Tuesday, April 30, 2013

And they went down to the Jordan River...

I became a believer at nine years old.

At the end of catechism classes at age 12, I was baptized.

During both events I was aware and touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In my 20's I learned of the different ways and times of life that Christians practice baptism. I considered, for a number of months, whether or not I should be rebaptized because I had not been submerged at age 12. Our Methodist Pastor Paul, (who I dearly love because he liked all my questions) sprinkled me on the forehead. As a 20 something, I concluded that since the Holy Spirit decided to make Himself known to me the day of my baptism that He must not have been bothered by the practice of sprinkling and I let the idea of being re-baptized go.

One of the surprises came as we prepared for Israel. I developed a strong desire to be baptized in the Jordan River. I almost got scared off by reports that the site can seem a bit circus like. There are lots of people who are baptized or re-baptized in the Jordan River in Israel. But as I prayed about it I realized that this was something I really felt led to do and I desired to do.

The day arrives in Israel. It's wet and cold from the beginning. It was raining off and on. More on than off. Our guide keeps checking in to see if we still wanted to go through with it. Six of our group of fifteen made the decision to be batptized and we all wanted to proceed to the site.


Before sharing what was significant between the Lord and I, I want to share what it was like to be loved well by our community. Humans don't like to be uncomfortable. They do not find that enjoyable. Most find being wet and cold at the top, or close to the top of things they'd prefer not to experience. You would not have been able to observe that in the nine others that accompanied us to the Jordan River. They were excited. Picking out the best place for our little group to gather. Selecting the best spots to capture the moment on camera. Figuring out how to protect the camera equipment from the rain. They could have been storing them away and giving up on pictures. After the events, I found myself reflecting on what it was like to be a part of a group making those choices of love. I also pondered the observations made by our Israeli guide. He spoke to our group, with awe in his voice, about the decision to press on in spite of the rain and noticed our devotion to one another in the process. "They will know we are Christians by our love for one another."; Those words came alive in our group that afternoon. This is very significant to me. To the nine, I did not adequately express to you how loved I felt on that day. I hope you are reading these words now. From a place deep in my heart, I say thank you.

I also want to say that I have had the privledge of walking closely with several others baptized that day. It is a great joy to me that you included me in the process of deciding to be baptized and/or  sharing with me the significance of your decision to be baptized. Your willingness to include me made it all the more meaningful to witness. Thank you.

Between the Lord and me

As the day grew closer, I found myself wanting to understand the reasons for why I wanted to be baptized. I asked the Lord to help me see the significance in my life at this time. An insight that came before the event was the realization that when I was baptized as I child I did not understand the significance of being identified with Christ. Nor did I understand the significance of dying with Christ to be raised again to life in Him. Today, 34 years past my first baptism, my time in relationship with the Lord has given me a better understanding of both realities. I desired to testify to my faith in Christ and I desired to prayerfully experience being submerged into the water and raised back up out of the water. Both experiences were as meaningful as I had hoped they would be.

But there was more...

Initially, as I came up out of the water, I shared the joy and broad smiles with those around me.

A few steps up out of water, I burst into tears. Why? I had obeyed. There was no sense of obligation in the obedience. I was motivated by love. I felt known and seen and loved by my Heavenly Father. My heart felt open and free to receive His love and acceptance. I had listened to and walked into the desire of my heart. It was a rich and unexpected surprise as I tasted sweet fellowship with The Father, My Savior and the Holy Spirit over my willingness to obey and His response to me in that. I hope that moment leaves a lasting impression and even changes me.

Andie, Colleen, Me, Steve (Pastor), Bob, Mike and Kandy

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Departing for Israel

A group of people that I dearly love got excited about going to Israel together. The one that intrigued me the most is my husband. He grew up traveling the world. Then went on  to travel the world for his job. We've had a ridiculous amount of opportunity to travel as young adults when he worked for American Airlines in his 30's and then later on through short term mission opportunities in our 40's. So he's not all that interested in travel per se. It's a "been there and done that" for him. So when I realized he actually wanted to go to Israel and wanted it way more that me. I found myself surprised. I've stayed there. He's still more excited than me.

I don't know all the reasons I've been a bit guarded about this trip. I'm not afraid of physical danger on this trip, or any trip for that matter. That was an issue once. Around twelve years ago, we were making plans to take off for Australia and Matt was a small child and was staying in the States. I was sitting in my house in Flower Mound, TX and I realized that if my days were numbered, as is spoken about in the Bible and I was going to die on a particular day. I might as well be enjoying a trip to Australia rather than sitting at my desk in Flower Mound, TX sad that I wasn't on a trip to Australia. Problem solved. I wish all my fears were as easy to leave behind as that one. So, I know it's not that.

I have no worries about traveling with 15 people. I love living in community. I know half of these people really well and find them easy to love and they love me well too. So, I know it's not that.

The vast majority of people have said things like, "You'll never be the same. You'll never read the Bible the same." Or, some version of a highly loaded set of expectations around the kind of experience it will be.I know that travel an be life changing. It especially changed me to experience Thailand, Kenya and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

But I also know, expectations have been the death of many experiences in my life. Expectations can royally screw up both relationships and experiences. I've learned a lot about letting things be whatever they turn out to be. I think I'm living in that belief  even prior to departure with this trip. I haven't been able to do that prior to other trips. I'm guarding my heart against having expectations. Maybe God is also guarding my heart against expectations. This trip, I'm asking God to help me notice whatever He'd like for me to notice. I'm asking God to help me be completely overwhelmed with emotion if that is what would be good for my soul. I'm asking God to help me receive the gifts He has for me or our little community with an open heart. I'm asking God to help me love well as we journey together and as we meet others along the way. When I return, I pray He will help me express what it was like to be in the land of the Covenants.

This is what I know for sure. I used to believe that God provides just enough and rarely more.  I spent years scared to notice or believe in His abundance and generosity. I've spent a couple of years daring to notice the opposite. This will sound crazy, if you can't relate to it, but it's taken courage to be willing to go through this shift in beliefs. As I've thought about heading out on this trip,  I'm struck by how abundant and generous and ridiculous it is that we are going on this trip. I hope that living in 10 days of this reality will bring me further along the way in letting go of my old beliefs. I hope and pray I receive this experience as training. Maybe I'll learn more about how to live in my relatively new understanding of His wise abundance and generous nature.

Thank you for being excited for us about this trip. Thanks for all your well wishes and offers to pray for us! Thank you David for sticking to your guns on this trip. I gently tried to derail this a few times and now find myself gratefully following your lead.

If the Lord gives me the words, I'll attempt to describe some of what took place when I return.