March 30, 2011

Learning to Run

Somewhere along the way I lost a measure of my vulnerability in relationship to God. This grieves me beyond words.  I long for the innocence, passion, and reckless abandonment with which I once pursued my God, my Lord and Savior.  I do not feel as though my love or faith in Him as the one True, Good God has ever wavered.  I am not angry with God; there are no unresolved questions of "how could God do this, that, etc." that separate me from pursuing Him, though this is the common plague I hear when others confess to losing their passionate pursuit.

My struggle has not been with questions surrounding Who God is, but who I am, and who His Church is.  At a definitive point in my life, I let myself, and I believe, my God down, in a way that I still struggle to recover from.  I did not turn my back on my God, but allowed other things to move into my line of sight, and began focus on them at the forefront instead of Him.  Even momentary glances away leave scars on my heart, and allow the enemy a foothold to convince me that I am unworthy to look again toward my Savior.  My theology, my understanding of God, and my experience encouraging others urges me to receive His grace and run into my Savior's arms without hesitation - but in the moments of struggle, my lack of courage and poor perspective of the Divine leaves me hesitating with every step I take toward His Love.

This same struggle with my unworthiness before my God, followed me to my unworthiness before my husband.  Before we were engaged I struggled with whether or not I could allow him to love me, knowing I did not deserve such a man and had not lived up to all of my ideals of the perfect bride.  My dad took me for a drive before granting his blessing on our engagement.  He told me he would be more than willing to bless the marriage if only I would confess that I was a good match for Geoff, that I was a blessing to him, and worthy of such a man.  Though I still struggle with the concept of any person being worthy of anything - I did finally relent that God through me had made me someone who could be a blessing, and a good match for Geoff.

Beyond the struggle to look past my own failings lies a connected, yet greater struggle - to look past the failings of His Bride - the Church.  My struggle to reconcile my ability to be Geoff's bride is only a small mirror to my struggle with the Church presenting itself as the Bride of our beloved Savior.  I have been so angered, so hurt, and so disappointed by the institution of church - as have so many others.  As idealistic as I was about being a bride for Geoff - I cannot fathom the Purity and Love that should radiate from our Savior's Bride!  How can we be so bold as to call ourselves the "Church," the Bride of Christ, when we behave like we do?  I am deeply angered by half hearted devotion, traditional, yet meaningless doctrines, scriptural debates, and numerous other distractions that we engage in without Love; without JESUS.  I am weary of the trend toward finding our identity in Christianity, rather than Jesus Christ.

When I mention the "Church," I am speaking of the Church as a worldwide whole, not any specific congregation. I have been a part of church congregations who have hurt me deeply and made me never want to return to a church building. I have also been a part of gatherings that made me feel as though God was reaching through the people there to touch me directly with His Love.  It is the good experiences I have with the Church, moments where I felt as though I could see clearly a group of people coming together and representing the body of Christ, that make me so hungry to see Him represented throughout. We are not perfect, cannot be by ourselves, but will we clothe ourselves in He that is Perfect? Or will so many continue to clothe ourselves in traditions of men, because we are afraid of change, hesitating to Trust the ONE we exist to worship? While there may be activities we pursue half-heartedly in this life, being the Church, the Bride of Christ, should not be one of them.

I am reminded in Spirit even as I write this that anger with the shortcomings of myself, and with the Church are in of themselves distractions from Love.  I pray that the Church would be blessed with the courage, strength, vision, and LOVE to pursue JESUS with all passion, energy, and devotion. That our line of sight with the Father would be restored, allowing no distraction to stand in our way that we may see Him clearly, and not the rubble of this sinful world.  I pray that the Church would repent and be purified by the Blood of Jesus, that we may be presented before Him as His radiant Bride.

My hope and prayer for the Church is that same for myself. That we would not hesitate to run into the arms of God.  That we shed the baggage that hinders us in approach and rely fully and completely on His Grace and His Love to meet us when we run to Him.  I believe the only reason I long for such a thing is because it is His longing for us as well.

March 24, 2011

Travels to Israel and Jordan!

Geoff and I were blessed with an incredible three week trip to the land of the Bible and were able to explore many areas of Israel and Jordan. Though Egypt was on our original itinerary, we were unable to go there due to the political unrest in the area. Though disappointed about that, it did allow more time than expected in Israel - never a bad thing!

While there, we recorded a couple of videos for Geoff to send back to the church. He and another man are taking turns each Sunday reciting portions of Mark. Our goal was to get his recorded and sent back so they could be played even in his absence. Alas, the internet connection in Galilee was insufficient to say the least and we couldn't get them uploaded in time - but we have the videos anyway and I encourage you to watch them. He did a great job, and they are at two cool sites!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Things were peaceful when we arrived in Israel, security stops were borderline friendly (not a common experience), and we decided to travel immediately into the more historically unstable regions while we could safely do so. You never know when tensions will rise, so when things are calm, you take advantage of it.  The first days in Israel we spent going to significant sites located in or around Hebron, Ramallah, and Nablus in the West Bank areas. These areas were perfectly calm, and know one without being educated on the region would have cause to fear any unrest. The people were hospitable, grateful that we came to the sites located near their homes bringing tourism to their area.

Very few groups travel to many, if any, of the sites we visited in our first few days, which is unfortunate due to the historical significance, and strength of tradition and age of these major sites. Some of the sites we saw include Jacob's Well, located in modern day Nablus, and one of my all time favorite sites and stories of Jesus.  We also visited the Tombs of the Patriarchs when in Hebron, which is where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekkah, and Jacob and Leah were buried, and traveled through Samaria and many other sites "off the beaten track."

We were working with a great group, half of whom had traveled through Israel before and were back to see more, so it was important to incorporate some of the "less seen" sites in the trip and those included many I had not visited before - which was very exciting! Neither Geoff or I had been to Jordan before, and this was very fun. We loved all of the sites we were able to visit there, and were honored by the hospitality of the Jordanian people we encountered.  Geoff loved being able to identify the landmarks in Israel from the other side of the Dead Sea, seeing the mountain ranges and sites from a different angle than he had before.

After the main group left, we remained for a few days with our mentor, Dr. James D. Martin, learning roads, meeting contacts, and discussing future possibilities.  It is easy to start feeling at home over there, with the simple lifestyle, the pursuit of learning and love, and the lack of luxury to worry about things that just really don't matter. People over there are sacrificing their luxuries, comforts, and sometimes lives for what they believe in. There is no passive faith available for those who claim religion, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew.  For this reason we have learned to meet the hostilities that rise up over there with a great deal of grace - knowing that these acts are not often senseless acts of violence, but responses to what they feel truly convicted to be necessary to defend their faith. Muslim's and Jew's alike have a theology of the land that leads them to believe whole heartedly that GOD wants them to fight for it. They are doing what they think God wants them to do. No matter how wrong these conclusions may be, I urge you to pray for the Christian, Jew, and Muslim alike in this region of the world.  Hostilities increased while we were over there, with a family being murdered, and retaliation beginning a new wave of harm. A bomb exploded in Jerusalem yesterday, the first of it's kind since 2004. Tensions remain so tight in that area of the world.

Pray for the people seeking Truth, that they will find HIM. Pray for those who are angry and no longer seeking anything but retaliation that they will find Peace in HIM. In name of Jesus.