Shalom! Hello my dear friends and family (and to you ones that I haven’t met yet—I look forward to meeting you)! I hope this update finds you doing extremely well. Maybe you are asking God some tough questions about your future, or praising Him for the incredible ways He is revealing Himself to you, or maybe you are in that peaceful place? Regardless I hope it is good and you are seeing God in your life. I want to encourage you to continue pressing in, and not relenting until the answers come. God’s timing is incredibly perfect, yet always different and often slower than we expect. Right? Thank you for your commitment to journeying with me. Your prayers are powerful and extremely precious to me. Your support and encouragement are deeply valued too—thank you!
I’ve now been in Israel five days. The Holy Land. This place is quite different compared to where I have already been in Southeast Asia, and is especially different from the states. We are finishing the last week of lecture phase and I have the tremendous blessing of being able to tour Jerusalem. So far we have seen:
Holy Sepulcher Church: Very gaudy, incense smell lingering in the air, crowded with people, gorgeous art work and extravagant architecture. This is one of the alleged places where Jesus was crucified and location of His tomb. People are able to put their hand in the place where Jesus’ cross stood. I, of course, put my hand there and was surprised by the size of this hole and how smooth it was. There was a great big gob of people waiting to do this, and navigating towards the front of crowds is something that I am studying. After waiting about 5 minutes? I realize they are a group listening to a tour guide—doh! So I went around them and was able to instantly kneel and place my hand where the cross may have stood. Always learning!
The Dome of the Rock: I remember studying this place in my art history class in college (though I admittedly do not remember many of the facts I had learned). Many of you already know I have a deep appreciation for all things gold– and this is a BIG GOLD DOME! Nearby there is also the eastern wall where, Jesus will walk through during His second coming. To prevent this from happening? The gate has been bricked up, and a Muslim grave yard has been strategically placed in front of the gate. Supposedly, the dead are unclean and this would prevent Jesus from going through. An interesting thought.
The Wailing Wall: This place is SO busy. This is the nearest Jews (and others) can get to the Holiest of Holies (where the Arc of the Covenant, the presence of God, dwelt among the people. The wall is split into portions: 25/75. Women wail at the smaller portion, and take photos of their husbands and sons praying. When I went up to touch the wall I ran into over 15 people, as the women walked away from the wall they did so backwards and this was difficult to navigate.
Kotel Tunnel tour that goes along side the bottom of the wailing wall and under the Dome of the Rock. This was really neat to be underground. We saw examples of Herodian brick (this area was built while the city was under Herod’s rule), and the stones are square with borders cut into the stone. Not a place to go if you are scared of small places as some of the tunnels where quite small!
I prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed to the point of shedding blood.
Swam in the Dead Sea (well floated here actually!) and the swam in Ein Gedi pools while visiting the Masada stronghold in the Judean Wilderness. How incredibly hot, dry, barren, and large is the Judean Wilderness—this desert would be overwhelming to walk through. We also stopped by Qumran which is the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written.
One of my favorite places was visiting the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus asked His disciples to pray and keep watch while He prayed before Judas betrayed Him. Incredible. There are olive trees that are over 2000 years old still in this garden. Our tour guides are pioneering-kingdom-couple from New Zealand told us about the prayer anointing on this place, and offered people to be anointed with oil and prayed for to increase the gift/calling for prayer and intercession. After walking around the garden and reading. I wandered into the church: imagine twilight timing right before the sun goes down—lavender tinted stained glass windows capturing light reminiscent of the transition where day meets night. A service is going on in Spanish, and in the middle of the church is a rock encircled with a metal fence created to symbolically represent Jesus’ crown of thorns. This is where Jesus allegedly prayed to the point of sweating blood. After working my way to the front (I’m learning to be more aggressive) I knelt down and prayed with my hand touching this special place.
Regardless whether this is where Jesus prayed exactly or not doesn’t matter to me because the symbolism is enough. More than enough actually. After praying I felt prompted to seek the prayer and anointing for intercession and prayer our tour guides had offered. This is a new for me—my desire to pray for others. I met with my Sunday School class to pray on Saturdays, but my heart has changed. One of my team roles on outreach was intercessor. I was intimidated to be leading out in prayer, and honestly quite QUITE shy about praying OUT LOUD, in front of others before coming to YWAM (wondering if my prayers “sounded good” or not?). God really met me in this new responsibility, and prayer is something that I continue to grow into. All this to say, when Suze prayed for me? Tears flooded my eyes and I felt, Jesus’ incredible love for us in a new way. I reveled in the gift of this moment and paused to reflect all that had gone into making that moment happen: preparation to leave for New Zealand, YWAM school in Oxford, traveling throughout Southeast Asia, arriving in Tel Aviv. And those are just the physical location changes not the changes of heart, the impact people have made on my life throughout this journey, or the revelations God has so generously given to me.
Jesus prayed to the point of sweating blood. Sweating blood! I stood in the place where Jesus made the CHOICE to surrender His life to exchange it for ALL of mankind’s salvation. Honestly? I am still trying to wrap my heart around that kind of love. Extravagant. Radical. Perfect. Lavish. Relentless. All words I’m using to describe God’s kind of love. I MIGHT be able to lay my life down for someone, if I REALLY loved them. But? Though I don’t have a child of my own, I know that I would not be able to exchange the life of my son or daughter for another person. Let alone for someone who is still my enemy at the point of sacrifice. That kind of giving baffles me. And? I am SO thankful for our incredible God and the extent of His radical love for us. His faithfulness and attention to the details of my life (and yours!) surprise me. God is so good.
Please let me know how I can be praying for you, or if you would like to share what God is doing or the things that are happening in your life.
Sending you love, hugs, and blessings from Jerusalem!
Sharing is Caring 😀