My Awefull Life » A Pilgrimage of Wonder

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Day Two:

May faces fuel our prayers, our voices, our powers that be;

May it be the faces of families, of fathers taking sons to school,

of brothers and sisters running over cobblestone streets,

Mothers’ faces gathering to compare notes on the latest parenting challenge;

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May their faces stay fresh on our minds, stoking the flame of our prayers for protection and peace;

the faces of an aging couple, hand in hand on a city bench,

the boys in the alley playing ball,

God, remind us- people over politics, stories over statistics,

Burn in our hearts for their’s, Revive our apathetic minds, remove our blinders so we may see and know the faces of your created people. 

Protect the people of Israel Lord, physically and emotionally. Pour out your mercy and wisdom for the unexplainable, demanding explanation. 

Rise up in your Power and Love, penetrate all fear with peace surpassing all understanding.

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May the faces of a weary nation be drawn to the matchless face of the Prince of Peace.

Thank you God for the faces of Israel. 

Protect and Keep them this night,

Amen

 

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These photos were taken on the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City . Covering just around 220 acres, the Old City contains four quarters within made up of the Jewish quarter, the Moslem quarter, the Armenian quarter and the Christian quarter.

  • Susan Bowman Cantrell - May the hand of Almighty God cover Israel and Jerusalem…protect, support and provide for every spoken and unspoken need. May they have peace in their hearts even when there is great unrest around them. May they look to You, O Lord, for wisdom, courage and strength. Amen.ReplyCancel

When I awoke yesterday, it was there – the low unsettling in my stomach, signs of anxiety having stirred during a restless night’s sleep. Sitting in the quiet, ping-ponging between my Bible and the morning headlines out of the Middle East, the subtle imbalance attempted to fill the space within. In those times, the momentary battles for peace over fear, my best and truest weapon is always the vulnerable conversation of prayer. Knowing God is more familiar with my heart and thoughts than even I myself am, I wasted no pretense on my emotional wrestling match and simply asked, “Okay then, what do you want to say through this?” Almost immediately He responded faithfully in words and images- a prayer for the day- blanketing my anxiety in Hope and conviction. Hope for a world falling apart at the seams and conviction to love, serve and share my fresh passion for the land and people of Israel. I am clearly no expert of any proportion when it comes to the nation of Israel or the conflicts that have plagued it. I am not a political scholar, nor historian. I am just a mom, a wife, a friend, with a hunger to know and understand Jesus. That hunger led me to Israel. Now, I find myself in a position of having walked through and fallen in love with a land during what unbeknownst to us at the time, were her final days of temporary peace prior to this latest conflict. My unscholarly, hungry heart is compelled to pray and with honest hope, inspire others to the same.

This morning some friends are headed back to Israel, motivated by what I can only guess is a similar conviction I myself now carry for the people and places inescapable in my thoughts, my dreams, my prayers. As I thought of my friends and the week ahead of them, the idea came about to each day this week, in earnest and simplicity sit with God and ask again, “what is it you want to say to us today?” and then share His heart here. I honestly have no grand vision for this little experiment, just a blog and a desire to walk in obedient, bold humility. I would love for you (and any one you wish to invite) to join me this week in intentional prayer and study. Armed with simple prose and camera’s lens, I am one mom attempting to understand world affairs and God’s Word amidst pb&j-smeared counters and laundry; trusting and begging – God, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

Day One:
 

For heads and hearts to clear

as blue sky following the rain

For Truth to rise up as a grove

from beneath centuries of stone

For Light to invade

falling across homes and lives

just as the rising sun illuminates the city at dawn 

For Wisdom, strength, compassion and peace-

 Return for us God, draw us quickly back to You. 

Amen

 

 

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This photo was taken from the within the gates of the Church of All Nations, at the Garden of Gethsemane ( Matthew 26:36-46 ) and overlooks the Eastern Gate in Jerusalem. The East Gate was closed up by the Ottoman Turks in A.D. 1530 to prevent the Messiah from entering as prophesied (but in doing so they fulfilled Ezekiel 44:1-2). You can click through to the links for information on each location and their significance in both scripture and current events. I also highly recommend following and/or downloading the Behold Israel app for up-to-date news from within Israel, from a trusted source. 

We have been home from our extravagant adventure for a couple of weeks already, but I am just now finding space and words to attempt to document some of the journey. Reentry into every-day life is always brimming with emotion and challenge following most vacations, but my transition from this particular expedition continues to press in on me with no sign of letting up just yet. ‘You will find yourself homesick for Israel,’ our guide had warned. The plane hadn’t reached JKF and I felt his words full and real somewhere deep inside. Homesick- for a place I only just met, yet one which felt familiar, easy. Homesick over more than simple geography, but rather the environment in which our pilgrimage cultivated.

Traveling in a group of nearly 60, we arrived in Tel Aviv mostly strangers- acquaintances- departing two weeks later bonded in a unique, eternal fashion. Touring the country by way of bus, boat and foot, we ate meals together, immersed ourselves in the study and revelation each site offered; We wept together in moments thick with understanding and laughed until we wept again in others. And while the near-constant companionship of a few dozen could at times exhaust any introverted tendencies, I spent the entire trip invigorated and inspired by those around me. Men and women of all ages, personalities across the spectrum, the lot of us as different and yet the same as could be. At some point it struck me how similar our experience felt to what Acts describes of the early church, in its youthful, wide-eyed days.

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; (Acts 2:42-44 NASB)

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photo courtesy of David Bean

 

Here and now, back in Tennessee up on our secluded country hill- a place I love to call home – the realization of our culture’s isolation by design shines bright before me against the horizon of my Israel experience. While the beauty and peace of this quiet acreage feeds me, I am Homesick for the bread breaking, the devotion to teaching, the fellowship. I am homesick for Acts 2.

But then again, aren’t we all?

The hunger for connection exists in all of us, though we often mask appetites with busyness, distract our pangs of relational starvation with social media substitutes, and attempt to convince we never cared much for the taste of community anyway. If we are honest, drop the independent facade for a moment, aren’t we all a little homesick for a meal around the table together?

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photo courtesy of David Bean

 

Realism has enough of a hold for me to understand how far-fetched the idea of such a lifestyle is in our current society, and I wonder at what point in those days of the apostles did it cease. The Holy Spirit fell upon the Church and they lived in one accord, a glimpse of the glorious fellowship awaiting them for all eternity. In those infant days, persecution of the Church was a given, believers ridiculed and mocked for their beliefs; I imagine many abandoned by their families and friends in the blink of an eye. In the hard, the painful, the potentially lonely, the apostles and believers grew in strength together with a hope unwavering.

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Several months ago I watched a compelling documentary about the worldwide persecution of the modern-day Church. One featured church in the Middle East was shown gathering together following their services to share pizzas and conversation within the safety of the church compound. Laughter and peaceful dialogue filled the small courtyard while just outside the walls, danger watched and waited. The pastor interviewed explained how essential it was for the young group of believers to not only attend service together, but to engage and invest in deep relationships. The attacks and persecution so real and heavy against Christians in that area of the world, having a group of people supporting them is vital. The coming together, sharing a story and some bread, is part of their very survival…And I can’t help but wonder when darker days here in the Western world arrive, will we be prepared to link arms or will we falter in hope and faith, because we were simply too busy, too self-sufficient, to imagine being created to fight the good fight as a chorus and not mere soloist?

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 NASB)

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Weeks have passed, and the ache for Home only increases. I go through my days- the cleaning, the meal-prepping, the child-rearing with a constant flood of thoughts, questions, conversation filling my mind. The excitement over what I saw and learned in Israel now mixing with what God continues to show me in His Word, and the daily tick of the world’s headlines, creating a deep desire to process it all with my people. But they are scattered, immersed in their routines as I am mine. While I have yet to uncover any brilliant (or even sub-par) answers on how to incorporate some of this aspect from my Israel experience, here in the everyday, it is overwhelmingly obvious as each day passes how far off the mark we are when it comes to depth of relationship and strength in community. I have a gratitude too deep to fully name for the opportunity to have shared a table with those 60 pilgrims for two weeks. The experience changed me in ways I am still discovering every day. I pray for more of that in my time on earth. Even if each gathering, every chorus of worship or laughter, only strengthens my sickness for Home.

Deciding to move forward with this new blog site, to write again after a lengthy hiatus, came with certain trepidations, several rounds of negotiations between myself and myself, and no shortage of close-your-eyes-and-jump faith. The season of anonymity I found myself in had grown quite comfortable and safe- dare I say drama-free. And to be frank I wasn’t sold on leaving the respite of the calm harbor. Still, waters and words within were stirring, eventually propelling my reluctant little boat back into oceans deep.

Creativity and art on any scale is risky for the soul; add in the public element and easily I can be pulled into rough mental waters. Waters that can haunt and reek havoc on a simple pilgrim and her simple words. While my heart is to encourage, write the true and real, the knowledge of my failure to always do so well, is very present. I want to speak out of obedience not self-service; to reflect and point to my Creator, to seek after His approval only. And yet time and time again I find myself contemplating the opinions of men, which inevitably reveals all the places I have failed them. From inside the waves of doubt and fear, my pen goes quiet. But the stirring- the words- they only grow louder. Quickly, a pressure cooker of poetry, conversation and prose begins to build within, with no place to go. As the noise about my mind and heart escalates to a deafening level, I take up broom and laundry basket in place of writer’s tools. Immersing all energy and time into measurable tasks, desperate to check the box of a job done well. It is in the dwelling upon all the ways I am not enough, where instinctually the seeking out of the tangible opportunity to establish worth kicks in. Hello there organized closets and sparkling toilets.

My eyes- breaking gaze with lighthouse beacon- glance down at the turbulent waves splashing all around; I begin to sink. I know it, God knows it. I’ve betrayed Him again, squandered the call, the voice, taken the pen He himself handed me and buried it in the dirt for fear of what it may or may not produce.

For days now I have stood, and sat, and stood again before my blank computer screen. The white space staring back at me, starting to scream, write sentences of its own in ALL CAPS and exclamations!!! And with the blank page bully breathing down my neck, head and heart full with ideas, thoughts, questions…paralyzing fear…I retreat again to the to-do list. Check off another box in frustration. This morning, amidst more spring cleaning and the constant chorus of need coming from the three darlings now home on summer break, my thoughts wandered to one of my favorite exchanges between Jesus and Peter. Even in the turning of my mind, eyes snap back on Him, forgetting the waves for a moment.

Do you love me more than these?

Tend my lambs.

Do you love me?

Shepherd my sheep.

Do you love me?

Tend my sheep.*

There in the middle of my laundry room, the weight of Jesus’s words penetrating afresh, I find my sea legs. Slowly, words march out across the white flickering canvas.

Experience and a dose of self-awareness remind, rough waters still abound, most likely even rising in fury before they calm. And though the harbor of the anonymous may pull at my sails when I allow fear to wash up over the sides of my mind, I am resolved to stay the course. No doubt, it is a messy course full of scattered thoughts, and uncomfortable vulnerability, but its the one set before me. There are lambs to tend, sheep to shepherd, words to share and wonder to chase after.

In all sincerity, I thank you friends for coming alongside as you do, ask your forgiveness when I let you down, and hope with everything we continue to navigate these adventurous waters together.

photo credit: my wave riding hubs, http://instagram.com/revolvingmind

photo credit: my wave riding hubs, http://instagram.com/revolvingmind

 

 

*excerpts from the gospel of John, chapter 21

  • Faith Ecklund - Absolutely beautiful! ReplyCancel

  • Sabrina Winter Shun - Yes! Such freedom in diving in! Very encouraging friend!
    ReplyCancel