Inside Israel

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Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is …

May THE LORD be glorified and blessed as I greet you on this extraordinary day that yearly brings me to my knees.

“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, And the young men and the old, together; For I will turn their mourning to joy, Will comfort them, And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13)

“To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3 *also ofcourse, spoken as fulfillment by The Lord)

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 

            Yom h’zikeron, memorial day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and those killed by terror attacks is a deeply emotional day.  It touches, sadly, nearly every Israeli family personally. It is not a story or someone else’s experience, but the collective experience of a family, a nation, who sends all of it’s sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers and friends off to guard one another and it’s homes within its small borders. All fight the many battles that remain in spite of high aspirations for a still elusive peace.

Amidst the battles have come the terror attacks, claiming the infants and small children and the aged who have served and survived.  Truly there is barely a family in this nation that is not carrying the burden of the violent loss of deeply loved ones.  The raw emotion is heart wrenching.

By nature and design, we are not a people ashamed or used to hiding away our hearts.  As I got on the bus to go to work this morning, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I heard the song on the radio: “Achi” – My brother. I am now able to understand the words and I almost wished that I couldn’t.  My brother.  You took my hand and with such pride and such a smile led me to my first day at school.  You watched me and side-by-side we learned.  We played together as best friends.  We told secrets and shared our room and our heart…and you were so proud to go just ahead of me to serve our country…how beautiful you were my brother…I will see you again in heaven.

The two-minute siren this morning that brought the entire nation to a standstill settled the shared mantle of grief across the nation.  That mantle was lowered with the first siren last night at 8 p.m. But this morning it actively settled across our shoulders.  Mount Hertzl cemetery, our national cemetery where our Prime Ministers, leaders and a large percentage of our soldiers are buried, is walking distance from where I live.  The streams of many thousands upon thousands who spent the day there continued all day.  Soldiers came from all over to be comforted and to comfort the mourners.

Whoever was not mourning afresh, was comforting someone who was, a relative, friend or stranger.  Young widows holding babies who would never meet their fathers joined with elderly parents bereft of children or grandchildren.  An entire country grieving over personal losses. Letters written by children or other loved ones were printed in the media.  Here is a taste:

Dear Dad,

How to sum up in a few words a Dad so strong, so great and powerful?

It’s already been a month without you.

We stayed by your side after your injury. We saw your endless struggle, and we parted from your physical being, but not from your presence. And then, when the worst happened, we joined the families of bereavement, unwillingly, but with great faith that this was G-d’s will. We chose to cope, using your beliefs. You left us no room for indecision about how to live without a father. Even without you, without discussing it with you, I know how you want us to live. You didn’t talk much, talking is Mom’s great quality, but when you spoke you were clear, focused, strong, and sent a message, which reached further than the issue in question, to future principles. We have chosen to find strengths in this difficult trial, to focus on success and not failure, to always try to keep our heads high. To keep smiling even when it is hard, and always keep a positive view, even when our hearts are aching and wounded.

Mom always says we were blessed to have lived in your shadow.

Dad, you weren’t at home much, but you were always there.

I don’t deserve concessions that my Dad is not at home, I have the positives that, even if he is not here, I should work hard, make an effort, share, give, and keep doing things for myself and for others.

Dad, you went, but you are still with us, in the little things and the great ones. You left behind many people who can testify to who you were, can support us and comfort us, hold us and remind us of you, what you contributed, and how lucky we are to be your children.

Dad, at times missing you overcomes us; we have a long way to go, for me, for Mom, brothers and friends, but the path is clear.

I promise to follow in your way; it will always guide us and give us strength; to continue the mission of leading a meaningful life. To look after Mom, Yossiel, Maor and Ami-ad. Together we will succeed, you will be proud of us from up there. I am sure you will protect us and show us the way.

My Dad, you will always be with me, no matter where you are, you are always by my side.

I’m so proud to be your daughter. Always be with us.

May your soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.

I Love you,

Hallel

(Hallel Kachlon, aged 15, from Hadera, is the daughter of Sergeant Major Rami Kachlon, who was injured in an incident on the Gaza border during Operation Protective Edge, and died of his wounds several days later.)

And the question that I had is now answered:  HOW IN THE WORLD WILL THEY PULL IT OFF AGAIN THIS YEAR?  HOW CAN WE GO FROM MOURNING TO JOY IN A BRIEF BRIDGE? How can a ceremony, the changing of the key of the trumpet from minor to major and the raising of the flag from half mast to full, how can that stop the weeping and give hope to our broken hearts?  They did it for 66 years, but now, the 67th year, can they do it again?  Won’t the mourning be so deep that the joy won’t dawn this year?

But it DID!

And it was, again, or perhaps more so, amazing to behold this year! Yes, the mourners prayer (the Kadesh) was prayed by the most recently bereaved father with a broken and faltering voice. The last pieces were still bleeding in the aisles of the Mount Hertzl meeting place as the trumpets blew their mournful sound and then in one note changed to a major key as everyone stood.  Solemnly the flag was raised and the colors of the lights also changed and the words from Genesis began to be spoken, sung, displayed on the walls and danced to. All of this, while a scribe wrote them in a scroll and our eyes were turned to the hugeness of God’s creation and the work of His Hands.  He was declared from the beginning of the ceremony until the end tonight.  His triumph over all, built to a crescendo with a theme of HOPE dancing in and out.

Our Independence (yom h’atz’maoot) is celebrated in this way. Beauty from ashes…the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  Yearly 12 torches are lit, one for each tribe of Israel, chosen with a particular theme in mind and trying to represent the diversity of the population.

This year’s torch lighters represented very diverse innovators who bettered the lives of the general public and in many cases, the world.  They included Rami Levi, a very down to earth man who used to have a stall in our shuk.  It bothered him that prices were so high and that people scuffled to feed their families, so he developed the Rami Levi food chain to SERVE THE PEOPLE and it is both the least expensive, most fair, AND STILL PROSPEROUS food chain in the country. PLUS he employs Jews and Arabs, religious and non religious.

Another torch was lit by the man who developed the iron dome defense system.  Another was lit by a female Israeli Arab TV anchorwoman who has been a vanguard in anti-racism and is very brave… she even sang our national anthem tonight.

Then there was a 17 year old girl scientist who has begun a company which is pioneering brain research successfully.  AND, there is the young autistic man who started a program for mentally challenged young people to successfully volunteer for the IDF and serve the nation. This is just a sample.  Each one gave a short but very inspiring speech.  Songs, flags, presentations, a huge embrace of love infused with hope, looking up to God, with a belief in the God-Who-Sees-and-Will-Be-Seen, replacing the mantle of grief. The joy will continue (including wonderful bar-b-ques called mangle) through tomorrow evening.

Amazing!

They pulled it off!

And I think it was because they looked up.

Thank you for caring and praying.  May The Lord be KNOWN and GLORIFIED, even here among His ancient people Israel.

Lovingly,

your sis J

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Unhinged Geezer (Chapter 3-b)

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Chapter 3-b 

The Starbucks on Rancho California Road was busy as usual. Five people stood in line ahead of me, waiting for their orders. I looked around and saw the young pastor sitting at a table in the back of the room. He waved and I nodded at him.

I finally received my coffee and walked toward the tall man. His thick, dark hair framed his long, thin face. He resembled an ordinary businessman in his crisply pressed khakis, blue button-down shirt, and striped tie. He stood and we shook hands.

“Dylan, thanks for coming,” he said.

“It’s my pleasure Pastor Rick.”

We sat down and I sipped a drink of my coffee. He folded his hands in front of him on the table and looked as uncomfortable as I felt for our meeting.

“An insider on the selection committee told me that you were the most influential person when it came to choosing me as the church’s new pastor. So −”

I interrupted his prepared speech.

“So, why did I walk out of your first sermon, right?”

He nodded and grinned.

“Pastor Rick, it had nothing to do with you. It was probably something I should have done years ago.”

“I don’t understand.”

I repeated the same story I told Jane about feeling the Lord wanted me to do something and how I’ve ignored it for forty years until I walked out yesterday. The young pastor nodded from time to time as though he understood my dilemma.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?” he asked when I finished.

“I don’t know. This is new territory for me.”

The young pastor sipped his coffee before speaking again.

“My dad and granddad were pastors. They taught me that I don’t own the sheep because they belong to the Good Shepherd, but I am concerned about you.”

“Oh really, why?”

“As an ordained pastor, my main job is to feed the sheep. Thus, where will you be fed and nourished each week?”

“I don’t know.”

“What about Jane’s spiritual life? Where will she be fed and nourished?”

I shook my head.

“Who will you fellowship with?”

I shrugged and looked away from his eyes.

“So, you walked out of church with no plan and no pastor in mind for you to be accountable to, right?”

I nodded.

“Do you really believe God would ask you to do something like this in the twilight years of your life?”

“Excuse me?”

He cleared his throat and sipped some coffee.

“Shouldn’t you just enjoy your children and family for the remaining years of your life? After all, your legacy is set in stone. So, there’s no use in making mistakes this late in the game, right?”

I stood up, put my hands on the table, and leaned toward him.

“I don’t have any answers right now,” I proclaimed a little louder than what was needed. The people sitting near us stopped their activities to stare at us.

“As far as my legacy, I’m going to go out and make a new one. I’m not satisfied with mine at all. And mistakes? I could care less about that because I just want to please Jesus.”

Spinning around, I walked out of Starbucks.

 

Before going home, I stopped at Barnes and Noble. Jane and I had visited the store a few weeks earlier to browse their shelves for new books. We mostly read eBooks, but it still felt good to hold a real book in my hands. One book especially caught my eye that day.

I walked to the Christian section and scanned the shelves until my eyes fell on the same book. I picked it up and turned to its table of contents.

“Dylan, are you reading blasphemous books now?”

The deep voice reminded me of Froggy in the Our Gang films and belonged to my best friend, Phil Strawmeier. We had been friends since kindergarten, were best men for each other’s weddings, and our wives talked to each other at least once per day.

I turned toward the man with a thick white mane of hair and shaggy beard who looked more like a college professor than a plumbing contractor.

“Phil, do you really think this book is blasphemous?”

“Check out the title.”

I looked down at the red covered book. The title, Pagan Christianity, was written in large black letters while its two authors, Frank Viola and George Barna, appeared in white letters.

“As usual, you’re pulling my leg, right?”

His blue eyes smiled his gotcha at me.

“You’ve read it, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Yeah, a couple of weeks ago. It’s interesting.”

I jabbed him on the shoulder. He feigned deep pain.

“You’re a big goofball,” I said, shaking my head at him. “Jane and I stopped here a few weeks ago and a certain chapter caught my eye −”

“Let me guess which chapter, okay?”

“You’re on.”

“The one about sermons.”

“How’d you know?”

“Dylan, hello! I saw you walk out of Pastor Rick’s sermon yesterday.”

We both laughed. Then we drifted over to the coffee shop and drank coffee and ate cookies while I brought him up to date on leaving church and my meeting with Pastor Rick. He recommended that I should buy the book.

I followed his advice.

 (A new work of fiction still in the early stages. If you’re interested, you can see the full story so far here.)

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Memories Pizza, Indiana, Christianity, And How Not to Win Spiritual Battles (Part 5)

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“There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” (C. S. Lewis)

“We will live our entire lives behind enemy lines…” (Leonard Ravenhill)

Our American Christian mindset seldom considers that we are in a constant state of spiritual warfare between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. There are ebbs and flows in the war, but the fighting will never end until Jesus returns to earth in all of His glory. So, there are no days off or vacations for us believers because we always need to fight in some way or another against the kingdom of darkness at all times.

Let’s look at the kingdom of darkness.

Satan is the head of the kingdom of darkness. He is also the accuser of the brethren, a murderer, the father of lies with no truth in him, a thief, destroyer, tempter, ruler of this world, wicked one, Beelzebub, the ruler of demons, antichrist, the deceiver, lawless one, man of sin, son of perdition, and god of this age.

Satan’s army of underlings include evil principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, prince of the power of the air, and countless lower level demons.

The kingdom of darkness’ #1 ally on earth: our flesh.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)  

As you can easily see, the works of our flesh line up quite well with Satan and the kingdom of darkness.

So, let’s look at the kingdom of God.

(Continued in Part 6)

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Thursday’s Prayers for America (3/23/2015)

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Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, and Mark Zuckerberg can all pick up their phones to announce a press conference and have a ballroom packed with reporters in less than three hours time. The scribes will hang on every word which comes out of their mouths, even if it’s verbal pablum.

How can they do this?

Americans equate wealth with wisdom and strength. Thus, the words of these people are considered important enough for the media to give them a platform to trumpet their words to us.

Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. (Ecclesiastes 9:16)

Today, I prayed:

Lord, I pray that You pour out Your wealth, riches, and honor on Your chosen servants so that their wisdom and knowledge can help to lead Your people through the upcoming dark days in America. (Based on 2 Chronicles 1:11-12)

What do you think and has the Lord spoken to you?

Join with me on Thursdays to fast and pray for America.

Click on to see MyGFA site.

Click on to see MyGFA site.

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Unhinged Geezer (Chapter 3-a)

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Chapter 3-a

I normally set the clock radio for 6:45 a.m. when I slipped into bed at night. This habit caused Jane to often remark, “6:45 is only the beginning of your feet’s descent to the floor,” and her words were correct. The snooze button offered me five-minute respites, which I took advantage of three or four times before my final approach happened.

But I broke my habit on that Sunday night and didn’t touch the alarm. Instead, I prayed, “Lord, wake me up at the time that You want me to rise in the morning. From now on, You’re my alarm clock.”

My eyes popped open at 5 a.m. I rolled over to look out the window at the dark shadows in our backyard. I eased out of bed and went into the bathroom. Afterward, I headed downstairs.

There, I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and walked into my office. I picked up my iPhone from the desk, clicked it on, turned off the airplane mode, and saw notifications for eight emails, two voicemails, and one text message. I ignored them and clicked the phone off. I picked up my Bible and sat down in the leather recliner.

“Lord, I’m new at this. So, I need You to teach me how to seek You.”

I opened my Bible to Psalm 63 and began singing, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water…” I sang all eleven verses.

A friend once told me that my raspy singing voice could stir a thousand people to rise from their pews and rush out the church doors, never to return again. He may have been spot on with his appraisal, but I also knew God was not a critic and enjoyed my warbling efforts.

I continued praising and worshipping the Lord until my words ended. His presence then fell upon me in a way that had never happened before in my years as a believer. I wept. Part of my tears resulted from His overwhelming love, but part came from the revelation dawning on me at that precise moment. His presence had awaited me every morning for the last forty years, but I ignored His wooing by sleeping in and hitting the snooze alarm over and over again.

“Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me. I have no excuses for my apathy and lethargy,” I muttered through my sobs.

A hush closed my mouth and I felt tuned in, ready to receive something from heaven. A soft voice spoke to my heart, “Abraham was a geezer just like you.”

Maybe the Lord spoke to Billy Graham in perfect King James English, but His first words to my heart broke me up. I laughed aloud.

 

Jane strolled into the kitchen at 7:45 with eyes searching for coffee. I pointed at the red coffee carafe sitting on the counter. Without losing a beat, she grabbed a white cup with her left hand and poured with her other one. She sipped a quick drink before placing the carafe back down.

“Oh Lord, I love coffee.”

Her eyes looked over the top of the cup at me.

“I see you’re wearing your new black Nike t-shirt with your best jeans today. Why so dressed up?” she said as she walked over and sat down at the opposite end of the round oak table.

“Not all of us have spiffy pink bunny slippers and a fifteen-year old chenille robe to wear to the breakfast table.”

She pulled the robe close to her body.

“I love this robe,” she replied, “and don’t you ever think about throwing it away. It has a few snags and rips in it, but my daughter gave it to me for Mothers’ Day when our first grandchild was born.”

“Okay, you can keep it for another thirty years, but on your hundredth birthday, I’m buying you a red and gray plaid polyester one.”

“Yuck!”

Then she noticed my Bible lying next to my coffee cup.

“What are you studying?

“Abraham,” I said, gritting my teeth. “The Lord spoke to my heart this morning and said, ‘Abraham was a geezer just like you.'”

“Are you kidding me?”

“No, not a bit. Abraham was seventy-five years old when he heard the Lord’s voice and trotted off to fulfill his calling. If that old geezer could do it, so can I.”

“Sounds great, but don’t go thinking I am having another baby. My nursery is closed for business. Three children and eight grandchildren are more than enough to carry on our name.”

I winked.

“Well, we’ll see about that.”

I stood up and walked over to the breadbox and removed a new loaf from it. I took out two slices and put them in the toaster.

“Would you like some toast?”

She shook her head.

“No, I’m still stuffed from the shrimp carbonarra and spumoni at Mario’s. I may not eat anything for the rest of the week. And you should do the same if you want to lose those fifteen pound love handles wrapped around your waist.”

I patted my stomach while I waited for the toast to pop up.

“Did you check your phone for messages?” she asked.

“Phil and Al phoned and I received a text from the pastor. He wondered if we could meet this morning at Starbucks.”

“And?”

“I texted him back. We’re meeting at 9:30 p.m.”

“Do you want me to go along with you?”

“Sure, if you wear your bunny slippers.”

“Dylan Matthews, you’re such a brat!”

She grabbed one of the pieces of buttered toast off my plate as I walked back to my seat.

(A new work of fiction still in the early stages. Chapter 1 can be seen here and Chapter 2 here.)

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Tuesday’s Prayers for Prisoners (4/21/2015)

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Each Tuesday, I pray and fast for the nations of Asia, where 4.4 billion people live. 

Why Asia?

1. 85.4% of world’s unevangelized people live in Asia. (Unevangelized means they may have heard the gospel but have no understanding on how to respond.)

2. The world’s three largest non-Christian religions – Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhists – are based in Asia.

3. Of the 37 countries of the world that are less than 10% Christian, 32 are in Asia. Of the 14 countries, that are less than 2% Christian, 12 are in Asia.

4. 85-90% of unreached people live in Asia. (Unreached means that they have never heard the name of Jesus.) (Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation)

I hate abortion, but it becomes even more abhorrent when you consider that 50,000 babies are aborted each month in South Asia (mainly India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) just because they are females. If you add in the female gender abortions for China, the number quickly doubles or triples.

So severe are the gender abortions in India and China that the two nations are now missing 12 million females and 25 million females, respectively from their societies.

Today, I prayed:

Lord, I cry out to you for the female babies whose lives are at risk in mothers’ wombs in India, China, and all of Asia. I pray that You open the parents’ eyes so that they turn from the power of darkness to the Light and from the power of Satan to God, no longer believing the “father of lies” about females. (Based on Acts 26:18 and John 8:44)

Join with me on Tuesdays to fast and pray for prisoners, according to Hebrews 13:3.

Click on to see MyGFA site.

Click on to see MyGFA site.

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You Should Have Been A Boy

The narrator in the above video begins by saying:

“Ruth is not a boy and her parents hated her for it. Like every other girl is South Asia, she won’t carry on her family name. She won’t be able to provide enough income for her parents. She could cost them enough marriage dowry to sink them into debt. But Ruth’s circumstances were even worse than most girls. Before Ruth was born, her parents already had three daughters. They were so desperate for a son, they sold one of their fields and gave the money to a priest, asking him to pray to his gods. So they could have a baby boy.”

The video goes on to tell how Ruth’s life was forever changed because a couple of women told her that God loved her.

If you listen to the video and are interested in supporting a woman missionary, you can do that by clicking here.

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