Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

For about the past two months, I have been suffering with hives and an itchy rash on my body. I have had allergies to different medicines, chemical, etc. in the past. So I thought it was a reaction to my laundry detergent. So I stopped using it, washing all my clothing and bedding in vinegar several times. Rash continued. So…I decided that there must not be a way to completely wash the detergent out, so I replaced all my clothing and bedding (note: I needed new clothing anyway, because I have lost a lot of weight, so that wasn’t a waste of money). Still had hives and rash. So, I thought it must be a reaction to a supplement I was taking. I stopped taking it. A week later I still had a rash. Then, my husband suggested perhaps I had a citrus allergy, because we eat a lot of oranges and grapefruit. So I stopped eating it. A week later, the rash and hives were still there.

I was itching 24-7, couldn’t sleep, taking Benadryl every night, which helped, but the hives and rash kept coming back, and it seemed to be getting worse. I asked for prayer that the rash would go away and people prayed for me. But still the rash and hives persisted. I was desperate and in tears this past Thursday morning, so I called the Christian Broadcasting Network’s prayer line and asked the person on the other line to pray. We are getting ready to leave on a vacation out of the country in a week, and I wanted to be able to go and enjoy myself. She specifically prayed that God would show me the reason for the rash, and that He would heal me of the rash and hives.

Later that morning, I was making my bed and when I finished, I noticed a small brown bug on my shirt sleeve. Previously, we had seen two of these and the first time I didn’t think anything of it. The second time, it got away from us. So we put this third bug in a sandwich bag and took it to Orkin. They took one look at it and said, “That is a bedbug.” I was devastated. The dreaded scourge you read about, see in documentaries, and hope you never get, was in my house! I was horrified! Me, the lady who is OCD about having a clean, uncluttered house, and I had bedbugs. And apparently, I was extremely allergic to their bites. Right now my arms, legs and upper torso are covered in itchy hives. So God answered her prayer and showed me the reason why, within the same day!

So…the man came today to assess and tell us what needed to be done, and most importantly, how much this was going to cost. They are scheduled to come Tuesday. They do a heat and chemical treatment to every room in your house. They then come back once each week for two weeks for a follow-up to make sure they are gone. Then, you have them come bi-monthly for an entire year as a preventative. All of this costs $2,600. Not only that, there is a whole list of things we have to do before they come to prepare, which will take the better part of the next three days to do! (Thankfully, I am retired, so I have plenty of time to do it!)

The next morning after I called for prayer, I asked the Lord, “Why didn’t you tell me what was causing my hives?” His answer, “You didn’t ask. You have been focusing on the problem, instead of the solution. Read the scriptures you were given by the prayer partner, and focus on the solution.” So I began to read the verses she gave me out loud. I read them all. And then I went to my room, made my bed, and the bug appeared on my sleeve. (Bedbugs can’t fly, by the way.) And then He began to show me the spiritual lesson in all of this.

When this all began to happen, I just assumed I could handle it. I am extremely independent, self-assured, and resourceful. Surely, I must be able to take care of it, but I wasn’t. Why did I not just humble myself and go to the Lord and ask Him what it was and what I needed to do to take care of it? I could have done that, but instead, I relied on my own strength.

The other lesson I learned is that oftentimes we try to treat the result of whatever the problem is, instead of finding out what the root of the problem is. It is more work to do that, but in the end, it works out better for us. We often want the shortcut way, the easy way, but we need to do it the right way to get the correct result. I feel like the entire fourth chapter of the Book of James applied to this situation. Please read it for yourself. I especially think this section is particularly applicable:

James 4:6-10

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

The Last Tomatoes of Summer

The Last Tomatoes of Summer

In late October we ate the last tomatoes of summer…those final pieces of fruit that ripened just before the weather turned colder. There is something wonderful about those tomatoes, knowing we are going into another season with no harvest. The last fruit of summer seems like the sweetest and best.

I liken it to this time of my life when I am retiring from my job. The time has come rushing up, when it seems just a few months ago it would never happen. After a year or so at my job, I wasn’t sure I would stay. I wasn’t happy, and things were not going well. I almost resigned and moved on.

But a wise counselor advised me to stay the course, move on to another area, and see if I could adjust. And that I did, eventually landing in the job I am retiring from. And I am so glad I stayed. It is not just because of the benefits that I am richly enjoying, including retiring with a pension. It is what I learned during these last nearly 12 years in this job that has enriched my life beyond measure.

I found myself with a supervisor who was brave enough to sit down with me and show me how I needed to change. Was that easy to hear? No, not at all, but it was also a relief, because I finally understood why I had experienced so much strife and pain in my job. Because of his courage, it helped me to have the courage to look honestly into myself and make the decision to change. And that has made all the difference for me.

I have been able to make friends with some wonderful people in the past twelve years. I have had so many wonderful days and moments in my job, crazy times, even frustrating and stressful times. I have laughed and I have cried. But instead of constantly being in conflict, I have been able to work together with my coworkers, learning, sharing my skills, and contributing to our combined success. I have been able to see my job as a gift.

I have heard it said that as humans we naturally avoid pain and difficulty. We want to take the easy path. That is what I have done so many times in the past. But this time, I chose the more difficult path. Change is not easy, especially changing a lifetime of habits. But change I did, and I am so grateful for the time I have had at this wonderful company.

It is sad to leave, but now I am entering into a new season of my life, looking forward to new adventures and new lessons.

To quote from one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes:
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Freedom in Bondage?

Freedom in Bondage?

We have four cats, and a huge fenced back yard where they can go out and roam around. We don’t let them roam free in the neighborhood. A couple of months ago, a baby rabbit somehow squeezed in through an opening in the fence. Ken thought he had them all closed up, but there was a small one he missed.

We tried to get her to go out. We would put all the cats inside and then open both gates, and try to get her to run out, but she would always run away from us. Finally, last week, one of the cats got her and injured her. We took her to a wild animal rescue, but they were not able to save her and she died.

She thought she was safe, I guess. She had plenty of clover and dandelions to eat, and she probably thought she could outrun the cats. But she really was trapped, and didn’t realize it. And she eventually died because of it.

It made me think of us sometimes, when we are trapped in some kind of bondage, or bad habit. We think we are okay. We kind of get used to it, and almost get comfortable with it. But we are still in bondage and trapped. We are so good at justifying how it doesn’t matter, and it’s not so bad. We can live with it. But is it really okay for us to stay that way? Is it really God’s best for us?

Is it sin to stay in bondage to something or a habit that isn’t good for us? I think so. And sin brings death, and it can come in many forms, not just death that ends our physical life. Perhaps death of a calling that God has for us, or a blessing He has for us; but we will miss it, because we are not willing to get free of the bondage we are in.

I was so sad when the bunny died. It seemed kind of weird that I would be so upset by a wild animal that died. But I had grown accustomed to seeing her every day. And I think it made me see a spiritual application as well. Sometimes God does use object lessons to teach us.

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  Matthew 10:29

Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:36

A Family of My Own

A Family of My Own

In 1994, when I lived in Jerusalem, a friend and coworker there gave me a portion of Scripture that he said was a promise from God for me in Genesis, 21:15-21, because I had been faithful to God.

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

I received that word and kept it to myself. I wondered how that could be, because I was not married, and even had I been, I knew I could not have children. I really didn’t plan on marrying. I was quite happy as a single woman and was content to stay that way. But God had other plans for me. Later that year I moved back to the US and in 1996, I met my husband online. We married in 1997. He has a daughter, and now we have four grandchildren.

It’s interesting that God says because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own. Not because they didn’t listen to Pharoah, but because they feared God. The gift of a family is something that God highly treasures.

God is faithful to us in ways we never knew we needed Him to be. He knows what is best for us, and He wants to bless us when we don’t even know what would bless us. I thought I knew what was good for me, but God knew better. I am blessed beyond measure.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

A Woman’s Gift

A Woman’s Gift

Today the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, gave birth to a son. The world is watching in excitement. I never had the pleasure of becoming a mother. I always thought it didn’t matter, that I didn’t want children, that I was one of those people who weren’t “meant” to have children. It made me think of one of my experiences with God in Jerusalem.

I moved to Israel for two years to live and work and help the Intraters while they got settled in the Land. I learned many, many things there. I had many spiritual lessons and breakthroughs, and it changed my life forever. But there was one thing I experienced I didn’t even know i needed.

Israel is a very family-oriented society. On Shabbat, you see families together in the parks, grandparents with children and grandchildren. In my last year in Israel I lived in the Jerusalem neighborhood of East Talpiot, about a 10-minute walk from the Haas Promenade (Tayelet). From the Tayelet, you can see the entire city of Jerusalem.

Every Shabbat I would take my Bible and walk to the Tayelet and sit on the wall and look out over the city and read my Bible and think and pray. And I would be surrounded by families spending the day there…children, parents, grandparents. And inevitably, children being children, one of them would speak to me.

It was during those times that God began to deal with me about being a woman alone with no children. The Israelis I knew didn’t understand why I was not married, and did not have any children. It’s so important there. God began to show me women have a nurturing spirit. It is a gift He gave to women. And he showed me that because of some things that happened to me as a child,and some personal choices I made,  that I had closed that part of my spirit off. He wanted to open it up to bring healing to me.

As I sat one Shabbat, I began to go through a grieving for the children I never had and for the loss of never being a mother. God began to bring healing to my soul, and it changed me. It brought some softening to me and some lightness of being that I had never had before. It gave me some measure of joy that I never had before. And I wasn’t ever the same.

One Friday night sometime after that, a good friend of mine in Jerusalem came to me after we shared a Shabbat dinner with friends. He told me that he had a scripture that God had impressed on his heart for me:

God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.  And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. Exodus 1:20-21.

He said because of my faithful service to the Intraters and their children, God showed him that He was going to give me a family. I cried and received that promise from God. Two and a half years after I returned from Israel, I married Mr. Ken, who has a daughter and now has four grandchildren. We have a wonderful blessed life together. God is faithful and wants to bless us. He keeps his promises.

Photo by Jeff Amann

Choking on the Covenant

Choking on the Covenant

When Ken and I got married, part of our wedding ceremony was communion. I recited the Hebrew blessing over the bread and grape juice. Well, when I get nervous my mouth gets dry, and I was very nervous that night. And I didn’t think about drinking some water before the ceremony.

I was too focused on not tripping when we were walking down the aisle. So, when it came time to do the blessing, I took the grape juice, and it hit my dry throat, and I choked on it, and almost was not able to finish! It would not have been good to ask someone to bring me a glass of water right in the middle of the ceremony. It was a tense moment with a long silence, everyone wondering what I was doing! But I pulled it out and was able to finish and say “I do.”

Recently, I had a conflict with my pastor. We have been in our church over 8 years. This issue has built over time. The last thing that happened was very difficult for me to handle. It just seemed like there was no way we could resolve this. I had a great deal of respect for him, but I had difficulty handling his response to me. I couldn’t seem to help myself. And the last episode just seemed impossible to resolve. My first instinct was to just leave. I didn’t feel I could submit to him anymore. And I did not want to be in rebellion to his pastoral authority. But after consideration, talking it over with Ken, and asking God, we felt the best way to handle it was to ask for a meeting to try to work through it.

I remember my friend, Asher, teaching me about covenant and how important it is in the body of Messiah. He taught me about what real love is, that it is believing the best of others, and thinking of others higher than yourself, of not insisting on your own way. I remember reading in his book Covenant Relationships where he talked about the early days of the Messianic Jewish ministry, working through so many different issues. But in the end, it was worth it, to achieve what God wanted.

So we did have the meeting with the pastor, his wife, and the Church board. It was very hard, and I was very nervous, but I was able to share my perspective of what had happened. And I also was able to help him see why I was reacting to him in a certain way when he approached me in the way he did. One of the board was able to offer some constructive correction to me for a better way to handle something. And my pastor and his wife were so gracious and loving to me. They exemplified the way Jesus would have responded to me.

The end result was a resolution of a relationship with my pastor, and we are still at the church, which is what we believe was what God wanted.

To me, it was an example of covenant relationships in action. In our society of quick and easy, staying and working through issues is not the easiest thing to do. But I believe it is what brings us maturity in Jesus, and advances the Kingdom of God.

So my experience at my wedding made me think about this situation.

Sometimes we “choke” on the covenant, and don’t know what to do next, but if we seek God’s will, we will reach a resolution.