Location: Somewhere over the Atlantic
I can’t believe, as I write this, that I’m on a plane cruising over the Atlantic, heading for Israel. A once in a lifetime experience. I don’t know how easy it will be, but I’m going to try to blog the experience – for you, my friends and family who want to follow my journey; for you, the person I’ve never met who wants to know about Jesus, about Israel and about this tour; and for me, who will want to look back over the years on God’s work through this trip. God has so richly blessed me — with the opportunity, the finances, and the supportive family to make this trip possible.
So, here’s the story…
A few days ago, my wife introduced me to a new song by Greg Long called “Uncommon”. Here are a few of the lines from the song to which I most closely connect…
What if the right thing was harder than the wrong thing, but I did it anyway?
Standing strong even when no one else was watching; what if I really lived that way?
Every heart has its defining moment. This is mine, and I’m not gonna miss it.
I want to finally take the road less traveled.
I want the world to see the life I’m living, and call it “uncommon”.
This song really captures a feeling of restlessness I’ve been feeling for years … the sense that I am missing a calling that God is trying to communicate to me. Faith and I have attended Harvest Bible Chapel for about two years now. Since we started sitting under the teaching of James MacDonald (Harvest’s senior pastor) and being in the company of the birds of similar feather at Harvest (real fanatics about the Bible and the God who wrote it), the smoldering embers of restlessness I’ve felt have grown in intensity. I think seeing people really living out God’s call in their lives with all their hearts is contagious. I also think I’m particularly wired to receive well the strong sense of expectation that comes through clearly in James’ preaching… God does not desire from us a passive listening to His Word, but rather a radical faith that trusts Him in our actions.
That life is uncommon … and every day I want it more. But I am so weak, so indecisive, so afraid of what might happen if I give up familiar, comfortable things, so addicted to stuff and easiness, so entitled. It’s taking a while for my heart to submit to whatever God might have … no matter what it is.
There are a lot of details to that reality that would get us off the rails. I’ll leave those for another conversation, and focus on Israel. (Yes, there’s a connection.)
Last year, for the first time, James took 120 or so listeners to his radio ministry, Walk in the Word, on a tour of Israel. Many of these folks were of course from our church. While in the holy land, they walked where Jesus walked, read Scripture in a whole new way, and came back changed. When James returned and enthusiastically shared this adventure with us at church, Faith and I were both excited about the possibility of going with them someday. But with a 5 year old child (relatively recently adopted), I didn’t even consider that such an opportunity would be any time soon. Not so for Faith.
As the year unfolded, our conversations about restlessness and adventure and crazy love for God increased in frequency and intensity. Beyond that, special circumstances made the funds available, and eventually Faith became convinced I should go back to Israel with James (he had clearly stated that he wanted this to be an annual event) to be in a special place to hear from God. When she originally pitched the idea, I dismissed it out of hand. Go without my family? Spend all that money in that way? No way.
But Faith’s heart was (and is) that God would speak to me in a unique way in the holy land, in the midst of 10 days of studying the Bible and the world Jesus knew when He walked the earth. Neither of us think that God is one place more than others. Neither of us thinks that you have to leave your world and go to someplace “spiritual” for God to speak to you. But being in a place of quiet, steeped in teaching and prayer and study, separated from our normal worlds, is powerful. And because God provided the resources to go – both the money and an incredibly supportive and encouraging wife and family – I go.
It might sound contradictory, but I don’t really expect God to say something amazing or intense or even new while I’m in the Middle East. More than anything, I’m just going to be with the One I love. I don’t really know what to expect.