Shavuot of 2010, placed squarely at the end of June -- could only be celebrated at one place -- in the smokey mountains of North Carolina. A conference run by Don Esposito, one of the few Messianics following the correct calendar, had sent the invite out months before, and now I would fly east over the continent to rejoice. Anca and her family, who had now helped me launch a brand new website for my ministry, would join me in Charlotte.
The reason so few Messianics were celebrating Shavuot on 6/20 was because of a disagreement involving the barley and the launching of the Hebrew New Year. I had received a prophetic Word direct from Yah that the New Year would begin on 4/15, a Word that created much controversy, yet a Word that was confirmed again and again.
As my plane soared into the midnight-black skies on a redeye flight east toward the Smoky Mountains, I gazed aimlessly out the airplane window and meditated on the past . . .
Cool wet rain still slicks the pavement of the downtown Eugene outdoor market square.
I am preaching, been preaching for a few hours this Friday night . . .
Dozens of black garbed, dark eye shadowed-glossed Satanic teens are surrounding me, chanting. I lift my Bible, preaching the Word, declaring Yah’s righteousness.
I notice one girl, short, with long dark hair, even darker eyeshadow, clutching a Satanic looking pendant hanging from her neck. She is circling with the others, but something is different about her. With the Spirit’s urging, I lean forward and whisper a few words into her face, urging her to release her burdens and surrender to the Messiah. Tears begin rolling from her eyes. She backs away.
It is a tiring evening, with both Christians and Satanists mocking my preaching, yet there . . . lost in the sea of faces but shining out to me, is my wife -- Annika, standing loyally behind me, unwavering in her support . . .
Annika pushes the blue and white stroller with 1 year old Isaiah. Tall looming pines from the golf course cast blue shadows over us on this late summer evening. Our shoes crunch over the gravel path that allows pedestrians to use the golf course as an exercise trail.
It’s been a very hard year, looking for work, trying to make ends meet. I feel discouraged. It eats at me.
Annika, shrugging away my cares, gripping the stroller, smiles at me. She says the year will get better.
And she turns out to be right . . .
Bright mid afternoon sunlight streams through the thick green trees that overhang the south park blocks on the Portland State University quad.
Preaching my heart out, sweat crusting my face, I am tired and so hand over the crowd to my wife.
She is a quiet, soft spoken, almost shy person when around large numbers, yet here she stands bravely, answering questions from the crowd, exalting the Messiah.
A deep pride fills my heart for this woman Yah has given me, and a warmth that rivals that of the golden spokes from the sun poking through the foilage . . .
Guilt crushes me. We are deeply in debt, and I feel I have badly misled our family. Annika and I are sitting toward the back of a Messianic congregation. She holds little Elijah, while Isaiah toddles around us.
Perhaps I was being too over dramatic, too lost in my own feelings. But Annika, very seriously, looks at me, her blue eyes filled with compassion.
She reminds me how many times Ancient Israel veered off the right path, and how many times YHVH intervened to redeem them. She says if YHVH can do that for a whole nation, He can certainly do that for me.
And her words, though I do not tell her at that moment, help to heal me from that darkness . . .
Strangled by frustration, worry and a sense of hopelessness, I make the decision to flee Portland. There is nothing left for me here. It is all too overwhelming. I’m tired of this insane debt piling up!
Tears fill Annika’s eyes. I know she wants to stay in Portland -- and maybe I also know, even on a deeper level, Yah does not want me to flee Portland like this.
Yet, loyally, despite her tears, Annika decides to support me in my decision. We head south for California . . .
Seated in our favorite local restaurant, we grin happily at each other. The cafe has an upper story with walls made of windows, giving the perfect view of the quaint, Merced main street down below.
Miriam, just days old, cries from her baby seat.
We are celebrating our total deliverance from all debt. Annika smiles at me. I smile back at her. Yah has been good in rescuing us from poor decisions.
We enjoy the melted brie cheese on toasted foccacia bread, and make plans for the future . . .
The bright reds, yellows, purples, greens and blues of the Disney World amusement park surround us. Three children in tow, we race toward Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
I hold cotton candy. Isaiah holds an ice cream cone. Annika holds little Miriam.
For the millionth time, Elijah asks if we can go back on the Buzz light year ride.
I catch Annika’s eye, we smile at each other, and wordlessly agree . . .
Frost plates the Missouri gravel in sheets of ice. Bright sunlight, though cold, shines down on us. I am sitting in our car, everything packed, prepared to take my family away from this wicked pastor and go where Yah leads us.
Annika’s hand falls on mine. Her eyes are filled with gratefulness and love. She does not have to voice the words. Her expression alone communicates how thankful she is that I took a stand against the pastor and removed her from that environment.
I squeeze her hand back, kissing her forehead.
We drive off down the road, Yah our only guide . . .
I have been lying in bed for nearly two months. My back and neck are laced with pain.
Switching on the lamp light, I notice Annika’s journal next to the bed.
I open the leather bound book, and see her writing . . .
“I wish there was something I could do to help Daniel out of this funk. Something that could just heal his back and get him on his feet again . . .”
I close the book, tears rising from the back of my throat . . .
I shook myself from the reverie, towering cumulonimbus clouds just outside my airport window. The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, my destination for Shavuot 2010, covered the rolling green hills just below me.
My 5.5 hour trip was over.
Blinking my eyes, I briefly reviewed the thoughts that had just tumbled through my head. So many times Annika had supported me, had loved me, had been there for me. Could I truly shut the door on not only our marriage, but her eventual salvation?
She had been through more than most wives, and maybe this was Yah’s way of teaching me not only a deeper understanding of love, but also patience. More importantly, that love was patience personified.
When the plane landed, I rose to my feet, gripping my carry-on bag.
Perhaps, it was not just Annika who needed to change.
Perhaps I did as well.