Why Israel?

I am going back to Israel!

I am so excited that I get to go back to the Holy Land next May with another wonderful group of people.  For those of you who have followed my blog, you know that my last trip was not only a blessing but life changing.  I experienced and encountered God in ways that I never knew possible. (To read some posts from my trip, click here).

Many people have asked me, “Why Israel?”  Their question stands valid especially in the midst of the media attention it has been receiving these days.  So, I made a little video explaining my heart behind wanting to go.

 

 

Will you please be in prayer for myself and the team as we all prepare to go to God’s chosen nation? If you would like to partner financially with me, you can do so by making a TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation here: https://trips.ibethel.org/transactions/new/4313

I mean this with all my heart when I say that any amount helps and means the world to me.  Sometimes the $5 donations are the ones that meant the most because I knew that the people donating were making a sacrifice.

Also, would you mind sharing the youtube video I made to help spread the word?

I love you all and am so blessed by you consistently!

The Wailing Wall

The Wailing Wall

At the Lowest Point on Earth

I’m so fat. I don’t want to be here. I’m so uncomfortable. I wish I looked liked those girls. It would be nice to be so pretty. I’d never be insecure if I looked like that. I can’t wait to leave and be alone and hidden.

Those old familiar thoughts that once made their home in my mind decided to swing by for a little visit.

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was in Israel and had just finished walking through the wilderness where David had once wandered when he was trying to escape from Saul. The “wilderness” was breathtaking. Full of waterfalls and beauty. You would think that I would be busy taking in all the surrounded me, but I was focused on something completely different. Myself.

The entire time, my mind was panicking over the fact that our next destination would be the Dead Sea and I would be faced with having to wear a bathing suit.

People are going to laugh. They will look at me with pity because my love handles are so huge. They will see my cellulite and inwardly laugh at me.

Anxiety and dread filled my mind and I tried to convince myself that I wouldn’t be missing out if I just skipped the Dead Sea adventure. I tried to rationalize that I would be better off on the sidelines offering to take pictures for people and keeping from dehydration by lounging in the shade somewhere.

Finally, after a short bus ride we were at the Dead Sea and there I was, in the women’s changing room with a decision to make. To say that I wanted to burst into tears would be an understatement because what I was feeling felt so overpowering. I felt ugly.

Then, it dawned on me. Well, two things dawned on me. First, feeling that level of insecurity isn’t my norm. Not anymore. There was something much deeper going on that I hadn’t even realized. My entire trip to Israel, God had been speaking to me about joy and beauty and the enemy was trying to steal the very thing God was restoring in me. My joy and beauty. Second, who cares? Who cares if someone thinks I’m not beautiful or that I have too much cellulite? It doesn’t take away one ounce of my value and worth.

I immediately looked in the mirror and as the other girls were getting ready I said, “Wow, I am SO beautiful! Guys look at how beautiful I am.”

I will admit, at first I was saying it with a bit of a sarcastic tone (a form of self-defense) but it began to become authentic.

“I have an amazing healthy body. There are people who wish they had my body. My body just allowed me to experience Israel! I am beautiful and Jesus is enthralled by my beauty!”

There I was. At the lowest point of the entire earth fighting what had once led me to the lowest point of my life.

It may seem insignificant, vain, or strange to some people, but for me something shifted. I realized that insecurity is just a giant waste of time that tries to steal my joy.

The Dead Sea ended up being one of my favorite moments on the trip not only because we got to act like little kids and play in the mud, but because for the first time in a long time, I punched insecurity in the face and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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His Beauty for My Ashes

I arrived back home from Israel early Friday morning after 30 hours of traveling which consisted of two flights, 5 movies, half a novel, 3 naps, 2 terrible airplane meals, and a three and a half hour bus ride.  Upon arriving home, I laid in bed exhausted and nauseated from my travels.  My mind began to retrace the memories that had just been created and I began to cry as I became overwhelmed with all God had done in Israel. Truth be told, I am still in the midst of processing everything that happened.

There are things that happen that are ordained by God and I truly feel that this trip was one of those things. 

When I was a tiny little third grader, my teacher visited Israel and brought us all back stories as well as bookmarks which featured a picture of the Jordan River. I decided that when I was 27, I would go to Israel and be baptized in the Jordan as well. Years passed and I still held unto that dream until I was about 21.  At that point, 27 was only a few years away and my life showed no sign of being able fulfill that dream.  I wasn’t even going to church anymore at that time and I was living in what was some of my darkest moments.  I was severely bulimic and had just finished 5 months of inpatient treatment and I still showed no sign of actually being able to recover from it.  One of my therapists actually had told my parents that I may never recover.

I was hopeless.

A few years later, I was 24 years old and I had somehow managed to get myself even more entrenched in the eating disorder.  I laid in bed on one particular night that I will never forget.  I began to pray, beg, and plead with God to save me. Just then, I had a vision. In it, I was deep within a cave and covered in ashes.  Jesus was searching for me in the cave and I kept pushing myself further and further away from him and deeper and deeper into the darkness.  Finally, I stopped pushing myself away and he found me.  He knelt down and looked at me in the eyes.  I saw him take his hand and he wiped it across my face, removing the ashes. He then wiped the ashes on his own face as I wept in his presence. He did this until my face was completely clean saying “I’m giving you my beauty for your ashes.”

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisonersa crown of beauty
instead of ashes…” Isaiah 61

Over the next few years, that verse became a life source for me as I began pursuing a life free of the eating disorder that had tried to destroy me.  I spent countless nights walking around, declaring that promise for myself for hours on end when I felt powerless to the bulimia.  I would cry myself to sleep some nights with that verse resonating within me.

Finally, the power the eating disorder had over me was broken and I was set free.  A ten-plus year battle had been won and I no longer had to live with it’s sickness hovering over me.  I began coming to life again and old dreams were starting to re-bloom, even dreams that I had given up on or forgotten about.

Last November I received an email that stated I was accepted to go to Israel with a Bethel team.  I was 27.

A few short months later, there I was. In Israel. The land where Jesus walked and where I had longed to be for so many years.  We were visiting a synagogue that had be built over one of the original synagogues that Jesus frequented when one of the leaders approached me and asked if I would read something from scripture for the group. They wanted me to read from Isaiah the same chapter Jesus read out loud in the very synagogue we were standing over.   Isaiah 61.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

The very verse that Jesus had spoken to me in the vision, I was now reading for a group in the very place he also read Isaiah 61, where he first publicly announced his ministry.  My mind raced back to that vision and I began to cry at the thought of how strategic that moment was. I left the synagogue to sit on a bench to process what had happened and I felt as if Jesus was sending the message that he hasn’t only restored me back to my beginning, but to His.

I find this hard to write as I feel that there are no words to really express what happened in that moment., but I felt that something in my life shifted.  A door was officially closed and another opened before me.

Jesus never forgets his promises. Not even if we forget.

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Finding Jesus in Jerusalem

Oh Jerusalem.

So much to take in. So many remnants of the ancient past to see. Endless views to find yourself lost in.

Over the week, I’ve found myself looking out over all of Jerusalem, trying to soak up every moment. Every detail I want to remember. The beauty. The sounds. The people. The mysteries left to be discovered.

We went to the remains of Solomon’s Temple, where the people went to experience the Spirit of God. Where God himself once fully resided. Where Jesus was brought as an infant. Where Jesus almost became the first face to be featured on the back of a milk carton as a teenager. Leaving Mary and Joseph in a frantic search only to later find him soaking in the teachings of his Father. Where Jesus was filled with Holy anger as he saw the way his father was being violated by the people of Jerusalem. Where the veil that once held back the presence of God was broken, just as Jesus was in that moment.

Jesus was here, walking the same steps my feet rested on. I walked the steps of the temple, unable to really comprehend the reality that once existed here.

Jesus. Jesus. Yeshua. Jesus. My sweet Jesus. I need to feel you.”

My heart cried out for him. My spirit longed to be walking with him side by side. The see him face to face. To feel the strength of his hands in my hands. The look into his eyes that burned with deep love.

I sat on the temple steps that overlooked the City of David and wished I could go back in time. That’s when I could feel my spirit stirring. “You’re searching for life within a monument. This isn’t a memorial of someone that once existed. I’m just as alive and present today as I was then. My Spirit is more present within you than on these steps.”

I realized Jesus was right, as he always is. People groups come from all over the world in the hopes to experience and find the source to which their life belongs.

It’s easy to begin to look at the remnants of the past in the hopes to find life. It’s a beautiful gift that God has provided for is to be able to physically see the places where his son once walked. To see the city that Jesus loved and lived his life in. You can’t help but be changed by being here, yet the source of life isn’t in the city. It’s in God.

As we were leaving the temple, I realized that although the entire temple was destroyed just as Jesus had prophesied, the original steps still remained. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was Jesus’ way of telling us, the temple may no longer remain, but the path to his presence will never be destroyed.

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Jesus

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Jerusalem. The Heartbeat of Worship

Jerusalem. A city rich with history, legacy, and confusion.

We arrived today in Jerusalem and we were brought to a point that overlooked the entire city. The very city that holds the history and inheritance that my entire life has been based upon was right before me.

My heart was filled with awe as I tried to take it all in. It was at that moment, it happened.

The music to Allah began to play throughout the entire city. It was loud and overwhelming as I heard the voice of a man singing praises to a god other than Jesus.

My heart went from awe to a holy anger as I saw the very city where worship through song was birthed being now drowned out by the worship and the voice of the enemy.

As the day went on, I began to think about what was happening. Worship is power. Worship brings us into the very presence and heart of our Father. It became clear to me what the enemy is trying to do in this city.

You see, Jerusalem was created for worship. The songs of David once were sung and carried throughout the Jerusalem skies. King David forfeited any ounce of dignity he carried in these very streets as he worshipped with all his might.

Isn’t it interesting how Satan always tries to steal from you the very thing that carries the highest authority.

I believe there will be a day when the people of Jerusalem will one day get their voice back. I’m honored to be a part of their journey, if only for a brief time.

Jerusalem, well-built city, built as a place for worship! The city to which the tribes ascend, all God ’s tribes go up to worship, To give thanks to the name of God. Psalm 122:1-5

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Reconnecting Israel

I’ve only officially been in Israel for three days and I can already begin to sense the impact this place will have on my life.

Our first day here, we went to a church on Mount Carmel. We worshiped on the same mountain where Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to have their god send fire to prove he was real. Baal never did send fire. But when Elijah stepped out in faith and called upon God, God responded with fire.

We worshipped on the very mountain where God’s glory once fell in such magnitude that it’s still being talked about thousands of years later. The mountain Elijah himself once walked upon. The mountain where Elijah more than likely prayed on, meditated, and reflected on. I’m not sure what I expected to happen, but I know that I didn’t expect to feel what I was feeling.

Nothing.

We then traveled to the city of Nazareth. The city that raised my Lord. My Jesus. The city where Jesus spent his adolescence, learning from his father in his father’s wood shop. Where Jesus spent his teenage years. Under the same sky where Jesus once looked up into at night as he prayed. I walked on the same ground that he once rested his feet upon. I’m not sure what I expected to happen, but I know that I didn’t expect to feel what I was feeling.

Nothing.

For the first time, the Bible was so close to me, yet felt so distant.

That night, I laid in bed and my mind began to wander as it so often does. Why was I not connecting? Why did God feel so far away in the very land he once resided in? As I drifted off to sleep, I heard God say, “you’re not disconnected.”

The next morning, I made the decision to believe that I’m not disconnected despite what I was feeling. I would not allow a lie to ruin my time here in Israel. I said to God that even if I never feel his presence here, I would believe that what he said is true. That I’m not disconnected.

That day, we went to the Sea of Galilee and as we sailed along the very waters Jesus once sailed, we began to worship. We sailed up to the hills where Jesus and his disciples spent most of their time ministering on. As the words to “Our Father” were being sung around me, I envisioned Jesus and his disciples on the hills. I saw the crowds running along the grass to see this Jesus they heard about. I saw Jesus and his disciples sitting together. Laughing together. Praying together. Suddenly, Jesus became so real. His presence came over me in a way I never experienced and I began to weep. I could no longer sing the words to the song. I couldn’t hold it back. I had suddenly been overcome with the love Jesus carried.

Throughout the rest of the day (which I will later blog about), I would begin to cry at the very thought of Jesus. He was suddenly so close. His presence so tender, yet invasive. His love so pure, yet passionate.

As I laid down to sleep, I realized that just 24 hours prior, I felt so far away from his presence. Now here I am, head on the same pillow just a day later with such an overwhelming sense of Him.

I asked God why I felt so disconnected in the first place. He gently responded with, “I needed you to know how my people feel. I am so close, yet they feel disconnected. Now you can show them how close I am because you felt it for yourself.” I realized that God was showing me the heart of his people here in Israel. Their land is rich with the history of our savior and those who came before him and still so many haven’t been shown how to connect with their Father.

The truth is, disconnection from God is just an illusion.

This day was a moment I will forever treasure. A moment that will forever leave a mark.

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3

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