Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Soul Quietness

I snapped the last of my garden green beans as the last remnant of dusk faded into night.  Blues, pinks and purple gave way to the inky gray black of last light. I had dirt on my hands from the earth yielding back some of its riches. My husband puttered with an ongoing raised bed project.  Our dog rooted her way between the yard and the woods sniffing and thoroughly enjoying the freedom to run unfettered.  There were no immediate troubles that required our thought or attention.

 As I sat there soaking in the ambiance, all seemed right with the world.  I know full well that the world is a mess and has always been a mess since Adam.  But I am thankful for those moments when my mind and spirit can be refreshed.  It is though nature seems to be one of the places that I can turn to for solace that restores my soul.  After all, the natural world that we live in is not at odds with its Creator.  The Creation was subjected to a curse because of man's rebellion. Creation is standing on tippy toes longing for the day that the curse is broken.

The older I get, the more I long for that day as well.  Weariness from the evil in the world can drape a heavy cloak.  In a normal week I hear reports like the untimely death of a coworker's brother, the struggles of a teenage child, the hospitalization of a family member and if those things were not enough, we add  all of the local crazy news to all of the international crazy news. We have  Ebola, ISIS, a deeply divided political terrain, and a multitude of scandals.  We have our own personal internal skirmishes with evil as well.

I understand why people drink or engage in other potentially harmful behaviors. Sometimes, folks just want a little relief.  How do we put it all into perspective and cope with the troubles around us without creating more problems with having addictive behavior added to our list?

That is where we have to start with truth.  I must believe that God tells me the truth about the world and the future.  I must also believe that He is good.  If I don't have this bedrock to lean into then I am going to be adrift on a sea of my own emotions.

 We all need a sense of stability to feel like our world is not spinning out of control.  I need to believe that God is ultimately in control.  

I have to continually have my mind renewed by spending time in the word of God.  I cannot always change my circumstances but I can change how I think about those circumstances.  I need an outside source to help me do that.  The scripture is the only trustworthy outside source that I know.

I can set aside time to pray and lay all of those things that are troubling me at the foot of the cross. The scripture says to "cast all of our care on Him"!!! Amazing how a few minutes of prayer can change the landscape of my emotions.

We can turn off the noise and go sit in God's big sanctuary.  It is called the outdoors.  It has an ever changing back drop called the sky.  The wind, the sun, the birds, the flowers all testify of His brilliance and His order.  It always does me good to go breathe some of His free air especially if it is away from the hustle and bustle of man's cacophony.

I can only handle the troubles of this world for short bursts before I have to lay it all back down and look upward in humble dependence.

    But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Israel Installment 3

Dina, our bus driver took, the bus up some pretty steep roads to a seemingly nondescript stop outside of a Druze village on Mt. Carmel. We hiked a rocky trail covered in a kind of thistle with a beautiful purple bloom. We passed by a house with a car that had been cut in half. They must have been some of our Israeli relatives because David and Joshua did the same thing in our back yard. When we reached a spring, we stopped for a time of instruction and then began the descent down toward the valley. At first we just walked on a wooded trail that was progressively getting more rocky stopping for a bathroom break before the "real" trail started. While waiting for those to finish up, Beni spent some time teaching any musically inclined how to use an acorn as a whistle.

The trail turned out to be a dry stream bed that will flood and flow during the rainy part of the year. Near the beginning of trail we passed several old wrecked and rusted vehicles that someone had dumped down from the top of the ravine. We also passed a bloated baby boar that must have lost its footing.

Beni told some of the history of this trail. The period of time after WWll and before Israel was a nation, Great Britain controlled Palestine. The British limited the number of immigrants to the land, but still they came as I believe God called them.

Some of the illegals were housed in the detention camp, Atlit. Yitzhak Rabin, who later became the 5th prime minister of Israel planned a raid to free 200 people being held. The people were supposed to escape to Nasal Oren. The plans went awry and the British surrounded the kibbutz. People from the nearby Haifa came out and surrounded the soldiers. The confusion of the milling people allowed all of the former detainees to sneak through the crowd to hike down this very trail, Nahal Yagur in order to escape to another kibbutz. This trail has many technical aspects and at times was very challenging. I can imagine that the detainees were a mixed lot of people including women and children; making the escape down this trail a miracle.

Our day on the trail was only beginning as we followed the all rock trail at a steady descent often slowing way down to get our herd of people down the rocky declines that were worn smooth by the water. Numerous spots we had to climb down one by one. Gordon and Joshua often chose the less traveled way to get down. Some places had pretty decent hand holds and places for your feet and others were much trickier. One place had metal bars as hand holds to help maneuver down the curved 20 feet. We tediously worked our way down a multitude of dry waterfall areas. I spent a lot of the day sliding my walking poles ahead of me and coming down on my rear end; my slick pants were a great asset. It was a day that some us had to put our pride to the side as we wriggled, slid, bumped and jumped our way. Even though we walked just a few miles this day, it took us around six hours to get everyone down.

This was a day when many people offered encouragement, support and genuine acts of kindness. Each technically challenging spot offered new opportunities to come along side and spur each person to victory. Many of my brothers offered steady hands for a safer descent. Often someone would stay at a technically hard spot just to offer moral support or to give directions on the best way to get down Kerry was distressed over losing her camera on the trail so Jon and Jon Michael heroically with a smiles on their faces hiked back up to retrieve it. For some the fruit of the Spirit was exhibited as they waited at each difficult spot for the entire group to catch up.

I am so amazed at the body of Christ and how we have been granted the ability to each be personally better by giving ourselves away. It really isn't logical. If the athletic among us had hiked the trail hard and finished in a couple of hours, it would have been a hollow victory compared to the riches of helping each person have success that day. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:25  I know the verse has much greater meaning than helping someone on a trail.  But I think that the daily giving our lives away is a great ongoing struggle for some of us.

We finished hiking the wadi and came to a place where the trail led out of the wooded area. We hiked another 30 minutes or so back up a rocky trail through a meadow of grasses, shrubs and thistles. At this point we could look back and see Mt. Carmel in the distance and the place near the top that we started our descent. It was an astonishing sight to see the tiny spot where we started and to know that we had conquered the trail that day as well as some of our own insecurities in and through His grace.

Our flight to Israel from Atlanta was close to 12 hours long. David and I were on the inside seats next to the window. Never having flown for such a long distance, I was obsessive about checking the status of the flight. I got a little concerned when the hours until arrival stayed at 7 no matter the elapsed time. Sleeplessness, the drone of the engine, the veiled light of the cabin, and the cramped space we were sharing with a multitude of other souls kept me slightly on the verge of breaking into a melody of kindergarten songs. I did finally sleep, but only for a few restless hours. About the time that I hung my head from exhaustion and the drool was running down my face the interior lights of plane would go on and the flight attendants would begin cheerily serving the prepackaged food. How many of us really enjoyed the sweet potato salsa wrap or wanted to eat this at 5:00 am?

The sun was finally up and people began stirring around. At this point I once again had to disturb Eden who was sitting on the aisle seat. David and I made the necessary trip to the airplane bathroom that was degenerating quickly. There was more sticky,unidentified liquid on the floor and more errant tissue strewn about the very small space.

We had introduced ourselves to Eden at some point on the flight. He turned out to be an atheist, secular Jewish young man. He was polite and pleasant even after learning that we were enthusiastic Christians on our way to visit Israel for the very first time. He let us know that religion was the cause of most problems in the world. From the dialogue, he stated, "We (Jewish people) have 613 laws to keep, you only have 10." My husband explained that Jesus had reduced it to 2. We need to love God and others. My heart hurt knowing that the striving to keep the law on his own had probably been one of the things that forced Eden to give up and say that he couldn't be a good Jew. It also puts him in a good position to come to Jesus. We only come to Jesus when we realize that in and of ourselves that we are not good enough and will never be good enough. We have to have Jesus' righteousness, not our own. "Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith .....Before faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith." The book of Galatians speaks clearly of the freedom and the power that Jesus came to give us.

So does God sometimes confine us in places because He has divine appointments with those others who are so confined? Praying for Eden and the thousands of other Jewish Edens that are becoming ripe unto the harvest.
Israel - Installment 1
June 25, 2010
It has been less than a week since returning from Israel. I think that it will take a lot of time to put everything into perspective. Israel in June is a dry, rocky, dusty land that has a shortage of ice and toilet paper. Lesson 1- My comfort is not the number one priority on this trip. I did not count my water consumption in glasses but in liters each day. I learned that I could drink hot or warm water to stay hydrated even when I longed to have a tall glass of ice water.  Lesson 2- Take every opportunity to use the bathroom facilities. Toilet paper seems to be optional in many of the public bathrooms. I've used nasty public bathrooms, stalls that had only a hole in the floor, composting toilets, port a potties, in the woods, and trail side by a large rock  while 38 people where waiting for me to walk back out of the brush. Please refer back to lesson number 1. Lesson 3 When one is tired enough sleep will happen in whatever circumstances. I prefer my bed at home, with my own pillows and my husband cozily snuggled next to me. I don't like light or noise when I sleep. I have slept in small single beds with the lights still on and people talking all around me, on the ground, sitting upright in a bus with an incredibly creative driver at the wheel, in an airplane with my head lying on the fold out tray, and in a unbelievably hot Bedouin tent in the desert. Lesson 4 - Eat when you are able. The fresh fruit smoothies, the breads, and the fruit were really terrific. But, I will be happy never to eat another power bar.

I think too much of my creature comforts and I believe that having them reduced was not a bad thing. I was still very well taken care of.

Israel doesn't look like home. People don't speak English as their first language. Most signs are in Hebrew. There are no subdivisions or vinyl siding. The trees are all short. It is hilly and rocky. Pocketed in the semi arid land are groves of bananas, dates, and olives. Pomegranite trees, flowers, and other lush vegetation are found throughout the Northern region. The land unbelievably so produces beyond its capacity. The land has an inviting beauty in places that made me want to stay or at least come again to walk the hills. Other places where so hot and barren that I found it hard to believe that people chose to live there. All hostels, hotels, grocery stores had armed guards. Gates where shut at night at the places we stayed. I saw people carrying semi-automatic weapons.

The people have lived through many years of having enemies who try to push them into the sea. It has made them very resilient, but yet resolved to live a good life. They are out in the streets, in parks, hiking trails, participating in life. They do not seem to be afraid. Most people know of someone who has been injured or killed because of the conflicts that the country faces. They are purposeful people who seem to be super naturally empowered to overcome whatever obstacles.