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Race Recap: Med City Half Marathon 2017

May 28, 2017—the date I finally achieved my goal of a sub-three hour half marathon. It doesn’t seem like a big achievement knowing that an average runner aims for a two hour finish time. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about distance running is that there is no reason to ever compare myself to another runner. The only person I’m competing against is me, and the only real comparison is my results from the last time I did this distance on this particular course. This was my seventh half marathon. Results from my previous half marathons ranged from 3:53 to 3:08.

So, based on this, a goal of a sub-three hour half marathon was reasonable for me, but I had a bigger goal in mind. In each of my previous half marathons I did great in the beginning and then fell apart at some point and suffered through to the end.

• Half marathon #1—I did okay the first half, but then fell apart physically and emotionally during the second half.

• Half marathon #2—I was on target for a sub-three hour finish when my left hamstring began to spasm and I had to hobble through the last two miles.

• Half marathon #3—this was the year after my full marathon. I was devastated that the finish line was torn down, so I needed to go back and experience the finish line. I had a severe case of plantar fasciitis, so I had to walk the course.

• Half marathon #4—I was doing well up until mile 9 when my right calf seized up, and did not let loose for the rest of the race. I limped through the last four miles.

• Half marathon #5—My training was going really well until the last few weeks before the race. I broke a toe, so I wasn’t able to run for two weeks while that healed up. Then the Monday before the race, I had to be taken to the ER due to a severe bout of vertigo. I should have pulled out, but I decided to do it anyway even though I was still experiencing dizziness. It was grueling.

• Half marathon #6—Another case of a hamstring spasm in the last few miles.

My bigger goal was to actually feel good and enjoy the entire race, and to be able to function afterwards. This was much more important to me, and I would have gladly slowed down and held back and accepted a finish time of greater than three hours to feel decent at the end. And, I am thrilled that in addition to a 2 hour 50 minute finish time for the 2017 Med City Half Marathon (28 minutes faster than the last time I did this distance on this exact course in 2015, and an 18 minute personal best overall); I can truly say that I have never enjoyed a race experience more. I felt good the whole way, and I was still able to spend time with my family the rest of the day with minimal pain.

Now is the time I assess how I did. Could I have done better? Honestly, no. I do not regret one thing about this race nor the training leading up to it. So, what did I do right? I think it boils down to three things:

1. Nutrition

2. Consistency with running

3. Heart-rate Training

Nutrition

I started using Isagenix products in August 2016. I use their protein shakes twice per day, take their vitamins, and used their performance fueling for my long runs. As a result, I lost more than 20 pounds during training, and the fueling (which consisted of a protein shake with Amped Power pre-race, a scoop of Amped Hydrate in each of my water bottles on my fuel belt, which I sipped on throughout the race, and two Amped Fuel gels, which I took at miles 4 and 8, and then a protein shake post-race). I have never felt healthier.

Consistency with Running

In past years, I began running in late February or early March and carried through until November when all of my races were finished for the year and the harsh winters of Minnesota were on the horizon. It was usually at that time of year when I developed some sort of injury that prohibited me from running—plantar fasciitis, a sprained toe, tendonitis, etc. I did strength training and spinning classes during the winter, but when I began running again, it was such a shock that everything I gained the previous year was gone and I had to start over from square one as if I’d never run a mile.

This past year, I joined the Chatty Chicks running group; and the promise of time with friends who also enjoy running and coffee kept me going even as the days grew colder, icier, and darker. I discovered that with a headlamp, ice cleats, and layers and layers of running tights and shirts and jackets and gloves and hats and face masks, I can keep going. It also helps that there was the option of an indoor track when conditions grew dangerously icy! I’m truly grateful to this group of ladies who welcomed me into their flock and enthusiastically cheered me on during this race.

Heart Rate Training

There were a couple of the Chatty Chicks who used heart rate training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I joined them for one of their training runs…okay I didn’t actually make it the whole distance. I escaped and did about 4 ½ miles; however, I actually ran the entire 4 ½ miles. I’ve never done that! I’ve always used a run/walk method. With heart rate training, you go low and slow: a slow pace to keep your heart rate low. I decided to give this method a try as I trained for the 2017 Med City Half Marathon, and it worked.

Another thing I did during training was I did not race during my training cycle. In the past I would do 5K’s, 10K’s, 15K’s in an effort to “build up” to the half marathon distance. I learned that I was working too hard and tearing my body down. That’s why I fell apart during my big races. This time I only allowed myself to do one 10K in support of a friend whose son was battling brain cancer. Other than that, I kept my focus on the training plan.

The Race: Med City Half Marathon 

The weather conditions were absolutely perfect on race day. Even with minimal sleep the night before, I felt great. Besides, does anyone sleep well the night before a race?

For miles 1-6, which are mostly hills, my strategy was to walk up the hills and run down in an effort to conserve my strength and energy. This worked beautifully.

For miles 7-10, I ran/walked with a 2:1 interval (2 minute run:1 minute walk). There were a few places I pushed myself to run further, and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to.

For miles 10-11.5, I walked the majority of this section as it is a bit of an incline, and I was getting tired.

For miles 11.5 through the Finish, I was familiar with the course so I planned out the sections I would run and the sections I would walk, and when I turned the final corner and saw the Finish line about a ½ mile away I burst into tears as I realized that I was having the race experience I wanted. I had no idea what my time was at that point. I didn’t allow myself to scroll to that information on my watch, and I’m glad I didn’t know because it was such a wonderful surprise to see the clock above the Finish Line was at my target time.


Throughout the race I daydreamed about texting my hubby “sub-three!” and it felt so good to do just that.

Now that this goal is accomplished I’m in that lull when I just don’t know what to do with my life. Oh yes I do. Rest and recover this week, and next week? Begin training for my fall half marathon, of course!

“…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Work Trip Saga…Waiting

Each year I travel to attend an educational conference in my field. This year the conference is in San Diego. After weeks and weeks of arctic temperatures here in the upper Midwest, I was looking forward to the warm weather awaiting me.

The taxi arrived at Noon today. My flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave at 1:25 for a 5:20 connecting flight to San Diego. We boarded on time and settled in, only to have the captain announce there was a mechanical problem and he needed to power down and then power the plane back up. We waited. An hour later we deplaned while they continued to fix the mechanical problem.  Several passengers missed their connections, but there was still a chance I’d make mine. We reboarded. However, due to de-icing, being forced into a holding pattern above Chicago, then waiting for 45 minutes on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open, I did miss my connection. 

An agent told me that the 9:25 flight was completely booked but found another option. There was a flight to Dallas and a connecting flight to San Diego. I agreed to that. I found a kiosk and printed my new boarding passes and was delighted to find I was now booked in first class. 

I grabbed some Chinese food from the food court and headed for the gate.  I boarded and settled into my roomy seat in the first class cabin and waited. And waited. There wasn’t enough catering on board.  We waited. Catering arrived. We waited to be de-iced. The more we waited I realized that if I stayed on this airplane I would never make my new connection in Dallas. I thought I’d much rather be stuck in Chicago which is closer to home, so I got off the plane.  The agent booked me as a stand by for the 9:25 flight. So, here I am.  Waiting. 

Let There Be Light–Be the Light

I truly love this time of year when the hot, sticky summer cools off into crisp, fresh fall.  I love the colors and smells of this season.  I love getting to wear cosy sweaters and boots and scarves and hats.  I love sipping chai lattes, and I look forward to that first taste apple crisp and pumpkin pie.  There is one thing, however, that I absolutely detest about this time of year, and that is Halloween.

The focus on death, horror, fear, and mischief is not something I want to celebrate. I know other people have different convictions, and they are free to do what they like.  Knowing the origins of many of the practices of Halloween prevents me from having a clear conscience in participating myself.  In past years, my husband and I chose to merely ignore Halloween.  Now that we have children, we cannot ignore it.  We need to face it and explain to them why we don’t celebrate like others do.  We explained to them that we want to honor God in our celebrations.  We did choose to allow our kids to get costumes that inspire them to aspire to greatness, and we will attend the Hallelujah Carnival at my daughter’s school for an evening of family fun.  It is a compromise that I don’t take lightly.  The decision we came to is that rather than cursing the darkness, we want to be the Light.

There is a lot of debate and much written about this topic of whether Christians should celebrate Halloween or not, and it is really not my purpose for this post, and there is more happening in the world now that fills people with dread–ISIS and the Ebola virus to name a few.  The purpose of this post is to discuss what it means to be a light.  Jesus said,

“…a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.”  Matthew 5:15b-16

A light serves three distinct functions.  The first is to counter the darkness so people can see.  At first the light can be uncomfortable and downright painful.  When a person is in the dark or is asleep, suddenly turning on a light is painful for them.  But when their eyes adjust and things come into focus they can see what is truly happening around them enabling them to make good decisions about what they should do next…even if it’s just getting out of bed.

The second function of light is to give warmth to those who are cold.

The third is my favorite.  Later this year my family will celebrate Hanukkah.  The purpose of the Hanukkah menorah is not to give off useful light whereby a person can see or to warm themselves.  The light of the Hanukkah menorah is merely to be beautiful.  It is to be placed in a window so all can see its beauty and remember the great miracle God performed.

Leonid Afremov is one of my favorite artists, and I included an image of one of his paintings.  What strikes me is that it is a dreary, rainy night, and the couple is walking close together to keep each other warm.  I can imagine they are hunched together, eyes downcast, and hurrying as fast as they can to get out of the cold and the rain, but look at the beauty revealed by the lampposts!  These lampposts fulfill all three functions of light.  They illuminate the path and surrounding beauty, and if the couple were to get close enough, there would be warmth, and the lampposts are in themselves beautiful.  We are to be like those lampposts being beautiful and revealing the beauty around us in the midst of dreadful dreariness and offering to them comforting warmth.  People may be focused on their own suffering and not even notice that there is beauty all around them.  The lampposts don’t shout to them, “Hey!  Look up.  Look around you.  Don’t you see?”  The lampposts are just there being the light.

RAIN_RUSTLE___LEONID_AFREMOV_by_Leonidafremov

Help in Times of Need

First of all, I’m doing good.  Not that there aren’t still challenges, but life is manageable now.  However, I do have some very dear friends who are facing life and death situations, and I find myself wondering “When a friend is going through a difficult time, what is the best way to offer support?”

Most people say, “Let me know how I can help.”  This bugs me.  I know that when I’m going through a tough time, the only thing I’m thinking about is getting through the day.  I don’t even know what I need most of the time.  It seems like an unfair burden, when I’m already crushed under the weight of what I’m going through, to have to think of something to make someone else feel better because they helped me.  It would be so much better if someone would just step up to the plate and say, “I’m coming over on such and such a day and taking your kids so you can go do something…”  or, “I’d like to bring a meal over this week.  What night would be best?”    or, “Let’s get together for coffee…”

It goes without saying that we don’t know how to respond to people’s pain.  We don’t know what to say.  Sometimes we avoid them.  I remember that soon after my mother-in-law died after a lengthy illness, our doorbell rang.  We opened the door to find that someone left dinner for us on our porch.  They put down the food bundles, rang the doorbell, and ran away before they had to face us in our grief.  A kind gesture, yes, but couldn’t this person have stayed for a few minutes to give us a hug and say, “I love you”?  To be honest, I am guilty of this.

Years ago, friends of mine lost their 8 month old baby girl in a crib accident.  The pain was overwhelming.  Yes, I made and delivered the obligatory meal, but when my friend tried to tell me what happened–she NEEDED to tell me what happened when her precious baby girl died–I cut her off and changed the subject.  I couldn’t bear to hear about the accident.  It was too painful for me.  How ridiculously selfish.  It was painful for ME?  What about the pain she was facing remembering over and over again how she put the baby down for a nap, and then found her face down in the crib with her windpipe blocked between the crib slats and old mattress?  Why couldn’t I have shut my mouth and let her talk and allow myself to cry with her?  That’s what she needed.

The Book of Job is a perfect example.  When Job’s friends arrived:

When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.

The smartest thing they did was to keep quiet and listen to Job, then one of the friends decided they needed to offer their opinion, and the other two followed suit, and the rest is history.  Healing, restoration, and comfort came when Job prayed for his friends.  Interestingly, while his friends had a lot to say to him and about him, not once did any of his friends actually pray for him.

So, what is helpful for you when you’re going through a tough time?  How can I be a friend to you in times of need?

The Parable of the Traveler

Introduction

The Christian life has often been compared to a journey. While the concept of a Journey is not original, each person’s journey through life is unique. What you are about to hear is the story of my Journey from Mediocrity through Potential and the discovery of my Purpose on Destiny’s Summit. Although it is the story of my Journey, I know each of you will find yourselves at some point along the way. He who has ears let him hear the Parable of the Traveler.

Redemption from the Slave Market

I had just graduated from the university and it was time to suffer the same humiliation millions have before me – the Slave Market. In the City of Mediocrity, all citizens are required to stand on the blocks and give their lives to the highest bidder (in other lands they call this looking for a job). However, this “slave market” is different than you would imagine. There was an auctioneer and bidders and I was the prize, but I was the one who would determine my fate. There was no way I was going to take a job at Deadend Enterprises. As I was standing on the blocks listening to the auctioneer reading off my resume to the bidders, I heard a voice roar above the crowd: “Stop! She belongs to me! I’ve already paid the price for her!” When the auctioneer and the other bidders saw Who was speaking they immediately stopped the bidding. I shuddered. Who was that? He approached the platform, and to my surprise He looked familiar. Had I met Him before? I looked into His eyes and recognized Him, “Jesus?”

He said that it had been a long time. And it had! I used to spend a lot of time with Him, and I even at one point gave Him my heart and promised to follow Him, but as I got older other things became more important. Jesus reminded me of the promise I made to Him when I was just a little girl – that I would be a Traveler and journey on to Destiny’s Summit where I would discover God’s purpose for my life. I told Him that I did remember, but there were some other things I wanted to do now. He told me that Mediocrity would have me think that I must determine my own destiny. I agreed, but He said, if I tried I would always wonder if there was something more. He said there is no way for me to see what lies ahead. He said, “The truth is that destiny cannot be determined by the human mind—no matter how well informed it is. Destiny is something you must discover. God has a purpose for your life—far more than you could ever determine for yourself. And the only way for you to discover that purpose is to leave Mediocrity and explore Potential.”

Leave Mediocrity? I’ve lived in Mediocrity my whole life. I couldn’t imagine leaving and pursuing a life God planned. What about my dreams? What if He wanted me to do something I would hate? On the other hand, I always wondered if there was more to life than what I had been taught. At the University I majored in the Traditions of Men. I saw that the reason man does what he does is because that is the way it has always been done. It’s all a trap, isn’t it? We travel through life like rats through a maze. All of us struggle through the same maze. We are all born and we will all die, and in between we hope to leave a mark showing the world that we were here, but no one will remember. It scares me.

Jesus said, “Do you know that you are so special to me that I have you engraved on the palms of my hands? Think of how many times a day you look at your hands. That’s how often I think about you. When I see the holes pierced by the nails that held me to the cross, I am reminded that I did it all for you.” I said to Him that it must have been painful. And He said, “I don’t remember feeling pain. All I could see was your face as I died, and it was the anticipation of you saying ‘yes’ to my call that compelled me to break free from the bonds of death and rise from the grave. I gave everything to free you from the curse of Sin and Mediocrity and to set you on the path that will lead to Destiny. Will you follow me?”

I had tears in my eyes as I realized what He had done for me, and that He would not force me to follow Him. The choice was mine. His eyes were full of love. I looked at His hands and saw the nail prints. I always believed that Jesus died on the cross for sinners, but now I realized that the sinner Jesus died for was me. I said, “Yes, I will follow you. Where does the path begin? Is there a map?” He told me that there was no set path. My journey would be unlike anyone else’s. Rather than following a path, I would blaze a trail. All I was required to do was stay close to Him. He told me that there was no greater satisfaction than knowing that you’ve done the will of the Father. Then he asked if I was willing to obey. I said of course, and He said, “We shall see.” He warned me that the first part of the journey is very dangerous. Many don’t make it through. Then He took hold of my hand and told me to stay very close.

The Mall of Temptation.

Jesus and I walked hand in hand. There was a bend in the road, and as we rounded the corner I saw it! Road signs ablaze with neon beckoning to us. Even at a distance I could hear laughter and smell the delicious aromas of food—which reminded me that I hadn’t eaten. I asked Him, “What is this place?” He answered, “The Mall of Temptation.”

Jesus was in no hurry, and I couldn’t wait to get down there, but the harder I pulled away from Him the tighter He gripped my hand. “Come on! Let’s go!”

He stood firm, “Remember what I said. This is the Mall of Temptation, and although it may look appealing, it’s very dangerous. Stay close to me. I don’t want you to get lost.”

I didn’t even pay attention to what He said. I wanted to get down there. Somehow I managed to free myself from Jesus’ grip and ran wildly down the hill. I knew He’d catch up sooner or later. When I got to the mall I could have kicked myself. I didn’t have any money! So I just walked around and window-shopped.

There were tons of great shops and I was enjoying looking at everything, but I noticed something kind of strange. I asked one of the salesclerks why there weren’t any price tags. He said, “Oh, don’t worry. We’ll give you a good deal on anything you want to buy.”

Okay, that was strange. Whatever. I couldn’t figure out why was taking Jesus so long to get there. Oh well, He’s the Son of God. He’ll find me. I continued to explore the shops and soon found myself in the food court.

One of the food vendors beckoned to me and asked if I would like to try their specials. I explained that I didn’t have any money and was waiting for a friend. To my surprise, the food vendor explained, “Didn’t you know? You don’t need money at this mall. Here, let me fix you a plate. As soon as I reached for the plate someone knocked it out of my hand and grabbed my arm.

“Hey buddy! What do you think you’re doing? Get your own!” I was looking into the angry eyes of Jesus. Still holding onto my arm He pulled me away from the food court to a bench in the middle of the mall.

“Didn’t I tell you to stay close to me? Do you know what would have happened if I didn’t come just now?”

“Yeah! I would have gotten to eat lunch! I’m starving!”

“That food would never have satisfied your hunger, and besides, what we’re you going to use to pay for it?”

“I didn’t need any money. It was free.”

“It’s true, you don’t need money here, but nothing is free. The only currency they use here is blood, and the store clerks and vendors crave the blood of young Travelers and would have taken every drop.”

It was then that I remembered how the clerk laughed when I asked about the prices. Jesus said, “The price for giving into temptation is always blood, and you will always regret it. I’ve already given my body and blood to deliver you from temptation. Don’t forget that, or you’ll end up like them.”

Then I looked around and noticed the other shoppers for the first time. They were pale and sickly; they had no life in them. Jesus told me that all of these people were once Travelers. They each gave themselves to the Temptations of the Mall and were allowing themselves to be bled dry rather than continue on to Destiny’s Summit. They didn’t believe that what God had for them was better than what was before their eyes.

I began to see how dangerous this mall really was. Then Jesus gently lifted my face to His and looked me in the eye and said, “If you can’t obey you will never reach Destiny.” He told me that the things in this mall would only weigh me down and make the journey more difficult. He said, “If you obey, one of the greatest benefits is that you will never lack what you have need of.”

I told Him how sorry I was. I realized that He wasn’t trying to keep me from having fun, but He was protecting me from danger. We left the Mall and Jesus took me to a house that I later found out was owned by Mercy.

Mercy’s home was open for all Travelers. There I found comfort and rest and the best home cooking you can imagine!

I learned my lesson. I thought I was so grown up and ready to face the world, and I acted like a spoiled child. And all the time, Jesus had everything taken care of. I would have missed out on the blessing He had for me if I had given into Temptation. I determined in my heart right then and there that I would never demand my own way again. Jesus’ way was much better!

The Academy

The next morning, after breakfast, Jesus and I said goodbye to Mercy, and continued on our journey. Jesus told me that He was going to take me to a place where I would learn everything I needed to know about traveling through the land of Potential. He explained that the training program is rigorous, but necessary in order to complete the journey. When I asked Him how long it lasted, He told me that it depended on the Traveler. I was determined that my stay at this place would be short. I was eager to continue on and reach Destiny.

We stopped before a large gate with a sign over it in iron letters “The Academy”. Jesus rang the bell and a servant came running out of the large ornate brick mansion that stood on the other side of a beautiful garden. The servant let us in and the Master came to greet us. I was introduced to him and found out that his name is Patience. Jesus told me that He was leaving me here for a time, but would always know my progress, and if I needed Him for anything all I needed to do was call.

I wish I could say that my stay at this place had been short and pleasant. I attended classes everyday to learn the principles of traveling. I was warned of the terrain and the dangers that lie ahead, but I also learned that if I remained obedient there was no obstacle I could not overcome. I studied the journeys of other Travelers. I learned why some succeeded and some failed. And I learned about all the benefits of traveling.

We were put into teams and given work to do. I couldn’t believe some of the sorry saps that were put on my team. I wasn’t about to let these stragglers ruin my chances of getting out of the Academy early. I wanted to show Master Patience that I was ready to continue on my journey by proving that I was the best worker there. Then, one day, Master Patience called me into his office. I thought my golden day had arrived. Wrong!!!

Patience: Have a seat. {Traveler sits} I wanted you to know that I know how eager you are to graduate early. But I’ve had a few negative reports about you.

Traveler: What? How can that be?

Patience: It seems that the other members of your work team have unanimously voted to have you transferred to another team. No one wants to work with you.

Traveler: You’ve got to be kidding! I’m the best worker on that team. No one does as much as I do. They’re just jealous.

Patience: The fact is, that people are often at their worst when they’re trying to prove they are the best. The purpose of teamwork is to teach that true Travelers are not concerned fulfilling their own visions, but fulfilling the Father’s vision. In order to succeed you need to learn to lay down your own goals and ambitions and help the team fulfill theirs. You will see that as you dedicate yourself to the goals of the team, your own goals will also be met.

I left his office and cried bitter tears far into the night. Master Patience did not transfer me to another team. And throughout the next few weeks and months we all learned to lay aside our personal ambitions and work together. My stay there was longer and harder than anything I could have imagined. But even though it was hard, I would do it all over again if I had to. I learned so much about myself, and I made many friends there. And then suddenly, my time there was complete. Now that it was over I didn’t want to leave. Master Patience introduced me to the one who would guide me on the next leg of my journey – The Holy Spirit.

The Wilderness

I had heard much about the Holy Spirit at the Academy. I heard how easy it was to grieve Him, so I thought that He would be a softy – boy was I wrong!!! Before we continued, He asked me

“Why did you become a Traveler?”

Simple, I want to reach Destiny’s Summit and discover God’s purpose for my life.

“Is that the real reason?”

Yes. I knew He was testing me. I know that what God has for me is better than what I can do for myself.

“Think back to the Slave Market. What really compelled you to be a Traveler?”

I remembered standing on the auction block and wondering who would buy my fate. Then I remembered how relieved I was when I recognized Jesus. I remembered Him reminding me of my promise to become a Traveler, and how I told Him I had other plans. Then I saw his nail-scarred hands, and I remembered Him saying, “Whenever I see the holes pierced by the nails that held me to the cross, I am reminded that I did it all for you.” I realized that the reason I began this journey was because of my love and gratitude for Him. I wasn’t traveling just to reach Destiny. I was traveling because I love Him.

I thanked the Holy Spirit for reminding me. He said, “That’s what I’m here for.” Then He said, “Don’t be surprised when things get hard. The journey of a Traveler is not a vacation in the Caribbean – it’s a lifestyle. You must continue your journey even when things get hard, or if they’re easy, don’t stay where you are – keep moving! You travel all the time, because you’re not doing it to get the benefits. You’re doing it because you love the Father.”

There is no better way to describe the next part of my journey except to tell you that it was a jaunt through the Wilderness. I was expecting the Holy Spirit to lead me through, but surprisingly, He wanted me to lead, to see what I’d do. Of course, I made some mistakes. I made a few wrong turns. But every time I stopped and turned around and said, “I’m lost. Where do we go from here?” the Holy Spirit always pointed me in the right direction. With every obstacle, He reminded me of my training at the Academy. Pretty soon I learned the drill. Whenever I was unsure of which direction to go, I would stop and ask Him which way he thought was best, and He always told me. I don’t know why people think God enjoys getting us into traps. The truth is, He wants to keep us out of traps, and He will always show us the best way to go. However, I learned, that the best way may not always be the quickest way.

The best thing that happened during this part of the journey is that the Holy Spirit became my friend. He knew me better than anyone ever could. He could put into words the cries of my heart, and the closer I walked with Him, I learned to discern the cries of His heart. I learned a lot about myself at the Academy, but I learned a lot about Him in the Wilderness.

The River

The Holy Spirit and I came to the banks of a river. The water was cool and clear, and I took a long drink and filled my canteen. I could feel every part of myself being refreshed and strengthened. I took off my shoes and dangled my bare feet in the water. Amazingly, the blisters instantly healed, and the soreness disappeared! There was nothing stopping me from jumping into the river and letting the water bathe and refresh my sore, weakened muscles. Then I knew! This was the River of Life! It was wonderful! I knew that this river lead directly to the Throne of God my Father—to Destiny!

When I discovered this I was anxious to get going. We walked along the bank and I saw a canoe. I asked if we could take it up the River. The Holy Spirit told me that I’d be paddling up-stream, against the current. The river seemed calm enough to me, and I told Him I thought I could handle it. As I got in, He told me that He would leave me alone for awhile, but just as Jesus told me, He would never lose sight of me, and if I needed anything…I know—ask! He smiled and said goodbye.

I began to paddle and it wasn’t so bad. But after a while, the current became stronger and it was harder to paddle. I struggled with all my might. I knew that if I stopped I would be carried back towards Mediocrity, and that was the last thing I wanted. Any backwards movement would take me farther from Destiny, and I couldn’t let that happen. But the more I paddled the stronger the current got. Soon there was no way I could continue. I kept paddling desperately, but the canoe was tossed back into the roaring white water. I began to cry out. “No! Somebody help me! Jesus! Where are You! Holy Spirit I need you! Help me!!!” Suddenly, the canoe lurched forward and I heard a voice say, “You can stop struggling. I’m here.” I turned to see who it was, and it was Grace.

I sat down in the canoe and let Grace paddle on. I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew Grace was gently lifting me out of the canoe and carrying me into the most beautiful house I had ever seen.

The Inn of Refreshing

Grace carried me up the stairs and into a bedroom and laid me down in the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in. And that’s what I did—I slept. The next morning I woke up and there at the end of the bed was a table and a breakfast tray. The room was beautiful! It was decorated exactly the way I would have decorated it. Everything was so peaceful, and for the first time since I began my journey, I wasn’t in a hurry to get going.

I went downstairs and met my host and hostess – Peace and Joy. They welcomed me to the Inn of Refreshing, and explained that the Father built this Inn especially for weary Travelers to rest and reflect on their journey, and also to gather strength. They told me that there was one more part of the journey and I would need all the strength I could get.
I spent many happy days there worshipping, praying with other Travelers staying at the Inn, walking the beautiful trails that surrounded the property. I thought about how far I’d come and all that I’d learned along the way. And then one day, Peace knocked at my door and told me I had a visitor. A visitor? Who would come and visit me here? I came downstairs and there in the parlor was Jesus! I ran into His arms. I was so glad to see Him, and I had so much to tell Him. He listened patiently to everything I had to say, and then He asked me how I’ve enjoyed my stay. I told Him I was enjoying it so much I never wanted to leave. But it was time to leave.

Shadow of Death

I gathered my belongings, said goodbye to Peace and Joy, and followed Jesus out of the door and down the lane that led to the road to Destiny. There at the bottom of the lane was the Holy Spirit. I smiled and waved at Him, He returned the wave, but I could see that His face was sober. Jesus and the Holy Spirit explained that I had one more part of the journey before I reached Destiny’s Summit. They told me that I must pass through the Shadow of Death. As they said that a cold shiver went up my spine. And, as with each part of the journey, the choice to continue was mine. I remembered the writing of a former Traveler who said, “And even if I walk through the shadow of death I will not fear, for You are with me.” I asked if I had to go alone. The Holy Spirit told me that the Shadow of Death is dark, and even though I would not see Him He would be with me every step of the way. I asked if there was any other way to reach Destiny. Their silence told me the answer.

I happened to glance at Jesus’ hands and saw the nail prints. After all He had given for me, can I give Him anything less? I said, “I’ll go. You have never led me into danger or allowed harm to come upon me. I trust you.” They nodded to one another and walked ahead of me as I followed. They never turned to see if I was still following. I trusted them to lead me, and they trusted me to follow.

We came up to the mouth of a huge cave. There Jesus said goodbye and promised to wait for me on the other side. The Holy Spirit stepped aside and let me go first—just like He did in the Wilderness. I walked into the cave and remembered their instructions to keep moving. It didn’t matter how long it took, just keep moving forward. I kept my arms in front of me and shuffled slowly forward. With every step the darker the cave became. It’s amazing what happens when you’re alone in darkness, even though I knew I wasn’t really alone. My mind came alive. I remembered all of my friends and family back in Mediocrity. I wondered how they were. Did they escape, or are they chained to the Masters of Mediocrity, Confusion, Despair, Hopelessness…Do they even know there is a way out? Do they know about Jesus? I need to tell them.

I walked a little further and I remembered my friends at the Academy. Are they still there, or are they continuing on with their journey, or did they return to Mediocrity? On and on, with every step I took I could see the faces of those I passed on the journey like the shoppers at the Mall of Temptation, ever trying to fill their desires with things that can never satisfy and will only lead to death. I began to weep for them. My heart yearned for them—if only I could tell them what I’ve learned. All of a sudden, my Destiny didn’t matter. I wanted to help them reach theirs.

It was strange. Throughout my entire journey I was so focused on what I could get out of it. Yes, I loved God, but would I have traveled if there wasn’t the promise of blessing? Did I love Him enough to follow Him, even if I got nothing in return? I remembered the Holy Spirit asking me why I became a Traveler, and the real reason was because of my love for God, and my gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. I realized that more than anything, I want my life to be an expression of my love for God, and I want to show people how much God loves them. It’s not about my dreams. It’s about fulfilling God’s purpose.

I continued to move forward and soon I saw a light. I walked toward that light and the closer I came the quicker my steps were until I was running at full speed into the arms of Jesus. The Holy Spirit was right behind me, and the three of us embraced for a long time.

Destiny’s Summit

Then I looked around. I was on top of a mountain. I could see all the way back to Mediocrity and retrace my steps. I had come so far! I didn’t realize how far I had come! And here I was, on Destiny’s Summit!

Jesus handed me a telescope called the Eye of Revelation. I looked through it and saw from a new vantage point everything I had come through. The Slave Market was in full swing, the Mall was packed, the Academy was beginning a new term, I could see recent Academy graduates beginning their jaunt through the Wilderness…My heart began to yearn for them. There was so much I could do so much I could give. And there, on Destiny’s Summit, I discovered what my Purpose was—to help other Travelers on their journey.

I told Jesus that He could send me anywhere, and I would do everything I could to help them. It didn’t even matter if I ended up back in Mediocrity with a full-time job. I don’t have to be mediocre. I could warn people of the dangers of Temptation. I could assist Master Patience at the Academy. I could help Peace and Joy take care of weary Travelers at the Inn of Refreshing. There were people who I could help everywhere. I looked long and hard through the Eye of Revelation to see who it was that Jesus wanted me to help – and I saw you.

Christians in the Muslim World

News from Jerusalem (Vision for Israel) about the horrific persecution of Christians in the Muslim world.  Let’s not be ignorant but informed.  These events are happening now.  Please don’t turn your eyes away thinking this is happening so far away.  These precious ones are part of the Body of Christ, and a part of us who call ourselves Christian.  Please pray.

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” Ps 18: 28-29

FIRST THE SATURDAY PEOPLE, THEN THE SUNDAY PEOPLE: Islamic terror groups have long had a favorite taunt which says, first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people. This means of course, first the Jews then the Christians will be targets for terrorist persecution, subjection and elimination. Vision for Israel, in an ongoing endeavor, plans to keep you informed of growing Christian oppression across Islamic controlled lands that you may pray for both the victims and their persecutors. Persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is endemic, on its way to reaching epidemic proportions.

A SUMMARY OF MUSLIM PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS DURING SUMMER 2011: The vilest anecdote to surface in July comes from Pakistan, a hotbed of anti-Christian sentiment, even though Christians make up less than 3% of the population. A two-year-old Christian girl was savagely raped when her father refused to convert to Islam. Because her anatomy has been disfigured, she has undergone five surgeries and suffers several permanent complications. Her family lives in fear and hiding. Though this report surfaced days ago, it occurred four years ago. (AINA)  Pray for this emotionally and physically tortured family and their child – that they may be healed, comforted and delivered from fear and from those who have so brutally caused them to suffer.

AFGHANISTAN/NORWAY: An Asylum seeker in an immigration center in Norway had boiling water poured over him after he converted to Christianity and would not comply with Ramadan fasting rules. He and the other converts at the center now fear for their lives. “If you do not return to Islam, we will kill you,” was the message from the Islamist asylum seekers at the reception center in Norway. The victim refuses to disclose his real name for fear of further reprisals. If Afghan authorities found out about the incident and he were to be subsequently deported he would risk being sentenced to death by stoning, he claims. He survived the incident, but has been left with a severely disfigured back. (Mohabat)  Pray for the healing, protection and godly consolation of this young man.

EGYPT: Muslims who were angered by the installation of a church bell, (under Sharia law, churches must not offend Muslims by ringing bells), went on a violent spree, attacking a 5-month pregnant Christian woman and others who were “beaten with iron rods and pipes.” Additionally, Muslims “severely sexually harassed” a Christian woman in front of her husband at a bus terminal. When her husband tried to defend her honor, he was violently beaten. Soon after, thousands of Muslims in the region began looting and torching Christian property, screaming “Allah Akbar!” and cursing the Cross. Also, last month, a Muslim gang using sexual coercion to convert Christian girls was exposed. (WCN) In recent months there have been numerous injuries and murders visited upon Christians in Egypt.  Muslims who once restricted themselves to preaching hate against those who are different, today feel free to act on their words and have been beating and torturing Christians throughout the country. Egyptian Islamist sects have been known to burn churches and destroy other property in their zeal to wipe out the minority population.

INDONESIA: Christians were forced out of a church building and severely harassed- even as they then tried to worship at the side of the road. Also in August, the mayor of Bagor, Indonesia announced a new reason not to allow churches to open: If the name of the street on which a church desires to establish a new building bears an Islamic name, it may not be constructed . (ACT)

IRAN: The Islamic Republic in August seized 6,500 copies of the Bible in northwest Iran in what appears to be the latest onslaught by Iranian authorities against Christianity in the country. Tehran has been cracking down on its tiny Christian minority of late, so much so even the EU has noticed.  “In the past six months,” the EU reported, “the crackdown has led to the arrest of 285 Christians in 35 cities. In one instance, Yusef Nadarkhani, an evangelical pastor and the father of two, had been sentenced to death for converting from Islam, and the Iranian Supreme Court continues to uphold the decision. For many Americans, evidence of how Iran treats its Christian minority is an indicator of the kind of uses to which it would put nuclear weapons. On a positive note, which again reveals the power of prayer, Iran has released a Dutch-Iranian pastor who was jailed for 359 days on charges of spreading Christianity among Farsi-speaking Iranians. (Bos News)

IRAQ: Kirkuk police, Aug 24, reported they had deactivated an explosive device left near the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the Almass district of Kirkuk. (WCN)  Latest UN figures show that more than a quarter of the refugee population violently forced out of their homes in Iraq since 2003 are Christians. The number of Christians in Iraq has plummeted from 1.4 million in the 1980s to an estimated 200,000 as of July 2011.

IVORY COAST: Muslims crucified two Christian brothers on “the example of Christ” and in accordance to Koran 5:33: The pair were badly beaten and tortured before being crudely nailed to cross-shaped planks by their hands and feet with steel spikes. (Gateway Pundit)

JORDAN:  A Jordan-based group on September 2, threatened to file a lawsuit against Israel in the International Criminal Court over its opening of the baptismal site Qasr al-Yahud near the Jordan River. The group, which calls itself “The Arab Union to Resist the Expulsion of Arab Christians,” is headed by the speaker of the Jordanian senate, Taher al-Masri, and includes officials from around the Arab world. The group is upset over the fact that on July 12, Israel held an official ceremony to mark the opening of Qasr al-Yahud, the site which is known as the place where Yeshua was baptized by John the Baptist and which is considered the third holiest site in Christianity.  (INN)

NIGERIA: Earlier this summer two churches were bombed simultaneously; at least three Christians died, and several were injured. Muslim extremists with the alleged aid of Nigerian soldiers killed 24 Christians during August in Nigeria’s central Plateau. (Front Page Magazine)

PAKISTAN: Under accusations of blasphemy, and with the help of a local politician, Muslims last month attempted to annex a Christian hospital established in 1922 by missionaries. Additionally, two Christian men were seriously injured by young Muslim men in Karachi when they refused to convert to Islam. They were returning home after an early-morning prayer service at their church on August 14. Six youths started questioning them about their faith and later tried to force them to recite the Kalma (Islamic conversion creed) and become Muslims, but the two refused to renounce Christianity. The Muslims got out of the car armed with iron rods and attacked the two young men shouting that they should either recite the Kalma or be prepared to die. They severely beat the two Christians seriously injuring both. The young Muslim men then left, assuming they had killed both Christians, although they have subsequently recovered. The family has not registered a case with police, fearing reprisal by the Muslims. Christians make up only 2.45% of Pakistan’s population, which is more than 95% Muslim. (Alina)

SAUDI ARABIA: On August 12 it was reported that a captured Christian pastor is set to be deported to Muslim Eritrea, where he faces the death penalty. (RSL) Pray for the reversal of any death threat and for the freedom of this unnamed pastor.

TANZANIA: August 12, Muslims burned down two churches to cries of “away with the church – we do not want infidels to spoil our community,” and vows not to befriend “infidels.” (Front Page Magazine)

UGANDA: A 14-year-old girl in western Uganda is still unable to walk 10 months after her father tortured her for leaving Islam and putting her faith in Yeshua, according to area Christians last month. (J.Post)  Pray for this young girl not to abandon her faith, also that she may escape the brutality of her father and other family members who might add to her sufferings for the name of Yeshua.

UZBEKISTAN: Uzbekistan is reportedly a place where fines, abuse and the destruction of religious literature are unceasing. On August 31, police who raided a Protestant family’s home in Fergana also beat the husband as they confiscated a Bible, an Uzbek New Testament and the Proverbs of Solomon. (WCN)

THE SAD, SAD LACK OF SOLIDARITY AMONG CHRISTIANS: A recent study shows 105,000 Christians are killed every year because of their faith. In other words, every five minutes a Christian is killed because he or she believes in Yeshua. It is shocking to see how little other Christians do about it. The most natural thing to do as a Christian, a Christian leader or organization, would be to demand that Islamic leaders and organizations call for a stop to religious violence against Christians. They should demand that imams declare void the many Koranic verses preaching hatred and for the murder of followers of Yeshua. Many people expected many more Christians to write letters to the editor, demonstrate in front of mosques, call for the media to report more about the problems, etc. Local congregations should write open letters to local Islamic organizations, urging them to publicly renounce any religiously motivated violence — including the relevant portions of their own written religious texts. I will not say “shame on you” for not standing up for your sisters and brothers. Present and future generations of Christians enjoying less security than you are enjoying now will do that. Looking the other way may not be harmful for oneself, if one lives in a safe setting. But letting people in need down — even fellow Christians — is embarrassing and cowardly, and it makes Christianity look useless in situations where things are less rosy. Protecting fellow believers from oppression and violence should be the least of what we do. The sad, sad lack of solidarity among Christians must come to an end, even if taking a stand involves personal risk or going public offends those who want to harm you. Christianity is the largest religion in this world. It laid the cultural basis for the richest, freest and most compassionate society in this world. It is time for this giant to wake up. (Nicolai Sennels /Jihad Watch)

“Remember those who are in bonds as though you were bound with them, and those who suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”  Heb 13:3

JOL SUNDAY PEOPLE SUMMER UPDATE
News Update September 7th 2011
JNN NEWS, P.O. Box 7411, Jerusalem 91073, Israel

Testimony of Infertility–Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

This post is dedicated to all of my friends who are struggling with infertility.  Please know that Bruce and I regularly pray for all of you.  We look at our children and are in awe as both of them have revealed the manifest wonder of God.  We know what it is to wait longingly and ache with desire.  We know how one minute we can be so full of joy and the next broken in grief when we discovered the baby we were carrying was no longer alive.  And, we have experienced God’s great faithfulness to fulfill this desire for us, and the fact that so many we care about are still aching is not lost on us.

Bruce and I were married in September 2000, and because we were older than the normal newlyweds, we decided to start trying for children right away.  I really believed that I would conceive right away, and it was so surprising that I didn’t.  I wasn’t discouraged.  I was blessed and content with my life.  I felt that if I conceived “great!” And if I didn’t, “okay!” 

In January of 2004 I had a positive pregnancy test.  Then the next morning I began to bleed, and the pain was excrutiating.  I called my doctor who ordered a blood test.  The results of the blood test were negative, and my doctor said that she didn’t think I ever was pregnant and my regular period was starting.  In hindsight, I disagree.  I truly believe I was having a miscarriage.  The excrutiating pain was much more intense than anything I experience regularly.  I have no way of proving it, just an inward knowing. 

The following year one of the elders in my church came up to me and whispered in my ear, “God told me that you were pregnant.”  I thought that was pretty bold to say something like that to a woman who has been trying to conceive for so many years.  The same evening, another man was praying for me and Bruce, and he kept seeing a baby.  The following week it was confirmed through a blood test and a phone call from my doctor…I was going to be a mommy!  We were thrilled and couldn’t keep this wonderful news contained.  So much hope for this little one whose arrival was announced prophetically.  We went in for our first appointment with the obstetrician full of excitement.  She began the ultrasound, but the only image on the screen was a black hole.  No baby.  She had me go to the “big” ultrasound room.  After a moment we saw the baby on the screen!  Bruce said excitedly, “There it is!  Rebecca, do you see it?”  Then the sonographer said, “Yes, but there’s no heartbeat.  Sorry, folks.”  I was devestated.  We went to the appointment full of joy, and finished the appointment with meeting with a social worker talking about fetal remains and gravesites.  I decided to have a D&C, and as we were getting ready to leave for the hospital, Bruce grabbed my hand to pray, and we released our child to heaven. 

What do you do with something like that?  When two confirming prophetic words given the same night end this way?  This is what I did…I went to church the morning after I had the D&C, lifted my hands and worshipped God with all my heart.  We sang, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord,” and the part of the song that goes “He gives and takes away…blessed be His Name” was so painful to sing, but I sang it anyway because He is worthy of praise even in difficult circumstances.  The praise lifted me out of the pit of pain, and I was even able to pray for someone else that morning.  Praise God for His grace!

The amazing discovery I made after this experience was how common an experience it is.  So many women I knew had been through miscarriages, and no matter how many years had passed or how many children they now had, the pain of losing a baby (or babies) was still fresh.  Within the last year, a book was released entitled Heaven is Real describing four-year-old Colton Burpo’s time in heaven.  This book has done so much to bring comfort and hope to women who have lost children.  It really ministered to me too.

A few months after the miscarriage it was Mother’s Day.  I was walking around with a sword through my heart.  My dear hubby decided that we should go out and celebrate anyway, and we did.  A few months later, as what would have been my due date approached I was still grieving.  We decided to pursue adoption.  Years before I was content to be childless.  No more.  I longed to become a mother.

Going through the beginning stages of the adoption process was such an eye opener.  I have a new found respect and admiration for families who adopt as well as for birth parents who release their children because they cannot parent.  I learned that there is no happy reason for a child to be released for adoption, and it really takes a calling and equipping from the LORD to be an adoptive parent. 

October 2006 during a church service I had a vivid image of a crib before my eyes through the entire service.  The LORD said to me, “There will be a baby.  The spare room across from the master bedroom will be occupied.” 

We filled out the applications, paid our fees, and read the required books.  We set up a meeting with our social worker at the agency to discuss the ins and outs of international versus domestic adoption.  The week prior we were out eating with some friends and discussed all we were going through with the adoption.  One friend wrote on a napkin, “It could happen.”  Our appointment was on a Friday.  That week at work was particularly stressful and I was tired.  During the drive up to the Twin Cities I was a bit queasy, but I attributed it to nerves.  We had a wonderful meeting and learned so much about the entire process of international versus domestic adoption.  I was still queasy on the drive home.  I wouldn’t let myself think about it too much.

The next morning I had to know.  I took another pregnancy test.  I just wanted to see the “Not Pregnant” in the little window and get on with my life.  However, to my great shock and surprise it said “Pregnant.”  I cleaned it off and took it out to the living room.  I didn’t say a word and showed it to Bruce.  He said, “It says that you’re pregnant!”  Yes!  We called our friend to tell him, “It happened!”  On November 27, 2007 we welcomed Aaron Emanuel.

About a year an a half later, on Mother’s Day 2009, there were no roses and no card on the counter as Bruce normally does.  He was just going through the normal Sunday morning routine.  I took a deep breath and asked him, “Did you remember that today is Mother’s Day?”  Bruce turned white.  For me to be angry would have been ridiculous.  Bruce is the most generous person I know.  I knew it was an honest mistake.  He made up for it later in the week, and on February 11, 2010 we welcomed Naomi Shoshannah (conceived on the first try!).

Bruce and I are very grateful for God’s faithfulness and all the ways He blessed us.  Why our desires were fulfilled and others are still suffering is a mystery, but one thing I do know is that God is worthy of our praise because of His goodness and His love in every and all circumstances.  Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

The Vineyard

The following is an experience I had with the LORD in 2007.  I had it written in a notebook, but I wanted to record it here so it wouldn’t get lost.

April 21, 2007

I was in the garden of a large estate. The garden was maticulously manicured with a large stone tiered fountain.  The lawns were perfect.  An abundance of lush green.  I was seated at the fountain, and Jesus met me there.  I could not see Him, but there was no question He was there.  He whispered in my ear, “You are my precious one.”  He had me dip my hand in the fountain and take a drink.  Then He led me on a pathway to an overlook.  There was a vast expanse of green rolling hills.  The land was fertile.  Jesus told me to look over all the land I could see, and He said, “All this is yours.  It belongs to you.”  He led me down the hill and we came to vineyards and groves of fruit trees as far as the eye can see and beyond.  Every tree and vine had an abundance of fruit.  Jesus said, “These are your inheritance for I desire that you bear much fruit.”

I began to pick some of the fruit, and I gave it to people.  Some ate it.  Some stored it away.  Others sowed the seeds in other fields.

Then Jesus and I were walking through a wine cellar.  The fruits from the orchards and groves and vineyards made this wine.  It was an enormous cellar.  We came to an old part of the cellar, and I sensed that these bottles had been there a long time, but now was the time for them to be opened.  Jesus told me that this wine was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus opened one of the bottles like an egg and poured it over me, and I felt the wine seep into my heart.  It soaked in deep to bring cleansing, healing and renewal.  There was such a sense of His love.  I found myself weeping at His feet.  The wine, mixed with my tears dripped onto His feet.  He lifted me from the ground onto my feet and lifed my head to meet His gaze, and He said, “I have cleansd you from your shame and reproach.”

Then I noticed I was wearing priestly garments–a white robe with ornaments, a sash around my neck and down the center, a crown on my head of royal blue stone inlaid in gold and dotted with rubies.

I took bottles of wine out of the cellar and gave them to the workers in the groves, orchards and vineyards.  There were small groups of workers scattered.  They were disgruntled and weary, but when they drank the wine their spiris were revived.  They laid down their tools and gathered together.  It was as if they wanted to share the wine with others, and to their delight, as each smaller group came to join the larger group, each small group brought their bottles and they discovered that they had partaken of the same wine, and there was such a celebration.

I sensed that these disgruntled, weary workers were from the Church.  They were people who stll loved the LORD but had been hurt, wounded, etc. and so left.  They continued to toil to produce fruit, but because they were scattered they felt alone and had lost their vision.  When they drank the wine they could not contain their joy.  They were compelled to find others to share  it with.  This outpouring of the Holy Spirit caused the weary outcasts to be joined in unity in rejoicing before the LORD.

As this celebration continued, I saw other small groups from afar, with the same brand of wine, come and join in.  These groups were from the nations.  They were Jews, Hindus from India, Buddhists from Asia and Muslims from the Middle East, etc. who had all partaken of this NEW WINE of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and had come to join in the celebration because they too had encountered the true and LIVING God!

Beyond Restoration

I was thinking about the word restoration.  The simple definition of this word is to bring something back to its original condition.  However, I don’t merely want to be restored back to the way I was.  I want to move beyond restoration and grow and mature into someone stronger and better.  I want to be new and improved. 

I’m fairly new to the world of social media.  There are some people that I lost contact with over the years and have reconnected with via Facebook.  A lot of these are friends of mine from Bible School, and I’m enjoying seeing what they’re doing now–20 years later.  One of these friends suffered a horrible tragedy just a year after we graduated.  He and his wife met during the Bible School year, fell in love and had a fairy tale wedding.  They were made for each other as they complimented one another beautifully.  Just three weeks before their first wedding anniversary, while she was five months pregnant, the van they were riding in was struck head-on by a drunk driver.  The van door slid open, she was thrown out and was killed along with the unborn baby.  I spoke to him a few weeks after the accident, and he kept saying, “Rebecca, heaven is so real to me now.  I want nothing more than to be finished with life and join my wife and baby in heaven.”  I saw him a few months later while he was still grieving but trying his best to put his life back together.  I heard a few years after that he met someone else and remarried, and I lost touch with him.

I found him on Facebook.  To my great delight I discovered that he is the founding pastor of a wonderful church.  I downloaded a few of his messages and was so blessed to hear happiness in his voice.  He is not the same man.  He’s not even the man he was before the accident.  He’s so much more.  I was trying to think of a good word to describe the change in him, and it camed to me–transformed!



I really believe that the LORD is in the transformation business, and we have a tremendous opportunity to join with him in this venture of His.  Many of us long to experience the LORD moving and working in the full manifestation of His power, and all it requires of us is to humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, turn away from our sin, and then He will hear us and come and heal our land.

Another of my Bible School friends posted this as his status recently, “The prayer that sparks revival begins long before the countryside seems to awaken from its slumber in sin. It starts when men fall on their knees and cry out to God. That’s where true intimacy with God takes place and we begin the journey of being transformed into the image of Christ. And as men are transformed, the course of a nation can be changed.” – Wellington Boone

True intimacy with God begins when we humble ourselves and cry out to God in prayer.  May God pour out a spirit of grace and prayer upon us, so that our hearts and His heart can join as one.  Then we will see transformation not only in ourselves, but in our nation.

Fulfilled Expectations

[Post updated 5/15/2013]
 
So the LORD must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion.  For the LORD is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for His help.  Isaiah 30:18 NLT
 
To compare, the NASB reads,
 
Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.
 
Now is the time of the Biblical feast of Shavuot.  Shavuot is the Hebrew word for weeks, and this feast marks seven weeks from Passover.  Jews count the 50 days between the commemoration of the Exodus and the time when they gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah and entered into a covenant with the Most High God.
 
This celebration is the second of three days Jewish people are commanded to gather before the LORD in Jerusalem to celebrate and rededicate themselves to the covenant.  The first day is Passover, and the third day is the Feast of Tabernacles.
 
Why did God command that they gather in Jerusalem on particular days?  Simply so that they would be there when He showed His great love and compassion in the fulfillment of these important feasts.  As they traveled to Jerusalem they prepared their hearts and were full of expectation hoping for the Messiah.  As they traveled, many prayed throught Psalms 120-134 (the songs of ascent).  Read through all of these in order non-stop.  It’s awesome that in Psalm 120 the focus is on daily troubles and by the time you get to Psalm 134 all focus is on the LORD.
 
Passover is the prophetic foreshadowing of of the betrothal.  The Jewish people were betrothed to God when they left Egypt to follow Him.  This was fulfilled when Jesus, the Bridegroom, met the Torah’s requirements and became the FINAL sacrifice paving the way for all people, Jew and Gentile, to be reconciled to God.  Those gathered in Jerusalem for Passover were there to witness His triumphant arrival into the City on a lowly donkey.  They were there when Jesus was arrested, tried, condemned, crucified, and ultimately rose from the dead.  Simon of Cyrene was there for Passover, but ended up helping to carry His cross.  Sadly, many were part of the crowd that shouted, “Crucity Him!”
 
Shavuot, is the prophetic foreshadowing of the marriage.  50 days after they left Egypt, the Israelites gathered before God at Mt. Sinai and entered into a covenant with Him as they received the Torah.  This feast later became agriculturally focused as the gathering of first fruits.  This was fulfilled while Jews were gathered to celebrate the first covenant, and Jesus’ disciplies were gathered in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit empowered them and wrote the Torah on their hearts–a New Covenant–and they all began to speak in tongues declaring the praises of God in languages they never learned. I believe that those in the crowd of 3,000 who received Messiah and were baptized that day were also there 50 days earlier shouting “Crucify Him!”, and this was an answer to Jesus prayer, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they do.”
 
The third day, Sukkot (Tabernacles), will be the prophetic fulfillment of the gathering of all nations to Jerusalem and the advent of the Millenial Kingdom.  This is yet to come; however, these days are times when we are to be full of expectation and anticipation of God’s faithfulness to His covenant.
 
God’s heart is longing to pour out His love and compassion, and He is waiting for His people, Jew and Gentile, to turn their hearts to Him, and then there will be a convergence of His heart and our hearts joining as one.  This is my prayer for you, and for Jerusalem and the Jewish people…for another mighty outpouring of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (The Holy Spirit) to open hearts to receive all that Jesus accomplished, and that Jesus would be the recognized Messiah!