Journal: Israel

Have you ever stood in the front row at a concert, under the speaker, where you can feel the power of the bass drum pound at your chest? Have you felt a deafening crack of thunder pulse through the air and still your heart for a second? Do you know that feeling? That was it. But it wasn’t a drum. It could have been thunder, but it wasn’t. As a powerful boom hit the chests of each person strolling through the park, the entire world stopped in an instant. In a held breath all speech ceased, every foot heavy in a frozen stance. “Was that…” eyes searched the sky frantically, and as quickly as it froze the moment broke free into total chaos. “Yes. Run.”

In the park’s public restroom the air was thick with anticipation. Within the anthill in which we scattering ants had gathered, breathless from fleeing strides, fear was screaming in the silence. There were far too many people crowded into such a small space in the desert’s mid-summer heat.

Now, as a faint whisper in the distance, a siren sounded. Yeah, thanks for the warning. A muffled voice uttered in a foreign language over a loud speaker. It wasn’t over. Every one stared, wide-eyed, at the cold stone walls as if at any second they could come alive, the sunlight and desert sand bursting in from behind them.
Dear friends, a mother and father, held tightly to their confused young children. Just babies, they didn’t understand. Shaken parents, they needed to pray. A still small voice in my heart compelled me, but what could I do, little more than a child myself? Unworthy, unprepared, a cracked clay vessel at best. We didn’t even speak the same language.

A gentle smile, an outstretched hand. Inhale. Exhale. Pray. The boys were a bit confused as I sat them each in a sink. Comforted by the cool running water, they gave their attention. Toilet paper in hand, their fear turned to curiosity as we used a little water to wad it up. Their curiosity faded into bright smiles as I stepped back and held the trash bin high for a game. As the first “ball” soared into the basket the purest sound of delight rose from the fearful silence and chased tension away. For the first time in an eternity a gentle breath, a sigh, spread throughout the crowd gathered in this haven. The walls on which every eye had been fixed seemed to move a little further away.

A saddle worthy cockroach fell, brushing my hand on its way to the ground; I jumped back, looking at the boys who were laughing so hard that their laughs had become nearly silent, my expression exclaiming “Did you see that?!” We all laughed. At the sight of such happiness in the eyes of calmed children, despite the situation in which we found ourselves, an overwhelming wave of awe overtook me. I felt so small. In that moment a “still, small voice” captivated every thread of my heart’s attention. A still, small voice that was peace when and where peace didn’t make any sense.

The account of God speaking to Elijah in 1 Kings 19 is very close to my heart. His voice was not in the bombs falling from the sky. His voice was not in the sirens. His voice was not in the chaos of fear and panic. That day the God of the universe prepared another child’s heart to hear Him.

It was mid-summer, 2006, during the Lebanese war. I was 16 and volunteering at a Christian guest house in northern Israel. That day we had traveled south, far from the line of missile range, for a day of rest in the park. That day Lebanon aimed their long-range missiles at an army base on the mountain above us. They missed. That memory still seems like a scene from a movie to me.

War. It changes people. It can either riddle your heart with fear, crippling the purpose for which you were created, or strengthen your faith. Whether the “bombs” in your life are literally bombs falling from the sky or they are tests and trials in other forms, God is speaking. Listen to the undercurrent of peace beneath the resounding booms of chaos. His still small voice is beckoning your heart to draw closer to Him, to focus on the One who is bigger, the One who hears and is answering your cries.

Maybe that’s why I love sleeping under the stars in the holy land, walking the shore of the Galilee. Rich in history, they know. The same God, the same me, growing and walking through amazing days and adventures, but somehow, when I’m there, my world understands. As I take a moment to cherish these memories I find my glory in the power of the cross. I pray you come to know these moments and know them well. I pray He continues to do many otherwise impossible things through these weak unworthy hands of ours. I pray He draws you close, dear reader, closer than ever before.

Once upon a time I was hiding on a roof, in way over my head in a position of service in a foreign country, crying out, desperately homesick and all sorts of pitying my inadequacies.

Though preceded by months upon months of foreign starry nights, that was the first time it actually struck me that they weren’t the same stars home has. Their places were all wrong. But, then again, they weren’t, were they. The same God put them in their places and knows them by name. The same God promised new mercies with morning. Oh, morning. 4AM was quickly approaching with its work to be done. In the last quiet moment, silent tears fell with their wordless plea to my Heavenly Father for some sign of comfort for a homesick heart. And then I went to sleep.

With an egg washed apron and flour face paint, I juggled a few jars of olives and kumquat jam to open the front door after a few knocks. It was early. Very early, and no new guests were scheduled to arrive, so my shy yet inquisitive gaze could have been more welcoming.

She needed a room.

I began checking her in. “So what brings you to Israel?”

“Worship, my guitar and I are nomads of sorts, recording the Psalms.”

I liked her already. “Ah, you don’t have an accent, where are you from?”

“Cooperstown, It’s in upstate New York, not the city.”

😮

Her brief stay was refreshing, like soul-deep refreshing, and we broke out our instruments at the end of the day and just worshiped and laughed and awed.

I didn’t expect a neighbor and kindred spirit in answer to a heavy-hearted, silent, star-gazing prayer for a homesickness antidote, but my Heavenly Father did, so He cancelled her original plans and sent her to my door step at morning’s first light.

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