Stuff Happens

Before we begin today’s message, let me get the administrative stuff out of the way:

Please, if you haven’t yet done so, SUBSCRIBE to this website by going to the right-hand margin and clicking on the SUBSCRIBE button. This way you will be notified when I post something. Also, if you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

 

This has been an interesting week: it started last Thursday night when Donna (my wife) broke a molar. The dentist couldn’t see her until yesterday, and fortunately, there was no pain.  The result is about $350 for a crown.

Next, the Saturday after she broke the molar we noticed the freezer wasn’t keeping things too cold, and by Sunday we knew that the fridge wasn’t working. Long story short, we couldn’t get anyone (after calling half a dozen appliance repairmen) to even look at it until the other day, and they need to order a part which, as I am writing this now on Friday morning (almost a week after the fridge died) we still don’t know if the part is even here. Yesterday Donna spent the whole morning throwing away who-knows-how-much money worth of food that we couldn’t use anymore because it had been defrosted and sitting unrefrigerated for days.  The repair will cost us somewhere around $350, as well, without even considering the cost of replacing the foodstuffs.

So, what do we do? Complain? There are many who would say they are “under attack” and try to figure out why God is punishing them.

“Oy! I’m on a fixed income and I just lost close to $1,000 by the time we replace the food! What did I do to deserve this?” 

Is that the right thing to do? If you’re asking me, I would say no. Are there times when we are under attack from the Enemy? I am sure there are- usually, when people first turn to God and Messiah they find troubles abound. That’s because the Enemy doesn’t care about people when they don’t care about God but once God becomes important to them, he attacks them to turn them back away from God. Think of the parable (drash) Yeshua told of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13:18; the seed that was immediately eaten by the birds is similar to those who come to God and are quickly turned away.

I see this as what happens to you when you live in a fallen world. There are two kinds of gravity: the one in the physical world that is an attraction between objects, and a spiritual gravity, which is what attracts us to spiritual things. For instance, if I drop my cup of coffee, it falls to the ground and spills. I have a mess and, worse than that, no more coffee: that is the physical gravity we live with.

Now, if I find the iniquity in my inner being pulling me to, say, porn sites or to take advantage of someone so I can gain something of theirs, that is a gravity of the spiritual nature which attracts me to the Enemy. Or- I could feel the need to help someone in trouble, buy food for a homeless person on the street or donate to a godly cause, and that gravity is a spiritual gravity that attracts me to God.

Currently, I don’t feel under attack because we got hit with both physical and financial tsouris all within a few days. It is just the sort of stuff that happens in this plane of existence. We will get by, and here is what I do when this sort of thing happens that is the main message for today:

When (bad) stuff happens, I thank God for what we do have.

I thank God that we have the money to pay for these things, that we even have a refrigerator that we own. I thank God that we even had food to lose! I thank God that Donna wasn’t in pain and that the problem wasn’t worse than what it is.

And I could go on and on and on thanking God for what we DO have, instead of complaining about what we lost.

We live in a fallen and cursed world, which will never be kind or generous or even fair. That shouldn’t come as a surprise or a revelation to anyone. But what might surprise you is that when things get bad, when you have more tsouris than you can imagine, what will help you get through it is to thank God for what you do have. Just the act of making a list of the blessings you still have will reduce the impact of what you have lost.

And always, always, ALWAYS trust in God to provide: it may not be what you want, but it will always be exactly what you need.

So when bad things happen, make that list of the blessings you still have. Even when you lose something valuable to you, you can thank God for letting you have it for as long as you did.

No matter how terrible the tsouris you are going through when you make a list of the blessings you have received and still have I guarantee that you will begin to feel better.

sometimes stuff just happens

You know, we live in a world that has been cursed. Sometimes the ground is like brass, the sky often holds back its rain, and there are terrible weather occurrences, such as snowstorm Stella in the Northeast today.

Last night as I was watching TV and thinking I had some popcorn stuck between my teeth (we’ve all been there, right?) I loosened it up and what came out wasn’t popcorn at all- it was a piece of my molar. Fortunately, the entire center of that tooth is amalgam (filling) so I don’t have any exposed roots or nerves, but still and all, it’s never fun to have a piece of your tooth come off.

So did God punish me? Did I perform some terrible sin that caused this to happen, which may very well interfere with whatever plans I had for today?

I don’t think so- I feel certain that, although God does know everything that happens to me, He has more important things to do than cause me tsouris (Yiddish for “troubles”) this morning.

That’s why I am sharing this event in my life with you today, because I have known people over the years who seem to think that everything that happens, whether for good or for bad, is a direct result of something God did to them. Whenever they have a little trouble in their life, they blame God. If the car breaks down, it’s because they were traveling on Shabbat; if the water heater needs repair, it’s because they sinned against someone; if they get sick and miss some event, it’s because God didn’t want them to go to it.

Now, maybe (just maybe) God did intervene- He does that now and then, but for everything? I don’t see that happening, do you?  Just because God is in control of everything doesn’t mean that He causes everything that happens. Often enough, I am certain (although I cannot speak for God- read Job to find out how God feels about people speaking for Him) that God often allows things to take their own course. He knows what will come from it, and there must be times, just like every parent goes through, when He knows that His children are doing something that will eventually harm them, but as a parent you allow it to run it’s course so that the child learns. It’s called Tough Love, and it is a necessary means to an end, which is that the child learns a valuable lesson so it’s life will be better. Coddling and over-protecting a child will never allow that child to develop self-dependence, or teach it to be responsible for it’s actions.

My plan for today, which was to clean and restore a rotor-tiller motor with a friend who is a good mechanic, may be quashed as I wait for the dentist’s office to return my call for an emergency visit. And who knows what the dentist will say needs to be done. He will most likely want to try to save the tooth or replace it ($$$) while I would rather just have him pull the problem tooth out and be done with it: after all, it’s all the way in the back of my mouth, has no cosmetic value and I have two other molars there to handle the workload.

But no matter what happens, I do not blame God for this, and do not feel that it happened because I was eating too much popcorn. I just can’t believe that God punished me because I was glutenous. As silly as that sounds, I know you have met people (as I have) that would actually believe that is why this happened. God broke my tooth because I went off my diet. Really? Are things that slow in the universe God has to take time to break my tooth as a punishment for eating too much popcorn?

So what’s my point? It’s this: things happen to us and to other people, and more often than not the cause is something we have done to ourselves and not some Divine intervention designed to change our behavior. The question is: how do we know when it is Divine intervention?

I can’t answer that one; I suppose we all just have to look at the event, and the causes of that event, and ask the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to show us the reason. I would say that most of the time it’s probably your own fault, since humans are so prone to doing the wrong thing, and to evaluate the event in terms of how serious it is. For example, my tooth breaking isn’t exactly a change of life event- it happens all the time, to nearly everyone. Now, if every tooth in my mouth broke, that would be something more along the lines of a miraculous happening, something so unique and devastating that I would realistically have to consider God having a hand in it.

Don’t blame God for everything that happens- He is always there for you, He never abandons or forgets you, but He also has other things to attend to and more often than not will allow you to choose your own path. And He will also allow you to walk that path. If He has a definitive plan for you, something that He wants you to do, He will intervene to move you in that direction, but, in the end, we have free will to decide what we will or will not do. So, listen to the Ruach HaKodesh, pay attention to what you are doing, and always check with yourself to make sure that what you are doing is in keeping with how God told us to live our lives. Even when we are walking the path God told us to walk, we will still have troubles- Yeshua (Jesus) tells us so in His teachings.

It’s not how many trials you have that matter- it’s how you come through them that is important. God is there, He is watching, but He is not causing everything that goes wrong. Things will always go wrong when you follow God because you live in a world that rejects God’s ways, so (naturally) when you worship God as He said to worship Him, you are swimming against the tide.

Here’s what I do: I constantly try to remember that what I do now affects where I get to go later, and I concentrate on overcoming obstacles instead of trying to figure out why they are there. If you can do the same, I guaranty it will help you keep on the right path.

Parashah Terumah (donation), Exodus 25 – 27:19)

From this point on, except for Chapters 32 through 34 (the sin of the Golden Calf) the remaining chapters of this book deal with the construction of the Tabernacle and the articles in it.

The Tabernacle is where God talks to Moses. His instructions were first to built the Ark, after the Ark (which is the holiest of all the items) the rest of the construction was done from that point outwards: the Ark, then the Holy of Holies, then the articles in the area where only the priests were allowed (only the Cohen haGadol, the High Priest, was allowed in the Holy of Holies, and only once a year on Yom Kippur), then the Court, etc., all the way to the main entrance at the far end of the court.

The materials used were of dyed linens, tanned hides, acacia wood, gold, silver and bronze. The people were asked to contribute from their personal stores, much of which they received from the Egyptians when they left Egypt (Exodus 12:36); so, in a way, Egypt helped make building the Tabernacle possible. The most valuable materials were the ones closest to the Holy of Holies, with the less valuable materials being used as the Tabernacle was being built outwards.

We have all heard or used the expressions, “Closer to God” and “Farther from God”, representing, clearly enough, one’s spiritual maturity and faithful obedience to God’s commands. When I think of how the Tabernacle was built, with the purest items items being closest to the center of the Tabernacle (where God was present), I see this as representing how we need to be in our worship life: in order for us to come closer to God, we must first become purer.

Gold and silver are metals unto themselves, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and each one needs to go through a firing process in order to remove the dross so it can be in it’s purest state; gold is purified using temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius, silver at about 800 degrees Celsius and bronze at a temperature between 230 and 630 degrees Celsius. The purer the metal, the higher the heat used to purify it.

I see people and their relationship to God similar to the way these metals are forged: the closer we want to come to God, the hotter the fire of purification will have to be. Yeshua tells us this when He tells us that anyone who wants to be His Disciple will have to carry His execution stake to follow Him (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23), so we are adequately warned that getting closer to God will not be easy. Consequently, as we are further from faithful obedience and fear of the Lord, we are more like the less pure metals- we will be forged, but at a lower heat. For those who may be no more spiritual than having some recognition of God, such as type who go to services during the High Holy Days only, or at Christmas and Easter, their “spiritual purity” is still full of dross and slag.

The dross is the sin inside of us: that is why, since sin is part of our nature and formed when we are formed, it must be burned out for us to be purified, separated from the world (sin) and brought closer to God.

Oy! That is a very hard word to hear. Basically, what I am saying is that the Tabernacle represents what we need to go through, spiritually and physically, when we decide to worship God as He wants us to do. We are all built with some copper, tin, silver and gold inside of us, and as we approach God, we will have the base metals separated, and the fine metals purified. This is done through Tsouris (suffering) in our lives. It sounds unfair, but that is what is needed. You can’t get rid of the dross without going through the fire, and the reason we do this is to be closer to God.

Even after we have been purified, we will still have Tsouris in our life. But as we become more purified we will be able to abide the suffering and stay focused on the reward we are all striving to receive: eternal joy and peace in the presence of God, Almighty.

I don’t mind going through the fire because I know what is on the other side.

What metal are you? Have you accepted your level of purity? Realistically, everyone wants to be gold but very few are willing to go through the fire, so if you really, really want to be gold, then here is what you need to do:

  1. Prepare yourself for troubles
  2. Read the entire bible (Genesis through Revelations) and accept that it is all one book, one God, one way to worship Him (His way) and that all the commandments, from beginning to end, are valid
  3. Accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised and ask for forgiveness of sin on your own, meaning that you ask for forgiveness from your heart and not because your Priest or your parents said you had to.
  4. Prepare for even more troubles and steel yourself (gird your loins) for a lifetime of rejection, problems, harassment and persecution.

Read Matthew 5:10, 1 Peter 4:12-19 and James 1:2– all of these verses warn us that we will be persecuted in Messiah’s name, but that it is a blessing we should all strive to achieve.

Doesn’t this sound crazy? I want to have the joy and peace of spirit that worshiping God can bring, which it does, but to get that I have to suffer. Sounds like the ultimate oxymoron- suffer persecution and hatred to have peace of mind and spirit. Huh?!?

But that’s how it works, and it does work. Ask anyone who you know to be devoted to God and they will tell you of all the problems they have had to undergo, but also of all the joy they have felt and blessings they have received from God. It sounds crazy, but that which the world thinks is right is usually the exact opposite of what is acceptable to God.

It’s all up to you- do you want to be bronze or gold? Your choice, your decision, your eternal future.

“What if…” thinking is faithless living

What do you think about when something is about to occur? Do you look forward to change? Do you embrace new ideas and new challenges?

Or are you the type who thinks, “What if…?” whenever something different is about to happen, or you need to do something?

Those of us who profess to believe in God and trust in Him should not be living out a  “What if…?” life.

So what if “what if…” happens?  Do you really trust in God? Do you really believe that there isn’t anything on the earth, or in the heavens above, or in the depth of the seas that God is not in control of?

When I read the Psalms, and the Prophets, and the letters from Shaul (Paul) to the newly formed Messianic communities (there was no “church” in the first century) I can read what is in-between the lines: they all suffered much. The Prophets suffered much, as did Moses (emotionally), as did Jeremiah (emotionally and physically), as did David, as did Shaul, as did Kefa (Peter), as did…well, just about every righteous person we read about in the bible experienced suffering. Being righteous in an unrighteous world is asking for Tsouris (Yiddish for “troubles”) and even Yeshua (Jesus) tells us that if we wish to follow Him we must be prepared to carry our own execution stake (Matthew 16:24); Jesus is telling us that to follow Him is no bed of roses, and will, in fact, cause us strife and difficulty.

So if you want to wonder “What if..”, you don’t need to: if what you are going to do is pleasing to God, it will be difficult, you will have troubles, you will have to suffer, emotionally, physically, maybe even both, and you will not like it.

So, you may ask, if doing what pleases God will cause us pain and suffering in the world, why should we do that? The answer is: because it is pleasing to God. Because it is what leads to righteousness, it moves away from sin, it works to bring you closer to God, and in the long run (meaning eternity) it will bring rewards that are so much greater than the level of suffering that the suffering will be forgotten.

In other words, keep your eyes on the prize, look towards the goal, and do not hang your head and see nothing but where your feet are walking. Tunnel vision is a handicap and dangerous when walking. With regards to your spiritual life, having tunnel vision (i.e., looking only at what is directly in front of you and not seeing the end result) is more than dangerous- it can lead to spiritual suicide.

We need to keep walking in God’s will, along the pathway He designed for us, individually and corporately. God’s path is a straight path, it is a narrow path, and we can always see the end. When we walk with our heads hanging down, looking only at each step we take, trusting only in our own ability to walk, we are forced to wonder “What if…” because we can’t see where we are going. People- you can’t see where the path leads when you are only looking at your feet! It’s no wonder that you wonder what will happen with each and every step you take.

Keep your spiritual eyes ahead of you, trust in God, I mean, REALLY trust in God and show Him you trust in Him (as you will also be showing others) by confidently walking in faith. Walk tall, walk securely, walk with confidence that no matter what dangers or trials you will encounter on the road, you know God is there, walking alongside you and guiding you. It’s like the poem about footprints in the sand; trusting in God means walking looking ahead and never questioning or doubting God’s presence and help.

We all want to be like fine gold and pure silver; the good news is that we will be, so long as we continue to walk in God’s will; the bad news is that it can’t happen without going through the furnace. So, Brothers and Sisters, look forward to going through the furnace, and never ask “What if…” because God already knows what will happen, and He always allows whatever happens to work to the good for those that trust in Him and are called in accordance with His word (Romans 8:28): so, be confident, be sure, be faithful.

Living a “What if..” life is living a faithless life.

 

after the storm

I live in Brevard County, Florida, so Matthew came through with a vengeance. However, God was good and protected us and most of the neighbors. A lot of tree debris, my screened in porch suffered a large branch falling on it and bending one of the main supports (Hello? USAA?), but other than that we had no real problems.

I am sooooo sore from moving everything that was on top of the plywood window covers, taking them out, putting them up, moving everything back so I could put the car in the garage, then taking them down, moving everything out of the way, putting them back in , ….well, you get the idea. Oh, wait! Then I had to collect all the debris, cut the big branches down to reasonable size, move it all to the street, bag up all the little stuff, and yesterday morning (before it got too hot) I was on the roof cleaning out the gutters.

Here’s what it did to the porch and the pile of leftovers all over the yard:

hurricane-matthew-damage                                                               hurricane-matthew-leftovers

 

I have been told that I look like I am only in my late 40’s (I sleep in the fridge- it helps a lot), but I am in my early 60’s and really feeling it today. Oy!

I am grateful to God for making this first hurricane we have gone through relatively easy on us, although Haiti, the Bahama’s, and sections of America have had terrible damage, and deaths have resulted. For those who say, ” Meh- this wasn’t so bad.” they should consider the people who are burying their loved ones and can’t even go home after the funeral, because they don’t have a home, anymore.

So why does God do this to people? Why do they have to die in a weather event? These are the questions we ask each other, and we ask of God, aren’t they?

“Why did You do this?”

I can only answer for myself, and this is my opinion only: it’s because God doesn’t see things the way we do.

We see barely past our own noses, for the most part- we are self-absorbed and self-centered. It’s what we are, it’s who we are, it’s what the world tells us to be. God, on the other hand, is all about His children and the salvation He has planned for us. God doesn’t see life as the whole and death as the end: He knows that there is eternity following life. He knows that what we have is only fleeting, a mist, a memory, grass that springs up in the morning and is dried out and burned at evening. God is looking at things from an eternal viewpoint, so when people die and property is destroyed, God sees that as we see a scratch: it is a little bothersome today but by tomorrow it will be past, and by next week we will have totally forgotten we ever had a scratch- as if it had never even happened.

Of course, to us having a loved one killed or our homes destroyed is more than a scratch, but as I said, that is from our perspective. Our perspective is too limited- to help us get past these kinds of traumatic events in our lives, we need to see from God’s perspective.

Try to remember that what we go through now will be nothing more than a memory, if even that, when we are in God’s presence for all eternity. I wrote a post a while ago called “SWISH“- So What, I‘m Saved: Hallelujah! If my house has damage, SWISH. If I have lost a loved one SWISH (although I agree that is really hard to SWISH by); if I have a lot of cleanup to do and I am sore, SWISH.

I don’t mean to minimize the extent of the pain, damage and cost of a hurricane, but I do want to try to minimize it’s effect on my spirit and my attitude. There are better things to come, better days ahead, and eternity in the presence of God which will be a  joy forever.

All I am saying is that in the midst of Tsouris, try to remember and focus on the future in Paradise. And if you don’t have that future, then ask God to help you attain it. The invitation is written with your name on it, all you have to do is accept it and show up wearing the proper clothes- humility, T’Shuvah (repentance) and thankfulness.

Without Tsouris we wouldn’t know joy

As lousy a situation as it is, the absence of tsouris (troubles) in our lives results in the absence of joy.

Joy is what we feel when we are relieved of stress, there are no problems, no “issues” to overcome…complete relaxation, physical, mental and spiritual.

But if we didn’t know about stress, if we never had “issues” to worry about and overcome, and if we never were sad, downtrodden, upset or stressed-out, then how would we be able to feel joy? It wouldn’t be anything other than the same old, same old. And even joy can be boring and useless if that’s all there is.

When a woman gives birth, the pains are remarkable (so I’ve heard- not being able to tell you from experience, of course) and the total joy after, when the baby has come out, is just as overwhelming. Not just because of the birth of your child, but because there is no more pain. The cessation of pain is, in and of itself, a joyful feeling.

We go through the fire to remove the slag, and we must be melted down to our basic elements for that to happen. We must be destroyed, so that we can congeal into a more pure form of ourselves. This is what Tsouris is all about- getting rid of the dross so that the purity can be realized. We need to call on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) during these times to help us die to self so that God can more completely live in us.

The problem is, despite how wonderful the result, going through the process sucks! It sucks in every way: painfully, emotionally, physically, spiritually- every bad “ly” you can think of happens to us when going through the tsouris of life. And there isn’t much to do about it- you can’t run away from it, you can’t avoid it, and you have to wait until it runs it’s course. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and calling out to God may not help because God may be behind it.

Not always. Remember, we live in a cursed world, and sometimes that means having to deal with it. God isn’t always to blame. In fact, my personal opinion from reading about God all these years, is that He isn’t so petty as to cause your car to break down if you sinned, or the ladder to fall if you are working on the Sabbath, or have you suffer through “Montezuma’s Revenge” because you ate a ham sandwich for lunch when you knew you shouldn’t have. Maybe, sometimes, little things will happen that (as we look back later) we can see led us to something that was a Godly blessing or prevented us from tsouris, and yes- maybe, just maybe, God did make sure that little thing happened to protect us. Maybe the car did break down so that we didn’t get stuck in that 10 car pile-up on Interstate 95 that we would have been in. But, then again, maybe it just happened.

I don’t drive myself crazy (which, in my case, is a very short ride) with thinking about these things. God is very busy running the Universe, and although I know He happily makes time to hear my prayers, He is multi-tasking all the time. And I just don’t see Him going out of His way to cause something small to happen to me as a punishment for a sin. If that was true, at the rate I sin, He would have a full-time job.

Tsouris sucks- there’s no doubt about it. The only way to get through it is to understand it. By that I mean we need to remember we live in a cursed world, that we are separated from it, that the enemy does make time to do many, small annoying things to get us to curse the world and to curse God, and the enemy runs the world. He wasn’t thrown down to hell, but to the Earth, and he is the Prince of the Air (Ephesians 2:2.) What goes through the air? TV, radio, advertising, cell phone usage, Internet-all of these are controlled by the enemy, by definition of his kingdom, and we are bombarded by it constantly, day after day, year after year, until we think that, just like Mick Jagger says in that famous song, “He can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarette as me!”  We compare ourselves to others instead of to what God says we should be. And often it seems, just like the song says, we can’t get no satisfaction.

But you can get satisfaction! The satisfaction of knowing that the tsouris is temporary and the joy tsouris allows us to feel will be eternal! I wrote a blog about SWISHSo What, I‘m Saved, Halleluyah! We need to remember not just that tsouris happens, but that it makes us better and that it is part of being alive. And more than that, we need to remember that the pain we feel now will allow us to feel the total and pure joy of salvation when that time comes.

Shaul tells us in Philippians 3:14:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Messiah Yeshua.”

We need to keep our gaze focused not on what is behind, or even what is here now, but on what is coming. That is how we get through tsouris- not concerning ourselves with what is happening as much as looking forward to when it is over. Things always seem so far away when we wait for them, and when we look back it all seems to have happened so quickly. Keep focused on the future, remind yourself that this is going to be over and think about the joy you will have when that happens.

We need to make our own time machine, but one that only works in one direction- the future. When in the midst of tsouris, get into your time machine and travel to the future; don’t look back, just wait there. Before you know it, the present will be with you in the future and the tsouris will be over.

When the tsouris of life is over, your joy in salvation will be complete! That is a promise from God.

Keep that in mind when you feel down and you will be uplifted.

Stuff happens

One of my coworkers has to deal with his wife passing away, suddenly. They are barely 40, and he has two young, low-functioning autistic children.

When such tsouris happens, we have to think about why. Is this a judgment from God? Is it an attack from the enemy? Is it just plain lousy luck?

I choose to believe that it is all of those things. God judged Adam and Eve, so yes- living in a fallen and cursed world where stuff happens is a judgment from God. And since the enemy attacks those who do God’s work on the earth, yes- it may have been that (although neither of them are Believers.) And does it just happen to people because these things just happen to people? Yes, of course.

Stuff happens.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean He does control everything. He is not a micro-manager.  We live in a fallen and cursed world, and we sin. Many times, I would like to think most of the times, we sin because of our nature and not because we want to. I have said this many times:

I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins; now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. Bottom line: I am still a sinner.

But that’s not everyone, and where sin is concerned, I believe there is always, always, always…collateral damage. The sinner isn’t the only one who suffers. In this physical plane of existence, we all suffer the sins of those around us.

Jews suffered the sins of Hitler (along with a lot of other religions); Jim Jones was a mass murderer, and the masses he killed (his own followers) suffered because of his sin; thousands suffered from the sins of the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center. I could go on and on and on- just read the newspaper. Every single day, hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are innocent suffer because of the sins of others.

If you walk through a cow field, don’t expect to reach the other side with clean shoes. No matter how carefully you watch your step, you will step into something, sooner or later. And probably more than once.

That’s how life is in a cursed and fallen world. It sucks to be here, but there’s no where else to go right now. Of course, we could be with the Lord, but if you want to serve the Lord you can’t really do it when you are with Him- His work isn’t finished here on the earth so we who serve Him must remain here. That was the problem Shaul had (Philippians 1:21), and it’s the same one we all have, too- we want to be with the Lord but the Lord needs us serving Him here.

The good news is this: we who are Believers will be with the Lord, and when we are it will be for all eternity. The lousy lot we are stuck with here on earth is temporary. Yakov (James) says it is like a mist; this life that we suffer through. It seems to take forever, but it will be such a short memory throughout eternity we will barely even notice it. It will be as nothing once we are with the Lord, so suffer through it and be patient. As Shaul advises: keep your eyes on the prize.

Be compassionate, be loving, expect to have problems. You will. But don’ let them get you down. There will be people who harm you, physically and emotionally. Don’t let them hurt your spirit.

There will be people who hurt themselves, people you care about, and it will make you suffer to see them hurting themselves. Try to help them by showing them how much you care, and by treating them with understanding, but still maintaining a firm resolution to let them know that what they are doing to themselves is unacceptable, and that it hurts you. Ultimately, it is their choice to change or remain as they are, just as it is our choice to suffer with them or leave them to their own devices. Even Shaul, who said without love he is nothing, gave up on some people at times and had nothing further to do with them.

We all make choices, whether we want to or not; for instance, abstaining is not making a decision one way or the other, but it is, in and of itself, a decision. We always have a choice, and we always make a choice.

And we will be accountable for the choices we make. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Get with the program.

I feel for my co-worker, I can’t begin to understand the stresses he is feeling. I am glad we work for a compassionate and family-oriented company who will work with him during this devastating time in his life. I also wonder how I will deal with the loss of Donna, if she should go first. I don’t think anyone who knows of someone suffering the loss of a loved one doesn’t immediately reflect on their losses, too. Life and death are natural to us; in fact, it’s to be expected, and even though we all know everyone will die sooner or later (hopefully later), it still feels like a punch in the stomach when it happens to someone we care about.

The worst thing there is, to me, is losing a loved one who has refused to accept Messiah Yeshua- that is the real loss. It’s bad enough losing the person’s company, but to know what that person is going to have to deal with when the Acharit haYamim (End Days) are done and the final judgment comes to us all, well- that is the most painful part of all.

The best thing to remember when someone close to you suffers a loss is that you need to let them know you are there for them, especially since everyone else is probably shoving their own losses down the poor persons throat. That’s what we do: we share our grief with people who are grieving, in the hope that we make them feel less alone. Trust me- they don’t feel as alone in their grief anywhere near as much as they feel like telling you to shut up!

Pray for people who are suffering, hold their hand, comfort them with silence, and when you talk with them tell them how much you loved and will also miss the one they lost. Honor the life of the lost person, and don’t share your losses. This person has enough loss- they don’t need yours, too. Talk with them normally because what they need is normality.

The loss of a loved one is hard, it is different, and it tears you out of reality. We need to comfort people suffering a loss by bringing reality back, just enough to make them feel comfortable, just by being a friend who is there.

Stuff happens; however, knowing that doesn’t make it feel any better when it does. All I can say is thank God I have God to help me though it.

 

Parashah Beshallach (It came to pass) Exodus 13:17 – 17

The Israelites are in the desert, free from Egyptian slavery. However, now the Egyptians (mainly Pharaoh) have realized what they did, and are regretting their letting the Israelites go. So Pharaoh gets all his chariots together and rides out. I don’t believe he wanted to  kill them all, for what good would that do? He wanted to bring them back.

In any event, the Israelites thought he wanted to kill them all, and they were stuck: the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s chariots on the other. And now we see the salvation of the Lord, one of the most well-known stories of the bible, come to pass. God miraculously keeps the army at bay with the pillar of cloud and fire, while he lights the way for the Israelites to walk through the now separated waters of the sea. Pharaoh is allowed to follow as the Israelites are just getting through, and God leaves them stranded in the midst of the waters, which He then brings back down upon them, totally destroying the army of Pharaoh.

The rest of this parashah is like an outline of how God provided for the people all through their desert travels, against their kvetching and whining: He gave them meat, he gave them bread, He gave them water. When they came to water that was not safe, He made it safe. When they were attacked, He fought for them.

This small parashah tells us that everything we need, God provides for us. And more than that, it demonstrates God’s love for His children, even in the wake of their distrust. Despite seeing the most marvelous and unbelievable miracles anyone could ever see, when some problem arose the people immediately complained and totally forgot the wondrous and miraculous things that God had done so far that proved He could provide. It’s like saying, “OK. You’ve destroyed Egypt, you’ve split the sea, you provided bread in the morning and meat at night, you’ve brought forth water from the rock, BUT WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME TODAY?”

Oy! What a bunch of nudniks!

It’s an easy lesson to learn today, easily understood, and almost impossible for us to remember when some “disaster” befalls us: God is able. God is able to provide our needs: God is able to rescue us: God is able to protect us: God is able to keep His promises: God is able!!

So when you have tsouris, when you feel let down by others, when you doubt that God is with you, get real! Get your head back on straight and remember what God has done for you in your life so far. Really- if you are that weak in faith and trust that one little thing goes wrong and you think God has abandoned you, you don’t deserve His blessings!

Lucky for you, and for me, too, that God is more forgiving and compassionate to us than we are to each other. I truly believe, and I tell Him, that if I lived a thousand years and never received another blessing, I have already received more than I could ever deserve. It’s true, and that is why I keep getting blessed: not because I deserve it (although when we obey God and His Torah, He does bless us) but because God is a God who loves to bless His children. He is a God who protects us, He is a God who loves us enough to chide and punish us when what we do is dangerous to our salvation, and He is a God who will deliver on His promises.

The problem is not with God, it is with us: He keeps covenant, we break it. He deserves worship and honor, we deserve death. He protects and provides, we don’t appreciate it. He is faithful, we are not.

The good news is we can change, and when we allow the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to lead us we do change. Little by little, step by step, we make progress spiritually. And it shows in our daily activities. We are all going though the desert, and we all look forward to the Promised Land at the end of our journey. Just like the Israelites, when we allow God to lead us and follow His path, we will be protected, provided for, and will eventually arrive at our (eternal) land of milk and honey.

Don’t kvetch, don’t think the grass is greener on the other side (trust me, it isn’t), and don’t hold on to the past. When all looked lost with the sea ahead of them and death behind them, God asked Moses (Exodus 14:15), “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” I believe God was telling Moses (as well as you and me) to walk in faith and watch what happens. God is a God of action, not sitting around and waiting. When we walk in faith, even into the sea, or into the burning furnace, God will provide and protect. We need to move, we need to demonstrate our faithfulness; and when we do, God will be there.

God is able.

Parashah Vayyelech (And He Spoke) Deuteronomy 31

This parashah is short. Moses tells the people he is going to die, appoints Joshua as his successor and is told by God that the people will be rebellious and suffer greatly in the future. God tells Moses to write a song that will be a witness for God against the people when all the troubles they will bring upon themselves happens.

The Chumash suggests that the Song of Moses (that’s in the next parashah) and the only Psalm Moses is known to have written, Psalm 90, may have been written around this time in Moses’ life. They show how short life is and how important God is.

Everything changes, except for change, itself. Without change there is only stagnation, and there can be no improvement without change. Change is the way we become better, but almost everyone I have ever dealt with would rather have things stay the same.

Did you know that the American Revolution was not to change anything? No- they just wanted everything to remain as it had been. Since they couldn’t get it to stay the way they were used to, they ended up, out of a total lack of any other option, to rebel. That rebellion resulted, with God’s help, in the best non-Theocratic political system the world has ever known.

There was about to be real change for the Israelites. Pretty much every single one of the million-plus people had grown up with Moses being in charge. They had lived in the desert with manna in the morning, water available, divine guidance by day and night, and now they were losing it all. Everything was going to change. No more Moses, no more manna, no more pillar of cloud and fire, no more marching out or staying put. They were going to cross the Jordan. They were going to (finally) enter the Land, the one thing their entire existence has been aimed at doing. No more waiting , no more wandering. It’s here. It’s now. It’s really happening.

Good thing they didn’t wear underwear, because if they did they would probably have had to change it!

They were told God would go ahead of them and not to be afraid. We read later how true that statement was. God did do amazing things to get them there, and once there He continued to do amazing things for them. God is always there; even when He is forced to ignore us (because of our rejection of Him), He is still there. Waiting in the wings, so to speak, for us to return to Him. And He will send us reminders. It won’t be a cute little “Missing You” greeting card, or a post on His Facebook page. What it will be is to allow us to suffer the tsouris of being left alone in a cursed world. And He will wait, patiently, painfully, until we realize how totally stupid we have been; self-centered, self-absorbed, rebellious and, well….you get the point. And when we turn back to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, He will accept us. Gladly!

He also knows that most will never come to that realization. It has always been, is now, and always be only a remnant that will be saved. Not because of God’s desire for anyone to die, but because of our stiff-necked and sinful nature. He told Moses this, who told the people, who went ahead and did what they shouldn’t have done, anyway.

I guess no matter how much things change, people never will. Individuals, yes, but people? I don’t see it happening. And that is probably the most important change we need to make.

So, forget the “people” and concentrate on you. You make sure you are able to change, you make sure you are willing to accept change in your life, because like it or not, it’s coming and there isn’t anything you can do to avoid it. Our loved ones die, our children grow up and need us less, we grow old and need others more, the world gets more technological and less human, and pain, strife, injustice, cruelty, love and compassion all survive and continue. There will be constant change until the final judgment.

Until then, realize that change is necessary and unavoidable. So nu?… since you can’t stop it and you can’t avoid it, you might as well accept it and grow with it.

Just remember the most important thing to change is your devotion and faithful obedience to God- it should constantly grow stronger.