Tag Archives: Christianity

Waiting to Inhale

*The following first appeared on ungrind.org. If you missed it the first time around, I hope you are blessed by it now.IMG_4880

The streets of Jerusalem are electrifying in the middle of the day. I love the business, the honking of horns, the way everyone, even perfect strangers, interact like one, big family.

Something stirs in my core to hear the ancient, resurrected, biblical language, Hebrew spoken in everyday, non-religious, simply familial or industrial circumstances.

Eifo ha’sheirutim? (Where is the restroom)?

Kama ze ole? (How much does this cost)?

Lama at lo medaberet ivrit adain? (Why don’t you speak Hebrew yet)?

After 10 months of living here, I still get misty-eyed at the sight of tzit-tzit, tallit, and kipot on the religious men. Reminders of who they are and whose they are.

And I’ve become of the opinion that the Orthodox Jewish women wear the most elegant of women’s fashions. Their hair piled high and majestically, covered with feminine and funky colored fabrics, revealing such strength and dignity in their countenances.

I was never so aware of my five senses as I am living here in the City of the Great King. I get to see and touch and hear and taste the treasures of the Land sought after by historians, theologians, and artists for millennia. But there is one thing that brings my feet to a serene halt on the busiest of streets, causing me to close my eyes, inhale deeply, and hold my breath as long as my lungs can endure before I slowly exhale. The fragrances of Israel are conclusively unmatched anywhere else I’ve traveled to. The warm Jerusalem breeze causes the Middle Eastern spices to mix with the fragrances of the oils, fresh baked breads and pastries, and fresh produce and flowers promised by God to His People and His Land. Together they produce an exotic bouquet that delights me like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

Smells have always aroused so much emotion in me. When I was a little girl one of my favorite fragrances in the entire world was the smell of tar and asphalt on my father’s work uniform. I loved that smell because it meant my father was home, the family was together, and we could settle into our evening routine.

For years after my daughters were no longer babies I brought Johnson & Johnson’s lavender bath baby wash and baby lotion as gifts to baby showers. The fragrance reminded me of the smells of my freshly washed, smooth skinned, all pajama’d up babies fresh from their sink bathing. I was enraptured nuzzling my nose over their bellies and their wild, dark hair. I wanted to make sure every new mommy I knew had the same experience with her babies.

To this day I smile and remember the campground showers of my adolescence when I gently squeeze a bottle of shampoo releasing a puff of air infused with a floral, buttery, fruity scent. That fragrance takes me back a couple decades and then I’m lost in the memory of bare feet, the desert heat, dark, tanned skin, and the Colorado River on the California/Arizona border.

And every Friday morning, with arms full after rushing around my neighborhood on foot to gather all the groceries my family will need for the weekend before all stores close for the Shabbat, I stop at the top of my apartment complex’s stairs before making the four-flight descent and breath in the tantalizing aroma of the chicken soup being prepared by the Jewish wives and mothers before they settle in to their day of rest.

What is it about the sense of smell that is so overwhelmingly powerful? While one smell can swiftly whisk you away to another time and place, another can cause your whole face wrinkle up in repulse or even cause your insides to twist and turn almost violently.

Over the last 10 months the Lord has brought me repeatedly back to the fact that He places great emphasis on the sense of smell; both the pleasant and the offensive.

On sixteen different occasions in the book of Leviticus, an “aroma” is mentioned as something pleasing to the Lord, specifically in reference to the sacrifices commanded by God.

In Isaiah chapter 1, the prophet is given a vision from the Lord. In it, the Lord conveys His feelings regarding the rebellion of His Beloved Israel against Him. He then speaks to the people of Judah and Jerusalem telling them that because their hearts are wicked, their sacrifices are displeasing to Him.

“Listen to the LORD, you leaders of Israel! Listen to the law of our God, people of Israel. You act just like the rulers and people of Sodom and Gomorrah. ‘I am sick of your sacrifices,’ says the LORD. ‘Don’t bring me any more burnt offerings! I don’t want the fat from your rams or other animals. I don’t want to see the blood from your offerings of bulls and rams and goats. Why do you keep parading through my courts with your worthless sacrifices? The incense you bring me is a stench in my nostrils!’”

God commanded these sacrifices of His people, but because of the atrocities of their rebellion, He now said they were a “stench in His nostrils!”

The concept of “fragrance” becomes much more personal to us Gentiles when we read through the teachings of the Apostle Paul. 2 Corinthians 2:15 tells us that we are the “sweet fragrance of Christ.”

On the night of June 15th, three Israeli boys were kidnapped on their way home from school. This event rocked the entire nation as we all felt that they were “our boys.” Just minutes after the news broke of their abduction, our neighbor, *Esther, an elderly Jewish woman from South Africa knocked on our door and with tears in her eyes asked, “Do I even need to ask you to pray for our boys to come home?”

I said, “Esther, we’ve been praying and we have Christian friends all over the world who are praying. Why don’t you and I pray together right now?” I took her precious hands and said, “Esther, you and I pray differently. Is it okay if I pray my way?” She said yes and we prayed.

Three weeks later the bodies of our boys were found and my thoughts immediately went to Esther. I knocked on her door and she came out with tears streaming down her face. I was at a loss for words until she reached for my hands and said, “Will you just hold my hands and pray like you did last time?”

I left her door that night keenly aware that there is a God-fragrance being carried from my home to hers.

[*Editor’s Note: Esther’s name has been changed.]

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I Won’t Relent

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The sun is slowly rising in the East over the Judean Desert mountains. I say slowly, but really it is rising at the perfect pace at which you sent it. The mountains are a soft, gray silhouette surrounded by a very faint blue into a pale, blush pink as the sky rises behind them. They’re ancient mountains, set in place since the beginning of time. Their shape may have changed over millennia, but their place has not. And just as they watched over Abraham close to 4,000 years ago, they watch over me now.

If the many stones and grains of dust could speak they would tell of a man and his family. An ordinary man with an extraordinary calling. A man of faith whose woman had many sorrows. They would tell of the bitter tears she cried and the strength of his embrace as he tried to comfort her. He was a man who acted in haste. A man who received forgiveness and through whom we all may receive salvation. He was a friend of God.

The sun continues to rise. Its colors are soft. Like sidewalk chalk sprawled across a residential walking path. They’re not quite the vibrant oil pastels smudged into a white canvas I was hoping for. But still, they captivate me. They hold my attention. And although I can see my breath before me and my skin is prickled with cold, I remain atop this balcony because I know before me is a lesson for the ages.

I breathe in the clean desert air as camels and donkeys sing in the distance accompanied by the crowing of a lonesome bird in harmony with a howling dog.

Today’s sunrise delivers a message to me. The sun rises in purity. It is not tainted by the opinion of the people it overshadows. It is 6:34 a.m. I’ve been sitting atop this sukkah awaiting its arrival for 15 minutes. And it arrived exactly when you sent it to.

If I stand now and say,

“Sun, I’ve been waiting for you for 15 minutes! You’re late!”

It doesn’t dim its brilliance, nor sink and inch and apologize. No! It continues to rise, never lacking one fragment of purpose.

If I prefer that it hold its rays another hour so that I can sleep in, it only continues to rise. It is defiant. It was sent on this day and at this time for a purpose designed by the God of the universe and it will not relent. And tomorrow’s sunrise is not affected by whether or not today’s colors and brilliance appeal to the desires of man.

You send it each day to serve many specific purposes: to give light and warmth and to cause life to grow and reproduce. And each day in boldness and radiant confidence it rises in pure unadulterated purpose.

My Lord, how many times have I hung my head, or slumped my shoulders, or hidden my tears, and turned from your purpose for me? And as I sit in this desert place where many a prophet heard from you, my mind still grows restless by the echo of old words.

“Your ways are too radical.”

“Your style is too emotional.”

“Your passion seems condemning.”

I stand before an unrelenting sun, yet I’m tempted to hide because of the opinions of man.

Lord, forgive me for digging my heels in behind this mountain. Forgive me for watching my surety die and for willingly burying it where it fell. You are the resurrection and the life. I implore you by your own mercies, breathe life upon it once more. I tune my ears to your voice and no longer to the opinions of man. Give me grace to rise in your time, surrounded by your brilliance, to perform your purpose in unmarred purity. I am yours and you say of me,

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

It’s 6:50 a.m. There she is in incandescence. Today her train is a soft, yet auspicious yellow. Tomorrow it may be blush, or violet. Regardless, she’ll be resolute. She’ll fulfill her purpose without hesitating. Just as I will.

 

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The Dance of Jerusalem Day

I wrote the following last year as a reflection of my time in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day. I decided to post it today in honor of Jerusalem Day 2012, which is tomorrow May 20th. Be blessed and sing with gladness for Israel!

This is what the Lord says:”Sing with joy for Jacob;shout for the foremost of the nations.Make your praises heard, and say,’Lord, save your people,the remnant of Israel.’ (Jeremiah 31:7 NIV)

Patrick & I have been home from Israel for over two weeks now and my days and  nights are still filled with precious thoughts of our amazing experience. Chief among them was having been in the Old City at the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day this year. As Patrick & I stood in the midst of thousands of dancing men I couldn’t help but imagine Jesus there dancing among them, a smile on His face, and tears flooding His eyes, as He celebrated the City that He loves. It is an experience I know I will never forget and I pray I will live out again many times. The following article was written by a dear friend of Bridges for Peace named Moshe Kempinski. As I read it I felt it painted a vivid picture of what we saw and experienced on that amazing night.

Please take time to read it and continue or begin a habit of praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

The Dance of Jerusalem Day

Written by Moshe Kempinski on May 31, 2011 – 2 Comments

Categories: Jerusalem Insights

President Obama would do well to listen to recordings of the radio broadcasts that were aired prior to the Six day war. This was prior to the formation of the 1967 lines precedent Obama seems to rely on. This was before Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland was returned to their ancestral tenants. Yet in spite of the fact there was not yet an Israeli controlled “west Bank” hatred was overabundant. Yet President Obama will probably not stop to listen, as he is too busy speaking.

Before those fateful days in June of 1967, the radio waves were filled with hatred and threats against the small sliver of a country called Israel. Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt declared on radio” We intend on beginningan all out campaign, it will be a total war and our basic purpose is theeradication of the Israeli state” (27.5.67). Ahmed Shukeiri the head of the Palestinian resistance movement also delivered the following statement:” Israelis who were born in Palestine that will still be alive after the war will be allowed to live in Palestine. But based on my best estimation not a single one of them will still be found alive.” (26.5.67)” Similar threats were being aired every day by leaders of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Even the darling of North American media, King Hussein of Jordan joined the war that began in June of 1967 with the following words,” Kill the Jews with everything that comes to your hands. Kill them with your arms, with your hands, with your nails and with your teeth.”

The days prior to those fateful days were days filled with prayers, concern and gloomy and dark fears. Then everything changed in a flash of divine intervention.” Thou didst turn for me my mourning into dancing; Thou didst loose my sackcloth, and gird me with gladness ;”(psalm 30:12).

In the summer of 1967 the radio broadcasts from Israelreported the following; The Kol Israel (Israel Radio) microphones held by the Israeli war correspondents were picking up the voices of battle and the commands and instructions of the commanders.  Amidst intermittent bullet fire one hears General Uzi Narkiss asking breathlessly, “Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?”

Israeli radio correspondent Yossi Ronen continues with following hesitant words, “I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall,” and his voice trails off into a silence of awe and tears .

In the background one could hear hoarse voices of battle weary soldiers screaming, “Shehechiyanu v’kiyimanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh — Blessed are You, L-rd G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day.” As Yossi Ronen and others answer “Amen,” Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the army, declares, “Baruch ata Hashem, menachem Tzion uvoneh Yerushalayim (Blessed are You, who comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem),” and again a loud and hoarse “Amen” is heard. At that point some of the soldiers begin to sing Israel’s National anthem, ‘HaTikva,’ .

Shots continue to be fired and soldiers continue to weep as Rabbi Shlomo Goren blows the shofar he has brought with him with mighty and crystal clear sounds. He then ends with the declaration, “L’Shana HAZOT b’Yerushalayim hab’nuya, b’Yerushalayim HaAtika! This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of Old!”

That shofar began a melody in my soul as well in the souls of many of my brethren .It began an eternal melody that has given direction to all those who attune their ears to hear. Only with that melody resonating in one’s soul one can step back and see the splendor of that which is being formed in our lifetime. With that melody in one’s heart one begins to see that regardless of the spiritual blindness of some of the builders the building continues.

This past week has seen thousands come through the gates of the old city, to sing dance and pray. Yesterday a group of seemingly secular Jews formed a circle at the foot of the Hurva synagogue and began to sing songs of Jerusalem. One man then pulled out a large shofar and began to blow. He was soon followed by another. Within minutes there several  shofars “ singing” with the circle of people.

Tonight again, as always the streets of the old city will be filled with tens of thousands of people coming to celebrate within the walls of the eternal city. It is then that I always remember the dancing man.

Several  years ago in preparation for the thousands of people who were going to be dancing with Israeli flags, through all the gates of the Old City on Jerusalem Day, a music and record company had set up a booth outside of our shop. Their speakers were playing Jewish Chassidic music throughout that whole Jerusalem Day.

Early in the day I saw an older man walking across the square and stop when he heard the music. He turned to two strangers who were walking in the same direction, grabbed their hands and started dancing with them. They danced but soon left him, yet he continued to dance alone. Very quickly several other people joined him in a circle. When they eventually left he continued to dance on his own until he was joined by others. When one disc had ended and there was a pause before the next music disc was put on, he still continued to dance. It was obvious that the melody he heard was not coming from the speakers. A group of young secular children walked by and smiled at the dancing man. He beckoned to them to join him and they hesitated. They did not hesitate for long as they probably saw the melody burning in his eyes and another circle began to form.

Within minutes a group of young soldiers joined in and the circles became larger and one circle formed within another one. The dancing man continued to sway and dance in the middle. Everybody he touched or danced with him left the encounter a little bit changed. Even those who did not join but preferred to watch or dance from a distance heard the very same melody that had captured this dancing man’s soul. It was a melody exuding from every move of his feet and sway of his upturned arms. The dancing man continued alone or in circles with others for a very long time.

Finally, when the first wave of marchers came through the Jewish Quarter on their way to the Western Wall, he was swept up with them, lost in the flowing blue and white flags. I followed him for a part of the way until he became enveloped by the growing joyful crowd. Yet he never stopped dancing.

President Obama may keep speaking but we will never stop dancing

The melody that began in the mighty blast of the Shofar at Mount Sinai and then continued in the blast that I heard from the shofar of Rabbi Goren over forty years ago and continued to run  through the soul of this dancing man . That melody was the very “song of Hashem.”

As the Psalmist writes in Tehillim 137: “How shall we sing the L-rd’s song (the song of Hashem) in a strange land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its strength. If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I don’t prefer Jerusalem over and above my chief joy.”

It is a song that cannot be sung in a “strange land,” and at times it is even forgotten. Yet those that have not forgotten the melody will find themselves drawn back to the land of their forefathers and brought up into the Gates of Jerusalem. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of Hashem!’ Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.A city that is re-united ( Chubra Yachdav) together” (Tehillim 122:1-3)

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach – May we soon see Yerushalayim completely rebuilt, with the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple)!

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My Easter Tribute

The rabbis teach that a prayer is not an actual prayer, unless it begins with blessing God.

Father God, Abba, I praise you this morning from the depths of my soul. I bless your Holy Name; the name that is above every other name. Every fiber of my being this morning shouts out praise and adoration and thanksgiving for who you are and all you’ve done. There is no person, being, or power greater than you. Many and great are your enemies, yet they fail and falter and fall defeated by the mere whisper of your son’s mighty name: Jesus.

This morning I anticipate the celebration of your resurrection tomorrow morning. Scholars and theologians may debate the physical calendar dates or whether you remained in the grave for 3 actual 24 hour days. But this morning sitting in my humanness, completely aware of what I would be and where I would be headed had it not been for your finished work on the cross and by conquering death and the grave, I have no argument. All I can do is command my soul to bless you and to cry out It is finished! IT-IS-FINISHED!

            Yesterday we remembered mankind’s darkest hours. Oh what it must have been like to be there on that dreadful day! Oh the anguish you must have felt upon uttering the very words that would seal your fate: “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” What torment your mind and spirit must have gone through at the increasing relevance of being both natural and supernatural. My precious Savior, your heart must have shattered to a million pieces as you watched mankind thirst for your blood in such an animalistic display of hate and violence. Did you for one second regret ever creating us? Like you did in the days of Noah? Did your eyes plead with Judas, for his sake and for yours as you knelt and tenderly washed the grime off of his feet? Did the sword of your own words return to pierce your heart when Peter, one of your three dearest friends denied he knew you? He denied three years of close intimate friendship! He denied the moment upon the mountain where you selected him to be among the three you would reveal yourself to in fullness. He denied your calming of the sea and your feeding of the 5,000. He lied! He lied at your expense.

My sweet Jesus, lover of my soul, my most intimate friend, I did this to you. I mocked you and slandered you and betrayed you and denied you. My adulterous, murdering, lying ways sent you to the cross. My pride pounded the nails deep into your wrists and feet. My placement of other gods before you mockingly pushed the crown of thorns into your head. And my betrayal and denial were the sword thrust into your side causing blood and water to flow.

You were the perfect lamb, spotless in every way, which was chosen as a final sacrifice for my sin.

Your word tells us that in the days following your death you went into the darkest pit and you fought. You fought for me; the very one whose sin condemned you to death. You fought like a champion for the heart of His beloved. You conquered death and the grave and you now hold their keys. You fought and killed my depression. You placed upon my head a crown of beauty. You redeemed my future. Chains of fear and condemnation and hate and anger and lust and jealousy and pride once bound me. But it was for freedom you set me free. Freedom. Freedom! I walk free, and speak free, and live free all for the sake of your glory. My freedom was purchased with your love.

That would have been enough. For a man to love me so much that he would literally take my place in death would have been enough for me. But, it wasn’t enough for you. You did the unconceivable when on the third day you rose from the dead. You fulfilled your word, death could not hold you, and you came back.

I’ll sing your praise forevermore.

I’ll live for the sake of your fame in all the earth.

I won’t compromise and I won’t back down.

I will command my soul daily to bless you.

I’ll dance a crazy dance, for you have displayed extravagant love.

I’ll shout from the rooftops:

“You are my God!

You are my God!

You are my God!

You are my God!

You are my God!”

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Living for Eternity

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

I don’t know any more accurate words to describe the world’s most treasured book. I’ve heard it described as a “love letter” from God. And although each word is etched strategically to convey God’s love to us and for us, the words “love letter” are not the words God chooses to describe this ancient piece of history, prophecy, and literature. Nor does He refer to it as our “daily bread.” Yes. I recognize the desperate need we, as Christians have to eat of it daily. And, boy do I notice the difference in me when I don’t! But again, God never calls His word our daily bread. Nor does He refer to it as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Yet, it serves as thus. Rather He chooses to paint for us a picture of a living, breathing organism. God says that His Word is alive. This imagery gives me physical chills up my spine! His Word is alive! As I begin to view God’s Word as living, I can’t help but to travel back to some of my fondest memories, as well as those I’d like to forget, and in each slide-picture in my mind I now see the companionship of a constant friend, the Word of God.

God also chooses to give us the word picture of a sword. Not just any old sword, though. He describes one with two edges so that no matter which way it is used, it leaves the person penetrated and forever affected and scarred by its powerful blow. He also says that the one wounded would be laid bare before God and man.

Viewing God’s Word from this perspective has led me to recognize specific times in my life I have felt the piercing of God’s Word.

My earliest memory was around the time I received Jesus as Lord. I was only 4 or 5 years old, but I remember vividly my spirit responding to the Word of God. My Sunday School teacher was teaching us about the Apostle Peter’s restoration after Jesus’ resurrection. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” And three times Peter replied, “Lord, you know that I do.” And with Jesus’ final response my little spirit quickened by a divine piercing. “Then feed my sheep.” That moment and that story would be significant to me for the rest of my life. However, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties and pastoring young adults that I recognized God was calling me at 4 or 5 years old to feed his beloved sheep.

I will bear the scar for the rest of my life from the incision I received upon reading “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” In Psalm 122:6 when I was 19 years old. And I am a daily reflection of 1 Corinthians 1:27 which says, But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

But there is one specific passage I have been inflicted with at a much deeper level than many of the others.

“All these great people died in faith. They did not get the things that God promised his people, but they saw them coming far in the future and were glad. They said they were like visitors and strangers on earth. When people say such things, they show they are looking for a country that will be their own. If they had been thinking about the country they had left, they could have gone back. But they were waiting for a better country—a heavenly country. So God is not ashamed to be called their God, because he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

 This is the one I have not been able to “shake myself awake” from since the first time I memorized it 16 years ago. It profoundly infiltrated every facet of my life to where I was left with no option, but to attempt to live it out daily.

I left home when I was 19 years old and never returned. Why? I love my mother and father and brother and sister passionately. I have the fondest memories of our God-allotted time together. But since leaving, the word home has not resonated with me as a physical, earthly place. I weep today because of the pain these words may have caused them over the years, but I receive comfort from my father’s words, which I have heard him speak on countless occasions:

     “I gave the three of you over to God.”

And I receive assurance from my Heavenly Father’s Words as revealed in the following story from Mark chapter 10:

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”

 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it isto enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

I shudder at the Truth of God’s Word realizing that He included the prospect of leaving children. This is where the sword digs deeper. And is that a scraping I feel as He divides my soul and spirit? Is it possible that I may one day drive or fly my most treasured valuables, my two daughters, to a far off place where we part with an all-encompassing embrace, a kiss whose memory I will try to draw from until eternity, and the most fervent prayer I have ever prayed? Will I repeat my father’s words?

I gave the two of you over to God.

 More weeping.

This is living for eternity. I am only a stranger, a visitor here on earth. I live looking forward to the day I find myself in the place I can truly call home. I have left homes, and mother and father, and brother and sister. I have surrendered material belongings and lived in scarcity. I have sat and feasted at the table of kings according to this world’s system, only to consume the meal of a pauper the next day; all for the sake of the Kingdom.

Please don’t misconstrue my words as arrogant or boastful. My longing is that I may never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. (Galatians 6:14)

But rather, receive my words as an explanation for the seemingly unconventional way I live my life, and as an invitation to meditate on the same agonizing passages of scripture I have been wounded by.

In light of the clarity expressed in God’s Word and after contemplative surveying of my most prized possessions, I am faced with the same challenge every day:

     Will I live for eternity or will I live for today?

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Lessons from a Mega Church

Driving away from the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas yesterday morning and through the desert, 45 minutes to the small town of Indian Springs, felt a lot like coming home after being gone for far too long. Some things were exactly as I remembered them: The casino where we’d have late night meals after church services, the gas station where we’d spend way too much money on soda, chips, and Chester Fried Chicken, the high school, and the park.

And then there was the church.

This tiny little military building stands as a literal oasis in this dessert town. It is a place where people have found hope, restoration, and acceptance for decades. It is in this place that I, and at least a hundred other young adults over the years, began to get our “feet wet” in ministry. Several nights every year were spent in this tiny church ministering to the children, youth, and adults of this tiny town. Our days were spent doing school assemblies in the high school gym, and outreaches in the park. We would roll into town with our team and vans and trailers filled with props and costumes and sound equipment and for the rest of the week we would be used to impact the town for God and then pack up and roll out until the following year.

Now I was returning after five years away.

Yes. Many things were just as I had left them. But many things had definitely changed. Over all, the people had changed. The children were taller, the youth were now married and having families, and the adults… many of their faces were now inscribed with the beautiful lines that told of their many joys and sorrows.

My first encounter with Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV was in the summer of 2000. I was at the Christ for the Nations Institute youth camp, Youth for the Nations, along with two other team mates, recruiting for the discipleship program I helped lead. I was ministering in an afternoon session when I noticed the face of a young man sitting in the front row. There was something about the smile on his face and the joy in his eyes that kept drawing me back to him. I know now that it was God shining through him that kept bringing me to stop and speak right in front of him; almost directly to him.

Through that young man I met Pastor Kimmie Guerino, a woman who would challenge me for the rest of my life to be who God created me to be, to serve exactly where God has placed me, and to love people fiercely without the guarantee of a transformed life. The message of love recorded in I Corinthians chapter 13 is etched in her DNA, pumps through her veins, and saturates the lives of every person she spends time with.

Pastor Kimmie grew up in Indian Springs, and in a sense has never left. Through the years she has poured herself out on the people of the town. She has given of her time, money, and energy so that the people she loves would know the love of Jesus. And many times she has waited, like the father in Luke chapter 15. He waited for the return of his son and when he saw him still a ways off, he ran to meet him. I have seen Pastor Kimmie welcome the wayward sons and daughters of Indian Springs with honor and dignity and freedom from all judgment.

She has prayed for, cried with, and personally trained the youth of her town. And when many pastors would have tried with all of their might to keep these young people in order to build up their churches, Pastor Kimmie, using her own personal resources, sent them off to the very ends of the earth in order to build God’s church.

Today I want to honor Pastor Kimmie and I want to honor Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV. I also want to honor Jesus’ Bride, His Body, the Church; which is comprised of many tiny churches. These are churches of which without them the Body could not function.

I Corinthians 12: 12 tells us that the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.

We will probably never see Pastor Kimmie televised live preaching to a sports stadium filled with hundreds of thousands of people. But, we also may never see Joel Osteen, Bishop TD Jakes, or Francis Chan knocking on the doors of the homes in Indian Springs delivering Christmas gifts to their families or bringing the elderly to a community meal. These highly influential men of God cannot boast of the same hundreds of young people Pastor Kimmie has personally discipled since they were babies and sent out for the sake of the Kingdom. They also cannot boast of the many who have married and are raising families. They bought homes just outside of town. Yet, they make the 45 minute drive every week, often twice or three times a week out of hope that they might impact the town the same way Pastor Kimmie has impacted them.

For many years I found myself listening to the ever popular spiel about church growth. And I have walked away from those sessions with a very judgmental eye. There was a time, I am ashamed to admit, when I would walk into a church and take the liberty to point out every reason they were not “growing.”

I wonder if the same finger pointing was going on in the Church in Corinth. Maybe the “mega churches” were instructing the smaller churches to be more like them in order to “grow.” Maybe, just maybe this is why Paul taught them that “the body is made up of many parts.”

I wonder if the little churches looked at the mega churches and thought, “we might be better off to dissolve ourselves and join them.” Maybe their feelings of inferiority caused Paul to teach that if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

I am beginning to learn, as I step into every type of church imaginable across this nation that if the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the Body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.

 He placed Pastor Matthew Barnnett in the inner city of Los Angeles to reach the addicts and prostitutes and gang members. He placed Pastor Bill Johnson in Redding, CA to be an agent for His miracles to flow through. And He placed Pastor Kimmie Guerino in Indian Springs, NV to reach the people who might be missed as others drive through the desert giving little or no attention to its inhabitants.

If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one Body. (I Corinthians 12:14-20)

This weekend I walked into Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV, looked around at the less than 50 people sitting in the seats and realized that all of these years I was honored to be speaking in one of our nation’s only, true mega churches.

Pastor Kimmie Guerino along with members of Echoes of Faith Church.

*Note: Every year Pastor Kimmie , through Echoes of Faith Church, provides Christmas gifts to the families living in Indian Springs, and takes about 20 to 30 the Youth For the Nations camp in Dallas, TX at the cost of $400.00 per individual. She also provides a monthly meal for the elderly of the community. If you would like to give to Echoes of Faith to help with the costs of these projects please contact me and I will get you in contact with pastor Kimmie.

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What’s the Deal?! Part 1

Patrick & me on the Mt. of Olives. Our first trip to Israel.

I’m sitting with my family of four in our tiny 2-door Honda Accord driving through Kansas City. Our car is loaded down with everything we need for five weeks of life and ministry. In the next five weeks we are schedule for over 20 meetings in six states. Just a few hours ago I was finishing up the last few of our dirty dishes before locking up our house to leave. I was listening to CFNI’s You Are Holy when I was overcome by the powerful sense that I was preparing to do the very thing I was born to do. I’m not talking about that thing that wedges itself into your heart and mind when an inspirational speaker at youth camp preaches a message about dreams. I’m talking about actualizing my role in God’s plan on the earth.

We will spend the next five weeks speaking to young adults about God’s heart for Israel. We will be teaching them what the Bible says concerning Israel and equipping them to stand with and bless the nation of Israel the Jewish people.

When Patrick & I first got involved with this ministry I was asked the same question by several people.  And even now, upon meeting new people, I receive the same question:

Are you Jewish?

No. I’m not Jewish. I’m Mexican-American.

Well then, did you grow up around a lot of Jewish people and Jewish culture?

No. I grew up in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods and can’t remember having even one Jewish friend while I was growing up.

Well, then why Israel? Why do you love the Jewish people so much? What’s the deal with Israel?

I love Israel and the Jewish people so much because when I was four years old I met and fell in love with a Jewish rabbi named Yeshua, Jesus. At the same time I met and fell in love with His Bride, the Church. And as I learned to walk with Jesus I also fell in love with His Word. And as I read through His Word I find that from Genesis 12 through Revelation 22, God is speaking to Israel, about Israel, or giving us instructions for living because those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior are grafted into the Olive Tree, Israel.

If I had to pin-point one specific time when I began loving Israel I would have to go back to some of my earliest childhood memories growing up in church. I loved hearing the Bible stories taught each week in Sunday School. And I especially loved the flannel graph pictures. One of my favorite stories was the story of Peter’s restoration over breakfast after Jesus is resurrected to life. I remembering thinking about how great it would have been to be alive during Bible times living in all of the places I heard about from my Sunday School teacher. I remember the excitement and jubilation that always enveloped our church during the Easter season as we prepared for our annual Easter production; the costumes and music, and the massive sets constructed to turn the entire sanctuary into a Jerusalem market place. It was all so exciting! Little did I know that the Lord was beginning to plant the tiniest seeds and that one day they would flower and bear fruit.

There were sporadic times since then when the Lord brought my heart back to Israel. But the one moment that stands out to me was when I was 19 years old. I had just moved back home after a year of discipleship and ministry training in Phoenix, AZ. It was my first Sunday morning back in my home church – an elementary school cafeteria. For some reason I had the hardest time entering into worship that morning, so I sat down with my Bible on my lap and began reading the first page it opened to. My eyes fell on Psalm 122:6 –Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…

I had read that verse and heard it quoted thousands of times since I was a little girl. There was even a popular song on Christian radio when I was kid that said “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” So I’m sure I had even sung those words before. But this time I knew that something significant was set in motion when my eyes fell on those words.

I’d like to say that I immediately began studying everything I could about Israel and Jewish culture and that I even began taking courses in conversational Hebrew. But I didn’t. The truth is, I didn’t do one single thing in regards to Israel for a lot of years. However, I always knew Israel would play out in some way in my life.

I spent the next 12 years of my life working for and directing an intense discipleship and ministry training school for young adults. I met and married my husband and we had our two daughters and we worked hard and gave of our time and energy and resources to discipling young people.

We loved our ministry and the young people we ministered to very much and never would have chosen to leave it or them. However, in 2007, the Lord used a series of painful events to show us that our time there was done. We graduated our last class that May and instead of sending our resume` out to other churches we believed we were to wait. Wait for what? We were not sure except that we knew God would direct us.

We spent some of the darkest days of our lives from 2007-2009. We experienced what felt like the death of our ministry, a horrible miscarriage, painfully critical words from people we loved, and destructive, invading lies from the enemy during that time. I can recall many dark moments with my face buried in the couch as I screamed at God for abandoning me. And then I would feel so heavily condemned for those thoughts that I’d end up with my face in the couch again, this time begging God for His forgiveness.

It was at the end of this dark period, when we were sure that we would never do ministry again, that we were introduced to Bridges for Peace. We were invited to attend a conference in Florida. We had every intention of going, but then time got away and our lives got busy. Our oldest daughter started school that fall, my grandfather got deathly ill and we had to drive to California, and then there was the constant lack of finances. About one week before the conference, as we were packing to go to California to say our good-bye’s to my grandfather, we got a phone call. The gentleman on the phone began telling me that funds were raised to fly both me and Patrick to the conference and to cover our conference registration, which included an evening at Disney World. After a quick conversation where I was told to expect another phone call where I would be given flight information I sat on my couch thinking Who are these people?! Funds were raised? By people we had never met before?

A few days later, and still under a very dark cloud, we found ourselves in Cocoa, FL hearing a message that we had never heard before. We were hearing and reading scriptures and passages that we had read and heard since we were both children. But we had never had them presented this way. And the more surprising thing was that they were making more sense to us than ever before. We received hours of teaching and never grew bored. We were the foolish ones sitting at the edge of our seats with our mouths wide open in awe. I felt, for the first time in my life, the Word of God as a double-edged sword. I could almost physically feel it piercing to the division of my soul and spirit. It was just the Word. But it wasn’t presented as symbolic or allegorical. It was presented as the history of an actual people and an actual Land. And it was presented as prophetic word concerning an actual people and an actual Land. And I was taught that it was my history and prophetic word concerning me because I’ve been grafted into that people. The Word became more exciting to me that night than ever in my life.

The next morning we were in a time of prayer for Israel. I’ll be honest, I was a bit intimidated. I hoped we wouldn’t have to lead out loud. I had been in church my entire life and now I was wondering How do you pray for Israel? I knelt at the altar silently listening to the prayers in the room. And then, feeling no pressure to, I began crying out to God. I don’t remember what I said word for word, but it had to do with all the years that I spent discipling young adults and how I had missed a vital part of God’s Word – His heart for, words to and about, and His plan for Israel and the Jewish people.

Patrick & I decided that if God ever chose to put us in a position of influence with young people again our focus would be the entirety of His Word; which from Genesis chapter 12 to Revelation chapter 22 is centered on Israel.

So, here I am watching the sun set over the plains of Kansas heading to Colorado.

The Eastern Gate from the Mt. of Olives. Jesus will return here and enter the city through these gates!

The Western Wall.

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