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.

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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.

Where is Elijah?

Our family, like Jewish families across the globe and across the centuries, celebrates the Passover – the story of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from the tyrannical Pharaoh, who, with each successive plague, promised freedom from oppression, only to change his mind repeatedly. It was the final plague, the death of the first-born, of “every firstborn son of Egypt … from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, to the firstborn son of the female slave … to the firstborn of the cattle as well,” (Exodus 11:5) that Pharaoh finally relented and let God’s people go.

The story is filled with sadness and horror as the land and seas were covered with blood, frogs, gnats, flies, torrential hail, locusts and more and  yet … in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were … not even a dog barked … demonstrating, with vividness, that the LORD made a distinction between Egypt and Israel (Exodus 11:7). And it was the blood of a spotless lamb that was slaughtered as a sacrifice that was put on the sides and tops of the door frames that spared the Israelites from the death of their firstborn (Exodus 12:12, 13).

Even today, at Passover Seders around the world, a place is set for the great prophet Elijah, who is to come before the great and terrible day of Yahweh, the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). A full wine glass is reserved for him and the door of the house is propped open so that he may herald the coming of the Messiah.

As a child, I remember watching and waiting for Elijah and, we were often told, that the wine in the beautifully adorned glass, had indeed gone down some and that Elijah had come to our home. But as the years went by, I wondered, “If Elijah had come, where was the Messiah?,” a question that never received a full or satisfactory answer.

It was only when I became in believer in Yeshua (Jesus), who I and many other Jews believe was and is the long-awaited Messiah, that all of this began to make sense. It was John the Baptist, who predicted a day of judgment, similar to what Elijah had preached, who was the spiritual successor to Elijah. John “will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,” and he will go forth “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” (Luke 1:16-17.)

As our family celebrates the Passover annually, we remember the toil and tragedy of the Israelites and the Egyptians, yet we also celebrate, with thanksgiving, that the blood of Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (John 1:29) has brought us true and eternal freedom – from sin and from judgment.

And even more spectacular than all of this is the coming Kingdom of God where we will see and worship “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,” (Revelation 5:6) when we, with “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them,” are saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

Even so, come quickly Lord!

Where is Elijah?

Our family, like Jewish families across the globe and across the centuries, celebrates the Passover – the story of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from the tyrannical Pharaoh, who, with each successive plague, promised freedom from oppression, only to change his mind repeatedly. It was the final plague, the death of the first-born, of “every firstborn son of Egypt … from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, to the firstborn son of the female slave … to the firstborn of the cattle as well,” (Exodus 11:5) that Pharaoh finally relented and let God’s people go.

The story is filled with sadness and horror as the land and seas were covered with blood, frogs, gnats, flies, torrential hail, locusts and more and  yet … in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were … not even a dog barked … demonstrating, with vividness, that the LORD made a distinction between Egypt and Israel (Exodus 11:7). And it was the blood of a spotless lamb that was slaughtered as a sacrifice that was put on the sides and tops of the door frames that spared the Israelites from the death of their firstborn (Exodus 12:12, 13).

Even today, at Passover Seders around the world, a place is set for the great prophet Elijah, who is to come before the great and terrible day of Yahweh, the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). A full wine glass is reserved for him and the door of the house is propped open so that he may herald the coming of the Messiah.

As a child, I remember watching and waiting for Elijah and, we were often told, that the wine in the beautifully adorned glass, had indeed gone down some and that Elijah had come to our home. But as the years went by, I wondered, “If Elijah had come, where was the Messiah?,” a question that never received a full or satisfactory answer.

It was only when I became in believer in Yeshua (Jesus), who I and many other Jews believe was and is the long-awaited Messiah, that all of this began to make sense. It was John the Baptist, who predicted a day of judgment, similar to what Elijah had preached, who was the spiritual successor to Elijah. John “will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,” and he will go forth “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” (Luke 1:16-17.)

As our family celebrates the Passover annually, we remember the toil and tragedy of the Israelites and the Egyptians, yet we also celebrate, with thanksgiving, that the blood of Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (John 1:29) has brought us true and eternal freedom – from sin and from judgment.

And even more spectacular than all of this is the coming Kingdom of God where we will see and worship “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,” (Revelation 5:6) when we, with “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them,” are saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

Even so, come quickly Lord!

The Joy of Giving

Millions of people will be giving and receiving presents today – as we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah with family and friends. This year, the joy of giving has brought me to tears and fullness of joy almost (!) beyond words!

As ministry liaison at Community Vineyard Church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, many people look to me to help connect them with others. And this year, that connection happened as people, with generous hearts, desired to bless others in need. I found myself as the female Santa Claus delivering gifts to those who had no idea who the giver was. In one scenario, an anomymous donor from the community responded to a heart-felt plea to help others.

I truly believe there is no greater joy in life than giving to others. I am more convinced than ever of the truth of the Bible that states … “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Try to put into words:

  • The smile on a child’s face;
  • The tears streaming down a mother’s cheek;
  • A grandmother’s gratitude knowing that the electricity in her apartment will be on as she provides Christmas for her many children and grandchildren who ALL look to her to provide for their many needs.

This gift of joy is priceless.

And an even greater joy comes from knowing that the Father Heart of God (who is the Greatest Giver of all!) has, somehow, through us, been revealed to those He loves.

I know I am not alone in this universal truth – that the MORE we give … the MORE we receive. May your giving, your joy, and your love explode with fullness and gratitude this blessed Holy Season!