the israeli narrative.
Hey there! Happy end of May, wherever you find yourself, whatever you might be doing. May went by oh so quickly and as I find myself looking back, it was a tremendous month that I want to share with you!
I'm writing this from my hotel room in JERUSALEM, Israel, which I still can't quite believe. If you're following along on the blog for the first time, or you're brand new to it, I am a follower of Christ! This is no secret that I keep, but in fact a foundational part of my life. I attended a Christian university and as a part of going to the school that I did, I was given a chance to come to Israel with a group called Passages.
Fast forward to today, and I just returned from a truly wonderful praise and worship service in the heart of modern Jerusalem. It was sweet and I love worshipping God, but I also wanted to spend some time writing down what we've been encountering here. There are two main tracks running through my head that we're going to dig into here.
The first - this place is not black and white. Now, I would not call myself particularly politically-driven, but I am consciously interested in current affairs. BUT on that note, I truly knew very little about Israel, other than the fact that it was in the "Middle East". I write that in quotations because that phrase in itself is very ambiguous, and some might consider Israel to be part of Africa, Asia or even the Mediterranean. It's this melting pot of many cultures and hosts the holiest sites for the three Abrahamic religions - Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
So, while we've been diving into our faith and walking the very roads that Jesus and the disciples walked, we've also been talking about the current state of affairs here. In fact, just yesterday we walked to the border of the Gaza Strip. If you don't know anything about it, just google it. We could see the town of Gaza and it all became very real and after listening to numerous speakers talk about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, that there doesn't seem to be a clear solution. It's like fighting with your sister, in this all-out family situation, where the Palestinian and Israeli connection goes back years (this date is debatable).
Through it all, this unclear answer of whose job is what to take care of who, and who owes who what makes things MESSY. Like seriously so messy, and all I can feel is despair. But then hope dawns when you hear about the young Israelis who are trying to change the mentality and culture both on their side and the other side and your heart is filled with hope again, that perhaps maybe one day this family could figure things out.
This morning we visited the Holocaust Museum, which made for a very heavy day. Before we got in, I was given the chance to share a word about what we would encounter. Not knowing what we would experience, I headed to my devotional book, Cultivate, that is my go-to for encouragement and truth based on the Bible. I'll be honest - I know God has come through so many times in the Bible, but I just didn't know where to go for a verse or direction, so Cultivate it was.
The section I read aloud goes like this, "Reflect on the Father’s heart toward you. Meditate on moments that you have felt answered by Him. Where in your life have you witnessed breakthrough, peace, joy, and help from your Heavenly Father? One of the greatest weapons we have is our remembrance. When the Israelites were in the desert, one of the greatest attacks was against their memory. They forgot the kindness of God, how He delivered them from their enemies. They lost heart and forgot. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember moments where He has met you."
Today was all about remembrance. Remembering what the Jews went through during the second world war, but also (without trying to make it about us) finding a personal connection to the moments of walking through the galleries. What did today mean for us as young Christians?
It means remembering His faithfulness when you're stuck, filled with despair, lonely, upset, or literally any other emotion that deviates from God's truth (that is love, grace and joy). When you feel like you have no direction, remember that He is a good and loving Father that provided for you once and will continue to provide for you time and time again.
That brings me to my second point - I haven't felt a whole lot here. Usually I go off the rails when it comes to emotions, but I've come to a place where what I'm experiencing is either shocking, amazing, or just plain hard to see, that it goes in through my eyes and ears and just sort of stays there. The images and views percolate and I can't brew anything out - no tears, no words, no ups or downs, but simply a being and thankfully, just a calmness.
There is a lie in our culture today that tells us in order to be close to God we must FEEL Him. I'll admit, there's nothing like feeling spiritually high singing songs of worship or finding yourself hearing from God however that might look like. But most of the time, this trip included, I don't hear much from my Father and while I know He isn't refraining from me, I find myself doubting that I'm not experiencing things the way I should be. My thought process goes a bit like this:
- If I go to Israel, the land where Jesus lived and proclaimed truth, and died on the cross for me, surely I will be closer to Him! I will feel His warm presence on my skin, see Him behind trees or walking with me in the Garden of Gethsemane, and feel shivers when I walk through the old city or the Via Dolorosa.
The fact of the matter is, I haven't heard anything from Him (until tonight, ask me about it if you want to hear more!) but am reminded of the very point of faith when this does happen. Faith, by its very nature is leaning into something that you literally CANNOT see the end of. I cannot see God, I can't touch Him, feel Him, nor does coming to Israel make me any closer to Him. What does make my faith in His presence stronger though, is walking these roads and imaging Him walking down them bearing the cross. What does make it more real is sitting on the Mt of Olives or singing in unison with other Believers in a church in the basement of a mall in Jerusalem in the very city where my King lived, breathed, and died for me. I'm not getting any spiritual high, but it's the intentional choice to lean in, take it in, observe, listen and learn about my Father that makes it more real.
So, maybe there will be tears and maybe there won't be, but I'm not skeptical that this is where this team is supposed to be in this very moment. Some have bawled their eyes out and God has spoken into their hearts and shown His face and I am AMPED for them. For me, it's the choice to return to Him because He is faithful and has given me those highs before. And, let me remind you that it's not about getting high on Jesus. While those moments are integral to what make me want to be more intimate and know His heart better, it's His word and testimony and this very place that say, "I'm with you even when it doesn't feel like it. I'm with you when you're confused and you have no emotions to attach to your experience. I'm with you when no words do justice to what you see and more often than not you're filled with sorrow and despair and loneliness. I'm with you."
So, that's what I've got for tonight! Thanks for reading and following me on this journey here in Israel. It truly is real and I am feeling very blessed to be here right now. If are praying, if you could pray for our team's health, that would be very much appreciated. Below are photos if you want to look at some of the places we've been.