Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day

Three different holidays occurred while I was in Israel.  One of those was Yom Hazikaron or Memorial Day.  It is Israel's official remembrance day dedicated to fallen soldiers and has been extended to civilian victims of terrorism.  It is a national day of remembrance. Places close, ceremonies are held, candles are lit, and flags lowered to half staff. 

In Israel the new day begins at sunset.  The start of this day of remembrance began with a siren heard throughout the land that lasted for one minute.  In this one minute everything stops, cars driving on highways, people walking, it all ceases and the people stand in silence commemorating lives lost.  This one minute was followed by a service where stories where told about the lives of soldiers who were being remembered, names and pictures were shared of many who gave their lives for their country. These services were held all over the country.

The next morning cemeteries were filled with people attending ceremonies and gathering around the graves of soldiers.   A two minute siren was heard throughout the land and again everything stops, everyone stands, and silence is given as the nation mourns together for the many lives lost in service and terrorism.  There were songs, prayers, and tears of remembrance.

 Stones are seen on the graves, placed there by friends, family, and visitors. These stones, according to Jewish tradition, are about much more than just marking a visit. I witnessed stones being placed as the country collectively cried for the sacrifices made.   

While solemn, observing this day along side my Jewish friends in Israel, was beautiful to behold.  Israel honors these men and women on Memorial Day so much better than we do in America. 

Today my daughter asked what Memorial Day was about, I explained.  Her response, "then why is everyone BBQing and going to the beach?"  

I confess my lack of commemorating Memorial Day and
 for that I am sorry.  To Israel, I say thank you for showing me the error of my ways.  To my daughter, your wisdom is inspiring. 

This morning, I was blessed to attend church with my grandfather. The entire service was dedicated to honoring Memorial Day.  There was no siren, but there was a moment of silence.  There were songs, prayers, and stories of lives willing to sacrifice. There were no stones, but there was remembrance.  I was filled with pride that this small church got it right.  

Today let us not make this day about mattress sales, food, and beaches.  Today may we remember  those who sacrificed their lives. May we learn from Israel and mourn together. Maybe in lieu of flowers, we place stones that will not wither, stones of remembrance.   The pastor this morning stated each life "gave up two lives, they one they lived and the one they would have."  This giving up was so you and I may live in the land of the free.

Memorial Day
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice


Friday, May 25, 2018

How I Ended Up In Israel

I like road trips.  I don't like to fly, in fact I am fearful. Until this year, I had not flown in 15 years.  I rarely travel.  I have been out of the state I live in only a handful of times.  I never had a passport till I turned 40, which was in 2017.  However, in April of 2018 I embarked on a journey completely out of the box for me.  I went to Israel!!! It wasn't a journey that I would have planned, but G-d invited me and He began that long before April.

I believe the story began in 2014 when my family began attending other churches from the one we had been attending.  During the time away, I received messages from someone at the church inviting us back, which continued into 2015 a few times.  In 2016 we did go back to the church briefly, but left again.  That same person continued to invite us back.  In these years we only visited a few churches and stayed at a couple for a good length of time, but we never felt those congregations were where we belonged.  The messages I received and brief conversations that I had with this person, G-d used to bring us back to the original church we left.  We visited again in January of 2017 and have not left!!

It was at this church that I frequently heard my pastor, Trey Graham speak about Israel and a fleeting thought would run through my mind that it would be cool to go. That thought was never seriously entertained.  I knew Israel was important. I knew that the Jews were G-d's chosen people. It was a basic head knowledge. That drastically changed in February of 2017.  Our pastor had a guest speaker who share his story of  making aliyah.  His story impacted me so much.  I would now say it changed my life.  Little did I know, this was the night the Lord began preparing me for my first trip out of the country. This man was used by G-d to light a fire in me to learn about Israel, the Jewish people, and Hebrew.

Shortly after this guest speaker, my pastor began a sermon series titled "A Walk Through the Holy Land".  It was incredible.  It increased my hunger to learn more.  During this series I was challenged to run a half marathon, this challenge was inspired by how much Jesus walked in the land of Israel.  I also ended up changing jobs. The founder of the organization I now work for has a deep love for Israel, the Jewish people, and Hebrew.

In May of 2017 I was asked to help with a prayer ministry for Israel and in the email it was stated that I had not yet gone to Israel.  At that point, I wanted to go, but yet I didn't.  I didn't want to fly and I didn't think it was possible for me to go. But those words stayed with me.

In August we had two more speakers from the land, both inspiring me to keep learning.  I had already began studying the letters, these speakers increased my desire to learn more. I absolutely love Hebrew.  It is incredible. My pastor began teaching us about Jewish holidays and I was blown away.  In October I was told about the upcoming trips to Israel, but they were not official.  I was also told about a conference regarding Israel I could attend. I loved every moment of the music and the learning. My pastor and his Rabbi friend began a podcast, called the Lonestar Podcast. They discuss news, events, and Torah.  In November I read a book by Don Finto titled "Your People Shall Be My People" and it drove deeper my love for this land, this language, and this people. I began asking people questions from the book, even strangers.  The Israel trip for April was officially announced on November 21.  I mentioned on social media the trip sounded amazing and the co-host of the trip stated "I personally guarantee it."  This man runs Root-Source, another resource where Jews teach Christians. I signed up for that to learn more.  Now I wanted to go, but with other circumstances, fear, and money I didn't know how.  In December the how was figured out. The Lord provided. I just had to make a decision.

My one word for 2018 is trust, but on December 26, 2017 I had not made the choice for my word.  I had a conversation with a few friends about Israel and trust came up. After this talk I read Luke 7:50 in the CJB version,  "Your trust has saved you, go in peace".  While the story leading up to this verse is different than making a decision to fly out of the country, the verse spoke to me.  I felt G-d was asking me to go and let trust be my word for 2018.  I had never left my kids for this long, but I wanted them to see faith.  I wanted them to see obedience. I wrestled with the choice, but finally said yes on January 9, 2018.   I lost sleep over the choice.  I felt anxious. The night I found out the plane tickets were booked, I lost sleep again. We began a 40 days of faith series and in my book on 1-22-18 I heard from the Lord and wrote "stop being so fearful." On 1-26-18 I listened to the Lonestar Podcast and took notes when I listened a second time, because it spoke to me about going on the trip.  I heard Pastor Trey speak about faith and ask questions and say things such as, "Will I trust Him to protect me?", "If the Lord says go, we go. Act of faith". I knew I would regret not going.  Despite trust being my word and these messages I struggled some, but as April of 2018 drew near I also had a peace that I was saying yes to what the Lord had invited me to do. And that is how I ended up in Israel.

I can't get over how much this has taken root in me.  I wish everyone understood what I am learning. The meanings and structure of the Hebrew letters, the traditions, the land....all of's incredible.  I read the Bible with new eyes.  My faith has grown.  I have made many new friends because of this journey.  I am extremely thankful.  I look forward to sharing the trip with you soon and maybe a post about all the learning resources I have used and books I have read.

For all of this Baruch Hashem.  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Yad Vashem

I recently went to Israel for the first time.  In a series of upcoming posts I will be sharing the story of what led me to go and stories about my trip.  In the mean time, I wanted to share about my visit to a museum while there.  When I was in Israel three holidays occurred, the first was Holocaust Memorial Day.  I had a few moments outside of the museum to write down a few words.  I wrote the following on social media:

We just visited the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust History Museum.  I process through writing, I would have loved more time to write, but only had a few minutes.  A few of my thoughts:

I wish I had time to really process the feelings and thoughts about what I just witnessed. I am so thankful there was light at the end of the tunnel. There was hope. Walking through at times, I just felt like I needed a hug because of the emotions overwhelming my heart and soul. The display of the shoes drew me in. Where had the feet that fit in those shoes walked before these evil events took place? What was the person like? I saw only saw beautiful faces. They were like you and me.
 People who did nothing wrong and yet it was their shoes staring at me. It made me so mad that people who claimed to be Christians took part in this, putting fear into the lives of these people, creating a great chasm. And yet here I stood, seeing this in Israel, where G-d invited me to be, learning about His people, His land, and bridging the gap in some small way. I am blessed to do that, because these are G-d’s chosen people. I am blessed to do that because they persevered, fought, and held on despite the copious amount of loss, despite what they went through. What strength my Jewish friends have. I saw a picture of a young man, he was skin and bones, barely clothed, but he survived. At first I didn’t think it was a full smile, but after looking again, it was, his eyes were gleaming. I wanted to know his story. I may never know that, but I know he taught me about survival, about joy even in sorrow. Never forget.

There were various parts to the museum.  At the main building, which was like a tunnel, you entered one end and went through rooms that told the horrific tribulations of the Jewish people, however towards the end it told stories of how so many survived, how so many fought.  When you exited the exhibit after a very dark story, this is a picture of what you see. This was the light at the end of the tunnel.  Hope is expectation, hope is an optimistic outlook, hope is what you saw, and hope is what you see throughout Israel and in the faces of the Jewish people.