I spent my childhood attending two different neighborhood synagogues for the High Holidays. I remember the awesome dignity of the men as they approached the bimah, in contrast to the sights and sounds of the congregation as they sat and visited during the service. I didn’t shy away from religious observance. Actually, I went to Shabbat services in my early teens because I wanted to know what being holy meant and where to get real spiritual power.
By 1982 I was living up in the mountains of Taos, New Mexico and I was celebrating Rosh Hashanah at a service at the Buddhist meditation retreat. The rabbi that led this fringe congregation in Taos normally drove up from Santa Fe, but was unavailable this particular day. The service was boring and lifeless and I remember a feeling of despair as I stared at my hands, wondering how long it would continue. There were rambling recitations of prayers that did not have much relevancy to my little world in Taos.
The next day was a Sunday and I attended a local church that a close friend had been encouraging me to attend. The contrast was dramatically apparent. There was beautiful, heartfelt music with words that spoke of forgiveness and unconditional love. The songs described a Messiah that had suffered for all the hurtful things I had done, and that He, not I, was given as a sacrifice for them, granting us atonement with God. People raised their hands in worship and swayed to the music in this presence of undeniable love.
It was thrilling to hear of someone actually giving His life in place of mine. Because of this love, this great and mighty love that God was freely giving, I remember being electrified about Him after that day. I accepted Yeshua as Messiah the next month.
After attending several churches for the next 10 years, a change took place in my perception of Bible text. The name Israel” became a flashing neon sign. It became apparent that Israel was about the Jewish people and that Yeshua honored reading Torah and celebrating Passover. He was the Lamb of God who made the final atonement for our sins.
A Jewish believer invited me to Adat Yeshua, a messianic congregation in Albuquerque, a three-hour drive away. During my first visit there I wept to hear the old songs and prayers that I had learned as a child. Yet there was something more. Yeshua was honored. I felt that I had finally found home.