Monday, May 24, 2010
God Loves the Desert: Days 3 & 4
Hosea 9:10 "When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert"
We have been home a week now and it feels like pieces of my heart are still locked up in Israel, in the secret places that God gave me to experience Him. Yet I still stand on the fact that He is just as present here as He is there and so I write and process and digest. It has been difficult to know where to go with these treasures and how to invite people in. It is entirely different than the emotions I have had following a missions trip experience (ie. disenchantment with the Western World), it is on the opposite end of the spectrum in wanting to engage the world but in the right way and with wisdom.
The days that we spent in the desert of Israel were, to me, the most significant, moving, beautiful and tender days of my experience. My most prominent hope for the trip was that God would reveal Himself and give me an understanding of his character, both within the Trinity and in relationship with His people. And He was faithful to answer my prayer to a depth that I did not anticipate through showing me His tenderness, His love for his people.
This is the Mitzpe Ramon which is found in the Negev desert of Southern Israel, the same wilderness land that the Israelites found themselves wandering for 40 years while God shaped and reshaped them. Vast and desolate, only providing moments of rest, this land forces ones full reliance and attention to be on God. And this is where my heart turned, to heart God's words towards his people, to the way He wanted to use their culture in a way they understood to free them and liberate them. It just looks different than they might have chosen. Can't we all identify there.
What was so meaningful to me about the wilderness was learning about the two types of desert, the yeshimon & the midbar. The yeshimon is the most dry and desolate place you can imagine-- nothing is green, there is no life. The midbar is a little bit more viable becuase there are green patches & some sparse water. The amazing thing is that even though the Israelites were in the yeshimon, they used the word midbar to describe their surroundings becuase He provided what they needed and sustained them. So even in our driest times, God will give us the life we need.
One of the most important lessons I learned in the desert is that you can't go alone. The essence of community and caring for one another, whether we are in a personal desert or willing to walk with someone is essential for staying alive. Here is a pic of all of the girls' in our group:
this my friends is a locust. yes. like as those things from the plagues that covered the land. You can't even imagine the buzzing noise that these creatures make and I can hardly look at the one in the picture without being creeped out. Brad had to throw his hat at this one and stun it to grab it by the wings.
The food was a staple of the trip and this is just a snippet of the fresh baked pita bread we enjoyed daily with hummus and lots of fillings. I decided to try and like olives while we were there and ate one at almost every meal (including breakfast) with not a lot of success. Still don't love them. I did however love the breakfast and dinner buffets along with lunches of pita, falafel, schwarma & schnitzel. Yum.
Many things about the desert made me sad as well, like seeing the Egyptian camps that the Israelites were enslaved at and feeling the heat of the stones that they worked to extract copper from by heating them to unthinkable degrees of heat. Once all of the life was sucked from the stones, they were discarded as slag because they had no value. My feet are standing on a pile of slag and I wanted a physical reminder of the areas of our life that suck us dry, only looking for the value we can add and then tossing us to the side. Is our slag relational, habitual, even our own selves sometimes?
Here are a few views from our arrival at the Isrotel Hotel. The sunsets and sunrises over the Dead Sea and the view of the Jordan mountains were breathtaking and worth waking up early for.