No Matter the Place, It’s Always the People

Back by less than two weeks from my third trip to Israel, finally over the jet lag that dogged me longer than expected, I pondered the questions posed several times during the trip. “What is your favorite part of the trip so far?” “What is your takeaway?”

ancient olive trees in Garden of Gethsemane

Had I enjoyed exploring the grottoes near the Lebanon border on the Mediterranean? Spending unhurried time in a less visited part of the Garden of Gethsemane? Worshipping with previously unknown brothers and sisters outside of Jerusalem? Spending the night in a Bedouin camp? Absolutely! But favorite? Honestly, no matter when that question was asked, I could only remember the most immediate sight explored. Visiting so many places, several brand new to me, in such a short time, I couldn’t consider each one individually until I was home looking at my pictures and reliving the memories.Rosh HaNikra and grottoes (7)

mini-Beduoin Camp  (2)I wasn’t focused on finding that one most significant aspect of the trip, but Holy Spirit pointed out that the people we toured with made it extra special. My husband and I remarked several times while in Israel how much we were enjoying the entire group. We could interact with anyone at any time and feel none of the usual barriers found with groups.

I believe this was a specially chosen, God-picked group of just over 30 people, ranging in age from 12 to 73 and coming from the US, Canada, Scotland, Great Britain, France, Philippines (via Singapore,) and Israel. But, is that what made it special?

In part, I’m sure, but I suspect God saw so much more when He drew each of us to sign up and follow through. And I know He began something with the members of this group. Or He continued something. Or He completed something. Maybe some of all three. But something was affected in the spirit realm because we were all together on this particular trip at this particular time as believers in Christ who love Israel. Besides that, my heart gets happy each time I see the faces in pictures or memories.

12183691_463541337181015_5349280319832619147_oThere is a possibility I may never know what He did, and I’m not at all bothered by it. I’m totally thankful simply to have been included. Just being thankful is a really peaceful place to reside. I think I’ll dwell here going forward, no longer demanding to understand with my mind what Christ fully understands already.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

What’s in a Moment?

How I wish someone had been nearby to take a picture today! A selfie wouldn’t work – if I could even manage to take a decent one. Actually, the photographer would have had to be invisible and soundless to have caught the moment without disrupting one of the subjects, so I’m left with what I hope will be an unfading picture in my mind.

The afternoon was typical of my writing days. Sandy found me on a dining room chair in the middle of the living room (where the ceiling fan could keep me cool,) my laptop on the portable desk that allows arms and hands to be comfortably lower than other desks while typing. I had tuned Spotify to my instrumental worship playlist, with its music permeating atmosphere and attitude with peace while not distracting my focus.

After more than an hour, I became aware of what my subconscious noted as it happened. Sandy, my faithful dog, had joined me not long after I began typing, settling himself into a peaceful sleep in the sunlight behind me. He placed himself just near enough that I could reach out from time to time – with effort – to stroke him. At the same time, he was far enough away to keep me from something more constant – like resting my foot against him. There he remained until I moved away from the desk.

Why did I so want a picture? Though his aversion to cameras makes photos of Sandy rare treasures, that wasn’t my motive. Rather, it was the experience of the moment I wanted to preserve, a moment of deep-down, to-the-core happiness I encountered in a typical day with my furry companion nearby.

Sandy - snows of 2014
Sandy – snows of 2014

There have been other moments like this, but this was the first time I gave it more than a passing notice. I’ve taken other similar experiences for granted, disregarding how quickly time passes.   Because of many changes, I’m acutely aware of Sandy’s limited time, maybe even measured in months. Tough medical conditions are now working against his 13 ½-year-old body, though he still tries to be the younger version of himself.

Interestingly, that moment this afternoon came with no sadness added. Instead, I was overwhelmed from the inside out with thankfulness that I have Sandy today, and sensed a deep conviction to remain in this thankfulness each day for however many more we have together. By God’s wonderful grace, I refuse to let what could happen tomorrow steal from me today.

I think I’ll let the Lord apply that moment’s lesson to every part of my life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV …give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

He Can’t Help It!

When I re-read this journal entry from more than twenty years ago, it encouraged me anew.  And words with that much staying power must be shared with other believers!

I recorded the following thoughts after realizing I was less than thankful for my family and my non-Christian upbringing.  Perhaps you can relate in some way, as well.

. . . There was a subconscious thought that I would have been so much better off if I had been raised in a Christian home.  Today, God made it clear that He wouldn’t have loved me any more this day even if I had been a Christian and truly seeking Him all my life.  He loves me, and there are no degrees of His love.  He does love me.  Had I been a Christian with a Christian upbringing, really desiring that walk with and growing in Him from the beginning, He would still have loved me exactly the same today.  On top of that, life wouldn’t be easier.  I’d just be going through different experiences in which to trust Him.

father daughterReading this all these years later only brings it home so much more vividly.  God can’t help it.  He loves me.  It’s not based on how many years I’ve known Him, or how I was raised.  And His love for me doesn’t grow.  His love for me is.  Period.  It’s the same for you.  May this truth become even more real for you each coming day.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  1 John 4:16  NIV

Because It’s Right

If you read the December 20 post, you know that my husband and I paid off our home mortgage early.  Never having done this before, other than when we were selling a house to buy another one, we really didn’t know what to expect.  We assumed it would be like when you pay off an auto loan.  First, you receive something from the finance company indicating that you no longer owe them money.  A few weeks later, you receive the title to your car.  I don’t know about you, but I get a sense of satisfaction in having that piece of paper proving ownership.

Being new to the home pay-off experience, we anticipated receiving something from the mortgage company as proof of our completed obligation, even if nothing else.  After a few weeks passed, I was told by the company that it had been sent to the Register of Deeds, who would be sending us something.  Upon calling a few weeks later, I found that it was on record as having been paid.  The woman was very nice and helpful, telling me we had been given the deed when we first bought the house years ago.  What I was looking for, she told me, was the deed of trust, which proves our full ownership.  If I really wanted a paper copy, I could drive downtown and get it there, or I could go online to a title site, sign up for a free 7-day trial, and get a copy right on my printer at home, which I did.

Talk about anti-climactic!  At least a car company sends you a letter recognizing you have completed your obligation to them!  Here we have a mortgage paid off ahead of time, a much bigger a deal in our minds, and I had to print the paperwork off the internet – with no one around to congratulate us.  At a time when the whole industry is struggling, you’d think they’d have been especially glad to have all our money early!

Okay, so sarcasm and self-pity aren’t pretty at all – ever.  After all, why did we pay off the mortgage in the first place, when we could have continued making our monthly payments for years down the road?  I’ll refer to the December 20 post Scripture reference:  Romans 13:8 NIV  “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”  That is the verse the Lord used many years ago to give us the desire to be debt-free in the first place.  At the right time, He made it clear that it was time to complete the process, and we willingly obeyed, all glory to God.  We didn’t do it for man’s accolades, though once it was done, we came to expect them.  Did we fail to pay attention to the great cheers coming from heaven when we paid off our debts simply because He told us to?  If we had done this for the applause of man, we would have lost our true reward, which is so much greater than anything human could possibly be!  Glory be to God!  Truly, we did what we did because it was the right thing to do for us and what the Holy Spirit had made clear we were to do right now.

The hidden motives of our hearts ensnare us so easily, even in the midst of doing the right things.  It’s the subtlety of pride – “look at what I’ve done,” rather than “look at what the Lord has enabled me to do!”  Thank God for His mercy and His Holy Spirit, Who helps us see things His way.  It’s time for us simply to return to being thankful the Lord has made the way for us to pay off our financial debts so we can focus on repaying the debt to love – because it is right.  Kind of like Jesus, Who went about doing good . . . because it was right.