My Father, My King

Avinu Malkeinu has always had the ability to move my soul like no other prayer.

Our Father, Our King | Be gracious and answer our prayers | For we have little to commend us | Deal kindly and gently with us | And save our people

Someday, the great trumpet will blow and Yeshua will come to us on the clouds. On that day, every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord.

Until that day comes, let this be our prayer:

Moshiach come quickly. We have little to commend us, but You are gracious and You answer our prayers. You deal kindly and gently with us for the sake of Your Son, Yeshua. You are our Father and King. Let us see the salvation of our people speedily, in our lifetime and in our days. Prepare us for your coming and let Your bride await your return with expectation. We pray this in the precious Name of our High Priest through Whom all sin is forgiven, Jesus, amen.

Jackfruitlings and the “Next”

There I found myself, standing over the counter in the kitchen, doting on my jackfruitlings, resisting the urge to tear off their seed covers. It was a strange feeling. I felt pride that I, who had once killed an aloe vera plant, had been able to coax these two green seeds into sprouts. It had been 3 weeks since my mother-in-law presented me with the jackfruit. I had heard about this mythical fruit for as long as I had known my husband. My sister-in-law had finally found one. It had only taken 25 years. Of course, I wanted to see if I could plant them. Now, I beamed down on my strange green sprouts, wondering why I was so obsessed with the large wood-like structures surrounding them.

“Leave them alone!” I yelled internally. “Why can’t you just let things be? They are not ready yet!”

Maybe the seeds had come to represent my dreams and I was making excuses for the fact that I’m not further along in my work. The hulls come off of alfalfa seeds after about 4 days. These seeds took three weeks. Granted, jackfruit seeds are much larger than alfalfa seeds and I’m much larger than a jackfruit.  Maybe that’s why it’s taking so long for my shell to come off…

I had to walk away from the kitchen or I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. What if I ripped off the shells and broke my seedlings! I would be so sad. Just like all the other times I couldn’t wait for something to progress to the next stage and jumped the gun.

This constant desire to reach the next step confounds me. I would say that we coexist, but we don’t. The need to see things completed exists and I seem to follow after it. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.” I was reminded of this verse the other day when I asked my son what his favorite part of the Bible is so far. He is 2 months away from turning 7. He recently finished the book of Genesis. His answer to my question was initially puzzling. He said, “I like the parts where people die.” I was taken off guard. “Why do you like the parts when people die?” He thought for a moment and said, “When somebody dies, a new character gets introduced and a new story starts.” Gracious me, I think the kid has it too. The end of a thing holds this endless fascination because something new will start. But what about where I am now? What about the present?

For all the things I have completed in my life, I’ve always had my eye on the next thing. When I think back to major milestones in my life, my move to California, my marriage, my Masters degree, my son’s birth, they were all overshadowed by the “next” they held. I moved to California and got to work on getting into a school. I got married and put my head back into my studies. I got my Bachelors and rushed the same summer into my Masters program. I finished my Masters and ran into a job. I had my son and have eagerly anticipated every coming stage. There is always more. There is always “next.”

I don’t actually even feel that accomplished when I reflect on my accomplishments. I think about what I’m working on now that isn’t finished. I think about what I should have been able to do already that I haven’t. In sum, my past completions only compel me to present work which holds the promise of future completions. All the while, I’m battered by a sea of endless mental to-do lists and no task gets left behind.

Number one on today’s to-do list: Liberate the seed.

They say you can’t help everyone, but you can help someone. I’m not sure it’s the seed I’m actually trying to help. Watching the plant emerge for the last 3 weeks has reminded me that this world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve left my egg and I’ve never stopped running. This life is short. Our time to do things on this earth is fleeting. This truth is what keeps me running.

Someday, I will close my eyes to this place. My story here will end and another will begin in Heaven. In the meantime, I run to the next thing while there is still time to run because when time runs out, there are no second chances.

In John 9:4, Jesus says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” Whether the obsession with what comes next is a Godly one or not, I’m not sure. I know that night is coming and all I have is now. So, I will run.

Although I showed restraint in that moment, the next day, I gently peeled the hulls off the great, green shells. Maybe it was because I felt better, but they looked happier to me. Good night, strange burgeoning jackfruitlings. You are free. And I can’t wait to plant you…

I Call -Ism.

I watched Star Trek from about 6 years old until Voyager ended after my parents divorced. It seems like a frivolous fact, but it’s not. I watched at least 1-2 hours of it each week with my family. On Sunday nights, we had what we called “Steak and Data” with TNG and we got to stay up late on Monday nights to watch Voyager. For anyone who has watched Star Trek, you’ll know the show was famous for taking our society’s issues and playing them out with aliens.

I’ve been binge watching Deep Space Nine the last few weeks. Star Trek is like comfort food. When I am stressed or emotionally-drained, whether I give in or not, I want to watch Star Trek. This is a constant. I started watching this time in season 4, when Worf comes aboard, as he is my all-time favorite Star Trek character.

DS9 is unique in that it takes place on a station which was formerly a slave work camp. The alien race who built the station enslaved the inhabitants of the planet below for 50 years. Captain Sisko takes command of the station after the occupation ends to build Starfleet relations with the planet. Unlike the other shows, DS9 constantly examines the repercussions of the “occupation”. Depending on the episode, you will recognize elements of the Holocaust, black slavery in America, racial genocide in Africa and Asia, the Civil Rights movement, the Zionist movement, the South African apartheid, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to name a few.

I’ve been exhausted by the current atmosphere of this country. For the first time in my 14 years of marriage, I’m talking about current events more than my husband (it’s quite a feat, I assure you). I reached out to the show for comfort, but I seem to have found a safe space to process instead. If you don’t know what I mean, try watching episode 13 of season 6 and tell me DS9 doesn’t make you say, “That’s true.”

A religious leader throws herself off a balcony as the noose snaps her neck in protest of a treaty. Starving women are picked out of their slave camps to bring “comfort” to the slave drivers. A woman tries to prove herself worthy to the matriarch of another alien race because they don’t want her to marry into the family. An alien is turned against his own race because he is the only one of his kind in the fleet. A senior member of the now-liberated race struggles with being a voice for peace while not being complicit in unjust concessions.

It’s not real, but it it’s true.

There is an active sex-trafficking trade in most countries, certainly in this one. There are children working as slaves around the world alongside their parents. There are countries who currently act to purposefully annihilate members of certain groups within their own population. Minorities are called on to “judge” members of their group and make difficult choices to uphold their convictions. There are those who are looked down on because they are “not like us”. As I said, it is not real, but it is true.

Pick an “ism”. I promise, you have one. It’s a disease we live with here on the earth. We are all contaminated by it. The one we are examining these days is racism. Black people. But may yours is Jews. Women. Millenials. Immigrants. White people. Old people. Homeless people. Unborn people. Differently gendered people. Differently abled people.

“Those people.” Whoever they are, they exist in your mind. There is no such thing as an unbiased, unprejudiced person. If you believe you are one, I fear for you. The Oxford dictionary defines “racism” as “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.” Every -ism has the same beginning and you can substitute “racial or ethnic group” with whatever you want.

We must recognize and confront the -isms. That does not mean you have to agree with everything someone has to say because they are different. It does mean you should endeavor to understand them, to treat them justly and to love them with the love of Christ, which is inherently devoid of prejudice. God is no respecter of persons. Neither his love nor his judgement discriminate.

If you refuse to listen to someone because they are different or espouse a different ideology than you, I call -ism. If you treat people with disdain because you do not agree with their ideas, I call -ism. If you are selective about who you share the love of Christ with, I call -ism. If you withhold your prayers for salvation from a particular group of people, I call -ism. If you believe yourself to be better than someone because they are in some way different, I call – ism. If you have a special name for members of that “other” group to communicate your thoughts about their homogeneity, I call -ism. I don’t care what side of what group of what idea you’re on, I call -ism.

It is not racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, etc. to disagree with someone’s viewpoint. It is racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, etc. to view or treat them as less than you because their viewpoint is different than yours.

I will repeat that. I can think your views are completely misguided and still believe you to have worth, value and importance because you are my fellow human. Disagreement does not equate support of an -ism. Unwillingness to listen to others, consider their experience, speak up for their value as people, and render them respect simply for being fellow members of the human race, does.

We are all fallen. We are saved by grace. We are ransomed by love. Jesus did not die so we could take credit for our supremacy. The supremacy is God’s. The grace is God’s. The mercy is God’s. The justice is God’s. Judgement will start in the house of the Lord. Let us not fool ourselves.

I stand with my black and brown brothers and sisters. They have value. God has a plan for each and every one of them. God speaks words over each one of them for hope and a future. They were each formed by God in the womb. They were each called “good” on the day they were made. They are each welcome in the throne room of God.

I almost didn’t write anything because there are so many voices right now. But I would rather be “just another voice” than silent. The riots will stop. The protests will end. Another people group will suffer violence. Another -ism will rise to the surface of the public conversation.

When the next -ism rises, there will be another chance to speak. It is a curse. The curse of the next -ism. The curse of the never-ending cycles of hate and apathy that spin this world closer and faster toward apocalypse. The curse of the brokenness that drives us to Christ for redemption.

And if you haven’t ever come to Him for redemption, know that He gives it freely to you. There is no -ism in the world that can keep it from you. Despite what -isms some of His followers may possess, Christ is not His followers. You receive it directly from Him. As much as we strive to be like our Savior, we are never Him. The beauty of Christ is that He desires direct contact with you. His Holy Spirit, His Presence here on earth, is with you now, even as you read these words.

So, let us go on seeking to put others before ourselves. Let us be the good Samaritan who helped the one in front of him, rather than waiting to help one of his own. Let us look for ways to bring comfort and to trouble our apathy. Let us go on dying to ourselves for the sake of Christ. As the Klingons say, “Today is a good day to die.”

The Lullaby Medley, My Dreams and COVID-19

Nothing, NOTHING, could have prepared me for 2020. Did you think I was talking about COVID-19? Well, I did put it in the title, so that’s merited, but I was not. Even before the great quarantine of 2020 began, this year was already a roller coaster. Speed. Steep drops. Twists and turns galore. It’s not been bad. It’s just been unexpected.

This year began in our house. Our. House. It’s been nearly 5 years since I could write that. Florida didn’t offer us the smoothest of homecomings. I copyrighted 57 songs in 2018 and used my father’s generous birthday gift to buy myself some entry level recording gear. Then, I watched the next 2 years leave my album and autobiography in the dust.

“Well, then!” I said as I picked myself up by the bootstraps and pulled up my big-girl panties, “I guess that’s not the plan.”

In the past 2 years I’ve found myself in the interesting position of visionary’s assistant. In the midst of COVID-19, I’m beginning to work for my 4th client in 2 years whose dreams have become my own. I hope with them. I celebrate with them. I strive with them. Maybe it doesn’t sound very fun to you, but I’m finding I love it. I love the thrill of chasing dreams, even if they’re not mine.

Of course, my dreams have gone nowhere. They live somewhere in the future. At some fixed point of my life I have not yet reached I will experience the manifestation of my dreams on this earth. As David said in Psalm 27:13, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” I will. I am sure of it.

But to deny that I am, at this point, weak, tired and frustrated would be pointless. I am. And to that weak, tired and frustrated self, I repeat: “That is not the plan.” Eyes on the prize, guys. Fixed on Jesus at all times.

Gehazi served Elisha as Elisha had served Elijah. Elisha saw less miracles than Gehazi and received a double portion. He followed the prophet of God and was not derailed, but inspired. Gehazi could have been the next prophet, but he sold his anointing for some shiny new clothes after watching Naaman the Aramean be healed of leprosy. Impatience and envy rob us of our blessings. Shortsightedness and foolishness erase our dreams from the future.

That is not my portion. Can I get an amen?

I stumbled across this little recording as I looked for something to post on social media. I try not to let my little platform fall into complete disrepair by posting random content once a year. In case you’re wondering if inconsistent devotion to a dream you don’t have time to work on is a successful strategy, it is not. I have 18 subscribers and 1 unfinished track for my first album. Somehow, instead of finding more time to finish this album, I find more demands on my time. At least, the autobiography is finished, but I digress…

Today I found the Lullaby Medley. I sang it together with my son into my phone when he was 4. We were living in my mother-in-law’s house. My husband was working in Minnesota. I was lonely and not yet back at work. I wove these songs together for him at night and he sang them with me. Now, he is 7 going on 30 and (while he hums incessantly) he rarely sings.

We moved into our new house last year after 4 years as gypsies living off the hospitality of our parents and friends. It was a difficult time, but I’m grateful for it. While I’m tired now, I know I will be grateful for this time as well. Being a dream builder has its advantages. We learn how dream with our eyes open.

Sweet dreams, visionaries. You will yet see God’s goodness in the land of the living. I am sure of it.

20:20 Verses

Happy new year, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy numbers. Sitting here relaxing on New Year’s Day (an activity as rare as my grandfather’s favorite steak), I wondered what 20:20 verses were rattling around my ESV. In case you were also curious, I thought I’d share.

To put it mildly, I have serious misgivings about where we are headed as a civilization. I’m not sure I’d like to live through the roaring reboot of this decade’s predecessor, but here we are. I live by hope, sometimes to my own detriment, today shall be no different. When I want to hope, I stand on truth, the sure bedrock from which hope springs.

Your dose of truth for 20:20 includes everything from the consequences of sleeping with your aunt to instructions on how God told armies to build seigeworks. Sadly, some of my favorite books do not possess a chapter 20 and some that do weren’t loquacious enough to reach that number of verses.

I believe my favorites were in 2 Chronicles, John and Acts. Numbers 20:20 proves Edom was the original Gandalf (although I wouldn’t recommend telling God’s chosen people to shove off unless you’re down for a smiting). Judges 20:20 is the climax of one of the most gruesome stories in the Bible – beginning with rape, middling in civil war and ending with a mass abduction to fix a small genocide. 1 Samuel places us in the event that began David’s exile from Saul’s court, one of the best sagas in the Bible.

We can’t get too dogmatic about these verses, after all, the whole of the Word is for our instruction. If nothing else, this exercise just proves how vast the scope of Scripture is.

You may recognize Exodus 20 as the chapter of the 10 Commandments. For full instructions on how not to cast off the Voice of God this year, begin at our first verse. We live in uncertainty, such is the nature of our temporal sojourn this side of life eternal. Let us never choose to stand far off, but to always draw near to God in 2020.

20:20 Verses

Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”
Exodus 20:20 ESV
If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness; they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.
Leviticus 20:20 ESV
But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force.
Numbers 20:20 ESV
Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.
Deuteronomy 20:20 ESV
And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah.
Judges 20:20 ESV
And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark.
1 Samuel 20:20 ESV
Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy!
2 Samuel 20:20 ESV
And each struck down his man. The Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them, but Ben-hadad king of Syria escaped on a horse with horsemen.
1 Kings 20:20 ESV
The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah and all his might and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?
2 Kings 20:20 ESV
And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.”
2 Chronicles 20:20 ESV
“Because he knew no contentment in his belly, he will not let anything in which he delights escape him.
Job 20:20 ESV
If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
Proverbs 20:20 ESV
and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.’
Ezekiel 20:20 ESV
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.
Matthew 20:20 ESV
So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.
Luke 20:20 ESV
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
John 20:20 ESV
how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,
Acts 20:20 ESV

Let none of us shrink from declaring the Word of God this year and let us each grow in love for this is our true witness as representatives of Christ.

So the adventure begins…

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.

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, most as a first-generation Americans, 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. 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 a modern orthodox rabbi in New York. My father’s practices were not the same as Chabad, but they were more alike than those of 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. 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 door handle 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 10 miles 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 am not ashamed to say I am Jewish. I never have been. 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. Some would say I did it to fit in. Some have said I did it because it made me more like my peers. I am neither offended nor deterred by their opinions. Pledging my allegiance to the Name Yeshua has not won me any extra acceptance or decreased my exposure to scorn, quite the contrary. I still find that I don’t quite fit anywhere.

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 close to 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 Israel.

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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.