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

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