Monday, June 30, 2008

Weekend at Gethsemane Ranch

The past couple weekends, Rebecca and Elijah have had the opportunity to attend a weekend camp at Gethsemane Ranch near Okeechobee. Rebecca went first when it was a girls only weekend and they learned barrel racing. I don't have any pictures of her to post yet. A friend took some and I'll post them later when I get them. Elijah went the following weekend and the kids learned how to rope calves. Since Eli has never been on a horse before, he learned roping on the ground and had beginning riding lessons.

On Sunday, the parents arrive to pick up the kids. The kids have the opportunity to show their parents what they have learned. If you weren't experienced enough to ride and rope, you were to help get the calves in the chute. Here you can see Elijah and Daniel (dark haired boy) showing Rebecca and Rob how to do it.

Of course, Nate and James just wanted to hear them "moooo!"

A glimpse of the chute. The shove one calf at a time into the green metal part you see at the end. I'm sure there is a technical name for it, but I don't know it! Rebecca perched on the fence to get a better view.

Elijah gets pointers from one of the workers.

He doesn't look very enthusiastic, but believe me, he had a ton of fun! He was very tired. Can you tell?

We can't go anywhere without Zack finding a lizard. He wanted me to take a picture of him when he stuck out his dewlap. (you know, that orange thingy that protrudes from their necks)

After demonstrations are over, we have church in the barn. I didn't get a picture of the outside, but there is a cross on top of the barn. We had singing and a sermon by the owner of the ranch, Jesse Jones. He and his wife, Karen, have a great ministry with these kids!

I believe they have church here every Sunday. At least during the summer, anyway. I'm not sure about the rest of the year. They had a new convert who wanted to be baptized, so they filled up a horse trough with water and dunked him!

Prayer concluded the service. Mr. Jones is seated on the table, holding the black hat.

The kids had an awesome time and they can't wait to go back! Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Jones for letting our kids experience your ranch life!

One last thing. I missed the million dollar shot! James slipped and fell into quite the horse pile. He was covered in poo, and I felt so bad for him that I set my camera down and rushed to his rescue! Next time, I'll snap a quick photo first. You know, for future blackmail!

Scroll on down for another post that has three short video clips from Elijah's weekend.

Gethsemane Ranch

This is Elijah practicing his roping skills. James and Nate enjoyed moo-ing at the cows.

This second clip gives you a good idea of what the kids were doing most of the weekend. Since Elijah isn't as experienced as the others, he practiced his roping on the ground, and worked on just riding without any tricks. Watch for the little girl on the miniature horse. She is too cute!

After the kids were done with their demonstrations, we headed over to the barn for church. This is a clip of the singing. Cowboy style!

Monday, June 23, 2008

What Pablo did with his Jesus

HOBE SOUND — Pablo Martinez's tendency to question authority landed him at hard labor in the sugar cane fields of Fidel Castro's Cuba when he was a teenager during the 1960s.

It also led him on a long spiritual journey that culminated this month when Martinez, 59, and his extended family - 11 people and three generations - converted to Judaism.

Looking back, it almost seems ordained.

Martinez was taught religion by his Christian mother, who used the Old Testament.

"If a priest or a nun would ask about me, people would say, 'Oh, he's a Jew,' because if you were not a Catholic, you were a Jew," Martinez said.

His interest in religion began when he was a boy, but he was a man with a wife and three kids living in the United States when he set to work on a close reading of the Old Testament.

His family came from Cuba after the Mariel boatlift, and he became an ordained Baptist minister while also working as a plumber.

About that time, his first marriage broke up and he left the Baptist Church.

A year later, he met Jenny Harrison at a Christian church he was visiting.

Her family came from a small town near Waycross, Ga. She describes her religious background as a combination of primitive Baptist and Old Testament Christians.

They dated for 21/2 years and were married in 1995.

They opened a small nondenominational Christian church, borne out of their Christian 12-step counseling program, and continued from 1996 to 2007.

During this period, Martinez, who had been trained as a translator, started reading original biblical texts and translations.

"Once you find an error in a text you have considered to be perfect, then you realize that text needs to be analyzed with much care, and without a gullible and receptive mind," Martinez said.

He made a discovery he could not ignore: The Trinity - one God in three persons, central to the Christian faith - did not arise from Jesus' teaching but from the early church fathers of the first century.

"Jesus was a Jew and he was a rabbi, that was all he was," Martinez concluded. "He never made the claim of being more than a man."

Martinez then turned his attention to Shabbat, the seventh day, when God rested after creating the world. Sunday as the Lord's Day, he concluded, was "the invention of Christianity."

When Martinez told the people who attended his weekly meetings that he felt the right thing to do was to change the day to Saturday, they stopped coming. Eventually, the weekly meetings consisted only of the Martinez extended family.

"It was not an easy change to make," Jenny said. "It was a total life change."

Pablo said, "All these things required a lot of research. I'm not a man who quits thinking what I think in an easy way. You have to prove it to me."

"What you believe is the most important thing in life," he said. "I realized that I cannot be a Christian again."

"People got very angry and started stomping out. It was sad. In many cases it was people we had known for years. It was very painful."

For a while, even his family had difficulty accepting his decision.

"It was the worst slump in my life," he recalled.

One by one, they made their peace with him - first his oldest daughter Rebeca and her husband, Josue Perez.

"After that, we built a new relationship. Now she is more to me than a daughter. She is a very dear close friend."

He reconciled next with his sons Magdiel and Misiel.

Eventually, they and their spouses and children decided that they also wanted to convert to Judaism.

One of his daughters and two of his wife's children from a previous marriage decided to remain Christians.

Martinez found Temple Beth David while searching the Internet for a congregation. A rabbi in Miami referred him to Rabbi Michael Singer.

When the Martinez-Perez clan started attending services at Temple Beth David, a conservative congregation, they felt welcomed.

"We were really just hoping to be tolerated," said Jenny Martinez. "But they treated us like members of the family. We were really humbled by that."

Late last year, the family began formal instruction in Judaism, studying with Singer at the Palm Beach Gardens temple.

"When I first met them, I wanted to hear their story and I found it amazing," Singer said. "I said, well, I can't guarantee how this process will end. All I can say is, it will be my pleasure to teach you. They've been diligent, now they'll be official."

Singer estimates that he converts 18 to 24 people a year. Besides the Martinez family, there were five others in this class, he said.

On June 1, each adult member of the family was interviewed by a beit din, a panel of three rabbis.

Once the rabbis decided that each convert's motives and understanding were sound, they gave their approval. The beit din was followed by a mikvah, a ritual immersion. Two weeks later, the were formally introduced to the Beth David community.

The youngest generation of the Martinez-Perez clan was as enthusiastic as their grandfather. Sallie, 12, reads Hebrew better than Martinez. Four-year-old Mimi memorized her Hebrew prayers.

"We feel at home," said Martinez, putting his feet up on a hassock. "My spiritual dilemma is over."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I know, right?

During my lurking around my daughter's facebook friends (just keeping tabs on what is going on, something every good mother should do when it comes to the internet) I kept seeing this phrase, "I know, right?" I thought this is just the new catch phrase of the young generation. You know, like the new version of "cool beans", or "dude", but still I just didn't get it. Meanwhile, my sister, Adela, comes to visit with her four children. We are hanging out and I can't believe my ears when in the middle of our conversation I hear her say "I know, right?" I start laughing because I had just been thinking of how odd this phrase was to me and here she was (30 something years old) rolling it off her tongue like nobody's business! So for the rest of the day our conversations would sound something like this: "Ok, so it's settled. We are eating at the Olive Garden." "Yup! Can't go wrong with that choice." "I know, right?" "Stop it!!! You did it again!" "I know, right?"

So, here we are at the Olive Garden on our sister's night out. Rob stayed home with four of mine and two of hers. We took Tannor, her 6 month old baby with us. After we ate, we ran into Jim Conroy who was headed in to eat dinner with his lovely wife, Julie. He snapped a photo of us since we forgot to do that inside! (Jim is a contractor who just happened to build that beautiful fish fountain that you see when you head towards the Lyric Theatre in Stuart. Jim and Julie are wonderful friends who I don't get to see often enough!)

So, anyway, as I was headed out the door of the restaurant, there was a guy scrubbing the front glass doors with Windex and paper towels. I watched him for a second then told him that he needed a squeegee for a job that big. He laughed out loud and said "I know, right?"

The next morning, Adela loaded up Rebecca and Taylor, her 9 year old daughter and took them to Starbucks. I didn't know this, but apparently they have board games there so they played a round of Scrabble.

Becca and Taylor shared a muffin. Taylor ate the top and Becca was left with the bottom. (She didn't care!)

(This has nothing to do with this blog, but I thought I would throw it in here because it is so adorable!) Wouldn't you say it's time for a haircut?

My baby James and Adela's baby, Tannor. The adorably, chubby babies!

Nate and Tuckor...the handsome skinny minny's. Note that they are both at the age where they would rather be naked!

Wednesday morning we spent a couple hours on the causeway. The weather was fine and we were all relaxed and enjoyed each other's company until the babies started to get cranky.

My ever-growing-up, beautiful gal!

Zack, Trevor and Elijah catching as many of God's creatures as they can.

I want to add a little about my sister. She is God's gift to me! 20 years ago, I couldn't say that. We were as different as night and day and couldn't agree on a single thing! I didn't understand her and she sure didn't understand me. Thank God we grew up! Over the years I have come to love my sister, understand her, trust her, lean on her, confide in her and now consider her to be my best friend! We always have such a good time when we get together and I wish we lived closer so our kids could grow up together. They all get along so well. Love you, sis! (I know when she reads this, her response will be "I know, right?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gotcha, Dad!

Only my parents and aunt and uncle who were in the room will appreciate this video. Since they frequent my blog, I put it in here just for them. And hey, Dad! Gotcha!!!

Tired after an early round of turkey hunting.

Another short clip especially for Dad and Austin.