Tag Archives: prayer

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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Undone

I prayed a dangerous prayer recently. I know better than to do that. I didn’t recklessly pray a dangerous prayer. I knew exactly what I would be getting myself into. But I did it anyway.

I began slowly reading through Psalm 119 several weeks ago. I love to read David’s passion for Torah. He loved the Word of God! He loved the Law. He recognized it as so much more than a list of do’s and don’t’s. He saw it for what it is – God reaching out to teach us how to live a life that leads to Him, because He loves us so much. As I read words like:

Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,

that I may follow it to the end. 

Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law 

   and obey it with all my heart. 
Direct me in the path of your commands, 
   for there I find delight. 
 Turn my heart toward your statutes 
   and not toward selfish gain. 
 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; 
   preserve my life according to your word.
 Fulfill your promise to your servant, 
   so that you may be feared. 
 Take away the disgrace I dread, 
   for your laws are good. 
How I long for your precepts! 
   In your righteousness preserve my life.

passion ignited a fire in me to know and love the Word like David did. This yearning was further inflamed as I watched this video:

(click on link)

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This video sent me like a ravenous beast to the Word. I got such an urgency to know the Word. To truly know it. To know the text, not the just the tradition. For the text to become more powerful in my life than the tradition of scripture. And then I prayed the dangerous prayer.

“Lord, undo me with your Word. Strip me down and rebuild me with your Word.”

That prayer led me into a season of assault. It seems that every time I read the Word I walk away with deep afflictions. I’m not talking about condemnation. I know better than that. I’m talking about a gut wrenchingly deep conviction that only comes from the Holy Spirit.

In his book Me, Myself, and Bob, Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales details the brokeness he went through as he lived out the loss of his company, Big Idea. The illustration he used was a mirror image to what I am walking through right now. I hope Phil doesn’t mind my sharing it with you.

     There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader involving Eustace, a boy so selfish, prideful, and greedy that he wakes up one day to find he has literally turned into a dragon. Life as a dragon proves so lonely and the dragon skin so uncomfortable that he soon longs to return to his friends, longs to be human again. In this scene, Aslan the lion leads Eustace the dragon to a pool. Eustace enters the pool and tries unsuccessfully to scratch off the aching dragon skin. Then Aslan says, “Lie down. This is going to hurt.” And with a long, terrible claw, Aslan digs deep into Eustace’s skin, ripping it wide open. It is the most painful thing Eustace has ever experienced, but when it is over, he stands up, a boy again. Reborn.

This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately.The double-edged sword is cutting deep into me, exposing everything that I am and everything that I’m not. And there is no process I’d rather be walking through right now than the process I’m in. I want to be reborn. I want people, friends, my husband and children to look at me and see a mirror image of God’s Word. I want to speak and reason according to the Word. I want love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and self-control to spring forth ripe and sweet from within me.

The process I’m in is good and it is God. However, it is one which would make it easy for a person to sink into self-loathing. God is so good, though!  In all of his love and perfection He  led me tonight to the following video. I pray it blesses you  and reaffirms the Father’s passionate love for you, as it did me.

(Click on link)

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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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