As you know, I’ve spent the past several years’ winter months in Florida, a situation that rather organically evolved rather than ever planned from the outset. As every year has brought the revival of new family relationships down there, we have tended to stay longer each time. While there, as it has turned out, every visit has also offered up reasons that my being close to Florida family was more meaningful than could ever have been anticipated – times of sharing comfort at the loss of my aunt in 2019, a life changing diagnosis for my cousin in 2020, the challenges of healing for her in 2021. These times together have felt divinely planned.
So I should not be surprised that this year’s Florida sojourn gave me deeper insights as I looked back at our time there over the past several months. It was a blessing to be able to be with my cousin who narrowly escaped death last summer through the fall after a harrowing medical procedure that went unimaginably wrong. Her road back this year has been an inspirational journey for both of us. Also this year, as a result of her truly near death experience, I found myself in so many theological discussions, again feeling that my being in Florida during this season was no accident, but rather, for a purpose beyond the sun and surf.
Being probably the only Messianic Jew (besides Sid) in her (and our) 1500-plus household community, I found myself in conversations with Jews and Gentiles alike on the topic of Yeshua from a Messianic Jewish viewpoint. And somehow my testimony on YouTube from the One for Israel initiative in 2016 had spread among my various social groups (line dancing, Mahjong, ukulele club). I was drawn into numerous conversations that challenged both Jews and Gentiles on the subject of Yeshua’s role in our lives. My cousin’s NDE seemed to have lit a fire on the topic, my having a foot in both the Jewish and Christian worlds making me someone both sides felt comfortable conversing with on the topic.
It all started when someone stated to my cousin that she had been so worried that my cousin might die and go to hell since she didn’t believe in Jesus. I had several conversations with that person when I was in Florida. In speaking with my cousin I’ve learned that conversations on this topic have continued, like little circles of interaction whose edges touch, and/or overlap with another’s edge or area of understanding, those edges and areas touching and overlapping another’s, in an evergrowing formation of interchanges and common points of continuity, clarification, and connection.
The discussions with my cousin and the person who made the initial pronouncement about hell, and they with each other and with another, and his or her reaction to those conversations, inspired my cousin to contact the local minister, who was then motivated to talk with the person who had made the initial comment to my cousin, and so on. Even now, months later, through various people, the conversations are still ongoing – little spheres of interchange that when overlapped into another’s thoughts and discussion create even more interactions, one to another, and another, as conversation leads to understanding. Today my cousin spoke with her rabbi about the comment and about Yeshua, still seeking answers, and then spoke to me, again, more interactions, more seeking of answers.
It often surprises me when someone will say, “Remember when you said . . . “, and depending on the situation and how many years that have passed, I often may not remember, for to me the interchange may have been just a casual comment, but to the other person perhaps it was a pivotal moment in his or her journey. Vice versa, I may have heard another’s observations which were paradigm altering to me, and yet, barely memorable to the speaker at the time.
The growing impact of seemingly simple words in our perceptions may surprisingly have impact beyond the moment that in some cases may be completely unforeseeable. How much moreso then may our words have even greater import when we actually intend them to be impactful. All the more reason to choose our words carefully, and equally important, to not hesitate to engage even if we feel our words may have little importance at the time. Chances are if you have been drawn into a conversation, there is a reason, and hopefully one that draws the other person closer to Him. As for me this year on the topic of believing in Yeshua, one person’s judgmental decree became a catalyst for so many others to be drawn into deeper thinking about Yeshua, as our Abba uses all for good in time.
These are the times to connect with others. We are all so busy, sometimes it seems even moreso as we ready for these changing post pandemic days. We may be Zoomed out, tired of communicating electronically, even by phone or text. Yet when we do reach out, how often our Abba reminds us of the importance of interpersonal connections. Just today I spoke with a dear friend from the days of our times together at UMJC conferences. As we brought each other up to speed on our personal lives we were drawn to discuss our mutual passion for connecting with the mainstream Jewish community as Messianic Jews. We reinvigorated each other by talking about a subject so dear to both of us. Neither she nor I were even thinking of this topic when we decided to chat today. Yet as we were bathed in the love our Abba showered on us by reconnecting us, we felt His tug on our hearts to stay encouraged in the work we are doing for these greater purposes. I was reminded that this mutual encouragement would not have occurred had we not arranged for the call.
Never minimize the importance of words. If you are reading this Shabbat encouragement, chances are you are trying to walk closer to HaShem. We all are just trying to do our best. When interacting with those seeking His Presence also, or even those having little interest in these topics but for some reason have brought you into such conversations, I encourage you to participate, the best you can. And make those phone calls. Stay connected. You may be amazed at the mutual enlightenment flowing from those encounters, the unintended circles, connected and overlapping, that bring His love one to another.