"It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him."John 13:1-5
We talk a lot at my church about the idea of Covenant and Commission...basically Identity and then calling. That these ideas are interwoven all throughout Scripture, that we are first given an identity and called out to go. I think this is what this passage in regards to Jesus is saying. It is because He knew his standing (identity) that He could, in deep humility, serve (calling) His disciples, even the one He knew would betray Him unto death. No one was taking anything from His identity or taking His power from Him because He knew it belonged to Him and only He could freely give it up, which He did. He knew where He came from and where He was going, so He was able to fulfill His Commission...the work of the Father.
Being here in Jordan, at Mount Nebo, at the Red Sea is not just a neat experience, it is a reminder that I am (my identity and calling) the direct result of things that happened here thousands of years ago...a story God has been writing since before the dawn of time.
Tomorrow....the beach. Enjoy the photos.
This is Knafeh pictured below, (which is spelled multiple ways) a middle eastern desert. In this picture it kind of looks like pizza with worms on top....which is gross...but it is actually gloriously delicious. It is a pastry that has cheese on the bottom, philo dough in the middle and a lightly sweet syrup on top with some crumbled up pistachios. After heading to East Amman today to see the Citadel (pictures to come it was amazing) we dashed into a little bakery where the girls introduced me to this treat. I have to make a point to have this again before I leave.
Today for dinner, I was exposed to a Jordanian delight called "booty bread"...this is not how they spell it, but this is how it is said and it is hilarious to say so we will go with it. It was a thin, fried, tortilla like thing and you dip it in hummus and olive oil. It was also amazing. This is Audrey holding up the booty bread.
Though I haven't eaten a ton of authentic middle eastern food since I have been here, I have liked everything I have tried....well, most everything ;)
Tomorrow morning I leave with the two oldest DeWitt girls and a college grad from Midtown to head down to Petra for a day and then Aqaba (the Red Sea beaches) for 2 nights. I am really looking forward to this. I have been to the place where Moses and the children of Israel are ending their journey and tomorrow I will be where it all began, the parting of the Red Sea on the borders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It will be neat to try and recreate in my mind and vision what that must have been like first to watch the seas part and then the Egyptians get swept away and then turn around and look ahead towards endless desert and an uncertain future. I am quick to judge the Israelites because I can't imagine doubting God after seeing the seas rise and part to my deliverance from certain death and yet, on my best day, I am really no different at all. Maybe a deeper level of humility will come from standing where they stood.
"In the name of God (Allah), Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to God (Allah), the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. You do we worship, and Your aid do we seek. Show us the straight way. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, those whose portion is not wrath, and who do not go astray."
This image is a metal work statue at the top of Mount Nebo depicting the snake lifted up on a pole...
'They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food! "Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived."This story is just one chapter after Moses strikes the rock and God brings forth water. How quickly does unthankfulness grow in our hearts....maybe this is why God is constantly telling the people to remember. This is also of course a sign point to the coming Messiah that would be hung on a pole for our eternal salvation.
This is one of my favorite things I saw yesterday. These are sheep pens made out of bramble. When the Scripture refers to a "hedge of protection around us" this is what it means. It is a pen made out of bramble with only one door. The thistles make it impossible to get in any other way and the shepherd guards the door at night while the sheep are in it.
" Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land." Job 1:10
"What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
"So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. "I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up, I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it." Isaiah 5:4-6
Today was absolutely gorgeous here in Jordan. It was about 70 degrees and the skies were clear. We drove out to see Mount Nebo and the 12 springs of Moses. Mount Nebo is where Moses stood to look at at the Promise land at the end of Deuteronomy. On one side of the mountain is the lush land of milk and honey and on the other side is desert. God shows him the land, but tells him he will only see it from there, that he will not be able to enter in. I can't imagine what it would have felt like...to have given your life and to have been faithful and not been allowed to see the promise fulfilled in your life.
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."
The 12 springs is where the Isrealite people are thirsty and grumbling and the Lord tells Moses to strike the rock and water will begin flowing out and it does. This is actually depicted in two places in Scripture; Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. The amazing thing about this is I always picture like a water fountain amount of water with a few people gathered around. I forget that this was upwards of 4 million people and livestock that had to drink from this. This was not some small spring; water came bursting forth that cut a gorge through the valley and created rivers. When you go up to Mount Nebo and look back towards the springs the area immediately surrounding them is the only spot with green grass and trees in that whole area.
This is one of the only trees in the valley that I mentioned earlier. It is right above the springs. Jody and Kelli were attempting to reach all the way around. I, unsuccessfully in rainbow flip flops, tried to climb one.
I think I am all packed...a good friend actually packed my stuff for me while I tore my room to pieces trying to decide what I needed.....wonderful blessing. I am ready to go with my long, butt covering shirts...not that I really have anything worth covering, but alas. I think I have my toothbrush and that's all that really matters.....right? I don't really know at all what to expect. Maybe I'll see Petra, maybe I'll see the Dead Sea...who knows. I can imagine that whatever happens there, that simply being in that place and near those places that Scripture mentions so often will make the reality of Christianity more alive than ever. It is difficult for me to imagine being a place like that and not being overwhelmed by the fact that I am looking at what Moses saw and I am walking in places that Jesus walked. It will be a long 20 hours from now before I am there and this has actually been the most tiring stretch of days since I have been in Atlanta, so I am already pretty worn out and have been through a wide range of emotions in the last 48 hours because of it, but I am expectant. I am expectant that God is going to show me some pretty amazing things. I am praying for a few things for this trip:
1. A deeper glimpse into the heart of God for the nations from where it all began.
2. A deeper sense in my soul from walking in those places that the Scriptures are alive and active.
3. A burden in my heart to see Muslims step into the Kingdom.
4. An opportunity to open for us to bring back a group of women later in the year.
5. And on the not so spiritual, but oh so spiritual side....SLEEP on the plane
I have a video camera, a picture camera (neither of which I own) and my computer, so hopefully those items will be making there way onto here before I get back.
Grace and Peace
I am going to Jordan.....the country.....on Monday. This is very spur of the moment, very unplanned, kind of like a trip to the mall would be, but you need a passport and a visa to get there. The conversation I had with the pastor's wife at Grace went something like this.
Jody, "So, I decided yesterday that I wanted to go to Jordan....so i am going next week."
Me, "Do you know what day you are wanting to go?" (never fathoming she already had a ticket)
Jody, "Yeah, my plane leaves next Thursday."
Jody, "Do you want to come.....I want you to go.....do you think you can go......?"
Me, "Like you need a ride to the airport....like that kind of go?"
Jody, "No, like I want you to go....to Jordan"
Me, "__________________________________" (this "___________" denotes silence and a wide open mouth)
Jody, "What do you think?"
Me, "__________________________" "I'm going to need you to repeat everything you just said"
So, I am going on Monday to the Middle East. I am actually traveling by myself. Jody has already left and I am in charge of a conference this weekend, so I will fly out when that is over. I haven't begun to think about what I need or what to pack. I hope I don't need immunizations (which last night I couldn't think of the word for and kept calling them vaccinations), but I don't think I do because I got about a dozen in December. All I know is that i need shirts that cover my butt, apparently, and the unfortunate thing is I am not really a fan of that style on myself.
It seems like spur of the moment trips/events/anything is how Grace does things. Trips to foreign countries or large, 500 people conferences come about similarly to the way trips to the grocery store or a friends house might come about...."Hey, I think I want to go to the store later"......"I think I want to go to the middle east next week"......okay, sounds great!
"Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. IT is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.
The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly givng and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you. They will become part of your self and thus gradually build a community within you.
Those you have deeply loved become part of you. The longer you live, there will always be more people to be loved by you and to become part of your inner community. The wider your inner community becomes, the more easily you will recognize your own brothers and sisters in the strangers around you. Those who are alive within you will recognize those who are alive around you. The wider the community of your heart, the wider the community around you. Thus the pain of rejection, absence, and eath can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear."
1. They pray the most hilarious and yet, sincere prayers that begin with statements like, "Hey God, its me Hannah" and end with things like "Talk to you later."
2. A game as stupid as a contest tossing M&M's in one another's mouths is the greatest thing ever.
3. I can listen to them talk and find myself wondering if my faith in God and my love for other people is as deep as theirs.
4. They answer questions from their leader like, "Who can bring something special for the party next week" with statements like...."I'll bring myself."
5. They want to change the world and they believe that they can do it.
6. Though they may have moments of self consciousness they can be so care free and make you want to let down your adult guards and just have a good time.
7. They are capable of deep levels of love...even for people they don't know well or people that are very different from them.
8. They keep you honest.
The reasons I love working with them are really endless, but these are just some I thought about tonight as I walked with them. I know the Lord has me here for a reason and I am thankful I will get to share in a little way in the lives of these students. I think they make me a better me.
Hurricane Katrina hit in the Fall of 2005 and I was graduating from Clemson that December. In lieu of the graduation ceremony I went with a team down to Biloxi, Mississippi to help with the relief effort. I remember walking around in that devastation, astounded....speechless....feeling like the destruction was just to overwhelming...a lost cause...like our little effort was a small drop of water in the ocean and in many ways it was.
I love John chapter 1...it might be my very favorite chapter of the Bible. I love verse 14 where it says, "The Word became flesh and took up residence among us." I remember walking around in Biloxi thinking, "Maybe this is a small picture of what it was like for Jesus when He put on flesh and came down....walking among the destruction of the beautiful thing that He once created and called "good." The sorrow He must have felt, watching His creation in ruins, fighting over resources, scrambling to find food and family, knowing that this is not how it was supposed to be. We were made to have life and have it to the full and yet, so often, in this world, we dwell in destruction. When I think about Haiti and see photos or news footage, I am reminded of the same picture.
Thank goodness the story doesn't end there...the destruction is not the end. With Easter rapidly approaching it is ever more on my mind that Jesus, through His putting on flesh and dwelling among us, has redeemed the destruction through His death and resurection, and ushered in His Kingdom of light. "That Light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it." John 1:5 And that we are ambassadors for Him, called to use our resources to push back the darkness in the world, to "rebuild the ancient ruins; restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live." (Isaiah 58:12; and not only that, but that one day He will come back and bring His Kingdom down and destruction will be no more. Until then, let us be repairers and restorers here on earth.
To push back the darkness in Haiti through Compassion you can donate here.
Since I left I have been craving it like crazy, because it is not just that Texans love it...it is a staple to them. When people are deciding to go out to eat, Tex-Mex is always in the mix of choices and normally is what people settle on. I discovered that one of my favorite places in Fort Worth, Uncle Julio's, has two locations in Atlanta and I was so excited. I was worried that because it isn't Texas the food would be different so I knew I wanted to check it out. Last night I had talked some new friends into going down with me to try it!
Here are those friends....Thank you ladies so much for humoring me!
And here is my plate...
This is actually not all that came on my plate along with chips and tortillas, so there is actually some sitting in my fridge right now that I am very excited about. The food was just how I remembered it. I will be going again....and again.....and probably again.
Let me set the scene for you. It was late at night on a dark rural road. I am driving along in my Honda Civic and there is a car probably a mile or so ahead of me. Suddenly, I see this...we'll just call it a blob...in the road, and I assumed it was already roadkill. I didn't have enough time to swerve, so I tried to straddle it with my tires so it would go under my car and I wouldn't give him a second death. When I got close enough, my lights shone on him and I saw him lift his little possum head (the car ahead of me had delivered the first, but not fatal, blow), he looked at me and it was like one of those classic Hollywood slow motion moments where our eyes locked, everything slowed down and we both knew what was about to happen...and that is when I heard IT....the unmistakable THUNK!!!! I closed my eyes in a knee jerk, mortified reaction....I had just killed a living creature. I no longer drove a high riding Jeep Grand Cherokee that would have cruised over him with no problem...I drove a lowrider Honda Civic, that delivered the final and fatal blow to Mr. Possum. If I still had my Jeep, or if I had been able to swerve maybe his life would have been saved, or maybe it was already to late for this fine possum friend...I guess I will never know. I can only apologize to frequent road kill creatures everywhere and say that I will try to do better next time.
"Gratitude arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all life as grace - as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father's hand."
So today, I thought about blessings and I obviously I could name every moment I got to breathe air as a blessing, but I have just listed below some things today that God didn't have to do, but He did...and they truely blessed my soul....these are in no particular order...
1. The temperature outside today was an amazing 73 degrees....blessing.
2. A wonderful new friend brought me a surprise lunch at work that included my favorite type of Sun Chips and a bag of chocolaty goodness...my favorite...plain M&M's. We shared great conversation out in the beautiful 73 degree sunshine and I am already thankful I know her....blessing.
3. I went on a run with my sister and my dog, both of whom I love....blessing.
4. I had dinner at Firehouse subs (oh so glorious) with a girl I had never met and it was so much fun....Great conversation...hearing her story and her heart. I love this kind of stuff...blessing.
5. I filled my car up with gas and it only cost 20 something dollars.....blessing.
6. I had my listening prayer teaching group tonight and as always that is a ridiculous time of blessing!....blessing.
The Lord is good and I am sure that there are so many more things that He blessed me with today that I am unaware of, but even the small step of speaking these 6 things out loud, humbles me before Him, and fills my heart with His love.
This is my sister; my very amazing, wonderfully wise, beautiful sister....and people think we look exactly alike. And not only that, but many people think we are twins or better yet, the same person. We do not see it, but apparently it is there. This never happened until college. I am always blown away by how fascinated people are by it as if they have never seen siblings who look similar....I cannot imagine how bad this is for actual twins. We can be in a grocery store and the cashier will be amazed and ask us if we are twins. Being back in the same city is bringing this up again. Here are just a few of the funny things that have happened since I have been here.
One of my first weeks here I was serving drinks at a church event. I got to this one table and asked them if they wanted refills and one man at the table grabbed my arm, twisted me around and mumbled something that sounded like, "Hey, How's your.....," while looking at my backside. You could imagine my surprise, so I said, "Huh?" Mr. let go of my arm and begin stammering, "oh, um, uh, um......" (This is the moment where I know what is happening, but the other person doesn't and I have to decide how long I am going to let them sweat it out. This probably sounds mean, but I think I deserve to have a little fun with it!) This man ended up being Lauren's doctor and I did finally tell him I was Lauren's sister.
Some time around my second week here I was walking from the front lobby into the student ministry room and I was about to pass this really tall guy. Right when he got to me he exclaimed very excitedly, "Hey!!!!!" and he gave me a huge hug (again, the moment where I have to decide....how long.....or even how to tell him without making him feel really stupid). He looked down at me and I said, "I'm not Lauren..." His face dropped, his arm dropped and he said loudly, "Woah.....No way!" Hilarious.
This week I was at an event at church sitting with some girls when one of Lauren and Trey's friends walked in. Now I know this guy because he has been friends with them for a while and he also works at Grace, but I do not know him well. He began walking towards where I was sitting with a huge smile on his face like he was glad to see me and I thought in my head, "Why is he smiling at me like that....he must think I'm Lauren?" He sat down beside me still smiling and the suddenly said, "I thought you were Lauren." I considered saying "I know" but I just laughed and pointed to where Lauren was sitting.
These are only 3 of a few. Many times a week since I have been here people wave at me and think I'm Lauren and even a few people recently that know me and not her have thought she was me. Apparently the Jordan DNA is some strong stuff and I am okay with people thinking we look alike...there are few people I would be more okay with resembling than her...even when she makes faces like this...
Maybe this rural remnant is not all that unlike things like hope and meaning and light and deep, unhindered relationship.
These things are echoes of what once was...like C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity...
We use to live in a Garden, where hope and unhindered relationship was the rule and now we only have remnants of that place; we feel a deep desire for meaning and hope and love and yet, those desires cannot be fully satisfied here. They are like roosters in the suburbs; they speak of that which was common and is now only a remnant. We are in the rural Garden, where though the Garden is mostly unkept and overgrown with weeds some uncovered flowers remain and when you happen upon those beautiful remnants, your heart is reminded of its true home.
“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand