On Life and Prejudice — Lessons Not Learned In School

Classrooms are a place of learning but it was something that took place outside the classroom and outside my junior high school building in Brooklyn, New York, that became one of the greatest life lessons I would ever learn.

It was the early 1970s and school integration was in full swing. The decision was made to bus black (that is how African-Americans were referred to at that time) students to my junior high school to provide them a better education than many would have otherwise received in lower-income neighborhood schools.

People were mad. Teachers would not teach; parents threatened to keep their children at home. Tensions filled the neighborhood as uncertainty and fear began to grip almost everyone I knew. Everyone, that is, except my mother. She became angry, but not about the schools’ integration. She was angry at the prejudice she was witnessing and that she had tried to teach me was wrong.

And then she put her words into action. She decided to cross the teachers’ picket lines when they refused to teach our more fully integrated school. She was willing to withstand the anger and retaliation she might experience from our friends and neighbors as well as the teachers and others in the school district. If you think I am imagining this or exaggerating, take a moment to remember the horrible images of water cannons, with full force, aimed directly at African-Americans who were trying to access their legal rights, but were not allowed to do so – equal access to schools, drinking fountains and the front seats on buses.

 

I have never felt more pride in my mother than during that time in our otherwise personally turbulent lives. The teachers finally relented and integration became the norm. Was it pretty? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Especially for one little girl who learned that might does not make right and that, in God’s eyes, we are all equal.

Recently I helped my church, Community Vineyard Church in Cuyahoga Falls, celebrate Black History Month through the presentation of a Living History Museum of seven great African-Americans of faith. It was an idea that I borrowed from Kent Roosevelt High School, where I am a substitute teacher, but its genesis began five decades ago when my mother stood strong in the face of oppression and hatred and who taught me to do the same.

Although she is now with the God she loves, I live each day to help fulfill her dreams and my own to uphold the indisputable truths as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, “ . . . that all men are created equal, (and) that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

 

I pray that my life will be an everlasting tribute to the woman who taught me outside of school and in the classroom of life.

 

Photo of me and “Jackie Robinson” (Jayvon Taylor) at the Black History Month Living History Museum. Most people may not know that Robinson was specifically recruited to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers based on his Christian faith – with a signed agreement that (for three years) he would not retaliate evil for evil. Robinson lived up to the agreement and despite great persecution and anger railed against him, he went on to become the Rookie of the Year and an All Star Baseball Player, opening the door for other African-Americans to play Major League Baseball. debandjackierobinson

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From Football to Faith Fanatic

superbowljanuary1969My family were football fanatics. In fact, major sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey) were a huge part of our lives as I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 1960s and early 70s, when New York sports teams were dominant.

It was the era of the New York Mets going from last to first place in a few short years and winning the 1969 World Series. I went to many of the games and witnessed Willie Mays make spectacular catches. I was at most of the New York Knicks games when Walt Frazier, Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere won the 1969-70 NBA title and repeated that feat again in 1972.

But it was the New York Jets and their improbable win over the Baltimore Colts in the American Football League-National Football League (AFL-NFL) Championship Game on January 12, 1969, that I remember most. At that time, most people believed AFL teams were far inferior to NFL teams and when the heavily underdog AFL New York Jets beat one of NFL’s greatest teams, the Baltimore Colts, by a score of 16-7, the tides of change began. The game was the first to officially bear the name Super Bowl and the following season would be the last as separate leagues before the AFL-NFL merger.

Incredible as it may seem, due to both leagues’ restrictions, the game was blacked out in Miami, where the game was played, and the promised football game tickets were not there when we arrived. Our family had season tickets to our beloved Jets and we weathered frigid temperatures and multi-hour traffic jams to watch them lose more games than they won. But my dad, ever the grandiose dreamer, promised that “if the Jets go all the way, so will we.”

With no tickets for the game, we assumed a weekend hotel stay in Miami would be our consolation, however my dad managed to get us tickets with seats in the last row that were closer to the Goodyear Blimp than the field.  The photograph is from the half-time show taken at the Super Bowl – black and white photos were all there were at the time!

Nevertheless, we witnessed history as Joe Namath guaranteed a victory and delivered on his promise and changed the course of professional football in the process.

But even with all the excitement of baseball, basketball, and football championships – those moments of exhilaration quickly passed and somehow got lost in my childhood which, despite those incredible experiences, was filled with more sadness than joy.

In adolescence, I realized the “thrill of victory,” which I often experienced in my own sports endeavors, came with a price as my competitiveness and drive to win led to unfulfilled dreams of happiness. Sports became another venue that did not fill my empty heart.

A family which looked generally happy on the outside was not so on the inside. My manic-depressive father suffered from Korean War post-traumatic stress and we, his family, suffered with him. There was never a steady or reliable income and fights over money and the horrible choices my dad made in life made my childhood traumatic and insecure. His threats of suicide were common whenever my mother tried to break away and start a life of her own.

It was with utter and sheer amazement, therefore, when I learned, during my junior year of college, that there was a “Father” in Heaven who loved me and gave His life for me to give me a hope and a future in this life and the next. In our secular, but strongly cultural Jewish home, we never talked about God, therefore this was good (great!), but staggering news. How could I have lived 19 years of my life without having ever heard this?

Despite what I knew would be enormous objections by my New York Jewish mother, my desperate need for love and hope outweighed any negative consequences that would result. The year was 1977 and I have followed, wholeheartedly, the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, ever since. Despite initial, overwhelming objections and resistance, my mother and

grandmother came to know this great Messiah as well! The zeal I now experience for the Lord supersedes anything I ever felt for sports teams.

People often wonder how I can cheer and worship my Lord with such wild abandon. and, inside my head, I laugh. How can I not? “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost and now am found, was blind and now I see.”

May God’s glorious praises go forth from sports teams we have been hearing about from the NFL Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles (what awesome testimonies these are!) to everyone whom the Lord gives a platform to shine for Him.

“Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness,” Psalm 115:1.

 

Dare … To Dream

daretodream2016-3-760x400Today we honor the memory of a great American – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who DARED to have a dream … during a time in our country that many would have more aptly described as a nightmare. But THAT is not what Dr. King saw, though he knew and experienced, first-hand the cruelty of hate, the inhumanity of mankind, and the degradation of African-Americans for no other reason than the color of their skin.

His dream, however, looked beyond that and saw what could be, what had to be. He lived a life and died a death that began to help make his dream a reality. Dr. King’s dream was his passion, his purpose, and his calling. He is remembered for that passion and purpose – motivated by love, consecrated by sacrifice, and culminated by his death.

Decades later, we are still challenged by how he lived and what he dreamed could be. I, like many Americans, are tired of hate-filled words and actions (which take place under every banner we hide under — liberal, conservative), only to be empty of answers to the hurts and challenges we all face in this ongoing struggle for Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.

I still remember my mother crossing a picket-line of teachers who refused to work at my junior high school in Brooklyn, New York, when busing began and integration was accelerating. I am following her dream as a substitute teacher, trying to bring love, joy, peace, and acceptance to students – knowing that THIS is the ULTIMATE dream of all mankind.

And I am convinced that the ONLY banner that will bring lasting change and  heal hurting hearts and scar-filled memories – is the banner of love to all mankind.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because GOD IS LOVE,” – 1 John 4:8.

Fully committed to being loved will compel us to love others. This is MY DREAM.

I challenge you, on this historic day, to share in the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr., and the dream and passion of God and of His Holy Son Yeshua (Jesus) … “That … WE MAY ALL BE ONE … so the world will believe that You have sent Me,” John 17:21.

Will YOU dare to dream … and act, and give, and sacrifice, and commit? Will you .. dare to love at all cost, no matter the price? Then, you will have begun to honor the memory of the man Martin Luther King Jr., who helped to show us the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers and Mothers – Love Each Other — Your Children Are Watching

georgeandiMy husband,, George, and I, recently celebrated 37 years of marriage – a marriage made in Heaven – not because it is perfect, but because of our love and commitment to each other, our family, and our God. Our anniversary caused me to reflect on my parents’ marriage, also far from perfect, with no anchor on which to lean and no hope or faith to which to turn.

“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

When I first read this quote more than 40 years ago, its sting hit me hard, causing me to wonder if, somehow, the author knew the intimate details of my life. I had never seen love between my father and my mother; perhaps it was there behind closed doors, but I doubt it.

They were young when they married; a second unplanned pregnancy forcing a decision I am sure neither was prepared to make. My father’s tour of duty in Korea either caused or worsened his manic depression, something I will never know because the reality of mental illness (in that era and even somewhat today) was still locked away behind closed doors – never admitted or discussed – like the monster hiding under the bed waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Long were the nights when my father did not return home, sometimes for days on end or sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, with alcohol on his breath, when he quietly came

into my room to check on me and give me a kiss goodnight. I would pretend to be asleep but never was, the fear of his absence permeating my being, certain that an intruder would invade our apartment (which had been robbed on several occasions), taking away what little material possessions we had and, even worse, our lives.

This was Brooklyn, New York, in the 1960s, and although our neighborhood was not the worst, it was not the greatest either. I NEVER felt safe there – perhaps more a figment of my deeply wounded and scarred imagination; or perhaps a fear that emanated from within and found its way to all corners of my life. Little was the love I felt, saw, or experienced. Greater was the sense that life and death were something to be feared and that love, as they say, was only meant for fairy tales.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many children and deeply wounded adults do not know HOW to love and, upon trying, resemble a crooked mannequin barely teetering on its stand? We think that sex is the answer and do more harm than good in our vain attempt to fill the hole in our hearts. Many of us have also been sexually abused, the result of poor choices and bad judgment which has told us that (perhaps) any sexual attention is better than being disregarded outright. And the sink hole grows deeper.

We were meant to be loved, cared for, protected and nourished

– something that we do not even have to be taught. We were actually created to be loved.

An infant must experience love and nurturing, otherwise the brain will not develop normally. If these needs are not met during the critical developmental first year of life, abnormalities result and children lose the ability to form attachments with others. It is because the cells in the brain, not receiving sufficient and appropriate stimulation, begin to die and atrophy from disuse, just like a muscle if not used. Despite the presence of all other life requirements, such as food and water, without loving contact, infants will fail to thrive. Those who have not been loved as children, don’t feel lovable and can not love themselves or others.

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread,” – Mother Teresa.

Look around at the people we see everyday – whose lives reflect this sad (even horrific) reality. We live in a world of broken marriages and lives; unwanted children who continue the cycle of lovelessness; and a society on the brink of emotional destruction – craving that which Hollywood tells us is desirable while intuitively knowing all of that is a lie.

But it does not have to be that way. There is an answer to the passion and the greatest power on earth – LOVE – that we ALL so desperately need and desire. The answer is God, who IS

love. It is not that God has love, although He does, but that He IS love. Love is His very nature and, as such, it cannot change.

The root, therefore, and the very core of our being can be healed as we allow His love to change us from within. Is it painful? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely.

Would we live with the constant pain of a decaying tooth until we are ultimately screaming in agony? Would we accept a fake check (no matter how much it is worth) knowing that nothing could be bought with the currency?

That is what living without love is like. God – the great physician (Mark 2:17), the surgeon who leaves no scars, can and will heal us from our every wounded way. He will restore (and in many cases) create a heart of flesh within — “I will remove the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26. He will do it, as we ask Him to, by first revealing the depth of His great love for us individually.

The lies and rumours that have swirled around us, like tornadoes on a path of mass destruction, will find no place on which to land as the truth of His love reshapes our abandonment mentality. The sun which lingered ominously behind the clouds, will begin to shine in our lives, and warm us with his love and and we will never be the same.

And we, living in the light of His love – will love each other, our children, our families and all those He loves… and help us to change our world.

Surprised by Grace

“Before a word is on my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely, ” Psalm 139:4.

This verse echoed in my heart recently, but I had no idea how real it would become for me.

I am a substitute teacher for a school district which I admire greatly. Every day is a new adventure with students whom I love teaching and inspiring. Therefore, when I got a text from the owner of The Nanny Connection, a great company I had been employed with for potential summer work, encouraging me to check out a long-term, after-school nanny position, I immediately said “no,” due to my practically full-time subbing commitments.

Wondering, however, if there might be some way to also take on the nanny position, I, looked, once again, at the opportunity. Amazed, I began to realize that the potential position could actually make sense for me — somewhat limiting my substitute teaching (but certainly not entirely) and also helping me in many other ways — financially, and even more importantly, providing me more time in my busy life to do all that God has called me to do.

I accepted the position and am loving it! The family is wonderful, with a mother and father who are committed to each other and to their children and who are dedicated to teaching them the value of hard work, respect, and kindness

towards others. The children are warm and receptive and put a smile on my face. A heartfelt connection has already been established with the family — after just a short time with them. In addition, the family lives in a beautiful community I love where I began my journalism career nearly 40 years ago.

I am reminded of the words from a favorite author who was instrumental many years ago in helping me in very deep and meaningful ways. He said, “Let God do something for you! He is perfectly capable of it.” This concept, up until that time in my life, had been foreign to me due to my perceived need to be in control of everything in my life. The words struck me to the core as I realized that I had never truly learned how to let God take care of me. Through spiritual counseling and deep introspection, God healed me of many childhood memories and wounds. It was a difficult, but wonderful, time of release and restoration … and my life has never been the same.

The same author, said, “If it is too good to be true … then it must be … GOD.”

I am thanking Him now for the nanny position, for His incredible grace, and for the fact that He really does not need my help in accomplishing all that He purposes for my life.

I have been surprised by grace and filled, once again, with awe for His love for me. My prayer is that you, too, will let Him do something for you!

And, as the Apostle Paul said, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together, with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how high and long and wide and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to all the measure of the fullness of God,” – Ephesians 3:17-19.

In the Eye of the Storm

irmaAll eyes were on Hurricane Irma, in what was predicted to be the worst hurricane to ever hit Florida with Category 5 hurricane winds clocked at 185 mph as it approached the “sunshine state.”

My dearest friend and spiritual sister, Liz, called for prayer as she faced one of the most difficult decisions of her life – whether to transport inland her ailing father from a hospital in Naples (where the storm was directly headed) or face the storm with him in a nearby Naples nursing home. The prospects of 15-feet storm surges weighed heavily upon her as she sought God’s help for the coming disaster.

“You need to stay with your father,” I counseled, with no specific insight regarding an exact location. But Liz and her dad are inextricably linked and I knew that she needed to be with him (and her mother) during the crisis that loomed large on the horizon.

God, who is ever faithful, provided Liz specificity to “remain” at the nursing home in Naples. As the eye of the hurricane and 150 miles per hour winds pummeled Naples and the nursing home, Liz and I tried to stay in contact via text messages until all electric power was lost.

The next communication I received was staggering. She wrote, “All of Naples was under mandatory evacuation, however, the

nursing home where we are was exempted — as it was built to survive a Category 4 hurricane and a 15-foot storm surge. Deb, it was a miracle. There was NO storm surge and no flooding. We are all very tired, but safe.”

The predicted, massive storm surge was averted based on the direction of the winds when the hurricane hit. I, am convinced, however, that the prayers of thousands of people imploring God to “move the mountain” – or, in this case, the storm, were answered.

I cried tears of great joy, as is often the case, when the goodness of God is demonstrated with such ferocity. How can we not love a God who takes what appears to be a worst case scenario and, instead, answers the prayers of His people so that He might bring all people to their knees in gratitude and praise?

And I am reminded, once again, that God does not always deliver us out of the storm. Instead, He may choose to deliver us through the storm to show His great might and power.

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe,” – Proverbs 18:10.

Fashioned For Beauty

IMG_0471Trauma invaded my life at a Jewish summer camp – Pocono-Ramona – on the Delaware Water Gap in the Pocono mountains.

From the incredibly young age of six until the age of twelve (when  I was old enough to be a day-camp counselor and not a camper) my parents sent me to summer camp to escape the sweltering heat of New York City for two months of sports, swimming and a slew of other field trips and activities designed to keep ALL of us (the campers and the counselors!) out of trouble.

What was meant to be a quick stop during our day-long canoe trip to see a scenic waterfall became, instead, a scene from a horror movie. I did not see or feel the moss on the rock I was standing on until I hit the rock face first. Blood came gushing from my mouth and my permanent, front, upper tooth came out in my hand.

A three-hour bus trip to find my parents at the congested Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City, with a young counselor who was more nervous than I was, resulted in an emergency trip to the dentist to save the ousted tooth. All to no avail. A dental solution did not exist as my orthodontist choose not to replace my tooth due to the interminable state of braces in my mouth.

Junior high and high school without a front tooth made life … well, toothless. Smiling was not an option.  Being ridiculed was common. Talking was an embarrassment. And feelings of inferiority became a way of life.

I was already an insecure, physically undeveloped young woman having skipped a grade and starting school at an early age. It wasn’t as though I didn’t  have friends, even boyfriends; I did. However, I knew I would never be pretty and that was just a fact of life.

At the end of my senior year of high school (I am not smiling in my senior photo), the braces finally came off and a fake front tooth was returned to its normal place, but the damage was already done. I still remember when a boy at college (who REALLY liked me) asked me what it felt like to be pretty. I laughed and cried at the ridiculousness of the question.

As time passed, it became a bit easier to accept the “new” me with a front tooth in place, but any thought that I might be considered attractive never entered my mind.

Imagine my amazement, then, when decades later (after allowing God to heal my deepest childhood wounds including sexual abuse, feelings of abandonment, fear of death and life, family dysfunction, and a host of other traumas just one of which was my missing front tooth), I learned that God wanted to give me a new name based on how He sees me.

“You will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem (a jeweled crown) in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you deserted, or name your land desolate,” – Isaiah 62:2-4.

This Bible verse initially rang hollow because I was deserted and desolate. There would be no new name for me. However, when God healed me from the inside out, after being a God-follower for more than 30 years, I finally personally felt and experienced HIS protective, powerful, incredible and intimate love for me. It was then that I was ready to ask for and to receive my new name from God.

The instant I came to Him with an open and ready-to-receive heart, an image came to my mind. This is often how God speaks to me. I recognize it as a spiritual gift because the meaning of the pictures are usually unclear to me until I take some time researching in Wikipedia, which generally provides the clues.

The picture was of deep, wet, packed sand. About six feet under the sand was a slightly opened oyster. Inside the partially opened oyster was a pearl.

God spoke quietly (as He usually does) to my heart. “Your life,” He said, “has been the six feet of hard sand. Buried under that sand was your closed, hardened heart – the result of the pain you suffered. But I have opened your heart with My love and you are my beautiful pearl.”

Pearl. My new name is pearl.

Various definitions of pearl include: one that is choice or precious, of rare beauty, unique. Rare beauty? Me? Yes, the Lord said, adding, “And all the tragedies of your life (like the irritants inside the oyster which create the pearl’s beauty) have been used to form your beauty.”

I later learned that the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to “a pearl of great price,” (Matthew 13) and that “the twelve (Heavenly) gates are twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl,” Revelation 21:21.

I am beautiful. I am rare. I am unique. I have incredible value. God sees me this way and this is who I am.

I now smile widely, laugh freely, share my story, and pray for many who receive their new name.

God – who is beautiful and who created unfathomable beauty for us to enjoy … fashioned me for beauty and for sharing His love with you.

He wants you to know that He has a new name for you as well. Will you ask Him to reveal it to you and let Him change your life forever?

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair,” – Isaiah 61:1-3.