Thursday, 1 December 2016

Stay in The Water

"Love the Lord your God, obey his voice, and cling to him, because he is your life—even your long life—so that you may live in the land that the Lord promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." - Devarim/ Deuteronomy (ISV) 30:20

 A well-known tale from the Talmud (B'rachot 61b) tells the story of the great Rabbi Akiva (circa 40-137 CE) who in defiance of the Romans continued to teach and practice Torah.

One day Pappus bar Judah found Rabbi Akiva sitting in a public place teaching and studying Torah to a group of students. Fearing for Rabbi Akiva’s life, Pappas asked the master, “Are you not afraid of the Roman government?”
Rabbi Akiva replied with a parable:
'Once, a fox was walking hungrily alongside a river looking for his next meal when he saw a group of beautiful fish swimming in schools just out of his reach.
The fox called out to the fish, 'What are you fleeing from?'
The fish answered, 'We’re trying to avoid the nets that fishermen cast out to catch us.'
Slyly, the fox said, 'I know of another stream across the woods where there are no fishermen, and I would gladly carry you there so you can continue safely on your way.'
The fish weren’t fooled by the sly fox and replied, 'Aren’t you the one known as the cleverest of all the animals? You aren’t so clever after all! If we’re in danger here in the water, which is our home, how much more so would be in danger on your back and out of the water!'
'So it is with us,' Rabbi Akiva explained. 'If we’re in danger when we sit and learn, teach and practice Torah, of which it is written "For that is your life and the length of your days," (Deuteronomy 30:20), how much worse off we will be if we neglect the Torah!'
Rabbi Akiva returned to his studies and teaching.

Disclaimer: Why am I mentioning this parable of Rabbi Akiva? Because I think there is wisdom in it. For followers of Yeshua, it is a known fact that Yeshua preached in parables, so it shouldn't feel like a foreign concept me bringing up a parable. Many Rabbis before Yeshua and after Him, used parables to teach. - Disclaimer over 😎😁

I know it's tough sometimes to follow Adonai. It would be awesome if the prosperity teaching would work and with only a few words you would get to make everything be right in the name of Jesus. But this walk is not about magic. It's no abracadabra and things become the way we will them. And because of teachings like that, believers are confused when bad things happen to good people and they end up questioning Adonai... as if there's a glitch in the matrix. But He didn't lie to us. He didn't promise the world and fails to deliver it.
"I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right." - Isaiah 45:19
Yeshua said, "I have told you this so that through me you may have peace. In the world you’ll have trouble, but be courageousI’ve overcome the world!” - John 16:33
Things happen. Situations come seemingly out of nowhere and hit us with the force of a truck. Things that knock the very breath out of you and you're left helpless and confused and doubting yourself, doubting your faith and even doubting Adonai...
We're like the fish in the parable that Rabbi Akiva gave. We try to escape whatever we feel is after us and we sometimes are offered help from the wrong source. But if you're in Yeshua, if you love Him, and cling to Him, you're gonna be OK. 
I heard someone say the other day that life is sometimes like a roller coaster with no breaks and you're so helpless you can't even scream during the ride. That might be so. I'm not here to say it's all in your imagination. But when that happens, you cling to Him with all your might and close your eyes if you must and hang on tight until it's over. I've been on rides like that, that lasted years not days or months. And I looked at Him with questioning eyes, imploring Him to make it stop and even wanted to let go because He seemed to refuse to listen to my prayers. But I've learned something during those rides. I did not initiate this covenant, this relationship and I don't get to let go without a fight. I understood that this relationship doesn't exist because of me. That yes, I may be clinging to Him, but my goodness, He's clinging on to me! 
I might have felt sometimes that the only reason I was still walking on His way was because I knew the option is hell, but I have come to understand that for Him to lose me would mean a little personal hell as well. He loves us that much!
Yeshua said, "I give them eternal life, they’ll never be lost, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." - John 10:28
"Who will separate us from the Messiah’s love? Can trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or a violent death do this?
As it is written,
“For your sake we are being put to death all day long.
    We are thought of as sheep headed for slaughter.”
In all these things we are triumphantly victorious due to the one who loved us.
 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor anything above, nor anything below, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is ours in union with the Messiah Jesus, our Lord." - Romans 8:35-39

Like the fish in the parable, you might feel in danger even if you're in Yeshua, but if you let the deceiver convince you you'd be better out, just know that he's a liar. If you're in danger where you can breathe (in Yeshua, the One who gave you breath of Life), how much more will you be in a place where you can't even breathe? 
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." - 1 Corinthians 15:19 
Do you know why? Because you'll feel like a fish that struggles to breathe. This relationship has ruined you for the world forever. You'll never be unable to unlearn everything you know about The Truth. And the Truth is that He came to give us life. Everything else is a bonus.
Am I saying that everything has to be a struggle? Not at all. But If it happens to be so, stay in the water!


Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה







Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Memory...



I don’t like flowers. I like them well enough on a field, but I guess it’s just the different colors more than the flowers themselves. 

When I was growing up my mom had this crazy obsession with flowers and she got pots of them all over the house. I saw no use for them. I don’t know what kind they were and I don’t care. They were just plants. My mom loved them. I never understood that about her. They were green, with way too many leaves and some of them never bloomed. You can’t call a flower that doesn’t bloom a flower. But they had leaves, my sweet heaven, they had leaves! And the leaves would gather dust and she would make us clean them all the time and I for one always thought that the only reason she kept those things around was because she wanted to see me suffer as I clean every single leaf. (Did I mention they had many?)

Anyway, we had this flower that I won’t even try to name since I have no idea what it was. It never bloomed. I watched it every day like the perfect poster child for OCD that I am. For years, nothing happened. Back then though I knew what that felt like. I could relate to that pathetic flower. It simply existed. No reason. No purpose. No use. It just was. 

I didn’t have an easy childhood and my mom kept saying how one day God will change everything for us. She kept praying for it. I hated it when she wanted us to pray with her. I never believed in her God or His help. I didn’t tell her that though. And she kept praying. And I kept losing hope.
I got used to nothing changing. I got used to just existing. Just being. 

For years I woke up with the same ache in my throat each day, the same way the words would catch behind my teeth, the same disorientation when I would wake up away from my grandmother that raised me, the same limbo, the same heartache.

Things were not changing. Not for good at least. And I kept getting angrier and angrier with this God that could help but refused to. It felt like my heart was swelling inside me to the point of breaking my ribs. And one day I think it did. Because I ended up in a Church, hearing words that reached me and I went home and I sat down on the floor. I folded my legs and put the palms of my hands together. I only got out “God,” and then I started to cry. Not the ugly cry the last time my heart got smashed, or the primal wail when my grandfather died. This was different — both mightier and gentler, it just poured out of me. It was so, so big — each breath, a fresh tide of tears spilling over my lashes and down my cheeks. 

I didn’t even know how to ask for what I wanted, all I knew was that it was the first time I didn’t need Him to do anything, just have me. Make me His. I was nobody’s for a really long time. I wanted to be His. 

The earth didn’t shatter, I heard no voice nor seen anything. It just felt real. More real than even the air I was breathing.I think that was the first time I was actually breathing.
After I finished vomiting my soul on that floor I went to wash my face. When I was done I saw the stupid flower. I am sure it was there before, but it’s only then I saw it had little red buds everywhere. I didn’t need Him to split the sea or write on a wall with His very hand. It was enough I saw that. I watched that flower for years and it never did anything. Completely useless until that day. Just like me until He found me. 

Things haven't changed for a long time even after that. That's not the happy ending in this story. The happy ending is that I was lost and I was found. 
 
I still don’t like flowers.



Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה

Monday, 14 November 2016

Happy



I have been writing for a few years now. Everything from loss, fear, love, grieving and gratitude; unfairness, life gone askew, HaShem and everything in between.
 I have learned my lessons the hard way most of the time and I know that all other lessons I will learn in the future, B’ezrat HaShem, will not be the easy way either. 
It would be great if we would pray for wisdom and it would be magically bestowed upon us. But it doesn’t work that way. Usually you get thrown into circumstances that will make you wiser if you pay attention. Sadly in my case I gain wisdom harder than most because I am ‘blessed’ with an uncommon stubbornness that makes lessons harder to stick, but HaShem is good to me and has enough mercy to teach me not because I am great but in spite of myself most of the time.
The latest lesson I had to learn was how to be happy.
I've learned that we have been primed to pursue happiness. It is in our blood, no matter how bad our circumstances are. And sometimes that pursuit is harming us and it can be a dangerous trek, one which leaves us empty-handed, disappointed, and yearning for more, one which consumes our lives with perpetual wandering, like an Israelite tribe that never reached the Promised Land... Because, so often, the pursuit of happiness manifests itself in an unending attempt to free our lives of pain and of trouble. It manifests itself in an insatiable search for the best. It manifests itself in a blind disregard for the blessings that fill our lives.
Usually things go well for a while and then out of the blue, without warning, life seems to go wrong. The good turns to bad. We feel helpless, or confused, or angry.
And what do we do?
So often we go looking, searching for something better, off on a metaphorical journey in pursuit of happiness, believing we can find a place that will numb the pain, a place where things will be easier, where life will no longer be like this.
We are inundated in life with the lie that ‘something better’ exists, that there are pacifiers for all of our problems, and that if only we do something, or go somewhere, we’ll solve them, and then we’ll be happy.
We are primed to believe that the pursuit of happiness can lead us to a happy place, so we constantly search. But what happens when we get there?
I use to think ‘if I only get to Israel, I’ll be happy’, or if only I gain more knowledge, if only I would lose weight, if only I’d be more rich, if only I’d get to travel more, if only I do this and that, then for sure I will be happy. It ended up that no, I wasn’t.
The pursuit of happiness is dangerous, because it can lead us to believe that happiness demands the escape from trouble, that there is a garden-like place, somewhere, if only we can reach it.
I lied to myself for years thinking that it’s not me. It’s not my fault that I’m not happy, because if only things could be easier, things could be better, things could be different, then I’d be as happy as I want to be.
But there is no magical place that once you reach you’re happy. These places appear as an oasis in the distance, but as soon as we near them, they fade away into nothingness.
Am I saying there is no happiness? No. Of course there is. But maybe, just maybe, it’s not a feeling you get once you’ve reached a certain destination, but rather a state of mind and an understanding of HaShem’s way.
 Judaism’s understanding of happiness is rather different than what we may have come to expect. It sees happiness as the symptom of a life filled with meaning, filled with purpose, and filled with devotion, rather than an item we can obtain by accomplishing specific tasks, reaching certain places, or undoing past errors.
The Scriptures push us to imagine a world free of slavery, and war, and bloodshed, but never do they give us a simple path to ending any of these maladies. We are left to be the change we want to see in this world, something which we can accomplish by manifesting the will of Adonai in our lives.
"Happy is the person who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or taken the path of sinners or joined the company of the insolent. Rather, the teaching of God is his delight, he studies that teaching day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose foliage never fades." (Tehillim/ Psalms 1)
This happiness, the happiness derived from a life filled with meaning, a life committed to The Word, is a happiness of balance – one rooted in Scriptures, a happiness that allows for introspection, and perspective.
 Judaism teaches that happiness is the result of our actions and the way we choose to view the world, not an abstract ideal that we should pursue.
I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. So I tried to stop looking outside myself for happiness and instead changed the lenses I use to look at the world and the things that happen in my life. I learned to stop pursuing happiness elsewhere and, instead, find happiness in the place I already am in. 
Yes, each of us lives life walking down a broken, messy path, filled with sharp edges and pits and cracks that hurt us deeply, that disappoint us, crush our spirits and question our faith. Life is hard. Life can be unfair.
Each of us, at one point or another in our lives, will be hurt, will meet sadness, will be dealt unfair hands. We cannot inoculate ourselves to troubles any more than we can choose to stop breathing. We do not have the free-will to author the books of our lives – our world is filled with too many characters, protagonists and antagonists, to narrate by ourselves.
But we can choose how to tell our stories. We can focus on the positive, on the good, on the funny and meaningful and holy.
We can live our lives in the constant pursuit of something better, something less troublesome, something external, we can live our lives in the constant pursuit of happiness out there, or we can pursue the happiness we deserve in here, internally, through a steady dose of reflection, commitment, and teshuva (return/repentance).
One path leads us in pursuit of something better,
something that does not exist. The other leads us up the path of focused attention to deliberate appreciation for what is; gratitude for what we do have.



Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A heart of stone

There is a story of a king who sent his son a great distance to study all the wisdom of the world. The son went, studied, and returned wise. One day the king asked his son to take a massive rock and place it up upon the roof of the house. But the rock was too huge, and the king’s son was unable to lift the rock. Unable to fulfill his father’s request, the king’s son was … terribly upset.
When his father found him sulking in his room the king said to him, “You thought I wanted you to lift that giant stone? Even with all your wisdom you thought I asked you to do something as impossible as that!? All I intended was for you to take a hammer and break the stone up into a bunch of little pieces – then you could have placed the stone on the roof!”

Just like this, God commands us to lift our hearts up to heaven. But our hearts are these giant heavy stones – totally impossible to lift. All you can do is take a hammer – which is speech – and shatter the stony heart. Thus you can lift your heart up to heaven. - From the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה

Monday, 17 October 2016

The Word



” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

This Saturday I was watching this experiment designed to show the way a human brain functions when it comes to reading words. I’m not sure to what extent that works in all languages, but in English, if you keep the first and the last letter of every word, regardless of how you mix the letters inside, it will allow the mind to actually make sense of the words, or interpret every word it reads.
As I was watching this, it came to mind the fact that Yeshua said He is the Alpha and Omega (A Ω  first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), or Alef and Tav, ( א  ת first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet). I understood that whether it’s a word, a concept, an idea or a theory, if it begins and ends with Yeshua, then things make sense even if they seem chaotic inside.
Many times I struggle to utter the right idea concerning a concept that I think I grasped about Adonai and I am not always successful to get everything exactly right every time and as I grow I see that I’ve misplaced one letter, still I know that if I keep the first and last letter in place, it makes sense. I may be misspelling in every single language that I try to write in and sometimes I’m convinced that that’s how it’s spelled, but even when I’m wrong, whoever wants to understand, understands. Sometimes I may not be able to express every thought or concept in a flawless theology, but if He is the beginning and the end of every word, then it can be understood even if it needs a spell check.
I thought about Yov (Job) and how he began with every word spelled exactly ‘right’, metaphorically speaking. Everything made sense. Things were simple. He had only one theory guiding him: If you are a righteous man and try to do good and if you fear HaShem (God) and seek to do His will, then the result can only be good; you have nothing to fear because no evil shall befall you and no harm will come to you and yours. Simple. Until all the horrendous things happened to him and his family and all that was left of his theory was a pile of jumbled letters. And it took him a while to make sense of it all. When I read about how he had sat and analysed everything, it almost seems like he was trying to put back together a puzzle that has been scattered by the wind everywhere. If you’re trying to solve a puzzle you first have to find all the outer pieces, those that make out the perimeter of the puzzle, those that define its limits.
If you try to define a certain situation when the accuser keeps asking, ‘where is your God? And if He is, doesn’t He care that you’re about to perish?’, then you have to start with the Beginning and finish with the End, as retarded as that sounds. Every explanation that you want to give yourself must start with Yeshua and end with Him, otherwise nothing will make sense.
There are high chances that maybe you won’t reach the right conclusion concerning the ‘why?’, but as long as your thought ends with ‘even so, He is still my God’, then you have nothing to worry about.
Sometimes it so happens that everything you know about Him is tested. And it happens that you end up with a lot of your theories either dead or crippled, but as long as you keep the first and the last letter in place, it’s OK, breathe!
Just because all your letters are jumbled, it doesn’t mean it’s unintelligible. It only means that you’re about to find out that Adonai gave you the strength and wisdom to read situations as if they’re spelled right and that’s because He has placed Himself and the beginning and the end of every word. 




Bat Melech בת מלך
 Cristina כריסטינה