A stirring to explore God's feasts and appointed days and see and experience how the King of the Universe has woven every aspect of history together in the most breath-taking ways.

If you would like to seek more information about Sukkot and the other biblical feasts, I'd encourage you to first pray and ask God to reveal His truth and His will to you and your family.  Then, search your bible and do some good old fashioned research.

Also, I absolutely love the resource A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Simpson and Pierce. It has been a huge blessing to our family as we seek to follow God in this way.

Of course, you can always chat with me on Facebook or email me at cldorman (at) sympatico (dot) ca.

I'll check in later this week with more Sukkot updates from our home to yours!  

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
 For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me...
(from Psalm 27)

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground