2020 VISION: Short, Sweet #8

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer today.  After all, that is what these next few days leading up to Yom Kippur are all about. Introspection, seeking, and repentance. 

“I have poured out my soul before the LORD…all this time I have been praying out of the depth of my anguish and grief.” 1 Sam 1:15b-16

Hannah’s first prayer seems to be my prayer so often lately. I wonder what My Father thinks of me sometimes, when my tears drown out my voice, and anger blots out coherent thought. And yet…and yet –  –  – I know He hears and His compassion never fails.

S    F   T

I saw this in a movie a few years ago, and it pretty much describes my prayer journey of the past couple years.  

S – eek Him

F – eel His presence

T – rust Him

  High Holy Days 2020 is touching me in different ways this year.  Prayer is primary, but more encompassing than ever before. Prayers not just for me and mine, but circling for our country as well.  Prayers circling for all the birth pangs that we have seen this year – pestilence, droughts, wildfires, anger, earthquakes, hurricanes/fire tornadoes, infestations, lawlessness, rebellion (personal and societal)….. 

The list seems endless, but as always, I continue to…S F L. And like Hannah, I know He hears and covers me as He does the world and this country with His compassion, love and grace.

“My heart rejoices in the LORD in whom my strength is exalted. My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, for I rejoice in Your salvation.” 1 Sam 2:2

The Prayer marches in Washington DC are only 7 days away. The Vine and the Branch together in prayer. A national day, during the Jewish High Holy Days, to find our knees, repent as a people and S F L as a people.  If you can’t be there, there are multiple ways to join together digitally. If you don’t want to watch, pray. After all, we already have his promise…  

“If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chron 7:13-14

2020 VISION: Short, Sweet #9

Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.

In Your name they rejoice all day long,
And in Your righteousness they are exalted.
For You are the glory of their strength,
And in Your favor our horn is exalted.

For our shield belongs to the Lord,
And our king to the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 89:15-18).

The sun has set in NC, so the Feast of Trumpets and High Holy Days have begun. When Jesus was a boy, He would walk for 6 days to get to Jerusalem – that is how important it was for family and friends to make the journey.  10 days of worshiping the Father and listening for His voice. 

“But the LORD God called out to the man,“Where are you?” Gen 3:9

Jewish sages say that in the days leading up to the High Holy Days, Abba comes down to earth and wanders among His people as He did during the days of the Garden for this is the day of Creation.  5781 years ago – the Day He drew a deep breath and spoke, “Light Be!”  So He comes.  Calling to His children to return to Him.  Wanting them to seek His face.  Missing His friends and wishing they could walk together as they once did long ago.

“Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the Law.” Prov 29:18

Yeshua Ha-Mashiach brought us a vision 2000 years ago. He walked among us with power, signs and wonders or we would call them – miracles. A reminder that Abba’s desire is always to walk with us.  A reminder that as we look within, seek deep introspection, and find our knees in repentance that Jesus stands beside us, His hand resting on our head, and the Father doesn’t have to ask any longer, “Where are you?”

Blow the shofar. 

Light the candles. 

Eat the Bread. 

Drink the wine. 

Sing praises of Awe to Him who continues to seek us even in the dark of the night because He misses us and loves us beyond comprehension. 

Shofar

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2020 VISION: Short, Sweet #10

“E Pluribus Unum”

Today, this caught my attention.  It was on a tee-shirt when I was at the gym.  The whispery words echoed it in my head. I hadn’t seen this phrase on a shirt for a long time.   

One out of many, One

One of my former students from OH reminded me today was Constitution Day.  When I was teaching English, we would spend the day reading the parts of the Constitution or things that the Founders wrote regarding the constitution.  We would write reflections based on what we learned about the constitution – on its ideals – on question it raised in our minds – on changes we might like to see.  A mixture of Socratic learning and echoing prayers that I always circled before they arrived.

Annuit Coepis

Today I forgot it was Constitution Day.  Instead, I was teaching High Holy Days and how Jesus celebrated these days when He was walking amongst us.  As always, prayers circled my classroom today.  Prayers for my students and our discussion.  Prayers for my former students and our discussions then. Prayers that our country and people need to remember.

Providence Has Favored Our Undertakings.”

Prayers lead to communication with our Providence.  Providence was a common word in the 1770’s for GOD.  Read any of the Founder’s writings. The unfinished triangle.  The eye in the clouds with 13 stars.  The banner in the eagle’s beak.

I saw these words on a tee-shirt. In the gym. On Constitution Day. On a day leading up to Rosh Hashanah – the days of repentance before Yom Kippur. My prayers had already started.  That is what these 14 days are about.  Prayers for our country. Prayers for all the people that live here and love the ideals that lead to the establishment of a new country.

NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM

“The Beginning of the new American Era…”

Now more than ever, we need to remember the ideal. Imprint the seal once again upon our hearts.  Pray that we can look to Providence once again to renew a covenant that has been broken by our own choices.  Making a choice.  A choice to humble ourselves and seek His face just as they did long ago.

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preliminary drawing of seal and final seal

VISION 2020: Short, Sweet, #12

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
    pay attention and gain understanding.
 I give you sound learning,
    so do not forsake my teaching.”
Prov 4:1-2

Today was one of those days that I had to depend on others’ wisdom.  It never fails to amaze me when a young lady can stick a needle into an arm, draw out several vials of blood in less than 5 minutes, and leave nary a trace of having been done any of that.  It takes me longer to eat a chocolate chip cookie.  Not to mention, a doctor who can make me laugh and relax while he cracks several different bones in this aging body.

Now that is “sound learning” beyond my understanding, and believe me, I’m really glad that they didn’t forsake their teaching as they did their jobs.

“The more I learn, the less I know…the more I learn, the more I realize…the less I know.” Yentl

The wisdom of the Torah says this is a special time of year. If Jesus still walked the earth, He would have already turned his steps towards Jerusalem so that He could be in Jerusalem by Friday night, the start of the Sabbath.  This year, the first day of Tishrei or commonly called, Rosh Hashanah begins on the Sabbath.  The blowing of the shofar; a ram’s horn calls Jews with a hundred notes of Awe into 10 days of repentance. 

The wisdom of repentance…of seeking…of listening……

As these days lead up to a prayer march in Washington DC on September 26, what better way than to look to the Vine from which we sprung?  Using the wisdom in the Book of Life that Abba gave us as a guide book.  Following the steps of Yeshua Ha-Mashiach into 10 days of introspection, repentance, and seeking wisdom for places where we strayed out of His footsteps. 

[Greg Olsen artwork]

2020 VISION: Short, Sweet #13

“Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel:
therefore hear the word at my mouth,
and give them warning from me.” Ez 3:17-19
     I got it wrong last night. Thought I was writing just a short, out-of-the-box, rapid-fire, flash-in-the-pan, temporary-thought-to-paper type of writing.
     What I didn’t realize it was to be a series of short, sweet thoughts leading up to the Prayer Marches that will be occurring in Washington DC on September 26. He corrected me this morning as I started my devotions.
So then the debate of what topics He wanted covered.
     I could list all the things in our world that we need to pray about? He whispered, “They know.”
     The symbolism of 19? The Vine and the Branch? “You already wrote about those,” He yawned. (I can’t believe He yawned.)
     But I didn’t mention that the Church is mentioned 19 times in Revelations and then it disappears for the rest of the Revelations, I retorted. “That’s okay, I think you just did. Think deeper, watchful.” He nudged my thoughts forward and I sunk a little deeper in my chair, flipping through my Bible and sighing.
     I think He sighed then and blew the picture of the watchman standing on the wall, blowing the shofar: “Feast of Trumpets” – “Rosh Hashanah” – “1st of Tishrei” “10 days of Mourning”. Father does that to me often. He blows pictures in my mind, and I turn them into words…as short and sweet as I can.
     So today, there is the 2020 prayer topic for the day.
To be watchful.
To stand as the watchman in the tower.
     There were always two towers in the wall at a gate. A tall place where one could look out over the countryside. To observe all that were coming and all that had entered. If 2020 has taught us anything – it is – that things are changing and we need to be watchful.
     Pray that eyes are open, and that you see the visible…and more importantly…the invisible.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always,
that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things
that shall come to pass,
and to stand before the Son of man.”Lk 21:36
[artwork:Yoram Rannan/Constance Woods]

2020 VISION: Short, Sweet

It is true, God seeks us with every one of His beautiful creations – from this beautiful earth – to all colorful creatures and species that roam it – to His beloved Son and the Holy Spirit that He has put inside of us – to the door He stands behind and knocks. Since the very first word He wrote – Bereshit – He has sought to bring us back to His garden, so we could walk with Him!

However – He also seeks us in the sucky, miry bogs that trap our legs – in the searing fires that burn our feet – in the harsh winds that blind us – in the pestilence that fells us. Right now, He walks with us – holds our hands and carries us wrapped in His wings through those fiery storms that blacken the Western gates of our land – and the pelting waters that threaten the Southern gates – and the divisive violence that ripples out and over the largest city to the smallest town of our country and all life they hold – to the spiky pestilence that robs us of time with our loved ones – our peace – our health.

He is seeking us…even then…especially then. He continuously seeks – and knocks – and calls our name. And yet – do we seek Him back…………………even a little???

He is asking us to look at the garden. The garden that He gave us long ago. Look closely at it. Look at what we have done. Look at what we have made of it. We need to find our knees once again – become the Light we were supposed to be from “In the beginning…” – Bereshit – and seek His face once again.

Just maybe – we can walk in the Garden again while the dew is still on the roses, and the Voice we’ll hear falling on our ears…

VISION 2020: Nineteen

I wasn’t going to write tonight.
lord of lordSo many pictures to look at.
So many writing from their heart today.
So many friends on the West coast under fire fears.
So many prayers whispered.
19 years passed.
Shabbat Shalom.
Perhaps it is just me, but it seems as if this year 9/11 took on more introspection and preponderance than the 18 years between 2001 and 2020. I have my own memories of the day. My prayer covering for my children and husband who were all far away from me –extended family — what could I offer to the students walking into my classroom with tears and fears.
We all know the world changed on 9/11. Our blessing hedge was broken. For the first time in a long time, a successful attack by those outside of our country was carried out. While I didn’t have words for what I knew deep inside of me, I knew it was more than just what we were seeing on the TV screens and hearing our leaders explain.
It always is.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”-Lk 21:28
I remember looking up.
Wondering.
Listening.
Waiting.
It is perhaps the first time in a long time, I remembered what I had learned lying under a tree in my yard as a child. “I was born for such a time as this,” whispered in my ears again. As I turned to face my class, I had the words. I had the plan. I knew what I knew what I knew. Sometimes…there is no concrete reason or human wisdom for the things we have to do in this world. There is just that whisper that comes on the soft wind of His breath.
“Pride [goeth] before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”Prov 16:18
While I had no relatives or no one that I knew personally impacted by this warning, my spirit recognized it for what it was. I was awake and watching. I watched our leaders stand – quote the Bible – say the important things, but I was watching for something else – – -hoping for something else.
The churches were full – for awhile.
The flags flew proudly – for awhile.
People gathered monies and things to send to those impacted – for awhile.
Church services attended by world leaders and pastors happened – for awhile.
Gatherings of people united happened – for awhile.
“With pride and arrogance of heart they will say: The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with finished stone; the sycamores have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” Is 9:10
I remember specifically driving home when the leaves were full of color and the sun shining in one of those unbelievably blue OH skies about a month or so later. I had been railing – a little – at My Father because I didn’t know what I was looking for through all of this, and it was frustrating. As a teacher, I have this thing of being in control, and even though I knew that I would know when I saw it, I wondered if I really knew what I knew that I knew.
My 8th grade students had turned out a fantastic newspaper and had decided to donate the money raised to NYC schools affected by 9/11. It was the first time we had printed a full paper in color. Planes that had been silenced for a short time were back in the skies. People began moving more freely and making plans again. Routine was re-asserting itself. Leaders speeches were changing.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray 2 Chronicles 7-14rand seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”          2 Chron 7:14
When I got home, a wall plaque had fallen from the wall. Its words whispered His answer to my car-ride prayer. I had been looking for the humbling of our land — our leaders — our people. It hadn’t come, but I have continued to watch.
19 years.
19 terrorists on a planes.
COVID 19
Our Father is waiting and watching. He has me watching and waiting. My research has given me some words in the last 19 years. These are the harbinger years. Years of warning. Years of reminders.
Warning were given to Israel in much the same way when the people forgot where their blessings came from in this world. Their hedge of blessings was broken just as ours has been. 19 years came and the harbingers came with more intensity.
I am still praying. Our Father and His Son and His Spirit are praying as well. There is a always a chance. A day of national prayer, fasting and gathering in Washington D.C. has been called for by a Jewish Messianic Rabbi and a Christian Leader for September 26, 2020, Haazinu Shabbat Shuva, a high holy day during Rosh Hashanah.
Our Father winks only so many times. As I was reminded earlier this evening, 19 in the Bible is the number of divine order and God’s judgement. He reminds and calls in the midst of the storms because He loves beyond our sins. Yeshua/Jesus foretold that the birth pangs would worsen. It is the time. It is estimated that there are 200+ fires across our country right now. I’m praying that a holy fire replaces the physical and a revival reclaims our land.
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2020 Vision: Who Am I?

“Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?”v.1

It was a beautiful day. Windows open. Radio on. Harmonizing to a song I know pretty well. Stretches that really help the knees keep bending. Time in the water at the gym. A great conversation with a fellow Durham school librarian. An old book I’m re-discovering and I wonder why now? A new book that I can’t wait to uncover and wonder why now? A short time to enjoy the patio swing before getting busy wasting time.
I am blessed.

“…what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?”Ps 8:4b

This verse has been on my mind all weekend. Not sure why – except – that Our Father’s breath has been blowing many new things into my path this weekend. Like usual, I never know what to do with a lot of the information He sends, so I jot information. I write in my journal, my prayer devotional book, and note cards. Some verses leap off the page at me, so I write them down as well. Thoughts pop in my head and beg my attendance upon them, and then – I wonder – wait – while away the time – as it all tumbles around in my head.

I know eventually – He will tell me what to do with it all – but for now I hold them close and ponder them.

I am a flower quickly fading:
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.” ~v.2

On my way to the gym, this song came on. Casting Crowns. One of my favorite Christian groups. “Who Am I?” One of my favorite songs, lately. Since Psalm 8:4 had been already wandering around in my mind, I took notice. God winks are hard to miss when your eyes are focused on Him.

Since I had been looking up information, reading, listening to choral music, knitting, and watching some of my favorite Christian movies, the thoughts began to sort themselves out. I still can’t see the clear pattern yet, or where it is all leading, but there is something. Something I am about to discover about “who I am”.

So tonight, I am still waiting and watching. I have to admit, I tend to love it when Our Father starts downloading something, and His Hope takes over everything that I do. My eyes continually look up. My lamp overflows with new oil.

“When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place— “ Ps 8:4a

As I sat on the patio swing, I do wonder why He cares so much about each of us. I betray His trust and love over and over – and yet – He is mindful of me. Even as a quickly fading flower or a mere vapor on the wind in the scheme of eternity, He continues to find time for me…and the butterflies that are all over the lantana bush… or the hummingbirds filling up for their trip South…or the two aging choc lab girls who sleep in the shade of a wisteria covered portico. There is much more to come out of this thoughtful weekend, but it is a start.

I reflect back that Job probably said it best, “What is man that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart upon him.” Job 7:7

He trusts us with His heart…His Son…His Grace……..

Since the very beginning, so who am I not to trust Him with mine? 

2020 VISION: Locusts’ Year.


“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.” Joel 2:25


I tend to read many Bible verses during the day. Most of them I know well. My eyes start them, the mind finishes them – or the mind goes off on a tangent that is completely off topic (which happens way more than I like, lately). The evil one is good at that – then again – so is old age. ha


This morning, this one caught me. Held me. I circled it in my book and then, I circled it again. I didn’t remember ever reading it before.


I know I have read the lesser prophets a few times. I have read their commentaries before, but still – my mind drew a blank on Joel and this verse in particular. So – praising the LORD for technology – I went to the Torah commentaries this time and read and read and read – – – especially after I heard this verse again tonight.


When Abba is trying to get my attention, He always does something twice. If He does it three times – well – let’s just say…I try to avoid that situation and get my head in the game.


“Blow the ram’s horn in Zion; sound the alarm on My holy mountain! Let all who dwell in the land tremble, for the Day of the LORD is coming; indeed, it is near— “ v.1


Being retired and working in a Christian school is my retirement blessing, but it is also an monastery of sorts. I don’t generally have to interact with people who think differently than I do for long periods of time. Talking about prayer, the idols of this world, and the Grace of the Father wraps its own little blanket of His warmth and peace around me as I watch the locusts that swirl daily on social media and TV. I forget how others form their own world views in entirely different patterns and shifting sands of human wisdom.


Tears come too easily these days when I see how lost we are as a culture – as combined global cultures.


“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart,with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” v.12


The locusts have come, literally and figuratively, this year in abundance all around the world. The birth pangs – the harbingers – whatever you want to call it – coming at more regular intervals since 9/11. The prophets are out there. Messianic and Jewish combined together now. Crying out to the vine – calling out to the branches – while those who should be guarding the flocks they have been given – have stuffed their ears with their fingers and closed their eyes to the verses jumping off the pages at them – just as the Pharisees and Sadducees of long ago did before them.


The Holy Spirit is still speaking, but only in the grace of love and not with the disgust of hate.


“Behold, I will send you grain, new wine, and oil, and by them you will be satisfied.” v.19

Since the locusts in their various shapes have come in 2020, I continue to fill and check my lamp throughout the day and night, for I have known since I laid under a giant oak tree, long ago in a small little town, that I have been born for such a time as this. I truly have been waiting all my life for such a time as this – fallen, broken, repentant – for such a time as this.


“Then you will know that I am present in Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other.” v.27

2020 VISION: Who Will Go for Us?

Got your fingers out of your ears? Got your eyes open?

2020 seems to be the year that the whisper in the deepest part of the heart is swirling a little longer…a little stronger…a little more intensely…than it has since the late 60’s, early 70’s. I felt it then.
My stomach revolted.
My head throbbed.
My heart wept.
I pulled the pillow over my head and burrowed deep into my covers.
I prayed.
I rebelled.
I prayed in the midst of the rebellion – after all, I had a life I wanted to live, and what I heard in my soul wasn’t part of it.

I heard – I saw – I turned away.

“I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Is 6:8

Those early years of adulthood was when I discovered the wisdom and the power of Isaiah, a man who lived in a completely different world than I did, and yet – his words echoed more stridently than the protesters on the Quad. I would crawl out of my top bunk and curl up in the standard dorm room chair, reading his words by a light shining through the window from a nearby parking lot so that I wouldn’t wake the roommates.

“Who will go for Us?”

I heard the question.
I saw it in writing.
I closed His WORD.
I turned away.

50 years later, the call is reverberating all around me once again.

Perhaps it is in the hindsight of that 50 years that I see all of this through a different lens. I know my father and mother tried to explain to me several times what they felt during those unsettled years of civil unrest. Seeing my Father on his knees in prayer in the middle of the night said it best. I heard the words louder than ever that night as I crept back up the stairs and buried my head as deeply as I could.

“Who will go for Us?”

I’m still not sure that I don’t want to crawl into my bed once again. After all – ignoring the call is sooo much easier than answering that question. How many times have I sat in a classroom with my head down, hoping deep within me, that the teacher would not call my name – – – now or ever.

The stories in the Bible are full of people who pulled the covers over their head – ran in the other direction – sank their teeth into an apple – – – until – – – the heart of the Father whispered one last time, grace-to-rebellion, heart-to-heart, love-to-love:

“Who will go for Us?”

The thing I learned over the last 50 years is that I never waited to hear the words that came after His first whisper. I trembled. I hid. I covered myself. I put my fingers in my ears and closed my eyes. I bit the apple and missed the words that have made all the difference.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is 41:10

The cloud pillar is moving forward. It is time to stand on His Rock. Pick up my Bible and take a step. Maybe a baby step, but a step. It is time to look up and reach out with open palm to those gathered in my sphere. It is time to pray His WORDS in my heart and then – speak the answer that has been in my heart for 50 years. Speak it aloud because the Teacher has looked in my direction and is waiting for my answer. The birth pangs are coming with more frequency and harder with intensity, and scary as it is – answer the question.

“Hineni.”

“Here am I. Send me.” Is 6:8

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