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…

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.

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.

 

Parenting Blog #1: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Who hasn’t heard this age-old adage? Even non-believers know what it means and dispute about it, although they probably don’t know its origin. It should be no surprise to Word-reading followers of Christ that it comes straight out of the Bible. Or does it?

No, I’m not about to launch into a rant about the merits of various forms of punishment. Go ahead and exhale. I want to address the fact that this little maxim, like most Biblical tidbits that make it into culture’s collective consciousness, is a half-truth. Before I go any further, here is the actual verse in its entirety.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24 ESV

Why am I starting here? Well, I’ll tell you where I didn’t start. I did not post the page and a half rant I had in Microsoft Word before I arrived at this verse. I did not begin by painting broad, sweeping generalizations all over my parenthood canvas – although that is exactly what I felt like doing when I put finger to key. I did not put down the very first thoughts that came into my head a month ago when I first toyed with the idea of delving into this most tenuous of subjects. I have been mulling them over, handing them back and forth to the Holy Spirit, asking why I felt like doing this. What am I trying to accomplish by writing one more (because, for real, they are everywhere) blog about raising children?

I am trying to get us to slow down and look up.

I don’t want you to follow your heart as you read this. Our hearts are sick and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). I don’t want you do feel bad or good about the job you’re doing as a parent. We have one standard by which we are to measure ourselves, it’s the will of God, not our feelings (Romans 12:2). I would like us, as parents, to think about what we are doing and be honest with ourselves about this work and how we should do it. We have one source of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6), let’s use it.

When people say, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” they got it wrong. Revelations 22:19 tells us we better not be taking things out of the Word of God, so if you’re going to quote the Bible, you better quote the whole thing. The verse says, “he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” This verse is about love.

How I parent my child should directly and accurately reflect how God parents His children. Let me repeat that. My behavior and, more importantly, my heart attitude as a parent should mirror God’s relationship as a Father with His children. Maybe you read that and thought, “Of course, it is.” This is a widely accepted truth among Christians, but, in my observation, not a widely applied truth.

I’ll give you an example. Parents often talk about the rewards of parenthood as the reasons why they do what they do. When a list of #realtruths about being a mother or father are laid out, they are usually followed by a statement that goes something along the lines of, “but it’s all worth it when they say I love you,” or, “when I see them succeed,” or, “when I feel like a good mom.” That last one is one of less commonly written-out-loud ones, but it’s often there between the lines. In reality, there is only one reason why God does what He does with us: Love.

There are children that are more difficult to parent than others. This is absolutely true. There are sometimes long stretches of time when you will not get any of the so-called “rewards” that make parenting worth it. There are moments when you cannot muster up enough warm-and-fuzzy feelings or feel-good-as-a-mom thoughts to propel yourself through the grueling fight for your child’s well-being.

Love, pure and unadulterated, is the only reason to do this and it’s the only way to get it done right. And I’m not talking about your finite, conditional love. I am talking about the love that flows directly from a personal relationship with God the Father through the Blood of Jesus Christ, ministered to your heart through the Holy Spirit. If you are not plugged into the source of infinite, eternal, whole love, then you and I are not talking about the same thing. True love has a Name, and it sure as heck is not Disney.

Almost all the mentions the Bible makes to parenting are in regards to either love or correction. Most of the time, the two are bound up as they are in this verse. It’s not as if you could misconstrue what God is saying here. To love is to correct. To correct is to love. To be a son is to be loved and corrected. To be a daughter is to be corrected because she is loved. God doesn’t correct us while he thinks about the perks or pros, i.e. because occasionally we say, “thank you,” or “I love you.” God disciplines those He loves.

For the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:12 ESV

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. – Hebrews 12:6 ESV

I am not perfect. I get things wrong and I make mistakes. I am not writing from a place of, “Hey guys, since I got this parenting thing down, you should listen to me.” I am opening up the Word of God for an honest exploration of what it means to be a Godly parent. God sees my work here and He is the one who will give the final judgement on what I did – not my feelings, not my peers, and definitely not my child. This is not about self-righteousness or self-esteem. In fact, this is not about self at all. We do this for our children, yes, we do. But more important, we do this for God. These are His children and we are raising them for Him.

I challenge you today to find a few minutes and ask God to speak to you about His love. Ask Him to show you something new about how He loves you. Ask Him to give you more of His love. Remember, love is not a feeling, love is a lifestyle. (That is a whole other blog.) If you don’t yet believe in Jesus, I ask you to start there. Ask God to show you something about Who His Son, Yeshua (in Hebrew), is. Let us start in love.

God bless you, fellow builders. With God anything is possible.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/child-rose-flower-red-smel-1152068/

Wherever you go, there you are

One time in Barnes & Noble, my sister-in-law burst into hysterical laughter over the title of a book on display, Wherever You Go, There You Are. As ironic as I had always found the spine of this book as it had stared at me from my father’s bookshelf, it is becoming increasingly less funny as it increasingly describes my life.

On another more recent foray with her, I bought a small canvas which says, “Home is where our adventure begins.” At the time, I was about four months into my musical houses adventure. I arrived in the Sunshine state in June and am now preparing for my husband to return to Minnesota again for work. By the time he comes back, I will have been floating here for a year.

What I have learned is the following… Wherever you go, there you are. I’m not talking about being mindful, at least not in the sense that the book meant it. Then again, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit does require a kind of mindfulness, a willingness to be still and listen.

The Spirit of God hovered over the kitchen sink in my former house. I know, it sounds silly, but I tell you, that is where I’ve heard most clearly from Him. The few words God has given me about my life, I have received there, usually while washing dishes. I was able to go to California for a couple of weeks in October to clean out my house and say goodbye. Amidst the goodbyes that were too few and the packing that was never finished, God gave me my last word in my house.

I was washing dishes, as usual, looking at the tiles that my husband and I had picked out the day before I went into labor with my son. I looked at the window I never got around to decorating. I thought about how much I was going to miss this space where God had so often met me. I remembered how difficult it seemed to hear Him in Florida. I missed my quiet kitchen sink. As I started asking God, “What if I can’t hear You when I leave?” He interrupted my thoughts with an answer that reverberated in my mind.

“I will be with you wherever you go.”

His words filled the room. After a moment, I realized that what He had said was a verse, even several verses. This was the most ancient of promises. God had made this promise over and over in the Bible and He was making it to me as well.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18 ESV

Even as I continue to wade through the thick currents of confusion and waiting, God is with me. He steadies my feet and calms the waters, He lifts me up as I learned to walk closer to the surface of the sea. He knew where He was taking me when He told me we would be leaving California. I don’t even need to know myself. As long as He is with me, home will be where He is.

As if I needed one more reminder, my sister-in-law brought me home her latest find. A small jewelry tray with a verse written on it. Unbeknownst to her, I had been looking for one. She had bought one for herself and one for me. God knows just when our knees are buckling, He’s faithful to repeat Himself when He knows we are trying hard not to forget. Now, His words will be before my eyes every morning.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

The Summer of Some Other Time

Somewhere between spending the last two months in a different state and being temporarily apart from my husband, I seem to have fallen off the edge of the known world. Sorry, is that an awkward way to start a blog?

I’m not in a head space to get into the whole story right now, but let’s just say that a summer road trip coupled with an unexpected work opportunity for my husband in another state (yes, a different state than the state that I’m currently in, also a different state than the one we usually reside in) has resulted in my 2.5 year-old son and myself house-hopping all over that delightfully peninsular state in the south east of the country. How I went from California in a drought to Florida during hurricane season and may soon end up in one of the coldest winters in Minnesota is a bit mind-boggling, but I guess I should have seen that coming when God told me at the beginning of the year that we would not believe where we would be by the end of the year. I need to stop underestimating God’s ability to follow up on what He says.

I do not imagine that I have an adoring public or those who wait with baited breath for my next blog, but about the point that friends started calling me asking if I was still alive, I realized that I should probably alert the world to my continued existence. Yup, we’re here, we’re good, still trucking…

This constellation of events has also resulted in my inability to accomplish anything that I had been working on when I left home. Those projects include a campaign for which I missed the date of launch, a book which needs to be dissected and reassembled, an album composed of songs but no musicians, and a host of other small tasks such as putting out a semi-predictable blog. Although I will say that Publix baked goods have greatly contributed to this downfall in creative productivity… calypso crunch cookie bites, I blame you. Also, I’m constantly in the presence of family that up until recently I never saw, which also takes up a great deal of my time. No regrets there. I can’t say I am disappointed with the sudden turns my life has taken. I always used to dream of adventure (enter ironic laughter here), now it seems it has found me.

The real question I have in the midst of all of this is not the one I thought I would be asking. How do I continually seek the Holy Spirit in the midst of so much noise? There is so much to do and see and be right now, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that He’s as much here as He is in my quiet home. He is as much in mess as He is in the silence. Sometimes, I set my mind to finding Him and I am surprised by how close He is. He knows what He is doing. None of this surprises Him or phases Him at all. The only person who has been thrown for a loop in all of this is me. I guess I should just pull up my big girl panties (or rain slickers or snow suit…?) and deal with the fact that some things are on God’s time, not mine.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21