“Be glad then….” Joel 2:23

“Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you.”  Joel 2:23

The former rains have begun.  It is a time to rejoice.  In the natural, I can get sad now:  the days are shorter, the temperature is lower, and it seems a bit dreary.  But also, in the natural, I am thankful this dry thirsty ground is getting a good drink of water from heaven.  I can rejoice that it is time to snuggle in and hear the Lord and dream new dreams and wait in quiet.  I have a cup of coffee at my side and I am waiting…and silent…and trying to hear His voice as He faithfully rains on us.

My rain boots are by the door; my umbrella is not far away.  I walk under His wet promises knowing they will mean green in spring.  I think of what soup to make today and wonder what time to take a long walk.

Interestingly the Hebrew says this:  For He has given you the former rain ‘for or toward righteousness’.  Yes, Abba…rain with righteousness on Israel.  Rain toward righteousness on Jerusalem.  Rain toward righteousness on me and in me and through me!  I want to walk in this wet faithfulness in this dry land.

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These are the days….

This morning I think of the lyrics of this well known song:
These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah
And these are the days of Your servant, Moses
Righteousness being restored

These are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

In Jerusalem it seems to indeed be the day of the sword with random stabbings happening on our streets.  It is a time of alertness and a time of intense intercession and prayer.  But it is also a time to ‘declare the Word of the Lord’ and a time to be a ‘voice in the desert crying prepare the way of the Lord’.  The challenge is to live in shalom, and carry the burden, and have the strength and joy of the Lord in our hearts at the same time.  That is not easy.

What IS easy is to get under the heaviness of the atmosphere; to pick up the fear of those around us; to talk about all the difficult things that are happening and just be depressed.  What is easy is to say how hard it is here, and how our enemies hate us and is this another intifada.  God does not want us there.  He wants us aware of the reality but more aware of His reality.  More aware that there is a big picture that we cannot see.  He is after hearts, and He is after those who can trust Him on hard days as well as not-so-hard ones.  He loves this nation but as a whole, I am not so sure this nation loves Him.

It is a struggle.  I want to interact with my neighbors and those in the shops and at bus stops.  But I want to live out of His kingdom and not out of the kingdom of this world.  I want to be loving and caring and yet convey the hope in my heart.  I want to be honest and authentic, knowing that the Light I carry can easily be hidden by my words or lack of them.  I cannot brush off the fear of others or even the stress I feel when I walk down narrow streets.  But I will not succumb to that spirit.  We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.  I so need to be aware of that blood right now even as this land continues to cry out with the blood of the innocent.  And I need my testimony to be clear and sincere.

Lord, have mercy on us all in these days of Elijah…these days of the sword and these days of His Mercy.

Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards

I can almost turn my head and look over my shoulder at summer….almost, not quite.  The days are a bit shorter and the air slightly cooler.  We are sliding into fall and summer is at its edge.  I turn my head and begin to see the shadow of these past months…almost, not quite.

What I do see is in this slowly ending season is that there have been ordinary moments that He breathed on and they became extra-ordinary.  The common became uncommon.  And His fingerprints are all over my recent memories.

My memories and experiences would mean little to another person, but I can share these thoughts that come from all I have done:  God can breathe on 2 minutes and shift a life; He can cause short-term friends to move to long-term depth in just days;  a slight change in position has given new eyes to see some things in my life.  Shared dreams move closer to reality only because they are shared and spoken into the atmosphere.  Steps motivated by faith are better than steps empowered by my emotions.  Somehow those faith steps even bring my emotions to a healthier place.  The severe summer heat uncovers my love of comfort and pushes me to have joy in a physically challenging environment.  I need to let all the ‘what ifs’ in my life fall away.

As we move toward a new year at Rosh Hashana I want to:  Love sincerely and face to face including those who are difficult to love; speak truth in love even if I lose favor with someone I care about; worship loud and strong on days when that is a challenge; live life out of a place of rest and peace and leave striving behind; know clearly when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes’ so that my heart stays pure and I do not become resentful of others when I have made a poor choice myself; leave people and situations at the altar that need to be there…not carrying what I cannot carry; live out loud with my husband and my near friends so that nothing gets stuffed and festers inside me; I want to pursue God in the coming difficult days so that His joy is my strength no matter what.

So I am looking over my shoulder, thankful for these past months…and turning my head forward to 5776.  I am writing this down for others to see, so that on some challenging day someone who cares about me can remind me of what I have said.

Oh heart of mine, stay thankful and free…stay focused on His Love and His Word…and walk in joy and rest.

rainy winter days…

I like rainy winter days…I slow down, get quiet, listen, turn off my phone, and just enjoy the insulation of the rain. Today is that kind of day. It is Shabbat, so there is no agenda other than listening to the voice of the Lord and resting. I have not heard much…except that I am aware of His kindness and love and His ability to transform all situations into something beautiful. I would not want all days to be like this. I enjoy walking and talking and being with others. But every now and then, it is good to have the cocoon of rain. Somehow it gets me back on track with the big picture of Life.

Living in the Now

Many are writing and asking how we are.  I can say without a second of doubt, that we do not want to be anywhere else on this planet.  Here is our life this week:

*went to a wedding in the north and saw amazing friends who we have walked with all our years here

*watched the news as 20,000 attended the funeral of a soldier they did not know, and 6,000 attended another, and 30,000 another.  All were ‘lone soldiers’ who had no family in Israel.  But here, everyone is family.

*started a day camp for 16 kids that a friend and I work with on a weekly basis.  We danced and made T-shirts and today we had a wonderful swim with lessons from an amazing teacher.

*wept over the news as I saw the cruelty of Hamas to women and children.  As Israelis lost lives.

*encouraged the new wife of a called-up reservist

*enjoyed a surprise visit from Don Finto.   At 84 he flew here for 3 days to encourage those who live here.  We had a great time with him as always and were honored he stopped by for a bit.

*spent 2 hours working with an abused woman who is getting free.

*took long walks 3 early mornings

*grocery shopped, and cooked and drank coffee with friends

*read the news more than usual but only Israeli news.  I refuse to read other news services and their anti-Israel slant.  There is no reason to feed myself lies.

*bought tickets to the US for September hoping that it is over by then.  It will be extremely difficult to leave if there is still war

*made sure our sealed room stayed clean and had enough water.  We did not have to use it but I want to keep it ready at all times these days

I have sadness and concern but no fear.  I love living here, breathing here and keeping my feet on this ground.  In September I will have been here 24 years.  I can say…I look forward to the next 24!

 

 

For Such A Time As This….

F140710NS01-e1405010864305I moved to Israel in 1990, right before the first Gulf War.  Just months after landing, I spent hours in a sealed room with my gas mask on.  I walked the streets of Ramat HaSharon with a mask on my shoulder.  I attended Hebrew classes with the mask box by my seat.  We carried them on buses and to the grocery stores and they were daily part of our lives.  When the sirens sounded, we got up, put them on and moved quickly to the sealed room-sometimes for hours and sometimes for minutes.

This war is different.  It is rockets flying to the south and the north and central Israel.  It is night and day.  Every few minutes, it seems, the news reports a Code Red somewhere in the country.  In Jerusalem we have only had two sirens this week.  Both times we went to our sealed room.  Both times we heard the booms of rockets landing and rockets intercepted.  And after 10 minutes we left.  There are no gas masks this time as the danger is impact and not gas. 

A week ago exactly I was working at the Elav youth conference in Haifa.  There were 300 Arabs, many former Muslims and 600 Jews.  They worshiped together and prayed and talked in groups about their struggles, about the Israeli army, about their walk with God.  They washed each others’ feet.  They listened to an Orthodox Jewish girl tell her story and a Jordanian woman share her heart.  All was in the opposite spirit of what is going on in the natural all around us. 

So now, we are here–in the midst of the heat of summer in Israel.  In the middle of Ramadan.  In the middle of a war.  We stand on His Word.  Psalm 27:3 says

Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.  One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me;He shall set me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.

We are not afraid.  We are living life as usual.  I am cooking Shabbat dinner now and cleaning.  We had friends over last night.  Another friend walked in the door to talk a bit while I was writing this.  I have been to the market this morning and the bread store.  I will take a good long walk tomorrow. And if there is a siren, I will go to the back room within 30 seconds.  I do not want to be anywhere else at this time.  Right here…loving those around me…praying and being face-to-face real.  For such a time as this….

 

Looking at the mountain….

Everyday I have the privilege of looking out our windows and seeing Mt. Zion.  “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King (Psalm 48:2)   This small town Mississippi Delta woman, wakes up every morning and sees Mt. Zion.

I have lived in this country almost 24 years.  I still pinch myself — especially living across the mountain the last 8 years.  Today it is green with the life of spring.  In the heat of the summer it will be solid brown.  A few months ago it was white with snow.  There is today an archeological team digging and digging.  From my balcony they look like ants searching for treasure.  On Shabbat the sheep and goats roamed across it, eating the delicious green grass.

The mountain view is good for me.  It reminds me of the eternal promises of God.  It helps me keep things in perspective.  For instance, today I washed my husband’s cell phone with the laundry…it died.  I was so upset with myself at first and then I looked out the window and thought…how temporary a cell phone is anyway as I look at this old mountain.  It lasts about a blink in all eternity.  I need mountains like this, mountains of His promise…so that I can live in the now without being overwhelmed with it.