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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew Roots Movement’

Third time is a charm.  A real, relevant post to end the day!  Thank you for your patience. 😉  This is what I intended to post here today.

I began writing this a couple weeks ago.  As things were heating up toward another armed conflict between my country and the Middle East, with possible ramifications for Israel, I decided to hold off on publishing.  I deeply desire peace for Syria, and Israel, and all nations.  With so much war and unrest in so many places it’s hard to read the news.  While in hope of a diplomatic solution of some kind, I submit this subject:

For the Love of Israel
Tonight I am sitting in a vacant house that my husband and I own. We have spent two weeks getting it ready to put on the market, but we lived here enough years to have two children and enjoy many times sharing hospitality with good friends. It is hard to let this house go thinking of all the memories. Today I was also remembering when our Hebrew Roots congregation went out in the front yard at night to blow shofars at the new moon. Okay, so we had some weird times too. But all the crazy fun times began for us, with a love for Israel.

How I Fell in Love
I was not raised in the type of church that believed Israel still had Chosen People status because we believed we did.  I never gave the modern state of Israel much thought and could never figure out what the big deal was about everyone wanting to go to the “Holy Land.” For us a pilgrimage of worth might be the house our prophet was born in, or the very first church building used by our denomination.

One day, years after leaving the late 1800’s variety of American-inspired “Chosen People” for good, I felt a desire to read the book of Ezekiel. Then I read other Old Testament prophets, majors and minors. I became very excited at the discovery of many things I had never seen before regarding the Jewish people and promises of their restoration. I began to wonder if the modern state of Israel was the beginning of these prophecies being fulfilled. Wouldn’t you know, many other people had exactly the same speculations!

I immersed myself in the study of the history of the Jewish people, and then of the history of the modern state. I had always felt a solidarity with the Holocaust victims from childhood because we also kept the Jewish Sabbath in our church, and were taught we would suffer a similar fate for it one day. I had read more World War II books than I could count. But now I wanted to know all about them as a people, past and present.

My husband, not so much interested in Israel, but in the Torah itself as a way of life, was also being drawn to identify with Jewishness as a path of life and worship. As our testimony here shares in far too much tedious detail, we did.

We began to see the Hebrew way as given to a tribal nation thousands of years ago, as the only way. We believed God ordained this forever and for always, and that any who would be obedient to follow Him in this were also Jewish. Judaism itself does teach this. Upon conversion you are as much a part of the nation as one natural born. This is the way the Old Testament teaches, to be circumcised and joined in obedience to Yahweh as explained by Moses, is to become a Hebrew.

Many people in the movement talked of moving to Israel. I studied about kibbutz life and nothing sounded more idyllic to me. I looked into ways to immigrate, and found full conversion to Judaism, proof of ethnic lineage, or joining the IDF were the options, all of which seemed problematic. But my now “Jewish” heart, longed to be in the Land. As many Christians believe, we thought by blessing Israel, we would be blessed and also have front-row privileges to end time events and insider information on current world affairs. That’s pretty intoxicating stuff.

Meeting a Real Jewish Zionist
An Israeli man came to speak to our little tiny group. I’m sure he had bigger fish to fry with much larger pockets, but he was kind to come and speak for us. The way we prepared for his arrival you would have thought the Queen of England was coming to town.  He was running a publicity campaign for the Temple Mount and the WHOLE land of Israel as described to Abraham, to be occupied by Jews. Any concession at all to give up an inch of land was condemned as evil and against the will of God. Any Israeli or American leader willing to make compromises for peace was in danger of a curse we believed, and he fueled our zealous convictions. We did not care to speak to him of his Messiah, but he did make many diplomatic patronizing remarks toward the idea of the Messiah – as he was accustomed to speaking in Christian circles. He also had amazing war stories that filled us with admiration and a sense of being on “God’s side”. Maybe the miracles were true. One thing I’ve learned about miracles – they mean God loves us. They don’t always mean we are necessarily right. He was a sweet, charismatic man and I have no reason to doubt the depth of his convictions.

Those Obstructing God’s Will
As far as Palestinians were concerned, we had our talking points. We saw them as one big mob of hate-filled terrorists, not people. Not an ounce of concern or compassion for them found a place in our hearts, nor did we ever hear any of them speak about their situation. They didn’t matter to us. They didn’t belong there, and the sooner they were dealt with the better, although most of us had the realization that we would have to wait for the 2nd coming to see this problem solved. Seriously. I wonder what Jesus we were expecting?

Now, several years later with a new heart, open ears and eyes, I feel compelled to address this issue which is so closely linked not just to the Hebrew Roots Movement, but much of evangelical Christianity as well. I have questioned myself hundreds of times, “Why I should write these things?” They are hard. But it comes down to love. Love for Israel. All of it.

Honesty is Loving
Before I begin to share the hard things, there are several guaranteed reactions to anyone who would dare to look at this situation from any alternate angles. I know, because I used to have the same violent knee jerks so that I nearly bruised my own chin. Calmly place both feet on the floor, and hear my words.

*I LOVE JEWISH PEOPLE no matter where they live.
*I don’t wish to see Israel wiped off the map.
*I am deeply moved by the fear they live in and am well aware of the threats surrounding them daily, and the great suffering they have experienced past and present.
* I could care less about the accusations of conspiracies and evil empires, because I have to include my own country in that discussion. This isn’t about blame.

Now that we have that clearly stated, I desire to speak with honesty. If at any point you feel your feet rising from the floor, please refer again to the list above.

Christians and Israel
I speak now to those who call themselves by the term Christian. This would imply that you believe not only IN Jesus, but that you believe Him. I have been amazed at how easy I have in the past skimmed over very clear, direct teaching as “does not apply” to me. As He has gradually worked on my heart, I am constantly shocked at things I thought were okay that are completely out of line with how He is describing His Kingdom and how it works. This is an ongoing process for all of us who seek to follow Him. This isn’t just a matter of reading words on a page and managing to integrate my thinking from hypocrisy to honesty, but deep heart changes that are incredibly painful, yet freeing at the same time.

Many Christians, especially in the United States, feel a deep affinity for Israel and Jewish people. This isn’t wrong in any way, except when it creates the situation where we only love one side, and God loves both. When we cross over from loyalty to Jesus to blind, unbending loyalty to any earthly, fallen thing, no matter how good we perceive it, we create for ourselves a conflict of interest. This can happen with countless “good” things. The Biblical term for this is idolatry.

Just as we tend to see all Palestinians as terrorists, I think Christians also want to see Jewish people in a stereotype as well. We see them through the lens of the stories of David and Moses, and enjoy the common ground that we both accept the first edition of the Holy Book.   Stereotypes generally lead us astray from seeing the diversity in a people.  Israel is extremely diverse, maybe even more so than the United States in some ways.  I saw recently that the Ultra-orthodox were in a conflict with the government over the mandatory military service.  The article stated that they had large families and lived mostly on the welfare system as they believed their duty was to study the Torah and spend their time in the yeshiva.  They were exempt from military service because they did not believe in the use of force, but rather trusted in God.  I found great irony that this is the opposite perspective of most conservative Christian Zionist, on all issues.

Putting any and all end-time prophecy interpretations aside, because I honestly don’t know or care who is right or wrong about those things – it doesn’t change the foundational Way of the Jesus we follow – and that is to love. We love Him, each other, and our enemies. This “insanity” is the only real proof we have in this hate-filled world, and in my opinion, just as powerful as any miracle working you can manage to conjure up. Maybe more so. Pretty hard to fake loving your enemy. Funny thing happened as I began to listen to these people I had written off. God filled my heart with so much love for them too, just like He gave me for the Jewish people years before. I can’t even explain this love. It’s just there.

The Bottom side of the Security Fence
Imagine for a moment that the Palestinians don’t understand God wanted the Jews to have all the land back at this point in time. You can understand the confusion. (There are those on both sides who want ALL the land, and those who want peace.) Imagine yourself in their shoes. We’d be finding some resistance fighters in our own ranks don’t you think? What’s all this I hear in the last few years about “Don’t tread on me?” Humans of any race or religion don’t take well to being pushed off their land, losing their livelihoods, having travel restricted, or living in fear that any moment you could be arrested or your house taken over for use by an army at their whim. Or shot in random gunfire. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for peace to me. For many on both sides, peace isn’t the goal. Only total victory will satisfy.  But there are some on both sides as well who believe in non-violent solutions.

The situation in Israel is complicated, dangerous, and without any clear solutions. Many in Israel do not believe that meeting any Palestinian demands will bring peace. Palestinians do not believe Israel wants peace as long as  they continue to build settlements in their territory, which creates the need for more buffer zones, and more confiscated land and difficulty with travel because of checkpoints and security fences.

I realize there is a very real threat of violence that Israel lives under daily. But their military response has been a heavy boot that is hard to imagine and is never talked about in my social circles. I truly believed in the past that any negative story at all about Israel was a lie and propaganda from the other side. The truth is, both sides have plenty of that to go around in any conflict.

Because I don’t live there, I am obviously not qualified in the least to speak of this one way or the other, but I am thankful to have found honesty and truth, from Israelis themselves. Not all Israel’s citizens are comfortable with the way things are. Many are now speaking out about the human rights abuses the IDF routinely displays toward the Palestinian people.

I admire these truth-tellers, because truth is always risky and it takes a lot of courage to speak against what everyone accepts as normal. My country is very severe to anyone who would dare speak out about the abuses of military and government, as we have seen so vividly in the last few years. Please understand I’m not on a witch hunt here. I am sickened by what has been done under the banner of my own flag as well, and what continues to happen. I have been writing about that in other places as this is not a political blog. As I heard one saying recently, “There is no flag big enough to cover the killing of innocent people”. Especially not my flag.

Breaking the Silence
I don’t remember how or where I ran across this group, but their facebook page left me feeling ill and in tears.  I have gleaned information from different sources, but this one by far has been the most inspiring.  They are a group of former IDF members who have chosen to not remain silent about what they have seen, heard, and done. They also share current news stories of related items of interest. One of the founding members, Noam Chayut, wrote a book called, The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust – A Memoir. I identified with it deeply because the author is telling his story of “waking up”. Anyone who has been through that will recognize the process of gradually seeing things as they are, and the pivotal moments when your cotton candy structures dissolve and you are left ideologically homeless in a world of ideas.

One thing I can also relate to as an American is the contradiction between the good-guy persona, in this author’s case, “the most moral army in the world”, and the reality of human rights abuses as an accepted practice. Most of these actions are not taken as a direct intervention to any threat, but rather as a way to break a people psychologically and keep them in a state of fear and submission. He details the strategy to destroy the terror infrastructure as follows:

  1. Exposure (razing – uprooting trees and flattening buildings)

  2. Targeted Prevention (extrajudicial execution)

  3. Show of Presence (humiliation, intimidation, vandalism)

  4. Neighbor Procedure (using a random unarmed bystander as a human shield in order to enter a Palestinian house)

  5. Passer-by Procedure (same thing, after “neighbor procedure” was ruled illegal by Israel’s High Court of Justice)

  6. Searches (entering homes and damaging their contents)

  7. Deterrent Fire (opening fire indiscriminately in all directions)

  8. Making them pay the price (revenge, letting off steam and collective punishment)

  9. Mapping (invading the last vestige of privacy in the refugee camps: entering every home, drawing the layout of the rooms, listing the names of the inhabitants, scanning their mobile phones, checking out family relations…)

And so “the Palestinian population is to learn that terrorism doesn’t pay.” p. 97

He begins the story with his childhood and growing up with the Holocaust deeply embedded in the psyche with the mantra, “Never forget, never forgive.” He traveled to Europe and was deeply moved by the museums and remnants of that horrific nightmare. Yearly celebrations kept it all fresh in everyone’s minds. In spite of his excelling in music, he chose to join the IDF as a combatant because of his admiration for the war heroes who had preceded his generation.

In one eventful moment as an IDF soldier, looking into the eyes of a young Palestinian girl who saw nothing redeeming in his smile toward her, an awakening happened that took years to fully acknowledge. Here is how he describes it:

“She took from me the belief that I was avenging my people’s destruction by absolute evil, that I was fighting absolute evil. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil… And ever since, I have been without my Holocaust. Ever since, everything in my life has taken on new meaning: the sense of belonging is blurred, pride has gone missing, belief has weakened, regret has grown strong, forgiveness has been born.”

Forgiveness. That is the way out isn’t it? What we refuse to forgive, we tend to repeat. As with fathers and sons, so with nations. This book is hard to read but yet hard to put down. I am sparing you the graphic details. Only that the author states from the time he went to his first post as a soldier in Gaza, to the publishing of this memoir in English, 3088 Palestinians had been killed who took no part in any combat action.

As with most truth-telling, one of the first objections raised is that the atrocities described are exceptional incidents and in no way characterize a regular pattern of behavior. While of course there are many good things to praise, the good things do not take away from the necessity to evaluate other patterns at work. As Chayut began collecting testimonies for Breaking the Silence he relates this discovery:

I gathered testimonies, and listened to others gathered by my friends. In the first months, I was stunned by the dimensions of violence and humiliation they revealed. The excuse of “rotten apples” within the “moral occupation” cart disappeared  In its stead, a whole system of organized evil was revealed….These were the stories of frightened boys who commanded checkpoints, enforced curfews, and patrolled streets and markets. These were the stories of the indifference and numbness they developed there, which swallowed up their own personalities.”

This is when the aggressor becomes the victim of his own war. So many in our military have suffered the same emotional damage and our veterans are committing suicide in record numbers. Fighting terror with terror solves nothing and hurts everyone it touches in some way.  American Christians need to come to terms with this in their own country as much as seeing the reality of it anywhere else.  Conservative Christians have historically been quick to join the war band-wagons, unless of course it is suggested by an unpopular president.  This comes from a deep-seated patriotism that preaches “God and Country.”  Not many seem to ask the question, “What does God THINK about my country right now and its actions towards our perceived enemies?”  As a Christian, these questions should be thought out in light of the words of Jesus, not our nationalism or patriotism.

But this is not about politics or who decides policies. This is about love being the higher way. I recently saw a video of an Israeli man (on TED Talks) who has taken it on himself via the internet to send love messages to the people of Iran, saying he did not want a war with them, and many others joined in. Then there came many messages back from Iran to Israel with the same desires. What if love was stronger than fear?

I will end this portion with a few videos of Israeli IDF voices from Breaking the Silence. And I strongly recommend getting Noam Chayut’s book. In the next post I will talk about the Palestinian side of the equation (another book and movie review), and what a genuine loving Christian support for the region might look like, no matter what your end-time scenario includes.

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimonies/database/838448

 

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Just wanted to say hello to all the Canadian readers and congratulate you for the fact that in the last seven days, you have exceeded the number of readers from the United States!  I have no idea what’s going on up there that might precipitate this honor, but so glad to have you.  

Holidays do spark more information seeking into the topics here.  Christmas and Easter can be stressful times for those in the Torah observant lifestyle, and more so for all those around them who are not.  I can remember not knowing how to deal with family who didn’t understand our convictions about obedience to God.  And now I can only imagine what we put them through.  I get a little taste of it from listening to other people’s stories.

Our last Passover Seder was 2007, if I remember correctly.  Shortly after this, we broke the news to our fellowship that we were leaving.  Those were agonizing weeks.  I wish that we could have somehow remained in community with our dear friends – but we were drastically delivered and could no longer walk down that road at all.  Our fellowship was based on a lifestyle and specific days on a calendar.  I hate that this wall of separation came between us and Jesus was not enough to hold us all together.  I take equal fault and blame no one.  

Looking back I do wish we had been able to maintain better connections – but we were in such a drastic state of change and renewal ourselves our heads were spinning.  The best counsel I can give to anyone dealing with Observant friends or family is to love them with as much love as you can.  We wanted to please God, and we started down that road with a sincere heart.  We later became polluted with blinding pride, but so many in this movement are at the core – hungry for God’s love.  Our group was named “Know Him” (in Hebrew) and we often spoke of “drawing near”.  We wanted so badly to be pleasing to God and be special to Him.  So many who do not receive a nurturing father love in their lives, believe this is how they must approach their heavenly Father as well.  We have found this pattern to be extremely consistent.  Our deliverance came shortly after a huge emotional breakthrough and working through some forgiveness issues.  Of course every story is different, but we have seen this very common pattern both while in the Movement, and in talking to others since leaving.  Love hunger drives people to many addictions and obsessions.  Religion (as opposed to Life in Faith) suffices well in this case, and attempts to fill those core bankruptcies. But there never seem to be enough books, videos, or finding that level of obedience that gives you the feeling of acceptance or having “arrived”.  We see 101 ways we fall short every day.  I struggle not to live there, bound to my unique brand of legalism in my own expectations.

We so easily become bogged down in theological arguments (and yes – that was the motivating factor in even starting this blog) that we miss the Life in the Promise.  Our hearts are so easily distracted from this and drawn away into pursuits that excite the senses yet dull the spiritual connection with our Creator.  We love a secret, hidden meanings, thinking we have re-discovered suppressed truth, and having a unique message.  People get so obsessive, even about orthodox theological positions, let alone “heretical” ones.  What is it about human opinions and knowledge that we find so much more satisfying than being with Jesus?  I still struggle with these things that want to draw me away.  

This Resurrection Season – and 8th Day – I pray to be less distracted and stressed, and to become more aware of the Life that is in me, and around me.  We have before us two choices every day to walk in – that which pertains to Life, and those things which are already dead and passing away.  Choosing Life is so much more than the right vote at the ballot box.  I find more and more it means my death.  So He can live.  

He is Risen!  May it be so in my life too.

 

 

 

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Pied_Piper_1Play Me a Song

I have lived more than a few seasons of life falling under the spell of pied pipers’ tunes.  Each time I felt excitement over some new knowledge, or believed I belonged to something only special people understood.   Pied pipers draw a respectable following, so I usually enjoyed plenty of company as we merrily danced along.  Having so many people sharing love for the same song made it seem even more pleasant and true.  The longer I listened, the less I could see, except for what the song allowed.  The pipers were preachers and politicians, and the songs told of doctrines and dogmas.  Not that these things are always bad.  Often they contain elements of truth.  The trouble comes when we cease to question the source and nature of the song, or don’t see we are marching away from Jesus into the arms of another.  Our desire was to follow this song no matter what, no matter where.  If someone tried to speak to us about truth, we went back to singing our song even louder to drown them out.  Its familiarity became our comfort and security.  If the pied piper were to die, many others would be willing pick up the flute and keep going.

Then thgood-shepherd.jpg.w300h411e Good Shepherd begins to call again for His wandering sheep and starts to sing softly to our hearts.  I find myself feeling uneasy with the direction I am going.  My eyes focus more clearly to see the surroundings and direction of the march.  I also hear a more beautiful song that seems out of sync with the one I’m following.  I remember the love of the Shepherd and I wonder when it happened, that I left Him behind to follow another? Eventually, the piper’s song begins to sound terribly out of harmony and hurts my ears.  I can hear the notes that don’t belong in the music.  I look back at my friends and try to tell them, “this is all wrong!”  But they can’t hear me.  If one happens to look my way and listen for a moment, they become agitated and sing louder.  Just as I used to do.  I love them, but the Shepherd still calls.  I have to follow Him I know.  So I step out into His love and find peace and freedom.

This analogy is too one-dimensional to describe my life and all the facets that resemble pied piper mindsets.  I have followed more than one at a time and I have friends that left one to follow another.  Some were born under a tune and haven’t considered there may be any other song.  They are even told the Good Shepherd is marching along beside them.  That’s why God calls us sheep.  We are so easily distracted and led astray.  He has also promised that those who belong to Him will hear His voice and not follow another….forever.  This is a huge comfort and I have experienced this so many times.  I want to always be aligning my life to the God song.

Each time I hear Him more clearly, I experience an awakening that brings a family of emotions.  I rejoice in the Truth of Jesus, yet there are painful departures too; people that don’t want to walk with me anymore, objects of affection I have to lay down at His feet.  When I finally realize how opposed my idols are to His heart, the act of surrender then comes easily.  If I hold on to the false image in my mind of what I think my cherished idols are, I tend to cling and not let go.  We must see clearly.  This is why I keep the verse posted on the right margin here, “Jesus, let me see!”

All this to say, since I began writing here, I’ve had another gradual and often painful awakening over the last two or three years.  I have argued with God over this (giving Him all the reasons I don’t want to write about it), argued with myself, and argued with all the voices in my head that oppose what I know to be the Truth in Christ concerning these things.  I started writing in an anonymous place, Jonah style, because the burden to write was so strong I couldn’t say no.  (Yes Lord, I will go somewhere – but not to THAT city.) I don’t want to hurt or upset people I love, or be misunderstood.  I have a hundred reasons why not.

But with each passing day I see more clearly, and the pain of what I see, and what I must say, does not become less.  And the directives from His heart are getting stronger and more specific.  I can say no – and someone else will speak.  (And many are.) But out of love for Him, and those who are being hurt by the false images, I write.

A Waking Up Dream                                       

Let me begin with a very disturbing dream I had a few mornings ago.   It’s horrific actually.  But I believe it represented a core issue for me that I needed to see without confusion.  I was in a house not my own, and my young son was with me, only in the dream I was not the parent.  My role in this dream was a bystander.  His older sister had been brutally killed, put in a trash bag, and thrown out into the city trash can at the curb.  (I don’t watch things like this on TV or in movies by the way.) There was the body of an adult male as well whom I don’t know the identity of.   A woman caretaker had convinced the young boy that things would be better for him if his sister was gone.  He would have more of everything he wanted and he would not need to share anymore or get into fights over anything.  In his young naive mind it sounded attractive.  He agreed.  (In my dream I had knowledge that all this had taken place in a house other than the one we were in.  But the dream scene picked up after the fact.) In the house it’s just the boy and I.  He begins to cry and whine that he wants his sister back.  I am trying to explain to him that she is gone, and can never come back.  I have a horrible sense of finality and grief, of being unable to undo a terrible deed.  And even though in my dream I have not done it myself, I know that I had allowed it without protest.  I have the feelings of a parent (because the children in the dream were mine!), even though that wasn’t my role here.  I realize the parents are coming, and somehow, the guilt for the event is going to fall on me.

The parents arrive, and they are not immediately aware anything is wrong.  I was not the caretaker, but now have gone from bystander to messenger.  I must tell them what has happened, and I feel like it’s all my fault.  I am telling them to please arrest me.  I know I must go to prison for this.  The family is in grief, and the little boy is crying for his sister, and all I can think is that in some way I could have intervened and I did nothing.

The thing that impressed me the most when I first woke up, after I recovered from the horror of it, was the grief of the child who remained.  In the heat of the moment, of maybe a fight over something they both wanted, it seemed like a good solution.  The caretaker made the choice of who would live and who would die, but in the end, both were victims.

I believe the “caretaker” represents false religion that is aligned with the world’s values which are based on logic and reason which protect greed, rather than self-sacrificing love.   This world system is always ready to make a sacrifice of the weak to benefit the strong.   And those who are eliminated are considered “trash”.  Even those who crucified Jesus followed this logic.

The man may have represented a divorce.   The woman caretaker was the bride who did away with her husband to follow what seemed right to her.   This tragedy has taken place throughout history with the people of God.   As we crucify Christ for our own desires, we forget His true identity and take on another one for ourselves.  Because my dream picked up later, “in another house” seems to indicate how a current generation may be tied to the sins of the past, if not recognized and repented of.  The core beliefs and attitudes are carried on, even if we are not directly involved.

Does this seem too shocking and graphic to you? I hope it’s as nightmarish to you as it was to me.  I hope you have not been desensitized by all the violence in media and news stories to not feel the gravity of this.  We would never in a million years agree to something like this with our own children.  Yet, this is the world we live in – and we pass by this type of favoritism, often even supporting it.  Scripture tells us the children of the Most High come from every tribe, tongue and nation on earth.  How can we standby in any conflict and say, “One must die so another may live in peace and prosperity”?  Does this apply to any situation you know of?  I can think of many examples in history, and in the present.  Those who engage in this type of thinking are following a pied piper.  They believe the song that says this is the only solution.  I have believed it, supported it, even wished for it, without daring to think of the human cost.  In this – as a bystander, I do feel my own responsibility.  In the dream the condemnation was heavy and final in my heart.  But I believe God only wanted me to see the tangible reality of responsibility when we walk in agreement to things opposed to His heart.   Cain cried, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – even as the blood of his brother was on his own hands.   I feel I have gone the way of Cain in the past myself.

I see also the extreme victimization of both the one who dies, and the one who agrees to kill.  There is a deep wound left in the one who remains.  As humans, we are all sons and daughters of God, His Creation.  Even those that will in the end reject Him are loved by Him.  We cannot agree to the elimination of other human beings without ourselves also being deeply wounded.   I have noticed the last three major headlines of horrific maniacal homicides in the past couple weeks have involved former military personnel as the perpetrators.  We send them to war, and they come home severely damaged in their hearts and minds.   We are hurting ourselves all the while believing we are winning a victory.

Formerly, I supported all that my country did in this regard, as well as the state of Israel.   I marched behind that war drum for quite awhile – until I heard Jesus through the flags and national anthems.

I understand nations will defend themselves against attack.  This is a political right and fact.  It does not however mandate how a Christian will react in this situation (having a higher Commander in Chief).  A believer must seek the Lord for His will.  There is a fine line between being in submission to our earthly governments and yet following Christ first and foremost.  Each one must follow their conscience in these things and I do not stand as a judge of anyone who believes in defending their homeland from a human perspective.  But no matter where we find ourselves on the chess board, the issue of love and hate within our own hearts does not change.

Self-defense and does not justify, in my opinion, most of what I see going on in this sick world as it relates to violence, both military and civil.  In the end the value judgments seem to come down to the decision that it’s better for someone else to die, so I can live as I want to live.   Self-defense is the justification for huge liberties taken at the expense of others.   In the end, it’s about self-interest.  Speaking as a U.S. citizen,  I believe this attitude of protecting our own interests is also one factor (of several) in our tragically high abortion rates.  Being pro-life goes much farther than defending the right to life in the womb.   We cannot devalue life without consequences.

The Hebrew Roots Movement’s Song

This pied piper idolatry blinds many people as they get drawn into the Hebrew Roots Movement.  Their love for anything Jewish is as blind as young romance.  They accept anything with Hebrew letters written on it, even if they can’t read it.  Play a song in a minor key and they will dance.  Love the Jewish people and not even care that there are many suffering peoples in the world, including the opposing sides in the Israeli conflicts? You bet!  But this is not of Christ.  This is the way of the old nature, not the New Creation.  We cannot harmonize this deep, ancient evil with the teachings and heart of Christ.  We cannot follow Him and sing this song on anyone’s “side”.   This truth should be realized irrespective of various belief systems about end times and the restoration of Israel.   I don’t quarrel with anyone about these.   I will however stand up for the love of Christ for all people.

And I cannot talk about a blinding love for the nation of Israel as a secular state, without speaking of my own country as well.  We are truly bound together as many prophecy teachers proclaim, yet not in righteousness.  This has been the most painful awakening I think I’ve ever experienced, because it doesn’t mean departing from a small, fringe group.  It means standing against tidal waves of nationalism and pride.  There is a great deal to love and admire in both nations.  I have probably loved Israel even more than my own country.  And now, choosing to stand firmly on the ground of only One Kingdom (of which even Israel is not yet grafted into her Messiah) I am able to lay down my worship and blind devotion to both of them, and truly, deeply love them in the love of Christ.

This means I will not support every military action as a mandate from God Himself.  As earthly kingdoms, these governments succumb to the songs of fear and hatred, but thankfully not all the people inside do.  There is another kingdom within their borders which extends far beyond them.  Citizens of this country will not waver with the winds of war or the seasons of hate.  Their love for Him, the royal family, and all of God’s creation guide and sustain them in all their ways.

I will, and I must – speak more openly about this form of idolatry in relation to the United States and Israel.  Many Christians here are blinded to many things by the false images and their worship of them.  In relation to Israel, they are willing to blend Judaism with Christianity.  Their blind devotion often leads to inadvertently insulting and offending Jewish people, hurting Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ, and exploiting the Jewish Jesus for profit and popularity.  The Christian Zionist “witness” in Israel I think overall has a damaging affect spiritually on everyone, although it may bring financial benefits.  I have watched it sink down into a favoritism that supports death – within the Christian community.  I was party to this, and have had to repent of my participation in this mindset.   We truly should love the Jewish people and pray for peace.   But how do we expect to see this take place?  Do our hearts ache for peace for all God’s children?  Every side has enough hate of their own to start a thousand wars.  Yet, does peace come through vindicating our own disgust with other human beings?  Is this what Jesus taught?

I used to know a woman who loved her son.  It’s a very good thing to love your son, but not so much that you believe everything he does, in his selfishness and immaturity, are good.  The son lived irresponsibly but she would never admit he had a fault.  He drank, abused drugs, refused to support his family, spent his little income on his own fun, yet she never wavered in her undying devotion to him.  She built up an image to his young daughter, so she would worship and love this man as she did, even though as a father he hurt her terribly with his selfishness that prevented true fatherly love and nurture.  The child was caught between what she was told about her father, and what she experienced.  In this dissonance, we find also the phenomenon of nationalism.  It is good to love our country.  It is natural.  But when we become blind to our faults, and refuse to face the truth of where we diverge from our true King, this love becomes dangerous and harmful.

May we all see Jesus clearly, Who grants us our true sight.   I have so much more I want to share about the Way of the Cross as it relates to our citizenship here on Earth.   I have not agonized over anything I’ve written as much as this, since I began writing here.  Although, as this poem beautifully explains, the God Song cannot ever truly be told in words.

Song of the Soul
by Kahlil Gibran

In the depth of my soul there is

A wordless song – a song that lives

In the seed of my heart.

It refuses to melt with ink on

Parchment; it engulfs my affection

In a transparent cloak and flows,

But not upon my lips.

How can I sigh it?  I fear it may

Mingle with earthly ether;

To whom shall I sing it?  It dwells

In the house of my soul, in fear of
Harsh ears.

When I look into my inner eyes

I see the shadow of its shadow;

When I touch my fingertips

I feel its vibrations.

The deeds of my hands heed its

Presence as a lake must reflect

The glittering stars; my tears

Reveal it, as bright drops of dew

Reveal the secret of a withering rose.

It is a song composed by contemplation,

And published by silence,

And shunned by clamor,

And folded by truth,

And repeated by dreams,

And understood by love,

And hidden by awakening,

And sung by the soul.

It is the song of love;

What Cain or Esau could sing it?

It is more fragrant than jasmine;

What voice could enslave it?

It is heartbound, as a virgin’s secret;

What strings could quiver it?

Who dares unite the roar of the sea

And the singing of the nightingale?

Who dares compare the shrieking tempest

To the sigh of an infant?

Who dares speak aloud the words

Intended for the heart to speak?

What human dares sing in voice

The song of God?

peace1

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The word “cult” gets tossed around a lot, even by people who belong to them.  Many definitions abound, so it’s easy to pick one that might not include your own group, especially if you don’t meet all the criteria on a particular list.  Various degrees of denial make cult definitions a subjective pursuit.  This week my friends shared two helpful links about cults and abusive groups that are worth your time to check out.

Looking back on my life, I have quite a cult resume.

My husband and I would have never considered ourselves in a cult, or worse yet, the leaders of one, when we were in the Hebrew Roots Movement.  We did not follow any particular teacher, although we had friends who did.  We saw the movement as something God brought together because it wasn’t started or led by any one particular person.  People from many different Christian backgrounds came together under one common bond.  While every group had to muddle through many various points of contention, we had given our minds over to one idea which became the foundation of belief and the basis for our fellowship.  Nearly anything or anyone we recognized as having this same beginning premise, we trusted, and believed.

As this election season has heated up, I have watched this phenomenon in the political realm too, and see the human condition is so very prone to wanting a framework with neat, concise answers. We want talking points, dogmas, and simplified answers to our dissenters.  Go-to catch phrases head off any opponents arguments.  We become emotionally attached to our systems and ideas, take them on as part of our personal identities, and tie them on tightly with our fear and pride.

Seeing the political sides take shape, I realized that cults can gel around an ideology just as easily as a person.  Candidates are playing into the idea, trying to appear as if they are closely aligned with the values of the group they seek to represent.

Once the idea has become concrete, this is where the danger comes in.  Anytime we give up asking questions, listening, and investigating, we are in danger of cult-like thinking.  If we pledge our support for something, and emotionally invest in a “side”, we are much less likely to think objectively about our own camp, be it religious, political, or national.  It doesn’t matter how free of an atmosphere we have to ask questions, if we don’t.

Our religious “cult” was not formed or held together by Jesus, but a list of commands that pointed to Him.  We saw them as Him.  And He came to open the way for so much more than this in our relationship with Him.  What if I, as a wife, viewed my husband as only our marriage license.  I look at the paper every day, frame it so I can hang it on the wall, and make sure I tell everyone I meet about this agreement and what it entitles me to.  Yet, he is standing there wanting to love and be loved.

Cults of any kind are demanding, but Jesus is inviting.  The spiritual difference is life and death.  People who have not experienced the deep, healing love of Christ are trying to fill a need when they follow a cult of any kind, religious or otherwise.  We want belonging, and we want to be right.  It feels safe and warm in a way, yet we never quite “arrive”.  There is always one more bit of knowledge, or a higher degree of compliance to achieve.

If I could zap you through this screen and give you a sense of how much MORE Jesus has for you than the much less you are settling for, while believing you are in the elite crowd of the chosen few, I would.  But I can’t.  I pray the Holy Spirit does reveal this to you even though you probably found this blog looking for information that you agreed with, and this wasn’t it.  I say, just let Him love you.  He died so You could know the depth of His love, and you are running backward to the shadow.  You don’t have to earn His love, or fear a curse.  Just let Him love you.

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My husband recently shared an overview of the Hebrew Roots Movement for our friends at after7.tv and I am happy to be able to share the link for those who were not able to join us live!

CLICK HERE to watch the replay.

Lots of other great topics to explore there as well.  Enjoy!

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Today I ran across a post on facebook and learned of Knowing Me Ministries in Portland, Oregon.  It caught my eye because they work with the homeless population, an avenue of ministry our family also has been given a heart for. What intrigued me, besides their amazing testimony and witness (check it out!), was the verse that inspired their name:

  He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.  Is not this to know me? declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 22:16

It reminded me of another group who derived their name from a passage in Jeremiah.  We called ourselves “Yada Elohim”  which means “Know God.”

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 9:23,24

The Hebrew word indicated a very intimate relationship.  The same word is used in passages were a when a man “knew” his wife.  We desired this intimate knowledge of God so much, and believed that increasing our level of obedience to Old Covenant commandments would bring us to this closer understanding of God.   We believed if we walked as Jesus walked, in the Jewish sense, we would know God like we had never known him before.   We seemed to have missed the verse in chapter 22.

Our desires were noble, but our method could be compared to trying to make the trek of Lewis and Clark, as they did; by boat, on horseback, and on foot.  Why do that when you can now drive to the Pacific coast?  It might be a great adventure, but if you were to tell people they must go this way to get there, as you sport your leather moccasins,  this would be a silly and even dangerous assertion.  Yet, that is in effect, what we believed.

Later as I read Matthew, I realized what the words of Jesus said about who HE would know, and I became suddenly aware that the fruit in our lives did not resemble the group which were commended.  This began the gift of seeing Jesus as the ultimate Truth.  These words stopped me in my tracks:

On that day many will say to me,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

And then will I declare to them,
‘I never knew you; depart from me, 
you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:22,23

And these:

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’
Then he will answer them, saying,
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  

Matthew 25:40-46

Not every believer is called by God to directly do all of these things.  But the corporate fruit or our movement, across the board, fell in the goat camp.  Yes.. there are individual exceptions, but this was most certainly not the focus of our “mission”.   (Then again, it’s not the mission of most of what calls itself Christian in the Western world.)

Our mission to know God through the Law and not Jesus Himself did not produce compassion, self-sacrifice for the “least of these” or calling out the Good News to those God is calling to Himself.  Our purpose was to show Christians they had turned their backs on Torah, and that we followed the REAL Messiah.

Today I saw parallels in the names of two ministries, and great contrast in the mission.  It brought to my mind again that these two paths do not converge.

The first reaction upon deliverance from this mistaken mindset was to exchange the Old Covenant “to do list” for the New Covenant one.  “Now I need to make sure I’m doing these commandments of Jesus!”  Yes, but no.  I am thankful God did not allow me to jump into trying to obey even more correctly that I had been doing the last six years.  I wanted to, but He needed to transform my whole outlook.

When I saw the the New Covenant, I saw the Spirit brought this life of compassion.  This fruit comes through allowing GOD to work.  I knew I needed to pray.  Pray for my heart to be filled with love and compassion where it had become cold and hard.  Pray for the privilege to serve those God would lay on my heart to serve.  Pray for the ability and provision to do so.  Pray pray pray.

Life in the Spirit is not about checklists… it’s about being blindly abandoned to Jesus and letting Him fill us up and lead us, and empower us.  We don’t reassure ourselves that God is going to save us because we are doing the works the good guys are doing in the parable.  He confirms the Promise in us when we see that He is doing in us what we know we had no ability to do ourselves, nor even the desire, if left to ourselves.  We see that we become the tool in His hands, and lives are impacted, because of what HE is doing, not us.

Some believers are called to works where they don’t get to see the fruit God will bring from it.  Even here, the witness of love in their hearts, confirms this same thing.   The still small voice that spurs them on comforts them as well.  Are there moments of doubt and despair?  Most certainly.  Look at Elijah and John the Baptist.  God alone is strong and He alone is worthy of glory.

Another verse comes to mind.

But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”  
John 3:21  

The KJV uses the word “wrought” for “carried out”.   Christ is the author and the finisher.   He is all in all.  My good intentions, hard work, striving, and planning in human wisdom… futile.  Sabbath rest in Christ becomes a necessity for anyone who wishes to serve in His army.  We have to trust Him daily for everything from start to finish, and hear Him.

What has God called you to do?  Maybe it’s prayer (what is more effective in this world and how few of us devote our time to this?),  sacrificial giving, or the ability to sit and listen to a broken heart without judging.  Do we desire for our hearts to be broken for the things that break His?  Does our cause in this world match what He has declared matters most to Him?

Next week our family is moving back into the city from a small town.  I have been so excited to know I will be near all the things I love, and need.  No more long drives home.  This time of year especially, it’s easy to get excited about the consumer opportunities.  Today I am reminded of one of the chief reasons I believe God is allowing us to go back in.  He loves people more than He loves Sam’s Club.  I will keep praying for the open doors, and the willingness to allow the Spirit to flow through me to people, whether it’s a neighbor, or a homeless friend under a bridge.

What does it mean to know God?  I am continuing to learn.  But most of all, I am thankful that He has patiently, and lovingly known me.

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Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving!   I have so many things to be thankful for this year, more than ever.  And no material blessing can come close to watching my children learn to know and trust God, to see His Spirit working in them.

Below my 18 year old son graciously agreed to share his perspective of what the HRM environment was like for a young heart and mind.  He saw this world through a completely different lens, one without the filters of denial that protected us as adults.

As a parent, I was heartbroken to learn this is what I put my older children through, and that I could not see I was continuing the cycle of how I was raised in  a legalistic environment.  Only recently have they both begun to share with me the effect the atmosphere and teaching had on them.   This post is the fruit of a heart-to-heart talk my son and I had that went till 2:00 a.m.  The Law did its job.. exactly as it was intended to do.  But the Remedy was seldom mentioned, and if it ever was, heavily qualified with conditions, both in words and our attitudes we projected.  I grieve not only for my own kids, but the several others that we had direct influence on.  I pray God can also bring good out of this in their lives, as He has for Jesse.

I saw a marked change in Jesse when God brought him to Grace.  He was already an amazing son, with a naturally compliant, loving temperament, but he went from “good” to ALIVE.. and that was visibly evident.

Jesse’s Story

Christians today are taught to be more tolerant of different beliefs, sometimes they don’t see the harm in what appears to be a slight doctrinal difference. Yet people are living in bondage not only to sin, but to their own beliefs as well. Another thing that is often overlooked is how alternate beliefs or perspectives can affect children; how they view God, themselves, and the rest of the world. I’m sharing my testimony in hopes that someone will see the danger of the Hebrew Roots Movement.

It started when I was about nine years old. My parents were under the impression that if they did more to please God, that God would bless the family more. The basic idea was that if we kept the law of Moses, and observed all the feasts (old covenant holidays), God would be pleased with us. When we made this change, my mother told me it was just an observation, more like adopting a new culture. We were gaining a new insight into what life and religion was like back in Bible times.

Soon after, we started attending a study group (or as they say in the Hebrew Roots, ‘Congregation’) based at a facility where children with disabilities could ride horses. My friends and I would play out there for hours while our parents would sit together and study the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).

A few years went by, we had been to a few different groups by that time, and eventually had started our own with friends we had made the whole time. I was a little older by this time, and I was listening to what the adults were saying. My mother still believed in Jesus, and the sacrifice he had made for our sins, and she thought I believed the same way, but it wasn’t exactly the case.

I believed Jesus died and rose again for my sins, but the obsession with the Law that everyone had gave me the impression I had to keep all 613 commandments to be saved. None of it made sense to me. How could Jesus die for me and still expect me to live a perfect life? I knew I wasn’t able to do it, and as hard as I tried to be perfect, I believed I was headed straight for Hell. I remember crying out to God on several occasions, pleading for mercy, and thinking to myself , “You don’t deserve it, He won’t listen to you”.

Not long after I turned 14, God led my parents out of the Hebrew Roots Movement, and we started going to a Baptist church. I was relieved to know at this point that I didn’t have to follow the Law of Moses to be saved, and that I just had to let Christ into my heart. But it wasn’t until I went with that Baptist church on a week long mission trip to Kansas that I actually got saved. The mission trip I went on to reach others, was really meant for me, so I could be saved. I remember sitting in the church building, my pastor giving us a sermon after dinner, and seeing the pulpit had a cross on the front. While I was listening, I started focusing on the cross. Being the 14 year old boy that I was, I started to think about how the cross looked like a sword, and how Jesus defeated sin on the cross. The image was simple, but it was powerful to me, and God changed my heart right there. I was free!

I know people go through much worse than I have, in a sense, I’m very blessed to have suffered very little, though when I look back now, I don’t so much see myself as I do another 10 year old boy, in torment, feeling unworthy of God’s presence, of His mercy. I hope that in writing this, someone will spare themselves, and their children of the bondage that is in the Hebrew Roots movement.

But until today, when Moses is being read, a veil lies on their heart. But whenever it turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. And the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of the Lord in a mirror, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:15-18

(Jesse said when he wrote this out, he opened his Bible for a reference, and his bookmark was on this Scripture!  God’s exclamation point! 🙂 )

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I am sure many are rejoicing with great glee at this news, but for those of us who have been down this path, it’s heartbreaking to hear.  The CEO of World Net Daily has come out as a stated follower of the Hebrew Roots Movement, calling one of its most prominent teachers his “pastor”, and selling the movement’s books in the online store.

As I listened to Joseph Farah begin the description of his journey in a recent interview, I heard him explain the very same quandary my husband and I were in nearly two decades ago.  We could not reconcile the the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments given to Israel with traditional Christianity.  We asked God some questions, and we proceeded forward on His answers.  Yes, Saturday is the Sabbath!  Then we discovered the other 603 commands.  What we didn’t do was ask the right questions.  He didn’t give us answers to questions we didn’t yet know how to ask, but allowed us to learn as we walked.  For many years we believed we were in the truth and those who had “just Jesus”, but not the right Law, were lesser Christians.  Many speculated that if you had the correct Jesus (who never went by that name incidentally) you would observe the Torah.  It gradually became a definition of a real Christian for us (but we didn’t claim to be Christians anymore either)… demanding different fruit than the Holy Spirit gives.  And the genuine fruit of the love of Christ in our lives, sadly lacking as well.

God finally and dramatically revealed to us what the Sabbath and the Law meant, and our relationship to it.  He had let us experience the alternative with full force, but when we were finally able to listen, we found humility, grief, and shock that we had missed what was so simply in front of our eyes.  But only He was able to show us.

The real root of the HRM is not about being like Jesus, but is rather a misunderstanding of the role of Law for those in Christ (we are dead to it, and alive to the Law of the Spirit in Jesus – a higher law… see Romans 6-8) and the misunderstanding of Gentile believers becoming part of Israel instead of “in Christ” as the One New Man, together with our Israelite brothers and sisters.  See this article about who we are really grafted into. The paradigm and premise drawn by the HRM is at complete odds with the true witness of Christ (when He is allowed to speak for Himself) and the entire New Testament.  This explains why so many take the logical step and just convert to Judaism.  As one Jewish believer in Jesus stated…

It is my observation that among those adapting Jewish customs Christians who leave Jesus far outnumber Jews who turn to Him.

He blessed us with an interview for the post End Time Judaizers and his story is also shared here (Jewish Believer’s Testimony) with a free download!

Farah sounds so sincerely convinced. I know he is because I’ve been there.  But I also know without a shadow of a doubt that he is knocking on a door with death on the other side.  It breaks my heart to see anyone falling into this, let alone someone who has influence over so many other sincere, God-loving people.

Friends, we must be like those on the mountain with Jesus when He revealed His glory. . Moses and Elijah disappear, and we see JESUS ONLY.  “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!”  This is the voice of the Father.  He does not point us to Moses, but to Christ.

I plead with the readers of World Net Daily to see our testimony, and the in-depth research of the others on my Resource Page above.  But most of all, I pray you see Jesus only, not the counterfeit that seeks to bring all people under an obsolete covenant that had a distinct beginning, and found its end in Jesus.  (Galatians means exactly what it sounds like it means!)  I am one voice, rescued from a ship destined to sink, begging you not to board.  If you do, I pray that it will only serve to later enable you to see Jesus like you have never seen Him before.  I am so thankful this was true for us.

Coming soon!
I will post the testimony of my 18 year old son who “grew up” in the Sabbatarian/Hebrew Roots atmosphere.  He has only recently begun to share with me the reality he lived in, and it grieved me greatly to learn what I put my kids through without realizing it.  I am so thankful for his love for Christ in spite of what we put him through.  God is merciful!!!  Stay tuned!

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Another moving testimony of deliverance from deception to the simplicity of Jesus!

It is with a grateful heart that I've received the following testimony.    From talking to those who have come out of Law-keeping sects, I understand that it can be a difficult thing to write about the experience.  Many thanks to "GirlLuvs2Read" for the following. This testimony will also appear on the Testimonies Page here at JGIG. If you have a testimony you’d like to share about coming out of the Hebrew Roots Movement (or a variation of the HR … Read More

via Joyfully Growing in Grace

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Just another Christmas reflection.  I have at least five posts in my head, but no one wants to think about them right now.  Not even me.  It’s nice to take a break and just enjoy the peace.  This year I would say we finally hit Christmas full swing, in a way I didn’t really want to do when we first began to acknowledge it again; parties, gift exchanges, mad-dash shopping at the last minute .  I even found myself with the Classical Christmas Pandora station playing today as I lit the candles around the nativity decorations.  The $8.00 artificial tree is lit up with its yard-sale decoration finds, (okay – some are dollar-store new).

I also did something I had not done in a very long time.  I popped in on some people with some small symbols of our affection (truly, the thought has to count because my dollars don’t).  As the big day gets closer, so many people come to my mind that I love and am so thankful for.  People I don’t think to tell.  At other times it might be more awkward, but this time of year gives everyone permission to be a little mushy, even those of us who are mush-challenged, like me.  I think of people I won’t have time to contact, those I don’t know how to reach, and those I just plum forgot. 😦   My heart breaks for those who are alone but we’ve also enjoyed the privilege of sharing a little with those in need.  We ourselves have been in need these past few months – yet miraculously, we have managed to give more than ever before.

Today I was thinking how this “Spirit of Christmas” ….. this urge to give and love….is such a beautiful reflection of the heart of God.  And such a small speck in contrast to what He gave when He left the glory of heaven to born to a young woman with her reputation on the line, in a barn, to sleep in a feeding trough, wrapped in strips of cloth intended for newborn animals.  To lead such a humble life, a sacrificial life, and death.

I believe it’s good for us to empty ourselves a little for others, every day of the year.  But at Christmas it’s nearly irresistible.  I remember that being the hardest call to leave unanswered during our years of Christmas abstinence.  I still felt that urge strongly and would see little gifts I knew “so and so” would like, but then stop, remembering “we don’t do that anymore.”

It would be great if everyone could give like Christmas all year, but thankful that for a few days, it becomes a nearly universal practice.  Even those who take no thought of the Christian theme of this day, still reflect the Giver who made them.   I still hate the retail-driven frenzy that invades what could just be simple and beautiful.  But I have learned to block that out and keep my eyes on Him who gave all for me.

May your Christmas make you a blessing.

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