Finding more time to talk to GodBy: C4i

There is nothing more important in life than your relationship with God. Everything else follows from how you communicate with God and how that relationship informs your actions.

So why do so many of us only talk to God in quick mealtime prayers and maybe the occasional prayer when we’re worried or stressed? Or we have routine prayer time, but it is unfulfilling and rote? 

Like any relationship, your relationship with God requires work. It’s something that cannot be taken for granted or treated as an afterthought. A big part of that is finding the time to talk to God in prayer on a daily basis. We’re going to go over how to find that time and make the most of it.

Quality communication

One important element to remember when you set aside time to pray is that this should be focused, intentional prayer. What does this mean? It means you are actively engaged and thinking about what you’re praying for, attentive to how your heart feels and seeking His guidance while you pray.
Many of us fall into comfortable "prayer lists.” We have our standard opener, a list of people and things we want to pray about, and (if we’re being truthful) we can sometimes fall into the habit of reciting them like we were reading from a script. There is nothing wrong with bringing the same issues to the Lord or having a number of people that you routinely pray for, what makes a difference is how you think about it and how you express these concerns to the Lord.

Imagine if you received regular calls from a loved one who lived very far away. But every single call, they just mumbled the same general speech to you - they went over the same issues, and gave you the exact same perfunctory hello and goodbye, and didn’t seem particularly interested in what they were saying. Would you feel like you were being valued by that relative? Not likely. 

Prayer should be treated the same way. You don’t want to feel like you’re just performing a routine or praying for the sake of it. You should be intentional and respectful when communicating with the Lord. 

Part of finding more time to talk to God is realizing that a single session of even five or ten minutes of quality communication a day will do your spirit more good than a bunch of longwinded recitations or mumbled graces over every meal. It isn’t about carving an hour out of each day to pray for the sake of praying, but about intention and making the most out of the time you do spend praying.

Get focused

If you want to get in better shape, you need to set aside time to exercise. If you want to learn a new skill or instrument, you need to practice it regularly. Ideally you want to exercise or practice the same time everyday so you can build a routine around it. It’s the same thing with finding more time to talk to God, you need to focus in on what is important and make it a regular part of your day.

Dedicate a specific time to talk with God each day. Maybe in the morning as soon as you get up. Spend the first 10, 20, or 30 minutes of the day talking with the Lord before you do anything else. Use it as a way to focus on what is important and what you should be concentrating on throughout the day.
Or maybe mornings are always crazy around your house, and you know you’ll never get the undisturbed private time you need with the kids scrambling for breakfast and fighting over the washroom. That’s fine, make your daily communication with God part of your late-night routine before you go to bed. A chance to reflect on the day and seek guidance for tomorrow.

And if late-night is no good for you, find some other time! Use part of your lunch break for prayer. Instead of watching some rerun when you get home from work, take that time for the Lord. What matters isn’t the specific time you use, but that you have a time and keep it consistent.

Habit forming

As you keep up this new schedule, you’re going to be tested. There will be days when you’re super busy and miss your time, unusual appointments or events that throw you off your schedule, or times when you’re just too beat to find the spirit and focus needed to talk with God and you’re going to slip. That’s okay, that is bound to happen. 

Don’t become disheartened. Don’t allow a slip to become a tumble because you feel demoralized. The best thing you can do after missing a day is to get right back to it the next. 
If you stick with it, even with the occasional slip up, you’ll find it becomes easier and easier. Taking the time to talk to God will be more unconscious, more natural, and easier to fit into your day. Even on the days when your schedule is thrown into chaos, you’ll be able to find the time and the desire to talk to God.

It’s all about forming a habit of dedicated and passionate prayer. After enough time, it will no longer be a question of figuring out how to find the time, but a matter of how weird it would feel to miss it. That’s the kind of connection we should be trying to foster with God in our lives.
Finding more time to talk with God doesn’t have to be complicated. Be attentive and engaged when you pray. Find a time that works for your life when you can give prayer your full attention. Stick with it every day until it becomes as natural as making your morning coffee. Keep it up, and you’ll form a stronger, deeper relationship with the Lord.  

[Comment]

Atlit Yam, 8000 years of sunken historyBy: C4i

Israel is a land of history. From the moment you arrive in the airport there are flyers and advertisements enticing you to come and see some of its most important sites. Museums and temples, heritage sites and natural wonders. You could spend years trying to see them all and probably still miss a few. 

But history in Israel isn’t something that’s only found behind velvet ropes and glass displays, it’s in the soil of the place. It’s in the metallic clink of a gardener’s spade hitting an ancient coin. It’s in the ruins found by highway crews just beneath the surface of a long stretch of desert. Sometimes, it’s even deeper than that. 

Below sea level, beneath the waves on the coastline of Haifa, time stands still. You can wade out into centuries of rising sea levels and swim to where thousands of years ago others once stood. If you have an oxygen tank and wetsuit, dive down deep and look. Even in the murky water Atlit Yam can be seen, the preserved remains of an ancient village. Eerie and awe inspiring, these may just be the oldest existing structures in the world.

The ruins can be found about 300m off the north bay of Atlit approximately 8-11m below sea level depending on the season. An ancient fishing village now submerged, the site was first discovered and studied in the 1980s. Since then it has seen numerous aquatic excavations as historians dive into the waters in search of more knowledge and understanding of the culture which created it.


The most striking thing about Atlit Yam is how incredibly well preserved it is. Large sections of the village are still clearly recognizable. Such as the seawall spanning the perimeter of the village. An impressive piece of ancient engineering that suggests the inhabitants of the village were combating a rising sea level even at the time when they were living there. Clearly it was a battle they did not win.

Other features such as a 5.5-meter-deep stone well hint at a high level of technological sophistication of the inhabitant. As does the bones of several species of domesticated animal including cattle, sheep, and even cats! Flint and stone tools have been pulled from its depths, clay pots and fragments, and most surprisingly, excavators discovered hundreds of olive pits from the production of olive oil. 

These were not foraging nomads, this was a village that housed generations of people in wood and stone homes. A community supplied by well water and a thriving understanding of agriculture. One supported by civic engineering projects. It is an incredible look at how these people lived and helps in our understanding of the whole history of Israel. 


Atlit Yam as it is today is an otherworldly sight to take in. Its most prominent feature is a semicircle of standing rocks, like a series of outstretched fingers reaching up from the water. It’s not entirely clear what purpose these monoliths served. Due to their similarity to the Stonehenge rocks, some suspect that they were used as a calendar or time keeping device of some kind, but we may never know for sure. The stones weigh over 1300 pounds begging questions of how they were arranged and set. For the final mysterious touch, they bear deliberate "cup” markings, an ancient artistic flourish seen across many cultures. Because if a series of upright stones under the water wasn’t halting enough, they also have cryptic designs on them! 

When we think about Israel, it’s always vital to remember just how important the land is to world history. As a nexus of trade, travel, and technological improvement over centuries and millennia and with a uniquely suited climate for preservation, Israel can provide us with a glimpse into the past like nowhere else on the planet. Who knows how many more gifts this ancient land is still waiting to give us? How many more Atlit Yams rest just below the surface of Israel?

[Comment]

Team Israel 2017 – Davids versus Goliaths (Part 2)By: C4i

 
In early 2017, nobody had a good word to say about Israeli baseball. It was a sport that was unpopular at home. Many of the Israeli professional teams played on sub-standard diamonds lacking proper pitching mounds and dugouts, there was no money for anything else. Game attendance was almost incidental. But as bad as it was at home, it was even worse on the world stage. Israel was a team that was almost beneath notice internationally, and when it was noticed it was usually as the butt of a joke. 

But all of that would soon change thanks to a group of oddballs, has-beens, and all around menschs.

Going into the 2017 season, Israel was ranked 41st in the world, near the bottom of the rankings. When your team is rated that low, even competing in the qualifiers becomes a kind of story. Their entry in the WBC drew comparisons to Jamaican bobsled teams and other famous longshots. Calling them an underdog would be a compliment, they were more or less invisible, expected to politely wash out during the qualifying rounds and leave a nice vacant spot for one of the more "deserving” teams. That didn’t happen. 

In a double-elimination tournament (carefully planned to allow Team Israel to avoid the Shabbat), Israel went up against both Brazil and Great Britain.  Neither team was considered particularly strong, but both were expected to far outgun the Israelis. Such was the lack of interest that the games were barely even broadcast in Israel, with the few interested spectators having to tune into satellite feeds of Korean and Spanish coverage to even see them! 

Despite the expectations though, Israel powered through. A first game 5-2 win against Great Britan saw Marquis throwing just under 50 pitches to keep the Brits contained. Decker batted in teammate Nate Freiman for a solo game winning run against Brazil, 1-0.
These two successes raised some eyebrows. No way Israel could qualify to be in the WBC, could they? Surely Britain would rally after perhaps being overconfident in their first game and dash those dreams, right? The complete opposite happened. With more eyes on them than ever before, Team Israel rose to the occasion and delivered a devastating 9-1 drubbing on the Brits that sent them home.

This is when the world, and Israel started to notice what was happening and when Newberger’s film covering the team, Heading Home, takes off. Going into the tournament proper (as the 200-1 longshot), nobody was sure how long the magic would last. But as the games went on, hope started to spread, and more people began to tune in. 

For the team, it was a very special moment in their lives. Some of these players, like Marquis, were very in touch with their Jewish roots and aware of what it meant to be representing the team at this level. Others found a reconnection with their identity, not having played with so many other people from the same background since they were children. Both the positive and the negative was reveling to the team, with national pride surging for these sudden heroes, so too did anti-Israel sentiment, shocking some of the American players who didn’t realize how virulent those attitudes still are in some areas.

It was an awakening. The team, suddenly a hot topic in Israel, made a point of touring the nation and spending time with their new fans, learning about the history and unique role Israel plays in the world. Shlomo Lipetz, one of the native Israeli players on the team, understood "It’s so special for all the players. They feel this kind of connection being Jewish, this connection of playing for Israel.”
 
 

Documentarian Newberger watched the transformation in the team. "The team that went on the trip to Israel, they bonded in such a way that I don’t think other teams had the ability to do.  No other team had cried on each other’s shoulders at a Holocaust museum.”

The experience lit a fire in the roster. Clinching a miraculous win against the powerhouse South Korean team (ranked 3rd in the world at that time) for their first tournament game, and then delivering a 15-run clinic to Chinese Taipei (ranked 4th) the team defied all expectations. When they beat the Netherlands to sweep their first tournament pool, it seemed like anything was possible.

We wish it was. If this story ended with Israel taking home the WBC trophy that would be an incredible tale. Unfortunately, in the end Team Israel was eventually eliminated by Japan’s powerhouse team. Not all Cinderella stories end the way we’d like them to, but to even get as far as they got in 2017 is a tremendous achievement. 

While Team Israel’s accomplishment stands as nearly unprecedented in the world of international sports, the real story is in how the team and the country affected each other. Israel’s 2017 run ignited a passion for the game unseen in the nation before, inspiring little league sign ups, and diamond renovations as the country saw it’s first glimmer of just how magical baseball could be. For the players who bonded on this journey and fell in love with Israel, their lives were changed forever. Every player on the team finished their run with a stronger sense of personal identity and a connection to the land of Israel.

Several players have even since made Aliyah, becoming permanent citizens. 

With baseball returning to the 2021 Olympic games, no doubt some of these players will have another opportunity to represent Israel. Many wonder, with quiet hope, if lightning can strike twice. There is no way to know for sure, but if Team Israel’s 2017 WBC performance has taught us anything, it’s to never count Israel out!  

[Comment]

Team Israel 2017 – Davids versus Goliaths (Part 1)By: C4i

 
Stop me if you’re heard this one before. A ragtag team of underdogs defy the odds and beat some of the best players in the game, bonding as a team and learning something special about themselves in the process. That’s a pretty standard story for a feelgood sports movie, right? What if we upped the drama a little and said the team was a 200-1 longshot when they played their first game? Are we stretching your suspension of disbelief now? What if we said the game captured the attention of an entire nation and made them fans of a sport almost nobody played in the country before the team inspired them. Are we getting a little much now, maybe a bit schmaltzy? 

You may think it sounds unbelievable, but this is no Hollywood script. Team Israel lived the miracle in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, shattering all expectations and forever altering the perception of Israeli baseball.

Filmmaker Jeremy Newberger was lucky enough to be there and film it all. Originally, he wanted to make a small, contained mini-doc about Jewish baseball players. Team Israel was going to be playing a few qualifying games for the WBC and were fully expected to end their journey there. Traveling with the team, he’d focus on the players involved, the camaraderie and dynamics of a Jewish team, the cultural value of representing Israel in a sport that the nation, by and large, doesn’t care that much about. It was supposed to be a quick trip, a few days maybe. But those plans were scrapped, and his little trip became more than a month-long journey due to one simple surprise – the team started winning. The result was a very different film, Heading Home, a celebration of Team Israel’s surprising performance and how the experience changed the players on the team.



To understand how unlikely Team Israel’s performance was, you have to know a little more about the WBC. Born after the Olympic committee’s unfortunate decision to no longer support baseball in 2005, the WBC is a tournament of titans collecting the best from around the world. It’s similar to soccer’s World Cup in terms of structure, competition, and national pride. 

Naturally, countries with a cultural passion for baseball field the strongest teams. Much like they had at the Olympics, teams from the United States, Cuba, South Korea, and Japan tend to dominate in the WBC as professional ball players from the most competitive leagues make up the backbones of these teams. 

Israel, by comparison, has a much shallower pool of talent to draw from. The Israeli Baseball League is a respectable program of 6 teams from various parts of the nation, but there is just no comparison to something like the MLB or Japan’s NPB. For example, the 2006 WBC team for the United States included Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodríguez, and Roger Clemens, a murderer’s row of some of the best players to ever step up to the plate. Japan had the legendary Ichiro Suzuki while the Dominican Republic brought Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero to the field, some of the best players to ever play the game, and that’s just for starters. These were the Goliaths of baseball brought together to compete on the world stage for personal and national pride. How could Israel hope to compete in an environment like this?
With whichever players they could find. 

Eligibility to play for a team in the WBC requires a player to either be a citizen of the country they want to play for, or to be eligible to be a citizen. With Israel’s rules allowing for people of Jewish descent to become citizens, this afforded the team the opportunity to supplement their bench with a number of Jewish American pro players. Great news to be sure, but of course all the primary talent would already be absorbed by Team USA. That left a number of skilled, but off-beat players for Team Israel to recruit. 

Players like Cody Decker, who was more known for his outlandish pranks on his teammates than anything else. Jason Marquis, a talented pitcher, but one who was nearing the end of his baseball career. And Craig Breslow, a former Yale graduate known as the smartest man in sports who operates his own charity for pediatric cancer. These were the oddballs of baseball. Clowns and has-beens, brainiacs and never-quite-made-its. They certainly didn’t look like what you picture when you think of an international winning team. 

But each of these players had something to bring to the game and something to prove. Decker brought levity and humor to the locker room, as well as the team’s mascot the ‘Mensch on the Bench’, a 5 foot tall plush Rabbi. Marquis, who lost his grandparents in the Holocaust and attended Hebrew School as a child was chomping at the bit to represent team Israel even before he was signed. Breslow, a sense of history and purpose. The entire roster had a special kind of chemistry, a strange brew that resulted in unexpected performance.

It was the kind of alchemy that is normally reserved for film fantasy. This unlikely crew, the "Oys of summer” would go on a journey that would stun the world of baseball and change how each member of the team saw themselves. 

Watch for part 2 for the rest of the story.

[Comment]

Looking after the elderly during COVIDBy: C4i

This COVID crisis has impacted us all, but perhaps no single group has been harder hit than our elderly and senior relatives and friends. Our parents and grandparents are at the same time both at the most risk, and also the most isolated by this virus. 

We’ve all had to adjust to changes in the workplace, school closures, and physical distancing guidelines. While life isn’t exactly back to normal, most of us are finding our footing and navigating this new world as best we can. Work from home arrangements have been made, many businesses have returned to operations (if under some new precautions and standards), and the younger generations, who are more electronically connected than ever, are at least enjoying virtual social lives through messenger apps and online games.

For many elderly people though, these past few months have represented a total loss to their access to the outside world. Those who don’t drive and depended on public transportation or rides with family and friends are suddenly without a means to travel. And where would they travel to? They are constantly told (and with good reason) to avoid any unnecessary exposure with others and to stay away from any public place. Our elderly are often not as comfortable with technology as the younger generations and can’t even resort to digital camaraderie to keep their spirits up. 

That’s why it is up to us. We need to take special care to ensure that our elderly loved ones are cared for and protected physically and emotionally during this international crisis.

Staying connected but safe

The sad fact is many leading health experts anticipate several more months of lock down conditions. These past four months have felt like an eternity already and we don’t even know if we’re at the halfway point yet. If you find that demoralizing and sad, imagine how our elderly, who have been even more isolated and bored during this crisis, must feel. 

It’s good that many elderly are heeding warnings and are minimizing their exposure. But isolation can also be an insidious health threat, one that can lead to depression, an early decline in cognitive function, and eventually will result in more virus transmissions as fed up seniors eventually ignore the dangers in favor of a return to normalcy. The best way to keep our seniors healthy is with regular, safe, communication. 

Phone calls are a great start. A daily check-in, even a short one, can do wonders for raising spirits and ensuring that no one feels forgotten or abandoned. If they are technologically inclined, email messages can be a fast, easy way of keeping up a dialog throughout the day, and video calls are even better. A few minutes saying hi to the grandkids face-to-face can make a big difference to a senior who has been stuck inside staring at the same walls all day.

In person visits are also a major help, provided safety steps are taken. Outdoor visits where everyone can maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from each other are ideal. For some seniors who have poor hearing, talking from a distance like that (especially though masks) may be difficult, but that can be worked through with pocket hearing aids and patience. Even if you need to raise your voice a bit to be heard, a noisy visit is better than no visit at all. 

Staying positive

One thing that is not being discussed in the broader coverage of the virus is just how frightening this has been for many seniors. This has been a major upset in their lives and the prevailing message has been "just wait it out.” For how long? For those who just started retirement, this virus has been a nasty joke. Finally, free to enjoy long relaxing days with friends and family, instead they’ve been confined and trapped in their own homes. 

That’s why it’s so important for us to help them stay positive. While during a visit or conversation with an elderly relative or friends its only natural to talk about the virus and what’s going on, don’t let it be the thing you dwell on. Do your best to keep the conversation fun and looking towards a hopeful future.
Wherever possible, find things you can share. Start a mini book club by reading the same book and discussing it together. Share movies and TV shows you like. With plenty of time on their hands, now is a great time to catch up on some shows they never got around to before! Bring a portable speaker to your next outdoor visit and play some old favourite tunes, especially those related to good memories (songs played at family weddings, concerts they once attended, favorite bands), whatever will help them stop thinking about how scary and uncertain things are now and help them smile. 

A great way to keep things positive is to encourage safe long-term projects for the elderly in your life. There has never been a better time to keep a garden, get back into painting, stitch a quilt, or do some woodworking. Having something productive to spend time on every day can be both a great distraction and something positive to look forward to in the future. Rather than just a slog of similar days for the foreseeable future, they can look forward to finishing a project and having something to be proud of. It’s an easy conversation piece too, all you need to do is ask "how is your garden coming along” and it’s off to the races!

Pray for them and with them

One of the most dangerous parts of this pandemic has been the loss of spiritual connection. With churches closed or people deciding not to risk attending, there has been a loss of spiritual connection in the community. If our elderly friends and relatives can’t go to church, it’s up to us to be the church. Take time to pray for your loved ones and take time to pray with them. Don’t be afraid to suggest singing a hymn or two with them, or reading a few Psalms. 

In John 13:35, Jesus says that "everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” That’s the love we need to show right now to get everyone, young and old, through this pandemic. 

[Comment]

The courage of Irena Sendler Part 2By: C4i

"It was easier to hide a tank than a Jewish child in the Holocaust”

Irena Sendler was already wearing a bullseye in occupied Poland. A known Jewish sympathizer and activist with a history of flouting the establishment when it came to doing what is right, she would have been immediately on the Gestapo’s radar as a potential Jewish sympathizer. And indeed, as a member of the Warsaw Welfare Department, Irena was already working under the table to funnel goods and supplies to endangered Jewish families. Most would say she had already done enough; that she had already helped more than the vast majority of people who either did nothing or actively collaborated with the Nazis; that the danger was already too close. 

But Irena felt the complete opposite. She felt the overwhelming need to do more.

It was in 1942 after the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto that Irena began to work hand in hand with the Żegota, the underground Council to Aid Jews, that was dedicated to subverting the Nazi occupation and assisting as many Jews as possible. It has to be stressed how dangerous this was, the Żegota was an illegal organization. Association with them, let along actively providing them aid, would be punishable by imprisonment and execution. And Irena with her background and reputation would be closely watched for such ties. Understanding this is key to understanding just how courageous Irena’s efforts truly were.

Using her position in the welfare department, Irena secured a certificate as a disease inspector, one of the few plausible reasons a Polish civilian could have for entering and leaving the Ghetto. It was an undesirable job for most, one with a high risk of illness and personal danger, but perfect for Irena. It was this access that would give her and the Żegota organization the chance to save many lives.

Irena began visiting the Ghetto daily, using the opportunity to gather information, ferry messages from the people trapped there to their allies in the Żegota, and distribute desperately needed food and medicine. While she knew the situation in the Ghetto was dire, seeing the starvation, sickness, and misery firsthand had a shattering impact on Irena. Now a young mother herself, she could not bear the thought of children suffering under those conditions.

It would have been impossible for Irena to smuggle out a full-grown adult, there was no way she could walk into the Ghetto alone and saunter out with a "friend” tagging along. And then there would be the difficulty of them hiding, securing false documents, identities, work histories and such. But children, those she could smuggle out in a gunny sack, or in a box used to ship goods - if nobody looked too close anyway. And 1942 Poland was full of orphans with unclear histories and shoddy paperwork, families that could take in a child to blend in with their own. The burden of documentation for children was much less severe than for adults. it was possible.

So that’s exactly what she did. She went into the Ghetto in her ambulance and one-by-one she smuggled children out of that pit. She cultivated a small network of sympathizers inside the Social Welfare Department to help forge documents and names for the children, and worked with the Żegota and local Christian churches to secure willing foster families and orphanages to hide the children. 

Again, the danger of this for everyone involved cannot be overstated. Taking in a Jewish child was like taking in a bomb without a visible timer, a hazard that could blow up your entire family with one slip, one loose conversation overheard by the wrong person, one unlucky inspection from the Gestapo. But Irena was a force, so strong were her convictions, her passion for helping these children, that as she said herself later, "No one ever refused to take a child from me." 

Still, this was hard, exhausting work. Imagine the desperation of a Jewish mother sending her small child to be carried out of her home in a rucksack or even in the case of at least one infant, a toolbox, by a stranger. The strain Irena felt day-after-day watching families make the impossible decision to try and save their children, knowing they would likely never see them again. She needed something to keep her faith going. For Irena, that was a jar filled with names.

Written in code on small slips of paper sealed in jars were the names of every child she helped save. Their real Jewish names, their families, and when and where they were taken. This was damning evidence to have on hand if her home was ever searched, but Irene felt it was important to have some kind of documentation to these lives. It was the hope that one day these families could be reunited. 

These jars were buried under an apple tree in her neighbour’s lawn. All in all, they contained the names of 2,500 children that Irene personally had a hand in saving.

It wasn’t to last. The Nazis eventually caught up with Irene in the fall of 1943. She was arrested and tortured in unspeakable ways. Despite her suffering, she never gave up the names and locations of the hidden Jewish children or her collaborators. Frustrated, the Gestapo shipped her off to prison awaiting execution. 

In what can only be considered a miracle, Irene survived. Members of the Żegota were able to bribe the German’s to delay the execution and engineered an escape. Despite being one of the Gestapo’s most important prisoners, she was able to slip through the cracks. She spent the rest of the war on the run, always looking over her shoulder for German officers.
 
 

It is an incredible story, but perhaps what is most impressive about Irena’s efforts is her extreme humility. Irena did not seek any kind of gratitude or accolades for her actions. In fact, despite being recognized by Yad Vashem in 1965, she remained a relatively obscure figure in terms of Holocaust heroes compared to others like Oscar Schindler. It wasn’t until the year 2000 when an American high-school class "rediscovered” her that her exploits would be widely known in North America. The class, tasked with looking into the history of the Holocaust, saw a figure that quoted Irena as saving 2,500 lives which they believed must have been a typo. Surely, they meant 250 lives, right? Looking into the mystery, they discovered that not only was there no typo, but that Irena, now 90 years old was still alive and well, still living in Warsaw among family members! 

The class would go on to create a play called Life in a Jar about Irena and ignite an international outpouring or recognition to her work. Including a call from the Pope, multiple articles and television programs, and several awards and plaques. 

Irena passed at the age of 98, grateful but never entirely comfortable with the accolades. She said, "every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.” All of these years later, she still never saw what she did as personally heroic, but her duty to her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. A remarkable perspective from someone who lived her principals to the fullest.

[Comment]

The Courage of Irena Sendler Part 1By: C4i

 
When the Nazis invaded Poland, Warsaw became a place of misery and suffering. Nearly half a million Jewish men, women, and children were herded into a 3.5 kilometer square neighbourhood and prevented from leaving. Families lived on top of each other, averaging 9 people to a room. Epidemics ran rampant, and the entire population was purposely starved with rations tightly controlled with intentional shortages of essentials. It was a charnel house, designed to kill off as many Jews as possible "naturally” while weakening the rest of the population for their eventual forced removal to concentration camps.

Knowing this, what kind of person do you think would willingly walk into this horror? Who would face the disease, misery, and brutality afflicting these people? Maybe you’re picturing someone brave, a soldier, or a brilliant doctor, or a shrewd spy. How about a 29-year-old social worker and nurse? A girl so unassuming the Nazis wouldn’t even notice when she helped slip more than 2,500 people out of that hell and into safety. That was Irena Sendler.

Irena’s story began in Otwock, a town nearby Warsaw where she lived a quiet, peaceful childhood. Raised Christian, her father, Stanisław, was a physician who was known for his strong altruistic spirit. He would often treat poor patients (including Jews and other minorities) free of charge, believing in the necessity of generosity and mercy to those who needed it. Soon, the impoverished made up the majority of his patients, but Stanislaw never complained. Even when an outbreak of Typhus ripped through the Jewish community, he kept treating them until he himself contracted the disease and subsequently passed in 1917. Irena was only seven years old at the time, but her father’s teaching and example had a profound impact in shaping her worldview. Rather than be embittered at losing her father at such a young age, she idolized him and his commitment to helping people of any background or heritage.
You’d think this would be an attitude that would be applauded by society, but sadly we live in an imperfect world. In the early 1900’s in Poland, being an open ally of the Jewish people was painting a target on your back, even before the Nazis arrived. Irene got in all kinds of trouble at school for actions like defacing the "Non-Jewish” identifier on her student card (a racist and exclusionary practice meant to target the Jewish population) and for her activity in various activist groups that agitated for Jewish acceptance. She was suspended for more than a year for her troubles. 

After graduation things didn’t get better. She was black balled in the community and despite strong grades, her university gave her a negative recommendation. Irena found her employment opportunities limited as a direct result of work to help and stand by her Jewish neighbours. But she never once expressed doubt or regret. She would later be fond to repeat a lesson her father taught her when she was very young, "You see a man drowning, you must try to save him even if you cannot swim.”

This is a very noble attitude, but also a dangerous one. Especially when living under Nazi occupation.

Irena was working with the Warsaw welfare department when the Nazis invaded and began rounding up Jews, forcing them to wear identifying arm bands, and enforcing blatantly discriminatory laws as a precursor to setting up the ghetto. Almost immediately she went to work subverting the Nazis’ plans for the Jews in the area. 

The Nazis issued strict orders that no aid from the Welfare department was to be given to the Jews. No food, money, or medical care. Instead, Irena’s office focused on aiding Polish soldiers. It was here that her work first began.

It started small. Irena would hear of Jews in the area who needed food or medical care and she would draft some papers for some "Polish soldiers” who coincidentally had the exact same needs. She’d funnel the care to those who needed it. Soon, Irena and a few close confidants began creating fictional neighbourhoods. The way welfare assistance was dispersed at the time was from statistics gathered from communities, so Irena would compose lists of names, entire families, out of thin air. These neighbourhoods of phantom people would be issued aid that would instead be used to help Jews in hiding and help underground resistance members survive. 

But surely a ploy like that could only last so long, right? What was to keep the German occupation staff from inspecting some of these non-existent families to see exactly where the resources were going? What would keep them at bay? Fear. 
Irena, a 4’11” young woman found a way to cow the German bureaucracy. Shrewdly, each family she made up was stricken with the worst of diseases – typhus, cholera, and other contagious, lethal afflictions that were known to spread just like that to nearby people. Somehow, no inspector ever felt like checking in on those families. 

But it wasn’t enough, Irena wasn’t content to just get supplies to suffering people, she needed to save them. And to do that, she’d need an audacious plan, nerves of steel, and the grace of God.

Find out more in part two.

[Comment]

Silan, the Israeli treat that is going globalBy: C4i

Dates are an incredibly versatile foodstuff. They can be picked and eaten ripe, dried like a raisin, baked into any number of pies or pastries, or turned into silan – the sticky syrup that is taking the global market by storm. What was once a fairly obscure homemade treat in Israeli homes has become a major export you can expect to hear more of!

Dates are one of mankind’s oldest and most familiar foodstuffs. Grown by humans for more than five thousand years, this delicious treat has been known as the "bread of the desert” and the "cake of the poor” beloved for both its sweet taste and widespread availability thanks to its intrinsic ruggedness. It’s a beautiful, tasty fruit that grows in some of the harshest, hottest climates in the world - it makes sense that it has been considered a blessing by different cultures for centuries! 

As you might expect, the date occupies a special place in Israeli culture. As one of the seven fruit species prevalent in the nation during biblical times (along with olives, grapes, figs, pomegranates, barley, and wheat) it is strongly associated with biblical history. The dates grown in Israel today are much the same as the dates Jesus and his disciples would have eaten (in fact, dried dates were a very popular travel food in ancient times, perfect for anyone on a long trip to spread the gospel). The date has been used as a symbol of hospitality in Israel since ancient times, a welcoming treat to share with guests and visitors. Even today, the humble date graces the 10-shekel coin, that’s how important the crop is to Israeli culture. And while popular as a snack, it’s the syrupy silan that has really captured the interest of Israeli chefs and international attention!

Silan is a labour of love. Made by slow boiling specific varieties of dates picked just a tiny bit before they are fully ripe for just the right flavor and painstakingly wringing the juices from them. That juice is further reduced from there until it becomes a sticky, thick syrup. This is not something you just whip up in an afternoon. 

There is an art to making silan at home. It requires patience, care, and practice. Just like the perfect bowl of pho, or a meticulously baked brioche, home-made silan is an all-day event. One that every Israeli swears their grandma does the best! 

But production advancements in the 1980s found ways to expand the process and reliably hit the complex flavour notes that make silan such a favourite. These advancements allowed silan to hit grocery store shelves as a staple in Israeli homes, a lovely alternative to honey, molasses, or even caramel. Today, silan is used in a variety of dishes, both elaborate and simple. From marinades and roasts, to simply smeared over some bread with a little tahini for the Israeli equivalent of a PB&J sandwich! 

What has really brought silan to the world stage though is an increasing awareness of what we eat. As many health-conscious foodies seek alternatives to refined white sugar, silan offers a tempting alternative. With a sweet but not sickening flavour profile that features complex notes of coffee and bitter caramel to balance it out, it’s a welcome substitution for many recipes and beverages that typically rely on sugar. It is also a great source of antioxidants and vitamins A and B, making it healthier as well. 

Vegans are also getting into the act. Silan mixed with a bit of water can be a surprising substitute for eggs that few would expect, making it perfect for those who want to avoid the use of any animal products in their baking. It’s also becoming something of a secret weapon for gourmet chefs and restaurateurs who are using silan’s more complex flavour profile to give their dishes a little extra kick!

While we’re sure many Israeli homes still insist the best silan is their granny’s, the rest of us can now enjoy this delicious treat worldwide! 

[Comment]

What we can learn from COVID-19 as ChristiansBy: C4i

 
As we make our way through the third month of COVID-19 precautions, many of us do so with weary hearts. Even as some businesses open back up, a heavy weight still hangs over the country and the entire world. We’re still being told to keep our distance from each other as best as possible, to only go out when it is essential, to avoid large groups like birthday parties, restaurants, and yes, church. It has been a struggle to suddenly go without these cornerstones of life. But it has also been an opportunity. If we must endure these conditions, we have to assume it is because there is a higher purpose to them and reflect on what that could be. As Christians, there are many lessons we can take away from the COVID-19 crisis. 

What you can control versus what you can’t

A major recurring theme throughout the gospel is the fact that we, as humans, are not in control. We cannot comprehend God’s plan for us at the best of times, and we’re certainly no better prepared to do so during a crisis. Proverbs 3:5 encourages us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" precisely because our own understanding and perspective is so limited compared to God’s. This is a something every Christian knows, but it takes a massive society upheaving moment like this to bring the full weight of that truth to bear. Plan as we might, ultimately God has the final say in all matters.

As Christians, we have to learn to embrace that truth, as scary as that can be sometimes. During times of uncertainty like now, this is more true than ever. We should of course strive to take the precautions we can (keep the essentials stocked, limit our exposure, be smart about what we do and where we go) but there are limits to what we can do. Worrying about what will happen afterwards can only bring pain and anxiety. Mathews 6:34 says it directly "Therefore, don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” So learn to see the difference between what we can control and what we can’t, and trust in God to take care of the things we cannot.

Find joy where you can

COVID-19 has been a wrecking ball. It’s taken lives, broken families, and disrupted every facet of our lives. But we can’t allow ourselves to give into desperation. We need to face these challenges head on, and part of doing that is appreciating the things we do have rather than wallow in what we’ve lost.
In the case of this disease, and any other major crisis, you should always be looking for things to appreciate. Yes, social distancing has been hard, but for many of us it’s also been an opportunity to bond with family members in new ways. We’ve had to rely on each other to get through this and forge even stronger bonds than ever. Some of us have been helping our neighbours who can’t get out for one reason or another or have been on the receiving end of that help. This is a beautiful thing, this crisis has shown who we are as Christians. Many of us have also had the chance to catch up on projects around the house, to start new hobbies, or even just gain a new perspective on what we appreciate and enjoy in life. As many of our typical distractions and chores fall away, we’ve been able to focus in on what matters, what really makes us happy.

No matter how terrible the situation, there are always traces of God’s grace and goodness to be found. Every day is a gift, no matter what obstacles face us, so focus on the things that make you happy, that show you God’s love for us, and treasure them. Find joy wherever you can and take that attitude forward as we move out of this crisis and back towards normality.

We can worship in the face of separation and hardship

Online sermons, virtual prayer groups, text groups instead of church groups. When faced between the prospect of isolation or seeking a technological solution, many of us have learned to depend on devices and software we never would have associated with the Church in a million years before all of this started. And while online streams and the infinite 1s and 0s of the computer world will never be a substitute for actual, real, face-to-face community, it has helped, or at least somewhat helped, to fill the void of prolonged isolation and social distancing. More than that though, as Christians, we should find these technological solutions bracing because they show that no matter what the situation is, what obstacles we face, we can still find ways to worship God.

That’s the real thing to take away from this. For as silly as it may seem to log into a Zoom prayer group, or boot up a stream of a pastor preaching from his hastily assembled living room studio, the spirit, the desire to worship is there. Even in the midst of sickness and suffering, hardship and pain, we still yearn to worship God and commune with fellow Christians. That is a truly beautiful thing that shouldn’t go unrecognized.

When this is over and we can once again fill the pews and embrace each other in our arms, we shouldn’t forget this spirit and take what we have for granted. We should come out of this period of uncertainty charged and energized, and ready to worship with even fuller hearts than before. 
They say you don’t know what you have till it’s gone. Now we know. And when we get it back we should treasure it like it deserves.

[Comment]

Growing in a time of uncertaintyBy: C4i

 
This protracted period of social distancing and caution has been difficult on many of us. It’s heartbreaking to go without seeing family and friends for such a long stretch of time, and stressful to be without access to many amenities we typically enjoy. But as we know from scripture, times of adversity are also opportunities. In this case, it’s an opportunity for both spiritual, and literal growth.

This is the perfect time to cultivate a garden, a small herb box on the windowsill, or even a small plant. Whatever your space, budget, and ability allows, what matters is finding a way to focus on what is important in our lives.

Gardening as a Christian activity

This might seem like a non-sequitur. What does gardening have to do with growing as a Christian? But there is a real connection to be made in caring for the earth and natural splendor God has created. It is a reminder both of our responsibilities as Christians to be a positive force for good wherever we can be, and of God’s sovereignty over the earth. Growing something, helping to bring new life and abundance where there was none before, is a reminder of the miracle of creation and how lucky we are to be a part of it. 

Gardening, whether you’re tending to a large crop or a single flower is an act of patience. In a world defined by instant access and immediate feedback, gardening is something that cannot be rushed. There are no short cuts taking a plant from seed to bloom. It’s a reflective process, one that takes patience and perspective, two qualities that are in all too short supply these days. 

It’s also never a guarantee. Gardening can be uncertain. Not every seed takes, not every plant produces the fruit we want or the amount we expect. This is also a lesson, the world does not work to our timetable or our expectations, it works to God’s. While nobody enjoys disappointment, gardening can teach you to accept it and move on. One plant might fail, another will bloom even more spectacularly - we do what we can but ultimately the final say is always God’s.

A practical pastime

There are other practical lessons to be learned from gardening. Thrift is one. Taking the scraps of one meal (the last nub of ginger, the ends of green onions), planting them in the soil, and eventually harvesting them to be their own meal is a wonderful thing. It’s an incredibly rewarding process that teaches us to never be wasteful with the gifts that God has given us.

It’s also joyful! Especially in this time when supplies in grocery stores are limited and just popping out to a store or restaurant isn’t an option for many. Growing your own herbs and fresh vegetables can be a welcome way to spruce up your meals! There is something incredibly satisfying about kicking up your pasta sauce to the next level by picking off a few leaves of basil you grew in your windowsill, or even better, making the sauce from your own tomatoes. God gave us a world of flavor and abundance, enjoy it! Celebrate it!

Gardening can also give us structure in a time when that is absent for many of us. Having a routine to check the garden or pots, water them, maybe do some light pruning here or there can help provide direction and stability in a very uncertain time. If you’ve been spending your days listless and worrying, even looking after a small plant or two can help improve your mood. Anxiety and fear left unchecked can become an obstacle between you and God, whatever helps reduce them is an undeniably good thing. 

Looking to the future

Perhaps one of the most positive aspects of gardening is that it always gives you something to look forward to, something to mark time with. A sapling planted now is not much to look at. By the end of the season it might only be a twig. In a year, if you’re lucky, it will be a stick with a few shoots. But while you’re not looking, somehow, in a few years that little stick will become a tree that is bearing fruit. A few more, and you can hang a swing off of it for whichever little ones are in your life at that time, be they children or grandchildren. By the time those kids have outgrown swings, that tree will provide lush shade with long branches and healthy leaves. We plant the seeds of our future today.

Yes, we are living in some very trying times right now, but we can trust in God that there are better days to come. Give your future self something to look back on, a positive thing to come out of a dark time. Cultivate today for a better tomorrow.

[Comment]

Contact Us

C4i Canada

P O Box 26048

Brantford, ON N3R 7X4

Tel: (888) 206-1986

Fax : (519) 720-6905

Email: info@c4i.ca

mastercard visa
All funds charged in Canadian Dollars

The PURPOSE of C4i is to call Christians to express love in action to the people of Israel.

Our MISSION is to present a biblical perspective of God’s plan for Israel and the church.

Our VISION is to see God’s truth proclaimed so that nations will support and bless the people of Israel.


Charitable Business Number - 86988 4841 RR0001