Saturday, July 26, 2008

Shabbat Shalom: Moving in Formation

Dear Family,

I learned something very interesting in the army this week. All the things I learned were fascinating, but this one in particular had an impact on me. We learned how to move in groups of four towards a target, while firing our weapons. How it worked was we were all in a lying down firing position, and all of us were firing our designated target. Then came the time for the movement to start. The leader of this small four man squad would yell out that he was starting to move. The others would continue to fire while the leader moved forward towards his target in a crouching run. When the leader had reached his new position, yell that he was finished moving, lay down, and begin to fire. Then the next man would repeat what the first man did. So the small unit would get closer and closer to the enemy position with three men firing at all times. I was the leader of the first of these small units and it was an incredible feeling when I started to move. Everyone had their own target, so there would be no crossing into lines of fire, but I had to run out ahead of the line of fire while bullets flew past me four meters to my right and left. It was an amazing feeling.

It struck me that we as believers have been given the task to take ground for the Lord and too many times we have tried to do it alone. If we have worked with others, too many times we have not taken our turns to advance because we are afraid we might get hit from behind. Too many times those who have stepped out trusting those with them, have been hit from behind by those who were supposed to be advancing with them. All of these things have prevented us from taking the ground from the enemy, and the Lord desires for it to stop. To advance the kingdom of God, we must work together. We must trust those around us to help in the effort, and we must stop spiritually shooting our fellow believers in the back. If we see our brother or sister advance in the Lord, we should not get jealous of them. But we should see that it is now our turn to advance. We who believe in Yeshua are all children of the kingdom and it is time we started acting like it so that our enemy's territory can be taken.

*****

Where as Devin learned about "moving in formation," this past week, I learned about "moving" and "sojourning." Anyone who has moved knows that it can be an emotionally difficult process, usually more so for woman than men. Anyone who is called to sojourn knows it requires a great deal of sacrifice. This week it occurred to me that I'm getting ready to "move." I had never really thought about all of the upcoming changes in that context before. A few days ago, while I was reading my bible on the bus, the Lord took me to Hebrews 11:13-16. Through this passage, He revealed to me how "alien" I feel on this earth. Anytime I'm in America, as much as I enjoy my family and friends, part of me yearns to be serving the Lord overseas, so I'm not quite comfortable; however, being here in Jerusalem isn't quite comfortable yet either. So, no matter what, I'm stuck in discomfort... at least for a season. This move isn't just about changing locations, but its also about joining a people who aren't my own, not temporarily, and not in a familiar American setting. The pressures from these changes have been overwhelming at times. Especially when the pressure is simply that, pressure, and not conviction by the Holy Spirit.

The Lord provided someone to speak some encouragement into my life last week, regarding the emotions of making a big move and learning to become part of a new culture. Ultimately, I discovered that I need to take care of first things first; finding a place in our Congregation and developing strong friendships. The next thing the Lord showed me was that my process of sojourning will not necessarily be like anyone else's. Anyone who has spent time in Israel knows that Messianic Congregations look very different here than they do at home. By different I mean less ceremonially "messianic." This was one of the greatest surprises I discovered on my first trip. I don't really know the reason for this, nor do I claim to be an expert, but I do know that living in a Jewish state, individuals naturally take on the rhythm of Jewish life as it it built into the nationalism of the people. Its the minority who don't keep the feast and holy days, a horn that can be heard all over the city announces Shabbat, public bathrooms are sometimes fitted for ceremonial hand washing, meat comes kosherized at the grocery store... etc. The people celebrate their heritage together, and they pay the price of living here together. Its all really amazing to me. Just as the context allows Messianic Congregations take on a different expression here than they do in American, as a sojourner, I'm discovering that the way I join the people here will also be different than in America. I have no idea how that looks yet, but I do know that it begins with a heart posture of humility. The day after the last attack, I was sitting at the bus stop waiting for the number 5 with my neighbors. We were all talking as we normally do and then we heard the growling of a bulldozer driving right across from us. Conversation stopped and all five of use glued our eyes to the driver. In silence we stared. No one spoke about it, but I'm sure we were all having the same thoughts, wondering about the emotions felt by the others who witnessed the previous two attacks, remembering those who were lost, and hoping this driver wasn't influence by the same spirit as the last two. When our bus finally arrived, none of us were lazy about getting on! After I sat down, it occurred to me that I had truly began to journey with these people. We shared something together as we sat and watched the bulldozer. I could identify with them, feel their concern but also the confidence they had to fight for each other.

There is a reason one with the calling of Ruth is called a sojourner and not a "sodestinationer." Sure, we all have an eternal destination to worship Messiah in the heavenly city, but in this present age, we are called to journey through the process of learning to love, sacrifice, and forgive as we are reconciled to one another through the Lord. Different seasons in life, and interactions with different people will call for differing levels of sacrificing my own traditions for those of my fiancee's people. As of now, the Lord has shown me to follow His lead and to be patient. If something feels forced or just to much at the moment, that's fine. He's doing the leading and I trust where He's taking me.

Thank you all so much for your continued prayers....they are worth more than we can say.

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Shabbat Shalom

7/13/08

Dear Family,

Blessings to you all on this wonderful Shabbat the Lord has given us. I love the fact that the IDF tries it's best to send their soldiers home often for Shabbat. It is unlike any other military in the world in this way. One of the things that has bound the Jewish people together for so long has been the observance of Shabbat. Sending soldiers home to be with family on Shabbat is a wonderful way to honor that. After a long week being apart, Callie and I love being able to spend the Shabbat together. I see in part how great a gift Shabbat really is.

I received my new assignment a couple of days ago, and it really surprised me. A man in my position (27, immigrant, with education) usually gets the basic of the basic training in the IDF. After 2 months, someone like me is shipped off to be a worker in the army; just passing the time until my 6 months finish. I and 19 others (out of 150) were chosen this week to be a part of a unit that is taught how to detect and clean up after chemical, nuclear, or biological attacks. Before we are taught this, we have to go through three weeks of additional advanced weapons training. After these three weeks in Ashkelon, we will got to Rishon Letzion to learn about how to identify pathogens, and to clean up after these attacks. I know the Lord is in this. He is already speaking to me about it as a defense for Israel. Please pray for skill and protection as I start this assignment on Sunday.

Callie is getting settled into working in a local architectural firm here in Jerusalem. She is enjoying the process of getting integrated into the workforce here, and getting to know the Israeli people in a way few ever do unless they live here. She is talking a lot with her bosses, and her fellow employees, about how they came to Israel, and what their impressions are of living here. Please pray for her firm to be blessed with an abundance of work, so that she would remain active and invaluable to the firm. Pray that she would be able to share more of who she is spiritually with the people there.

The news of my assignment had an interesting affect on both Callie and I. We were both hoping that I would get an assignment near to Jerusalem, so that I could come home at the end of everyday. That ordinary job would have been a job any other person could do, and it wouldn't have been very crucial to the IDF. When I first heard about my new assignment, I was quite upset ... not because of what I would do, but more for how I would break the news to Callie that I would not be around much to support her. On the bus ride home from the base, the Lord started to speak to me about how my life has been , and how it would continue to be with Callie. When we turn to the Lord, saying that we will serve Him, where ever that takes us, we are not ever just going to be passing time. The Lord has something crucial for each of us to do for His kingdom. We have to be ready for the surprising form that takes. When I arrived in Jerusalem, and I finally told Callie, her first response was to say, "I am not surprised", and then she laughed for ten minutes. She told me later that she was filled with the joy of the Lord, and with His peace, because she knew I would have a unique assignment in the army. She knew this assignment would open up doors for us in the future, and allow the Lord to glorify Himself through it. It wasn't quite the response I expected, but it was the one I needed to hear. Things might not always turn out exactly the way we prefer, but when we follow the Lord, His grace covers everything. Not only do we feel His grace, but we are allowed to feel the joy He has for us, as we faithfully follow His call. That is the joy I believe Callie felt. It was the joy God has for His children when they walk and obey. It will be a tough assignment, but with all the Lord has given us through this process, I am certain that blessing will be seen constantly. Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin