A Thanksgiving Miracle: God at work in Israel

My heart is torn for the war now happening in Israel, as the Israeli people are assailed with rocket after rocket by the terrorist groups in Gaza.  I pray constantly throughout the day from Psalm 125:2: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”   My heart also goes out to the innocent Palestinian people wounded and killed in the crossfire.

Moutains Surrounding Jerusalem Israel

As the war has escalated, I have heard from some of my friends in Israel and others who are in ministry there bringing the Good News of Yeshua (‘Jesus’ in Hebrew).  I read on Facebook that some staff from Jews for Jesus in Israel were most likely going to be called up from the reserves to serve.  My friend Shaqed, a  young Israeli women whom I met while working in a Jewish summer camp near my home, wrote on Facebook that 847 rockets had been fired so far  and defended her nation’s right to defend themselves.   I have also seen first hand a video of Israeli families with children experiencing the rockets while in a bomb shelter. It’s terrifying.

I know too well the fear and terror this causes, having served in Israel as a Jewish Evangelist in the mid to late 1990s.  I remember Israeli citizens walking around with gas masks after President Clinton ordered an airstrike on Iraq. The Israeli people, fearing a return airstrike from Iraq on Jerusalem, carried them wherever they went, as I sat huddled in a closet wondering if I should return home to America.  (At the last minute, Clinton cancelled the airstrike.)

A few days ago, I received an email that encouraged me that God is still in control and still surrounding His people in Israel. May I share it with you? The email contained a letter from a Christian couple who run a guest house outside Tel Aviv.  To my surprise, they report on Messianic Jewish soldiers in the Israeli army, Jews who believe in Yeshua as their Messiah, whom God is using to bring victory in the conflict with Gaza. Below is the touching letter.

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The Director of the guest house writes:

We visited with Elan* (not his real name), a Messianic Jewish soldier serving with the new anti-missile crew “Iron Dome” just 15 kilometers from Gaza. Here’s our report:

This past Shabbat (Sabbath), Beer Sheva was like a ghost town. The streets were empty except for the few cats and dogs roaming for scraps. As we drove to the southern outskirts of the city, we turned right up a dirt road and ascended the deserted hilltop overlooking the city where the Iron Dome crew await the next missile attack from Gaza.

With the population of over 200,000 nestled just below the hilltop depending on their missile defense, the crew seemed surprisingly relaxed, some even in their Shabbat tee shirts and sneakers, munching on midday sandwiches watching the skies and waiting for the next attack. “It was not like this when those first missiles came in,” said Elan, a Messianic Jewish member of the unit. “When the alarms went off and that first barrage of missiles came, we were really scared,” he admits. “15 rockets all at once came raining down on us,” he said, “and it looked like they were going to fall right on top of us.” The hill these brave young men and women command on the southern edge of the city is in direct line of fire of the missiles from Gaza.

“At first we were not sure the Iron Dome would work,” said Elan. “We put on our helmets, kept our heads down and prayed” he said. “Now was the moment of truth if all our hard work training would pay off.” Pay off it did, as 85 percent of the missiles aimed at Israel’s city centers have been brought down by Iron Dome. “When we saw those missiles blown up by our unit we all started laughing and jumping up and down,” said Elan “We could hardly believe it!”

As we are talking war sirens ring out over the city and within seconds two rockets blast out of the Iron Dome battery on route to intercept the missiles. “Watch this,” Elan smiles. We cannot see the incoming missile, only the Iron Dome rocket’s white tail of smoke making its way up into the blue skies in search of the deadly missile. Then sure enough we see a grey puff of smoke about a kilometer above our heads and within seconds comes the echoing boom of the missiles’ midair explosion. After a week of fighting the soldiers are far more confident in the system’s capabilities.

Civilians are also feeling much safer with the Iron Dome success. “People from the city come up here to bring us care packages,” says Elan. “They want to tell us thanks for saving their lives,” he says. “Although it is forbidden, we allow a few to come. It’s great that we are joined together in these difficult times,” Elan explains. “It really feels like one big family. Everyone wants to help.”

Like most Messianics in Israel, Elan is proud to serve his country. There are hundreds of
Messianic Jewish believers serving in the Israeli Army. Many of them in elite fighting units now amongst the ground forces moving into the Gaza Strip. Most are exemplary soldiers who want to demonstrate that faith in Yeshua is not a betrayal of their Jewish heritage. In fact, faith in the Messiah is giving them an even greater purpose and desire to serve the nation of Israel. “I feel like I am doing something really important,” says Elan. “This is something I have waited my life to do for my people,” he says. “I am glad that I can be here for such a time as this.”

As we were about to leave Elan asked that we pray for him and all the soldiers in the Israeli army at this time. We assured him that we would and that people all around the world are standing with them praying. We hope that you will also join with us in prayer for these fine young men and women now serving Israel. And may God bless Israel.

NEWS FLASH:  As I go to publish this article, news is in a ceasefire has been reached between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist group in Gaza!  However we have seen from experience that this peace is just temporary, and in fact rockets continue to be leveled at Israel tonight.

I am grateful this Thanksgiving for the Lord’s miraculous intervention in protecting Israel especially though soldiers that believe in Him. He has answered our prayers. I therefore ask you to pray that all the soldiers, especially Elan and the other Messianic soldiers, who are  in harms way, will return home safely. Please pray Psalm 121:8 “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

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A Childhood Christmas Revisited

Yes, I know you are saying “Christmas already Miriam?”  But yes, it is only 5 weeks away and as we begin to celebrate the miracle of our dear Savior’s birth over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, I would like to share an article I wrote and was published by my local women’s writers group.  This group is a sanctuary for me, where we write to prompts that our leader lovingly prepares.

My story reflects on my Christmas time as a child in the 1960s. I believed in Jesus as a young girl and knew that He was the reason we celebrated the season. My story also reflects on my Christmas time as an adult when I knew Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I invite you to discover both the magic and the miracle of Christmas in your hearts this season as you receive the ultimate gift of Christmas, Jesus.

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The prompt that day was “What was your favorite possession as a child?

My Favorite Possession as a Child – By Miriam Sarzotti

I turned the page excitedly of the Sears Christmas Catalog.  It was Christmas time and I wanted an Easy Bake Oven.  I was five years old and had seen it advertised on TV many times.

Easy Bake Oven circa 1966

Christmas morning I threw off the covers to see what “Santa” had left for me under the tree.  Sure enough, there it was, all bright yellow and shiny, sitting under my stocking.  It had four tin pans and cookie and cake mixes to bake.  That day I mixed my first mix, a pink sugary cookie. I slid the pan in and then slid another pan after it to ‘push’ it out into the cooling rack.  Amazement!  The cookies were cooked all by a light bulb.  The smell of heated plastic and sugar filled my nostrils. The cookies were soft and mushy tasting.  I was proud to be a cook and baker just like my mother.

Soon the mixes ran out so we ordered some more.  I waited patiently at the mailbox each day for them to arrive. I was soon to learn the frustration of this toy, not being so ‘easy’ to bake with.  Many times the pan fell off the track and dumped its contents into the bottom of the oven. My dad would have to take the screws off the back and fish out the tray.  I would start over, carefully trying to keep the tray on the tracks.

I remember one rainy day waiting for my friend Joan, who lived down the hill, to come play with me and my oven.  I was so excited!  I felt like the neighborhood princess to have such a toy to share.

Sadly, I outgrew my oven and it got lost in my possessions somewhere. Two Christmases ago I wanted to give the ‘little girl in me’ a childhood Christmas as a healing for my soul.  I logged on to EBAY and searched for the oven.  Surprised I found quite a few for sale.  I began nervously to bid on a yellow one with its original box and four pans.  On no, someone was bidding against me!  As the minutes round down, I made one last bid of $40.  Aha!  My strategy worked and I was the proud owner of a retro easy bake oven.

My EBAY find, just like my original yellow one, under the tree

my EBAY find, yes, my first one was yellow too!

I placed my oven under the tree, expectantly waiting to open it on Christmas Eve.  My ‘little girl in me’ was so excited to have presents under the tree just for her.

My tree

That Christmas Eve, I excitedly got out my oven and plugged it in. It was very hot to touch and I wondered if it would blow up!  Was it this hot as a child, I pondered, trying to remember.  Did they let us kids play with things like this in the 1960s?  I was afraid the plug was too old and it was malfunctioning.

Putting these thoughts aside, I marveled again how a light bulb could cook a cake.  I had also bid on some cake mixes, so I carefully slid in the tray. It was bent slightly from age and use, but I was able to get it through the oven.  Boy did that cake taste good!  Memories flooded my brain as I shared my cake with Jesus, whom I knew was fondly looking on. (By the way He liked it too!)

Me in front of Castle at Disneyland in the rain!

A few days later, I flew down to Los Angeles to Disneyland  to give ‘my little girl’ a very special Christmas.  After spending the day with CInderella and riding the fairyland train, I flew back home content. A miracle had taken place.  My heart was healed.

Cinderella and her Prince photo at Disneyland

After the holiday ended and the excitement died down, I put the boxed oven back in the storage closet, one day planning to give it to my own daughter to play with.  By then, it really will be an antique, but one that will always bring a smile to my face and put a little bit of Christmas cheer in my heart. I’ll remember the miracle the Lord did for me that Christmas and be reminded why we celebrate Christmas after all.

 

What is your favorite toy or memory of Christmas?  Was Jesus part of it?

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The Counterattack…The Devil Strikes Back

One of the lesser know facts about being a Christian, is that as we step out in Faith to serve the Lord in our ministries, we have an adversary, the Devil, who is not happy with our progress, particularly when we have a huge Victory for Jesus.  This was the case Halloween week which I shared on my blog how God gave me the Victory of raising money and advocates for She is Safe and the work they are doing around the world for abused and exploited women. (see Blessings, Paintings and Spooks….Oh My!)

Cross with Pearls Matthew 13:46

Not only did I sell quite a few paintings, but my blog post on how people could help stop human trafficking went viral!  I had over 100 views a day on my blog post and trafficking to my entire site was up well over 200 views.  Now that might not seem like a lot, but it is for me!  I only started this blog last summer and I have watched the Lord increasingly bring more traffic to my site and receive good feedback.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came down with the flu/bronchitis/sinusitis with a vengeance, feeling like a bomb was dropped on me. The Devil loves to put illness on God’s Saints and I was down for the count.  I had just started a holiday job at Sees Candies (another blessing) and had to stop in the middle of training.

Would I lose my job?  Would I still be able to go to the Jews for Jesus Retreat the following weekend?  All these thoughts rumbled around in my feverish head, at one point wondering if I was going to be called home when my fever spiked to 104 degrees.  Getting this sick is scary for me as I am allergic to most antibiotics so it is a risk for me to take them.  I dragged my body to my Zip car and drove to the doctors (one of the worst things about living alone is getting sick alone) where my doctor played a guessing game of which antibiotic to give me.  “Let’s try Zithromax, I’ll give you a five day high dose that will last in your system for 10 days.”  “Alright” I nervously replied, hoping and praying this one would attack the virus.

As I tossed in bed with my fever, the Scripture “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” ran through my Spirit. (Psalm 23:4) Yes, I was at a breaking point for either life and healing, or death and eternal life.  I knew I was in God’s hands and was a peace with His outcome.  I had the assurance that I wouldn’t taste death, that my soul would go straight to heaven, and in fact, Jesus would come get me as He promises He will do. (John 14:3: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.)

My fence and rail quilt

As I slowly got better, I sat on the couch covered in my rail-fence pattern quilt I had made, slurping chicken noodle soup and sucking on sugar free popsicles, all spacy on the codeine cough syrup, yet coughing, coughing, coughing.  I realized I was going to have to stay home from my retreat.  I had so looked forward to hanging out with my Messianic Jewish friends at the Jews for Jesus retreat, singing to the Messianic music, eating wonderful meals at Missions Springs Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the divine appointments the Lord had for me.  I was sensing that this might be the time that I would meet that Jewish believing husband I have been waiting patiently (o.k. not so patiently!) for.  To hike in the beautiful redwoods, sit in on stimulating lectures and just be all around blessed and relaxed.

California Redwood Forest

So it made me start wondering, Lord why does it appear you let the enemy win this round and keep me too sick to go to the retreat, which I know was your will for me?  What He said to me surprised me: “You have been working too hard, and not having enough fun.  I have been missing spending time with you and now we have all week to snuggle together on the couch as you watch movies and hold you at night so you rest comfortably.” To be honest, I much rather spend that time with Him at the retreat but He is Sovereign and knows best. I trust He can cross my path with that future husband another way very easily.

Last night, I asked Him to reveal what He would have done for me at the retreat.   He showed me my low self esteem and the negative messages I tell myself, mostly about how unattractive I feel growing older, especially losing my neckline, which I laughingly tell my friends, is getting the “turkey neck”.  “I want a neck job as a wedding present” I tell them, but I am serious!  Having been a former beauty queen at age 18, Miss Belmont of 1979, my looks were always something that made me feel good about myself, as inside I felt such shame and ugliness from the abuse I suffered as a child.

Me modeling at Miss Belmont 1979 pageant, look at that hair!

I know Scripture tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made in Psalm 139:14:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

So I asked the Lord to let me experience His love for me in a more deep and personal way as I recover this next week, before I return to work at Sees.  Because this brokenness in me that let’s me see myself in this negative light, is my real sickness, my soul sickness.   God can turn what the enemy meant for evil (this flu sickness) and work it for good, (healing me by allowing me to see His viewpoint of me). “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” – Genesis 50:20.

Will you pray that the God who made us and knew us before the foundation of the world, who brought us together in the dark places of the womb, would heal our souls of the lies and wounds of the enemy, giving us Victory today over our pasts?  Do you need to ask God for this soul healing for yourself today?  If so you can pray this prayer along with me:

“Dear Lord:  I need to feel your love for me as your child.  I know I have believed the lies of my family, friends and the Devil, who have spoken negative things into my life.  I believe you created me in the innermost places and made me unique and like you.  Help me to let go of the shame and self hatred I feel, and replace it with your love and the way you see me.  Bright. Beautiful. Full of your Joy.  Accepted and Loved in the Beloved.  For this is truth and you are Truth and I ask you to pierce my heart with this truth today.  Thank You Jesus, I love you.”

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