This year was marked with milestones and memorable moments for our family. After years of being the "Bedouins of Jacksonville," we closed on a house in May! Our previous attempts to purchase a home were frustrated by hurricanes and the aggressive housing market created by a transient military community. Asha has done a fantastic job transforming the house into our home. The property is a paradise for the boys, with a zip line, treehouse, chicken coop, and woods to explore.
Abner (the Extrovert) is 9-years-old. He always wants to play with his neighborhood friends or persuade his mother to arrange playdates with the friends he can't get to on his bike. Abner has an aptitude for math and science and is interested in coding. He is also an avid reader and fan of the "I Survived" series. In addition to Jiu Jitsu, he enjoys playing flag football and baseball; he started basketball this season and recently started guitar lessons. Abner is also very involved in a local Trail Life USA troop and is a serious competitor in the annual Pine Car Derby. On Sunday, September 25th, Abner asked me to join him at the altar when the invitation was given to put his faith in Jesus! We're grateful to see him learning to respond to God and internalize the Gospel message.
Levi (the Dinosaur Hunter) is 4-years-old. Levi started preschool this year, and his favorite pastime is dinosaur hunting in the backyard. Needless to say, he is fascinated by dinosaurs and Sonic the Hedgehog is a distant second. Levi is our snuggle bug and, to Asha's delight, is the Mama's boy that balances out Abner's Daddy's boy disposition. Levi is always eager to help in the kitchen and with anything involving him using his father's tools. He recently started gymnastics, and the only thing more adorable than watching him tumble around is listening to him try to say, "gymnastics."
Jude (the Outdoorsman) is 19 months old. This child would live outside if we let him! He always wants to be outside and constantly points at the backyard door when he's inside. Taking after his big brother, Abner, "Chika Chika Boom Boom" is his favorite book. He uses several words and, despite being a picky eater, is in the 90+ percentile for height and weight. He enjoys crashing his mother's workout sessions and does surprisingly well with a 5lbs kettlebell.
Besides my twin brother, my family lives here in Jacksonville, NC. We all attend the same church and have regular family dinners. Seeing the boys spend time with their grandmother, "Nona," is a precious gift during this season of life. Asha became a citizen last year and voted for the first time! I continue to work from home, directing Vital Seed Ministries and part-time Business Development for Inspiration Cruises & Tours. Locally, I help coordinate monthly pastor meetings, serve as the Chaplain for Abner's Trail Life Troop, and for the last two election cycles, I was very involved in our county's School Board Elections.
Our prayer for you and yours this Christmas season is that the Father's love will fill you with hope as you look to the New Year. How great is His love if, for your sake, He did not spare His one and only Son?!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.
Michael, Asha, Abner, Levi & Jude
This is my first post reflecting on the weekly Torah Portion. If you're not familiar with this annual cycle of reading through key Old Testament texts you can check out the link at the end of the post.
Re'eh - ראה
Torah: Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11 - 55:5
Gospel: John 6:35-51
This Hebrew word re'eh means "see," and as you can imagine, it has layers of meaning. One aspect of the word is simply the ability to see. It also means having vision: a transcendent, prophetic, or covenantal perspective.
This Torah Portion covers several topics about how Israel was to conduct herself as a nation in covenant with God, and it includes a review of the pilgrimage feasts. The biblical calendar, similar to the Hebrew language, has layers of meaning. Each feast has unique qualities and insights. One element of the feasts, especially Passover, is a call to remember. It's a call to look backward in order to rightly see the present and cultivate a hopeful expectation for the future. It's a feast about vision. Jesus' Passover meal before His crucifixion embodied this reality of connecting the past, present, and future, and His example invites us to do the same.
I look for creative, hands-on ways to celebrate and remember the feasts with my family. When I sit down with my children and discuss the meaning and events connected to the feasts, I refer to Israel and the Jewish people as "our ancestors." I want my children to understand themselves as a part of the history of God's covenant people. It's important to note that we're not Jewish. However, the blood of Jesus joins us to the household of faith and the testimony of the saints throughout the ages (Rom. 11: 17-18; Eph. 2:13; Heb. 11:40). I want my children to remember so they can see themselves rightly and have vision for the future. The Lord's faithfulness through the ages is our inheritance!
Remembering is essential at a time when authoritarian and totalitarian ideologies are demanding worship and submission. When the biblical foundations and practices are in place for us to see, this principle transcends biblical history. We can effectively apply this same dynamic to modern history and current events. As we identify with the legacy of biblical history, it's imperative that we also identify with legacies left by brave men and women who stood against tyranny and oppression in the recent past. If we fail to look back and remember, we will not see the present accurately, and we will surrender our vision for the future.
*First Fruits of Zion is my favorite place to check the Torah Portion calendar.
Michael Onifer is an author, speaker, Director of Vital Seed Ministries, and founder of the 62:10 Project.