Passover Song Tutorials

The songs of the Passover seder are near and dear to my heart. They remind me of lighter times. Our Passover seders typified everything I loved best about my family, before everyone and everything became complicated. No matter what happened around them (and I could tell you ten thousand stories involving everything from jello to Spice Girls to shovels to prove that point), we pulled together for the seder. We sang with reckless abandon, we banged our hands til they hurt and we smiled with mirth beyond our fourth cup.

For a while I’ve wanted to teach others to sing the Passover songs the way I sang them. Ironically, I’m doing it now when I am still not in my own home and cannot have my own seder and have moved away from the Messianic community in Sacramento who I really wanted to teach. Nonetheless, my mother asked me to sing through a few of them for her to practice and I took the opportunity to make these video tutorials.

If you prefer Facebook, you can also find them on my page. https://www.facebook.com/pg/GittelFrumaMusic/videos/

May they be a blessing to you and yours. L’shana haba’a b’Yirushalayim!

The Coming King: Time To Move Out

You may never have heard of the mythical album project I have been compiling for the last ten years. That may be because I am also hard at work on the book, finishing what feels like the hundredth revision. Constancy would not be the most applicable adjective here because I can’t seem to consistently work on it or tell anyone about it. Fun fact about thoughts in your head: Other people can’t hear them.

I could tell you a long story about California, Minnesota and Florida which involves a great deal of house-hopping, hopeful waiting and harried striving, but let’s skip all of that and stay in the present.

After a great deal of thought followed by a sudden epiphany, I am going back to the very beginning. As Julie Andrews sang, it’s a very good place to start. Ok, I lied, I’m going back to the past after all.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved singing. She had long, brown hair that would sometimes billow in the wind on the playground while she belted Disney songs at the top of her lungs from the jungle gym. The rabbi’s daughter used to call her Pocahontas, although she always fancied herself more of a Belle. “Madame Gaston, can’t you just see it?”

Every Saturday at the Chabad synagogue, she would sit on the women’s side of the sanctuary and sing the Hebrew prayers. She listened to how her mother would weave her voice through the low hum of the men and try to follow. After her parents’ divorce, she found herself alone in the women’s section and, as a girl over twelve years old, men were not permitted to hear her voice unless she was singing with them. She continued singing her mother’s harmonies and explored new ones.

In high school, while everyone else was obsessed with the latest hits, she preferred jazz and skilled lyricists. She read Chaucer and Gone With the Wind from the front row of her chemistry class until the teacher started lecturing. He told her she could pull up her grade if she read her textbook as much as she read Margaret Mitchell. She didn’t. It was the only C she earned in high school.

She never took chorus, opting instead for the clarinet and drama. After graduating her masters program, she taught herself how to play the piano. She played well enough to record melodies and write chords to the songs she wrote, but she felt clumsy in comparison to when she sang. Like the painter whose unskilled hand cannot translate his mind’s eye to his canvas, I could hear the arrangements in my head, but could not reproduce them on the keys.

While I have not given up hope that a team could come together in Florida, I have decided not to let their current absence be an impediment. Since it all started with my voice, that’s what I’m going back to. I never intended for the LONG awaited EP to be completely vocal, but that is what it will be. Someday, I will find musicians who are as excited about this music and, more importantly, the message, as I am. Until then, I am hard at work. More to come soon. For real this time.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19 NIV

Israel the Man, Jews the People and Jesus the Contradiction

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Israel is a man.

The Israelites, now called Jews, all came from Israel, the man whose name was changed from Jacob, to whom God promised a land.

Jews have been termed as everything from an ethnicity and a race to a religion and a culture. Jews have been defined by actions ranging from laughing at Yiddish jokes and eating matzoh balls to teaching their children about the Scriptures and praying three times a day. In an attempt to save our dying people from the brink of extinction, a great many things are allowed now that would previously have resulted in swift excommunication from our ranks. I say “our” and “we” as if I have not already committed one of the few remaining sins.

You can be a Jew and reject all evidence of your Judaism in an attempt to blend better with your peers. You can be a Jew and hate the land that was promised to you as your inheritance in the covenant that defined your ethnic label. You can be a Jew and practice all manner of eastern religious rituals, believe in all manner of pagan ideology and worship all manner of modern idols. You can be a Jew and not believe in the Scriptures which legitimize the word “Jewish” as a description of any substance. You can be a Jew and not believe in the God of Israel referenced in the first commandment as the one true God.

The great and obvious irony is that the genesis of Judaism, in whatever form you choose to define it, is God. Without God and the Words He has given us about our heritage, the title “Jew” is worthless. There can be no Jews without God because He tells us who we are. What use is there in calling yourself by a name which ties you to words spoken by One in Whom you do not believe? Without the calling God placed on us and the land He promised us and the name He calls us by, the word “Jewish” means nothing more than a bloodline which traces us back to a character named in a mythical book. It is a mark of stigma and death. Why carry it at all?

This brings up bigger questions in the increasingly Godless Jewish world, especially for those of us in the diaspora outside of Israel. Who are the Jews? Why is it relevant that Jews be defined at all?

“Jewish” was the most definitive adjective I applied to myself for most of my life. Until I married a Brazilian, it had never occurred to me that I was even an “American”. The fact that I am Jewish had defined me more than being a woman, being “white,”  and being born in the United States. Nothing had ever defined me as thoroughly as being Jewish had.

Although each of my grandparents comes from a different country as a first-generation American, I have always identified most strongly with my Israeli grandmother’s heritage. For most of my life I romanticized the idea of being a sabra, a Jew born in Israel, and was very proud of where we came from. We are descendents of the Baal Shem Tov and our family helped found the Israeli city of Sefad. I learned Hebrew from Israelis in a small Chabad school in which many of the pupils were children of two local rabbis. My grandmother’s older siblings returned to Israel, as did her mother, and I have many cousins there now who were born in the land.

I grew up feeling like an alien most of the time. As Moses said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land” (Exodus 2:22). This was my concept of the world around me. The fact that I did not belong was a fixed point in my mind.

I went from the conservative Hebrew school to a small Chabad “Academy” when I was 5. We attended a conservative synagogue until I was 7, then we switched to Chabad. My Zayde, my father’s father, was an Orthodox rabbi in New York, but my father’s practices were not the same as Chabad although they were closer than conservative Judaism. Even among those who were supposed to be “mine,” I never fit. Aside from the rabbi’s children, I was the most orthodox of any of my friends and my knowledge of anything related to Judaism usually exceeded my peers. Being Jewish was never something I had to convince myself of or prove. It was intrinsic, inextricable and plainly evident.

Vividly, I remember two defining marks in my life as a Jew.

My head was resting on the doorhandle of the car on the way home from synagogue on a Saturday morning. We drove, although my father had grown up walking, because the synagogue was 20 minutes away. There was tall grass growing on the side of intersection and I felt a sense of pure incredulity as I processed a phrase. The light was red. I don’t remember the context. These words left my mouth: “How can you be a Jew for Jesus? That makes no sense. If you believe in Jesus, you’re not a Jew anymore.” I could not have been older than 10.

At 16 years old, I had been devouring everything I could get my hands on by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. Something in me profoundly resonated with the slavery and the systematic stripping of identity these women wrote about. This was my people. We were once slaves in Egypt and now we are free. “But what if they came for us…” Suspended before me sat this familiar fear. Well-instilled and firmly rooted was the knowledge that in recent history we had been exterminated. As quickly as it presented itself, it was answered. “If I wanted to, I could pass for something else. The color of my skin would not betray me as it did these women.” Yet, even as I knew this was true, I knew this was not an option. If I ceased to be Jewish to save myself, I would be lost. They could take my skin, but they could not take what made me a Jew out of me.

I not ashamed to say I am Jewish. I do not renounce the adjective because it is dangerous or inconvenient, although both are true. Because I call a Jewish Man who was born and died in Israel my Messiah, there are many who would say the word is no longer applicable to me. I am neither offended nor deterred by their opinion. Pledging my allegiance to this Name has not won me any acceptance or decreased my exposure to scorn, quite the contrary.

There are others like me. You may be surprised to know that the most conservative estimates of Jewish believers in Jesus in Israel now number us at 20 thousand. More recent estimates suggest the number is closer to 30 thousand.* The number of Jewish believers worldwide is around 350 thousand.** Whether or not we are called Jewish is irrelevant. God knows us. He knows the songs in our hearts and the blood in our veins. We are the growing “problem” in the Jewish world. We are the hushed words on everyone’s lips. We are the paradox whose explanation threatens the current understanding of Judaism itself. Whatever you want to call us, we are here.

I long for a land I have never lived in. I wait for a world I have never seen. I bleed the blood of a people who have disowned me. I carry the soul of a sojourner as I walk in my hometown. Rife with apparent contradictions and against all odds, I am a Jew and I serve the God of my fathers.

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Stars and Smoke: Yom HaShoah

I was not born in a war-torn country. My childhood was not marked with minefields. My ears have never actually heard the whistle of a bomb . My feet do not know what it is to run for shelter at the sound of a siren. My lungs have not held poison. My eyes have not been seared with the last view of my loved ones. I have not buried my own dead. I am fortunate.

Being born a Jew in Florida in the 1980’s, I was very fortunate indeed. My family hails from Russia, Hungary, Austria and Israel. Those in Israel yet live, although under constant threat of attack. The other branches of my family tree come to a blunt end. They were burnt off, or perhaps, suffocated. Maybe they were murdered in a firing squad. Maybe they found death beneath the bodies of their friends, having survived the blows meant to kill them. I will not know this side of eternity how they were taken, but I know they are gone.

The fear of “again” became an inextricable part of my fabric when I was very young. In ways I will never be able to fully verbalize, I learned to look over my shoulder. At some point in my early childhood, I realized my father’s Austrian surname could be mistaken for a Gentile as easily as it could be recognized as a Jew. After my husband and I had chosen my son’s name, I had a very clear moment of thinking, “When they come for us, his name could easily be taken for Gentile’s.” A simple mispronunciation of the Hebrew would change its origin entirely.

When I was twelve, I had one summer during which I read a mountain of books about the holocaust. One of them my mother took from me midway because she was concerned about my nightmares. A few years later at seventeen, I read nearly everything written by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. The morbid thought came to me that I could choose to hide more easily than a “black” woman who couldn’t change the color of her skin. As a Jew in the United States, I could pass for something else.

Yet, even as I considered these things, I knew I could never deny who I was. Even now that my people say I no longer belong to them, I know who I am. If they came for us, a daughter of Israel I would yet be. I don’t wish it on him, but if my son is anything like me, he too would not hide.

In most parts of the world being a Christian is just as dangerous as being a Jew, if not more so. Contrary to the belief that conversion is an act motivated by the desire to “fit in,” my faith in Jesus actually adds a target to my back. Paradoxically, this new mark of my choosing speaks courage to my soul rather than dread. When I see through His eyes, I realize the hereafter’s permanence will erase this life’s temporal suffering. The hell on earth I risk for the sake of His Name is nothing compared to hell eternal.

I would be a liar if I said the terror does not still come. No longer my constant companion, when it strikes, it’s all the more piercing. It stands my hair on end and turns on the fight in me. I rarely feel rage, yet it’s easily found when faced with the devil’s work. Smoke rises and fades as we all do, but God sees the carnage. He doesn’t need stars to mark them. He knows their names.

Look at people and see their humanity. We were all cut from the same cloth. Being Jewish does not entitle me to more pity or refuge than any other human being. There are hundreds, thousands, probably millions, in need of rescue at this very moment. Genocide is not unique to our people. As long as humans fear the foreign and delight in division, we will see war, murder and strife. There is no antidote among our kind that will end it.

With more surety than fear, I can say there will be another slaughter. We have not seen the last of hatred. Men, women and children in every stage of life will again meet their end at the hands of one who currently holds more power and believes his cause more just. This is the way of the world. This is the way of humankind. Anyone who has seen war will tell you that mercy is not man’s default. Kill or be killed. We live by the law of survival.

Man will not save himself, but God will. True followers of the Jewish man, Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus Christ, do not kill, they save. No amount of twisted doctrine or vitriolic appropriation will change what Christ Himself did or said. Those in the Garden of the Righteous are true representations of Messiah on earth. Those who died to save life, those who braved danger to rescue the helpless, those who chose morality over complacency, those are the cities on a hill.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” – 1 Peter 3:14 ESV

Someday, there will be peace. It will not come from our own hands. Until that day, we are called to remember this world is fleeting and our actions here echo through eternity. Let us not fear death. Let us stand for life. Let us be who God has called us to be and follow Him fearlessly.

The Revolving Door And The Open One

The last few years of my life have been a weary wandering. Suddenly, every blog or devotional I come across is speaking about waiting. I’m finally moving fast enough to hear. I’ve broken the sound barrier, but on this side of the noise, God’s the only One left to listen to. Physical barriers don’t apply to Him. He is without limit. I am painfully aware I am not.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of God opening doors. It’s a Biblical concept, not just a trite platitude. We’ve all heard it at one time or another, usually when we’re least disposed to the idea, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

God created us to be creatures of change, as much as we sometimes fight it. We are wired to seek novelty. There are times and seasons in our lives. Beyond our natural desire for the different, God uses these variations in momentum to prepare us for what’s next. When a “door opens,” when an opportunity presents itself, we should be ready to walk through it if we have been sensitive to God’s direction leading up to it.

I have been somewhat fixated on these doors, of late. To my dismay, all the doors I thought I walked through seem to have spit me back out. Just when I felt the high of progress rising, I found myself where I’d started. Every door I walk through seems to be a revolving one, programmed to take me on a delightful merry-go-round of imagination and preparation, only to drop me back off at its entrance. Hope deferred stops my inertia dead in its tracks and I cannot maintain even a slow forward motion.

I am not one to shake a fist at God, but I am not afraid to bow my head in surrender and ask why. Why, God, can I not move forward? What am I missing? Where am I looking away from you? How can I move toward the plans and purposes You have ordained for my life? When am I to move?

Absurdly, the phrase that has assailed me this season is “be still,” in all of its Biblical forms.

God says Be Still…

The Lord will fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)

Wait patiently and fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way. (Psalm 37:7)

Know that I am God and I will be exalted. (Psalm 46:10)

Jesus awoke, rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace.” The wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39)

The more I despair over how I’ve failed God, He’s been speaking to me about rest. He’s been whispering to me, “Be still, child.” As a woman who searches for answers and seeks wisdom, this paradox threatens to drive me mad. Riding shotgun on this trip of existential uncertainty is the voice of doubt shouting, “You must have walked through the wrong door! You must have missed your chance!”

Yet, I’ve stumbled upon the most liberating plot twist in my series of unfortunate thoughts.

In all my searching for the correct door, I imagined a stage of life on the other side. The door I thought I was seeking held my steps on the other side. I had never considered the door would not lead to an earthly place.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelations 3:8-9)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelations 3:20)

Isn’t that what I’ve been looking for? What I’ve been told to find? Rest. Stillness. Pasture. But what use is a pasture without one to guide and protect the sheep? A great field is an open trap for wolves and bears to strike the sheep. Without safety, there is no rest. A fearful mind and an anxious heart are a recipe for misery.

Yet, Jesus is both the door and what lays behind it. The Holy Spirit binds me up and leads me where I need to go. He is the final destination, so why should I be surprised that He is my earthly destination as well? I have little strength and thin resolve, but He does not expect me to do more than open the door. He knocks, I open. Simple.

Stop looking for the door to your success. Still your restless ambitions. Halt your heavy steps. Seek the Holy Spirit and the door will be open. He Who holds the key of David opens the door that no one can shut.

For whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following the same pattern of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:10-11)

Rest from your works, child of God. Listen for The Spirit of Jesus Christ to give you life, direction and wisdom. In doing His work, we rest from ours and find rest in obedience. Don’t be afraid of where He calls you. Rest in Him. Know that He will exalt Himself. Know that the wind will cease and calm will come.

Be still.

Submission and #NoFeels

I wanted to take a moment to share some powerful truth God has been teaching me. It’s life-changing and liberating. It’s simple and impossible without God. It’s the beginning of restoration and the realization of God’s promises in my life.

My submission has nothing to do with anyone else.

Did you catch that? I didn’t on the first pass. But I’m starting to and it’s creating a tsunami in my walk with God.

As a woman, a wife, a member of Church leadership, a daughter, a follower of Jesus (the list goes on, but lets end here) submission is a way of life for me. I am commanded by God in nearly every area of my life to submit to other humans. The order of said submission is sometimes blurry and the hierarchy I submit to is occasionally out-of-order, but that I am under human authority is ceaselessly relevant in my daily life.

Submission has meant many things to me, but what has marked my journey into submission more than anything else is frustration. Frustration that I cannot make all my own decisions. Frustration that although I’m an intelligent, capable person whose skills are readily called upon to make other’s lives easier, I’m somehow less intelligent and capable when it comes to taking counsel on decisions that will affect me and those around me. Frustration that no matter how I try, I never seem to be submitting well enough or properly enough or often enough. You see, I’m not very good at submitting at all.

Without getting into the finer details of my childhood, let’s just say that surrender was never my strong suit. Never. Meeting expectations for the purpose of furthering my own agenda? Yes. Oh, I excelled at that. I was also a master of quiet rebellion and a Machiavellian manipulator. But submission? The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person? No. Absolutely not.

You see my conundrum? How does one who has never submitted to authority of any kind without simultaneously scheming a way to get around it learn to yield? The Holy Spirit. As my sister and I say with all the sincerity in the world, “You slap some Jesus on that.”

I have recently stumbled into one of the most fundamental truths in the Gospel. If you have already found it, I’m sorry to have led you on so far. It’s quite elementary.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. – James 4:7a ESV

Let me back it up a few books to show you just what an “aha!” moment this should not have been for a Jew who grew up in Hebrew school.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.  – Exodus 20:2-3 ESV

The Jew within me scolds myself, “Were you paying any attention in synagogue!?”

It’s so simple, friends. When I submit to the Holy Spirit, truly accept and surrender to what He tells me to do, I am not in submission to man. I am in submission to God.

Don’t fret! It’s not heresy.

True submission is the seamless intermingling of several profound truths: I am an undeserving sinner. God’s grace saves me when I accept that Jesus died for my sins. I deserve nothing and have no qualifications to lead my own life. Without God’s wisdom and direction, I have no chance of doing what I ought. Yet, I will give an account to God for my days. All I thought, spoke, and did will appear before the courts of heaven and I will give an account for it. I am responsible for me regardless of what was occurring around me while I thought, said and did. There will be a reckoning. There will be no excuses. Jesus’ Blood will cover my sins, but the point at which I start in heaven will never be moved. I cannot redo my entry into eternity. Bearing all that in mind, I am aware of one obvious thing.

I better slap some Jesus on that.

If I live my life in submission to the Holy Spirit, I will rightly submit to everyone in my life whom I ought to. Furthermore, when things go wrong in my life, I can rest in knowing God has my back and I did what I was supposed to do. Not to mention, it lifts a huge burden in my relationships with those in authority around me and allows me to see them more as people, less like task-masters. God is my master. God is their master. My mastery of this life is dependent on my submission to Him. The same is true of my earthly “masters,” so to speak. We’re all in this together. Blame becomes less important. Guilt becomes a thing of the past. Feelings become immaterial.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22 ESV

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossions 3:22-24 ESV

Submission to God leads to submission to men where it is right. It may also lead to taking authority of things you had let go of out of comfort or convenience. Submitting to the Holy Spirit isn’t easy or low-maintenance, but it’s life-giving. Furthermore, if I am in submission to the Holy Spirit, my feelings hold no sway over me. Why would I listen to my feelings, which often have no basis in fact and distract me from where I would rather focus my energy, if I can hear the voice of God? I am so done with all of my feelings right now. I say goodbye to them and their accompanying roller-coasters with nary a qualm.

When the Spirit of Truth is leading me in all righteousness it doesn’t matter what feelings I have, they are rendered inactive by the power of His sovereignty. The actions of others have little to no effect on mine. Feelings become significantly less ascendant in light of all the above. Who even invited feelings?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

I’m in a world of chaos. My life seems to be constructed on minutiae. The more I listen, the clearer it all gets. Will I still mess up? Yes. Welcome to humanity. We live here. It’s messy. There’s only one ticket out and you better be ready for a heart-to-heart when you leave, so let’s start the conversation now. Who better to teach You than the Master Himself?

When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. – John 16:13 ESV

Choose I a burden? With delight, I do. This cross is mine to bear and, with Him, my load is light.

Follow me here on my adventures!

An Island I Am Not

I have been taking stock of my daily routine as of late. More commitments are continually getting shoved into my stack of to-do lists. I find myself constantly running. I am also perpetually hungry or thinking about food, though I rarely get to it. I live in the vacillation between dopamine highs of task completion and soul-sucking lows of finding one-more-thing I forgot to do. All this is lived in a relative state of sleep deprivation and self-depletion. Right now, while my husband is working out of the state, it’s also done alone.

No, it is not healthy. No, it’s not pleasant. No, it’s not permanent. This is a season. This is a long, educational, find-your-bootstraps, lean-on-God’s-strength, learn-you-are-not-self-sufficient season.

No man is an island. In case you thought being a woman exempted you from that statement, go read your Bible.

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. – Romans 14:7

One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires; he rejects all sound judgment. – Proverbs 18:1 

As my 4-year old son would say, “I don’t like that!” Yet, here I find myself like the middle line of the preschool song Bear Hunt, “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it!” I’m so much less enthusiastic than those preschoolers.

Three and some years ago, before we moved to Florida, before my life was flipped on its head, back when I had some illusion of stability in my life, I received a word from God. I should not have needed a man to come up to my husband at a conference and tell him, “I don’t know your wife, but this is for her.” It’s in His Word. Even now, I know better, though I struggle with its practice.

Apply your anxious energy toward prayer.

 

Mind-blowing, right? I’ll pause so you can soak up the full effect of this obvious, self-evident fact. I think they teach this on the first day of Sunday School. Anyways, turning off the sarcasm…

 

When I am in the mire, it’s hard to imagine there’s something in existence besides me and my muck. Yet, God says so simply, “Just look up, child.” It’s that simple. When I insist on looking at the mud, all I can say is, “Why is there so much mud!? Why are you like this?!” God does not intend for me to live there and it’s amazing what He can do with my willingness to look away from me.

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.  – Psalm 3:3-4

Whether you find yourself in the muck or the hamster wheel, remember He’s there by your side. Jesus promised He would send us a better helper. He’s here. Look up and bring your burdens to God! He is your defender. He is your steadfast. He is the One Who acts on your behalf. And when you are too tired to lift up your head, ask Him and even that, He will do for you.

The magic is it’s really not about you. As much as you think you’re accomplishing something by driving in rubber-screeching figure 8’s around your life, you’re not. Take a minute to breathe today. Bring your burdens to God. Realize it’s not all about you. Heaven won’t be any more pleasant because you hyperventilated the whole way there.

 

Hurricane Irma Can’t Take This From Me

I walked into my room and grabbed the black duffel bag in the middle of the floor. I breathed in more uncertainty than oxygen. After joking with my sister the whole week about whether we would leave our makeup collections behind, I had reached reality. It burned my throat as I swallowed. It clouded my eyes as I closed them. In the past, I may have allowed myself to fall apart, but I did not have time to sweep up the pieces. So, I breathed. I believed.

God is good. God is here. God is all I need.

I want to say I steeled myself. My proud flesh wants to say I buckled down and did what needed to be done. That is not what happened. I was carried. God has carried me this last week and it was sweet.

Tears don’t scare me. Breaking down doesn’t scare me. Feeling alone doesn’t scare me. Being alone is daunting, but it is not what I most fear. I can say confidently after this last week, losing everything doesn’t scare me. Losing God does.

There are a lot of dreams I have held on to. There are prophecies and promises I have clung to with white-knuckled hands. I have dug my nails into my palms until they bled, but I didn’t let them go. I have carried them while He has carried me. He’s brought me this far and He’s going nowhere.

My greatest fear is losing Him the way a mother loses her husband when she forgets she’s a wife. Sometimes circumstances dictate priorities, but we pay a high price for losing sight of Jesus. He is closer than a spouse. He knows me better than any human could. I don’t want to lose Him. I don’t want to lose what I have with Him. If I had locked my mother’s house and come home to nothing, He would have been there. He would have been everything out of necessity, not out of choice.

So, I choose. I choose God. I choose my One Thing. Jesus Who saved me, You are my One Thing. Holy Spirit, Who never leaves me, nor forsakes me, You are my One Thing. Abba, Father Who gives good things, God, You are my One Thing.

There are more hurricanes in the Gulf. There are a thousand other circumstances that could separate me from my family, friends, dreams, life… There is nothing that can separate me from God except my choice.

Choose the uncertainty that surrounds Jesus and you choose a life of adventurous, unshakable love. The world can make you no such promises. The uncertainty of the world is cold and unforgiving. The uncertainty I live in today is persistent. It is, at times, overwhelming. But I am not uncertain of God.

For now, things are quiet. I am back to my routine, as normal as I can make it. Others are still suffering. Others were suffering before the hurricane and the world will continue to contain vast amounts of suffering until Jesus returns. But God is still good. God is still here. I still choose Him.

 

The Post of the Resurrection

In the room across from the one in which I sit lies a sick child whimpering in his sleep. I had an agenda this morning which did not include organizing my room and wiping a runny nose all day long, but the space demanded arrangement and my son was too sick to go to preschool on his third day. Life is often rife with intrusive spontaneity, especially as of late.

This little ship called life is being rocked by one of the most turbulent storms I’ve ever weathered. Its persistent waves are teaching me the limits of my innate stubbornness and my acute desperation for the strength of the Holy Spirit. My husband is 1500 miles and 8 states away from me, working day and night through his own tempest. This is not the first time our vessels have been so far apart, but it feels farther than it did last time. A couple of months ago, this saga hit the two-year mark on a date so conspicuous that no one marked its passing besides me. I celebrated it with the comfort that things might soon stabilize and the days of being gypsies would be over, at least for a while. We were so stagnant for so long, stuck in the apartment where God taught me gratitude for 8 years, and now we can’t seem to find a place to rest our heads.

This time has been marked by an acceptance of things I did not ask for while God uses them to equip me for that which I did ask. It would be ironic were He not so faithful and so truly gentle. Concurrently, within this onslaught rages the deathless battle between the rational evaluation of my finite existence and my abject emotional wallowing. I know more about the inside of my head than I ever wanted to and, let me tell you, it’s not a space I was formerly unfamiliar with. The cynic within me rises up to begin a protracted commentary about the life of a self-aware Believer and is swiftly quelled. Let us not indulge that sort of martyrdom in the middle of this blog.

Why now? This is the overarching existential question du jour. Why is now the time? Why is now the time to chase after my dreams and work for their realization? Why is now the time to march around Jericho? Why is now the time to follow Elijah on one more errand? Lord, I am tired. Lord, you see my crazy life. Lord, how on earth is that supposed to happen right now? Why is now the time?

On few occasions do I ask the Lord, “Why?” It’s not a common question in my arsenal. I find it both irrelevant and presumptuous. To ask the question assumes I merit and would understand the answer. God owes me nothing and His answer would likely be beyond my comprehension. And in this particular instance, the question itself is redundant because the answer is obvious. Why now?

Now is all we have. If not now, when? Promises are realized in the now. Dreams are pursued in the present. The past has only lessons to be learned and every future we get in this life is a gift. Nothing is guaranteed except your chosen destination. I will be with Christ, I have chosen Him, but my reward is being constructed in heaven as I work here. I do not work for my reward, I work for my God, yet my reality in heaven is more concrete than that before my eyes.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a wicked heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the assurance we had at first.  – Hebrews 3:12-14

Unbelief is a sneaky beast. I could not honestly deny belief in Christ, although the enemy sometimes prowls the outskirts of my mind. But, if I took my eyes off Jesus, he would quietly unravel my faith in the plans of God for my life. He can’t take my salvation, but he would settle for my purpose.

So, here I take up the banner once more. Here I say, “I believe in what You said to me.” Here I take the first step. The road seems no shorter, but in faith, I am one step closer. I have to start somewhere, so I am starting with this blog. I have recording to finish. I have copyrighting to complete. I have musicians to find. I have provisions to wait on. This blog has been dead since last year, but I plant here the post of the resurrection.

Why now? Because it is called today.

Free to Worship by the Rocket’s Red Glare

Good evening, fellow Americans. Tonight, we are free. I can say, with complete and heartfelt gratitude, thank you, God for allowing me to live in this country. I have to tell you, sometimes I wonder why God gave me the privilege of living here. The United States in a truly amazing place.

My son has never seen fireworks before tonight. He heard the noise that reminded him of thunder and, not wanting him to be afraid, I stood with him by the window so he could see them. They really are beautiful. My hard-working compatriots bought them with their hard-earned money to celebrate the country where they live. I have seen my neighbors. At least half of them are immigrants, as are my in-laws. I have traveled little in my life, but I visited my husband’s homeland, Brazil, last year. I can tell you, this country is amazing. There are very wealthy people in other parts of the world who, with all of their money, cannot enjoy the same conveniences we do here. And by we, I mean the working middle class.

I asked him, “Do you know why there are fireworks tonight?” He answered confidently, “I don’t know.” I smiled and thought about my reply. How do you explain to a three year-old what independence means? We thank God every night for our food, our water, our house, our family, our Church, but not often for our country. Then, it hit me. That’s it.

“We are celebrating because we are free. We are free to worship God here where we live. We are free to celebrate Him.” My son’s face lit up as a whistling comet burst into green twinkling stardust. “We can celebrate God!” Yes, my son, we can. We are free.

There are a lot of people who do not appreciate the freedom we experience in this country. For many years, I did not fully appreciate it. I heard stories about Jews who hid in basements and attics to live and how our people once held secret services so our heritage would not be found out, but somehow it did not click that I did not experience that because I lived in America. I had thought everyone was free. Freedom was a gift of the present age, rather than my present location.

Today, Christians are murdered in every conceivable way you can imagine. They are not killed in secret, but in public squares. Their bodies are not given back to the ground, but left in dishonor on the streets, so the populace will remember the reality in which they live – they are not free. I use Christians as an example, but I acknowledge there are many other groups of people who will go to sleep tonight in fear for their lives, with no hope that their governments will give them solace.

You can say a great many things about the wrongs this country has committed. You are free to say as many of them as you wish because someone died to give you that right. Tonight, as I write this post by the light of the rocket’s red glare, there are men and women all over the world, on the ground, underground, on the sea, in the air, who wear a uniform and fight for my freedom. Sadly, disgracefully, many of my countrymen malign them even for making the decision to put the uniform on in the first place, but I thank God for them. I am ashamed to say I do not often think to pray for the military that keeps me safe or their families who sacrifice, not just lives and limbs of their loved ones, but time away from family members, sleep while others lay with their loved ones beside them, and peace of mind knowing their loved one is out of harm’s way.  May God bless you and your families – truly, may God bless each and every one of you who served, serves and will serve. You give me this gift of freedom that can never be paid for. You pay for it so I can have it for free.

It’s loud tonight. I pity the dog. But it’s safe. I have never been so proud to hear so much noise outside. I’m surprised at myself because I am normally quite miffed about noise late at night. Maybe this is God’s gift to me on this Independence Day. Gratitude is a gift. I thank God that what I hear are fireworks and not gunfire coming for my village. I thank God that the rocket’s red glare tonight is a firework and not a missile. I thank God tonight that, while I have it, I can enjoy freedom.

The future is uncertain. Nothing is promised. Tonight, your soul may be required of you. Let us thank God that we are here. Let us ask Him to bless our country and give our leaders wisdom, for this is what God has charged us to do in the land where we sojourn. Let us show gratitude to God for allowing this to be the country in which we live.

Thank you, God, for this, my country. God bless America.

Photo credit: http://www.unsplash.com – Ryan Wong