Oh, oh, oh, Immanuel – God with us

In these days, so often we feel we have reached our limit. And then something more happens to help us recognize our weakness even further, our need for God, our challenges becoming even more than we thought we could handle when we were already at our limit. When times of worsening personal trials coincide with societal challenges, troubling headlines, we’re pushed even further. The question is pushed deeper into despair, or closer to God.

This year was the thirteenth Camp Or L’Dor, our Messianic Jewish camp for teens. Hard to believe!! What a wonder! So many lives changed, not only those of our campers, but also, of our staff, our leaders, our volunteers, and the many Jewish and non Jewish travelers alongside our path with whom we’ve interacted over the years.

I was unable to share with you from camp last week. I was literally called to serve elsewhere at the side of a close relative dealing with end stage illness of her husband. So I missed some of the events I normally would have shared with you. In debriefing with Rabbi Nathan, however, I learned that this year’s camp was amazing in the usual ways we have come to expect – teens transformed who were reluctant to attend now feeling closer to God, relationships established that will be nurtured and will thrive, well beyond the end of camp, healing services that touched our young people so deeply, vulnerable conversations that sprang from trust and love. For one teen in particular, camp was a complete life changing experience without which darkness may not have been able to be exposed and banished from her young life.

Camp’s purpose is to bring young Messianic Jewish teens closer to God through nature and to teach them through daily Shacharit services and activities the foundations of their faith. Close relationships also form so that our young people do not feel so isolated since Messianic Judaism is such a small minority of an already small Jewish minority. To have experiences of such deep transformations, healing, and opportunities for our youth is always profoundly amazing and a blessing beyond words.

As my faithful readers, I wanted you to know that the absence of last week’s camp report was not due to camp, but rather, due to my own personal circumstances. I missed half of camp and was in a very physically and emotionally draining situation instead. I have been fighting to stay encouraged myself. I have been physically exhausted and fairly incommunicado due to the extenuating circumstances. So as we arrived back to our home in Maine last night, I knew what I had to do this morning. Too hot to run, but I needed my own, private, uninterrupted time with HaShem.

How tense I was as I left the house. How hard I had to work to feel kindness toward Sid who was doing everything possible to make me feel more relaxed. So much on my shoulders. . . so many unsolvable problems for my loved one and her husband. . . so much to do that has gone untended for the last couple weeks. . . such literal pain in my neck from the stress . . .

And so, I started out listening to my Messianic Jewish music line up. As I rounded the first turn I caught sight of a butterfly to my left. Just as the words, “Oh, oh, oh, Immanuel, God with us” played, that beautiful Monarch butterfly flitted across my path. Another butterfly joined in lifting my spirit, as I felt His Presence, just at that moment, as I heard those powerful lyrics. HaShem knew how to reach me, to remind me through his special messengers, His special timing, in the way that I would recognize. It felt as if all of life’s burdens beyond my control were removed from my shoulders as I could feel our Abba in this, with me.

He viscerally and spiritually reminds us at times of discomfort, as we need to be reminded. He meets us where we are and in the individual and special ways He can be seen by each of us if we seek Him. It is our Father, our Abba, through Yeshua, who is with us and who bears our burdens for us. Oh, oh, oh, Immanuel. God with us. Praising out loud, I joyfully walked with Him, singing each uplifting chorus, and a musical version of the Shema that followed.

The results in any circumstance may not be what we would choose, but it is not for us to choose. It is for us to rest in the comfort of His Presence, for when we do, we have peace beyond measure, even when feeling so, on the merits, is inexplicable.

No need to explain how or why. Just take comfort in Him. He’s got this.

Shabbat shalom.

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