My Awefull Life » A Pilgrimage of Wonder

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Protests and riots, hate and vengeful intolerance – it is all there in the happenings of the world, scrolling across my screen from what feels like another world away. And yet is it so far from my own reality? Beyond what could ever knock on my safe and secluded door? Naiveté and fear whisper, ‘No, it could never happen again,’ coddling an apathy all too rooted in mind’s thinking. Visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the victim’s of the Holocaust, and walking through the chronological history of events one can’t escape how seemingly small and at times insignificant the steps leading to the mass murder and persecution of the Jewish people actually were in the beginning. A newsletter here, a rally there, small elections, leading to larger elections, sanctions…

protests and riots, hate and vengeful intolerance.


It all starts somewhere, and we can’t pretend it’s not real. We cannot ignore the happenings in the streets of Europe today- arrogant and oblivious- lest we wake one day to fists and shouts of anti-semitism filling our own squares on Main street.

Awareness not paranoia; mindful not fearfulyadvashem-4


In order to halt the gradual plague of deception and evil, we must first recognize its tactics. I personally have been most guilty of the “if-I-avoid-eye-contact-with-the-ugly-it-can’t-be-real” approach when it comes to world affairs. The past decade, my world affairs have consisted of having babies, surviving an international adoption and keeping a marriage alive and well. The only gradual tactics of evil I spent time contemplating were topics like, how is it possible for a Backyardigans songs to be stuck in my head for 6 days solid, or why can we put a man on the moon, but for the love of nap time, a leak-proof sippy cup escapes our collective abilities? Surprisingly, I have never seen these topics come across the nightly news crawl. My dear friend, and fellow-juggler of hats wrote an endearing and honest post about the mental whiplash we can experience between our roles as parents and our roles as world-changers and Kingdom-shakers. I know she shares the thoughts of many of us- it is hard to balance, but balance we must. The sippers of those leaky cups are counting on us, and burying our heads in the bubble is failing them- plain and simple.

This morning I was reading through Jeremiah 28 & 29, where Hananiah gives a false prophecy declaring the exile of the Jews in Babylon would last only a couple of years. Jeremiah is then given the charge from God to call out the false prophet, while also delivering the much harder news of a 70 year exile. I couldn’t help but think about the people on the receiving end of the message and how we so quickly can cling to what in our understanding appears as the “good news,” turning our heads and hearts off to the difficult, uncomfortable truth. Imagining the denial and desperation of the people of Jeremiah’s day- hungry to believe Hananiah’s fabricated, easier to stomach report, my understanding of those deceptive tactics widened, deepening my resolved conviction to embark on this new journey of courageous awareness and prayerful knowledge-seeking. Recently I read the following from Eugene Peterson’s book, Run With the Horses, and it bears repeating; Just as God’s hard-truth by way of Jeremiah also held a Hope and a purpose, so does the hard news we face today:

“It is certainly true that there is evil in world; a great deal of it. and it is frightening. If we live realistically, with our eyes open, we see a lot of evil. Seeing all that evil, how can we relax?… The evil is not everything, and it is not everywhere. It is named. It has an origin and a finish. The evil that has its paralyzing grip on everyone is not a wild uncontrollable evil, it is a carefully commanded judgment with God as the commander… We cannot afford to be naive about evil, it must be faced. But we cannot be intimidated by it either. It will be used by God to bring good, for it is one of the most extraordinary aspects of the Good News- that God uses bad men to accomplish His good purposes. The great paradox of judgement is evil becomes fuel in the furnace of salvation. Uninstructed by this vision, or something like it, we lose our sense of proportion and are incapacitated for living an open and adventurous response to whatever comes to us through the day. If we forget that the newspapers are footnotes to scripture and not the other way around, we will finally be afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Too many of us spend far too much time with the editorial page, and not nearly enough with the prophetic vision. We get our interpretation of politics and economics and morals from journalists when we should be getting only information. The meaning of the world is most accurately given to us by God’s Word.”


Day 3:
Lord, thank you the opportunity to join together in unity of heart with so many around the world as we pray over the turmoil filling the lands of this earth.

Thank you for your Holy Spirit to instruct and guide as I navigate the often confusing and complex issues of our day.

Please reign down in wisdom on my mind, compassion in my heart and conviction for my soul to seek and seek again after You.

Give me discerning ears and mouth, expanded understanding and divine opportunity to love and serve those in persecution, specifically the Jewish nation of Israel. 

Build in me courage over crisis, trust over tragedy. Equip me so I may reflect You to all Your Creation.



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;



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.



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,





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. 





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)



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?


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.




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)



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.