Friday, May 29, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

This is my favorite time of the year here in Israel. The summer heat has not quite set in yet. The rains are over, so there is rarely a cloud in the sky, and the tourism is very low until sometime at the end of June. Everything is so full of life here and it is easy to forget some of the troubles that are surrounding this small nation. Next week however, we will all wake up to the reality. There will be a nation wide drill to simulate what needs to happen in case of a major missile attack. Sirens will go off from the north of the country to the south and we will all remember what we are up against. Please continue to pray for this small nation and all of its citizens who live in constant anticipation of what will happen next. Please pray that the Lord would visit them in their time of need.

We want to thank you again for your wonderful prayers on our behalf. The reports from where Callie works continues to be extremely positive. They love her there and are giving her more opportunities to contribute. It has been very nice to work in an environment which is relaxed and creativity is encouraged. Please pray that the Lord would lead me as to how the business should proceed. I have some meetings this week that could be very helpful. Please pray I would hear and follow what the Lord directs me to do.

We have had a great time growing a small herb garden in our new apartment here. We joke about it constantly, because we have started to speak of this little garden like we would our children. We get up in the morning and say things like, "Wow, they look so big! When did we water them last? Which plant has gotten bigger since yesterday?" We are very quick to proudly show everyone our little garden when we come in. Just today I was looking proudly at it, and the Lord began to speak to me. One of the herbs we have is basil, and when we bought it, the small plant immediately put out lots of flowers. It looked beautiful, but the plant's leaves didn't seem to be growing at all. It fact the leaves (the part you eat, i.e. "the fruit") looked really pathetic. So, after a bit, I went online, and found that we needed to pinch off the flowers so that the leaves would grow. All the energy goes toward producing these flowers and not the leaves that you are supposed to eat. As soon as we did that, it took the plant all of a week to explode into a nice green plant with lots of new leaves to eat. The Lord started speaking to me that this plant is like the Body now. We have enjoyed our big conferences, our huge worship events, our big name speakers, but where is the real fruit? All that stuff looks great, but where is the true fruit that the Lord wants us to bear. The fruit, as with the basil plant, is in the most humble part of the Body. It is with those who humbly lay down there lives, seeking no reputation, just the Glory of God. That is why you see fruit all over the world, but more so in the more humble places. In the Western Body however, we see lots of beautiful or attractive things (the flowers), but the the real fruit is lacking. The flashy aspect of the Body has sapped energy from the true humble fruit that comes from studying the word, growing in community together, sharing truth in love, and living life as a sacrifice to God. It is time that we truly examine what we are doing and why we are doing them. Is it to make the Body look more attractive, or are we truly and humbly seeking His glory? It may be time that we pinch off those "flowers" so that the energy can be spent bringing forth true fruit. I pray that we would all bear real fruit for the Kingdom of God.

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie



Related Post:
Shabbat Shalom (The one about being a pleasing aroma.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Need an Excuse to Eat Cheesecake?

Well, I've got a good one! This Friday marks Shavuot on the Hebrew calendar, the holy day known to most of us as Pentecost. Yes, the day the Holy Spirit arrived! (Isnt' it interesting how so many key events in the New Testament perfectly align with the Hebrew calendar? The Lord must be trying to tell us something.)

Shavuot is celebrated 7 weeks + 1 day after the Feast of First Fruits, which coincidentally (or not) is the day that Yeshua was raised from the dead. Within the Judaic tradition, Shavuot marks the anniversary of the time Israel received the Torah from the Lord, so it is quite fitting that the Holy Spirit would be given at the time of this feast.

As for specifics regarding how the feast is celebrated, I don't really know yet! This will be my first one! Although, here's the few key feasting facts that I do know:

Firstly, Shavuot is a Shabbat. According to Hebraic thought, the new day starts at evening rather than morning. This is why the feasts are celebrated the evening before you might see them noted on the calendar in your kitchen or office. Devin and I will be celebrating the Feast on Thursday night, then resting on Friday. Oh - and work on Thursday is a half day!

Next, Shavuot is celebrated by reading the book of Ruth. This is because Shavuot is to be celebrated with "the strangers, orphans and widows" in the midst of Israel. The strangers, orphans, and widows were given privileges by the Lord to glean the corners of the fields during the time of harvest, the season of which Shavuot occurs. Ruth is both poor, and a foreigner who spends a great deal of time gleaning Boaz's field, so her story is well fitting.

Lastly, during the feast, we will be eating dairy products-particularly cheesecake! Oh the joy! The eating of dairy products is not a biblical command, but rather a tradition that has been passed down through the generations, but its definitely one worth keeping!

Join us for Shavuot this Thursday evening. Go out for cheesecake, buy one and take it home, or bake one yourself. As you eat, praise the Lord for His law and His Spirit; and take in all the treasures found in the book of Ruth!

If you decide to celebrate, please let me know how it goes!

callie m.




Resources:
For Bible passages mentioning Shavuot (also known as the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost)
see:
Exodus 34:21-23
Numbers 28:25-27
Deuteronomy 16
2 Chronicles 8:12-14
Acts 2

Related Posts:
Celebrating the Resurrection in Israel

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

Praise God that that the love of Yeshua is available to us each and everyday. His love gives us strength in the face of a future that is by no means clear. It seems like so many things in the world are shaking, that if we were left alone, there is no way we would stand. We who live in Israel find ourselves in this position constantly. Everyone wants to have a piece of this wonderful Land, or they want to make a name for themselves by being the ones who divide it. It is only by the grace of God that this nation stands at all, and we believe that this truth will become more clear very soon. The last bit of strong support that this nation had politically seems to be slipping away at a rapid rate and the God of Israel will be the only thing left. Please pray that the Lord would reveal Himself soon to His people. I could not imagine facing all that is coming without the security of knowing Yeshua. What He did for us is our true salvation and refuge.

This past week, the Lord moved me to go head and start a business in Israel. For those of you who don't know, I am trained to teach English as a second language, and the business will hopefully become a language school. In Israel, going into any government office is a daunting thing. Usually you can spend frustratingly long hours in line and get very little done. There were two office that the business had to be registered with and both were in the Ministry of Finance. When it came time to go, it seemed as though all the doors were thrown open by the Lord. It took all of 20 minutes to get in and out of two government offices. This is nothing short of a miracle. Please pray that the Lord would direct us how this business is supposed to proceed. There are a lot of possibilities, but we want the Lord to direct and guide us in it.

The Lord really spoke to me this week through the reading of a book called The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. The particular chapter I read was about the infinity of God. All the characteristics of God are connected to His infinity. There is no end to His love, grace, justice, or mercy because they are all are interconnected with His infinity. Sin, is something that came about through the hearts an minds of created beings. It had a beginning, and it will have an end someday. This concept struck me really hard, because how many of us see our sin, shame, or guilt as "too big" for God to handle. How many people have you heard say, "God could never forgive me for that." We carry our guilt or shame for so long sometimes, that we forget that they too had a beginning and an end. People who have been believers for many years still have a hard time with this. In the end, if we carry our guilt and shame with us, we are saying that it rivals the infinity of God. We are saying to Him, whose love has no beginning and no end, that His grace is not enough to take away our shame. There are things that we in the Body of Messiah have been carrying for way too long. We have access to the only One who can set us free, yet we don't come to Him because our guilt is "too great". It is time that we come to the Lord and allow His infinity to wash away the the shame and guilt. Come, let His infinite love, mercy, grace, and peace minister to you on this Shabbat.

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie

Monday, May 18, 2009

Adventures in Ein Gedi

While we were engaged, we went on a trip to Ein Gedi!* Ein Gedi is the desert oasis where David wrote many of the Psalms while he was hiding from Saul (See 1 Sam 23:29 and 1 Sam 24:1). It was established as a state park in 1974 because of the site's rich biblical history and its beautiful natural attributes; flowing streams, waterfalls, and natural swimming pools. Traveling to Ein Gedi is an easy day trim from Jerusalem, and one we highly recommend!



After a swim in the first pool.




My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
from the vineyards of En Gedi.
Song of Solomon 1:14




See the all the waterfalls in the background?




That's the Dead Sea behind Devin.




Weeeeee!




The water is just deep enough to have a nice swim.





Devin's turn.







The tropical trails.



This is "David's Waterfall." Some scholars believe it is the site where David penned Psalm 42:

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?

3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

4 These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.




5 Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.

6 O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.



9 I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"

10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

11 Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.




*Photos and memories are from our trip in Aug 2008.


Resource:
Israel Nature and Natural Parks Protection Authority

Related Posts:
Adventures in the Shuk
Get Married

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More Evidence Against The Shack

After a strong conversation about William P. Young's The Shack last summer, I wondered if I was too quickly passing judgment on something I had not read. During the discussion, I held one of the more conservative views that Young's novel presented some heretical teachings, and we needed to be cautious of its influences.

My initial discernment seemed obvious enough to me. God the Father was being portrayed as God the Mother. In an age of sexual perversion and gender confusion, this lack of truth in the depiction of God was enough for me to question the benefits of reading the book, and even wonder about the true source of its spiritual persuasions.

In the Bible, the God of Abraham is portrayed as Fatherly. Yeshua Himself refers to God as His Father countless times. Too many times for me to even site. (Just a few: John 5:18,John 6:27, John 6:46) The Father heart of God is part of who He is. Its one of His strongest attributes and language describing Him as such is pervasive through out the entire bible. Since Young challenged this as truth, in my opinion, it seemed like enough evidence to be weary of the controversial novel.

For me, it was simple. The Shack presented a personification of God that came against His word, and I wasn't going to invest the time in reading it.

However, after hearing about how many oodles of people were incredibly moved by it, I wondered, "Am I not allowing for enough creative liberties here?" After all, I am am artist myself, and like Young, I have spent time serving the Lord in cross cultural settings. I know first hand the complexities that can arise between the two. I know the need to keep the truth of the bible relavent to eastern and indiginous cultures, rather than imposing "Western Christianity." I know the feelings of being misunderstood, and I know the pain of an artists heart being struck down by a religious spirit.

I took the matter to the Lord again in prayer, and my answer about whether or not I should give it a chance was a consistent "No." Upon receiving some new information from my highly discerning mother-in-law, I'm glad I didn't read it.

Simply the fact that The Shack portrays God the Father, a biblical truth concerning His character and nature, as God the Mother should be enough in itself. We shouldn't need actual evidence that this is a pagan idea. The word of God should stand alone. But for anyone who remains unconvinced, consider this:

Papa, the name and personality of the woman character Young uses to portray God the father, is also the name of the Hawaiian Earth Mother and Goddess of femininity.

Perhaps Young isn't writing about the God of the Bible at all. Instead, Young's "Papa" appears to be some confused syncretic version of the God of the Bible and this goddess of pagan origin. The problem with sycretism is that just as oil and water doesn't mix, neither does light and dark, or truth and lies. Its simply unbiblical and opens up doors to all sorts of spiritual strongholds.

So, you read The Shack and it changed your life?

I can understand that my challenge of the novel could be hard to accept, especially since I'll out rightly admit that I haven't read it. My encouragement is that you take the matter before the Lord, and weigh Young's words against God's word.

Also, consider the differences between The Shack and other creative writings such as C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as well as John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. Both of these embody a mature artistic expression while remaining consistent with the truth of the bible. It is possible to achieve and something we should be actively doing. We should be creative in our acts of worship and pursuits of knowing God, but we should also have a high standard for accurately handling the word of truth.

I'm interested in your thoughts, so write and let me know!

callie m.

Good Resource:
Reimagining God in The Shack by Mary Kassian of The Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Related Posts:
Earth Worship and Child Sacrifice

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

Thank you all so much for continued prayers for us. The Lord has provided for us in such a wonderful way that we can hardly believe it sometimes. There are many times during the week that we just sit in our apartment and give glory to Him for life that we have here. Things are not perfect, and there are plenty of things still need to happen for us here, but learning to always glorify God for what we have, has been a good lesson for us. We see the Lord moving in all parts of our life here and it is important that we acknowledge it. Also, going through these things together has really brought us closer together. The feeling that we are working together with the Lord to build a life here gives us a unity of purpose that we wouldn't have otherwise. Please continue to pray that the Lord would help our roots grow deep here and that He would continue to open doors for us. I really need direction from the Lord about what the next step will be for me in regards to my language school. Callie needs continued wisdom in how to cultivate her relationships at work. The Lord has given her favor in her office, and we just ask that you would pray for that favor to increase.

I wonder how I smell to God? I know this is an extremely funny statement at first glance, but I would like a chance to explain myself. Throughout scripture, the Lord uses the imagery of an aroma, or a pleasing smell to describe things like sacrifices or prayers. Smell is something that is pervasive. When you walk into a room, and there is a strong smell, that strong smell fills your head. even if you stop your nose and only breath through your mouth, you can still smell it. The Lord uses this imagery in His word is such a beautiful way, that I just started asking myself, "How do I smell to God." Of course God doesn't have a nose that he should really be able to smell something, but it is the imagery that is so powerful. The things that we do for the Lord, or our prayers carry with them an "aroma" that travels to the Lord. Of course we don't sacrifice animals now, but we are supposed to be living sacrifices to God. I wonder as well how it "smells" to the Lord when we act in rebellion or if we are still living in some kind of sin. How does the actions of our flesh "smell" to Him? When I started thinking about this, all the terrible smells I could think of started to flood my mind and I was horrified by the thought that this might be something like what God "smells" when we are disobedient to Him. It is a challenge to me, and if you will accept it, to you all as well to ask the question, "How does this smell to my Father?" If our actions, words, or prayers were translated into actual smells, would we be able to be in the same room with them, let alone God? We should be living our lives in such a way that the Lord only smells a pleasing aroma from us. It should be a desire of our hearts to smell good to God in absolutely everything we do. I don't know if this was as inspiring to you as it was for me, but I pray the Lord would continue to teach me this. We need to know that what we do as children of God matters and does really have an effect. We are never insignificant in the Lord's eyes and everything we do carries an aroma with it. Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie


Related Posts:
Frozen Flowers

Monday, May 4, 2009

Making Grits in Israel

Every Shabbat (Saturday) morning, Devin and I make a big Southern breakfast with some nice Israeli touches. We usually have scrambled eggs, smoked goose breast (instead of bacon), humus, olives, and... GRITS!

Yes, grits!

Well, our grits are actually something called polenta. The color is a little more yellow and the grains are just a tad bit smaller than the fluffy white grits I grew up eating in North Carolina, but its close enough. And they look nice too. We store them in a glass jar on our counter alongside some white rice and black-eyed peas. Our plan is to grow the collection of grains and beans overtime.

Since I was raised in the age of instant grits, Devin and I have had to experiment to get the water ratio and seasoning right. The first batch we made was very bland (sorry Cy and Jill), but now we've got it figured out. They take quite a bit of salt, pepper and butter for starters. Devin so kindly made Bojangles seasoning for me, so I have been adding that, as well as goose breast fat, and a little cheese. They are pretty perfect. I even like the yellow color.

I believe it is the Lord's kindness and mercy on my transitioning process that we found grits in the shuk a few weeks ago. It would have been heart breaking to think about raising a family without the yummy goodness of grits.

Everything is different and new in my life right now, so the little bits of home the Lord provides are encouraging. Our life is exciting, wonderful, and a tremendous blessing, but its not always easy. Last week was particularly difficult. I cried three times in one day, all because:

1. Devin's birthday cake did not turn out how I hoped it would. The frozen blueberries I used melted and created a purple mess! Fortunately, it tasted great, but as a visual artists... I wanted it to look nice too.

2. One of Devin's birthday presents (herbs for our window herb garden) ended up being a poisonous plant. The sales woman at the plant store speaks Hebrew and I still only speak English. Something was lost in translation.

3. Both of us had terrible sinus infections at the same time.

4. And we received disappointing news that it will take longer for our wedding gifts and furniture to arrive than we had expected.
.

Now, none of these issues are really all that bad, and realistically, they aren't even all that terrible piled on top of each other either. It was all just a matter of culture shock. Sometimes tasks that are easy in America are difficult in Israel. That was the problem with the birthday cake and buying the plants. And things will just be this way from time to time. Such is life as an immigrant.

Nonetheless, the Lord is faithful. I see this in the big things, such as His provision of an amazing husband, a great job, and believing friends in our neighborhood. And in the small things, like our Shabbat morning yellow grits. As we feast on this special treat, I taste His goodness in my life.

callie m.


Related Posts:
Adventures in the Shuk
Sojourning: Homesickness
Shabbat Letter: Foreigners and Shabbat
Start Your Family

If you liked reading about Grits, check out Faith Dwight's post on Scrambled Eggs.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

Thank the Lord that He has provided for us a refuge in Him! It seems like the whole world (according to the media) is in a panic over the outbreak and pending pandemic of swine flu that we are witnessing. Every news website I go to as at least two headlining stories about it and how quickly it could become much worse. I am sure your experience has been much the same as mine. The way of modern media seems to be an unending amount of coverage for whatever is the next big story. The networks all try to one up the other and the effect is that it can cause more panic than is necessary. Being aware of something and knowing how serious it is, is one things. Being induced to panic and worry by the sensational media is something completely different. Thank the Lord that this is not where we live. We live in Him and we have a rock of shelter that will never be moved no matter what happens.

We have been blessed immensely to know that many of you have been taking the time to pray for us. It is always difficult to adjust to a new situation, but when you have a supportive family around you, it makes things so much easier. Your prayers have surrounded us and we feel their effects daily. We were both (coincidentally and not connected to the swine flu) dealing with colds over the past week, but we are feeling much better now. Please pray that the Lord would continue to lead us into how we are to minister to the people here. Doors are every where, but we need to know what doors wants us to walk through as witnesses for Yeshua.

One common theme that continues to come up everywhere we go is the need for the Body to go through further purification. The meetings we have had, the Bible studies we have been to, and the casual conversations we have had, in some way, have included this concept. The Body has been way to comfortable living with sin in it's midst. In an attempted to make the Gospel "user friendly" we have allowed things to continue in our gatherings that are contrary to the Word of God. The problem is not that we are ignorant of these things...the problem is that we know things are wrong and we knowingly allow them to continue. The Body has adopted an idea of "radical love" that has come to mean we need to be tolerant and love no matter what. I agree that we should love no matter what, but "radical love" must include tough love at times. For the sake of a child's future, we must discipline that child. For the sake of a brother or sister's future in the Lord, we must call sin what it is. We must declare a false doctrine to be false if it is false. If we are truly coming into contact with and worshipping a holy God, then we must understand what that means. It means that all of us, not matter how old in the Lord, should be going through change. We should always be going through the process of sanctification or purification BECAUSE we have a relationship with a truly Holy God. While we are in this fallen world, we should all be going through this. It is by no means love to allow a brother to remain in his sin. It is not love if we are not bringing this brother with us to stand together before a Holy God. The purification of the Body is necessary because we carry with us the Name of God and we are His representatives on this Earth. It is a great weight of responsibility and we need to make sure that we understand how great it is. If we are not being purified, then how will the world see a difference between us and them? If there is seemingly no difference between us and the world, then what does this mean we are doing to the Holy Name of God? I pray we would all stop seeking the approval of men and continue to glorify God through our lives. Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie