They Will Know Us By Our Love

Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel for a Bible tour; it was a trip that expanded my world view and opened my eyes to new cultures. It was a trip that opened my heart to people who the media says I should stay away from and be scared of. This past week, I returned from an incredible journey back to the Holy Land. Last year’s trip was hit me is a historical and factual way–which I really needed: to see the Bible in front of me. This year, though…wow, this year’s trip hit me in a spiritual that I, honestly, wasn’t expecting. Much like Scripture is living and breathing and can affect us in different ways in different seasons, my time in the Holy Land was different in a different season of life (even if it was only a year later).

After a day full of flying (and 30 minutes of some persistent Israeli questioning), our team met up in the airport in Israel. The only thing missing? 9 of our bags. But even that couldn’t keep us down. That evening, our team began to form a bond like no other. The Lord definitely hand-picked this team. Almost instantly a community and family was born.

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The view from our hotel in Nazareth.

After spending the night in Nazareth, we had a quick shopping trip the next morning before starting our hike. I got some “Salomons” at a shop in the market. My first warning sign should have been that I could see the glue holding the soles to the shoe. But the man selling them assured me they were good shoes. =) Definitely not real Salomons. Definitely not good shoes. A couples miles into our hike, I could tell something wasn’t quite right. We stopped at a gas station, and I surveyed the damage. Yikes. Within a couple of miles, I had some pretty gnarly blisters. I sterilized some scissors with an alcohol prep pad, popped those suckers, and started walking again. Not going to lie–it was quite uncomfortable and felt every rock along the Jesus Trail.

BUT the Lord definitely taught me through those first few days in Israel. I’m normally a fast-walker, but that wasn’t exactly an option. Instead, I walked in the back of the group…slowly but surely. I took time to enjoy the beauty of the landscape (and to take a lot of pictures =) ). The past few years the Lord has been showing me my pride and teaching me about humility and this fit right into those lessons. Side note: careful praying for humility…the Lord will most likely give that to you. Oh boy, oh boy…

Time on the trail was awesome (really–exhibiting/marked by awe!). Our team grew closer as we hiked, studied Scripture, shared our stories (and our part in the Story), and just hung out together.

The inside of the girls' yurt that we stayed in one night on the trail.

The inside of the girls’ yurt that we stayed in one night on the trail.

Our last day on the trail was my 25th birthday. My sweet, sweet friend M.E. made sure to make it the best day ever. On top of being in Israel (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places on Earth), there were surprises all day long! When we finished the hike down the back of Mt. Arbel (probably my favorite hike of the trip), there were balloons and party hats all around. Such a fun surprise! That night at dinner, I was surprised with a birthday cake complete with a Palestinian candle. So, so fun. The team also gave me a sweet birthday card. I re-read it this morning and was so blessed by that crew all over again. 25 is one for the record books, my friends.

Check out that candle!

Check out that candle!

After that begin a time of ministry in the West Bank. We hosted an eye clinic and kids camp in an area that had never had a team from the U.S. before. This was a sweet, sweet time for all of us. Our team did a great job being flexible, stepping up and stepping out, and deeply loving the people of this town. I had the opportunity to spend some time with a sweet, sweet family on evening. They served us roughly six courses and told us we needed to eat more! eat more! During this time, we talked about life, family, and all kinds of other things. Precious Grandma Hani didn’t speak English, but we became fast friends. I told her that she reminded me of my grandmother because she has so much joy….and a whole bunch of grandchildren.

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After our time in the West Bank, we headed to Jerusalem for a couple of days. Our first night there, we went to the Western Wall. I’d visited here last year, but it honestly didn’t mean that much to me. This year I was struck in a whole new way. The people there were praying so fervently with so much passion. But they don’t know Jesus. What if this passion for the law was turned into a passion for Jesus, the One who has overcome the law? What if those of us who confess Jesus as Lord had this much passion for Him?

On top of the wall is the Dome of the Rock. This is another place of worship entangled in legalism. We were there during Ramadan. This was a historic year, as Israel allowed Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza to come into the Old City and worship at the Dome. We got in the midst of the crowds one day and goodness–that was a lot of people! It was expected that there would be 250,000 Muslims in the City. As we heard calls to prayer and “sermons” I was heartbroken for these people. They’re fasting and worshipping in vain. It is will never satisfy them and is a futile effort to be close to God. However, the Lord has been known to do incredible things amongst Muslims during Ramadan. As they are searching and praying for God to reveal Himself, join me in praying that He would reveal Himself in the face of Jesus. Pray that Jesus could come to them in dreams and visions even tonight–that they would experience His peace and love.

My prayer is for the walls of legalism to begin to come down within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Lord, reveal true self to those who worship within those walls! Jesus, make Yourself known to them!

While we were in Jerusalem, I made the only spontaneous decision I think I’ve ever made (take that, Type A personality!) and changed my ticket to stay a couple of extra days (grateful for a workplace that allowed me to do this!). The extra days gave me the opportunity to go to the Negev Desert with part of our team.

This was an absolutely out of this world experience! We spent the night with Magdalene and her husband, Bedouins who live in the desert. Her English was minimal (but more than our Arabic!) so the evening was spent telling stories through a lot of charades and pictionary. This was such a special night. Magdalene has been having some interesting dreams for the past couple of years. I know that the Lord is working in her. Please join me in praying for this new friend. 

Our team laid hands on her and prayed for healing and for her to know Jesus. We shared the Gospel with her, the best medicine we know. We aren’t sure how much she understood, but we know that the word of the Lord does not return void (Isaiah 55:10-11).

After Magdalene and her family went to bed, we had a sweet time of worship under the stars. After that, we had dance party complete with glow sticks in the middle of the desert (don’t worry, the IDF didn’t shut us down =) ).

The next morning, Magdalene fixed us a delicious breakfast, and we said our goodbyes. I don’t think any of us really wanted to leave. Her sweet, hospitable spirit made us want to spend even more time with her.

Breakfast from M!

Breakfast from M!

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Thanks to ME for capturing this!

Thanks to ME for capturing this!

Our "hotel" for the evening.

Our “hotel” for the evening.

After another day in Jerusalem, it was time for me to head back to the States. I have never had such a hard time leaving a country or a team. Most of the time I’m ready to go back at the end of the trip; I feel as though the trip is over, and it is time to go home. This time was different. I felt no closure in leaving. I wanted to stay and learn more, grow more, meet more people. I know that I will be back…hopefully sooner rather than later.

I learned a lot on this trip about my sin and somethings I have been wrestling with overwhelmed me a bit, but that’s a post for another day. One of the greatest lessons I learned is that the power of the Holy Spirit is real. The Spirit can overcome language barriers, race barriers, and cultural barriers. We saw this first hand as countless people told our team they a difference in our team in the way we loved each other and the way we interacted with each person we met.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” -Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7

There is so much more to say, but that’s enough for today. I would love to talk to you more, show you more pictures, and pray for the peace of the Middle East with you. The Lord is at work in the Middle East. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to see a glimpse of this first hand and to meet some of the families who are boldly sharing their faith in a part of the world the rest of the world wants to run away from. Thank you for your prayers, thank you for the sweet birthday messages while I was gone, and thank you for joining me on this fun journey the Lord has allowed me to be a part of.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” For my brothers and companions' sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” -Psalm 122:6-8

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Psalm 122:6-8

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Israel Highlights

I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a bit of traveling in my 24 years, but I just got back from a trip full of firsts: first trip to the Middle East, first trip where the day is planned based on where rockets were shot the night before, first trip to a country under terrorist attack, first trip where I rode on an armored bus, first trip where the plane took off and then made an emergency landing…just to name a few.

Before we left for Israel, people kept telling me to be safe and questioning if our trip was even happening. I didn’t even think twice about it–I was going to the Holy Land! Our journey there was long but smooth (although some of our group had some hiccups along the way!). We spent our first night in Natanya where I got to go paragliding over the Mediterranean Sea. Such an amazing experience with gorgeous views!

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The next morning we went to Caesarea and then headed to the Galilee region. This is where 29 out of 36 of Jesus’ documented miracles happened. Whoa. Talk about surreal! One day, we went up to the Golan Heights where we could look into Syria. Right before we walked up, there was an explosion–we could see the smoke as we got to the top. Things we see on the news became real to us. My trip highlight was having the honor of praying on our team’s behalf for our e3 leaders and brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq and Syria as we looked out at their countries from the Golan Heights. I was reminded how privileged I am to live in a country where I can worship Jesus freely without the threat of being crucified (as believers in Syria have been) and without persecution. Join me in remembering to pray for the believers in these nations. They are brave and bold, and their faith is strong.

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The day we transitioned to the Jerusalem area, we spent time in Ariel. Ariel is located in Judea/Samaria which is the so-called “West Bank.” What a cool town! We saw their cultural and performing arts center, a Holocaust memorial and museum, and a leadership training center started and operated by JH Ranch.

Because of the road we needed to take from there, the tour company we were with required us to take a 19 ton armored bus. This is a safety precaution they always take for travelers going this way. Just before we got to our destination, the bus broke down. Since we were close, we walked the rest of the way to Shiloh (where the tabernacle was for 369 years). How ironic! We needed an armored bus but ended up walking.

Then we were off to Jerusalem! I could talk for hours about what I saw and learned here. But one thing in particular sticks out–rockets.

Before leaving, we were told not to believe all of what we see and hear about Israel in the media. Solid advice. But as you probably saw this past week, Hamas did begin shooing rockets into Israel….lots of rockets. Our leaders had people with their ears to the ground finding out where we needed to change our itinerary. We were told what to do when the sirens went off, and the hotel gave all of us one of these:

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One afternoon, myself and three other girls on our trip went to the outdoor mall next to our hotel to go to a coffee shop we’d heard a lot about. It was delicious! As we sat and enjoyed our coffee, we talked about the trip so far and how at peace we felt, even in the midst of the rockets and the West’s perception of Israel. The light from the window created a rainbow across our table so we talked about Genesis 9 when the rainbow appears, symbolizing the covenant God makes with Noah (and all of us!). ME started taking some cool pictures:

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As we did this, the sirens went off. Everyone calmly got up and walked to stand under an awning. I looked up an saw this followed by four loud BOOMs:

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The Iron Dome in action! As we were taking pictures of the verses that tell us about God’s promise, we were reminded of some of His other promises–the Jews are God’s chosen people, Israel is indeed the Holy Land, He is a God of protection, Jesus is the peace that surpasses all understanding. What an absolute blessing to really experience the peace that surpasses all understanding in the Holy Land among God’s chosen people.

We met several people who thanked us for coming to Israel and for staying even when the rocket attacks started. Our staying and not letting the attacks scare us or make us want to leave served as an encouragement for our friends in Israel. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness and the peace He provides!

We had the opportunity to hear from Michael Zinn, a Jewish believer who works with Chosen People Ministries. I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say and loved his testimony. One thing he said that really hit me was that people “want to see to what extent your life is responding to the Bible.” He went on to sat that in Hebrew, the works for word and deed is the same–does what we say really match what we’re doing?

Do we really believe that “to live is Christ and to die is gain,” or are they just words that sound good? Do we really believe that following Jesus closely causes us to live in peace, or are we always anxious and worried? Do we really believe that the Lord is all knowing and all powerful and that He has our best interests in mind?


 

You probably also saw on the news the Delta flight that took off from Tel Aviv, circled for 2 hours, and landed again due to a mechanical issue. Yup. That was our flight. The plan wasn’t exactly communicated very well so we weren’t sure what was going on. We ended up being bussed to hotels that all ran out of rooms. My roommate on the trip and I shared a fold out chair in two friends’ room.

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We went to bed at 6:30 that morning and actually got some rest. That evening, we went back to the airport for our 10:30 flight.

This trip was great for so many reasons. The Lord reminded me that adventure is always out there and that He has me in the palm of His hand. I got to walk where Jesus walked and see firsthand where the foundations of my faith were laid. My worldview was expanded greatly as I realized how incredibly ignorant I am to things going on in the world.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to go to Israel and can’t wait to go back again. In the meantime, I will be praying for Israel and her peace. Governments, militaries, rockets, and cease-fire agreements won’t bring lasting peace, but One can, and He will. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.

 
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Dissonance

A couple weeks ago I went to hear the Alabama Symphony Orchestra with a friend. I can’t believe I’d never heard them before! They featured pieces by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev (which reminded me of The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet) and world-class violinist Tai Murray. I’m grateful for talented people who share their timeless gifts with the world.

During the performance, I was honestly getting a little sleepy. It’d been a long day (…and week…and month…and year). Then all of a sudden, the pianist struck a dissonant chord that snapped me back to attention. You’ve heard these chords, whether you know the term or not.

“An unstable tone combination is a dissonance; its tension demands an onward motion to a stable chord. Thus dissonant chords are ‘active’; traditionally they have been considered harsh and have expressed pain, grief, and conflict.”

—Roger Kamien (2008)

As parts of my piano training and music theory knowledge crept back, I began to think about dissonance and how the term is easily applied to everyday life.

Dissonant chords, put simply, don’t sound right. The notes making up the chord crunch and sound painful, even to the most tone deaf. But the crunch makes the following resolve so sweet.

Scripture tells us that we will know trials, pain, and grief. John 16:33 says ,”…In the world you will have tribulation…” Not you might, there’s a chance you will, may experience. You will. The Greek word for tribulation can also translate to compression, affliction, and distress of mind.

We all experience times like this. When I’m in the midst of one of these seasons, I feel like it’s going to last forever and throw myself some fantastic pity parties in the midst of it all. I easily forget the next part of John 16:33: “…But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Why do we worry and fret as soon as things get a little tough or things aren’t going exactly how we want them to? How do we so easily and quickly forget the Gospel? We’re promised that there will be trials, but we must not forget The Promise.

In life, we will have dissonant moments that don’t sound right. Moments that hurt our hearts much like a dissonant chord hurts our ears. However, there is a resolve; it’s not going to last forever.

For me, I know that I need to have an eternal mindset. I need to not get stuck in not-so-wonderful moments and remember that Jesus has already overcome that. He’s already won. Regardless of how many dissonant chords our life songs tend to have, we can rest assured that the overall tone is a sweet, sweet melody.

Tetelestai–It is Finished

IMG_7007I love words. I love using them and use a lot of them. I love learning their meanings and origins. A few years ago I learned the word “tetelestai,” and it quickly became one of my favorites. This is what Jesus says in John 19:30:

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

At the climax of the story, the Savior says it’s finished, it’s over. This is the same word that artists would say when they completed a masterpiece. Picture an artist finishing what he has been pouring everything into for years. He remembers the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. The frustration and the joy. As he finishes, he takes a deep breath and says, “Tetelestai. It is finished.”

Jesus uses tetelestai in the same way here. He completed the task He came for. Mission accomplished. This simple phrase carries so much weight for believers.

I don’t have to attempt to atone for my sins. Tetelestai.

I don’t have to attempt to bridge the gap my sin causes between myself and God. Tetelestai.

I don’t have to attempt to do enough good to counter my wrongdoing. Tetelestai.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Romans 5:8-9

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6

You mend my life with Your holy fire
You cover me with grace.

You are the hand that reaches out to save
I am set free…
It is for freedom that i am set free.

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

Count it All Joy

Estamos en Iquitos! I am still having a hard time comprehending the fact that this is my third time here in the past year.

Yesterday we met at the Birmingham airport to fly directly to Miami where we had an overnight layover before our flight to Peru this morning. At the gate, we found out our flight was overweight so one person was not going to be getting on the plane. They asked for volunteers, but no one was budging (apparently lots of people wanted to get to Miami yesterday!). Eventually, we decided I’d rent a car and drive to Atlanta to catch a flight to Miami. Somehow, I got checked into my Atlanta flight, got into a rental car, drove to Atlanta, dropped off the car, rode to the terminal, got through security, and got to the gate just before they started boarding the flight. This all happened in less than 4 hours. Praise. The. Lord. Seriously.

Since I had a few minutes, I spent some time in James 1 and Matthew 6. If you know me at all, I am a planner, and I don’t like unscheduled change. Yesterday afternoon the Holy Spirit had my back. I was continually thinking “count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds,” “do not be anxious,” “being anxious and worried is not going to help this situation at all.” I’m grateful that the Lord is growing me and helping me learn not to sweat the small stuff…even though I have a looooong way to go. 🙂

I’m so excited to see what the Lord does through our team this week. We’re a diverse bunch with translators, national leaders, and 17 Americans. What a blessing it is to partner with e3 to take teams down the Amazon River to share the Gospel! How crazy is it that the Lord lets us partner with Him in what He is doing? 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Verse 20 goes on to say we are ambassadors for Christ. We, as Christians, have been entrusted to share in this ministry with the Lord. I hope I never stop being baffled by the fact that the Creator of the universe, of the heavens and the earth, has entrusted me with sharing His message with the world. Whoa.

Tomorrow we head to Pucallpa for our first day of clinic and evangelism. We’re grateful for your prayers this week and can’t wait to share what we learn and see!

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison–that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:2-6

Back to Peru!

I’m so excited to have the opportunity to be going on associate staff with e3 Partners.  As part of my training, I will be going on several training trips over the next few months. I’d love it if you would consider partnering with me financially and/or in prayer. Click here to check out my fundraising page, and please let me know if you have any questions at all!

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A Day in Paraiso & Israel

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*I wrote this Wednesday, but the Internet where we stayed was down. We’ve made it back to the States and are headed to Birmingham.*

Today we took a boat ride to Indiana, rickshaws across the village, and another boat on the Napo to Paraiso (Paradise). We got finished earlier than expected so we got back in the boat and went to a little village called Israel for an unexpected second clinic. There, I had the privilege of meeting a man named Francisco. After I fitted him for glasses, gave them to him, and explained how to care for them, he was overcome with emotion and began to cry. I asked (through my translator) what was wrong. He was simply blown away by the kindness of strangers…no one had ever come to their little village to try to help them in any way. I told him that yes, we did want to provide medical care. But more importantly, we wanted to tell the people of his village about the ultimate Healer and the Love He showed in sending Jesus to live and die for us. I knelt on the ground, took his hands in mine, and prayed for this sweet man…this man who loves the Lord and loves the people of his village. It’s moments like these that make me so grateful for the opportunities the Lord has given me.
This evening I was reading Proverbs 20. At this point in my story, I’m beginning to realize how true the words of verse 24 are:
A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?
When I think about how in the world I got to Peru, I can do nothing but blame it on God….there’s no other way to explain the long chain of events. The Lord truly does establish our steps. His way is truly better than ours. Praise the Lord for that!