The Unsolicited Sorority

“Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty look, repeats his words,
Remembers me of his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form”
― William Shakespeare, King John

 

The wipers are intermittently clearing the large flakes of snow off my windshield as I continue with my errands on this cold February afternoon. My eyelids clear the tears welling in them as my heart is transported to another time, another place, so very long ago. There are some things that never really go away; they punctuate the present unexpectedly. Things buried beneath the passage of time, obscured by a lofty stack of days, weeks, years, errands, appointments, people, and events. But it will surface and surge and at those unpredictable occasions and for a little while I allow the memories and accompanying feelings to have their holiday.
Sitting quietly in my living room two days earlier, while drinking coffee and talking with a friend on the phone, I kept looking at an old picture on the wall and realized something was wrong. The mat just did not look good anymore. It was faded and not at all a match for the picture or my décor. This certainly is not what I would choose now. Well, I can change it! I love to go into the art store and see the beautiful work of Anne Loveless, two time Art Prize winner, and her husband Steve.
Today is the day. Taking my “to do” list and the picture off the living room wall, I head for the car.
“Come on Shmoey!” I called to my dog as he jumped into the car. “You can come too. I just have a few errands to run.” I carefully laid the picture in the back seat after filling the trunk with bags of items to go to Jerry’s- the local consignment shop. Driving the seven miles to Beulah, a tiny town on the east side of Crystal Lake, I see the shop. Perfect, a parking place right in front.
Slopping through the slush as the snow continues its silent descent; I carry my picture, using my hip to open the heavy glass door. The hanging bells jingle. A woman, probably in her early fifties, comes from the back work room and greets me. “Hi, what can I help you with today?”
“I would like to replace the mat on this portrait.” I replied. “It seems faded and too coral colored.”
“Yes, I can see it is dark and faded. Did you have a color in mind?” She asked.
“A light pink would be pretty.” I answered.
“I have several samples in various shades of pink.” She brought an assortment of 90 degree mat samples for me to examine.
“Could you give me a price on just the cut mat versus you doing the whole job?” I asked.
“Of course, can I take it apart and get the exact measurements?” She inquired.
“Sure, I guess whether you do it or I do it, it has to be taken apart.” I answered.
I watched as she took a sharp cutting tool and removed the paper backing, and dismantled the piece of art. She laid it on the counter. I noticed some pastel dust clinging to the glass.
This portrait is very old, I thought to myself, I hope she is careful with it.
“I thought the artist would have sprayed a fixative on the paper to prevent ‘dusting’ of the chalk.” I commented.
“She may have, but a little dusting is normal over a long period of time.” She responded.
Long period is right. The portrait is over thirty years old.
I positioned several 90 degree ‘corner’ mats of varying shades of pink around the picture. Eliminating them one by one until a light pink was pleasing.
“I like this one.” I said as I handed her the sample.
“This color is nice; it really matches her dress,” she replied.
She was very kind and patient, and seemed to know what she was doing. The price was right for “the professional” to do the matting and put it all back together, so I went with that.
“Probably sometime next week I will have it done and I will call you.” She stated as I gave my name and phone number.
Standing there for a minute I stared at the pastel portrait lying naked on the wide counter. No mat, no frame, no glass. It is just an old delicate piece of paper with a soft colored pastel drawing with a likeness equal to the real life image in my mind. So many years have passed since my eyes gazed at that face in reality, seeing the twinkle in her blue eyes as she smiled sweetly and laughed at the antics of her 8 year old sister, Stacy.
Turning to leave I paused and said “Please be gentle with it. This is a picture of my daughter who died.”
Gazing at me attentively she spoke, “I am sorry. I know what it is like. I lost my son ten years ago. He died of leukemia…How old was your daughter when she died?”
“’Almost one.” I answered.” She died during open heart surgery. I am sorry for your loss too. How old was your son?”
Her voice was soft as she replied, “He was twenty-four. It is so heart breaking to lose a child.”
“Yes, it is.” I said, as memories tap the shoulder of emotions buried in my soul. “No matter the age of your child it is devastating. I have known elderly people whose children were fifty or sixty years old, and others who lose infants before birth.”
In those moments, during the brief exchange of words between two strangers, a common bond was recognized. A connection formed through experiencing the ultimate loss, the supreme misery of burying your ‘babe’. We know, and wish above all things we did not know the agony of our powerlessness, the months and years of craving for the beloved. We understand the challenge of living again when you do not want to. We know the arduous task of piecing your life back together when it has been forever altered. Similar to a crash that tears up your body but you survive and must learn to compensate, adjust, and walk again… limping but moving forward just the same. I am reminded of a passage in a book I read, over and over.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I prayed for the woman I had just encountered. I want to talk to her more, and I will when I pick up my picture. We belong to a club we did not request to join and unwillingly share. If there is any comfort at all it is the fact I am not alone. A support group called Compassionate Friends, for parents who lose children, helped me feel less isolated and odd, that all those crazy thoughts and feelings are “normal”. There are millions like me, like her, and more will continue to join this grief guild; death has not been defeated yet.
I think incredible sorrow carves out within us a deep capacity for compassion and empathy. We express our concern in our words, a hug, tears, a look in the eyes, and sometimes holding a hand and walking through the rugged terrain of mourning with a bereft parent. After my daughter died I received many cards and letters, often from people who read the obituary in the newspaper .These strangers reached out to say “it will get better.”Sharing their personal journey of loss and healing with me as an encouragement. I indeed can do the same, as the following scripture states:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Messiah are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through him. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Grief is still a process we must walk through and endure, there is no shortcut. Reading through an old diary revives the thoughts and emotions I encountered shortly after my daughter Megan’s death. I wrote almost daily. As the days, weeks, and months passed I wrote less, and less. At first I visited her grave several times a week; that too gradually diminished over time. Initially I thought I will never get over and get through this. I can’t do it, my life is over. But I did not die. Eventually healing came and I was able to laugh again without guilt.
By faith I know I am a child of the Living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore, I know I will see my child again. The following scripture is not only my greatest comfort, but my greatest joy.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
Since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Messiah.
For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first.

Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

DSC01823.JPG crop

My Forty Dollar Dog

Simple as it seems, this devoted little puppy reopened the avenue of love and significance to this wounded heart.

DSC01568DSC01569“Hey Lorene…do you want to stop at the animal shelter?” I asked as my car approached the sign for it along the road into Beulah. Lorene and I were on our way to lunch. It is a cold grey, March day in 2012, in northern lower Michigan.

She replied emphatically with a long drawn out “Nooooo, why would I want to do that? You know I don’t like animals .You can do that another time when you are by yourself!”

“I pass the sign all the time, look over at the building, and wonder what it’s like.” I explained.

“Patsi, it’s a building with dogs and cats that smell. I don’t want to spend time on my day off at the Benzie County Animal Shelter.”

“Okay,” I replied. So I packed up the thought and put it away for another day. I couldn’t put my finger on why I would even be curious, after all I am definitely not in the market for a pet, I don’t even want live plants!

Several weeks passed and I had not even thought of stopping at the animal shelter. Then one day in early May, I saw the sign, turned off the road and parked in the lot. I mused at my action and excused my behavior as simply inquisitive.

Kitties were all around the large entry room. Swinging from suspended rope and beds, climbing on the condos, and in and out of ‘houses’. It doesn’t smell too bad, mostly little disinfectant mixed with cat.

“Hello, can I help you?” A man in a green uniform asks.

“I just want to look around,” I answered.

“Well, the dogs are through the door back over there, cats are all up front.”

I open the heavy steel door and am smacked with ‘dog smell’. Yikes, mouth breathe, mouth breathe, I tell myself. Cautiously I walk down the cement aisle between cages on each side. Fifteen dogs are focused on me and barking vigorously for my attention! Quickly my fingers go into my ears. Why can’t these kennels be more sound proof? The echo is deafening!

Hmmm, that one looks old; and this one is so big. There is one here kind of small…but ugly. Well, I’ve seen enough, I’ve got this out of my system now.

Exiting the kennel I walk toward the front entrance. The man in the green suit calls to me, “Did you see one you liked?”

Oh no, thought, what do I say, I was just curious and not in the market for a pet. I responded, “No…I really like little dogs.” Seeing there were no little dogs I thought that would satisfy him.

“Oh, we have a little Yorkie out getting fixed today. You can see him tomorrow morning.”

“Okay,” I said a bit reluctantly as I kept walking. “I may be back tomorrow.”

Getting back in my car and heading home I thought- A Yorkie, those are little dogs. Maybe I will come back tomorrow. What AM I thinking? I don’t want a dog. I have not had a dog in years. In fact I regard people who treat their dogs like family members, catering to their needs, taking them wherever they go and downright ‘in love’ with their pets, as a wee bit off kilter, shaking my head and mutter to myself, these people and their dogs, I just don’t understand, it is so annoying!

My earliest memories as a child included Shorty, my first doggie, we were both the same age. My mom would never have a dog in the house so he lived outside in his own house. He was a fixture in my childhood, it was a comfort to have him around after my Dad died when I was seven.

Early one school day, when I was eleven I opened the kitchen door leading into the garage and Shorty lay in front of the step motionless. I was very sad that day. Concentrating on my fifth grade school work was hard.

Other dogs have come (at the pleas of my children), and gone in my life. The fondness I had toward the pets was minimal. Perhaps it was because I was busy raising children, working as a nurse and my life seemed to be in chaos much of the time.

I could go back into Beulah tomorrow morning; I need to go to the hardware. I will kill two birds with one stone and see that ‘little Yorkie’.

The next morning I drove the picturesque seven miles back into Beulah with my first stop being the animal shelter. I had a feeling of alarm when I could not find that little dog anywhere in the kennel. I visually searched every pen over twice.

“I cannot find that ‘little Yorkie’ you told me about yesterday.” I said anxiously to the Animal Officer. “Oh, he is in a small cage, in a room behind my desk.”

He was so small and a bit funny looking. He was curled up on a worn doggie bed. When I approached his cage he came to the front of the wire cage and stared up at me.

“You can take him out and see him.” Mr. Green Suit said.

I felt a bit awkward as I tried to pick him up. “He is so skittish and afraid.”

“Yep, he is just a little guy and he came from a home with sixteen dogs.”

“Wow, sixteen dogs! How did you happen to get him?” I asked.

“He was surrendered. Yeah, they were hoarders and well known by our department. Too many dogs, and to avoid trouble they surrendered him.” He answered.

I picked him up, he sniffed my neck then calmly put his head on my chest. I stroked his back, and ugh! He licked my cheek. His hair is coarse, matted, and stiff, and his ears are huge! He seems like a nice dog. I put him on the floor and he anxiously ventured off only a few feet then quickly scampered back to me and jumped on my legs as if he was afraid of the world and I was his security.

“Well, I need to have my husband take a peek at him. I’ll be back later this afternoon.”

I can’t believe I said that. I went home, hung a load of clothes on the line, then called my daughters confessing what I had done and seeking their advice. They reached a consensus of madness but thought it might be a good idea!

My husband, a retired veterinarian, accompanied me back to the shelter. After careful examination including his teeth, he was pronounced in good health, and approximately five months old.

Now, I was really nervous-I don’t know what to do.

“Well, would you like to adopt him?” asked Mr. Green Suit.

I suck in a long deep breath, “Can I think about it?” I asked to buy some time.

“Can you let me know by noon Friday? We have another lady interested in him, but I will wait on you first for an answer.”

“Sure, I will let you know by noon Friday. And by the way, how much is it to adopt?”

“Forty dollars.”

Hmm, that’s certainly cheap enough… and today is Wednesday, I will think and pray about it, this is a big step, I thought. I must be nuts! I am unencumbered now- retired, kids are grown, and grandkids visit, and I have a troubled marriage.

For two days the ‘what ifs’ drive me crazy. I make more phone calls to both daughters, who by the way each have a dog.

“What if he is mean, or barks too much, never gets housebroken, and just plain doesn’t work out? I asked.

“Mom, you can always sell him or give him away.” My wise oldest daughter replied.

Friday morning, 11:30 a.m. I walk into the shelter with some apprehension and begin to write a check and fill out the forms. The moment of decision has come, I nervously pick up this little dog and carry him to my car. I wonder if he’ll even sit still as I drive. I put him down in the passenger seat on a little blanket I brought and I began to drive. He is calm, and just looks at me. The sun is shining, all the hills are a beautiful collage of various shades of green. He is doing so good, innocently just sitting and starring at me. I think I will stop at my friend Jan’s house to show her my new purchase.

Jan is excited to see me and the puppy. We sit on her lawn with the soft delicate spring grass as our blanket, the earth beneath us is warm. My puppy potty’s (all on his own) then lays down and curls up next to me. A gentle west breeze is laden with the promise of lilacs and daffodils dot the yard with splashes of yellow, orange and white.

“What are you going to name him?” Asks Jan, then ads” I think you should name him Radar, he has such big ears!”

I pause and ponder the enormous contrast of this radiant spring day with the past several weeks and months of cold and darkness. My heart is hurting. A year earlier I entered into a marriage covenant with a man who professed he loved and needed me. I believed all he promised. My first year as a bride was filled with rejection, betrayal, and deceit, and the emotional abuse of withholding of love and affection. My hopes and dreams are shattered and my soul bruised under continued assault by the husband that became a stranger almost overnight. I desperately tried to regain the man I loved during our courtship only to realize, as the confusion cleared, that this is who he really is.

Suddenly the locked and barricaded doors of my heart open, I sniff and blink back the tears behind my sunglasses as I stroke this small helpless little dog-who needs me… as much as I need him.

At that moment I began understood what happened. I am in covenant with One who loves me beyond measure; the Lord God of Israel. Through the emotional pain and turmoil when I did not know what I needed, He did. I recalled what David said in Psalm 38:9:

O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

The Lord heard the silent speaking of my heart, as He speaks through the prophet Isaiah, chapter 65:24

It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

Simple as it seems, this devoted little puppy reopened the avenue of love and significance to this wounded heart.

“His name is Shmu’el.” I told Jan. “It is Hebrew for ‘God listens’”.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter’s Desolation

This is the part of winter I find bleak; the absence of the fresh white fluffy stuff that fell initially weeks, maybe even months ago. It was accompanied with joy and anticipation, my world was clean and sparkling. Now there are large patches of dirt scattered everywhere. Brown gnarly sticks and brush thrust their crooked arms upward toward the solemn dark gray sky, begging for help in this desolate time. The trees are naked. Life seems to be absent. All nature seems to inquire, “how long, how long must we wait for the promise of spring to be realized?”

My soul  senses a direct connection with this scene. It is the visible picture of the invisible state of my spirit: feelings of barrenness, silence, and questions, ‘when will the energy and productivity return?’ I want to see yield resulting from my prayers, my service,  my spiritual deposits into the Kingdom. There are no vial signs. Where do I go?

Answer: I go to the TRUTH, The Word of God.

It is the first and only place to go when questioning ANYTHING.

So don’t throw away that courage of yours, which carries with it such a great reward. For you need to hold out; so that, by having done what God wills, you may receive what He has promised. For

“There is so, so little time!

The One coming will indeed come,

He will not delay.

But the person who is righteous

Will live his life by trusting,

and if he shrinks back,

I will not be pleased with him.”

Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 10:35-38

It is all here, right there before me, but  it is hidden. I cannot see it with the eyes in my physical head. I see it with the eyes of my heart, through the Spirit of the Living God.

The dark ground will become a lush carpet of tightly woven thin green blades of grass. Though buried in the earth, seeds will sprout; bulbs will pierce the dirt with stems birthing blooms of sweet smelling colorful flowers, making their debut in an effort to lure butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.  Scraggy brush will send out slender projections that will be a haven for crickets and grasshoppers.

The sap will begin to flow deep inside the Maple tree, soon we will be able to taste and savor its’ sweetness. Waiting inside those branches are slim stems hiding delicate, intricately designed leaves desperate to unfold. Captivating foliage provides shade and are evidence of the life cycle. Swishing leaves, by the gentle breeze of summer will be a melody of nature. When the summer fades leaves changing to vibrant colors of green, yellow, orange, and red will enthrall me. Each bough exhibits strength, bearing the heaviness of its charge. Birds, squirrels, and bugs will find a home and a refuge within its’ stately arms. It will truly be a masterpiece by the Master of all the earth.

As I envision what  the spring season will bring, I remember the sudden  random blessings  of the past. Examining the events and people in my life from  a loftier perspective I and humbled by the workings of God.

However bleak the situation may appear, Yeshua is still listening and interceding. Our Father asks us to look beyond the way things appear, and trust Him for what can be. No matter the circumstance, problem or ‘feeling’ I am called to rely on Him. I must trust the Master, rich in mercy and love.

Winter's Desolation
Waves and wind at Empire Beach

Prayer: Oh Abba, please forgive me for my short sightedness and temporary lapse of faith. I know from previous encounters with despair and despondency that I cannot focus on results, or on what I think should happen and when. Timing and outcomes are in your hands, not mine.  Thank you for the reality of Your Word that keeps me   and instructs me. Please give me strength and courage to press on, no matter what. Thank you for rewarding my diligence in doing your will, and bringing seasons of renewal. Bless you Father for your faithfulness to me. I love you.

Toni Perms and Holiday Dresses

I sat in the  “cherry” decorated kitchen at my friend June’s house, last week.   There were nine  ladies crowded around the kitchen table, watching the last video of our Bible study series; staring up at the television mounted on the wall. Extra treats, and colorful wrapped presents line the counter for a full afternoon of celebration.

The temperature outside was frigid and about 20 inches of snow dumped on us the day before. Several of us still had more shoveling to do, clocks that needed resetting due to a spattering of power outages, and need to pour out the water jugs we filled when the storm warning was issued. We laughed at our own perseverance and dedication to our study.  Bragging that we are die hard, true, northern Michiganders- hearty, taking the cold and snow in stride. It is typical winter weather here in this quaint little town that sits right on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Winter, though less appreciated than summer, has remarkable beauty that unveils another dimension of nature; under grey and purple skies everything outdoors is layered with fluffy white snow appearing undefiled and pure. The tender boughs of the evergreen trees are bending low from the weight of heavy snow. There is now a pause, as if nature is taking a breath. There is a rest from the assault of the frozen precipitation. Here we sit, watching our video, learning of our God and our people’s history. No one would ever know that under our festive holiday garb is long underwear and cuddle duds.

Large flakes began to fall and the flurry of activity at the bird feeder catches my eye. I gaze out the kitchen window and watch the chickadees, sparrows, and even a crimson cardinal scurry to eat with their peers. I remembered what Messiah said about me, the birds and all those who trust in his name:

Matthew 6: 25-26 “Therefore, I tell you, don’t worry about your life — what you will eat or drink; or about your body — what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds flying about! They neither plant nor harvest, nor do they gather food into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are?”

Staring out the window at the white wonderland vista, a memory from long ago flashed in my mind, it was vivid, as if it occurred this morning. I was at a birthday party for a childhood friend. A glossy black and white photograph of our eating birthday cake at her kitchen table is kept in my box of memories on the closet shelf. All the little girls were about five years old, decked out in our fancy stiff crinoline dresses, with black patent leather shoes. Our moms fixed our hair with barrettes and bows, we were styl’in with curly hair, ringlets, and pageboys! Much of which I am sure was the help of Toni Home Permanents…”which twin has the Toni?” We laughed and giggled as we played games. When the birthday girl opened her presents each watched with barely contained anticipation of her reaction to our gifts.   The photo is faded, but the camaraderie of girlfriends is ever present.

Fast forward fifty plus years. These are not the same girls but women from that era all the same.  Our lives witnessed first hand heavy phones with a short cord that hung on the wall or sat on a desk, black and white television, typewriters, Kresge’s dime store, rock and roll, Sputnik, bomb drills, Ozzie and Harriet, the assassination of president Kennedy, men on the moon, the Beatles, bell bottom jeans, the feminist movement, personal computers, the internet, cellular phones, 9-11, the “tech bubble”, TSA, DNA, genetic engineering, “over the top” TV shows, and we all belonged to the group know as “BABY BOOMERS.”

At one time we all were little girls with dreams of a future filled with fancy dresses, fame, a beautiful wedding with a handsome man who would love us forever, adorable babies, a three bedroom ranch with a new model Chevy in the driveway.  Dreams vanish when reality replaces idealism. Living in this world brings to our door life, death, joy and sorrow, and often paths far from what we dreamed. Each woman’s story is unique and treasured, the saga nearing the final chapters.

I recall my own life and path; it weaved all over the place, mostly in the wrong direction. But Romans 8:28 gives us ‘the save’-“Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose;” We not only put our faith in the redemptive work of Yeshua but turn every aspect of our lives over to him, and he will impart to us wisdom, understanding, and even a redemptive purpose of those experiences. Wherever our route has been, Ha Shem can covert it to testimony for his glory!

Thumbing through the pages of my Bible I follow along with the Scriptures as the lesson progresses. Tears fill my eyes several times as the Words come alive and I am amazed at my God. I am in awe of his loving kindness and his sovereign will in the lives of those who walked in faith long before me.

We gathered, not just for a party but to learn more about our Messiah Yeshua, (Jesus).  Our lives have come a long way and our priorities have shifted dramatically; from the temporary things of this world to the eternal things in the Kingdom of God. Also, we traded in our Toni for Miss Clairol.

Continue to dream, but not as before; be like ahveenu Avraham (our father Abraham):   By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. 9 By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya’akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God.  Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 11:8-10

 This is where our future lies!!

 

Baruch Ha Shem (Bless God), Sarah Anne

Scripture quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. http://www.messianicjewish.net/jntp. Distributed by Messianic Jewish Resources. http://www.messianicjewish.net. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Smile politely, pray, and write

It happened again! While conversing with a friend at a community event the ERROR message began to flash in my head! Ding, ding, and ding. The words she spoke hit the “discernment switch.” Once that switch is triggered a decision must be made. Instantly I wrestle with the options in my mind, ‘do I say something, or hold my piece?’ So I chose this, pray, smile and write.

Maggie and I attend a Bible study that is a learning fellowship with gals from different churches. My home “church” is a synagogue, a Messianic Synagogue. The activating element was her statement, “We all have different ways of arriving at the same thing.” The thing- is Yeshua, (Jesus), and includes the way we walk out our faith, our “halakah”. In Hebrew thought faith encompasses both: whom we have faith in and how that faith is expressed in our life.

In my mind I wanted to say, ‘wait a minute. God says in Isaiah  chapter 30:21 With your ears you will hear a word from behind you: “This is the way; stay on it, whether you go to the right or the left.”

Hmm, does this mean He says different things to different people, based on who we are? Are his ways changeable?  Different strokes for different folks? To quote yet another friend “…according to our likes and dislikes.” In other words, what PLEASES us, what FITS our personalities, tastes, and mindsets? Often I hear “everyone’s interpretation is different.” Really, yes I know that is true; after all there are bazillions of churches and denominations, and if you don’t like something about where you are attending start a new one! But is that the way God sees it or wants it?  I thought God says what he means and means what he says. He states, “I am God, I change not.” Do we believe that  Yeshua (Jesus) is the same yesterday, today, and forever?

I am sad, as this is the premise of the current church/Christian today. Many, so unaware of the detrimental influence of “political correctness, and Babylonian “it is all about me “ norms of the culture we live in. There has been an INVASION of these into the “church”, and why not? Our human default behavior and thinking is conforming to this world, NOT being transformed.

In fact, Romans 12: 1 states: I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you.

WOW, the word sacrifice is not in our modern day vocabulary. Sacrifice means to give something up that is valuable to us, to surrender it. It is hard to surrender our will, to give it up to Ha Shem, and to accept His will. I know. I lived in my own will most of my life…I made a mess.

Let us continue in Romans 12:2 In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh (this world’s system). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.

To paraphrase Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death.” His “ways” are not my ways, and His thoughts far above mine. But when it comes to approaching Him, and following Him, most of us will disregard what He says in His Word and determine to do it “my way.”

Over and over the Lord states his reason why he brought destruction on Israel, whether corporately or individually. They “did what was right in their own eyes, but not in Adonai’s. Remember the Torah, the first 5 books of Moshe. Ha Shem was explicit with his instructions on how his people are to trust him and conduct their lives, and the remainder of the Bible testifies to this. Every issue and aspect in our lives is covered in his Word.

Deuteronomy 10:12 “So now, Isra’el, all that ADONAI your God asks from you is to fear ADONAI your God, follow all his ways, love him and serve ADONAI your God with all your heart and all your being; 13 to obey, for your own good, the mitzvot and regulations of ADONAI which I am giving you today.”

Account after account of real persons, real experiences of real consequences of either obedience or disobedience. Battles were lost; people were killed for not obeying the Lord’s commandments and rulings. Did he change them, or give us in 2011 a “pass”? Hardly, in fact we are told in that these things happened to them as an EXAMPLE to us!

I Corinthians 10:11 These things happened to them as prefigurative historical events, and they were written down as a warning to us who are living in the acharit-hayamim (end times).

Consider what happened to Israel when God tore the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand because…

1 Kings 11:33 I will do this because they have abandoned me and worshipped ‘Ashtoret the goddess of the Tzidoni, K’mosh the god of Mo’av and Milkom the god of the people of ‘Amon. They haven’t lived according to my ways, so that they could do what was right in my view and obey my regulations and rulings, as did David his father.

Let us examine ourselves and determine if it is indeed  “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Or are we following our own desire? (James 1:14)

Baruch Ha Shem for his unfailing Word!

Scripture quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, copyright � 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. http://www.messianicjewish.net/jntp. Distributed by Messianic Jewish Resources. http://www.messianicjewish.net. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

I Need You Now!

Natalie pulled up to the curb, I jumped out quickly to hug her goodbye. As my twenty one year old daughter grabbed her uniform shirt and ran into the popular restaurant where she was to work the lunch shift, I assumed the driver’s seat position. The morning was sunny, dry palm leaves swished in the gentle breeze so I headed towards the beach, just a few blocks away. Shifting into first then second I reached to change the radio station. My hand stopped short as I caught the words of the song that was playing.

A young woman with a sweet voice was singing that it was a quarter after one, she was a little drunk and she needed him… now.  She wondered if he ever thought of her, wanting to be strong she would lose control and call him, and did not know if she could live without him.  These words struck a cord in me: a breaking heart, drinking to ease the pain, then consequently impaired judgment occurs heaping regret upon regret. The tune was very catchy as well as melancholy.

Many people can identify with this scenario. I sure can. The memory is vivid, so strong and distinct that just hearing the words of this song impart a heaviness and oppression within my soul. I remember sitting on a bar stool glancing over my left shoulder toward the door, perceiving the contrast of the darkness inside to the bright sunshine of that warm summer day outside. Many days and nights were spent sitting in a smoky, stinky stale beer smelling bar, drinking shots of peppermint Schnapps until the pain of betrayal diminished…at least for a short time.

There was camaraderie there: we were all damaged or broken in some way. Crying in our beer and on each other’s shoulder. I had plenty to cry over: a drunken ex-husband, two small boys to raise with little or no support of any kind. Oh yes, we laughed and joked and lost our inhibitions, jobs, families, health, and time that is gone forever that could have been spent more worthily with those we said we loved. Some even lost lives.

As I listened to this beguiling tune I was both sad and angry. Sad, as this song connects with the grief and betrayal all of us have experienced over lost love. Angry, as it also legitimizes sinful behavior…lawlessness, leading young impressionable men and women down this path of destruction. I know first hand the consequences of this behavior; consequences that may last a lifetime, and it is not pretty. Neglect of my children, hangovers, and shame for my behavior or unable to even remember it, is ugly.

This popular song conveys the cultural acceptance of an attitude and behavior that perversely and covertly perpetuates the problem. It solves nothing. The music of the world is insidious. Little by little, step-by-step, we walk farther in the ensnarement. Nice beat, harmonious notes, common emotions-mix it up and what do you have? Enslavement.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of   death.” Proverbs 14:12

Millions will hear, identify, hum this captivating melody which unconsciously persuades one to incorporate it’s message into the heart and soul as normal, appropriate response to the unhappiness that comes with life. The enemy has succeeded in blocking our dependence and trust in   “Adonai Roph’ekha, The LORD who heals you; The LORD your healer;” (Exodus 15:26)

Only the LORD can heal…anything, especially a broken heart, and a broken life. The booze will not do it, your friends cannot do it, all the ‘highs’ in the world, all the phone calls, a new relationship, and sex cannot do it. After you try all this eventually you run out of options. “Baruch Ha Shem” [Bless G-d] I ran out before it was too late, and into the   One that could “fix me”.  Listen to what King David wrote in Psalm 103

By David: Bless ADONAI, my soul! Everything in me, bless his holy name! 2) Bless ADONAI, my soul, and forget none of his benefits! 3) He forgives all your offenses, he heals all your diseases, 4) he redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, 5) he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s. 6) ADONAI brings vindication and justice to all who are oppressed. 7) He made his way known to Moshe, his mighty deeds to the people of Isra’el.  8)ADONAI is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in grace. 9) He will not always accuse, he will not keep his anger forever. 10) He has not treated us as our sins deserve or paid us back for our offenses,

“Why?”

11) because his mercy toward those who fear him is as far above earth as heaven. 12) He has removed our sins from us as far as     the east is from the west. 13) Just as a father has compassion on his  children, ADONAI has compassion on those who fear him. 14) For he understands how we are made, he remembers that we are as dust. 15) Yes, a human being’s days are like grass, he sprouts like a flower in the countryside- 16) but when the wind sweeps over, it’s gone; and its place knows it no more. 17) But the mercy of ADONAI on those who fear him is from eternity past to eternity future, and his righteousness extends to his children’s children, 18) provided they keep his covenant and remember to follow his precepts.

Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. http://www.messianicjewish.net.

Sarah Anne Summer